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How can you crank the amp that loud for so long and not go deaf?
Well, I had that issue for a long time. It got to the point where I eventually built myself a big, soft baffle like a fireplace shroud. I can completely cover my amp if it’s too much. People always talk about the “volume knob.” But when you turn your guitar down from 10 to 8, you’re not just adjusting volume. You’re adjusting the whole tone—the whole treble and bass response, the whole distortion breakup level, and everything. With the baffle, my sound is there. If I’m not hearing it well, instead of adjusting the volume, I can just use my foot to move that baffle, even in the middle of a solo.
You recently switched from a silverface Fender Super Reverb to a Gretsch amp.
Yeah, the new album has the 20-watt Gretsch Executive. My amp is almost more important to my sound than my guitar. What I gravitate toward in any amp is what is easiest to manipulate. If I’m playing along and it seems like it’s okay, but then when I get up to the high notes it sounds a little dull or cloudy, then all of a sudden I’m digging in and having to play too hard. That Super Reverb was the main amp I used for a long time. I have several of them, but the one I liked a lot was the ’78.
After playing a Super Reverb, I’d imagine a 20-watt amp might break up too easily for you.
It’s not that different. To me, the Grestch sounds just like my Super Reverb, except the high notes are easier to manipulate for some reason. I don’t have to dig in as hard to make them come out and be even with the other notes on the fingerboard. What’s weird is that even though the amp has one 15" speaker, my high notes have more clarity than with the four 10" speakers in the Super Reverb.
Is your ’78 Super Reverb one of the 70-watt ultra-linear master volume models that “amp experts” warn players to avoid?
I tell you what: A lot of people talk about equipment, and a lot of those people don’t know crap about what is real. They know this or that, or what they heard—what’s been said before. They also don’t get the silverface at all. They say, “Get the pre-CBS blackface.” Listen, I have a blackface and several silverface Super Reverbs, and they’re all different. I’ve tried so many different amps and so many different Super Reverbs, and I always came back to that ’78. I don’t use it now except for limited studio stuff, but I’ll never sell it.
With your previous rig, you were also going stereo with a Twin Reverb. Is that still the same setup with the Gretsch Executive?
I don’t use the Twin Reverb for anything anymore. That was an experiment gone wrong. I would go through the Twin set at a really low volume with a Boss Blues Driver as a distortion pedal on certain gigs if I needed a little more punch. It was never my sound. My Super Reverb would always be blaring loud, and that was what you’d hear.
Many people assumed that the Twin was an integral part of your sound.
People would see the blackface Twin Reverb onstage because it was the one that didn’t need a baffle. I still have the baffle with the Gretsch amp, but it doesn't cover up the whole speaker. It’s fun talking about this. Most people don’t ask about all this stuff but I guess it’s because you’re from Premier Guitar.