On “Tortured,” you take a burning straight-up rock guitar solo. What was the gear setup for that one?
It was a ’77 Les Paul Deluxe from the studio and a Plush amplifier—which looks sort of like an old Kustom—but sounds a thousand times better. That combination just screamed.
What was your first guitar?
The first real guitar I had was a Fender Bullet—I still love that guitar actually. However, the first really good guitar I owned was a Gibson 1928 Nick Lucas Special. I got it from Long & McQuade, which is a big chain across Canada now, but it was just a small store back then. Every year they would have a Valentine's Day blowout and would always offer one thing at a ridiculously low price to get people in the store for the big sale.
When the guitar came in, I saw it and knew it was something really spectacular, even at 13 or 14. I said, “I gotta have this thing” and ended up camping out in front of Long & McQuade. I arrived there at 4:30 in the morning in the middle of a blizzard, and sat there for three and a half hours until they opened so I could get it.
Wow, well at least you got it.
I got it, but I was stupid enough to sell it years later. [Laughs.
What’s in your current collection?
I'm endorsed by Gretsch, so I have a bunch of Gretsch stuff that I use for live performance. I have a Country Club and a black Falcon—both of them are the big 17'' with the 25 1/2'' steel neck.
Are they stock or modded?
The only mods I've done are swapping out the bridges. I put a Tru-Arc bridge on the Falcon and installed the original Falcon bridge on the Country Club. Otherwise it's stock. With this rig I use a Gretsch Executive amp, which is made by Victoria and is a pretty rockin' little rig. It’s a very distinct amp and quite low wattage, running two 6V6s. I think it’s only about 20 watts, but it's the size of a Bassman and has a 15" speaker in it.
My other rig is a Gibson 1949 ES-350, with double P-90s, and I've modded it so it has a switch. It originally just came with two volumes and a master tone—a real cool setup if you're playing western swing—but if you want to do anything a little more aggressive, you need to have a switch so you can get between those sounds pretty quick. I also have an early ’60s ES-125 TDC that will play anything—it's ratty as the day is long. I usually run that through one of two amps—a 1968 Ampeg GU-12 or a late ’50s Gibson Super 400 Amp.
What amps do you request when you’re on the road?
Either a ’65 Deluxe Reverb reissue or a Bassman reissue, which sounds awesome. It does everything you could ever want an amp to do.
Your sound is reverb and tremolo heavy—since the Bassman has neither, would you use pedals?
I prefer to have an amp that has reverb and tremolo on it because I use both. If I don’t have an amp with reverb or tremolo, I'll sacrifice the tremolo and use a Malekko Chicklet for reverb. It kind of sounds like an old Supro.
I actually don't have a tremolo pedal and I only use tremolo if it's on the amp. If it's not on the amp I don't use it. But the reverb is essential—it has to be there.
That’s surprising because tremolo seems to play a big part in some of your songs.
Absolutely, but I'll try to get the tremolo effects using the Bigsby.
What does your pedalboard consist of?
My 1980s Rocktek pedalboard is packed as tight as it can get. It starts with a Boss TU-2 tuner running into an early ’80s CS-2 compressor, which is hands- down, the best compressor Boss has ever made. After the CS-2, it goes into a Zvex Box of Rock, then a Nocturne—which is made by a guy named Tavo Vega out of California. He sent me three of them and each one is awesome. I think I'm using the Dyno Brain, the straight Nocturne, and a new Atomic Brain that’s got a pre-amp and a boost on it. The Malekko Chicklet reverb is next and the last pedal on the board is an old Boss DM-2 analog delay.