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Gorham synchronized with bassist/lead singer Phil Lynott and guitarist Gary Moore at a show in London, UK on April 28, 1979. Photo by Laurens Van Houten-Frank White Photo Agency
Back then, man, you couldn’t get stuff. We’re talking about caveman, Neanderthal-type stuff that was being made as one-offs in some guy’s basement. Back then, two pedals rarely sounded the same. I have to admit, though, there was one pedal I relied on the most in the seventies. That was the MXR flanger.
That seems to be a big one, especially the original models, because a lot of guys from all sorts of musical backgrounds swear by it.
Yeah, for sure, but now these days I don’t use it too much, probably because I used it so much back then. I just go in a different direction now. It’s like when I came over to England with no money, and all I could afford was fish and chips. I can’t even look at fish and chips without getting sick… same thing with flangers now.
When did you switch from Marshall heads to Engls?
I really do love the whole Marshall system. It’s big and solid, with a consistently great sound; the most road-worthy amp ever built. You can’t really improve on a classic like that, but it’s always good to switch things up. But that wasn’t the reason for my switch to Engl–that was more a do or die thing.
About two years ago on a UK tour I was using a stand-in guitar tech who managed to run the wrong voltage through both my Marshall amps just before our Wembley Arena show, blowing them all to hell. So with only a couple of hours before I had to play in front of 15,000 fans, my back was severely against the wall with nothing to play through. Luckily, an Engl representative was on tour with us and suggested that I try one of their amps. At that point I had never even heard of Engl and was very reluctant to go down that road, but the circumstances dictated otherwise so I had them throw one up for me to try, and from the first chord I was completely sold. Playing a new brand of amp in front of 15,000 people in your home town was quite an experience, but I loved the sound and have been using them ever since.
Have you consciously focused your attention on using more vibrato styles, or was it a natural evolution?
Well, it’s kind of something I’ve always had, but you do have to dial in and pay attention to those stylistic things as time goes on. A simple addition of vibrato, sustain, or a pull of the whammy bar can take an old song in a whole new, refreshing direction. It’s just about reinventing the song in new ways. There is nothing worse than listening to a guitarist playing a straight note, or that million-milean- hour vibrato—that goat kind of a vibrato. I always equate it to a singer or a saxophone player, and how they use their vibrato. You stretch the note up, you let it rest for a second and then you rip into it. You have to give that sound, tone, or note a feel or emotion— something that brings it alive and makes it tangible. Sometimes space and air make all the difference in an ordinary lick or a classic.
Thin Lizzy albums always bring to mind the doubled-guitar sound—whether through a flanger, a phaser, or just recorded in two parts—and that gritty, synchronized Les Paul attack. How did that come about?
[Laughs] There was no tried, trusted and fast way to come up with that kind of stuff. For us, it just came down to what sounded the best on that given day.
In regards to the guitar harmony, a lot of the times we would track it and then do it again to simply thicken up the guitars. For tracks like “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town,” I played the upper register and Brian would layer it with his own tracks, but on the lower registers. Sometimes we’d tune differently, switch guitars, or just use the same exact setup for both layers and guitar tracks. It was primarily for tonal proclivity, just to darken and thicken things up.