Lifeson in the mid-70s with his Gibson EDS-1275 that was damaged by a falling speaker horn in Uniondale, NY. After repairing a
broken neck and repainting the guitar, Lifeson gave it to Eric Johnson as a gift. It was stolen from Johnson within weeks.
Photo Neil Zlozower
I notice that the crowd reacts to you
strapping on your ES-355. Why do
you think that is?
I got that guitar in 1976, so I’ve had that guitar for quite some time, and I used it almost
exclusively from that period up until around
the late seventies. And I guess maybe that
it’s so connected to me? That white 355, you
really don’t see them around. I can’t think of
anybody else that uses that particular model.
Do you use the Varitone switch live?
Not really. I think I may have in the old days
when I had just the one instrument, or just
a couple of guitars. That’s why I put that
little micro-switch in, so I could pre-set that
knob, and then just hit the micro-switch—so
I’m always defaulting back to the number
one position [bypass] rather than turning
that rotary knob. In the studio I might use
it, but live I don’t.
Was having your signature model
ES-355 a big deal for you?
Yeah, it was! I was very excited about it. You
know, I’ve gone through a lot of guitars over the
years, and obviously at home I have lots of different guitars, and I use them all. But it was nice
to come back to Gibson after not having been
there exclusively for a long time. And they’ve
been terrific in working with me and the kind of
things I want modified on a guitar and set up
the way I like. When they approached me with
the 355, it just seemed to make a lot of sense.
This was a model that was probably more in the
background of their catalog. So it was nice to
bring that to the forefront, because it really is
such a beautiful instrument. It just sounds great.
Before the Snakes and Arrows tour, you
were primarily using Paul Reed Smiths.
Yeah, they sent me a couple of guitars in the
early nineties. I think I was using Signature at the
time, which was made here in Canada. They had
active pickups, and just the kind of a sound that
I was going for in the late eighties. But when I
started playing these PRSs, they were fantastic!
They came out of the case and they were still in
tune and they were set up perfectly, just the way
I wanted. And for a long time I used them probably more than anything else on stage.
And really, I don’t have a problem with them. I
love the instruments; I still have all of them. In
fact, I’m sitting here in my office, and they just
sent me a 245 to check out. But I just wanted
a change. I wanted to go back to a more classic sound and a classic feel on stage. I wanted
to go back to Les Pauls. That’s really the only
reason. In the studio, I use everything.
In the making of the Snakes and Arrows
documentary, I think every time I saw you
playing it was a Tele.
Yeah, the Tele is the one I really gravitate to
in the studio. It’s my favorite writing guitar.
That Tele is a ‘ 59 reissue, but we changed a
few small things on it like brass saddles, and
we took the finish off the neck so it just feels
really different. I love it. And for me, writing
on that guitar is just a very natural kind of
thing. It just feels like the right instrument for
me to be writing on.
In the studio I like to incorporate that sound
against something like a Les Paul or a PRS. I
find that it provides a really nice contrast on
top of the thickness of that humbucker sound.
What pickups are in that Tele?
Just the stock pickups.