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Interview: Billy Duffy - Captain Riffs

Interview: Billy Duffy - Captain Riffs

’70s Gretsch G7593 White Falcon with Seymour Duncan pickups, ’60s or ’70s Gretsch White Falcon double-cutaway stereo model, Gretsch G6136TLTV models, 2000 Gibson Custom Shop ’57 Les Paul Custom reissue

Two Marshall JMP MkII 100-watt heads driving two Celestion Vintage 30-loaded Marshall 1960B 4x12s, Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus, two Matchless DC-30 combos

Two switchless Jim Dunlop 95Q Cry Baby wahs, Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer, Menatone Red Snapper, Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor, Whirlwind The Bomb boost, two Boss DD-3 digital delays, Boss BF-2 flanger, Boss DM-2 analog delay

Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Ernie Ball Power Slinky .011-.048 sets tuned a half-step down (live), Ernie Ball .010-.046 Regular Slinky sets (studio), Herco Flex 50 medium picks in Manchester City blue (held sideways for a fiercer tone), Line 6 Relay G90 wireless unit, Whirlwind cables, Custom Audio Electronics 1x4 switchable splitter, Whirlwind WT2000 Chromatic Tuner, Voodoo Lab Pedal Power, Dunlop DC Brick, Douglas Dunnam custom straps (including a 63 1/2" strap for his Gretsches), Levy Leathers straps

Choice of Weapons:
Billy Duffy's Gear

Billy Duffy’s Gretsch 7593 White Falcon may be his trademark axe, but he’s made a career out of getting a Les Paul Custom to do what it does best—crank out meat-and-potatoes riffs and big, blistering blues-based solos (think “Love Removal Machine”) and arpeggiated hooks, as on “Edie (Ciao Baby).”

“Growing up, all the guys I really liked were Les Paul players,” Duffy confides. “Mick Ronson, Mick Ralphs, Paul Kossoff. The black Les Paul Custom became my thing.” These days, Duffy’s favorite recording guitar is a black ’57 reissue two-piece Les Paul Custom that the Gibson Custom Shop made for him in 2000.

“It arrived when we were doing the album Beyond Good and Evil. I took it out of the box when we were doing a song called ‘True Believers,’” he recalls. “I literally tuned it up out of the box, plugged it in, and Bob [Rock, producer] said, ‘All right, are you ready for that solo?’ I did the whole solo in one take on that guitar—it still smelled like the guitar case! It’s just been that guitar in the studio for me ever since.”

The natural-finished Customs seen in videos like “Heart of Soul” (not one of the band’s finer moments, frankly) are black Customs with the front finish removed, in what Duffy calls “an homage to Mick Ronson,” who— legend has it—stripped all the finish off his own black Les Paul one drug-fueled night on tour with Bowie. A recent 1960 reissue goldtop, a cream-colored Custom, and a reissue ’59 Junior built by Steve Christmas at Gibson, round out Duffy’s Les Paul collection, while a Bill Nash ’63 Relic Esquire (used on the new “Embers”) offers him humbucker or single-coil tones (via a pushpull pot) from the Seymour Duncan bridge pickup.

Duffy pays homage with his amp array, too. Like his idols in the Clash, he places combos—generally a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus and a pair of Matchless DC-30s—atop three Marshall 1960B 4x12 straight cabs with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers (one cab is a backup), but keeps the Marshall JMP MkII 100-watt heads driving the 4x12s out of sight.

“Then, using the Bradshaw switcher, I’ll just switch on and off between combinations of the amps,” he explains. “The Roland is great for the early, chimey stuff, because of that chorus sound—which I can really only get out of the combos. But I’ve always paired it with a valve amp to get more balls out of it. Some guys get a great sound with just one amp, but I’ve never been able to do it.” On Electric-era tunes like “Fire Woman,” Duffy pairs the Matchless with the Marshalls for a straight-up rock sound without the JC-120’s solid-state shimmer. As to why his sound is so layered—both live and in the studio—Duffy’s explanation is simple: “Ian is an enormously powerful singer. When he lets rip, he’s got a set of lungs on him!” —JR

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