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Adrian Smith rocks his Floyd Rose-equipped Jackson on the World Slavery tour, June 12, 1985,
at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan. Photo by Ken Settle
With three guitarists, how do you get the subtle nuances of harmonized bends and vibrato to sound cohesive?
Murray: We sit down and listen to each other, and you hear what someone is doing and naturally go there. It’s not hit or miss. Obviously, if anything is bent totally out of key, we’ll just go back and redo it.
Gers: If I need to match them, I’ll match them, but more often than not we don’t plan out these things. The whole point is that you have three very different guitarists. I mean, if we both sound exactly the same, why don’t we just track Adrian? Music is personal. I’ll play how I play. Smith: It can be very difficult with three guitarists, though. I’m really sensitive to tuning, intonation, and bending right together. I notice that a lot of people don’t hear it, but I hear it and it really bothers me. Kevin doesn’t hear it, and Steve doesn’t hear it. Sometimes I have to fight to say, “That does not sound right.”
So you will redo a track to, say, match the rate of a vibrato?
Smith: Yeah. Dave and Janick probably have similar vibratos—a quicker vibrato—and I have a slower vibrato. Sometimes, if it’s for the good of the song, I won’t do a vibrato. I’ll just play it straight and it fits in with their vibratos. I’ll compromise. Performing live is easy, but recording three guitarists is very difficult.
Gers: However, you can take it to the extreme and get us to play it exactly the same, and put the bends in exactly the same place. But then you might as well have just one guitarist do all the tracks. If you listen to [Deep Purple’s] Fireball, you’ll hear two voices and one might be slightly off kilter. Ian Gillan did this a lot in the old days of Deep Purple. I love that. If you listen to the early Sabbath solos, Tony [Iommi] would play two solos and one would be doing a completely different thing than the other. I love that!
Adrian, I know you sometimes tune down to D or lower, but Janick and Dave don’t. Was that the case on this album?
Smith: I actually pleaded with the other guys to tune down for one song, “Mother of Mercy,” because they don’t really like doing it. The original demo was in E, but it was too high for Bruce to sing so we moved it down to D—which isn’t really a heavy key. I played with Bruce’s solo band, and he was really into the dropped-D tuning. Steve didn’t tune down though.
Since you use Floyd Roses, do you have a separate guitar for the dropped-D tuning?
Smith: Yeah. You have to.
What piece of gear do each of you consider essential?
Smith: In the studio, I just use what I use on stage—a 100-watt Marshall DSL and an American Strat loaded with DiMarzio pickups. Sometimes I’ll use Stevie Ray Vaughan singlecoils just to get a different sound. Kevin Shirley isn’t really into messing around with different amps and different sounds. Sometimes, in the past, I’ve recorded with just a guitar straight into a Marshall. I wanted to go back and try it with different amps and stuff, but I wasn’t able to because the band wants to keep it like a live setup. It can be a little frustrating, to be honest. For example, because you want to keep a pure sound straight into the amp, you have to compromise on the clean sound in the studio. Instead of getting a nice Fender Twin for a clean tone, you’d just use a Marshall with the guitar volume down, which isn’t really ideal.
Murray: I just got a Fulltone Deja’Vibe I really like. Also, using just a little bit of delay is nice for ambience, so it’s not completely dry. With Maiden, because there are three guitarists, you need to cut through everything, and having that ambience helps. And maybe a little bit of a chorus—anything that can add some spark and make it more musical and less flat.
Gers: A Marshall amp.