Premier Guitar

Hot Tuna: 50+ Years of Flavor Freshness

March 15, 2011

LEFT: Jack Casady thunders out the groove onstage with his signature Epiphone hollowbody bass. RIGHT: Jorma Kaukonen onstage with an LP-295 goldtop Les Paul outfitted with a Bigsby vibrato and a flower-motif pickguard.

“Jack and I have never had a band meeting—how about that?” says Jorma Kaukonen of his decades-long partnership with bassist Jack Casady in the legendary rock bands Jefferson Airplane and, later, Hot Tuna. “We’ve never had to do anything but concentrate on the music.” In fact, the title of Hot Tuna’s new album, Steady As She Goes—their first studio record in 20 years—is a nautical tip of the cap to Kaukonen and Casady’s long relationship.

Just how long is “long”?

Kaukonen, who recently turned 70, says, “We’ve been playing together for 53 years now. We grew up together in Washington, D.C.”

Over that time, both have become giants in the music business. As player of an instrument that’s often valued for how well it disappears into a song’s underground, Casady is virtually unparalleled—and yet he has one of the most truly unique electric-bass voices in rock. Like any good bassist, he can melt into a supportive role. But when opportunity knocks, he bursts forth with creative lines—both simple and ornate—that are unlike any you’ve heard. (Few bass lines are more recognizable than his ominous, exotic-sounding intro to Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic anthem “White Rabbit.”)


Kaukonen and Casady onstage, the former with his Les Paul and the latter with his Epiphone signature hollowbody bass.
Photo by Barry Berenson
But Casady also has an important place in the development of the electric bass itself. Like most players of his era, he began on a solidbody Fender (he played a Jazz bass on Surrealistic Pillow), but found himself longing for an instrument with more dynamic response. And along with the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and others in the San Francisco scene, Casady became a test pilot for the revolutionary work being done by Alembic. Electronics whiz Ron Wickersham and woodworker extraordinaire Rick Turner first heavily modified Casady’s hollowbody Guild Starfire basses (check out 1970’s Woodstock film) with low-impedance pickups and preamps. But before long, Casady moved over to what is arguably the first boutique bass ever—an Alembic with the serial number 72-01.

As for Kaukonen, though he and Casady are best known for high-volume psychedelic rock, his roots run deep in acoustic blues and gospel music. When he came on the scene, he was an avid fingerstyle player in a world of rockers launching into inner-space on solidbody electrics. But Kaukonen chose a Gibson ES-345 throughout the Airplane’s ride from the ’60s San Francisco scene into the Top 40.

While the Airplane eventually mutated into other lineups, Kaukonen and Casady formed Hot Tuna and continued exploring the possibilities of blues, rock, and improvisation. In 1996, Casady, Kaukonen, and the rest of the Airplane were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the dynamic guitar-and-bass duo is clearly far from done. And for the Steady As She Goes release, the band headed to the Barn—a studio in Woodstock, New York, that’s owned by Levon Helm (drummer/vocalist for the Band)—and put producer Larry Campbell at the controls.

We talked and listened as both of these icons in spoke in depth about their respective crafts, songwriting, collaborating, and the gear that helps them create their eclectic, singular rock sound. We begin first with our Kaukonen Q&A, followed by our interview with Casady later in this article.




Kaukonen finds his groove onstage with his Gibson SST acoustic-electric. Photo by Barry Berenson

Jorma Kaukonen Q&A

So why a studio record now, after 20 years?


I just got off my lazy ass and made a record—which doesn’t make for an exciting interview quote, but that’s what happened. Things just lined up and it seemed like the right time. I wrote six or seven new songs and co-wrote with Jack, [producer] Larry Campbell, and [mandolinist] Barry Mitterhoff. We were thinking about making the record ourselves, but Red House Records said they wanted to do it, and Larry said he’d produce.

Given your lengthy discography, I don’t think the word “lazy” is quite apt.

My friend [guitarist/singer/ songwriter] Chris Smither is full of witty aphorisms, and one thing he said is, “I like having written songs, but I hate writing songs.” Once I start a project, the songs flow pretty easily, but I’m such a procrastinator that I need deadlines for me to write. We committed to doing this record, and in the process we wound up with built-in deadlines. I had one song, and then as deadlines approached, I started collaborating. I’ve never collaborated on this level before, and I had a great time doing it. It was a growth spurt—a really late-in-life growth spurt.

So, as far as collaborating, you decided to make a change and see what would happen?

I have lots of friends who write songs and I’ve had the opportunity, but I haven’t done it before. In the past, I’d look at somebody else’s song and say, “I like that, but that’s not really me—I’m not comfortable in that zone.” For whatever reason, the songs that Larry, Jack, and Barry brought around this time flowed in an organic way. We were all on the same page of vision and poetry, which made it very easy for me to work with. It was like having a bigger brain [laughs].

What’s the key to good collaboration?

First, you have to be friends. The other thing is that you can’t be self-conscious about putting yourself out there. We recorded a song, “Angel of Darkness,” that Larry wrote a verse and a chorus for. It was about a woman who had been abused. He asked me to write the rest of the song, but I didn’t really pay attention to what he had written, and the lyrics I wrote were about someone totally different. I wrote about the wrong woman! So I had to get to know the woman in the song and write from her point of view. You have to pay attention to what the song says— and you have to be able to not feel like a moron if you’re called out for not catching the song’s original intent.

With your various projects over the years, what makes Hot Tuna Hot Tuna?


The presence of Jack Casady. Someone asked me to get Jack to play on my solo record River of Time, but then it would have been a Hot Tuna record. Jack is one of the great bass players, and his presence on a recording is undeniable. The rhythm section is the most important part of any band—us guys who play the melody and the lead would be lost without a good rhythm section. Jack and our drummer, Skoota Warner, like each other so much personally and musically that they just lock in. This record has many different kind of songs, with many different kinds of beats, and Jack played in a way that I haven’t heard him play since the Airplane recordings where we did a lot of different material.

I teach a lot, and the importance of the rhythm section is one of the things I teach. In my solo guitar playing, my strength is my thumb—my rhythm section. The same is true when you get more than one person making music. The rhythm is what people feel without thinking about it.

You know you’re playing well when you’re playing and you see the audience moving.

Yeah! As a guitar player, you can obsess about minutiae, that you think are brilliant, but nobody but your friend who is a guitar player will give a rat’s ass about that. If the groove is self-sustaining, you’re there.

Is there something about Jack’s playing that brings you together—in addition to his friendship?

There are a number of components to Jack’s playing. One is his inventiveness as a soloist. I have a finite number of zones that I can draw my solos from, but Jack amazes me. When it comes time to blow, I never know where he’s coming from—it’s like he channels this inexhaustible fountain of creativity. And that’s exciting. Another thing is that when it comes time for him to be a traditional bass player, he’s totally there. He’s tuned into the other musicians. When we play in our quasi-acoustic setting, he has many different meanderings he can do in that format, but when we play electric, he needs to lock in with the drummer. He’s able to do both without sounding self-conscious, and his creativity shines because of that.




Kaukonen finds his groove onstage with his Gibson SST acoustic-electric. Photo by Barry Berenson

Jorma Kaukonen Q&A

So why a studio record now, after 20 years?


I just got off my lazy ass and made a record—which doesn’t make for an exciting interview quote, but that’s what happened. Things just lined up and it seemed like the right time. I wrote six or seven new songs and co-wrote with Jack, [producer] Larry Campbell, and [mandolinist] Barry Mitterhoff. We were thinking about making the record ourselves, but Red House Records said they wanted to do it, and Larry said he’d produce.

Given your lengthy discography, I don’t think the word “lazy” is quite apt.

My friend [guitarist/singer/ songwriter] Chris Smither is full of witty aphorisms, and one thing he said is, “I like having written songs, but I hate writing songs.” Once I start a project, the songs flow pretty easily, but I’m such a procrastinator that I need deadlines for me to write. We committed to doing this record, and in the process we wound up with built-in deadlines. I had one song, and then as deadlines approached, I started collaborating. I’ve never collaborated on this level before, and I had a great time doing it. It was a growth spurt—a really late-in-life growth spurt.

So, as far as collaborating, you decided to make a change and see what would happen?

I have lots of friends who write songs and I’ve had the opportunity, but I haven’t done it before. In the past, I’d look at somebody else’s song and say, “I like that, but that’s not really me—I’m not comfortable in that zone.” For whatever reason, the songs that Larry, Jack, and Barry brought around this time flowed in an organic way. We were all on the same page of vision and poetry, which made it very easy for me to work with. It was like having a bigger brain [laughs].

What’s the key to good collaboration?

First, you have to be friends. The other thing is that you can’t be self-conscious about putting yourself out there. We recorded a song, “Angel of Darkness,” that Larry wrote a verse and a chorus for. It was about a woman who had been abused. He asked me to write the rest of the song, but I didn’t really pay attention to what he had written, and the lyrics I wrote were about someone totally different. I wrote about the wrong woman! So I had to get to know the woman in the song and write from her point of view. You have to pay attention to what the song says— and you have to be able to not feel like a moron if you’re called out for not catching the song’s original intent.

With your various projects over the years, what makes Hot Tuna Hot Tuna?


The presence of Jack Casady. Someone asked me to get Jack to play on my solo record River of Time, but then it would have been a Hot Tuna record. Jack is one of the great bass players, and his presence on a recording is undeniable. The rhythm section is the most important part of any band—us guys who play the melody and the lead would be lost without a good rhythm section. Jack and our drummer, Skoota Warner, like each other so much personally and musically that they just lock in. This record has many different kind of songs, with many different kinds of beats, and Jack played in a way that I haven’t heard him play since the Airplane recordings where we did a lot of different material.

I teach a lot, and the importance of the rhythm section is one of the things I teach. In my solo guitar playing, my strength is my thumb—my rhythm section. The same is true when you get more than one person making music. The rhythm is what people feel without thinking about it.

You know you’re playing well when you’re playing and you see the audience moving.

Yeah! As a guitar player, you can obsess about minutiae, that you think are brilliant, but nobody but your friend who is a guitar player will give a rat’s ass about that. If the groove is self-sustaining, you’re there.

Is there something about Jack’s playing that brings you together—in addition to his friendship?

There are a number of components to Jack’s playing. One is his inventiveness as a soloist. I have a finite number of zones that I can draw my solos from, but Jack amazes me. When it comes time to blow, I never know where he’s coming from—it’s like he channels this inexhaustible fountain of creativity. And that’s exciting. Another thing is that when it comes time for him to be a traditional bass player, he’s totally there. He’s tuned into the other musicians. When we play in our quasi-acoustic setting, he has many different meanderings he can do in that format, but when we play electric, he needs to lock in with the drummer. He’s able to do both without sounding self-conscious, and his creativity shines because of that.



What do you recommend players do to develop that sense of style as a player or songwriter?

All of us have musical heroes and iconic styles we look to. You need to find a foundation of something you love to stimulate the creative juices and bring the music forward without being an archivist. You need to take it to another place.

A lot of people learn to play their heroes’ songs note-for-note but can’t take it beyond that.


One of the things that saved me—and that was a true gift in the long run—was that I either didn’t have the ability or the patience to learn songs note-for-note. Even when I was learning Reverend Gary Davis songs or Merle Travis songs, I got what I needed to play them. I didn’t agonize over the minutiae. I’m sure that some of the old guys didn’t know that a C# minor chord was very similar to an Amaj7, they just liked how it sounded. Yet these things fall into place as you learn other people’s songs. I hear cool chords and intervals in a Reverend Gary Davis song, and I think, “I need to snag that,” but I don’t need to snag all the other things that make it the Reverend’s song. I don’t have the ability—and at this point in my life, I don’t have the time.

Did you ever experiment with high-tech electronics like Jack did when you were in Jefferson Airplane?


No. Jack was always fearlessly exploring the possibilities of sound, but he’s probably the first to tell you that a lot of that is a less-direct tone path. If you pass the same instrument around a room, each player will sound different—and that’s the magic of the instrument. Your body mass affects it—how you hold it, how big your belly is pressing against the instrument. Everyone worries about whether the guitar has a mahogany back or a rosewood back, but maybe it’s about your beer gut pressing on the guitar’s back.

Dan Erlewine, who lives nearby, wanted me to put an armrest on my acoustic guitar to keep my arm off the face of my guitar because he said that my arm kills my tone. I went, “No Dan, it doesn’t kill the tone, it changes the tone.” I agree that it will make a difference, but I’ve spent my life changing the tone of my acoustic guitar with my arm.

Tell me about your signature Martin.

Much of my acoustic guitar playing has centered on my 1959 Gibson J-50, but at this point those large guitars are getting difficult for me to play. I got a Martin David Bromberg signature guitar and really liked it. I talked to [Martin’s director of artist relations] Dick Boak and he helped me put my guitar together. It’s based on Martin’s M series, and they’re very amplification- friendly. I used to always pare off bass from the sound, because the body was so boomy on jumbos and dreadnoughts. I’m not a guitar designer, but I knew I wanted a 1 3/4"-wide neck—because my hands have changed with age—forward bracing, and a larger soundhole. It also has a V-shaped neck, which I like now that I’m older. I can play it as long as I want, and it never hurts my hand. And I loved the Italian spruce top on the Bromberg guitar, so we used it on my guitar, too. It was a treat to put together.

You do a lot of teaching at your Fur Peace Ranch—how did that evolve?

My wife and I talked about doing a camp, so we bought this 119-acre property in ’89 or ’90 in southeast Ohio. She really drove the organization of Fur Peace. My idea of a guitar camp would have been a few bales of hay around a campfire, while her idea was a 200-seat theater, an NPR radio show, a restaurant, 17 cabins, etc. She did all the heavy lifting and my name helped get it started.

So we have a school with four-day weekends. We have great teachers and we all think it’s important to pass on what we’ve learned. Personally, I’ve learned so much about music, through teaching and learning the vocabulary necessary to talk about it, that it has made me a better player. It sounds sappy, but it’s a musical community—a bunch of like-minded spirits of all ages, hanging out and concentrating on music. It’s a place of refuge where you can get away from the weight of regular life and get back to the basics of music.

Jorma Kaukonen’s Gearbox
Guitars
Gibson LP-295 Les Paul, Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen signature model with Fishman Aura preamp, Gibson SST acoustic-electric

Amps
Louis Electric Amplifiers KR12 head and 2x12 cabinet, Fishman Loudbox 100

Effects
Hermida Audio Zendrive

Strings
GHS Boomers (electrics), Martin SP Bronze light-gauge (acoustics)



What do you recommend players do to develop that sense of style as a player or songwriter?

All of us have musical heroes and iconic styles we look to. You need to find a foundation of something you love to stimulate the creative juices and bring the music forward without being an archivist. You need to take it to another place.

A lot of people learn to play their heroes’ songs note-for-note but can’t take it beyond that.


One of the things that saved me—and that was a true gift in the long run—was that I either didn’t have the ability or the patience to learn songs note-for-note. Even when I was learning Reverend Gary Davis songs or Merle Travis songs, I got what I needed to play them. I didn’t agonize over the minutiae. I’m sure that some of the old guys didn’t know that a C# minor chord was very similar to an Amaj7, they just liked how it sounded. Yet these things fall into place as you learn other people’s songs. I hear cool chords and intervals in a Reverend Gary Davis song, and I think, “I need to snag that,” but I don’t need to snag all the other things that make it the Reverend’s song. I don’t have the ability—and at this point in my life, I don’t have the time.

Did you ever experiment with high-tech electronics like Jack did when you were in Jefferson Airplane?


No. Jack was always fearlessly exploring the possibilities of sound, but he’s probably the first to tell you that a lot of that is a less-direct tone path. If you pass the same instrument around a room, each player will sound different—and that’s the magic of the instrument. Your body mass affects it—how you hold it, how big your belly is pressing against the instrument. Everyone worries about whether the guitar has a mahogany back or a rosewood back, but maybe it’s about your beer gut pressing on the guitar’s back.

Dan Erlewine, who lives nearby, wanted me to put an armrest on my acoustic guitar to keep my arm off the face of my guitar because he said that my arm kills my tone. I went, “No Dan, it doesn’t kill the tone, it changes the tone.” I agree that it will make a difference, but I’ve spent my life changing the tone of my acoustic guitar with my arm.

Tell me about your signature Martin.

Much of my acoustic guitar playing has centered on my 1959 Gibson J-50, but at this point those large guitars are getting difficult for me to play. I got a Martin David Bromberg signature guitar and really liked it. I talked to [Martin’s director of artist relations] Dick Boak and he helped me put my guitar together. It’s based on Martin’s M series, and they’re very amplification- friendly. I used to always pare off bass from the sound, because the body was so boomy on jumbos and dreadnoughts. I’m not a guitar designer, but I knew I wanted a 1 3/4"-wide neck—because my hands have changed with age—forward bracing, and a larger soundhole. It also has a V-shaped neck, which I like now that I’m older. I can play it as long as I want, and it never hurts my hand. And I loved the Italian spruce top on the Bromberg guitar, so we used it on my guitar, too. It was a treat to put together.

You do a lot of teaching at your Fur Peace Ranch—how did that evolve?

My wife and I talked about doing a camp, so we bought this 119-acre property in ’89 or ’90 in southeast Ohio. She really drove the organization of Fur Peace. My idea of a guitar camp would have been a few bales of hay around a campfire, while her idea was a 200-seat theater, an NPR radio show, a restaurant, 17 cabins, etc. She did all the heavy lifting and my name helped get it started.

So we have a school with four-day weekends. We have great teachers and we all think it’s important to pass on what we’ve learned. Personally, I’ve learned so much about music, through teaching and learning the vocabulary necessary to talk about it, that it has made me a better player. It sounds sappy, but it’s a musical community—a bunch of like-minded spirits of all ages, hanging out and concentrating on music. It’s a place of refuge where you can get away from the weight of regular life and get back to the basics of music.

Jorma Kaukonen’s Gearbox
Guitars
Gibson LP-295 Les Paul, Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen signature model with Fishman Aura preamp, Gibson SST acoustic-electric

Amps
Louis Electric Amplifiers KR12 head and 2x12 cabinet, Fishman Loudbox 100

Effects
Hermida Audio Zendrive

Strings
GHS Boomers (electrics), Martin SP Bronze light-gauge (acoustics)



Jack Casady Q&A

Which bass parts on the new record stand out for you as a player?


Casady digs in onstage with his goldtop signature Epiphone while Kaukonen strums his Gibson SST acoustic-electric in front of his Louis Electric Amplifiers KR12 half-stack.
Photo by Barry Berenson
I’m delighted with every single track—and I’ve rarely felt that way after a record. In the past, I’ve gone home and been unable to listen to the record because I either second-guessed myself or the record took a direction I wasn’t happy with. This time, though, I walked out and listened to it. I think everyone in the band did a great job on every song. And with Larry Campbell’s help, I can’t remember having so much fun and getting such concise, grooving results on every song.

What do you think was the key to things going that well?

You have to have the foundation in the songs. If you have secure underpinnings of the song and a groove, the other parts flow—including Jorma’s singing, which is the best I’ve heard him sing. I brought music in for one song and Jorma came up with lyrics in the studio. It was amazing to watch. Music is the only art form where artists come together to work on the same piece. Can you imagine five painters working on the same canvas?

Your playing is very responsive and improvisational.


I try to reach a balance between diverting the river to make it unique and never losing the groove at the expense of a lick or finger exercise. You always have to test that balance to create something new, while also trying to capture the essential atmosphere of the song and not leave it until the last note.

What do you do to pull everything together like that?


You listen objectively to the song from the outside, and then, inside the song, subjectively play off the other musicians and work to make the whole sound unified and consistent. Each song is like opening a door and walking into a room, and each night is a unique creation. You’re always trying to play the song better, but “better” doesn’t mean playing it the same night after night—it means getting to the essence. Some songs might have a vignette or a lick—a recognizable aspect that you don’t want to lose—but if the song changes, you have to be ready to adapt.

What do you look for in your bass tone?

I look for a good transition from my hands, through the instrument, and through the amplifier. If I’m playing over the pickup, I want a nice, tight midrange sound. Up on the neck, I want more of a standup-bass sound. And behind the pickup, I can get some gank. I measure my sound against the dynamic response of an acoustic instrument, with the conciseness of an electric. I heard acoustic instruments first, so I always measure my electric sound against the sound you can get from a standup bass. I sat in front of jazz guys like Charles Mingus and Scott LaFaro, and I was always amazed at the diversity of sound coming from the same instrument played by different people.

Tone is something you’ve obviously given a lot of consideration to. What’s your beacon for tone?

I’ve gone full-circle on basses. After beginning on passive hollowbodies, experimenting with active electronics, and using solidbodies, I’m back to passive hollowbodies. One of the things about active electronics is that your tone is less about your hands and more about the miniature preamp. So when I developed my signature bass with Epiphone, I wanted to make it a bass guitar that had acoustic properties but would record really well. I wanted the bass to have one fat-sounding, low-impedance pickup, which gives you a greater dynamic range. I focused on how many windings it had, the strength of the alnico magnets, and finding a good preamp, power amp, and speakers.

Jack Casady’s Gearbox
Basses
Epiphone Jack Casady signature hollowbody, fretless Epiphone Jack Casady signature hollowbody, Fender ’62 Reissue Jazz bass, Fender ’53 Precision bass

Amps
Alessandro Basset Hound 60-watt head driving an Aguilar DB 285 JC cabinet (for studio and acoustic work), Aguilar DB 680 tube preamp through an Aguilar DB 728 power amp driving an Aguilar GS 410 4x10 cabinet (electric rig)

Strings
Dean Markley Blue Steels (.065–.105), Thomastik-Infeld flatwounds on fretless Epiphone and Fender Jazz bass


Jack Casady Q&A

Which bass parts on the new record stand out for you as a player?


Casady digs in onstage with his goldtop signature Epiphone while Kaukonen strums his Gibson SST acoustic-electric in front of his Louis Electric Amplifiers KR12 half-stack.
Photo by Barry Berenson
I’m delighted with every single track—and I’ve rarely felt that way after a record. In the past, I’ve gone home and been unable to listen to the record because I either second-guessed myself or the record took a direction I wasn’t happy with. This time, though, I walked out and listened to it. I think everyone in the band did a great job on every song. And with Larry Campbell’s help, I can’t remember having so much fun and getting such concise, grooving results on every song.

What do you think was the key to things going that well?

You have to have the foundation in the songs. If you have secure underpinnings of the song and a groove, the other parts flow—including Jorma’s singing, which is the best I’ve heard him sing. I brought music in for one song and Jorma came up with lyrics in the studio. It was amazing to watch. Music is the only art form where artists come together to work on the same piece. Can you imagine five painters working on the same canvas?

Your playing is very responsive and improvisational.


I try to reach a balance between diverting the river to make it unique and never losing the groove at the expense of a lick or finger exercise. You always have to test that balance to create something new, while also trying to capture the essential atmosphere of the song and not leave it until the last note.

What do you do to pull everything together like that?


You listen objectively to the song from the outside, and then, inside the song, subjectively play off the other musicians and work to make the whole sound unified and consistent. Each song is like opening a door and walking into a room, and each night is a unique creation. You’re always trying to play the song better, but “better” doesn’t mean playing it the same night after night—it means getting to the essence. Some songs might have a vignette or a lick—a recognizable aspect that you don’t want to lose—but if the song changes, you have to be ready to adapt.

What do you look for in your bass tone?

I look for a good transition from my hands, through the instrument, and through the amplifier. If I’m playing over the pickup, I want a nice, tight midrange sound. Up on the neck, I want more of a standup-bass sound. And behind the pickup, I can get some gank. I measure my sound against the dynamic response of an acoustic instrument, with the conciseness of an electric. I heard acoustic instruments first, so I always measure my electric sound against the sound you can get from a standup bass. I sat in front of jazz guys like Charles Mingus and Scott LaFaro, and I was always amazed at the diversity of sound coming from the same instrument played by different people.

Tone is something you’ve obviously given a lot of consideration to. What’s your beacon for tone?

I’ve gone full-circle on basses. After beginning on passive hollowbodies, experimenting with active electronics, and using solidbodies, I’m back to passive hollowbodies. One of the things about active electronics is that your tone is less about your hands and more about the miniature preamp. So when I developed my signature bass with Epiphone, I wanted to make it a bass guitar that had acoustic properties but would record really well. I wanted the bass to have one fat-sounding, low-impedance pickup, which gives you a greater dynamic range. I focused on how many windings it had, the strength of the alnico magnets, and finding a good preamp, power amp, and speakers.

Jack Casady’s Gearbox
Basses
Epiphone Jack Casady signature hollowbody, fretless Epiphone Jack Casady signature hollowbody, Fender ’62 Reissue Jazz bass, Fender ’53 Precision bass

Amps
Alessandro Basset Hound 60-watt head driving an Aguilar DB 285 JC cabinet (for studio and acoustic work), Aguilar DB 680 tube preamp through an Aguilar DB 728 power amp driving an Aguilar GS 410 4x10 cabinet (electric rig)

Strings
Dean Markley Blue Steels (.065–.105), Thomastik-Infeld flatwounds on fretless Epiphone and Fender Jazz bass