The Nashvillian's interstellar pop rock soars on the backs of a futuristic 12-string, a Gibson-Fender hybrid, and a "new" pedal that makes "old" sounds.
Aaron Lee Tasjan's metamorphosis from solid sideman (New York Dolls, Alberta Cross, Drivin' n' Cryin' and Everest) to a modernistic '70s-revivalist, psych-pop, songwriting frontman has been a thrilling transformation.
While making the musical transition from the shadows to the spotlight in the early 2010s, Tasjan left New York for slower-paced East Nashville. 2015's self-released debut In the Blazes was bouncy and buoyant like anything Newman or Nilsson put out. The following year New West signed him, and he dropped the humorous, charming, rootsy, alt-Americana Silver Tears.
Still mutating, still refining, 2018's Karma For Cheap psychedelically honors the music that first drew him to 6-strings—Beatles and the Heartbreakers. And 2021's Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! mixes his tongue-in-cheek storytelling with '70s production sheen and spacy-pop jaunts. Needless to say, wherever Tasjan musically goes next, we're along for the ride.
In this episode, the good-vibes artist shows off some main rides—including a funky 12-string and a marriage between a Firebird and Telecaster—tells a heartwarming backstory on a sentimental 335, and shows how a modern pedal is the key to his vintage-sounding sonic disintegration.
[Brought to you by D'Addario Pro Plus Capos: https://ddar.io/ProPlusCapo.RR]
This space-age 12-string was built by luthier Scott Gorsuch who hails from Columbus, OH (one of ALT's former stomping grounds). Gorsuch specializes in modular doubleneck instruments that are secured by magnets. As you can see above, Tasjan has opted for the chambered, single-neck 12-string.
A hidden weapon on the 12 is the bridge humbucker that can be split, when the tone knob is down, unlocking single-coil chime and jangle. And as for the neck P-90, Aaron Lee loves throttling into a solo with it because it creates a unique grind and purr with single-note runs.
An oversight on the ingenuity of the 12's design might be the headstock utilizing two different style of tuning pegs. The Fender-and-Kluson-style keys allow for blind tuning (feeling for the key while talking to the crowd or staring at the tuner) and increased spacing so fingers don't unintentionally knock other keys out of whack.
Southside Custom Guitars Firebird-Tele Hybrid
Depending on your opinion, this mash-up could either be a match made in heaven or a divorce forged in hell. This Southside Custom Guitars (built by luthier Tom Gauldin in Birmingham, AL) model combines a Gibson Firebird with a Fender Telecaster (and a little Jazzmaster touch with the bridge/saddles).
ALT got turned onto Gauldin's creations by way of St. Paul and the Broken Bones' guitarist Browan Lollar who rocks several Southside T-styles.
Tasjan typically cruises in either standard tuning, a full step down, or drop D.
Southside Custom Guitars JM Model
Here's another one-off from Southside Custom Guitars—a JM-style offset with black prism flow finish, a set of Seymour Duncan Antiquity Jazzmaster pickups, and Offset Mastery bridge.
1969 Gibson ES-335
Here is a special instrument to Aaron Lee. It was a gift from his friend Ken Rockwood (of Rockwood Music Hall fame). Earlier in 2021, Tasjan told PG why it's so important to him: "My biggest gear regret would have to be a 1967 Gibson B-45 12-string that was stolen from me at SXSW in 2012. It was the first fancy guitar I could ever afford, and by "afford," I actually mean, "spend every last cent I had on it," [laughs]! There is a silver lining to this story though.
When I returned home to NYC a few days later (I lived there from 2005-2014), my old friend Ken Rockwood (of Rockwood Music Hall fame) had heard about my guitar being stolen and insisted he give me his 1968 ES-335. Obviously, it's not an acoustic 12-string, but it is an equally incredible guitar to the one that was taken and having a friend in your life who treats you the way Ken Rockwood treats people is a gift I wouldn't trade for anything."
Fender '68 Custom Princeton Reverb
Aaron Lee Tasjan is two-amp kinda rocker. The first part of Fender pairing is the above '68 Custom Princeton Reverb that has a few mods up its sleeves. Both the bass and treble knobs independently pull out for their own boost function. This gives ALT added bass and increased midrange when the time feels right. He typically uses the 12-string with this one because it's cleaner and has onboard reverb.
Fender '57 Custom Deluxe
"This thing is full on rock 'n' roll, man," says Tasjan when referring to his handwired Fender '57 Custom Deluxe that's used for his dryer, hard-rocking songs.
Aaron Lee Tasjan's Pedalboard
"The Strymon Deco is a perfect pedal for sounding like something is being destroyed as it's being made, [laughs]… and that was a big part of Karma For Cheap," says Tasjan. Reverse and deeper oddball delays are twisted by the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay. The Diamond Pedals J-Drive MkIII is there for added midrange-focused, overdrive crunch, while also offering an independent clean boost side, too. The single-knob jobber is an octave fuzz that was built by a Norwegian friend who gifted it to Tasjan. And a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps his guitars in check.
"I use this really cool pedal in really dumb ways," smirks Tasjan. The Electro-Harmonix Mel9 emulates nine classic Mellotron sounds, but ALT uses it as a synth-like fill in for songs like "Sunday Women" that feature keys on the recording but is typically performed as a guitar-bass-drums power trio.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level of performance. Rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. Railhammer Pickups have outstanding tonal balance. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.