Giveaways January 2015

January 15
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Interview: Earl Slick on David Bowie's "Next Day" Sounds

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Interview: Earl Slick on David Bowie's "Next Day" Sounds


Photo courtesy Madeloni Photography.

Slick's guitar army for The Next Day was mainly led by his Framus signature model, loaded with a pair of P-90 pickups and a Bigsby vibrato. A Framus Mayfield—a 335-style semi-hollowbody—also made a few appearances. "I'd say the Slick model got used the most, and then the Mayfield, and I think I used a Tele on one of them—a '72 Custom Shop reissue." His acoustic guitar for the album was a Gibson 75th Anniversary J-200.

Slick's amp requirements are refreshingly straightforward and direct, considering the sheer breadth of material he might be called on during the course of any given night. Lately he's taken a shine to 65Amps, and recently made an appearance at that company's NAMM party with Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs and Orianthi. "I look for a reactive amp," he says. "I like punch and clarity but still with enough cut and balls. Primarily, if it was up to me I'd do one solo a year. I just love playing rhythm guitar. I have an old Ampeg VT-40 here that I just love. It's so percussive and punchy. I also use Orange amps, but I do look for presence in an amp, something that's very reactive to the guitar, because I use my guitar to change my tones, rather than using a lot of pedals to do it."

Cascaded gain stages are a big no-no if you're trying to nail Slick's sound. "If you play through an amp that's set like that, you can't tell the difference between a Tele and a Les Paul," he laughs. "Y'know, when they overdrive the amp so much that there's no way, because you're basically running the preamp so hot that you can't get the sound of the fretboard through it. It just won't translate. I run my amps almost on 10, and I'm futzing with my guitar's volume all the time. It's not even conscious. I want more dirt, I turn the volume up. I want more punch, I turn it down. But you need the right amp to do that with."

As for the Framus, it's a decidedly retro-themed guitar, from both a visual and technical perspective. "I was after something that was gonna give me Gibson and Fender qualities, but with a Gibson scale neck as opposed to a longer Fender scale neck. And I had the neck bolted on, which is going to give you a little more percussiveness and a little more high end. I have that model with humbuckers as well as P-90s, but most of the time I'm using the P-90s." At the moment those pickups are all DiMarzios, but Slick is working on a signature P-90 set with GFS Pickups. "It's guitarfetish.com—the same company I have my Slick straps with," he explains, "and he's making me some great P-90s. We're getting ready to do a Slick model."

As for humbuckers, Slick has some very specific frequencies in mind. "I like the upper mids—I don't like the honking mids, and some humbuckers inherently have the midrange I don't like. When I set most of my amps, I set the midrange just straight up at 12 o'clock, which is almost flat. I like more of a percussive kind of a sound, and too much midrange softens that up."

The choice of a Bigsby vibrato is not just for the sake of "the wiggle you get out of it when you use it," Slick says. "It changes the sound of the guitar in a little bit in a way that I really can't describe, and the guitar plays a little differently with a Bigsby as well compared to a stock bridge. It's the most comfortable for me. The other models, I have to have them because of slide. You cannot G-tune a guitar with a Bigsby on it. It's not gonna happen, man! It just doesn't want to stay in tune."

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