You’re playing a new guitar. What is it?
I’m using a signature model made for me called the Dean Vinman 2000. I’ve been working with those guys for about two years and we immediately started talking about a signature model. They put something together for me to play based on our phone conversations and they kinda nailed it. It was probably 95% of what I wanted on the first try. From that point we started honing in on things and making some cosmetic changes and moving different things around. We spent a year refining all these small little details and now the guitar I’m playing is right off the shelf. It’s just like what someone would buy in a music store. It’s great. I’m going out to do a clinic this Saturday and I’m not even going to bring a guitar. I’m just going to play one of my signature models off the rack. It’s awesome to be able to do that.
What are some of the particulars that you had Dean work on that are different from other models?
I think the big thing is the shape of the neck. That’s really important to me. How comfortable the neck is for the left hand. Also the cutaway on the body where your arm rests, that’s another thing that I’m really picky about. One of the things is how high the strings are off the body. I don’t like guitars where the strings are really high off the body like a Les Paul. It feels awkward to my right hand. The Floyd Rose had to be recessed into the body and be a certain height off the body to accommodate my crappy technique.
Yeah right. [Laughing] Is it a C neck or a U neck?
Maybe somewhere in between. It’s kind of hard to describe. It’s not real round as in a C neck. I don’t like big and chunky, but not so thin. I think if it’s too thin you lose tone... it’s gotta have some meat to it. The body is alder and it has a piece of laminate maple top for cosmetic reasons, just to give it that cool wood grain look. It’s only an 8th inch thick so it’s not enough to really affect the sound properties of the guitar. It comes in trans finishes so you can see the wood grain. It’s really cool-looking.
You’re also endorsing a pickup.
Dean started their own pickup line called DMT. I helped them design a bridge pickup and I’ve been using that. They made me a signature pickup (The Dean Vinnie Moore Shredhead Pickup). I’m still using DiMarzios in the middle and the neck positions but the bridge pickup is the signature model.
What’s special about it?
It has less power than the ones I was using in the past. This one is about 12 or 13k. It’s not quite as weak as an old PAF, but it’s about halfway back to a PAF compared to what I was using. It’s not low power or high power, it's mid power. It’s more transparent than some of the more high power stuff. You hear more of the pick attack and the dynamics and it sounds more natural to me. You get more tone, whereas when you have high power pickups I found that it’s not as transparent.
In the neck I’m using a DiMarzio Fast Track 1 and in the middle it’s a DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Blues. I have another guitar where I switch those two pickups just to get some different tones.
The new record has some great tones. You’ve gotten away from a lot of the higher gain sounds and gone for more organic tones.
Too much gain takes away from the natural dynamics and the personality of the guitar. It makes things muddy too. Even live I’ve never really used a lot of gain compared to most people. When it gets too gainy and too fuzzy it masks all the clarity of the guitar. You lose a lot of the natural resonance. I always find that I back off on the gain on the amp. A lot of times live and in the studio, I’m constantly moving the guitar volume up and down. Sometimes I’ll move it up to ten, sometimes I’ll kick it back to seven or eight. Sometimes it’s on four. I get a lot of tones just by manipulating the guitar volume control. Turn it back to four and you get a nice, clean, half-crunchy kind of sound.
Are your amps set up to get a lead tone and then you back it off with the guitar volume?
Yeah. I set the amp for one tone on the amp all night and just leave it there. That’s what works for me. It’ll have enough gain to where if I’m playing lead and the guitar volume is on ten I get sustain but no muddiness. Then I’ll just back off when I want to clean things up. No channel switching, just one sound.
What amp are you using?
I’ve been using an Engl Special Edition head which is amazing because it has four thousand bells and whistles, none of which I use. [Laughing] I set it up for one tone and that’s it. In the studio I use a Marshall JCM2000. I have a lot of heads lying around that I use, but for some reason that Marshall JCM2000 seems to work when you throw a mic in front of it. I use the Lead 1 setting which is less gain and I’ll keep the preamp anywhere from five to eight.
What kinds of effects?
My pedalboard is always changing. I don’t even know what it’s going to be for the June tour. Normally I’m pretty simplistic with my effects. There’s a wah-wah and a delay just to give me some ambiance and that’s pretty much the heart of my sound. I’m using a Dunlop Crybaby. At one point I felt like I was getting too dependent on the wah. I was just stepping on it more out of habit because it was there, so I almost left it home. Then I made a conscious effort to have it there but not use it unless I absolutely needed it. You can easily get lost in it and overdo the wah thing.
Yeah, but you’re covering Schenker.
Yeah that’s the thing. He always had the half-cocked wah-wah pedal sound, and so sometimes I’ll kick it on for that.
Were you pressured at all to get close to his note selection and style for those songs?
Not really. When we first started rehearsing, Phil was real adamant about me doing my own thing. I was going to copy some of the Schenker stuff and he said, “No, do your own thing!” That was really cool for me to hear that they wanted a guy who had his own personality and wasn’t just a copycat. My approach is that there are certain things in the old songs where you have to play the part on the record because it’s an important part of the song. On the sections where he improvises, I just kind of go off and improvise.
I like that you’re respectful to those classic tunes, yet you bring your own thing to the table.
I’m always trying to do what’s right for the song. I don’t try to shred classical arpeggios over a rock 'n' roll song. [Laughing] It’s not tasteful and it doesn’t work. I go for the vibe of the song and let that be the guiding light.
Which delays are you using?
I’ve always liked the Boss DD-3. They’re inexpensive, they have a great sound and they just work. I started using some T-Rex pedals and the MXR Carbon Copy which has that warm analog sound. I would guess that I’ll take those three delays out on the
Guitar: Dean Vinman 2000
ENGL Special Edition
MXR Carbon Copy Delay
T-Rex Replica Delay
Dunlop Crybaby Wah
road and have three different delays set up. I like being able to tweak it on the fly. If it’s not sounding quite like I want it, I’ll just reach down and turn a knob. With that stuff where there are pre-sets, I find it cumbersome on stage to be able to go in and tweak things on the spot quickly. Simpler is better.
Guitarists like to compare you to Tony MacAlpine, especially in the early days. If you were to go into The Octagon with Tony MacAlpine, who would win?
[Laughing] Good question. I think we would end up playing together and having a lot of fun. Tony is a great guy and a really talented artist.