Amp modelling is “wack”, according to IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen

Amp modelling is “wack”, according to IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen

IDLES‘ lead guitarist Mark Bowen has given his thoughts on amp modelling in a new interview with Guitarist, describing it as “wack”.
In 2024, the appetite for digital amp modellers only continues to grow, causing a divide between tube amp-loving traditionalists and fans of the newer technology. Guitar veteran Eric Johnson has experimented with amp modellers, but is yet to find one good enough to replace his tube amps. Meanwhile, Nita Strauss has justified her switch to using amp modellers in her live shows, calling the difference between them and more traditional amps “indiscernible”.

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But Mark Bowen is fully team anti-amp modellers. He says, “I hate modelling. I think it’s wack. You can hear it right away. One of the big things on [new album] Tangk is that we recorded a lot of it to tape. Obviously, it goes into digital at points, so there’s going to be some form of dither or issues around the distortion and what occurs above the frequency range. But with an amp, and with tape, that is blunted because of the mechanics of it. And the distortion and what happens above the frequency range, that is taken care of.
“If you’re not aware of that with modelling and using DAWs, you can get into scenarios where you’ve created something great, but it fucks with your head and sounds horrible. You’re looking at the waveform on your EQ and it’s like, there’s nothing horrible here! But it’s all the information that’s happening above that is really fucking with your head… and probably your dog!”
Meanwhile, rhythm guitarist Lee Kiernan is also a fan of physical amps. He explains, “I love the way a note feels. If you take that away from the speakers, it just starts feeling sterile to me.”
He describes modelling as a “fail-safe” for touring, but he makes the point that he needs to use physical amps when it comes to things like recording and writing. It feels as though modelling is becoming more popular, but we can certainly see where IDLES stand on the debate.

IDLES’ fifth album Tangk was released last month, and is their first album since 2021’s Crawler, marking their longest gap between albums. They’re currently on tour in Europe, before they begin a North American tour in May and then play some UK dates in July.
For a full list of dates, head to their official website.
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