4 On 6's - Dave Gregory
Every time I buy a guitar I say I've found the ultimate guitar that'll go with me into the bunker — this time I really think I have found it. It's a Schecter Telecaster-style, basically an ash body with a maple neck, two-tone tobacco sunburst with a cream binding around the top edge, lacquered brass scratchplate and bridge, and two very chunky Schecter pickups — single coils but with a coil-tap facility, push-pull pots.
When they're tapped it sounds effectively like a vintage Telecaster; when the whole thing's in I suppose it sounds a bit like a Les Paul Deluxe. It's beautiful: natural sustain, play a chord and the notes hang on forever. It's only the second brand new guitar I've ever bought. I'm a vintage freak, I make no bones about it, but this guitar has turned my head, I must admit. I can't stop playing the thing!
I also brought back a '66 Strat from our aborted American tour — I thought, I'm not going to America and coming back without a guitar! It's a very Hendrix-y guitar indeed and comes as close as I can get to that sound — it's like peaches and cream with the JC120 amp, there's something about Fender pickups and chorus that's very nice.
It's basically how it sits in the lap and feels in the hands, too.
I also have a Rickenbacker 12-string, although I won't be using it for much on the new album. I still have a lot of other guitars — there was a time when I used to play them all regularly, but I find now that I tend to settle in with one instrument and grab it all the time.
I haven't really considered guitar synth — I just like the sound of strings through an amplifier. Even if I use a fuzz box, something seems to go. I think the same would probably be true of synth too, I haven't thought seriously about it. There's the cost thing which is prohibitive, and I think I'd rather spend the money on a couple more vintage guitars. But we're always looking for new sounds, so I s'pose there's a possibility for guitar synth.
Maybe manufacturers rely too much on electronic wizardry and gadgets, and less on actual quality materials and craftsmanship. Maybe that's not in line with today's music — for example, not many bands could find a use for a '58 Les Paul in today's music, unless you happen to be American, of course. I'm traditional: I like to feel and hear quality. I'd rather hear a nice old Martin acoustic than a Steinberger bass.
I've never been able to design my own guitar. I've never had the feeling that I ought to have "D. C. Gregory" down the fingerboard in mother-of-pearl. I never really had much of an eye for design, there are just some designs that are right — it all goes back to my boring, traditional outlook on guitars.
The Roland JC120 is the best compromise I've found in amps — it's very versatile. Balancing the distortion control with the master volume control you can get some very authentic Hendrix-y sounds, it comes very close and I was surprised that an amp powered by transistors can get such a big sound.
I do like the chorus in the JC120, and unfortunately it's an easy trap to fall into because it sounds so nice, you tend to use it all the time, to make you sound "Better"— it's a trap I've got to be aware of.
I've also got this little Fender Super amp which I did most of the last album on, about 40 watts and two 10in speakers, 1963, you plug a 335 into it and turn it up to about number 4 and it's just a wonderful sound. There's no need for any effects, it's just pure guitar.
I feel that I ought to master the art of guitar before I start messing around with fancy effects. I've got an awful lot to learn on the guitar, a lot of practising to do. The only effect I really use is the chorus from the amp — I always try to play as well as I can and then put the effects on, in the studio, if any are called for.
We go through phases, I s'pose like most people — the Townhouse number two was "our studio", we adopted it after "Drums And Wires" up to the last recordings for the "Black Sea" era, all the singles and everything. The trademark of those albums was the clattery drum sound from the stone room, just the team of Steve Lillywhite, Hugh Padgham, and that studio.
Then we went to the Manor for "English Settlement" and took Hugh along as he's obviously a great part of the sound. We've done some tracks at Genetic, and then went back to the Manor for this new album — we used Steve Nye.
"Towers Of London" I like a lot, it's rather sixties-ish, and I have to admit my heart still belongs to the sixties — on that track I was going for the sort of sound on the solo on Steely Dan's "Midnight Cruiser", a variation on the melody, strong and simple.
There's two live cuts from the Lyceum, "Living Through Another Cuba" into "Generals And Majors", on the B-side of "Sgt Rock", I love listening to that, it's full of mistakes: I've got my old Korg synth with vibrato on when it shouldn't be, and I'm in the wrong register, but it's great, that's exactly how it was.
"Paper And Iron" was a good song, the 6/4 guitar riff started out as something by Andy called "Moebius Mood". On the last album I like "All Of A Sudden (It's Too Late)" and "Jason And The Argonauts" best.
I'm really impressed with Eddie Van Halen's first two albums, as a showcase for flash guitar you can't beat them. I still like what Larry Carlton does on Steely Dan's albums, and I buy his own albums but don't always enjoy them because they're too LA, too smooth. The last one he made had some nice bluesy things.
I really liked the Dan's original guitarists — Jeff Baxter and Denny Dias — especially on "Countdown To Ecstasy", that has to be my favourite album of all time, and not just for the guitar playing.
I like lots of different guitarists for different things. Adrian Belew — I know he's borrowed a lot from Hendrix and a lot of other people along the way — but I think he's made something his own that is really good and very musicianly. And he always seems to be playing with a smile on his face.
4 on 6's
Feature by Tony Bacon
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