Glenn Tipton: 'You Can Get A Good Sound Out Of Any Guitar'

artist: Judas Priest date: 03/17/2006 category: interviews
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Glenn Tipton: 'You Can Get A Good Sound Out Of Any Guitar'
As the co-lead guitarist and one of the main songwriters in the legendary heavy metal band Judas Priest, Glenn Tipton is also man who can successfully stretch himself creatively as a solo artist in his own right. With the Priest now currently in writing mode for the next studio album, a re-issue of Tipton's original 1997 Atlantic Records album Baptizm Of Fire (rounded out by two bonus tracks) as well as a Tipton, Entwistle and Powell album Edge Of The World, that consists of previously unreleased recordings with the late Cozy Powell on drums and John Entwistle on bass that were laid down around the same time as Baptizm Of Fire has hit the shelves this month. In this exclusive interview for UG, Joe Matera spoke to Glenn Tipton about his solo outings, Tipton's recording process in the studios and guitars. JM: Tell us a little about the decision to release Edge Of The World and the re-release of Baptizm of Fire? GT: Atlantic the record label who were originally interested in releasing the Edge of The World album, felt at the time, and looking back now they had a point, that it wasn't marketable, as metal at that time was getting darker and thrashier. So what they wanted me to do was go work with some younger guys and help blend the tracks together. I really had no option so I want ahead and did that. I came over to the States and worked with all the young guns there. Honestly a very good album came together, which is Baptizm Of Fire. But the original batch of songs (Edge Of The World) was left on the self for ages. Obviously playing with two legendary players such as John Entwistle and Cozy Powell, I always wanted these tracks to see the light of day. So eventually when Baptizm Of Fire was deleted, Rhino were wanting us to know whether they could re-release Baptizm of Fire and I said yeah. At the same time I had these other tracks that had never seen the light of day too so instead of messing around and releasing them separately, we thought we'd put them out together on the self.
"I'm just a small part of Priest who are arguably, one of the best metal bands in the world."
Is it true that some of the tracks on Baptizm Of Fire were originally planned for a Judas Priest album? No, not at all. There is no way in the world I would ever try and sound like Judas Priest. I'm just a small part of Priest who are arguably, one of the best metal bands in the world. There is no way I would try and even get close to that sound or match Rob's vocal talent. When you do a solo project, for me anyway, it is to do it for various reasons and the right reasons for me was to work with other different musicians and to take it away from Priest. And that gives you the ability to really explore musical areas and lyrical areas that particularly wouldn't be appropriate with Priest. Was it hard to step up to the stoplight in the vocal department? It was hard, yeah. Initially I only started singing the tracks just so I could arrange them and to work the melodies out. But then the more I sang, the more stronger areas I found vocally. So I searched around. I've said this many times but I couldn't have sung those songs if it wasn't for the fact that because I write them, I can tailor make the songs to suit my limited vocal ability. So as time went on, Cozy said to me 'you should sing these songs' because at the time we were considering getting a singer. So in the end that is what I did. How different was the writing process for these solo albums compared to the writing process of a Judas Priest album? On Edge Of The World because we hadn't played together before, we really needed to prior, so we set-up in a little studio in Wales and we kicked everything around. And it was really magical. I've always known Cozy's strengths and to me he was the best rock drummer ever. If you asked him to play a fill, he'd play a fill. But when John showed up, I knew he was good, obviously from his work with The Who, but I had no idea how good he really was. He was just fantastic. His sound was so unique, it's John Entwistle. It couldn't be anybody else. There are a couple of tracks where we almost recorded live and we put a version down and then did overdubs later on, but basically I recorded as I normally do by putting down a ghost guitar down with a click track. Then we got the drums down and then John would play his bass bit. We worked through them and layered down the tracks in that way. Tracks like Give Blood were almost played live, where we separated each sound and tried to get a good take and then did minimal overdubbing on them.
"Because I write them, I can tailor make the songs to suit my limited vocal ability."
What sort of gear did you use on Baptizm of Fire and Edge of The World? I use everything weird and wonderful when I'm in a studio. I will always use a mic-ed sound and that is usually a basic Marshall rig, an old 50 watt with some sort of boost on it. I'll even use my stage rig sometimes which is just a pre-amp that goes through a 9100 Marshall and a 4 X 12 stack. But to record with, the smaller amps are a lot better. The smaller amps, like the practice amps, if you mic them up, to me they always sound and record better. But you can never crank them too loud, because if you crank them out too loud you get a lot of speaker resonance and a whole lot of air flow and it destroys the natural sound of a guitar. And it takes away that smooth it should be a crisp but smooth upfront sound. And that is how I normally record. Do you utilize a lot of ambient mic-ing in the studio? Yeah I do, sometimes I may use two or three mics. I usually put one mic just off centre, one mic about a metre away and usually above it and then have an ambient mic a little bit further away. It's amazing really because if you can move a mic about an eighth of an inch, particularly the ones closer to the speaker, it can really change the sound. So I'm a bit like a mad professor in the studio, I do a lot of minute adjustments and just keep going at it until I get the sound right. And it can take a long time before you've got all that frequency smooth but crisp sound which can come about from just minute changes. And when I've achieved a good sound like that, I then usually put up serious notices up to people like 'don't move these' or 'keep the dogs out of the studio'. You've always had a preference for using straight 4 X 12 Marshall cabs rather than those angled ones, why is that? Yeah, I don't know how that came about but it was probably from the early days when we ran out of money and blew the speakers in the angled ones, so all we could do was use the square ones. It was a case of use whatever you've got. Though you're very much a Hamer man, you've used various guitars throughout Judas Priest's career. In the very early years you were basically a Stratocaster and Gibson SG man. I used Gibson SGs a lot in those days and Les Pauls too. I had a Strat with a maple neck and I put a chrome scratch plate on it and though it was a very heavy guitar, it got a pretty a unique sound. Eventually as time went on, I fell into the Hamers which I use on stage a lot now because they are robust and I am not scared if anything happens to them because I can replace them anytime. Through the years, I've acquired lots and lots of guitars at home, a lot of acoustic guitars, Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, Gibson Explorers, Gibson Les Pauls. I've got quite a collection but I'm not really a fanatical collector of guitars, they've all got to do a job for me. When I'm in the studio and I need a sound at my finger tips, it's nice to have a good arsenal of guitars that you can pick up. I once went in to buy this ES-335 in a London store and with the guitars being notorious for feeding back, I was meaning to put it just on the wall in the studio. But when I got back I plugged it in and it just sung like a bird and I actually played a solo on it, I think it was on Enter The Storm (Baptizm of Fire). So you just never know what a guitar is going to sound like. If you persevere you can get a good sound out of any guitar I think.
"If you persevere you can get a good sound out of any guitar I think."
When you're out on the road, how many guitars do you take and what do you prefer? I take an ESP Horizon semi-acoustic guitar, two Hamer Phantom guitars and two Hamer GT Custom guitars of my own design. Recently I've been taking a prototype guitar that was made by John Diggins which Hamer are going to make me two or three of soon. So there are about six guitars in all that I take out on the road. Gibson is currently working with you on producing a set of guitars too? Yeah, they're making a set of guitars, for myself and K.K, which are commemorative and they're making them as limited editions and then getting them out. I'm not sure when they're coming out but around April of this year I think. What was your current live set-up for the recent Judas Priest world tour? I used various pre-amps like a Rocktron Piranha tube preamp and a MESA/Boogie Triaxis tube preamp. I've also got a Marshall 9100 power amp or two stereo power amps that then go into a 4X12 stack. I use a MIDI changeable switching board. I've got an old Yamaha SPX90 that I really like, and some echo units, some reverbs, a wah pedal, some DigiTech effects such as boosts and things, in fact I'm currently working with DigiTech to try and get them to make me another pre-amp. Guitar wise, I use EMG pick-ups, Ernie Ball strings and play with light gauge picks and that's about it. You're planning of putting together a different set list when Judas Priest head out on their next world tour? We're planning to go out next year now and so we're seriously going to change the set list completely around next time. We're going to go through all the catalog and repertoire and dig up some songs that we haven't played in a long time. That is going to be exciting for us and everybody out there. You're about to commence the writing process for the next Priest album? Yeah we have all our individual ideas together now and now we're going to start writing in earnest in about a week's time. The album will probably be released next year but its early days really. Obviously we don't know how long it's going to take or how short it is going to take us. We're really excited about it and when we're excited we usually get it done quite quickly. But of course you've got to then record it too. We've got a couple of projects in mind as well so we're not having a year off, we're going to be working very hard this year and hopefully the album will be out early next year. Joe Matera 2006
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