Interview: The Return of Pat Travers
Pat Travers is back with a new album, FIDELIS, and a new outlook on gear (the ADA Flanger is out!)
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Do different guitars inspire different riffs?
Absolutely. I’ve got different guitars at home, and they make you play in different ways. At the studio, we had a lot of vintage Fenders. One of them was a ’62 Strat. I had no real notion of how old the guitar was. I just liked it. It felt good, and I liked the sound. When it came to recording the actual songs, I played my Paul Reed Smith Modern Eagle. I used that guitar for virtually everything. It’s beautiful. It’s my number one and has been since I got it.
There’s one little solo bit on the song called “Edge of Darkness.” The main guitar solo on that has got this Eric Clapton, Hendrixy, “woooo” sound. I’m just using the neck pickup and it feels like there’s not enough juice running the amp. The power tubes aren’t lit up enough, but it works. It’s almost like a real good fuzz box.
What kind of amps are you using?
What I like to use and what I do use depends on where I happen to be playing. I like the Blackstar amps a lot but they aren’t common enough in the US, where we do dates that provide a backline. I mostly end up using a Vox Tonelab LE pedal board, and I run that into the effects return. I can use just about any kind of amp. The one I like to use the most is the Mesa Boogie Simul-Class 2: Ninety power amp. My guitar player Kirk McKim has a Bogner, and I use the power amp on that. I’ll use a decent 100-watt Marshall too.
One the road I’ll usually get a Marshall JCM 900, if they still got them. Now, of course they’re getting kind of old, so sometimes they’re a little funky. I don’t use the preamp on any of them. I just use the power amp. As long as the power amp is working, it’s OK. If I had my way, I would use a Series One 100-watt Blackstar. I have a couple of those.
You’ve always had great guitar tones. What are you going for?
When I play my rhythm parts, I like them to sound almost like a B3 or something. I like to take up that kind of space. I actually use a Leslie a lot on this album. It adds a nice growl to it. It’s hard to describe. It sounds like guitar-plus. Especially a song like “Save Me,” where it’s all 5ths, and it’s just growling.
Have you retired your classic ADA Flanger sound?
I used it a bit on one or two things like on choruses. But I find that with Kirk playing guitar in unison, we automatically have that doubled chorusy kind of sound anyway, just from having two different guitars playing the same thing. I prefer that, because it has a more natural sound to it.
I wish I had a nickel for all the guitar players I’ve interviewed who wish they could nail your classic Flanger sound... [Laughing]
[Laughing] That’s a good point. The thing is, with my chorus sound, I didn’t want it to interfere with the bottom or the top. It should kind of shimmer, but still have some balls to it. I think I instinctively tried to get just the right amount of chorus blend, so that you still had enough harmonic distortion and the chorusing layered on top. It thickens it out. I found three of those old ADA Flangers, but they’ve been in my garage for eight years. I live in Florida, so it gets up to about 120 degrees. They may be cooked. [Laughing]
After all your success, what keeps the ideas flowing?
I guess one thing that’s happened to me, and time has taken care of that, is just the number of hours that I’ve put into what I do. I’ve got such a vocabulary and such a frame of reference. I’m able to hear stuff in my head and be working on my music. I hear everything. I hear the drums, the bass, the mixing, and the harmonies. It’s wonderful, and it keeps getting more and more detailed. I can do the work in my head while doing other things. Then I go to the studio, and it’s fully formed.
Pat’s Gear Box
PRS Modern Eagle I
John Cruz Custom Telecaster
Analog Man Chorus
Vox Tonelab LE Ibanez Tube King Overdrive
Boss OC-2 Octave
Blackstar Series One 100