While on tour to support his new album View with a Room, Julian Lage invited PG’s John Bohlinger to his soundcheck at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville to share his insights into why he likes a straightforward rig and “honest” tone.
When it comes to jazz virtuoso Julian Lage, you’d be hard-pressed to find an electric guitarist who uses less gear. “Any time I’ve [used too much equipment], there’s an awkwardness where I’m still grappling with the fact that I play here,” he says, gesturing to his guitar, then gesturing to his amp, “but the sound comes out there.” He continues, “It sounds like a joke, but it’s been a struggle for me. Any time there’s layers or filters or anything, I feel dissociated.” Of course, Lage’s rig, which buoys his clean, no-frills tone, makes sense for a musician like himself—whose playing often comes across fluidly, and as gently as his personality.
For Lage, that fluidity stems from his conception of music as a language. “I think that the way people speak is often more unfettered,” Lage told Premier Guitar in 2021. “There might not be an obvious correlation between the way people speak in a lecture and the notes on the guitar. But it's just a little stretch of the imagination to see that those are pitches, those are rhythms, those are phrases."
On View with a Room, Lage’s second release on the hallowed Blue Note Records, he’s offering a fresh, bold continuation of the conversation he’s created over the years. The album features his latest ensemble, made up of himself, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Dave King—but this time, he’s added the legendary Bill Frisell. Together, the musicians help to expand Lage’s body of work with performances of 10 of his original compositions.
While on tour for the album, Lage invited PG’s John Bohlinger to the soundcheck before his show at Brooklyn Bowl inn Nashville to share his insights into why he likes a straightforward rig and “honest” tone. In the interview, Lage elaborates on his three main guitars (his Nachocaster, Collings signature, and ’55 Les Paul), explains why he prefers low volume on his amps, and offers a remarkably brief tour of his pedalboard.
Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.
Not Your Caster
As a bit of an anomaly in the world of jazz guitarists, Lage prefers Telecasters. His number one T-style is his Nachoguitars 1657 “Nachocaster”—a saffron-colored guitar equipped with an Ellisonic P-90-size neck pickup and Fatpups Blackguard bridge pickup, built by Spanish luthier Nacho Baños. However, Lage states that he never changes from the neck position. The Ellisonic pickup, which was created by Ron Ellis for Lage’s other primary instrument, the Collings Julian Lage 470 JL, captures the clarity and acoustic-like feel of vintage single-coils. The guitar is strung with D’Addario Flatwound Electric ECG24 Chromes (.011-.050) with a .020 unwound G string. Lage also uses Tortex .88 mm picks.
The Collings 470 JL signature was built as a collaboration between Lage and Collings. It features a solid Honduran mahogany body with a laminated maple top, Ellisonic pickups, and a Bigsby B3 tailpiece. He shares that the Bigsby was added mainly for weight, as the guitar was 5 lbs. before its addition and 6 lbs. after. “That gets you right to this place where the fundamental is still there, and you have this brilliant overtone,” says Lage, who adds that much like the bridge pickup on the Nachocaster, he doesn’t touch the Bigsby. He strings this guitar with .011-.049 D’Addario flatwounds. “Honestly, I think it’s more of a rock machine than anything,” he adds.
Lage’s 1955 Les Paul goldtop was a gift from Spinal Tap’s Christopher Guest, and sports the actor/guitarist’s signature. “I feel very much like a steward of it,” Lage says of the guitar. “I’m learning how to play it constantly. It’s so luxurious. Anything’s possible, so it really comes down to what do you hear, what do you want to play, what’s the voice of the music … and this guitar will be 8,000 percent there for you.”
Les Paul's handwritten message to Christopher Guest.
Lage is a longtime fan of low-watt, vintage Fender amps, in the past having remained ardently loyal to his Fender Tweed Champ, until it became impractical to bring it everywhere. On this tour, he’s playing a Magic Amps Vibro Deluxe, reminiscent of a 1964 Fender Deluxe Reverb. He plugs into the normal channel and sets his volume to 3, treble to 2, and bass to 2. As he describes, “This one has this miraculous thing where it feels like it’s being pushed at a lower volume. It’s not terribly interesting, but it is what I do.”
Julian Lage’s Pedalboard
Lage’s stripped-down pedalboard includes a Strymon Flint Tremolo & Reverb (just for reverb), a Shin-ei B1G 1 Preamp Gain Boost, and a Sonic Research ST-300 Mini Stomp Box Strobe Tuner.
See how these thrash revivalists keep it simple and savage.
Thrash metal has seen a resurgence since its ’80s heyday. Megadeth earned a Grammy for their 2016 album Dystopia, and very recently Stranger Things’ brave headbanger Eddie Munson brandished a B.C. Rich Warlock for a literally death-defying performance of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” that catapulted the song into widespread pop-culture consciousness. But for metal purists, Municipal Waste and their cofounding guitarist Ryan Waste, plus their track record of seven mosh-motivating albums over the past 21 years, prove the genre’s brand of battle-axe riffery wasn’t a fad. Sure, the band’s sound has diversified the artform with the subtle incorporation of hardcore breakdowns and punk-rock-like choruses—but everything is still in fifth-gear, baby!
Ahead of their headlining show at Nashville’s Basement East on August 10, PG’s Perry Bean jumped onstage to talk gear. Guitarists Waste and Nick “Nikropolis” Poulos prove they can travel light but stay lethal with a few riff-makers, gassed-up Marshalls, and some green and yellow Japanese drives.
Brought to you by D’Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.
The Flying M
Ryan Waste is a left-handed shredder and has been plagued his entire career with the limited availability of southpaw speed machines—especially in traditional “metal” models. (He states in the Rundown that Municipal Waste’s early work was recorded on a Strat.) So, what’s the best workaround? Collaborate with a company to build your signature model.
This MW-AX from RIP Custom Guitars is the fifth iteration of his sig. Specs include a mahogany body, a mahogany set neck with a C-shape profile that’s paired with an ebony fretboard that has a 12"-16" compound-radius and 24 Dunlop 6100 jumbo frets. It has a roomier 25.5" scale length, the band’s logo sits at the 12th fret, there are Gotoh tuners up top, a Kahler 2300 Tremolo that unlocks dive bombs, a MEC kill switch for muting, and it screams thanks to a Seymour Duncan JB Trembucker. There’s no volume or tone knobs because, as Waste puts it in the Rundown: “It’s all or nothing, man. That’s me.”
Tower of Terror
“It’s over the top,” admits Waste. “We keep it OTT [laughs].” This slice-n-dice 6-string stays laced up with Ernie Ball Slinkys (.10–.46) and the band exclusively plays in standard tuning. It leans against Waste’s altar of tone. The cabs with the band’s logo are empty and light up, but the other Marshall 4x12s are loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. Scroll down to learn about the JCM800.
A Marshall with More
Waste has plugged into plenty of heads throughout his career, but he’s never felt more at home than when this 100W 1986 Marshall JCM800 2203 is roaring behind him. The classic head has been supercharged with the V2 preamp socket mod (with the bass setting), giving the 800 a lot more gas and gain.
Green Means Go
Ryan doesn’t waste time with an actual board. As you can see, he’s got an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer (that’s always on) and a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner—keeping it simple and savage.
A Shred Plank
“These guitars are great for this kind of music,” states Municipal Waste lead stringer Nick Poulos. “They’re shred planks.” Poulos pieced this custom ride together using the base ingredients of an Ibanez RG model, upgraded with DiMarzio pickups and Ibanez’s Edge Zero II tremolo. He rocks Ernie Ball Slinkys (.10–.046) just like Waste.
Poulos plugs into this 50W 1988 Marshall JCM800 2205 dual-channel head with master controls for presence, volume, and reverb.
Stacks Are Back!
And here’s an impressive look at Poulos powerful riff station, showcasing a similar setup to Waste’s—with two cabs ready to sting and the other two ready to bling.
Nick Poulos’ Pedalboard
Poulos is Municipal Waste’s “pedal guy,” having a proper board and three stompboxes. He runs his guitar into a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner before it hits an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer for rhythm tones, and a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive gets engaged for solos.
A wireless touch control for the PROFILER digital guitar amplification and effects system available with iPad and iPhone.
Now iPhone and the previously released Rig Manager iPad offer wireless control of the PROFILER Stage, PROFILER Head, and PROFILER Rack. This adds another dimension of parameter editing and fine-tuning of your guitar tone at home, in the studio, at rehearsal, and on stage.
You can add, swap and modify effects using the intuitive graphical user interface. You only need one hand to optimize your PROFILER performance while the other one is holding that power chord. It has never been easier to get the best tones out of the PROFILER.
KEMPER PROFILER - Rig Manager for iPhone released (Stage)
For more information, please visit kemper-amps.com.