Glenn Tipton is a longtime Hamer user. In this photo from 1990, he plays an angular neck-through GT model. Photo by Ken Settle.
Richie, do you replicate K.K.’s parts live, or do you improvise in those sections?
Faulkner: Part of my attraction to K.K’s playing—or Hendrix’s—is the improvisational aspect of it. There were certain motifs on the record, but live, they would go elsewhere. That was always a musical turn-on for me. It’s why I got into guitar. So that’s what I’ve done live, and that’s how I naturally approach solos: taking motifs from the original and adding my own style. It’s being respectful to the original, but also being respectful to yourself. You don’t want to be a clone. You want to put your own stamp on things.
Glenn, is it strange to hear a different take on songs you’ve played for decades?
Tipton: The way Richie’s blended into the band is still a miracle to me. As he said, he’s doing the job he’s supposed to do, but he’s doing it in his own way.
Faulkner: I was brought up on the band. You get the Flying V and you practice moves in front of the mirror when you’re a kid. You’ve already done your apprenticeship.
The album closer, “Beginning of the End,” starts out mellow and stays in that zone. I was expecting something more epic to happen.
Faulkner: You do expect that—it’s the format for a lot of ballads. The song is epic in its own right, but not in the way you might expect it to be. It stays mellow. It worked that way. The song speaks for itself.
“Never Forget,” the final cut of the five bonus tracks, is nostalgic and sentimental. Is it a tribute to someone?
Tipton: It gets a little heavier toward the end when the electric guitar chords come in. It’s a “thank you,” really, to all the fans for their support throughout the years. There are some great phrases in there.
Tell us about your gear. What are your main axes?
Tipton: I use Hamers. I haven’t worked with them for years, but the guitars I designed with them suit me, so I still use them. The ones I had made are slightly different: They have small little points—like the SG-type shaved neck—that make it easier for me to play. The GTs have a one-piece neck and body, which is great because if I do any stretches in my playing, I can get the guitar in the right place [mimes a guitar pointing up at a 45-degree angle]. There’s very little wiring in some of them. On some of the earlier ones, I just had one treble pickup.
Faulkner: When I’m in the States, I drop the bags off at the hotel and visit local mom-and-pop guitar stores. I’m developing a little bit of an addiction [laughs]. These guitars are hanging on the wall, and it’s like, “Where have they been? What stories can they tell? Who’s played them? Which wives have tried to sell them?” I hunt them down. I love it. I love the smell of them. I primarily play Les Pauls. I also have some Flying Vs, SGs, and a couple of Strats. It's forever growing. I’m actually going
to make a run to 30th Street [an emerging music row in NYC]. I’m getting excited now [rubs hands together]. I know there’s an endless debate about chambering and solidbody
versus light body. That in itself is great fun to be part of.
Is there a tonal difference between the chambered and non-chambered ones?
Faulkner: I don’t think you can ever tell. If you’re watching someone play a heavy guitar, you’ve got nothing to compare it to anyway. If you’re thinking about that, you’re at the wrong show. You should be enjoying the music—it’s all about the feel. If it feels right to the player, then you can create the best stuff you can create. I like the feel of a heavy guitar—it’s just something that you get used to. If it’s a bit lighter, you might be thinking too much about it. That’s the way I like to approach it.
Glenn, tell us about your modified EMG pickups.
Tipton: They’re just sort of rewound to my specs to give me the sound I want. That’s what pickups do: give you great tone and sustain. The same pickup on a different guitar sounds different anyway. I use Hamer Phantoms and GTs onstage, and if you put the same pickups in each guitar, it sounds different. They have different woods. They just have to be reliable and get me through shows.