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Let’s switch gears a little bit. What kind of gear are you using these days? What are some favorite pieces?
Well, my mainstays go along with roots and classic rock type stuff. I use Fender amps a lot, like a bunch of vintage Fender amps. The Pro Reverb is a great mainstay and Super Reverb and so forth, but there are a couple new amps that I’ve been using that have been absolutely stellar. They’re new amps called Swarts. They’re made by Michael Swart in North Carolina and I’ve got his whole range of amps. He makes a little five watt amp which is not exactly a tweed Champ, but it’s in that realm, and it’s quite loud, actually. It’s great for recording or if I’m playing a very intimate club gig when you’re just playing with an acoustic guitar, and you want to have nice tone without pissing off the lead singer or whatever. I also use Atomic Space Tone, which is about 20-25 watts and a tremendous amp. It’s fantastic for roots-type stuff because it splits the fence between a blackface and a tweed, where it’s got thick mid-range if you want it, and it has a really nice, clear and articulate top-end, too. I love these amps. They’re all hand-wired and they feel very comfortable. Even though they’re new amps, they harken back to the ‘50s; they’re really well-made. A lot of times when you’re using vintage amps you’re dealing with forty-plus-year-old components and the last thing you want to do is kill a session because your amp starts to blow up.
How different is the rig that you take to sessions from the one that you take to showcases or what have you?
In some regards, it’s quite similar; it all depends. On the live gig I have a multitude of amps, depending upon the size venue I’m playing. For example, I don’t want to take a bazooka, like a Super Reverb, if I only needed a butter knife, like a little five watter. I try to bring the right size knife to the right size knife fight. I don’t really like to have a big amp turned down, I’d much rather have a small amp turned up into the “sweet spot” where the power tubes and the circuitry really start to work.
I like to use a spider web as an analogy; I like my whole rig to be incredibly lively, like a spider web. If you touch a spider web very lightly, it’s very sensitive to nuance and detail, but if you hit it hard it flexes and springs back to life. I like to have my rig at that point. Sometimes you’ve got to turn an amp up to where you not only get the power tubes cookin’, but where you get the speakers starting to jump around, too, making it important to have the right wattage for the room. In the studio you’re often isolated from your amps so volume is not as much of an issue, it becomes more a matter of the voicing of the amp to what you’re trying to achieve. That’s where having a huge amount of pedals is real beneficial because a lot of times I’ll use kind of a loud tube amp turned up as a platform for different pedals to create different sounds.
Are there any pedals out there that you’re really excited about?
Oh yeah! Last year a friend of mine gave me a Timmy pedal and it’s fantastic. It can be a clean boost, a mild overdrive, and the beauty of this pedal is – everybody uses the word “transparent” – but it has the potential to be absolutely transparent. And it’s small, which is great because space is always at a premium on a pedal board. It’s just unbelievably versatile. It’s made by a guy, Paul C.,v here – ironically enough – in Nashville. It works great with tweed as well as blackface amps, and it’s very organic and very amp-like. When you turn it up, if you hit your guitar hard, it pops and it really crunches; if you play softer, then it starts to clean up very nicely – almost like The Who – Live at Leeds or something.
Sweet. Are you still mostly using Teles?
Well, Teles are a big part of it, yes. I have Custom Shop Nocasters, which are kind of a mainstay for me. I mean, they are my favorite guitars – Teles – to play, hands down, but, I do have a couple Gibson historic guitars. I have an historic ‘59 Les Paul and an historic ‘61 SG – because again, in particular Tom Bukovac, who I mentioned earlier, has kind of been the antithesis of the “Nashville sound” for years. He’ll use tons of old Gibsons through Bogner and Diezel amps. He’s on all the major hits and yet he’s using a much more rock-oriented sound. Of course, if you put a Tele in his hands, he’ll just rattle off some of the most unbelievable machine-gun chicken pickin’ as well – he’s one of those guys who can literally play anything. When he’s in the room, I sit on my hands. [laughs]
Greg, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I really appreciate it.
Yeah, James, man, thank you; I’m grateful for the opportunity.
|Greg describes the Nashville Number System|
|“I’ve never approached music other than a Blues tune as I – IV – V. If somebody called out a tune anywhere else I’ve lived, and it was in the key of C, they would say it was C, A-minor, D-minor, F, G. Here they’ll say it’s a I, VI minor, II minor, IV, V. My brain has a little filter now where I relate to the chords in their numerical reference. It’s a phenomenal way to communicate music because when you change keys the number reference never changes. If they call out the song in D, the I, VI minor, II minor, IV, V don’t change, just the reference chord, so it’s really efficient.
“What is difficult is musicians here read the Nashville Number System like reading a cereal box. I’ve been to sessions with Tom Bukovac when he’s leader on the session. He’ll have a pencil and a piece of paper. They play the song down that they’re going to cut, and he starts writing the changes down, and he doesn’t have a guitar anywhere near him. These aren’t just I – IV – V progressions; some of them are very complex, with quite a few chord changes.
“They then send that to the assistant, who makes copies, and hands them around the room. The musicians go out there, and first take is like you see them chiseling rocks off of a marble slab, and by the second or third take you’re like, “Oh, my God, they’re recording!” Although the first takes are usually brilliant, the second and third takes are usually where the band solidifies. So you had heard something just a few moments earlier that nobody had heard before, and by the second or third take it sounds like the best band in the world has cut the song like it can never be cut again.”
|Greg V’s Gearbox