When he was 18 and living in Sweden, White traded a Strat for this 1957 goldtop Les Paul. Ever since,
it has been his main touring guitar for gigs with Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy, and Roger Waters. The label
on the side
of the flight case reads “Snowy’s Baby.” Photo by Snowy White
Are your AC30s new or vintage?
They’re new. The thing with Vox, for me, is that
they’re all good—a new one, an old one. As
long as it’s been looked after, they’re all great.
Let’s talk about your effects.
I don’t use a lot when I’m doing my own thing,
but with Roger I obviously need to use a few
bits and pieces. I’ve got this Line 6 M9 stompbox
that I’m using for the first time. I can get
all my repeats and delays—it’s great and works
really well. For my basic sound, I use a little
Boss Blues Driver, which gives me a bit of an
edge. I haven’t got much else really: an Ernie
Ball volume pedal, a Boss OverDrive, and a
Boss Rotary Ensemble, and that’s about it.
What about strings and picks?
That’s a really good question, because I have
no idea what brand of strings I’m using—it
depends on what my guitar techs have. For me,
to be honest, all brands sound good. I do know
the gauges, though: On my Les Paul, I use a
light top and heavy bottom—.010, .013, .017,
.030, .042, and .052—since I hit the bass strings
really hard. The Stratocaster can’t really handle
those heavy strings, so I use a regular light set
on that guitar. As for picks, when I was with
Thin Lizzy the road crew made some little white
ones in the size I like with my name on them—
3000 of them. This was in 1980, and I’ve still
got a couple hundred left. But when I’m playing
my music, I hardly use a pick at all. Sometimes
I don’t even take one onstage with me. With
Roger’s thing, I use a pick most of the time.
What was it like as a more or less traditional
blues player working with huge rock bands
like Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy in the 1970s?
It’s true that I’m quite a narrow person in my
playing. I’ve always been into blues and haven’t
really expanded my playing beyond it, because
I’m very content to do what I do. But, funnily
enough, the original Pink Floyd gig was actually
very based in blues when you broke it down.
I mean, I could play my sort of guitar in Pink
Floyd and it wasn’t out of place. And so I was
really pleased when I was invited to be their first
augmenting guitar player in 1976. I hadn’t really
heard Pink Floyd, because if it wasn’t blues, I
didn’t listen to it. So when they sent me the
albums to listen to, I was pleasantly surprised.
David Gilmour played some really nice guitar and
I thought, “Oh, I can fit in here quite nicely. And
I think I did. It worked out okay. In a way, things
were the same with Thin Lizzy—there’s a lot of
harmony guitar work in there, but it’s really mostly
blues licks. That was good fun. I very much
enjoyed playing the harmony guitar with Scott
Gorham. It was a great band with great songs.
White mics his
Vox AC30s just slightly
off axis with a
Shure SM57s. Photo
by Snowy White
How does working with Roger Waters these
days compare to playing with Pink Floyd
three decades ago?
Musically, it’s very much the same as the original
Wall. And it’s quite strange, really, because
that was 30 years ago and I’m still playing the
same songs. But the songs have a freshness to
me—they never get boring. I’ve heard them
so many times, and I still look forward to playing
them, because even if you have to do the
same licks every night, you can still try to get
them a little bit sweeter, a little bit more on
the button, a little bit nicer. There’s always a
little sort of contest there—just try and make
it a bit better ever night. I quite enjoy that.
When I originally played with Pink Floyd,
David Gilmour was very generous, always giving
me solos. When I listen to some of the
things I did to start with, I hear that I just went
for my thing in my solos and didn’t really think
about what the song needed. And I must have
disappointed a lot of people, because they
knew all of the original solos. So nowadays
I’ve tempered my approach and think a bit
more about the context.
What did you do to prepare for this Wall tour?
I just got out the album and listened through,
and it all came back to me. Until we started
rehearsing, we didn’t know who was going to
play what, especially among the guitarists. We
had to shuffle it around a bit, so we each had
a reasonable amount to do. Apart from that, it
was all fairly straightforward.
What has been like working with guitarists
Dave Kilminster and G.E. Smith on the tour?
Dave Kilminster is a great musician. He notated
all of Dave Gilmour’s solos and learned
them intimately. I really enjoy listening to him
nail the solos each night. I’ve never notated
anything, by the way. I’ve done a lot of bluffing
in my time, and I’ve learned to bluff really well.
That or I’ve learned to sidestep really well.
G.E.’s great, too. I didn’t know G.E. before this
tour, and he’s a fine guitar player. He’s what I
call a real musician—he plays all sorts of things
and is into all sorts of music. He’s great to be
on the road with. He’s got so many stories,
and I really enjoy listening to his solos in the
show, as well. The thing is, because the show’s
so structured and we have our separate parts,
we don’t play off of each other very much. But
Dave, G.E., and I do listen to, appreciate, and
complement each other.