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more... ArtistsGuitarsBassistsGuitaristsFebruary 2014LP-StyleBostonTom Scholz

Boston's Tom Scholz: The Return of Rockman

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Scholz calls his Gibson EB-0 a “chopped-up monster” because he’s made so many modifications to it. For example, he replaced the original pickup with a Fender Jazz bass pickup that he moved to various positions,
experimenting with the sound.

Talk about how a good thing has inspired you.
“Last Day of School” has no words, but is obviously the most lighthearted, happy little tune. The last day of school was always such a good time for me, free from any type of anguish, and I started revisiting that feeling and fooling around with it until it grew into a short piece of music. When people first heard it, they thought I was playing Schubert, but I had to set them straight: “No, I’m playing Scholz!”

Which was the most difficult song on the record for you to assemble?
Pretty much all of them. In the studio, no song worked out as I originally thought it would. Every single song always required another way. Some had an incredible number of variations and versions. For example, on “Sail Away,” I rewrote the chord changes over and over, making a gazillion different versions of the song in the process—not just the usual, where I did 15 different guitar parts with different voicings, but many major overhauls with completely different chord changes, vocals, and arrangements.

As soon as I start writing and recording a song, I have more ideas and different instruments in mind. It’s like a gigantic puzzle, exponentially more complicated with each instrument and vocal track. If I add a minor chord to a section, for instance, then everything from the vocals to the instrumentation to the arrangement has to change, as it’s an entirely different sound. You can see why it took more than 10 years to make this record. I’m surprised I got it done at all! [Laughs.]

“I bought a Gibson ES-335 years ago, and a 12-string Rickenbacker electric, but found that I didn’t actually use either one. I certainly understand collecting guitars that are A) beautiful and B) functional, but I don’t at all like having guitars sitting around if I’m not using them.”

You’re known to work painstakingly on your music. What is this like for you?
Touring and recording are definitely full-time jobs for me, well over 40 hours per week. I don’t get to take two or three weeks off each year. I haven’t had a real vacation since before I started working on the album, which by the way I’d really like to do. I wouldn’t have been able to take a vacation when making the record; I would have spent the whole time thinking about the songs I was working on. So making an album is very costly in personal time. I often ask myself if it’s a good idea to be doing this work that takes me away from many other things I’d like to do and people I’d like to spend time with. I tend to work alone—I’m the producer, engineer, assistant, technician, arranger/writer, and bunch of musicians all in one—it all falls on my lap. It can be high-pressure, difficult, frustrating, even exhausting. On the plus side, there are moments when it’s absolutely exhilarating. These are the moments I live for.

Talk about the guitars, both electric and acoustic, you used on the album.
As usual, it was very limited. I’ve got my trusty old Guild D-25 that I’ve had for a very long time, a great guitar that’s been damaged several times—twice by falling mic stands—and repaired. I’ve also got a Guild 12-string, a G212. It’s got the same body size [dreadnought] as my 6-string Guild, and I’ve used it for all my 12-string work since “Amanda.”

Tom Scholz's Gear

Guitars
2 - 1968 Gibson Les Paul
Guild D-25
Guild G212
Gibson EB-0

Amps
1970s Marshall Super Lead 100
with stock cabinet

Effects
Rockman
Modded Space Echo

Strings and Picks
Fender Bullets (.08, .11, .15, .24, .34, .44)
Fender Medium picks (guitar)
Fender Heavy picks (bass)

In terms of electrics I have two great Les Pauls that are virtually identical, extremely rare 1968 reissues made from stock original ’50s parts, rerouted for humbuckers since they’re so much quieter than P-90s on stage. [Editor’s Note: Gibson recently honored Scholz with a recreation of his axe of choice, Collector’s Choice #10, Tom Scholz 1968 Les Paul.]

For bass, I’ve got an old [Gibson] EB-0 that’s kind of a chopped-up monster. I took out the nasty original pickup and replaced it with a Fender Jazz pickup that I’ve moved around in various positions, experimenting with the sound. As a result, the body has been carved up again and again, and there’s very little of it left! [Laughs.]

That's a fairly minimal stable of axes.
Yes. I don’t have a big guitar collection, basically just what I need. Once or twice in my career I’ve treated myself to a really nice guitar. I bought a Gibson ES-335 years ago, and a 12-string Rickenbacker electric, but found that I didn’t actually use either one. I certainly understand collecting guitars that are A) beautiful and B) functional, but I don’t at all like having guitars sitting around if I’m not using them.

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