Darren Glover won’t name his “ghost builder,” but he had this Les Paul replica made to his
personal specification with handpicked tonewoods.

What gear did you use to record you new album, For the Sinners?
We had old Marshalls, Komets, vintage tweeds, Deizels, Reinhardts—just so many amps—and we ended up tracking almost everything with this secret little amp called a Bernie. This guy named Bernie [Raunig] made like 10 or 12 of these amps and then just faded into obscurity. He made them out of Bell and Howell film projectors that he took apart and made his own special circuit. Our producer just happened to have one of them. We were looking for something just more blown-up and different-sounding, and it came down to this 1955 Les Paul Jr. with monster strings plugged into that Bernie amp, miked with an SM-57. That is pretty much the entire album.

Wow—it sounds like there’s more going on than one guitar and one amp!
Totally. It’s in the hands, right? It’s how you instruct the guitar. There are two solos that have a flanger or a phaser, but other than that, there just a couple of underlying parts done with a Bartlett Retrospec guitar through a Komet amp—which is unbelievable.

“You have to find your own thing, which is very difficult, especially when you’re so wrapped up in vintage albums and stories and the lineage of rock ’n’ roll.”

What was it about that Les Paul Jr. that spoke to you?
Well, the P-90 is a flamethrower of tone. It’s just the devil! It’s like a PAF on steroids that’s grabbing the entire signal and cramming it down the cable into the amp. I normally just use my sunburst Les Paul with PAFs, and they’re great when you’re playing big and loud because they don’t have the hum of the P-90. P-90s are difficult to use at rock ’n’ roll volume, unless you’re Leslie West and you know how to do it. However, there’s just something about that slab of mahogany and those big necks, and even the wraparound bridge—they’re just so simple. I think I used .013s for the recording. It was a forearm-breaking experience, but it added a lot to the sound. It was impossible to get through one song in one take.

It must have been intense to play such athletic riffs in standard tuning with strings that heavy!
Yeah. It’s weird, because I actually use very light strings on my Les Paul when I play live, but the studio is a whole different application, at least for this particular album. It was one of the most difficult ways of playing, but that’s how I had to do it to get that sound.

Glover's main studio axe—a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Jr that's always equipped with Gibbons-approved
light strings.

Lighten Up! String Advice from the Reverend

Of all the lessons Darren Glover gleaned from hero-turned-mentor Billy Gibbons, the advice on string gauges wound up having the biggest impact.

“He turned me on to light guitar strings, which was a big game-changer for me because I’ve always battled the big strings,” says Glover. “When you play light strings, it’s obviously easier, and that allows you to focus on the audience and the music. With heavy strings, I would just get internal. Light strings made it easier to relax and be present in the moment. You have to relax and play light with them, but you’d be amazed at the difference. You can get the same big tones with the lighter strings, but you can just let the guitar work. You just have to adjust your amp a little to fatten things up, but once you do, it sounds exactly the same, and you’ve got the power!

“I’ve been playing a long time, and it was so awesome to have this freedom all of a sudden. I wouldn’t have trusted the advice, but with Billy Gibbons standing there going, ‘Trust me, dude,” and saying things like, ‘Hendrix used these. Jimmy Page uses these’—well, the guy who knows these guys is essentially paying it forward and saying ‘This is what we do.’ You absolutely go, ‘Oh. Okay!’ They’re not for everyone, but for me, they work really well.”

The Bernie sounds like a low-wattage amp being run at its melting point.
Oh yeah, it’s 100% grind. A friend of mine in Toronto reverse-engineered the Bernie circuit and makes them under the name Tex Amps, so if you want the Bernie sound, you can get the Tex, but you will probably never find another Bernie. You put that guitar and amp in another person’s hands, though, and it’s going to sound completely different.