“People have this thing about these being the guitars to use and those ones not. I go purely on sound.”
Mike Rutherford, Beat Instrumental, August 1977.
Mike has used a wide variety of guitars and equipment over the course of his career. Here we have collected a selection of the gear he’s used, as well as some of his comments.
Höfner Colorama electric guitar
“When I went to Charterhouse I started writing some songs with Anthony Phillips. And there we formed a band called Anon. By then I was using a Höfner Colorama electric, and the whole group went through one small amp – an RSC.”
(Guitar Player, January 1981).
Dewtron Mister Bassman bass pedals
“I started off with pretty shaky gear, and I discovered as time went on that I needed a wider range of equipment. I started playing bass pedals – they were called Mr. Bassman pedals – and 12-string guitar. Pretty soon, I got an amp system that had a two-way crossover so that I could get more clarity”. (Guitar Player, January 1981)
Hagstrom and Eko guitars (models unknown)
“We were mainly an acoustic group for [From Genesis to Revelation]. We used Hagstrom and Eko guitars – I forget which models.” (Guitar Player, January 1981).
Gibson EB-O bass
“I also played a Gibson EB-O bass [on FGTR]. The challenge of playing the bass was rather enjoyable; it was so different. I plucked the strings with my fingers at first, but because no one could hear me, I started using a pick. I needed a sharper attack, more cut.” (Guitar Player, Jan 1981)
Rickenbacker 4001 bass
“I started using a red Rickenbacker 4001, which was ideal. I went stereo straight away, sending my treble pickup through a Screaming Bird treble booster and into a WEM amp with four 10” speakers. The bass end went right into a Hi-watt amp.” (Guitar Player, Jan 1981).
Hagstrom acoustic and Rickenbacker electric 12-strings
“I’ve spent a lot of time developing the sound of two 12-string guitars together. It’s very distinctive. [Steve Hackett and I] did some 12-string duets, such as “For Absent Friends”, on [Nursery Cryme]. We played Hagstrom acoustic and Rickenbacker electric 12-strings then.” (Guitar Player, Jan 1981)
Mike’s First Double-neck
Rickenbacker 360 12-string and Rickenbacker 4001 bass double-neck
“Around that time [Foxtrot], I had [the Rickenbacker 4001 bass] and a Rickenbacker 12-string joined as a double-neck. I took it to a guitar maker named Dick Knight, told him what I wanted, and got a double-neck.” (Guitar Player, Jan 1981)
“For the first version I went into a guitar shop with my 12-string Rick and my Rickenbacker bass and said, ‘Can you cut that one and that one and join them up?’ The guitar maker [Dick Knight] said, ‘You’re not serious, are you?’ He wouldn’t do it at first, but I said, ‘Someone’s going to do it, so why don’t you do it?’” (Premier Guitar, March 2015)
Custom-made Zemaitis 12-string acoustic
“I had also gotten a custom-made Zemaitis 12-string acoustic. It’s one of those weird guitars that sounds beautiful when you play it live but never seems to record very well.” (Guitar Player, Jan 1981)
Moog Taurus bass pedals
“I had gotten a bin-and-horn speaker set-up; it was a three-way system with deep reflex cabinets for the bass guitar and
[Moog] Taurus bass pedals, plus a high-frequency horn and a Crown amp. I found that the Taurus pedals were also a great improvement over my old ones. They’re designed so that if you make a tone or octave change while a note is sounding, the change won’t occur until the next note is hit. That’s very handy.” (Guitar Player, Jan 1981).
Microfrets 6-string bass
“Throughout [The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway] I used a Microfrets 6-string bass. The company that made it only lasted a short time. It’s a really great bass, and I still use it – primarily for mellower parts, such as on ‘Snowbound’ [And Then There Were Three]”. (Guitar Player, Jan 1981)
Rickenbacker 360 12-string and Microfrets Signature baritone double-neck
“[Mike’s] first [double-neck] was a Rickenbacker 4001 joined to a Rick 360/12 that was used on the Selling England tour. He then switched to a Rick 360/12 with a Micro-Frets Signature baritone neck built in, which proved to be troublesome on stage. Both guitars [the Rick 360/4001 double-neck and this one] were built by luthier Dick Knight, who then built Rutherford a 12-string with a baritone 6-string neck, which also proved unstable. Finally, Rutherford went to Shergold instruments.” (Premier Guitar, December 2009)
Mike’s Signature Shergold Double-neck
Shergold/Rutherford Custom double-neck
“I tried a Shergold 12-string in a shop, and I liked it very much, so I said, ‘Do you make basses?’ And they said yes, and I tried that. Very nice sound – it had the sort of treble attack I like, and the bass warmth. I said ‘Can you do me a double-neck?’ I’ve always had this idea of a changeable instrument, to give me the scope during a live show to swap over easily, and they came up with that.”
“Mike’s contribution to the design was actually little more than the idea of being able to detach the two halves and clip on separate pieces to convert them back to “single-neck” guitars. ‘It was fairly easy, really.’ [Mike says] ‘They had to come up with just a system of screws, and the electrics from the top half all come out of one cannon socket at the bottom. There are little prong things that connect them.’
“All Shergold guitars come with modules, of which there is a choice of around five. Rutherford’s is module 4, which is straight stereo with a tone control and volume for each pick-up, and a three way selector switch. ‘The phasing module’s not that great. For me, the best thing about them is not the modular idea but the sound. And things are very easy to replace. The neck went, abroad, and so they sent one out to me so I could change it straight away…They have a recording module, which is quite nice, which gives you an in-phase/out-of-phase range.’ Despite the greater flexibility afforded by the dual guitar, he still makes changes during the set. He uses an 8-string Hagstrom bass “I Know What I Like”, since the weight of the Shergold begins to make a deep rut in his shoulder if worn for too long.” (Beat Instrumental, August 1977)
Mike’s custom Shergold double-neck consists of a set of detachable “halves” which can be clipped together to form the double-neck, or clipped to separate pieces in order to convert them back to single-neck guitars. The four original “halves” are a 4-string bass, two 12-strings, and a 6-string with single coil pickups.
Additionally, Mike has another natural finish six string top, probably made by Roger Giffin (source).
“I’ve got an Alvarez guitar, which no-one seems to have heard of. It’s got a similar feel to a Martin, and it costs a hundred quid. It’s my favourite guitar – beautiful action, lovely sound. Better than any Gibson I’ve found…” (Beat Instrumental, 1977)
Stratocaster and ARP Avatar / Roland GS-500 guitar synthesizers
“I use the Strat to control the Avatar, and the Roland has its own guitar. I find the two synthesizers behave differently: the Avatar’s hexaphonic fuzz sounds great, but the Roland is polyphonic, so I can play chords on it. I used synthesizers extensively on my solo album [Smallcreep’s Day], and I also played it a lot on And Then There Were Three. (Guitar Player, Jan 1981)
The Steinberger M Series
“The original small model was so crude, with the graphite body, and the wooden ones never quite did it for me. I’m working on a new thing now where I’ve got my old small one out, and I have some very lightweight wood that will just be attached in a couple of places with rubber washers, but the extra wood won’t even touch the guitar. Basically, I’m a big, tall guy, and those guitars felt so small. Their sound is quite special, but I want a guitar with a bigger feel. We’ll see. I like doing weird stuff with guitars.” (Premier Guitar, March 2015)
The guitar that would go on to become the Steinberger M series was designed and built by Mike, his guitar technician Geoff Banks and luthier Roger Giffin in 1987. Mike liked the Steinberger sound but had some issues with the size and shape of the guitar.
“I’ve got a little Steinberger which I love – there’s always an element of luck with guitars and I happened to find a special one – but I do sometimes feel a bit big for it, so I went to Steinberger and asked them if they’d make one with a more ‘guitar-shaped’ body. After all, there’s a lot of good things about the Steinberger and personally if something sounds good I’ll play it, but so many people won’t go near it because of the looks, which seems a pity. However, they had no interest at all, so I went away and designed a guitar-shaped version with Roger Giffin and Geoff Banks, my guitar roadie, then built it myself using one of their necks and took it back to Steinberger. They said it was fabulous, so they borrowed it and copied it to make the new Steinberger shape.” (International Musician, March 1989)
Fender Strat Plus / Rickenbacker 12-string / Guitar Factory electro/acoustic
“Any guitar I pick up I’ll play for three or four weeks, and that’s my favourite guitar. I’ve got a roadie who deals in guitars. I’m a lost cause to him, really. […] We may do ‘The Musical Box’ in the medley, and that calls for an incredibly weird tuning, which I’ll be playing for three minutes. Then there’s a song where I play a different guitar which has got a different funny tuning. You’ve got a guitar for each bit, which is a drag” What he’s dragging along, then, are four Fender Strat Plusses (“Old ones don’t do it much for me”), three Rickenbacker 12-strings and a Guitar Factory electro/acoustic.’ (Musician, June 1992).
Moog Taurus bass pedals
“Can’t beat ‘em, They have real depth and power. Why they never caught on, I don’t know.’” (Musician, June 1992).
Yamaha TRB 4P bass
“I found a new bass for this tour [We Can’t Dance] – a Yamaha TRB 4P. I first heard Daryl Stuermer playing one and it sounded great, so we’re using that.” (Guitarist, February 1993)
Eric Clapton model Fender Stratocaster
“I love the Strat because it can play the roles of many guitars. You can access such a diverse range of tones—which makes it extremely attractive as a touring instrument. It’s also a simple case of habit and familiarity. I’ve been playing Strats for decades, and, at this point, I’d feel wrong playing anything else.” (Guitar Player, August 2007)
Gibson EDS-1275 and Yamaha TRB-4P bass double-neck
“I decided to have a new double-neck made that combines two guitars I really like for playing the earlier Genesis material, as opposed to going with a totally custom job where you don’t know what you’re going to get until it’s complete. I got a British luthier team called Charlie Chandler’s Guitar Experience to take the 12-string top half of a Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck, and combine it with a Yamaha TRB-4P bass for the bottom half. We went with the Gibson EDS-1275 because there are so very few solidbody 12-strings made these days that we could marry to a solidbody bass. You lose some of the resonance when you go this route, but the overall sound of both instruments is still mostly there.”” (Guitar Player, August 2007)