I also have a ‘ 56 Les Paul Special, which has
been in my collection the longest—I’ve had
that since 1974. That was my first single cutaway Paul. I usually use it for slide, but with
Ringo I tuned it down for songs where I wanted to play a certain position in a lower key. I
haven’t used it for a long time as a main guitar
because I have these other great ones, but
when I was doing the set list for this tour and
trying to minimize guitar changes, I started
playing it again. I tell you, it’s one of the best
sounding guitars I’ve ever played in my life.
I had all my amps tweaked to go out on the
road, and this one amp came back and something happened to that too, and that amp and
the Special were amazing—classic P- 90 tones
and virtually unlimited sustain anywhere on the
fretboard. Gibson also wired this out of phase,
so in the middle position you get that skinny
Peter Green sound he made famous. So I use
that on the first part of the show, then the
burst, then ’ 57 Strat for “The Stroke” in drop-D. I also use the Trussart/TV Jones.
How about that Telecaster custom?
I actually haven’t taken that out for a long
time; it’s the “Don’t Say No” guitar. I love that
one, but I haven’t used it that much lately
because it’s not versatile enough. I wanted to
bring it out because it has an iconic status to
me. So I’m taking out eight guitars this time:
the ‘ 59 burst, the ’ 58 goldtop and the Special,
the Tele Custom, two Strats—my ‘ 57 and ‘ 63
rosewood—and the two Trussarts. It’s more
than I need, but that’s ok.
How do you protect your hearing?
Actually, I don’t. Probably the best way to protect my hearing is that I don’t play that much.
I don’t go on the road all the time, so that’s
helped, and at home I never listen to loud
music. When I play, I play loud—I’m not doing
myself any favors. On this tour, we’re using
in-ear monitors. At first, I was a bit skeptical,
but I’m actually getting used to it. It’s a total
change, and when you’re used to doing something your whole life it’s like, whoa.
So how do you “connect” with in-ears?
There’s definitely a learning curve. I’ve only
been using them for two weeks, and it’s totally
different from wedges. When you’re normally
on stage the sound is all around you and it’s
very open, but when you put these on it’s
right between your ears. But I have to say,
they’ve been great for singing.
Why is that?
The reason is, you can put your voice on top
of everything. You’re never battling the rest
of the mix. You don’t have to sing as hard,
and you have more control. Yesterday, I was
singing like a big fat gospel singer in church.
So that aspect is great, but the thing I don’t
like, which is sorting itself out, is that the
guitars don’t sound as big. You don’t get the
sound that develops away from the amp. But
now every day that I play, I find I’m forgetting
what wedges were like, simply because I’m
not using them. So this is becoming my new
consciousness, and I’m not comparing them
to wedges. On a lot of my records, I used a
stereo delay on my voice. I’d figure it out for
each song, but it would generally be 25–50 ms
and split them left and right. I remembered
that idea when I started with the in-ears, and
now I have that spread. My voice sounds big
in my ears, and instead of it being pinpointed
in the center, it’s spread across my mix, but
not affected and processed. It sounds pretty
much like me on my records.
Rich is a producer, engineer and mixer who has worked
with artists ranging from Al DiMeola to David Bowie . A
life-long guitarist, he’s also the auther of Pro Tools Surround
Sound Mixing and composes for such networks as Discovery
Channel, Nickelodeon and National Geographic.