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When he was 18 and living in Sweden, White traded a Strat for this 1957 goldtop Les Paul. Ever since,
it has been his main touring guitar for gigs with Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy, and Roger Waters. The label
on the side of the flight case reads “Snowy’s Baby.” Photo by Snowy White
Are your AC30s new or vintage?
They’re new. The thing with Vox, for me, is that they’re all good—a new one, an old one. As long as it’s been looked after, they’re all great.
Let’s talk about your effects.
I don’t use a lot when I’m doing my own thing, but with Roger I obviously need to use a few bits and pieces. I’ve got this Line 6 M9 stompbox that I’m using for the first time. I can get all my repeats and delays—it’s great and works really well. For my basic sound, I use a little Boss Blues Driver, which gives me a bit of an edge. I haven’t got much else really: an Ernie Ball volume pedal, a Boss OverDrive, and a Boss Rotary Ensemble, and that’s about it.
What about strings and picks?
That’s a really good question, because I have no idea what brand of strings I’m using—it depends on what my guitar techs have. For me, to be honest, all brands sound good. I do know the gauges, though: On my Les Paul, I use a light top and heavy bottom—.010, .013, .017, .030, .042, and .052—since I hit the bass strings really hard. The Stratocaster can’t really handle those heavy strings, so I use a regular light set on that guitar. As for picks, when I was with Thin Lizzy the road crew made some little white ones in the size I like with my name on them— 3000 of them. This was in 1980, and I’ve still got a couple hundred left. But when I’m playing my music, I hardly use a pick at all. Sometimes I don’t even take one onstage with me. With Roger’s thing, I use a pick most of the time.
What was it like as a more or less traditional blues player working with huge rock bands like Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy in the 1970s?
It’s true that I’m quite a narrow person in my playing. I’ve always been into blues and haven’t really expanded my playing beyond it, because I’m very content to do what I do. But, funnily enough, the original Pink Floyd gig was actually very based in blues when you broke it down. I mean, I could play my sort of guitar in Pink Floyd and it wasn’t out of place. And so I was really pleased when I was invited to be their first augmenting guitar player in 1976. I hadn’t really heard Pink Floyd, because if it wasn’t blues, I didn’t listen to it. So when they sent me the albums to listen to, I was pleasantly surprised. David Gilmour played some really nice guitar and I thought, “Oh, I can fit in here quite nicely. And I think I did. It worked out okay. In a way, things were the same with Thin Lizzy—there’s a lot of harmony guitar work in there, but it’s really mostly blues licks. That was good fun. I very much enjoyed playing the harmony guitar with Scott Gorham. It was a great band with great songs.
White mics his stock, recent-vintage Vox AC30s just slightly off axis with a
pair of Shure SM57s. Photo by Snowy White
How does working with Roger Waters these days compare to playing with Pink Floyd three decades ago?
Musically, it’s very much the same as the original Wall. And it’s quite strange, really, because that was 30 years ago and I’m still playing the same songs. But the songs have a freshness to me—they never get boring. I’ve heard them so many times, and I still look forward to playing them, because even if you have to do the same licks every night, you can still try to get them a little bit sweeter, a little bit more on the button, a little bit nicer. There’s always a little sort of contest there—just try and make it a bit better ever night. I quite enjoy that. When I originally played with Pink Floyd, David Gilmour was very generous, always giving me solos. When I listen to some of the things I did to start with, I hear that I just went for my thing in my solos and didn’t really think about what the song needed. And I must have disappointed a lot of people, because they knew all of the original solos. So nowadays I’ve tempered my approach and think a bit more about the context.
What did you do to prepare for this Wall tour?
I just got out the album and listened through, and it all came back to me. Until we started rehearsing, we didn’t know who was going to play what, especially among the guitarists. We had to shuffle it around a bit, so we each had a reasonable amount to do. Apart from that, it was all fairly straightforward.
What has been like working with guitarists Dave Kilminster and G.E. Smith on the tour?
Dave Kilminster is a great musician. He notated all of Dave Gilmour’s solos and learned them intimately. I really enjoy listening to him nail the solos each night. I’ve never notated anything, by the way. I’ve done a lot of bluffing in my time, and I’ve learned to bluff really well. That or I’ve learned to sidestep really well. G.E.’s great, too. I didn’t know G.E. before this tour, and he’s a fine guitar player. He’s what I call a real musician—he plays all sorts of things and is into all sorts of music. He’s great to be on the road with. He’s got so many stories, and I really enjoy listening to his solos in the show, as well. The thing is, because the show’s so structured and we have our separate parts, we don’t play off of each other very much. But Dave, G.E., and I do listen to, appreciate, and complement each other.