James Valentine

Guitars

James has been a quest to score a vintage '60s Gibson ES-335 and hasn't found the right one yet. During his seemingly never-ending search for the right hollowbody, a fellow guitarist turned him onto Collings Guitars' I-35 and he was thoroughly impressed with how the guitar plays and how warm it sounds. He used this particular 6-string on "She Will Be Loved" because it starts with a jazzy intro using the neck pickup and when the song goes into overdrive he kicks into the bridge position and cranks it up.

Mike Mogis [multi-instrumentalist for Bright Eyes], Valentine's friend from back in Nebraska, was using one and a Fano and he really dug the guitar’s vibe and feel when he was messing around with Mike's. Originally, Valentine was in New York City at 30th Street Guitars to buy the Jazzmaster-esque model [Alt de Facto JM6], but all they had at the time was the Telecaster-esque model so his first Fano was the TC6, which became one of his favorite go-to guitars. A few months had passed since he bought his first one, and now he has several JM6s, including the one in the middle that he uses for songs with big, thick, stadium-rocking choruses because he feels the P-90s sound bigger than any of his other guitars. And another custom JM6 that is a mash-up of a Jazzmaster, Firebird, and Silvertone.

The guitar on the right is a custom Hamer Talladega Pro that James uses for the heavier portions of the set.

Other guitars that were on the road with him included a Fano TC6, two Fender Custom Shop '70s Telecasters, and two Martin Performance Artist Series acoustics.

Amps

Valentine claims both amps—the Matchless Independence 35 and the Divided by 13 FTR 37 heads—are great in their own regards, but when they work together they complement each other in a very dynamic way. Generally, he has them both on—running through their own matching 2x12 extension cabs—and he has their channel switchers next to each other on his pedalboard so that he can switch them both to their dirty channels for a huge, overdriven sound or he can keep one clean and one dirty. He likes keeping each amp different—one set to clean and the other dirty—because he gets this really big, stereo effect where each amp’s tone is independent, but when they’re combined in this setup he can cover so much more ground tonally. Plus, it just sounds huge!

To Valentine, the Divided FTR 37’s tone has a vintage vibe, while the Matchless Independence head is more modern sounding… [laughs] it’s not nearly as modern as his Mesa/Boogie Mark Five, but it tends to break up earlier and has a drastically different tonal vocabulary than the Divided. It took him a number of years and experimentations with several amp combinations before he reached his current rig. Just recently, he's been getting a lot of compliments and questions about his tone during their recent tour. A lot of that credit goes to his guitar tech Mike Buffa who has helped him really dial in his setup and overall stage sound because the four heads [each head has a backup] sit offstage with Buffa and he controls the amps’ volumes and blends them directly offstage with an Ernie Ball Volume pedal.

Effects

Valentine's tech wired up his pedalboard and they experimented with the order of the signal path to avoid too much tone sucking. It has a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, a Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal, a Dunlop Rotovibe, a Fulltone Full-Drive 2, a Dunlop Zakk Wylde Signature wah, a Fulltone Octvafuzz, a Keeley Katana Clean Boost, a Keeley True Bypass Looper, Providence Anadime Chorus 2, an EHX Micro POG 2 (both the chorus and the POG 2 are in a separate effects loop for the intro and main riff on “Give A Little More”), a ZVEX Effects Octane 3, a Fulltone OCD, a Menatone Blue Collar Overdrive (the Fulltone works as his ballsy, over-the-top gritty soaring solo tone, while the Blue Collar colors his tone for the crunchy rhythm parts), and a Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor.