Tools of the Trade: Part Three

Musicians Talk About Their Gear Collections.

Ultimate Guitar
Tools of the Trade: Part Three

In this installment of Tools of the Trade (part 1, part 2), we check out some favored gear from the likes of Mastodon, Leslie West, Adrian Belew, Lamb of God, and many more. As always, feel free to share stories regarding your favorite gear.

Bill Kelliher (Mastodon):

My favorite amps are the Friedmans for sure. I have a HVE 100 JJ which is the Jerry Cantrell head. I’ve also got some Friedman cabinets that have Celestion 65 Watt Crèmebacks and I have a White 1978 Les Paul Custom that has Bare Knuckle Holy Diver Pickups in it. I used that all over the new record [Once More Round the Sun]. That guitar was on every song and it sounds so brutal.

[Fun Fact: It was opening night of the Once More Round the Sun Tour with Clutch and Children of Bodom and I was catching up with Bill before the interview started – we were chatting at the catering table. It was super early in the day and we were having coffee. Out of nowhere, Brent Hinds walks up with his Les Paul strapped on him, he was just walking around the halls running through scales. He poured a cup of coffee, said hello, shook my hand, and walked off, the whole time, he never stopped playing the scales with his fretting hand. Never. Missed. A beat.]

Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper):

Justin (UG): Tell me about your collection at home, is there anything other than Ibanez?

Nita: It’s mostly Ibanez. I’ve got an 84 Gibson Flying V, an SG Special, I’ve got a Strat, I’ve got a Washburn, but the ones I play are all Ibanez. My gem is my 87 Gem – a 777 in shocking pink. That was my dream guitar. It’s the pink one with the monkey grip, maple neck and pyramid inlays. It’s in perfect condition – I finally got it and now I’m looking for a case for it. The interesting thing is that I will find them on eBay, and apparently this is a thing, it’s the one with the pink velvet inside, and apparently those particular cases have a smell. Every time I find one, the listing will say, buyer be aware that this case has the distinctive smell. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Justin: Do you have any lawsuit era guitars?

Nita: I would love a Lawsuit era Flying V. I don’t think I would ever play it because I’m a creature of habit when it comes to the balance of my guitars. I do a lot of the Malmsteen style guitar spins and stuff and if the balance is a little off, it throws me off. I would love to have one just to have it as a collector’s piece. As an Ibanez fan, rather than just an Ibanez endorsee.

Johnny Hickman (Cracker):

Justin: What happened to the Gold Top with the fish on it? That was a beautiful guitar. [A lot of the classic Cracker tracks were done with that guitar]

Johnny: Me being a hot headed asshole really. I was in the middle of a solo in San Francisco, out on my own on the mast of the ship so to speak. Suddenly the wireless signal started going out. Really fucked me up. I turned around and my guitar tech was not there so I just tossed it on the carpet. Unfortunately there was a brick wall behind the carpet. It cracked all the way down the middle and was a goner. My son Hans told me to sell the remains and use the money for an anger management class! The little smart ass. Ha ha!

Rome Ramirez (Sublime with Rome):

I think my most prized possession in the studio is a stereo pair of original 1073 preamps, I love those things. I like to play around with different compressors and preamps. I’m a big advocate of capturing the sound as best as you can before it gets to the computer. Once it’s in the computer, you can make it sound dope too but there’s something to be said about capturing the best audio sound before it gets to the computer. [Rome has an amazing studio and works as a producer on a lot of hip hop albums. He is also an avid user of Kemper modeling amps.]

Fun Fact: During this tour, Josh Freese was drumming for Sublime with Rome.

John 5 (Rob Zombie, Marylin Manson):

Justin: If you could pick 5 gems out of that collection, if that’s even possible, which 5 mean the most to you?

John: I would say that my Broadcaster is the first one, for sure. I still use it and you can see it clearly on the video for “Behind the Nut Love”. I absolutely love that guitar. Then I have a’53 Black Guard that looks exactly like it did when it came off the assembly line at Fender. I have a ’67 Telecaster Custom that’s so brand new looking, it’s just ridiculous. The only thing changed on these guitars are the strings. Now this one doesn’t sound like it would be one of my favorites but in 1970, they didn’t make a lot of Telecasters because they made so many in ’68 and ’69. They made a ton in those two years because they had the Thinline and all these variations – they made a lot in those two years so they did not make many Telecasters in 1970. I have a beautiful 1970 Telecaster in Candy Apple Red. It’s just gorgeous. For the last one, I would say that I love this Maui Blue Telecaster from 1978 – it’s from the International Colors and it’s the one on the cover of Art of Malice.

Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty):

I believe I’m the only punk rock guitar player who has not one but two Jimmy Page Number One Les Pauls. I think my serial numbers are 680 and 282. I don’t think I need to educate the readers of Ultimate Guitar about the difference between the first run of Jimmy Page signature guitars that Gibson made, the Jimmy Page Number One, and the most recent run of the Jimmy Page Number Two. Everyone knows what they are. They both sound almost exactly the same and I plug that into a white JCM800 Anniversary 100 Watt Head which is then run through a Mesa Booge Triple Rectifier 4x12 Cabinet. In that cabinet I believe are 65 Watt Celestions – I’ve never taken the back off of the cabs so I’m not sure. That is the guitar sound at our live shows. And on this most recent record, I swear to god I have no idea what Joe Barrisi (Producer on True North) does from track to track and even sometimes within the same track but he uses his incredible collection of pedals and recording equipment to change the tone of the guitars in the studio. But the basis of it all is just the rig I use live.

Fun Fact: Jimmy Page’s original Number One is a ’59 Les Paul Standard that he bought from Joe Walsh in 1969.

Mark Morton (Lamb of God):

I don’t have any really sought after vintage gems or anything. But I do have a couple older Les Pauls that I love. My main guitar that I’ve talked a lot about in interviews, like if I had to give away all my guitars and keep one – that would be a terrible situation, but my main guitar is a ’75 Les Paul Deluxe GoldTop. It’s a piece of shit. It’s beat to hell. It’s got dings and scratches and it’s all tore up. Somebody before me routed it out for PAFs instead of the P-90 Soapbars, which was fine because I wanted humbuckers in there anyway. It’s not like it’s a sought-after classic guitar, it’s just my guitar that happens to be a 40 year old Les Paul. Then I’ve got a ’76 Custom that’s in great shape that I just recently got and it’s beautiful. It just doesn’t quite have the magic that my ’75 has. It’s just one of those things that breathes. My ’76 is very nice and I do play it but you can tell with that ’75 there’s something supernatural about it. Then I’ve got an ‘84 Les Paul – it’s kind of a weird model – I think it’s called a Studio Deluxe. That’s actually my wife’s but she doesn’t play it much so I play it a fair amount. I’ve got an ‘86 reissue of a ‘57 Les Paul Jr. with the tobacco sunburst. I’ve got a couple great Telecasters, nothing old, just a couple custom shop reissue stuff. This is on top of all my Dominions, which is my signature model with Jackson. That’s what I play out here and I have some amazing custom versions of that with different finishes. In terms of old stuff, that’s about it.

Ben Wells (Black Stone Cherry):

Ben: I’m proud of all my Les Pauls, those are my main guitar of choice. One of my favorite guitars of all time is the Gretsch. I just love the way it sounds. I love Brian Setzer and I love rockabilly music and that’s the Gretsch sound. I have a few of those guitars. I don’t use them live just because sometimes they just to translate into our live show. They’re such a beautiful guitar, the cosmetics of them are so nice I don’t want to beat them up because my other guitars that I play live get pretty beat up. But I do love those Gretsch. I also love Telecasters and I love PRS guitars. That’s the thing about me, I’ve never signed exclusively to one guitar company because I like using all kinds of different stuff and I like to have that freedom. This album cycle, I’m taking out my Les Pauls, my PRS, and there’s a company out of Tennessee called McClain and they built me a couple custom guitars that I’m really excited about and they sound incredible.

Justin: I understand you had a few of them stolen a couple years back. Have you been able to find any of those yet?

Ben: Unfortunately not. I had about six or seven stolen. I’m staying positive that one day they will show up. The good thing is that every guitar that was taken was a special guitar, meaning it was either a custom paint job or it was a one-of-a-kind guitar. So if one of them pops up, I’ll know it’s mine, it’s not like I’ll have to wonder if it’s mine or not. So that’s the good thing about it. I’m just trying to stay hopeful that one of these days they’ll pop up somewhere.

Justin: I hope you find it. That PRS with the patina paint job, I really thought that one looked cool.

Ben: Me and a buddy of mine, he does a lot of car stuff and his dad used to work at the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky and he was messing around with different car paints. So he had the idea. He had these paint chippings from the Corvette plant and they looked really cool because they all had different layers of paint and they were stripped back and it had this crazy swirly look. So the idea was to paint that guitar, which was originally a black PRS and sand it down and paint it one color and sand it down, then paint it another color and sand it down, and keep going for three or four layers and see what happens. There really wasn’t any rhyme or reason to it, it was a total guessing game of how the pattern would look. I picked the paint colors which was like a blue and silver and then I think a couple others and he just kept sanding down on it and it came out the way you saw it. It turned out pretty cool. It sucks that somebody else out there has it right now but it was a cool guitar and I loved playing it. It always caught people’s attention. They would always ask what kind of guitar it was because it wasn’t like a normal PRS paint scheme. It was really fun to do that though because we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be until we were all done.

Justin: It takes balls to take a sander to a PRS anyway.

Ben: I really do like black guitars but for some reason, this one, I just wanted to do something different to it. It was a little too plain. So to some it might have been a little painful to do that but I like stuff like that. It’s unique.

Adrian Belew (Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Paul Simon, King Crimson, Talking Heads, ect):

Justin: Let’s talk about the gear that drives those very diverse projects – you’re a Parker Fly player, those are pretty unique guitars, in their look and their construction.

Adrian: Well the Parker Fly, the day I picked it up I was in Tokyo, Japan and they brought it by my room, they weren’t actually bringing me the guitar to try, they were bringing me a box to try but they loaned me the guitar to try it with. From the moment I picked it up I felt like it was something completely different. It just totally matched everything that I wanted. It was the proper size, weight, feel, balance, and once I realized that the darn thing stayed in tune no matter how abusive I was with the tremolo arm, I was in love. I said this is the instrument for me. I didn’t immediately adopt it as my instrument because I had very customized Stratocasters that I still have and I still love. But they had MIDI and they had sustainer pickups and things like that and that wasn’t a part of the Parker Fly. It took me a few years to dawn on me that maybe Parker Fly would customize one for me which is what they did over four years and that eventually became the Adrian Belew Model Parker Fly, their first signature model they had made. Since then, that guitar has my heart, totally. It makes me play better, I feel like it makes me sound better, it’s just so much a part of me now I don’t even think about it. It fits me so perfectly. It’s very versatile, you can get a lot of different sounds out of it and as I mentioned before, it stays perfectly in tune. I can restring that guitar and within five minutes it will stay perfectly in tune. Mine is set up so you can pull the tremolo a full third up and down as far as you want and it still stays in tune. So that guitar has become my voice. But that doesn’t exclude other guitars. I have probably forty or fifty guitars sitting around here. You know there is something so different about a big bodied Gretsch or a Rickenbacker 12 string, all the different guitars I have here I have because they all have their own characteristics and their own sound and they cause me to do something I wouldn’t do on another instrument. I’m not a collector of guitars. I just have the guitars that cause me to do something musically.

Justin: The Parker Fly is pretty unique in its construction. They were using carbon fiber way back before anyone else was. How did you change the design for the Adrian Belew model?

Adrian: The guitar was already designed and it took Ken Parker 20 years to design it. He realized all the inadequacies that normal guitars have – intonation problems, frets going bad, tuning, balance, and all those kinds of things. So he set out to redesign the guitar and I think he took a very revolutionary and basic way to do it. What I really wanted to do on the Adrian Belew Model is update the electronics. The Parker Fly came out in the 80’s and by the time I got around to it, there were a lot of cool things you could do that needed to be incorporated into the guitar. Ken Parker told me that when they first designed the guitar, they meant for it to be a MIDI guitar. But they felt it was already so revolutionary that they didn’t want to go too far out. So it took about four years to figure out how to make all of those things work in concert and put them in the back of the guitar which is so thin and small. When my guitar tech who lives here in Nashville, he’s very well-known, his name is Joe Glaser, he works for all the stars here, when he opens up the back of the guitar, he almost passes out. Every time he comments on how he can’t believe how they got all that stuff in there. It’s so tight that it’s almost hard to work on but it’s got every bell and whistle that I wanted on it. We actually put on the Line6 Variax System as well. So then you have a guitar that has its own magnetic pickups, it’s got Piezo pickups, it has 26 different guitar sounds from the Variax, it can sustain at any volume, full on sustain, and it’s a MIDI guitar so it can turn itself into any MIDI instrument – piano, saxophone, whatever.

Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum):

Dan: Live, I will usually just use a couple AC-30s. But in the studio, we’re pretty specific about what we use. For all three of the Twin Tone Records (Say what You will, Made To Be Broken, While You Were Out) I used an Ampeg V4, which was a monstrously loud amp head that had a really peculiar sound. Dave would always use a Telecaster which had a very bright tone and was so sharp that I wanted to get a loud bassy roaring low end tone to counteract that. For guitars then, I played a Les Paul Jr. and Les Paul Special with P-90 pickups in them – they had a lot of mid range and a lot of buzzing between songs but that was the sound we were going for back then.

You can really tell the difference between the tone on those records and our newer records like Hang Time, which was the first record I used a Standard Las Paul with two humbuckers on. I think that was when I started using Gold Tops. It’s a really different sound - you get a little more control over the tone with humbuckers than with P-90s. The Gold Tops, at the time weren’t really a big deal, it’s just what Gibson was making at the time. I bought them in the early 80’s and they were about four years old when I got them. What I liked about them was that they had Maple necks instead of Mahogany so I didn’t break them on tour all the time. I still have those two Gold Tops I bought back in the early 80s and they probably have 600 shows on them, maybe more.

Justin: They made guitars to last back then.

Dan: Yeah, I think the key was the Maple necks, every guitar with a Mahogany neck, I broke. And I’m pretty careful with them. I had a beautiful 1969 Les Paul Special TV Model. It was a gorgeous guitar that made it only a few months on tour before the headstock broke, which was a pretty typical place for a break on those guitars. The changes in climate makes things so brittle and the way the airlines handles that stuff, things like that happen.

Corey Beaulieu (Trivium):

Justin: You have one piece of gear that I’ve always found to be really intriguing – The Kemper. Could you tell us a bit about that piece of equipment?

Corey: It’s a crazy awesome piece of gear. It can copy amp tones. If you have a 5150 or a Marshall JCM and you plug it into a cab and you put a mic on it and plug it into the Kemper and it has this whole process where it sounds like an alien but basically, you play for like five or ten seconds and the Kemper copies the signal and the tone of that amp. Then you can bring it anywhere you want. I have over a thousand different profiles of different amps. Then you can have like 10 different expensive tube heads at your disposal in your Kemper. It’s great because then you don’t have to lug around a heavy tube head and a giant road case with your full rig in it. I can carry my whole backline on the plane with me, like on a commercial flight. So it makes touring a hell of a lot easier. The tone is consistent and you done have to worry about a head blowing out or cabs. We just plug directly into the PA when we play live. If people are interested in new technology when it comes to amps, check the Kemper out. People make these profiles and trade them on message boards and stuff so you can find some really good ones. So you can have all these great amp tones at your disposal without having to buy thousands of dollars and buy them off. It’s a great piece of gear and it’s been awesome for us because we do something on a record, I’m able to modify a profile to get that tone. It also has all the effects you’d need – pitch shifters and harmonizers – so it’s like if you buy that, it’s got the tube heads and stomp boxes all in one unit. It’s nice to not have a whole clutter of gear, especially on the road. I just have it all in like a four space rack unit.

Justin: Do you use the Kemper in the studio as well?

Corey: In the studio, we still prefer to use tube heads and everything like that. But on this records we got a few days behind schedule due to an issue with drums. So instead of dicking around for a couple days to dial in an amp tone, we decided that we would save some time and catch up on tracking. So we just set up the Kemper with our live setting and started blasting through recording. We figured we could change up amps and change the tone later when we were mixing. So it definitely helped to move things along. It’s all just pretty plug in and go. You don’t have to really fuck around with it to find something that’s going to work for you.

Mark Engles (Dredg, Black Map):

I’ve had the same heads for the past 15 or 16 years I use 2 JCM 900s because of their versatility. I run the heads stereo so I have a cabinet on each side of the stage. It’s not my dream setup; I use the JCM 900s partly because of endorsements. I try to dial in the amps to make them sound more like JCM 800s. Going from a clean channel to an overdriven channel very quickly is something that I’ve always really needed so I’ve stuck with the 900s by default.

For guitars I have 2 Fender Telecasters; one is a 1968 with all original parts except for a re-fret which is obviously necessary. The other telecaster is a newer American Deluxe which is a brown sunburst. Gavin and I share a Gibson SG Standard. And I just recently received a custom guitar from a smaller company out of Salt Lake City called KSM. It was one of those things where one of the reps was a fan of ours and started asking me about trying one of their guitars. This will be the first tour that we’ve used that guitar extensively. It’s really beautiful instrument. It’s like a hybrid between PRS and Gibson. It’s got a Seymour Duncan mini humbucker at the neck position and a regular humbucker at the bridge.

My pedal board I run stereo and as long as I end up with the pedals going stereo into both of my amp heads, that’s the most important thing. I like to mess around with mixing analog and digital delays. The analog pedals are mono and then I split it into a digital delay signal to give it the width of sound. The analog gives it a nice gritty sound. So, I use a lot of different delays and I do use some gain boosts and some EQ boosts and dips for dynamics. That’s the most of it. I’ve had this pedal board I’m using now for 4 or 5 years and certain pedals will come and go depending on the songs we’re doing on a tour. I haven’t gone to a MIDI setup because I like to tweak the tone but I’ve got to memorize a lot of dial and knob positions but I’ve settled into it now.

During the making of the Pariah [the Parrot, and the Delusion] album, I fell in love with the old Magnatone amps. We had two different ones in the studio. They just break up in such a cool way and it doesn’t sound like anything else. It sounds dirty but it doesn’t sound like any pedal, it doesn’t sound like any digital plug in, it’s just so unique. Then we would blend it with another amp like a VOX or something like that. We were just trying to get a sound that you haven’t heard before.

I have a friend who has been collecting guitars for about 40 years and I was lucky enough that he let me in to his whole collection and I was able to use a lot of his guitars. For instance, he had an old Silvertone that I fell in love with. He had an old Sears called an Old Craftsman and that thing is all over the Pariah album. It’s like this light balsa wood type guitar. I think if you dropped it, it would shatter but it sounds huge. There was some old Jazzmasters on that album. I had never used those before, that was all part of trying to get a sound we hadn’t heard before and I think we succeeded. I used analog tape delays and ran them into stereo delays – I’m a big fan of doing that. It gives you such a nice warble and an imperfect sound. I used some plate reverb with actual plates.

Peter Klett (Candlebox):

Peter: In the past, it’s always been late 70s Les Pauls – usually 79s. I’ve been getting into a Fender guitar that I had gotten. It was a Mexican Telecaster that I changed around a bit. So now on the road it’s usually a couple Les Pauls and a couple Fenders. My amps are the Soldano Decatone and the Marshall Super Lead 2000. I like those combined together. I put those into two cabs. I have a VooDoo Lab rack that has two dirties and a clean channel. I just use the clean and then there’s a one space power amp by Rocktron that I run my chorus, delay, reverb on that to make the sound nice and big.

Then up front I have a friend of ours at Stomp who makes and modifies pedals for me. So I have a really great distortion and phazer pedal from them. So what I do is I split the clean signal and the dirty signal with a stereo pan pedal so that I can blend the two if I want. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I started to do that when I started a band called Red Light Music. I needed to go from clean to dirty in a smoother way. This works great for me. So the stereo pan pedal splits the signal into a clean chain and dirty chain. In the dirty chain I have a V-Wha, then I have the StompMods distortion and phazer pedals. At the moment I also have a modified Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS-808) in the dirty chain. And then I have a delay and a VooDoo Lab phazer which goes out into a DigiTech effects rack with a Hush unit to clean up the sound after it goes through all that. My rig has gotten simpler over the years. You’ve got a lot of guys now with these huge rack systems and I just don’t need it. It is cleaner for some things but I just don’t need all that who makes and modifies pedals for me. So I have a really great distortion and phazer pedal from them. So what I do is I split the clean signal and the dirty signal with a stereo pan pedal so that I can blend the two if I want. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I started to do that when I started a band called Red Light Music. I needed to go from clean to dirty in a smoother way. This works great for me. So the stereo pan pedal splits the signal into a clean chain and dirty chain. In the dirty chain I have a V-Wha, then I have the StompMods distortion and phazer pedals. At the moment I also have a modified Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS-808) in the dirty chain. And then I have a delay and a VooDoo Lab phazer which goes out into a DigiTech effects rack with a Hush unit to clean up the sound after it goes through all that. My rig has gotten simpler over the years. You’ve got a lot of guys now with these huge rack systems and I just don’t need it. It is cleaner for some things but I just don’t need all that stuff.

Justin: What is it about the ‘79s that you are so drawn to?

Peter: I’ve always had 79s, I had a couple 80s. It’s something about the pickups and the wood that was used in those years. The T Bucker was used in that era. There was a guy who worked at Gibson in the pickup department from like 78 to 81 and I cannot remember the name of the guy right now but he had a certain sound that was unique. It’s a tone thing. It’s got a fat bottom end. I’ve got a Fender that I put a Seymour Duncan 59 in the back and a T Bucker at the neck position and that sounds great too. At this point I think you can buy a vintage guitar, for me it’s the 79 Les Paul or you can buy a heavier new guitar and put the Seymour Duncan 59s and it will probably be fairly close.

Fun Fact: a lot of the guitar tracks on the Self-Titled debut Candlebox album were demo tracks that never got revised. Some are even the first run through.

Leslie West (Mountain):

Leslie: It took me a while to get my own signature guitar too but I got one of those now and I feel bad because Hendrix never had a signature guitar. I’m glad to have my own signature guitar now before I’m dead so that I can look at them and play them. In fact I played about four different models on the album and the acoustic I used was called a Larrivee, it’s made in Canada and it records really well. I think there’s a picture in the artwork for the album of the guitars I used. I think it’s in there – everything’s a rush the last few weeks before the album comes out. I hate to worry about all that stuff. I just want to play guitar.

Justin: You’ve got a signature guitar out now. You know what I like about it is that it only has one pickup in the bridge position but it’s got such a big tone.

Leslie: Well I started out playing a Les Paul Jr. and it had a P90 – it was the loudest thing that Gibson ever made. So when we were designing this signature guitar with Dean, I said that I wanted one pickup at the bridge but I wanted it to be a humbucker. You can get a lot of tones out of one pickup. I don’t play very fast but I’m a stickler on tone. I want an exceptional tone. I can’t expect someone else to like it if I don’t like it. Actually on that album – that first song, “Dying since the Day I was born” has tone as big as a shithouse. I sent that song to Slash to get his opinion on the track and he wrote me back and said “man, you can’t get any heavier than that”. I respect what he says so that was great to hear. Mark Tremonti played a great solo on that track too. I was very proud of that. Since I lost my leg, I sit down when I play. My prosthetic use is limited and my balance is messed up. When I listened back to that tracks, I really think that there is something great that happens when I play sitting down. The tone is lower or something. The song “Long Red” that I did for this album was on my very first album. The reason I re-did it was that that song is one of the most sampled songs in the history of hip hop. In my office there are a bunch of gold and platinum records on my wall from Jay-Z, Kanye West, ect. In ’69 when I wrote it, there was no hip-hop but it goes to show how universal that melody is.

Leslie had his leg amputated due to complications from diabetes in 2011. The aforementioned solo album he eludes to features guest appearances by Slash, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang, Joe Bonamassa, and a few others.

Ty Tabor (Kings X, The Jelly Jam):

Ty: My current live rig is the simplest I’ve ever had before. It’s the first time since the very early days when I first started playing in bands that I’ve used floor pedal effects for my delay. I’ve been using rack effects for years because I think they sound better. But I found a combo of things on this last tour on accident that turned out to work really well. We were rehearsing for the tour and I was having problems with my regular full rig so for the sake of not ending a practice, I plugged into something made by Fractal Audio Systems called the Axe XF Ultra. We rehearsed with that one that day. The next day I came in with my regular rig when it was fixed and plugged it in and none of us thought it sounded as good as the Ultra. So I went on tour with this really simple rig which is the Ultra as the pre amp running into a Randall RT2/50 power amp. Then I have an analog delay pedal and a Seymour Duncan pickup booster pedal, which I use for playing leads, on the floor and that’s it. I just started using this rig on the tour we did this summer co-headlining with Accept - it was a blast.

Justin: Your pre amps have some modifications. What is it about the amps that you use that allows you to get the tones you want?

Ty: The pre amp sections are tweaked for me by the people at Egnater. One of the modules I have is something that they don’t sell. I have two of them. We call it the Gretchen Module because it was designed to emulate the last series L5 as best as possible and they did a really good job at getting very close on that. So, I have a couple of those and then I have a couple of Egnater EG5 pre amps with a mid-boost added to them for me. Then those run into my power amp. Then the cool thing with my power amp, the Randall RT2/50, is that you can mod it out yourself. They have a bias channel adjustments for both sides of the tubes. I’ve got 6L6 tubes in one side and EL34 tubes in the other side. So when you play it out of two cabinets, they each sound a little bit different and it helps to spread the sound and gives you a wider guitar tone. And because I have two different tubes on different channels, this amp give you the ability, with the bias adjustment, to run the tubes on either side of your amp hotter or colder. You can develop your own sound yourself. On any other amp you would have to bring it into a shop and pay somebody to do that for you, and it costs a lot of money. This is the only amp I’ve ever seen that has an adjustment in the front of the amp that you can adjust with a screw driver. It gives you total control because you can run the tubes cool if you want a nice clean tone and if you want to saturate and get ugly, you can hit those tubes hard. You can even go colder on one side and crank them up on the other side. I’ve never seen that kind of versatility before.

Michael Poulsen (Volbeat):

Justin: Let’s go over your current live rig on this tour.

Mike: It’s pretty simple, just a Gibson SG GT [they only made them for two years] plugged into a Marshall JCM 800 Head. That’s pretty much it.

Justin: Simple. I like it. Your guitar tech and I were sifting through some of your gear before this interview and I noticed that you had a DBZ Hail Fire guitar down there, is that something you’ve been considering switching to or are you pretty attached to the Gibson label?

Mike: Yeah that’s a new brand that I’ve been playing for a few live shows this tour and they’re pretty good. I’m still trying to figure out if maybe it needs to be a little heavier wood. They are very light weight and I’ve been trying those out a bit on this tour. I’ve been playing Gibson for such a long time. Now and then I try out other guitars but I always end up going back to the Gibson guitars. I just feel very comfortable with the sound of Gibson Guitars. The tone is perfect for me.

Fun Fact: Mike continues to use Gibsons – he never did make the switch to DBZ. Mike isn’t much of a gear head. I once asked Mike what he would be doing if he wasn’t a musician. He said that before Volbeat started getting big, he worked with youth with disabilities in Denmark.

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    Congratulations! You've reached the comments!! Seriously though, great work, UG!
    So glad to see Mark from Dredg on this list. Dude has an unbelievable beautiful sound