4 On 6's - Kelly Johnson
I've got a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top, and an Ibanez Destroyer MkII which I'm using all the time on-stage now because the Les Paul's got a twisted neck. I keep getting these different opinions from different people about it — it keeps going out of tune and it's pretty unplayable at the moment. It's quite a new one because my last one got stolen — I've had it about two years.
It's been fine up until now, and I've had it modified quite a bit. The neck's been shaved down. I think it's just been on the road a bit too long, it's just weakened the neck.
The Ibanez came free in Japan, it's a really good guitar though. I'd seen pictures of them but I'd never actually played one before, then we got this one free early in 1982 when we went over there. I tried it out and it was great. It took a bit of getting used to the big bit that sticks out of the top, I kept bashing it and it got a bit battered, but I've got some nail varnish which matches it.
I changed the top pickup to a DiMarzio, trying to make it a similar sound to the Les Paul so that it's an easier changeover. It was great playing it after a Les Paul because it's about half the weight. It seems easier to play too, the frets are sort of lower. I'm trying to get an Ovation acoustic, not for on-stage, but maybe for the next album or to practise on the bus, whiling away the endless hours on the road.
I really don't know anything about guitar synths - I do know they're very expensive! It's a bit out of the question at the moment. There are sounds I'd like to use: you know on Bowie's "Lodger" album; I think Fripp uses a guitar synth, that sort of sound. There are so many sounds you can get. It's like any synthesizer, it actually takes so long to get to know it. I'd love one.
I've heard some bad reports of some makers' latest models, especially the Les Pauls: that they're only about half as good as they used to be. Apparently all the latest models of the Les Pauls — I don't know if it's just the Gold Top range, but the Deluxes - like the frets have all been put in the wrong places. And old Strats are infinitely better than the new ones. I think they try to modify them, to improve and improve them, and they actually don't because the originals had something, I don't know what...
I'd love a guitar built for me, although I'm quite happy with what I've got at the moment. I'm very happy with the Les Paul, once the problem I've got with it has been straightened out.
My sound is pretty standard, the amps are Marshall: one 50 watt top and a 100 watt top linked up, and I've got a Boss 1 EQ, a 10-band graphic, that makes an enormous difference. Because I mean you're so limited with Marshalls — they're all the same, you just whack 'em up and out comes this sound, I use three 4 x 12 cabinets, but we're thinking of taking out the top speakers, the ear-level ones.
I was talking to Ritchie Blackmore the other day about it. He only has his bottom speakers linked up because otherwise it cuts your ears off, you just get deaf to it on stage. In the studio I've used quite a few different things, which also depends on the producer. I've tried so many amps, from a Fender Twin to a Roland JC120. But it usually comes down to the Marshall again, one top and one cabinet.
On-stage I don't use any effects other than the graphic equaliser, because we're not subtle enough to need it, unless it's just something brought in like a chorus. We tried out quite a lot in the studio last time with Nigel Gray, and a mixture of amps, a combination linked up together, totally overdriven with this, that and the other. It was quite an unusual sound, and I don't really know what it was!
Mayfair Studios were good, we went in to do something with Rick Parfitt and B A Robertson, well over a year ago. We just tried a couple of tracks out, that was a very good studio, there are live and dead areas. Mainly we've worked with producers who are engineers too, they just sort of have a tape-op there. I want to become an engineer!
I don't know, I suppose we're trying to aim for a co-production thing: I've heard that Phill Brown is supposed to be excellent. So perhaps if we go in with a very good engineer — because we don't know enough yet — I think we could do it. We got on well with Nigel Gray when we worked with him, he's done Siouxsie and the Banshees, stuff like that.
My favourite guitar things I've done are mainly on the last album, "Scream Blue Murder". There are quite a few solos on that record with a sound I can't really explain. It's mainly coming from a strange a combination of the different amps, including the Roland. It's a very overblown sound, over the top — it's almost like an octivider sound. It's quite unusual, and it sort of inspires you more when you've got that unique combination of different kinds of sounds.
We did a cover version of the old Stones song, "Live With Me", and that had a chorus-y sound that I like. A lot of the rhythm on the last album was played through a chorus. I like that sort of sound, but it shouldn't be too overdone. I think perhaps it was a little too much, we didn't really know at the time. It can get like that, unless it's used sparingly, like Andy Summers uses it virtually all the time, doesn't he?
I think he's very good, Andy Summers. And I like Ritchie Blackmore. Most of those I like are sort of the older ones like Brian May. I used to love Zal Cleminson, but that was more for the image than the guitar playing. I like these people for different reasons: I like Brian May because he has his very individual sound and style.
I like Mick Ronson, because you hear a solo and you can immediately say "Oh yeah, that's Mick Ronson". It's good to sound distinctive. But it's very hard to do that, because so much has been done before.
4 on 6's
Feature by Tony Bacon
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