1. Tell me about your rig? Well, I’ve switched setups and rigs for most every band I’ve been in. So it’s safe to say I have quite a few guitars/amps/cabs/pedals and such. I like to experiment with different sounds to find the one that best suits the vibe of the songs I’m playing in any particular project. I’ve never really relied on pedals or effects to get my tone. I’m more of a traditionalist where I believe your tone should come from your playing, a quality amp and a clean signal chain.
For TPB, I mainly play my ’98 G&L ASAT Special Telecaster. Guitar-wise, I’m a Fender guy through and through. I traded in a Les Paul I had for the ASAT at Buffalo Brothers sometime around 2001. I totally scored on that deal. I have had a few Fender Teles but when I picked the G&L up, it was automatically my new girlfriend. Chambered Swamp-Ash body, hand-wound single coil jumbo magnetic field pickups, saddle-lock bridge. It had a tone I’d never heard before. The chambered body gives it a ton of resonance so it sounds huge with open chords. I mean, it’s a Leo Fender-designed guitar. It’s everything he ever wanted the Telecaster to be. It’s one of the best sounding guitars I own, hands down. I think I would marry it if I could.
For amplification, I settled on a 1995 Fender Prosonic head with an open-back 2×12 Fender cab loaded with Celestion Rocket 50’s. My good friend O turned me on to the wonders of the Prosonic amp some time ago. It’s an incredibly versatile amp with loads of sparkle, plenty of low-end growl and that Fender clean punch you expect out of all the classic Fender models. The difference with the Prosonic is that it can be played Class A tube, solid state or a hybrid of the two in varying gain stages. In Palace, I always play it all tube. It’s a switchable two-channel amp with a whole shitload of gain potential and the 60 watts are more than enough to power through any size venue. A lot of my rhythm parts require body and punch to cut through, so I have the amp set on the clean channel as loud as it will go just before it breaks up. For choruses, leads or songs that need a more gainy (is that a word?) sound, I switch to the gain channel and it gets fatter and breaks up for a more growly, but still punchy, tone. So far, I’ve been really happy with the sound I’ve gotten out of it. The cabinet is a pretty standard open back box. It used to be Jason’s [Manuel, The Palace Ballroom’s lead guitarist] but I traded him for my Vox delay pedal. I like the Rocket 50’s sound. They aren’t the most expensive loudspeakers but they have a mid-range quality that just works with my setup. The amp/cab setup has been my standard since the band started. It’s whats on the record and what I play live.
As far as my pedalboard goes, I’m pretty much a minimalist and don’t use a whole lot of effects to alter my tone. The way my board is set up now with the two Radial Tonebone pedals, allows me to switch from electric to acoustic on stage. The Radial JX-2 pedal on the left is an A/B/both box with a great gain boost. I use the boost on this pedal quite a bit to get a bit more oomph when I need it during swells in songs. Since there’s no acoustic guitar on our most recent record, the Radial PZ-PRE acoustic DI doesn’t get used as much as when we were touring on our first record but we may start working some of those older songs back into our live sets here in the near future so I leave it in the signal chain. It’s a great sounding acoustic DI; live acoustic guitar sound can get pretty tricky in a lot of rooms and the Tonebone pedal had the most effective EQ I came across. Standard Boss Tuner of course. I think I’ve had that particular one about 14 years now, works like a Swiss clock. The little circular Fender switch switches between the clean and gain channels on the Prosonic, nothing fancy. Next to that is a classic Fender reverb pedal (the Prosonic is one of the few production amps they made without built-in classic Fender reverb). Sometimes you just need to make your sound a bit wet right? That little box reproduces Fender reverb pretty accurately. I use it sparingly but when I do, it sounds pretty rad. Center front is my newest pedal. It was a gift from my friend Patrick, who’s out on tour pretty much most of the year. It’s made by Red Sun FX, a boutique pedal company out of Munich, Germany. It was originally designed for Flynn from the band The Picturebook, but they ended up doing a run of 25 of them. I have #12. I’ve had a lot of boost/distortion pedals over the years and some work for some things better than others. But this thing has 35db’s of warm rich boost that doesn’t fuzz out your tone. It actually makes it fatter. I was blown away when I first plugged it in. Super warm analog boost sound and a shit-ton (that’s a metric unit of measurement) of power. It’s a no-frills, one knob pedal. Right up my alley. I added it to my chain right away and it’s become my secret weapon. Combined with the Radial boost or the gain channel on the Prosonic (or all 3 at once), I have lots of levels of varying tone from sparkling clean to fierce growl at my disposal. Linking the whole board together is my BBE Supa-Charger. In my opinion, the absolute best power supply for a pedalboard that’s made. No bullshit, compact and clean. It’s always reliable.
2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of the particular sound/style? This is one of those questions where it’s really easy to sound like an asshole when you answer it. The truth is, when I write songs, I’m not after any particular sound or style. I think they evolve into what they are, based on my influences and what I’ve learned over the years playing in bands. We recorded our latest record live, in one take, playing together in the main room at Phaser Control. So the entire album is a pretty accurate representation of what we sound like live. I’m a big proponent of being able to reproduce your recorded material live all the way down to the tones and nuances of the songs on the album. I can’t count how many times I’ve been disappointed by a band I was excited to see because I liked their album and then their live show was incredibly shitty. At least enough times to know that I wouldn’t want that for anybody who came and saw us play. There’s something very disappointing about being let down by a band you have hope for. See? I told you I would probably sound like an asshole. Oh well… Since this piece is about the gear I use to get the sound I want for my music, I think I can provide a succinct answer to this question: For me, if there was one particular song on the new record that I think essentially captured the tone and essence of my guitar and amp, it would be the last track on the album, “Valve.” You can really hear the G&L’s resonance and the bite of the Prosonic on that song. It’s a slow-moving ballad, so most of the other instruments are lower in the mix and my guitar and voice are front and center. If you want to hear how my gear sounds at it’s basic level, that’s the song.
3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy? OOOOHHHH. I get all tickly in my special parts when I think about this kind of stuff. It’s like when I wished for the Hoth ice base for Christmas. There are so many answers to this question. Well, it’s hard for me to answer that one because I own a recording studio and I’m constantly buying gear. It’s hard to draw the line sometimes between what I need to get, and what I really want to get. But if we are strictly talking about musical gear, I would like a 1958 Fender Stratocaster. Last one I saw in good condition was going for $60,000. So, yeah. Not gonna come across that kind of dough unless I win the Publishers Clearing House drawing this year.
4. What is your current favorite piece of equipment and why? My past, present and future favorite piece of gear will always be my 1964 Vox AC30 Supertwin head and cabinet. I got it in England in 1999. In a small town just outside of London. I found an ad for it in the ‘items for sale’ section in the back of a local English circular. It said: “FOR SALE: Vox Guitar Amplifier with slopey sides.” and nothing else. I called the number, rented a car and drove 45 minutes out of the city to some guy’s house where he had it in his garage. He said it was his uncle’s. He sold it to me for around $850. It’s an incredibly rare amp with trapezoidal / \ sides. I’ve only seen 1 or 2 others like it on the internet over the years. I’ve had it checked out by a few amp experts and the one I have is rumored (pretty accurately so) to have been Peter Green’s amp. I used to play it live but it’s just too rare and amazing to take anywhere anymore. I still use it for recordings but it rarely leaves the safety of it’s case. It sounds like every classic Beatles and Kinks record you’ve ever heard. Just 30 class-A watts of badassery. Yes, I said badassery. It’s a word, look it up. I also have a pretty amazing Satellite amp and cabinet that comes in second place on the favorite gear list. Satellite is a local amp company. If you don’t know them, check them out.
5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? Any shows? Yes!! There are a few shows happening that you should be privy to:
Saturday, March 12th: The Palace Ballroom with Western Settings at The Pour House in Oceanside, CA. This show is presented by local hero Lou Niles of 91X, and should be a banger. Oceanside is developing into quite he scene nowadays and Lou has been putting on shows at Pour House to much success. Get on it! [Show info]
Saturday, April 30th: Buckfast Superbee / Furious IV / Diamond Lakes / UJBOD’s 3 Wood at The Casbah!!! Yes, it’s reunion time. BfSb hasn’t played a show in 6 years and I think for Furious IV it’s been even longer! It’s good to know that we have Diamond Lakes to keep it fresh up there 🙂 Also, if that’s not enough, Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver will be playing as a 3-piece in the Atari Lounge all night. Really looking forward to this one. I think tickets are onsale now [buy them here]. Get em’ quick, nostalgia is a hot commodity. 🙂 We’ll have to do another Gear and Loathing for Buckfast Superbee, I play a whole different rig in that band.
Photos generously taken by photographer, Tim Fears.