Adam Hann, lead guitarist for the 1975, plays his 1962 Jag in front of his triple-amp rig, which consists of two Hiwatt Custom 50s and a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus. Photo by Atlas Icons / Chris Schwegler
How are you getting that great tone on the “Love Me” solo?
We recorded the solo and then took the DI at the same time and fired bits of it back out through different pedals, amps, and delays to make this really weird sort of character for the solo. We had a lot of fun recording that. Mike Crossey, who recorded the album, said it’s probably one of the best guitar solos—not so much in terms of the playing on it—but in terms of the creativity behind the whole identity of it, that he’s ever recorded. So it was cool.
What are some of the tools you used?
So the main part goes through the Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth, which gives it a weird, slightly slower attack—makes it like a wah-esque attack—with a low octave in there. It has this square wave bit on it, which gives it more of an unusual sound. Above all, we wanted it to sound not like a traditional guitar solo; it just needed to sound interesting. It then goes from that into a Klon—with no drive on it really, just to beef up the mids—and then through a Roland CE-1 chorus. It then goes straight into a really driven Audio Kitchen amp. Those are really good-sounding British handmade amps. It is a little 14-watt head with a 1x10 cabinet. It breaks up straight away as soon as you set it up.
“UGH!” has intriguing rhythm parts. How did you create those sounds?
For that, there’s a whole host of layering going on. The main analog, sort of organic, envelope sound you’re hearing is a phaser. I think it is a Mu-Tron Bi-Phase. It’s a classic phaser pedal that I don’t own—Mike Crossey has one. It’s a ludicrously expensive, sought-after phaser pedal. We did loads and loads and loads of takes with the phase on and then went through and captured all the moments where the sweep of the phase hit what we were playing perfectly. We then comped together all those moments to create that part—again, this is what I was saying about, “This is impossible to do live.” We’ll make it work—possibly with the HOG, with the expression pedal with a weird cutoff whammy sound or something like that.
Logic also has an auto filter that’s not necessarily used for guitars. But when we were tracking the demo we went straight into Logic and set up a guitar rig that had an auto filter in it—that’s in there on the recording, as well as the phaser sound.
That’s a lot of work for one rhythm track.
A lot of the recording of the guitars was like that. There is probably far more thought and intricacy that went into the recording than is obvious when you first listen to it. For example, there is another track on the album that we wanted to create this blanket of guitar sounds. We recorded the guitar part, captured the DI, and then went and cut it up and reamped each little section. Each time we did the part with a different set of pedals and effects that constantly changes throughout. You get this guitar part where from beat to beat—or even from eighth-note to eighth-note—it changes from a distorted guitar to a clean chorus guitar to a really extreme tremolo sound. That was on a song called “Nana.” When you first listen to it, you don’t imagine the actual process that happens to create that—it’s just sort of this constantly evolving guitar sound on a single part. The work that went into recording the guitar part took like two days in the studio for one seemingly incidental guitar part on the album.
What guitar did you use for “Love Me?”
There’s a funny story behind the guitar used for that song. When I was 17 or 18, my grandmother passed away, and my parents bought me a Music Man John Petrucci Signature Series guitar with her inheritance. This is when I was going through a phase of being obsessed with Dream Theater and John Petrucci and G3 and Steve Vai and all these virtuoso shredding guitar players.
We recorded the album in L.A. and when we were getting ready to leave, my manager rang and asked, “Are you taking that guitar?” I was like, “No, I’m not taking it. We won’t use it.” And he said, “No, you should take it because you never know. It’s the first expensive guitar you’ve ever owned. Take it.” Funnily enough, we ended up using that guitar on quite a lot of the album—and just for one specific sound. It has a really great out-of-phase sound. It’s got these two humbuckers in it, but the out-of-phase position has both coils split, so you get like a single-coil out-of-phase on it. That’s what got used for the main chord part on “Love Me,” for the solo in “Love Me,” and for the rhythm guitar part in “She’s American.” The reason it took us by surprise is that this album has a specific sound that we had in our heads, which is this ’80s active Strat sound—like you hear on a Madonna record. That Music Man had that kind of vibe, but a really well-balanced even sound to it. I would never have picked that guitar up and chosen it to do that, so it was a bit of a stroke of luck that we had it with us.
It’s this horrible maroon color and when it came to doing it live, the color was so bad that we ended up getting this white vinyl that we cut out and painstakingly stuck over the entire guitar. We then covered up the hardware with tape and threw a load of multicolored paint over it. Now it’s got this weird Jackson Pollock-esque look to it.
There are many of those great ’80s clean sounds on the album. Is that the main guitar you are using?
There is that, and we used an American Strat. Also Mike had a Nash, which was probably one of the best-sounding Strats I’ve ever heard—we used
that a lot. That and a Roland JC-120 or a Fender Twin was sort of the go-to. If we were in the studio and needed a clean sound for a part, that’s where we’d start and then we’d go from there.
What amps do you take on the road with you?
For a while I’ve had these Hiwatt Custom 50s, which are really good amps. They’re quite loud, which is a bit of a problem for us onstage, but they’re very transparent-sounding amps. I have two of those Hiwatts that go in stereo from my delays and reverbs. I have a JC-120 as well in mono and then the three get blended together at front of house. The Hiwatts are sitting underneath and supporting the body of the sound and then the Jazz Chorus adds a really nice sparkle on top. They seem to work really well together.
Do you use the gain from the Hiwatt for your distortion or do you use pedals?
I’m using pedals for that. I have a Klon in there—more or less most of the clean stuff will have a Klon on it just to prop it up, to make it sound a bit nicer. I know a lot of people are skeptical about Klons, but personally I think you struggle to find an overdrive that sounds that nice, especially in the low mids. Maybe I’ve got swept up in the hype, but I think it’s worth the money I paid for it. I also have a Wampler distortion, which is just really great—it’s like a Rectifier-sounding distortion.
When playing live, what are you listening to to keep your rhythm parts tight?
I’m listening mainly to the kick and snare. The benefit of playing with George for over 10 years now is that I can tell when he’s going to go off on some crazy fill. I need to just not pay attention to what he’s doing in a way—just try and stay on the beat—and we’ll meet back on the downbeat when he’s finished going around the kit. Back when I was a kid, playing to a metronome to learn stuff has benefitted me, especially on songs like “Love Me” where the rhythm guitar is so regimented. It’s about being as tight as you can possibly be—for me it helps to listen to kick and snare above anything else when we’re playing live.
It must feel good getting the new album out after so much time working on it.
We had the luxury of being able to spend four months in the studio in L.A. recording it. I feel like that’s an amount of time not many people get in the studio nowadays. We’re really quite lucky to have been able to go away for that long and really focus on each individual aspect and get it right. We’re definitely ready for everyone else to hear it.