Nearly 40 years after their breakthrough album, Pyromania, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell are still setting the world afire with their hot-rod gear.
It’s been eight years since Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen met with PG while they were on the band’s arena-filling odyssey in 2014. Now they’re on the aptly titled Stadium Tour, playing packed mega-venues with openers Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett, delivering songs from the 12 studio albums they’ve recorded over the past 45 years. It’s quite a legacy, with “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak,” “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Animal,” “Love Bites,” and plenty more classic hits. At their June 30 show at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, John Bohlinger talked with Collen, Campbell, and their techs, Scott Appleton and John Zocco, about the guitarists’ muscular live-show arsenal.
Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.
For the 30th anniversary of Phil Collen’s Jackson PC-1 signature model, the guitarist painted a limited run of the instrument in this cool, Jackson Pollock-esque finish. He kept this one for himself. (Smart!) It features a mahogany body, quartersawn maple neck, reverse headstock, a Floyd Rose vibrato, a DiMarzio Super 3 humbucker in the bridge, and a Jackson Sustainer Driver in the neck spot. There’s also sustainer on/off and fundamental/harmonic/blend toggles in the control set. Collen uses D’Addario .013–.054 sets.
Paint Yer Noggin
Collen’s paint job also extends to this super-colorful headstock.
A Workhorse of a Different Color
This Jackson USA Signature Phil Collen PC-1 in satin natural features a quilted maple top and all the appointments of the splatter-finish model, but ups the tonal ante with a HS-2 DP116 single-coil DiMarzio in the middle. That setup requires a 5-way blade pickup switch, of course. The scale-length is 25.5", and the neck has a 12"–16" compound radius.
Jackson built Collen his guitar named “Bela” in 1986, tricking it out with glow-in-the-dark paint and Mr. Lugosi’s face—in Dracula get-up—on the front of the axe. Bela has DiMarzio Super 3 pickups, titanium saddles, a titanium block, a Floyd Rose vibrato, and an unquenchable thirst for blood. (“Listen to them. The children of the night! What music they make!”)
Phil and the Supreme
This black-finish Jackson Phil Collen PC Supreme has an impossibly thick U-shaped neck that the guitarist loves for its stability, sustain, and tone. The guitar also features a Floyd Rose, two beefy DiMarzio humbuckers, a DiMarzio/Collen-developed Sugar Chakra pickup (which puts humbucker depth in a single-coil size) in the middle, and a sustainer circuit.
Another cool touch on Collen’s Supreme is the kubuki-like mask inlay just under the headstock.
The Blue Axe
This prototype Jackson signature-model Supreme has a more conventionally sized neck as well as a Floyd Rose with classy blue titanium saddles, two hot DiMarzio pickups, a Sugar Chakra, and a sustainer circuit. Check out the super-ergonomic angled cutaways.
Mr. Big Neck, V. 2
This PC-1 also has a neck like John Cena, built from curly maple for a distinctive look. Other details: an in-your-face DiMarzio X2N, a Sugar Chakra, a sustainer, titanium saddles and block, and that omnipresent Floyd Rose. Same PC-1 electronics, too, with volume and tone controls, a 5-way selector, and double toggles for sustainer on/off and fundamental/harmonic/blend.
This brown PC-1—which features all the appointments of Collen’s 30th Anniversary model—looks more muted than it’s bright-hued pals, until you look closely. The tiger-stripe quality of the word makes the guitar striking and displays Collen’s pick scratches between the neck and middle pickups.
Speaking of Pick Wear
This road-weathered Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster is showing all its miles. The bridge has been updated with titanium pins. Collen uses not only the acoustic sounds in this guitar but goes full-rock-tone as well.
Search and X-Stroy
Jackson built its X-Stroyer model especially for Collen in 2014. It is modeled after the Ibanez Destroyer that he played in his 20s—seen onstage in the videos for “Photograph,” “Foolin’,” and other hits. It has DiMarzio X2N pickups, a sustainer, and a Floyd Rose. Look at the lower-front horn and you’ll see a killswitch, too.
Collen’s signal runs to a Shure Axient wireless system. Its four channels go into a Radial JX42 V2 switcher and out to a Fractal Axe-Fx III. (He also carries a spare Axe-Fx in the rack.) A digital output goes from the Fractal to the front-of-house speakers. Another pair of outputs runs to two Atomic CLR full-range powered reference monitors behind the video wall for a bit of stage volume. It’s all controlled by an RJM Mastermind GT/22 operated by tech John Zocco.
Phil A Rig
Here’s a look at that Mastermind Zocco controls, with a bunch of uniquely named, programmed patches, including STFU, Mocha, and Cold Brew.
Vivian and Les
Vivian Campbell plays Les Pauls exclusively. His Una is an all-stock silverburst Custom, which will be auctioned off at the end to the tour with the proceeds going to Gibson Gives to support music education for kids. It’s strung with Dunlop .011–.050s and tuned down 1/2 step.
This Gibson Vivian Campbell Signature Les Paul Custom in antrim basalt burst was a limited-edition model. It has a 1970s-style C-shaped neck, a 2-piece figured maple top, and a solid mahogany body. The neck pickup is a DiMarzio Super 3 and the bridge is a DiMarzio Super Distortion. It has two 500k CTS volume pots, two 500k CTS tone pots, and orange drop caps. Same strings, same half-step-down tuning.
Another limited-edition instrument in Campbell’s line-up is this Gibson Custom Shop reissue of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen’s 1959 Les Paul Standard. Campbell replaced the frets with jumbos, but otherwise it’s all stock, which means a 1-piece mahogany body, pearl inlays, an Indian rosewood fretboard, and Custom Bucker pickups.
The Friendly Ghost
“Casper” is a Gibson Les Paul Studio that Campbell has owned for years. It features a DiMarzio SD 3 in the bridge along with its original humbucker.
More Gary Moore
Few players have had a greater influence on British rockers who came of age during the ’70s and ’80s than the late, great Gary Moore. This Gary Moore Les Paul Standard has its neck pickup flipped, to go for that Peter Green out-of-phase tone. (Moore was the longtime owner of Green’s famed Holy Grail Les Paul.) The mahogany neck has a rounded ’50s profile, the pickups are BurstBucker Pros, and, of course, the 6-string has a mahogany body with a figured maple top.
Campbell has replaced the standard P-90s in this Gibson reissue Les Paul goldtop with P-100s, which are stacked humbuckers, for a buzz-free playing experience.
This colorful Gibson SJ-200 has a Fishman pickup, a soundhole block to avoid feedback, and high action for a clean-toned strum.
In the Box
Tech Scott Appleton dictates the flow of Campbell’s guitar with an RJM MIDI-controlled input switcher. First, the signal hits a Shure Axient wireless, and then there’s a Cry Baby Rock Module with a Lite-Time wah controller. The rest of the magic is courtesy of a Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. A Marshall 9200 Dual MonoBloc System provides the power for a pair of ENGL 4x12 cabs.
Look, Ma, No Wires!
Chad Zaemisch, longtime tech for Metallica’s James Hetfield, designed the first two-channel wireless expression pedal system that Vivian employed to handle wah-wah duties via his rackmount Dunlop Cry Baby Rack unit.
The guitar that started it all with the edgy update of a Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo.
Stevensville, MD (July 16, 2015) -- The SE 30th Anniversary “Floyd” Custom 24 celebrates many things: 30 years of PRS, the growth that has allowed PRS to deliver quality instruments to players at the most affordable levels, and the guitar that started it all with the edgy update of a Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo.
"The SE line continues to provide players worldwide with an affordable guitar of excellent quality,” said Doug Shive, SE Line Business Manager. “The new 30th Anniversary SE “Floyd” Custom 24 is yet another great value guitar and one that allows players to dig in, rock out, and dive away in style.”
The 30th Anniversary SE Custom 24 features the striking 30th Anniversary commemorative bird inlay package, quilt maple veneer, SE HFS and SE Vintage Bass pickups and a push/pull tone control for coil-tapping with 3-way blade switch in a gig-ready package. The guitar also comes equipped with a “1000 Series” Floyd Rose tremolo, which is made to the exact specifications and with the same high-quality materials as the “Original” Floyd. Available finishes include: Black Cherry, Grey Black, Santana Yellow, Trampas Green, and Whale Green.
Since the SE project began in 2001, the goal has been to provide quality instruments at more affordable prices that guitarists of all levels don’t have to fight to play and that they won’t grow out of. Played by beginners, gigging players, and touring artists all over the world, the SE line of electrics, acoustics, and basses offers the perfect combination of playability, sound and craftsmanship at an extraordinary value.
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The first authentic Floyd Rose Tremolo System loaded with Graph Tech’s Ghost saddles.
Wall Township, NJ (December 30, 2014) -- Two of the foremost innovators for the electric guitar over the last 40 years, Floyd Rose and Graph Tech, are finally teaming up to create the first authentic Floyd Rose Tremolo System loaded with Graph Tech’s Ghost loaded saddles. While there have been licensed Floyd Rose systems that have been produced with these saddles, this will be the first produced by Floyd Rose in direct cooperation with Graph Tech, and of course the first to bear the Floyd Rose name and stamp of authenticity.
Graph Tech’s ghost loaded saddles contain custom engineered piezo crystals, and are reputed to be greatly superior to other piezo saddles for a number of reasons. First, most piezo pickups are set in a metal saddle; the metal makes it next to impossible to get a truly authentic acoustic sound, and leaves the crystal exposed and susceptible to moisture and corrosion. Graph Tech Ghost saddles completely encapsulate the pickup in their renowned String Saver material, making it impervious to the elements. String Saver saddles also give you a more balanced tone across the audio spectrum when compared to metal saddles, with crisp highs, warm mids and deep bass-- they don’t have the 2 KHz spike that metal saddles are known for, giving the tone more balance and dimension. Also, the saddles don’t just utilize any piezo crystals; Graph Tech’s crystals are designed specifically to work within the guitar frequency range. The pickups are individually calibrated for even string to string output-- if that’s not enough to make them an ideal match for the ever-durable Original Floyd Rose, they also dramatically reduce string breakage.
While the makeup of Graph Tech’s saddles is impressive to say the least, it’s the endless possibilities of their application that is really what makes them an incredible innovation; they will work alone or in conjunction with any ghost preamp kit. In combination with a Graph Tech Acousti-Phonic Preamp, your electric guitar can produce a rich, authentic acoustic guitar tone at the flick of a switch. In addition, the saddles can also be used with the Graph Tech Hexpander Preamp, adding a MIDI interface to your instrument, which in combination with a pitch-to-MIDI converter will create virtually endless possibilities of sounds that you can produce with your Floyd-equipped guitar. From flawless real instrument imitation to your own custom synthesized sounds, there’s really no end to the variations that you can create.
“We’re excited to partner with the Floyd Rose team to bring the Ghost acoustic and midi capabilities to the legions of Floyd Rose players around the world. The Floyd Rose changed the way many players perform and now, with Graph Tech, they are about to do it again,” said Graph Tech owner Dave Dunwoodie. The president of Floyd Rose, Andrew Papiccio, said about the collaboration, “We’re proud to work with such a well reputed innovator as Graph Tech on advancing our authentic equipment, and will be using their ghost saddles to increase the possibilities of the Original Floyd Rose in both 6 and 7 string formats.”
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