Tag: fender

Steven Wilson: “I’m Just a Nerd Who Fell in Love with the Magic of Making Records”

In 2010, Steven Wilson was standing onstage at the Royal Albert Hall in London with his band Porcupine Tree before a sold-out crowd. He hadn’t yet told his bandmates that it would be their last show—at least for a while. The band had been engaged in what felt like a relentless cycle of recording and touring for the 17 years leading up to that point. Despite having gained a dedicated following, they’d never had a hit nor the support of mainstream radio and television—yet they were constantly being told their next record would be the one to break through. But with 10 albums to their name, that still hadn’t happened. Wilson was tired.


The band went on hiatus after that show, and Wilson furthered the pursuit of his solo career (which began in 2008 with the release of his debut, Insurgentes). After a while, fans began to assume that waiting around for a Porcupine Tree reunion was a lost cause.

“I was quite a big contributor to that, too,” Wilson admits. “I would say to people, ‘No, forget it, we’re not coming back.’” But it wasn’t true. “I was telling a white lie just to get them to focus on what I was doing at that point. But actually, behind the scenes, we were working toward something that would eventually herald the return of the band.”

Porcupine Tree – Harridan (Official Lyric Video)

Porcupine Tree’s 11th full-length studio album, Closure/Continuation, marks that return. With the 65-minute, 10-track record, Wilson, drummer Gavin Harrison, and keyboardist Richard Barbieri offer a new collection of compositions that build on the band’s classic sound with a reinvigorated, visceral pulse.

Opening with the guttural, aggressively percussive bass line on “Harridan,” the album navigates through a series of kinetic musical worlds that are, in balance, both pensive and turbulent. The second track, “Of the New Day,” has a plaintive refrain taken from its title, and later on in the album, the haunting, subtly shapeshifting “Chimera’s Wreck” moves through tones of disquiet to create a nearly 10-minute narrative that’s both cerebral and emotive. Other standout tracks include the ominous “Herd Culling,” and the sinister “Rats Return.”

It’s elusive what exactly makes the record something that moves the band forward. It might be the amorphous arrangements, which stay accessible as they seem to breathe even more freely than past works, or the seamless concatenation of foreboding, hopeful, and furious overtones, or the strength in the voice that ties together each of the self-contained, emotionally complex, often dystopian scenes. But in their time away, what Wilson calls the band’s “creative core” seems to have evolved.

“I would say to people, ‘No, forget it, we’re not coming back.’”

Although Porcupine Tree never actually disbanded, there was a gap between 2010 and 2012 where they weren’t seeing much of each other, at least not for composing purposes. Then in 2012, they began a 10-year gestation of material that would end up becoming Closure/Continutation. Their writing sessions were sporadic, says Wilson: In the beginning, they would get together for just a few weeks at a time every other year.

“Part of the reason for that, I think, was that we didn’t want to feel any pressure in making a Porcupine Tree record,” he shares. “A lot of people assumed that we didn’t exist anymore, and I kind of liked that because it meant that we could work on the record in a complete vacuum with no pressure, no expectation, no deadlines.”

The 2020 lockdown motivated them to finally knuckle down and bring the record to completion, but they wouldn’t have gone through with releasing it if they didn’t feel as though they were doing something new. Part of Wilson’s jadedness at the end of that 2010 tour was because he felt, despite its relative chart success, that their last record, The Incident, was largely uninspired. “I felt like we were on a creatively downward trajectory where the music was no longer getting better,” he says. “In fact, it was beginning to sound a bit same-y. And it’s always been very important to me and the band that every record has a sense of evolution from the previous record.”

With the new album, he feels they’ve succeeded in that respect. “I’m very proud of the music, and I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever made,” he says. “Time will tell how the album fits into the catalog—it’s not something you can judge in such a close proximity. But right now, I’m fairly confident this will become one of the more popular and successful things I’ve ever done in my career.”

The band’s followers might notice that longtime bassist Colin Edwin doesn’t appear on the album. Rather, Wilson plays bass througout. He says filling that role wasn’t at all meant as a slight to Edwin but was a result of how the music came together. “It was just a very natural thing for me to try something different rather than picking up a guitar,” Wilson says. “And we ended up writing so much of the record in that way.”

“A lot of people assumed that we didn’t exist anymore, and I personally kind of liked that because it meant we could work on the record in a complete vacuum with no pressure, no expectation, no deadlines.”

Wilson’s guitar-minded approach to the bass produced a style that diverts from more predictable patterns. “I play bass like a guitar player,” he comments. “I play a lot of stuff high up, I play a lot of melodies, I play a lot of chords, and I don’t perhaps play like a traditional bass player would play.”

Writing on bass helped make the album more groove- and riff-oriented, and less polyphonic overall than past records. The newfound approach also gave Wilson a refreshed outlook on composing. “I’ve been writing on the guitar for the best part of 25 years. And frankly, when I pick it up now, I’m not sure what else I’ve got left to do!” he shares. “But when I pick up the bass, or I go to the keyboard, suddenly there’s so much more that I’ve never done before. I surprise myself more when I play them.”

Steven Wilson’s Gear

Guitars & Basses

  • Fender Custom Shop Telecaster
  • PRS Singlecut Gold Top
  • PRS Custom 22
  • Takamine acoustic
  • Ovation acoustic (Nashville tuning)
  • Babicz Steven Wilson signature model
  • Spector basses
Amps
  • Bad Cat Lynx
  • Supro ’64 Combo
  • Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 5
  • Various software plug-ins for recording
Strings
  • D’Addario NYXLs

Effects

  • Strymon BigSky Reverb
  • Strymon TimeLine Delay
  • Diamond Vibrato
  • Moog Minifooger MF Tremolo
  • Origin Effects Cali 76 Compressor
  • Source Audio Programmable EQ
  • Analog Man Prince of Tone
  • Amptweaker Tight Rock JR
  • Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser
  • Option 5 Rotary Pedal
  • Dunlop Cry Baby
  • Electro-Harmonix Micro POG x 2 (one octave up and one octave down)

Aside from acoustic strumming and fingerpicking on a few tracks, and edgy riff emphasis on others, the guitar mostly takes a backseat on the album. Wilson supports his arrangements with some solos that embody his quintessential feel for the instrument, but all in all, it’s apparent that the bass was truly the guiding force on Closure/Continuation.

In July, Wilson released another project: a 320-page autobiography entitled Limited Edition of One. Its subtitle, How to Succeed in the Music Industry Without Being a Part of the Mainstream, perhaps serves as its thesis. His story is that of someone who’s had success without ever having quite broken through, and that angle is exactly what helped him decide it was worth sharing.

“I always thought it would be a very boring book. I thought, ‘Well, there’s no book to be written because I don’t have any of those stories about being on the road and drugs and religion and groupies. I’m just a nerd that fell in love with the magic of making records.

“Then the guys at Hachette [the book’s publisher] pointed out to me, actually, that’s why a book on me would be interesting. Because that traditional rock ’n’ roll hedonistic thing … people are bored with that story because they’ve heard it so many times. At that point I became more convinced that maybe I did have a story to tell.”

In his book, he provides a detailed sketch of that aforementioned “nerd” who, in his formative years, was fascinated by records like the 1967 David Bowie single “The Laughing Gnome,” and especially the work of composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. But before getting into his biography, he elaborates on the overall mood at the band’s last concert in 2010, then lists common misconceptions people have about him, the saddest songs he’s ever written, and 10 reasons why he’s not a “macho” rock star. He also talks about his love of lists.“I love making lists of things to do, and I take great satisfaction in ticking everything off my list. The satisfaction you get when you’ve done that is immense,” he enthuses in conversation. As a self-described control freak, he adds that when he writes emails, he will leave absolutely nothing up to the imagination of the recipient: “I can be paranoid about that as people sometimes can misinterpret things unless you’re very, very, very clear.”

“Love him or hate him, Kanye West is an incredibly innovative producer.”

He also writes that he doesn’t see himself as a guitar hero. “I always feel fake and slightly embarrassed when I’m being interviewed for guitar magazines,” he mentions at the beginning of our conversation. “I’ll be very boring if I talk about guitars, because I don’t know much about them, to be honest.”

While many consider Wilson exclusively a progressive rock artist, his latest solo record, The Future Bites (2021), is but one of his works that refutes that notion, as it sits comfortably in an electronic or synth-pop category. Given that, it may not come as a surprise that when asked which musicians he thinks are truly progressive today, he’s quick to praise modern hip-hop artists.

“Love him or hate him, Kanye West is an incredibly innovative producer,” he says. “Then there’s Kendrick Lamar. When you listen to the way they structure music and the way they make music, it’s so alien to the ear of people that grew up with rock music. I think that’s a really good thing, and that’s why we should listen to it.”

Wilson is less certain on how to make those kinds of innovations in songwriting, or how creative inspiration works: “I’ve no fucking clue.” He draws inspiration from all sorts of things, but also often goes into the studio and just bangs his head against the wall with nothing to show for it. “Yeah, [creative droughts] are really depressing. I get really down when I go through a period where I can’t create anything,” he shares. “I always come to the conclusion that, ‘Oh shit, I’ve written the last song I’m ever going to write. I’ve got nothing left. The well is dry.’ But I also manage, touch wood, to prove myself wrong. What I do is I carry on going to the studio, and I carry on hitting my head against the wall. I have a very strong work ethic.”

“It’s, of course, almost impossible to crystallize something in words that is beyond words,” he continues, reflecting on the ethereality of songwriting. “I think the combination of music and words is so much more powerful than simply the written word. If you can get those two things in balance, it can almost make you understand what is beyond understanding.”

Rig Rundown – Steven Wilson [2019]

See the differences and similarities between Steven’s solo setup in 2019 and his current rig with Porcupine Tree for Closure/Continuation.

Talking to Wilson, his affability stands in contrast to the frequently dark and lachrymose themes heard in Porcupine Tree’s music. He explains that, for him, writing sad songs is like an exorcism or an unburdening of his own sadness.

“Miserabilism and melancholy … I’ve always found such a beautiful thing. It’s a profoundly magical thing if you can create empathy through focusing on some of the more negative feelings that we all share. And that’s why I still think that music, where on the surface it might be sad or melancholic or depressing, has the potential to be something incredibly uplifting and beautiful for the person who experiences it.”

YouTube It

Wilson leads Porcupine Tree in a performance of “Lazarus” from the 2005 album Deadwing, illustrating his penchant for introspective, melancholic ballads that find their place among the band’s heavier material.







Rig Rundown: Def Leppard [2022]

Nearly 40 years after Pyromania, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell are still setting the world afire with their hot-rod gear.


It’s been eight years since Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen met with PG while they were on the band’s arena-filling odyssey in 2014. Now they’re on the aptly titled Stadium Tour, playing packed mega-venues with openers Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett, delivering songs from the 12 studio albums they’ve recorded over the past 45 years. It’s quite a legacy, with “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak,” “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Animal,” “Love Bites,” and plenty more classic hits. At their June 30 show at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, John Bohlinger talked with Collen, Campbell, and their techs, Scott Appleton and John Zocco, about the guitarists’ muscular live-show arsenal.

Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.

Expressionist Axe

For the 30th anniversary of Phil Collen’s Jackson PC-1 signature model, the guitarist painted a limited run of the instrument in this cool, Jackson Pollock-esque finish. He kept this one for himself. (Smart!) It features a mahogany body, quartersawn maple neck, reverse headstock, a Floyd Rose vibrato, a DiMarzio Super 3 humbucker in the bridge, and a Jackson Sustainer Driver in the neck spot. There’s also sustainer on/off and fundamental/harmonic/blend toggles in the control set. Collen uses D’Addario .013–.054 sets.

Paint Yer Noggin

Collen’s paint job also extends to this super-colorful headstock.

A Workhorse of a Different Color

This Jackson USA Signature Phil Collen PC-1 in satin natural features a quilted maple top and all the appointments of the splatter-finish model, but ups the tonal ante with a HS-2 DP116 single-coil DiMarzio in the middle. That setup requires a 5-way blade pickup switch, of course. The scale-length is 25.5″, and the neck has a 12″–16″ compound radius.

Lugosi Lives!

Jackson built Collen his guitar named “Bela” in 1986, tricking it out with glow-in-the-dark paint and Mr. Lugosi’s face—in Dracula get-up—on the front of the axe. Bela has DiMarzio Super 3 pickups, titanium saddles, a titanium block, a Floyd Rose vibrato, and an unquenchable thirst for blood. (“Listen to them. The children of the night! What music they make!”)

Phil and the Supreme

This black-finish Jackson Phil Collen PC Supreme has an impossibly thick U-shaped neck that the guitarist loves for its stability, sustain, and tone. The guitar also features a Floyd Rose, two beefy DiMarzio humbuckers, a DiMarzio/Collen-developed Sugar Chakra pickup (which puts humbucker depth in a single-coil size) in the middle, and a sustainer circuit.

Spooky Kabuki

Another cool touch on Collen’s Supreme is the kubuki-like mask inlay just under the headstock.

The Blue Axe

This prototype Jackson signature-model Supreme has a more conventionally sized neck as well as a Floyd Rose with classy blue titanium saddles, two hot DiMarzio pickups, a Sugar Chakra, and a sustainer circuit. Check out the super-ergonomic angled cutaways.

Mr. Big Neck, V. 2

This PC-1 also has a neck like John Cena, built from curly maple for a distinctive look. Other details: an in-your-face DiMarzio X2N, a Sugar Chakra, a sustainer, titanium saddles and block, and that omnipresent Floyd Rose. Same PC-1 electronics, too, with volume and tone controls, a 5-way selector, and double toggles for sustainer on/off and fundamental/harmonic/blend.

Class Actor

This brown PC-1—which features all the appointments of Collen’s 30th Anniversary model—looks more muted than it’s bright-hued pals, until you look closely. The tiger-stripe quality of the word makes the guitar striking and displays Collen’s pick scratches between the neck and middle pickups.

Speaking of Pick Wear

This road-weathered Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster is showing all its miles. The bridge has been updated with titanium pins. Collen uses not only the acoustic sounds in this guitar but goes full-rock-tone as well.

Search and X-Stroy

Jackson built its X-Stroyer model especially for Collen in 2014. It is modeled after the Ibanez Destroyer that he played in his 20s—seen onstage in the videos for “Photograph,” “Foolin’,” and other hits. It has DiMarzio X2N pickups, a sustainer, and a Floyd Rose. Look at the lower-front horn and you’ll see a killswitch, too.

Racked Up

Collen’s signal runs to a Shure Axient wireless system. Its four channels go into a Radial JX42 V2 switcher and out to a Fractal Axe-Fx III. (He also carries a spare Axe-Fx in the rack.) A digital output goes from the Fractal to the front-of-house speakers. Another pair of outputs runs to two Atomic CLR full-range powered reference monitors behind the video wall, for a bit of stage volume. It’s all controlled by an RJM Mastermind GT/22, operated by tech John Zocco.

Phil A Rig

Here’s a look at that Mastermind Zocco controls, with a bunch of uniquely named, programmed patches, including STFU, Mocha, and Cold Brew.

Vivian and Les

Vivian Campbell plays Les Pauls exclusively. His Una is an all-stock silverburst Custom, which will be auctioned off at the end to the tour with the proceeds going to Gibson Gives to support music education for kids. It’s strung with Dunlop .011–.050s and tuned down 1/2 step.

Tiger, Tiger

This Gibson Vivian Campbell Signature Les Paul Custom in antrim basalt burst was a limited-edition model. It has a 1970s-style C-shaped neck, a 2-piece figured maple top, and a solid mahogany body. The neck pickup is a DiMarzio Super 3 and the bridge is a DiMarzio Super Distortion. It has two 500k CTS volume pots, two 500k CTS tone pots, and orange drop caps. Same strings, same half-step-down tuning.

Ricky’s Ride

Another limited-edition instrument in Campbell’s line-up is this Gibson Custom Shop reissue of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen’s 1959 Les Paul Standard. Campbell replaced the frets with jumbos, but otherwise it’s all stock, which means a 1-piece mahogany body, pearl inlays, an Indian rosewood fretboard, and Custom Bucker pickups.

The Friendly Ghost

“Casper” is a Gibson Les Paul Studio that Campbell has owned for years. It features a DiMarzio SD 3 in the bridge along with its original humbucker.

More Gary Moore

Few players have had a greater influence on British rockers who came of age during the ’70s and ’80s than the late, great Gary Moore. This Gary Moore Les Paul Standard has its neck pickup flipped, to go for that Peter Green out-of-phase tone. (Moore was the longtime owner of Green’s famed Holy Grail Les Paul.) The mahogany neck has a rounded ’50s profile, the pickups are BurstBucker Pros, and, of course, the 6-string has a mahogany body with a figured maple top.

Covert Humbuckers

Campbell has replaced the standard P-90s in this Gibson reissue Les Paul goldtop with P-100s, which are stacked humbuckers, for a buzz-free playing experience.

Big Red

This colorful Gibson SJ-200 has a Fishman pickup, a soundhole block to avoid feedback, and high action for a clean-toned strum.

In the Box

Tech Scott Appleton dictates the flow of Campbell’s guitar with an RJM MIDI-controlled input switcher. First, the signal hits a Shure Axient wireless, and then there’s a Cry Baby Rock Module with a Lite-Time wah controller. The rest of the magic is courtesy of a Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. A Marshall 9200 Dual MonoBloc System provides the power for a pair of ENGL 4×12 cabs.

Look, Ma, No Wires!

Chad Zaemisch, longtime tech for Metallica’s James Hetfield, designed the first two-channel wireless expression pedal system that Vivian employed to handle wah-wah duties via his rackmount Dunlop Cry Baby Rack unit.

<aWhen Fender Customized the Tele … with a Little Help from Martin

In 1959, Alaska as well as Hawaii became the 49th as well as 50th states in the U.S. However guitar followers understand ’59 as an epic year for both Les Pauls and Telecasters– 2 preferred tastes among meat-and-potatoes 6-string connoisseurs. On the Fender side of the food selection, that’s the year the Telecaster and Esquire Custom models debuted, at the NAMM program in June.Honestly, there had not been much that was different about the 1960 Tele, exemplified by this month’s

Telecaster Custom

instrument. The greatest adjustment was a change from all-maple necks to slab rosewood fretboards installed on maple. This was likewise provided for Stratocasters and various other versions at the time.With its choice location, top bout, as well as back put on, this guitar has actually been used difficult– which is typically a sign that it’s a great-sounding and playing instrument.The 1960 Tele Custom likewise has what the 1960 Fender catalog rather undoubtedly called a” customized treatment of the body. “What exactly does that suggest? The catalog notes that” an attractive very refined sunburst coating is used, and also the bottom as well as top edges of the strong body are trimmed with contrasting white binding.” Fender originally had problem keeping that binding glued in position and also had to seek advice from the Martin Guitar business to learn the appropriate technique.Telecaster Custom Our well-worn 1960 Telecaster Custom appears to be ended up in a 2-color sunburst (as made use of on Strats from 1954 to 1958). After removing the pickguard, the original unfaded red from a 3-color sunburst can be seen. A.R. Duchossoir, in his book The Fender Telecaster, prices estimate Fender designer Bill Carson regarding this red pigment:” We needed to look as well as

1960 Telecaster Custom

so we splashed several blocks of alder and also put them on the top of the structure to see which ones would fade as well as which ones would not. The red just merely got gobbled up in this chemical interaction.” Probably this guitar belonged to that colorful experiment? For the record, Fender did take care of to locate a consistent red by 1961. This guitar, and all other Tele Customs from 1960, have an alder body with a 3-ply pickguard. Criterion, non-custom-color Teles kept a single-ply white pickguard for a pair much more years. The control set is the common T-style 3-way pick-up selector with quantity as well as tone dials. In 1972, the Fender Telecaster Custom first showed up with a Seth Lover-designed humbucker in the neck port, which’s the arrangement made well-known by Keith Richards– maybe the most notable Telecaster Custom player.With its selecting location, upper spell, and back wear, this guitar has been used hard– which is typically an indication that it’s a great-sounding as well as playing instrument. This version’s original list price was $239.50. The current worth for one in this condition is$ 20,000.

Behind the Tele is a Fender Pro-Amp from April 1960. From its introduction in 1946 as The Professional, this amp utilized a 15″ speaker. It evolved from the ’40s “woodie” version to numerous tweed looks, consisting of a television front, a vast panel, as well as a narrow panel. In 1960, the Pro et cetera of the line transitioned to brown Tolex covering. The 1960 Pro pictured has two 6L6 power tubes pressing 40 watts with a Jensen P15N. The typical network has treble, bass, as well as volume controls, while the vibrato channel has volume, treble, bass, rate, strength, as well as existence controls. The original rate was $289.50. The current worth is $2,500.

Resources for this article include The Fender Telecaster: The Detailed Story of America’s Senior Solid Body Electric Guitar by A.R. Duchossoir as well as Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years by John Teagle and also John Sprung.

Honestly, there had not been much that was various about the 1960 Tele, exhibited by this month’s tool.< div course =" rebellt-item col1" data-basename= "particle-7" data-href=" https://www.premierguitar.com/pro-advice/vintage-vault/1960-fender-telecaster-custom?rebelltitem=7#rebelltitem7" data-id =" 7 "data-is-image=" True "data-post-id =" 2657536404" data-published-at= "1655762237 "data-reload-ads =" real" data-use-pagination

=” False” id=” rebelltitem7″ readability=” 6″ > Severe belt breakout shows this 1960 Tele Custom has actually seen a considerable amount of playing time.

This guitar, as well as all various other Tele Customs from 1960, have an alder body with a 3-ply pickguard.

Note the distinctive upper-and-lower-case design name on the headstock, versus Fender’s traditional all-caps variations.

Behind the Tele is a Fender Pro-Amp from April 1960.

The Bass Is Not a Guitar

The bass is not a guitar.

I know, I know…. This can be confusing and even controversial. Basses look a lot like guitars, and so many people call the instrument I play the “bass guitar.” From this name, one might deduce that, like the bass flute, a bass guitar is merely a member of the guitar family which sounds lower. I will concede that the guitar and bass might seem similar and even appear to have a common ancestor, but appearances can be deceiving. These two instruments are separate and come from very different lineages. The ancestor of the electric bass is actually the double bass or upright bass, which hails back to the Renaissance, belonging to the violone family (along with the viola da gamba). On the other hand, the modern guitar’s ancestors range from the oud to Spanish instruments such as the guitarra latina and vihuela.


Upright and electric basses do typically feature four strings in the same tuning. Because they share the same note names as the first four strings of the guitar, some might see this as evidence that they are, indeed, related. Our modern guitar tuning was probably derived to accommodate chordal playing. This is why the second string interrupts the pattern of fourths with a third, which makes a whole host of chords possible and simpler to strum across all the strings at once.

To make matters more complicated, Leo Fender is sometimes mistakenly credited with the invention of the electric bass. In 1951, Leo modified his solidbody Telecaster guitar design to create the Precision Bass, so called because the frets allowed for precise intonation while playing. Later, Leo borrowed his offset body design from the Jazzmaster to create the Fender Jazz Bass. Both the Precision and Jazz basses became extremely popular and most modern electric bass designs are in some way based on them. By utilizing standardized patterns for most of his guitars and basses, Fender mastered the art of assembly-line mass production, which helped us all to see the electric bass as a type of guitar, due to the obvious similarities.

The ancestor of the electric bass is actually the double bass or upright bass, which hails back to the Renaissance, belonging to the violone family (along with the viola da gamba).

However, the first known electric bass ever made was the Audiovox Bass Fiddle, created by Paul Tutmarc in the mid 1930s. With the help of two new inventions, the amplifier and magnetic pickup, Tutmarc created the world’s first truly portable bass. While acoustic bass instruments had to be large to reproduce the extremely low fundamentals required, electric instruments changed all of that. Now, a relatively small 18-watt portable package could produce the lowest fundamentals, which had only been possible with instruments such as tubas, pipe organs, huge double basses, and 9′ grand pianos. Tutmarc’s first attempt was a small solidbody upright, but he soon realized that he could build an even more compact bass that could be played horizontally.

Many bass players who would eventually play electric basses exclusively began as upright players, continuing a long tradition that predated the invention of the electric bass by at least two centuries. From my perspective, I come out of a long lineage which began with great upright players like Jymie Merritt and James Jamerson, who switched to the electric bass in the late ’50s, mostly out of convenience. These new smaller and louder instruments were game changing because they allowed constantly touring musicians to hold down a bass role in a more transportable package.

At first, bassists transferred what they were already playing on the upright to electric. But over time, they developed new voices, techniques and approaches specifically tailored to the physical characteristics, sonorities, and capabilities of this instrument. By the time we get to Bootsy Collins, Tony Levin, Louis Johnson, Larry Graham, Jaco Pastorius, Anthony Jackson, Jeff Berlin, Mark King, Marcus Miller, Rich Brown, Victor Wooten, and so many others, there are bassists who play the electric bass exclusively, and who have developed their own astounding techniques for doing so.

The bass has spent over six decades at the forefront of cutting-edge genres from soul to R&B, country, rock, funk, disco, jazz, and fusion. Today, there are countless virtuoso bassists who have never played the guitar or upright bass and have no desire to. The bass is not a guitar or even an upright bass substitute. And it is no longer a thing played out of convenience, but an independent instrument with its own sound and rich lineage.

Rig Rundown: Train

Like King Ghidorah, these rock fretmasters prove three heads are better than one.


After a five-year break in studio releases, Train came roaring back this year with AM Gold and a tour with dates stretching into 2023 that’s delivering their new songs and a sampling of the group’s 28 charting singles from their nearly 30-year history. PG’s John Bohlinger stopped in on the band’s two guitar players, Jerry Becker and Taylor Locke, and bassist Hector Maldonado, before their June 21 show at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater. They displayed the big bevy of instruments they use to recreate the Train sound live.

PS: Special thanks to techs Wayne Davis and Stephen Ferrera-Grand for help running down the rigs.

Brought to you by D’Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.

Yellow Fever

Taylor Locke’s No. 1 is this all-stock, scarred Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Special in TV yellow. For the record, Locke uses Shubb and Kyser capos, strings his axes with Dunlops, and uses the latter company’s picks and slides.

Hum-Doozie

When the song calls for a guitar with humbuckers, Locke goes with his all-stock Gibson Custom Shop R7 Les Paul Goldtop. It’s essentially a re-do of a 1957 Paul right down to the chunky C-profile neck and Indian rosewood fretboard.

Double Trouble

Some of Train’s songs require both electric and acoustic tones, and for those Taylor employs an Epiphone Casino, which tech Stephen Ferrera-Grand has outfitted with Fishman’s PowerBridge pickup system. The jack on the Casino is stereo, which enables splitting the stock electric pickups and a piezo pickup to two separate wireless packs, mounted side-by-side on Taylor’s guitar strap. The piezo signal hits a Sound Sculpture Volcano expression pedal volume controller that routes to an on/off switch on his Line 6 HX Effects stomper. The piezo sound is sent to front-of-house and monitors via a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI preamp.

Fab Filtration Across the Nation

When it’s time to go Filter’Tron, Locke straps on this tuxedo’d G6128T Vintage Select ’89 Duo Jet with a trusty Bigsby. In case the colors aren’t shining though in the photo, it’s an impressive black with metallic green sparkle, and Locke keeps it tuned a half-step down and strung with Dunlop .011s

Old Frontier

Locke aims for a couple of classic acoustic guitar tones, and for vintage vibe he reaches for this 1964 Epiphone Frontier. It’s from the original ’58 to ’70 run, with a Sitka spruce top and maple back and sides. These days, the model has been restored to the catalog courtesy of Gibson’s acoustic builders in Bozeman, Montana.

Clydesdale Tone

The workhorse sound of the Gibson J-45 resonates in the Train catalog, and this is one of many the band keeps in their 6-string arsenal.

Reso-Phonics

When the language of roots guitar needs to be spoken, Locke grabs his Gretsch resonator—part of the company’s Roots Collection of guitars. This one uses Gretsch’s patented Ampli-Sonic biscuit cone.

Playing the Dozens

When it’s time to wrangle acoustic jangle, this all-stock 1971 Ovation Glen Campbell 12-string gets to shine and shimmer. Unlike modern 6-string Campbell signature Ovations, this guitar lacks a cutaway. It has a Sitka spruce top, a walnut bridge, and an ebony fretboard—and sounds killer.

It’s Pronounced Oo-koo-lay-lay in Hawaiian

The hit “Hey, Soul Sister,” which reached No. 3 on Billboard’s pop chart in 2009, is guaranteed set-list material for every show. So, of course, Locke always has a requisite ukulele onstage. Here’s a look at the pair of Godin ukes in his rack.

Lean, No Cheese, 35 Watts

Locke uses a Top Hat King Royal 2×12 combo kept slightly off stage but loud enough to be audible. The 35-watter has three 12AX7s and four EL84 power tubes, and a GZ34 governing the rectifier. There’s a fat-off-bright switch, too. How does he run it? See the next photo.

All Set!

Here are his settings for the Top Hat. Note the master volume riding at 1 o’clock and his preference for the hi-input jack.

Is That a Banana, or….

Locke isn’t monkeying around: If his Top Hat goes down, he’s got a Vox C4 tucked aside as a spare. And a banana—maybe to snack on while Ferrera-Grand powers the amp up?

The Great Switcheroo

Locke’s electric guitar signal hits a Shure Axient Digital wireless and zooms into a Radial SW4 switcher. Tech Stephen Ferrera-Grand does the wireless switching on the Radial unit, in his guitar rack.

Above the SW4, you’ll see, peeking out, the acoustic boss: a Countryman DI. The Godin ukuleles follow the same signal flow as the acoustics, but along a different path into a separate Countryman DI.

Treading the Treadles

From the rack, the signal is sent out to a Pedaltrain ’board, outfitted with a Best-Tronics patchbay. The board contains a Dunlop DVP1XL volume pedal to a Line 6 HX. A second DVP1XL controls certain effects parameters, such as delay repeats and Leslie speed. The signal is then sent into a Boss NS-2 noise suppressor and on to the Top Hat amp.

Each speaker gets its own microphone: a Shure SM57 and an Audio-Technica AT4040.

For the majority of the set, Taylor keeps his HX set up with the following effects models: a Tone Bender fuzz (for leads and solos), a Klon Centaur (primary overdrive sound, almost always on), an MXR Timmy OD (neutral volume boost), EHX Deluxe Memory Man (modulated slap delay), Boss DM-2 Delay (long delay), and a Fender Vibratone (rotary). Taylor scrolls to other pedalboard scenes for song-specific effects, using tremolo for “Meet Virginia,” a Small Stone phaser for “AM Gold,” and so on.

Butterscotch Bliss

Another entry from the realm of the classics: Jerry Becker’s 2011 all-stock Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster has an ash body, a large U-profile neck, and, of course, a maple fretboard. It is strung with Dunlop DEN1046 Electric Nickel Performance+ string sets, running .010–.046. PS: Becker uses Levy’s straps and wireless pouches, Dunlop custom graphic signature picks, and Kyser Quick-Change capos.

Red Horse

This Gibson SG Classic from 2010 is stock and strung with Dunlop Performance+ .010–.046 sets—as are all his electrics. It has P-90s, a rosewood fretboard, and pearloid dot inlays up the neck.

Guitar of the Beast

This second-generation Gibson Les Paul Special reflects the body style that led Les Paul himself to cut ties with Gibson in the early 1960s. Nonetheless, with their two P-90s and lighter slab bodies, these are killer guitars. The double-horn cutaways make this 1973 a rare beast. It’s stock.

All Stock and Ready To Rock

Here’s Becker’s 1973 Gibson Les Paul Custom, left as it came from the factory. As you may recall, this model comes with “banjo”-style fret wire, to earn their reputation as—as Gibson put it on the model’s introduction in 1954—fretless wonders.

Modern Classic

This Gibson ES-339 was built in the first year the model was issued: 2007. The company introduced this guitar as a smaller—Les Paul sized—take on the ES-335, with a laminated maple-poplar-maple body, a maple center block, and spruce contour braces.

One More 45

Here’s yet another of Train’s Gibson J-45s. This one is a 2013 Custom Shop model in a wine red finish, and it is strung with Elixir 11050 80/20 Bronze Polyweb lights, gauged .012 to .053.

Nashville Tuning

Becker’s 1966 Gibson B-25 is set up in Nashville, or high strung, tuning. In this tuning, the wound E, A, D, and G strings are replaced with lighter-gauge strings tuned an octave higher than usual. In the old days, this had to be done by raiding 12-string sets, but some modern string makers produce Nashville tuning sets. So, Becker uses D’Addario EJ38H Phosphor Bronze .010–.027s.

Canadian Nylon

This 2017 Godin Multiac Nylon Duet Ambiance Natural HG has Fishman electronics that allows the internal blending of four microphone settings. It also sports a slim nut width (1.9″), a Richlite fretboard, and a chambered mahogany body. The strings: D’Addario EJ31 Pro-Arté Rectified Nylon Hard Tensions.

In the Pedal Pond

Becker uses a Fractal Audio Systems FX8 MkII combined with a Mission Engineering SP-1 Expression Pedal. There’s a Lehle D.Loop SGoS Loop Switcher, a Boss TU-3 Tuner, a Radial JR-2 Remote, and a Lehle P-Split Passive Splitter. It’s all powered by a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus.

But Wait, There’s More

Guitar tech Wayne Davis mapped out Becker’s signal flow for us. The electric guitars hit a Shure Axient Digital Wireless receiver and flow into a Radial JX62. There, the 6-strings can be directed into the Lehle D.Loop in and then out via a loop A send to the Fractal FX8. The loop A return then reroutes through a D.Loop out to the Radial again. Then there are amp options: a Matchless DC-30 or a Leslie combo preamp and 145 rotary speaker cabinet. Acoustic guitar arrives via the wireless and hits the PA via the JX62 DI out.

Green Sound Machine

This envy-shaded DC-30 is Becker’s big gun. It was the company’s first design and gets huff from four EL84s, with two preamp sections: one powered by two 12AX7s and the other by a single EF86. That’s a lot of tonal versatility.

The Understudy

This Vox AC30 acts as Becker’s back up.

Coming Up Roses

Bassist Hector Maldonado’s long search for an early ’60s P bass landed him this 1960 Fender Precision days before Train’s current summer tour. The gem was professionally refinished by Joe Riggio of Riggio Custom Guitars at some point, but other than that it’s as Leo intended over 60 years ago. Riggio helped connect Maldonado to the seller so he could acquire his dream bass.

No. 2

With the arrival of his new old P, this off-the-rack Fender American Vintage ’62 P bass reissue got demoted to the No. 2 slot. But Maldonado says it plays better than some of his vintage instruments, and this 4-string has been around the world a few times with Train. Both Fenders take D’Addario roundwounds (.045–.100).

Sir Paul’s Highball

If you’ve spent time with any of the last three Train albums, you’ve heard this limited-run Hofner Gold Label Violin Berlin model. It is made of German Nussbaum wood and has the company’s 511B staple pickups in a normal-spacing configuration. Hofner’s Gold Label instruments are highly limited editions.

Get Back!

For the ultimate Beatles’ vibe, Maldonado uses this Hofner B-Bass HI-Series Violin model. It provides the desired “pluck” sound of 1964. Both of his stage Hofners take D’Addario XL Chromes, flatwound (.045–.100).

Spanish Flair

“Cleopatra” off AM Gold has a flamenco guitar part. Maldonado is classically trained, so he was the obvious choice to handle it, plus Becker and Locke are already busy with their own guitar chores on the song. Hector’s setup on his Yamaha CG172SF is creative. He uses a blend of strings from his Fender Bass VI and nylon guitar strings to hold down the low end and shred fingerstyle.

Racked and Ready

A Mesa/Boogie Subway D-800+ powers his basses, while an Avalon U5 Class A Active Instrument DI give a clear signal to front-of-house. And like his compatriots, he’s running a Shure AD4D rackmount wireless system.

More on the Floor

Maldonado has more pedals on the floor than his fellow Trainmen. His stomp station consists of a trio of mini MXRs—a Carbon Copy, Phase 95, and Vintage Bass Octave—plus an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano reverb, a Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI, a DigiTech Bass Driver OD, an Origin Effects Cali76 compressor, and a Mesa/Boogie Five-Band Graphic EQ. A Dunlop Volume (X) DVP3 and a Boss TU-3s mini Chromatic Tuner keeps his instruments reined.


Squier 40th Anniversary Stratocaster Review

Premier Guitar doesn’t often review anniversary edition instruments—most of them being marketing exercises in disguise. But the Squier 40th Anniversary Stratocaster genuinely seems to embody much about where Squier has been and the reliable source for quality, affordable, and, yes, beautiful guitars they have become.


At $599, the 40th Anniversary Stratocaster lives on the higher side of the Squier pricing scheme. But there is much—in terms of both style and substance—that makes this Stratocaster feel special. The mash-up of 1950s design cues (gold anodized pickguard) and 1970s elements (block inlays) really works in spite of how easy it is to screw up a Stratocaster’s graceful lines. And the spots where Squier added flash, like those inlays and neck binding, reflect a genuine concern for craftsmanship and executing the little details.

In practical terms, the 40th Anniversary Strat specs out and feels quite like a Classic Vibe Stratocaster, which is a good thing. The body is nyatoh and the fretboard is laurel, but apart from the 9.5″ radius fretboard, which always feels a bit flat on a Strat for me, neither result in major deviations from classic Strat weight or touch. Output from the alnico 5 pickups felt a little more contoured, less edgy, and less punchy on the treble side than the pickups in the Vintera ’60s Stratocaster and ’80s E Series Stratocasters I used for comparison. But apart from missing that micro-trace of extra spank that cuts through an intense spring reverb signal, there was little to upset the surfy state of very stylish bliss this Squier induced each time I plugged it in.

Fever Dreams of the Brilliant Mister Marr

When the great Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes passed away earlier this year, I thought a lot about Johnny Marr. Marr was moved deeply by the girl groups of the ’60s—their positivity, energy, and the convergence of ecstasy and melancholy in the music. He was even fired up by the audaciousness of their style: The impressive beehive hairdo worn by Spector’s bandmate Estelle Bennett famously inspired the jet-black pile Marr wore at the height of Smiths fame.


But the most lasting influence of the girl groups on Marr is probably the musical playground that Ronnie once made her own: the wall of sound. In the decades since Phil Spector concocted the wall of sound from an orchestra of guitars, strings, drums, pianos, chimes, castanets, and whatever else was gathering dust in the closets of Gold Star Studios, scores of musicians—from Brian Wilson to the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen—have chased its elusive, ineffable magic.

Johnny Marr – Spirit Power and Soul (Live)

Johnny Marr’s versions of the wall of sound, however, are highly original and distinctive. They are marked by deep resourcefulness and a gift for achieving wall-of-sound grandeur and scale through the humble medium of multitracked guitar. And from the Smiths’ first LPs to his latest release, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, Marr achieved this wizardry by mining a seemingly endless vein of riffs and through his penchant for guitar arrangement—talents cultivated through intuition, passionate listening, and a boundless, post-modern knack for tastefully blending influences.

As formidable as Marr’s arranging abilities, melodic instincts, and sense of musical recall are, they all find realization in hands driven by Swiss-watch timing, economy, and percussive potency. And though he’ll be the first to tell you he’s not a musical technician, he is, in many ways, as complete a musician as you could ever know.

I was really struck by the bigness of Fever Dreams Pts 1-4. I pictured you making this record, amid lockdown, making music for the clubs we hoped to return to again. Even the picture of you on the cover—you next to the Fender Showman—seemed like a totemic suggestion of longing for big sounds.
I think that was subconscious. I say subconscious because I started writing it before Covid and had this idea that I wanted to do a double LP, and because it was going to be a double, I thought it could be expansive. I just had this idea that (the double LP format) would give me a lot of space. But, of course, with the way things turned out, I ended up—and I must confess, illegally—going alone into my studio space, which is the top floor of an old factory, staring out at my Mini, which was the only car in this vast parking lot, and working like that for weeks.

So, I ended up very aware of all this idea of space, which is even why the sky is so blue on the cover. I took all the equipment in the space out for that shoot to signify the way I was feeling about all that. There were also these nocturnal themes that emerged. I think a lot of people were lying awake wondering if they still had a job and worrying about their businesses. So, a lot of the songs reference those feelings—like “Lightning People:” “I can’t sleep/static sheets/cries that put me on my knees”—that idea of a storm coming.

I made the assumption that the part of my audience that listens most closely and that I’ve built up over the last 40 years or whatever, that they are living similar lives to what I was talking about. So, I didn’t have a concept, but I did have a sort of nagging agenda—that the album would be expansive and that I would tackle feelings about the psychology and predicaments of being a modern person.

“You know that concept of work/life balance? I don’t really have that concept. I hear good things about it and maybe I should try it out.”

The rhythmic drive and dance feel of many of the tunes also struck me as nocturnal. Was that a conscious thing?
Well, it’s funny how some things turn out. I started writing the album and just a few weeks into it, got the call to work on the Bond film [No Time to Die]. There’s a lot of downtime in that kind of situation, so I started working on the song “Receiver.” And as you said, it sounded to me like the atmosphere of being in a nightclub—like those I used to go to in [London neighborhood] Euston at the end of the ’80s—finding myself, you know, still there at 5:40 in the morning. So that song is about transmitting and receiving erotic signals.

That’s the beauty of songwriting. Sometimes you mix and match images or sometimes a concept comes first. The same thing happened with “Lightning People.” I had that title, which to me sounded like a Staple Singers song or something, so it ended up with a sort of choir/gospel feel. Musically, you can still tell that it’s coming from an indie rocker from Manchester, but the whole idea started from just that title. Lots of stuff still comes via the way people probably expect I write songs, too, which is to just sit down with a guitar. The last song, “Human,” is like that.

All the way back to the Smiths, you’ve always evoked feelings vividly through purely instrumental means—particularly those feelings that that cross sadness and positivity. But you really went after it lyrically here.
Well, in working with lyricists and paying attention to the ones I haven’t worked with, I’ve noticed that as a lyricist you have to be very self-aware and ask yourself, “Well, what am I really saying?” And in the case of this album, I was asking myself how I was going to top an album that was really well-liked among my fans. I know what that feeling is like. I don’t like to call that “pressure,” but that’s what it is.

Johnny Marr’s Gear

Guitars

  • Signature Fender Jaguar
  • 1973 Les Paul Custom
  • Gibson EDS-1275 doubleneck
  • Yamaha SG-1000
  • Yamaha SG-700
  • 1963 Fender Jazzmaster
  • Martin D12-28
  • Auden acoustics, 6-string and 12-string
  • 1984 or ’85 Gibson Les Paul with Bigsby
  • Gretsch 6120
Strings & Picks
  • Ernie Ball Power Slinky strings (.011–.048)
  • D’Addario acoustic strings (.012–.053)
  • Ernie Ball Medium picks

Amps

  • 1969 Marshall plexi
  • HH Electronics transistor combo
  • Roland JC-120
  • 1965 Deluxe Reverb
  • Fender Twin Reverb (black panel)
  • Kemper Profiler
  • Fender Bassman
Effects
  • MXR Flanger
  • Carl Martin AC-Tone
  • Carl Martin Plexitone
  • Carl Martin HeadRoom Reverb
  • Carl Martin Delayla
  • Carl Martin Chorus XII
  • Boss RT-20 Rotary Ensemble

You’ve experienced that pressure before: Trying to top Meat Is Murder with The Queen Is Dead.
Before The Queen Is Dead, I remember a moment where I was walking through my kitchen and stopped in my tracks, just literally frozen, realizing what it was going to take to do that. And when I was doing Dusk with The The, I remember the feeling when Matt Johnson and I realized the record was going to completely dominate our lives for two years. And with this record, in particular, I probably was feeling the pressure of following Call the Comet, because I was literally writing 48 hours after the last show to support that record.

Was the decision to background guitars in some cases on this album also a response to that record?
Deciding where guitars should sit in more electronic music is a balancing act. It’s very easy to get it wrong. One way I’ve done it wrong in the past is by not putting enough guitar on. Like with Electronic’s second album, I was trying to make my guitar sound like a synth. But at the time, that was part of my agenda—taking guitars out, seeing what filters did, things like that.

But honestly, I don’t really like a lot of music that blends electronic music and guitars. So, when I do it, it has to be appropriate and really capture a feeling. I think I know enough to do that well now. A song like “Ariel”—a lot of people hear that as very ’80s, and the riff is built on a sequencer. But I made the riff really loud and it’s a very ’80s, Roland Jazz Chorus riff. So, there I really doubled down on the contrast between the electronic and guitar elements. On “Spirit Power and Soul,” if you take the guitar out, it’s a totally different kind of track, and the guitar is backgrounded. So, I think I know how to find the right blend better these days.

Given that newfound freedom, did you write a lot more of these tracks from rhythmic underpinnings? It seems like working alone may have forced your hand in that respect.
Yeah. I don’t mean to take any credit away from my amazing band, which has been with me for more than 10 years now. But the entire record was demo’d and programmed with me playing everything on it. Then the band came in to make it sound more like “us” as a band. But things like “Spirit Power and Soul,” I was hearing that sequencer pattern in my head long before I wrote the song, and I knew I wanted very much for it to sound like Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, or Cabaret Voltaire but with guitars on it.

When I was in my teens, I had a tape player that I could overdub on—this was before I had a Portastudio—and I’d get into obsessively layering. This album is really the grown-up version of that. It’s that same guy, but he’s now been in The The, Modest Mouse, and all that stuff. And again, because I knew it was going to be a double album, I allowed myself to do whatever the hell I wanted. So, something like “Lightning People” and that gospel vibe—I never would’ve done that on The Messenger or Playland because on those records I had these very specific and deliberate parameters I was trying to work within. Which can be a very good thing.

When you’re a writer, and particularly when you’re very young, things often become very much about what you’re not. But in this day and age, when you have a universe of plug-ins, instruments, and directions at your fingertips—not only can you get option fatigue, but your music can become a stylistic hodgepodge. So usually, with the band I impose some restrictions that limit that. On this LP, though, I just stripped them away.

What did that feel like to embrace that freedom?
Honestly, I didn’t even know I was doing it until much later. Because of the lockdown I was usually alone in the studio, so I thought, “Well, let’s see what all these virtual keyboards and synths and machines that I’ve been buying for the past five years do.” First, I had to spend a week getting really frustrated doing all the updates to the point where I don’t even really want to make music. But then I’d wake up after three hours of sleep with a song in my head and be ready to go.

You’re a writer that famously goes on hot streaks and creative runs. Do you still experience that zombie-like sense of creative possession? And how readily are you able to tap into it? What tools do you use when you can’t tap into it?
This thing you’re talking about—finding inspiration and hopefully, some otherworldly place—finding that place is something that has driven me since I was a kid. But you know that concept of work/life balance? I don’t really have that concept. I hear good things about it and maybe I should try it out.

But without mythologizing things too much, when I make records, I tend to lock myself out of the house, or forget where I’ve left the car. I develop very odd sleeping patterns if I sleep at all. I decided many years ago that drugs, particularly cocaine, don’t do any good, and alcohol isn’t really good for my creative process—maybe when you’re younger.

So, it gets back to that quote of Picasso’s: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” In my own process, that means I’ll work on a song—and for it to snag me, the initial feeling has to be something like, “This is the greatest thing that no one has ever heard.” That’s entirely subjective, but that energy will keep you locked in for a couple hours and if you’re really lucky you’ll get on a real roll and you’ll end up with something inspired. Sometimes you do something for a couple hours and you realize, “Ah, this isn’t so great,” and you have to drop it. Emotionally, that can take you down. Especially when you work with a band and spend a few weeks on something and decide, “Nope, this isn’t cutting it.” But things don’t always have to start out as esoteric to become esoteric. And as my friend Nick Cave says, “Just do the fucking work.”

“You still have to get in and do the work. This idea that a songwriter is walking in a supermarket one day, and someone in the next aisle says something and it instantly turns into a whole song…well, yeah, well that might work if you’re Smokey Robinson!”

And alchemy can come from any stage of the creative process—writing, mixing….
Yeah. One of the positive things that comes of being around and doing this for so long is you can look back and say, “Oh, okay, that’s a song people still really like that I’m still playing in my set.” And I’ll realize that it came about from fucking about on a bass line for 20 minutes. But then there are songs like “The Headmaster Ritual” where I carried around a bit of it for a couple years, and then one day we needed a song, and I sped the fucking thing up and I heard it in a totally different way.

Neil Finn, who is a masterful songwriter, nailed it when he said: “There is no formula for writing a song. It’s a mystery. Embrace the mystery.” But you still have to get in and do the work. This idea that a songwriter is walking in a supermarket one day, and someone in the next aisle says something and it instantly turns into a whole song … well, yeah, that might work if you’re Smokey Robinson!

But in my case, and certainly in the case of something like “Spirit Power and Soul,” I really had to craft that one over weeks and weeks. So that one is an example of tenacity and staying true to a vision. If you get caught up too much in divine intervention, you’ll wander around forever waiting for some melody that no one’s ever heard before. It’s in doing the work that you get there. Loads of great artists just write and write. I mentioned Nick Cave, he does it. Thom Yorke, he does it. Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse—he would write an amazing string of lyrics and then just rinse it and start again.

We’ve talked a lot about how your songs have been part hard work, and part unexpected sources of inspiration. Do you find you have to sometimes pull away from the guitar to reignite your relationship with the instrument? Do you ever get alienated from the guitar?
No. If anything, if for some reason I was going to move to Bali and retire, it would be to play for eight or nine hours a day and really expand my vocabulary. Generally, I’ll put a guitar [on a record] wherever I can. Because y’know, when I was a kid, if you bought a Thin Lizzy record, when you dropped the needle on that record, you expected to hear guitar. But because I’m also a producer, I have to find where that guitar fits appropriately. I learned guitar at the same time that I was learning about production. I also learned how to play guitar by playing along with 45s. I never had a lesson and never bought books. So I think of myself as someone who makes records, and the way I make records is to write songs. But I love guitar records. So while I’ll try other things, I’ve also been known to turn to my band while we’re working on something and say, “This needs a new intro, because we’re a guitar band.”

The Smiths – Live The Tube Studio 1984 HD (Full Show)

At the height of their creative and performa- tive powers, Johnny Marr and the Smiths could effortlessly span mutated folk-rock jangle and deep indie-dance funk, as Marr does here with his legendary 1959 ES-355—a gift from Sire Records boss Seymour Stein.

Do you think the idiosyncrasies and individuality in your playing comes from being self-taught? What about your natural proclivities as an arranger?
As a boy, a few of my pals were into playing guitar. They were really focused on “Voodoo Chile” or on what Steve Howe was doing. But I would listen to, say, the Patti Smith Group’s Radio Ethiopia, something like “Ask the Angels,” a song that’s really simple and straightforward—just an A minor and an F—and I’d think: “That’s a really cool song, it starts with power chords, okay, that’s a little like the Who. Cool I get that.” But all of the sudden I’d notice there’s a piano playing eighth-notes that sounds like the Velvet Underground or the Stooges, so I’d end up trying to play the whole record—the guitar sand the piano—rather than just the guitar part.

I was also very into Sparks, which isn’t guitar music per se, but the way the guitar is integrated is very, “Okay, now were going to use a fucking guitar!” I was just really into the sound of records as a whole. So I thought a lot about layering and when I got a machine I could overdub on, I started layering 18 guitars. By the time I got the Smiths together I had it down to 15 while trying to make it sound like just eight.

Part of that ability to layer and not create a complete mess seems related to your acute sense of rhythm and timing. That’s especially apparent in some of the Smiths’ licks—in a single part I can sometimes hear not only Keith Richards, but Keith Richards and Brian Jones, with some Steve Cropper sixths on top and Leo Nocentelli’s right hand in the same song. Was that skill cultivated from the intellectual process of breaking down how a record works?
I found around 14 that the Rolling Stones records from the ’60s, in particular, really blew my mind. Back then, that was unusual. Because my friends were jumping around to the British pop groups—things like the English Beat. But I’d hear records like “The Last Time,” and even though I knew it was old, I just thought, “Wow, this sounds better than anything around now.” So I really studied that—really getting into those singles, how they were put together, and the sound of them. I realized that Keith and Brian were doing this meshing thing. “The Last Time” is a good example; so is “It’s All Over Now.” I really picked up the soul stuff from those guys. But a lot of the rhythmic drive you’re talking about is just my personality and plain exuberance—hyperactivity really. There’s a song on The Messenger, “Generate, Generate.” I mean, that’s really a tribute to my hyperactivity (laughs). I was quite into being hyper!

You’ve always valued art and seem to have derived a lot of your energy from the notion of a bohemian life. I was always moved by your relationship and loyalty to Manchester and what that place meant as sort of a creative organism and catalyst to your development.
If you’ve got an artistic temperament, you can find inspiration in almost any place. But yeah, Manchester being so urban and musically orientated—there was a lot to rally around. When my kids were teens, me and their mother brainwashed them into having weekend jobs in Manchester, so they knew what it was to finish their shift in the city on a summer’s night, just before the clubs were opening, when all the shop workers are starting to go to the bars and exchange ideas, and all the fashionistas are lurking around. It’s really magical. Urban life is changing and subterranean life is changing. But young eyes—they don’t know different. They don’t know that a place isn’t Cleveland in the ’70s or New York in the ’60s. They’ll make the best of it. There are always great bands coming out. Right now, as we speak, there’s some band of girls and boys getting together in Williamsburg, finding their voice—and it will be great.

The Deep Cuts: Johnny Marr’s Gear in His Own Words

Anyone that’s followed Johnny Marr’s career knows the man is a certifiable guitar addict, with a Fort Knox worth of killer vintage instruments to utilize at the turn of a whim. Marr rather religiously used his signature Fender Jaguar over the last several years, but he reached deeper into his collection for the many less quintessentially Marr sounds on Fever Dreams Pts 1-4. Marr explains what he used in great detail below.

“A lot of my gear for this record was really deliberately selected, and I really honed in on a few things. I’ve got two 1973 Les Paul Customs I used for some of the darker sounds. You hear that on ‘Receiver.’ I ran those through my old MXR Flanger and either my Marshall Plexi or my HH transistor combo. Those things were part of the stylistic structure I wanted to maintain.

I played my signature Jaguar quite a lot. But since I got more into the movie soundtrack work, I’ve used a lot more 12-string, and for that I’ve been playing a Gibson EDS-1275 doubleneck because it’s the best 12-string sound. With all that mass, and the humbuckers—and if you can get it together right—all the extra resonance from the 6-string pickups, you get all kinds of overtones. There’s a couple Yamaha SG-1000s and an SG-700 on the record, which all have the Spinex pickups but sound pretty different. I used my ’63 Jazzmaster, too.

For acoustics, I played a few guitars by Auden, a company here in the UK—a 12- and 6-string—as well as the Martin D12-28 I’ve used since the Smiths. I also used the guitar that I’ve probably played more than any guitar in my life—the red 1984 or ’85 Les Paul with a Bigsby that I played a lot with the Smiths. I got that around the Meat Is Murder album. It’s great for clean stuff. A lot of stuff that folks think is a Rickenbacker is the Les Paul tracked with my Jaguar or tracked with itself in coil (split) mode. If I want to get a little natural chorus, that guitar is perfect because I’ll put a part down with both pickups on one side of the stereo image then put a split-coil track on the other side. The effect of the same guitar with these slightly different tones helps create that sound. For whammy-stuff and dive bombs, I’ll often use a Gretsch 6120 from the Smiths days. Another big part of this album, and the movie stuff, is one of my signature Jags with a Fernandes sustainer pickup in it.

Amp-wise, apart from the HH, I used a lot of the same amps I’ve had since the Smiths: my Roland JC-120, a ’65 Deluxe Reverb, a black-panel Fender Twin Reverb that I use with the Gretsch. Occasionally I’ll use the Kemper for overdubs or a Bassman or the ’69 Marshall Plexi and Super Reverb amps I used with Modest Mouse. Effects-wise, I use a lot of Carl Martin stuff: The AC-Tone, Plexitone, HeadRoom Reverb, Delayla, and Chorus XII are all great. And I’ll use the Boss RT-20 Rotary Sound a lot, too.

I’ve gone down the weird road before. But if I can’t use all this stuff and my fingers to squeeze out the right sound, I’m either not trying hard enough, or what I’m looking for is wrong. Someday I’d like to find something that will replicate the weirdness of Johnny Thunders’ 2-string bends. But I’m always looking for something that will walk the line between musical and radical.” —Johnny Marr
















Rig Rundown: Los Bitchos’ Serra Petal & Josefine Jonsson

How an Italia Speedster, a sturdy Jazz bass, and a little “sad chorus” can kickstart an international dance party.


The last two years have given us plenty of reasons to seek a jaunty, joyous listening experience in our music. And one of the best finds around is Los Bitchos—the all-female, internationally assembled outfit consisting of Australia-born Serra Petale (guitar), Sweden’s Josefine Jonsson (bass), Uruguay’s Agustina Ruiz (keytar), and South Londoner Nic Crawshaw (drums).

Los Bitchos’ bubbly instrumental psychedelia cocktail mixes their collective musical ingredients (Argentinian cumbia, Peruvian chicha, Turkish Anatolian rhythms, and classic American surf rock), creating a devilishly delicious concoction that’s refreshing as a mojito, hits like a negroni, and is as tropical as a mai tai. The good-time gals socked the world with their 2022 debut, Let the Festivities Begin!, showcasing their superpower of rump-shaking revelry.

Before Los Bitchos’ Nashville opening slot in support of Belle and Sebastian, PG was invited to the historic Ryman Auditorium for a quick and loose gear chat. We covered their streamlined setups that include a favored, fast Italian ride (not a Ducati) that made the trip from the U.K., learned why Petale is “Miss Chorus” and loves the effect’s “sad sounds,” and was schooled on why Jonsson just needs a J bass and an Ampeg amp to make the room twist and shout.

Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.

Speeding with Serra

“For me, the big difference between a workhorse guitar you take on tour compared to the instruments you keep at home is the humbucker pickups,” stated Los Bitchos guitarist Serra Petale during a recent Big 5 video for PG. Petale expounds in the Rundown, saying that she prefers performing with the above Italia Guitars Maranello Speedster II because its humbuckers offer beefier tones and a louder presence compared to the single-coil guitars she prefers for recording. “The Los Bitchos live show is a lot different than the album experience,” she adds. Her only touring guitar for this U.S. run takes Rotosound BS10 British Steels (.010–.046).

Veloce

A shot of the Maranello’s cool matching headstock. Note the stylish Italia badge and how the dual racing stripes continue.

Backline Bedrock

This Fender Twin Reverb offers Petale enough punch for her guitar to be heard and a clean platform for her fuzz and chorus pedals to reconfigure her signal.

“I am Miss Chorus”

That’s what Serra Petale declared when asked why she identified a chorus pedal as her secret weapon in the earlier Big 5 video with PG. Her current main modulation manipulator is the Electro-Harmonix Small Clone. (In the Big 5 video, she named the EHX Neo Clone as her go-to, but she’s since acquired the stomp favored by Kurt Cobain.) Another Mike Matthews design makes an appearance in the shape of a big-box EHX Big Muff. The two other noisemakers are a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive and a Mooer Pure Octave. A Korg Pitchblack keeps her Italia in line.

Just a J for Josefine

The newest addition to Josefine Jonsson’s bass family is her current crush—a Fender Player Plus Jazz Bass that’s been “just lovely to play.” The stock J has Player Plus Noiseless Jazz Bass pickups, a 3-band active EQ with an active/passive toggle, a 4-saddle HiMass bridge, and a modern C-neck shape. She keeps both volume controls wide open and dials in dynamics with her attack. She notes in the Rundown that she’s always bonded more with the Jazz than the Precision, because of the J’s smaller size and thinner neck.

Ain’t Nothing to It But to Rocket

For this run of U.S. shows supporting Belle & Sebastian, Josefine plugs her Player Plus J straight into this Ampeg Rocket Bass RB-112 because, as she put it in the Rundown, “anything Ampeg and I feel like I’m in safe hands.”

Fender Paramount PS-220E Review

Fender’s new Paramount PS-220E Parlor is a million kinds of fun. For starters, imagine picking up a little old Stella tucked away in a dusty corner of a garage sale—only to find the action is perfect and the tuners actually work. Then consider the basic joys of any good little acoustic: how easy it is to hold, how light it is, how little room it takes up when you leave it sitting around the living room waiting for whatever spark of inspiration hits at random. The PS-220E dishes oodles of those small pleasures. And while the price isn’t exactly small for an imported instrument of this stature, the playability and versatility are equal to much more expensive instruments.


All Dressed Up

There are a lot of reasons the Paramount sells for a somewhat premium price. It’s charmingly handsome—in no small part because of the detail work that reveals itself up close. The purfling, rosette, and backstrip are fashioned around a pretty feather-and-checker pattern of blue, green, and red that alternate with spaces of antique white. The entire neck and headstock are bound, and quite immaculately at that. The ovangkol fretboard inlay and headstock overlay are classy and understated but feel that extra bit luxurious. The visual charm is reinforced by a subtle chocolatey burst finish on the solid mahogany top. And while the solid mahogany back and sides are made from what some might call rough grain, the rustic effect works in harmony with the fancier details to create a sort of restored antique look.

While the price isn’t exactly small for an imported instrument of this stature, the playability and versatility are equal to much more expensive instruments.

You certainly can’t complain about the detail work on the guitar’s exterior. Adding so many visual treats means more spots where workmanship can go wrong. But everything from the frets to the binding, purfling, and inlays are pretty much perfect. Inside, things are less so. There is evidence of sloppy gluing and less-than-precise kerfing cuts—none of which have any bearing on the sound. But the price of the guitar does leave you longing for a tidier touch on that count.

Sit and Strum Awhile

If you imagined the perfect guitar for sitting down with after a long workday, or the ideal songwriting partner that you drag from the garden to the beach to the living room and down to the studio, it might feel a lot like the Paramount PS-220E. The action is delectably low, and you can vigorously strum barre chords from the 1st fret to the 12th without hearing any buzzing or clanking strings. The C-profile neck is just substantial enough to make you feel like you’re not squeezing to fret effectively, but slim enough that you can move around quickly. The easy playability means the PS-220E very handily transcends simple strummer roles. Fingerstyle moves and complex chords are made significantly easier for the low action and nice set-up, which can give you a lot of confidence for stretching your playing. It’s great for leads for the same reasons. Occasionally there is a slight sense of disappointment because the small parlor body can only generate so much muscle for these applications. And there is inevitably some limits to the dynamic range you can generate. That said, the PS-220E has impressive headroom for a guitar of this size. And pushing it to its limits rarely creates any harsh overtones.

The Fishman Sonitone Plus undersaddle pickup and preamp are, in general, an effective addition to the PS-220E. The tones most suited to the guitar tend to live in the lower third of the tone control’s range, and I generally played with the volume as low as possible to soften any undersaddle transients. Hard strumming, needless to say, brought out the least flattering of these sounds. But the Sonitone could sound quite sweet in fingerstyle situations, which makes it a nice fit for the very fingerstyle-friendly PS-220E.

The Verdict

It’s hard to find a reason to complain about any aspect of the PS-220E’s performance or playability. It feels fantastic—at times like a natural extension of your body. And if you struggle at all with hand or body fatigue from wrestling with a bigger instrument, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable alternative. But the PS-220E is appealing for many reasons beyond comfort. The playability makes it a much more direct line between your musical intuition and imagination, which is a pretty invaluable thing whether you’re a songwriter or tackling a challenging tune or arrangement. It’s a good thing the PS-220E is as stylish and easy to play as it is, because $829 is pretty steep for an import instrument. But regardless of price or place of manufacture, you can’t argue that the PS-220E is a pure joy to hold and play.