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How much time did you put in on the bass?
I learned to play bass by listening to Ron Wood on the Truth album and a little bit from the James Gang. That's about it. With the bass I didn't feel that I learned a lot. I paid attention a little bit when I heard people playing good blues. I think I rehearsed with the bass, never having played it before, for a couple of months before I tried doing it the first time in the studio. I was reasonably happy with what I had in the studio. Going from there I never really did spend time trying to learn the instrument.
Do you have a special bass you like to use?
I have a Gibson EBO with the whole middle part of it milled out where the pickups would normally go. It has a Fender Jazz pickup mounted on it. It's a very unusual bass and nobody else can play it except me. In fact bass players have picked it up and gone ugh, you play this?
What guitars and amps did you use on the first record?
I used a Les Paul Goldtop. I used Marshall or Ampeg amps. I forget the number but it was the 100 watt Ampeg, not the SVT. There was a Power Soak on it pulled way down. I recorded at a very low level. There were EQ's in front of the amp and extensively after the amp, with a mike on the speaker, which was a standard Celestion. I put the mike right on the speaker. If you use a 4x12 cabinet you can get wildly different guitar sounds if you move the mike around even three or four feet away. But you can't repeat them, so if you want to do something that you want to change later, those sounds are gone. I tried it and even took coordinates on the mike locations. I couldn't put them close enough to duplicate the sound again. Actually I had trouble duplicating the sound when I had a mike right on the speaker. I think the speakers change with humidity and temperature. The amps reacted differently with different main voltage. By the time I got to the point of replacing that whole mess with the Rock-man, I had to have voltage regulators on the amps that held them at precisely a certain voltage. There was this accumulation of equipment for processing the sound that was distorted before it got to the amp and then it was clipped again.
You've always had this wonderful distortion which doesn't grate on the ears. It's distortion you could bring to church.
That's what I was trying for. It took a lot of experimentation originally and a lot more experimentation to learn how to control it.
Your rhythm sound is distorted and your lead sound is clean which is quite the opposite from a lot of bands.
I like to have a lot of high distortion harmonics in the rhythm sound. There is a lead style where you can use that exact setup and make it sound dirtier. A lot of it was everything that's in the Rockman. It's a matter of equalizing in front of the distortion stage and how hard you drive the distortion stage and what you filter afterwards. It's a complicated thing.
How exacting were you with your sound before you started playing around in the studio?
I was always trying to get a decent sound. It took a long time to figure out what that required. When I was younger I thought it required a better amplifier and a better guitar. I eventually got the better guitar and better amplifier and still sounded awful. Then I realized that you couldn't buy good sound by buying a Les Paul and a Marshall. I take that back. You can buy good sound. You certainly don't get a record quality sound. It took a long, long time. I ended up with lots of funny pieces of equipment to get the sound that's on the first record.
Is there a story behind your famous Goldtop?
I have two. I bought them used. The new ones were a little too expensive for me. It was very hard for me to play. I discovered later that it was a particular year that had a very thick neck. Apparently they only made that model one year. I thought I had the same guitar that everyone else had. When I got the deal with Epic I thought I better get a second guitar because we were going on the road and I needed a backup in case I broke a string. I hopped down to my local used guitar dealer and found another Goldtop for about $300 or so. By absolutely dumb luck, it looked the same as my original, with the same neck. I had two of them and now I was sure I had the exact same Les Paul as everyone else in the world. It wasn't until a couple of years later when I needed to pick up a third guitar that I realized I may have the only two in the world! There are others but I haven't found one since that had the same neck and sounded the same. The two I have sound pretty much the same. It came with two high-impedance soap-bar pickups. I don't know when they started with the humbuckers but the ones I bought had the single coils. You couldn't stick with those single coil pickups on stage. It sounded real good but was absolutely unusable in most situations. I had to use DiMarzio pickups.
Do you have a special acoustic guitar?
I have a Guild D-25 that I like a lot. I also use the same Guild body in a 12 string version which I think is the best sounding 12 string I've ever heard. I record it with a 414 AKG mike and compress it heavily. It's very important where the mike is located relative to the F hole. It makes all the difference in the world.
Since you are obviously someone who loves tinkering and inventing, I find it curious that with all the advances in recording you haven't hopped onto the digital bandwagon?
To tell you the truth, I just don't want to have to bother learning about them. Learning how to use a piece of equipment to its potential is what makes the difference between a real good engineer and producer and a guy who is not real good. You have to understand every little nuance about the device and what it can do and what you can do with it. You start with something new and you're no better than some guy who walks into a store and buys one. You may know all about music and sound but it's like the difference between somebody who flies a single engine Cessna and somebody who flies a 747. The Cessna pilot is not going to do a good job of landing the 747. There's a lot to know about it It's the same thing in sound equipment.
It was amazing that even the first time around you were able to get a great rock feel working by yourself.
I didn't think it was possible with a band. I couldn't understand how other people could make records with a band. I never had any luck trying to get somebody to play giving them a chord progression and saying, 'I think the bass line could go like this.' They just wouldn't do it how I thought it should go. The only difference between playing bit by bit with a tape deck versus playing with some other people in a band, is that it takes longer with a tape deck. If you play each one of the parts the way you think it's going to go, it's an iterative process. You go and put the lead on and you realize you have the wrong chord in the middle of the solo. So you have to go back and change the chord on the rhythm guitar part, then the bass part doesn't work. You change the bass part and then that doesn't fit with the chorus that comes after it. It's a big puzzle. If you did that with other people you would have to listen while you were playing. Then you'd have to stop and say, okay, you play this. But I wouldn't know what to tell them to play. I'd have to pick up the bass. I'd have to try playing to it to find Out what to play. That was always the problem. I knew I could find the parts I wanted and I wasn't having much luck with anybody else finding them. The only exception to that was that Barry Goudreau came up with a couple of leads that were pretty good in some things. He did the leads to "Long Time" and "Used to Bad News." He also came up with the opening and closing solos in "Don't Look Back." He played a little slide on there too. He did some good stuff. That was a help. That was the nice thing about his involvement, especially when you're getting down to the end of the project and you only have so much gas left. "Don't Look Back" was the last song recorded for that album. But that is one thing you don't get from a tape deck. You get no ideas. I got ideas from Jim and Brad, who also came up with some real helpful things.
You are so meticulous when it comes to records, how can you stand the compromise of the stage?
With the first shows, especially, I said 'Thank goodness we played arenas.' The reverberation time is about 10 seconds and it's tough to take it out. This time I'm determined to do a first rate job on the production end of it. Anything that we got that was really good on the record I want to achieve that live.
Aside from the sound, how did it feel to go out with Boston the first time and suddenly find yourself in big stadiums where you are compared to well seasoned touring groups like Eric Clapton? Did you feel confident in your playing on the first Boston tour?
I felt confident ebony porn to play the songs on the records and do some lead work outside of that. I didn't feel like Eric Clapton or anybody else that was a prominent, well-known guitar player. I used to be concerned about the fact that I'm not a fast guitar player. It took me years to get to the point where I stopped worrying about it because if I was a fast guitar player it would buy me absolutely nothing for the music I do. I'm just fast enough to do the licks that I want to be able to do. Where would I put that fast kind of playing on my record?
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