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Do you like scooped tones?
Not really. It’s so funny; you listen to Randy Rhoads—a big influence for me—and he’s got a lot of high-end and midrange snot in there. That scooped thing just gets too much pick attack.
What about dropped tunings?
Well, here’s another secret of tone: heavy strings and high action. I like having my Strat—the main Strat I’m using now is a ’62 reissue—tuned to Eb, and it has a set of D’Addario strings on it that goes from 11-52. I just realized that I wasn’t getting enough sound, and someone introduced me to a hybrid set with the 52 on the bottom. When I started detuning to Eb and D, I moved to 11s.
D’Addario makes a set of 11-52s now. Because you know the kids love to drop tune those guitars.
What do you think of those that drop to notes like C to be heavy?
Crazy notes, but there’s some of that early Sabbath where he’s got a low C# on the guitar, and he was playing eighths on a Gibson scale guitar!
What’s funny about that early Sabbath stuff is that every now and then I’ll notice a sound coming out of my plexi, and I’ll listen and say, “Is it supposed to do that?” Then I’ll put Black Sabbath on and I’ll hear that same sound, and I’ll say, “Okay, my amp is fine.” [laughs] I’ll be worried until I confirm it with Sabbath.
Your MySpace page says, “A new breed of guitar hero...”
A new breed of American guitar hero [laughs].That’s a tagline I got from Al.
What does it mean?
Well, this gets off the TSO track, but I just think that... if you start from Eddie Van Halen and move to guys like Yngwie—and I’m an immense Yngwie fan—you had that whole look and style just raining down on everybody for five or ten years. And all the guys that made their names then still have a profile, this real gravitas to who they are. But chops guitar is coming back. Bands like Dragonforce are on Guitar Hero and everyone’s interested in technical playing. And so I just think it makes room for a new generation of guys who can make their names in that realm of guitar, and I’m all for it.
You’re gonna have a new breed. John 5 is an amazing player; Bumblefoot is amazing. These guys are throwing down with the best of them, and they’re able to make their own names. It’s not like, “Oh man, you weren’t there then, so you don’t get to be a guitar hero.” We’re making room for guitar heroes again, and I think that’s a great thing.
When Angus takes the stage with TSO, here’s what he’s caroling on.