bigtikidude: Cheers
269 days ago

elbortobandito: surfybear trem power
267 days ago

BlindBlake: surf music discography
263 days ago

thewhipandthebody: It's MONDAY! Smile
261 days ago

2nanfer: Guys asking for help bc of quantine, 144 days ago. Uh-Oh
226 days ago

sysmalakian: Surf's up!
224 days ago

taku: sale
139 days ago

Skiltrip: SurfyBear is Life
131 days ago

sysmalakian: HEY
3 days ago

BearJW: Hey groovy people!!
2 days ago

Please login or register to shout.

Current Polls

No polls at this time. Check out our past polls.

Current Contests

No contests at this time. Check out our past contests.


Help us meet our monthly goal:



Donate Now

Cake September Birthdays Cake
SG101 Banner

SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Music General Discussion »

Permalink How does Jim Thomas (Mermen) get this sound?

New Topic
Page 1 of 1

I really like the Mermen and Jim Thomas's style of playing. On this YouTube video he gets an amazing tremolo/divebomb effect. I thinking maybe tremolo (with variable speed)/reverb/distortion.

If anyone knows how to get this sound would like to hear about it

Comes up at 5.45 and 7.00 in the video

'Surf Music Lasts Forever'

Last edited: Aug 29, 2017 15:50:04

I saw him back in the 90s, and I thought he was using Ampeg amps, and a ton of rackmount gear.. (I could be wrong about the Ampeg.)

I also read an older interview in which be said be used multiple Fender Showman amps. Perhapaps some of his Bay Area bretheren would be a bit more familiar with his rigs, past or present.

-Cheers, Clark-

-Less Paul, more Reverb-

Last edited: Aug 29, 2017 16:52:42

I'm almost certain he uses one or two volume pedals to blend in and out of dual systems. The tremolo sound is (correct me if I'm wrong) on/off gating?

My apologies, Wombat. I didn't see that your post asked about a specific sound in a specific song. (... And that's what I get for trying to follow up on a thread, while viewing it on a Smartphone.)

If you Google 'Jim Thomas Mermen Guitar Rig', several items will pop up. Click on on the interview he did with Guitar Nine magazine. He talks at length about all kinds of things, including his gear.

During the portion of the clip you referred to, his foot is rocking something, quite possibly a volume pedal or two, as Crumble suggested. I get the impression that whatever he uses, he will use multiples of that piece of gear. Multiple amps, volume pedals, reverbs, delays, tremolos. It's an elaborate rig, to be sure.

-Cheers, Clark-

-Less Paul, more Reverb-

Last edited: Aug 29, 2017 19:43:02

I think Clark and crumble already answered some of it. I believe Jim uses one of the Boss tremolo pedals, I seem to remember it's the '90s green one (PN-2 or something), the shoegaze music staple. It's capable of a really extreme tremolo effect, almost like a gate-type thing, complete on/off. (I used to have a couple back in the day, when I was in a shoegaze band.) It looks to me that at one point he reaches down and manually changes the speed on the pedal. The 'divebomb' effect is from his vibrato/tremolo arm, which he's constantly manipulating but at a few points he depresses it to lower the pitch by a full step or so and keeps it there for a while, then releasing it up slowly. Hope that helps.

The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

Ivan probably has this particular tune's setup correct. I might add that Jim Thomas does many different things with guitars and effects. I've seen him perform with three guitar cables (one for each pickup) going to different effect/amp setups. His effect setups can be quite complex as well. This page has photos of a couple of them.

Every time I see him play, his setup is different. He did work in a music store way back when and has a wall of preamps in his studio. A very involved equipment guy.


Thanks for all the suggestions. The more I listen the more I think is
tremolo with maybe a variable speed on a foot pedal
wammy bar down a step and back up

I better start practicing . . . . . .

'Surf Music Lasts Forever'

Have a look at some of his gear through the years here.

Here's Jim's rig as of March 2017

LISTEN & BUY " S P I N - T H E - B O T T L E " NOW @ Bandcamp

My blog- Euro Tour Blog
Pool Boys on Spotify
Frankie in Frankie & The Pool Boys
DJ Frankie Pool Boy on North Sea Surf Radio
Phayrentz in Pollo Del Mar

Wowza!! Shock

METEOR IV on reverbnation

What a rig! Sonic architect! I can recognize about 1/3 of the gear, that must be why such a complex and wonderful sound

'Surf Music Lasts Forever'

Wombat wrote:

I really like the Mermen and Jim Thomas's style of playing. On this YouTube video he gets an amazing tremolo/divebomb effect. I thinking maybe tremolo (with variable speed)/reverb/distortion.

If anyone knows how to get this sound would like to hear about it

Have you tried sending an email to Jim directly asking him how he he got that sound? His contact information is listed on the Mermen's website,



I emailed Jim and he got back tome, he seems like a good guy

"Hi Stephen,
Not sure what I was doing at the time to get certain sounds. I am always experimenting with ways of layering sounds . Gear always changes"

'Surf Music Lasts Forever'

I've just gotten into the Mermen pretty heavily in the past few years. Wish I'd started sooner!

Jim does use a Boss green trem and a Strymon Flint from time to time. In the clip shown it's pretty clear that he reached down to slow down the trem rate. I do effects design as a sideline and have talked to him about his effects a few times. The first time I brought it up, he said "I don't really use many effects" which made me laugh, given his pedalboard. But the truth is, he hits the trem about 3 or 4 times a night for a bit of a trippy interlude. No chorus, flangers, wah-wah, etc.

His biggest involvement with "effects" live is working the reverb return level with a volume pedal while he plays. He also uses a looper, usually as a spacey set intro but also sometimes to set up a spontaneous jam that the band joins along with. I'd say the rig he is using currently is quite stripped down from what people imagine. Even compared to 4 years ago (when I first saw the Mermen play) he is no longer using a rack setup that I can tell. He has 3 Victoria amps. Just guessing but I think 1 is set for pure clean, another one with a bit more grind, and a small one for his "Neil Young" lead tone.

PolloGuitar wrote:

Here's Jim's rig as of March 2017

Check it out my music:
Por favor dale like y suscríbete, añademe a tus redes sociales y también puedes adquirir mi música dando click acá;

PolloGuitar wrote:

Here's Jim's rig as of March 2017

Just saw them Tuesday at the same venue. Loads of fun. I love how he goes from clean, unthreatening, even corny stuff right into sections that sound more like Hendrix or Neil Young with Crazy Horse.

Jim is like sunsets. Usually awesome, always different, and forever chasing the next day.

bent playing for benter results
Do not attempt to adjust your TV set.


I have one of Jim's old Red Knob Dual Showman heads here. Pretty neat amp. It had some mods done to it, but I think these were the core of his live sound for a while until the newer albums came out. For the tremolo I think he was using a couple of Boss TR-2 Tremolos. Most of his effects were mixed in the FX loop of his 3 Dual Showman amps using a Mackie 1202 VLZ Pro mixer. He's got a whole different setup today though.

Here's a picture and a gut shot inside one of the amps.



Last edited: Nov 12, 2020 20:22:02

What always entertained me is/was how Jim takes license to constantly explore with the gear. I like MontereyJack66's comment the most - true surfer style! I remember watching many shows ... uh ... many years ago and as Digital Larry points out, one of the most striking things was when he'd manage the reverb level. This would really be super effective when he'd pull it out of the equation to intensify a moment. I found this approach exciting and use it myself now and then with Jim being a source of inspiration. It was weird though, for me as a listener, when a song I knew from the recording would be performed much drier live. I will always be a Jim Thomas and Mermen fan and appreciate how they truly were part of the SF surf community not to mention Jim actually surfs or at least did. Pollo - thanks for posting the photo!

Par Avion (w/guest drummer Dusty Watson) and Perro Agradecido | Mexico/Latin America:

Homepage | Facebook
Par Avion Facebook
Par Avion Sample
Said The Ripper Facebook

Last edited: Dec 09, 2020 19:50:21

Here's one of Jim's latest strat builds you can see him playing live these days. It's a roasted maple Warmoth super wide neck with a swamp ash body.


Page 1 of 1