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What did you use to record the album?
I used a Marshall Vintage Modern head into a THD Hot Plate and then into a Randall Isolation cabinet with a 12" Celestion. I used two mics, a Shure SM57 and a Royer ribbon mic, plugged into two AMEK System 9098 mic preamps and then into Pro Tools.
Were there any unusual aspects about how you wrote for or recorded this record?
I think the most unusual thing is that a 43-year-old guy who listens to Johnny Cash, Silvius Weiss lute music, Bulgarian women’s vocal choirs, B.B. King, Melody Gardot, Justin Currie, and the Bee Gees for inspiration ends up with an album of screaming rock guitar. It’s hard to shake off those teenage years of Van Halen, Rush, Randy Rhoads, Robin Trower, Pat Travers, Frank Marino, Gary Moore, and the Ramones. [Laughs.]
You’re wearing headphones live both to protect your hearing and as monitors, right? How severe is your hearing loss, and how does it complicate the process of selecting tones, getting appropriate levels, mixing, etc.?
My hearing loss doesn’t bother me when I’m playing music. I can hear tones easily, I can feel the guitar because I’m playing it, and it’s rock ’n’ roll, so it’s loud anyway. I really notice my hearing loss when I’m talking to people. It’s hard for me to differentiate consonants, so the words “Tim,” “tin,” “thin,” and “him” all sound the same to me unless the person is talking pretty loud. It really varies from person to person. My wife speaks very clearly, so when I’m around her I feel like my hearing is close to normal. But did you ever see that movie with Nicole Kidman called The Hours? It’s about two hours of women whispering to each other. I didn’t have a fighting chance in that one! I saw it on an airplane where there were engines to compete with and no subtitles. Through no fault of her own, I will be angry at Nicole Kidman for a long time to come. Speak up, woman! [Laughs.]
You’ve done a lot of clinics and seminars over the years—what are some of the most common questions you get?
I hope that I can answer people’s questions and give them something useful in my answers, but I think the most valuable communication between musicians happens musically. Whenever I get the chance, I go to Musicians Institute to do private lessons. This gives me a chance to jam with students and listen to what they’re saying with their guitars. It becomes very obvious what they need to work on without them having to ask anything. And it’s almost always the same thing that needs work: Timing and endings. How to play in time, with a tempo, and how to end a solo so the listener knows that the solo ends right here. We’re all guitar players and we all struggle with the same challenges, so I can’t help but turn the critical eye back on myself and try to improve my own timing and endings. This is why I love to teach—I learn more than anyone!
What’s the biggest misconception you think guitarists on the whole have about “shredders”?
I don’t know when that term will stop giving me the creeps. Somehow it makes me think of a person trying to pick as fast as they possibly can, with their left hand out of sync, lots of delay to cover up the flaws, total disregard for the song’s tempo, and vibrato done out of obligation rather than love of the sound. This is the grumpy old man in me. “You kids—get out of my yard!” I hope it’s my misconception and that shred will come to mean guitar virtuosity that rivals the legacy of Itzhak Perlman, Glenn Gould, and Oscar Peterson. Anyway, regardless of what terms people might use, I hope that guitarists who play fast will invest enough love and practice to make their playing world-class, listenable, and super shredifying. And then do some spine-tingling vibrato followed by three big notes that say “The solo ends right here.” It’s a worthy goal.
Paul Gilbert's Gearbox
Four Ibanez PGMFRM1 Fireman models—one in korina, a red version, and a light-blue one nicknamed “Kikusui Sake,” all with new DiMarzio hum-cancelling single-coils (“I used them for most of the album . . . I’m not sure what they are called yet, but they sound killer”), plywood Ibanez PGM800 prototype
Marshall 2266c Vintage Modern 50-watt 2x12 combo, Marshall 2061X head, vintage Fender Princeton Reverb (for the surf sound on “Batter Up”), THD Hot Plate, Randall Isolation cab with 12” Celestion
Majik Box Venom Boost, Majik Box prototype fuzz, HomeBrew Electronics UFO, HomeBrew THC, HomeBrew CPR, HomeBrew Detox EQ, Cry Baby 535Q wah, script-logo MXR Phase 90, Ibanez Paul Gilbert Signature AF2 Airplane Flanger, Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere
Strings and Picks
Ernie Ball RPS strings (.010–.046), Dunlop Tortex .60 mm picks
Bullet coiled cable (guitar to pedalboard), straight DiMarzio cable (pedalboard to amp), Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, Shure SM57 and Royer ribbon mics, two AMEK System 9098 mic preamps, Direct Sound Extreme Isolation EX-29 headphones