NAVIGATING WITH THE SPACEMAN
When you were getting ready to record
parts for Anomaly, you often walked
around the studio playing the guitars
unplugged. What were you listening for?
That’s what I do when I first buy any electric
guitar. I always try to hear what the instrument will sound and feel like without any
amplification. I discovered that when you’re
shopping for a Les Paul, Strat or Tele, nine
times out of ten, whichever one is louder
and feels like the whole body is resonating,
that one usually sounds better through an
amp. Also, when you’re not sure how old the
strings are, it’s real apparent that they’re not
bright if you play without an amp.
Sometimes we used big heads with a cabinet, and sometimes we used small amps.
From a playing and recording point of view,
what does each give you?
I’ve always fooled around with little amps,
even as early as the first Kiss records. I’d
use them in combination with a 4x12 or a
Marshall stack. It works well when you blend
those sounds together. As much as everyone
tries to recapture or fabricate a Marshall stack
with a plug-in or whatever, there is nothing
like the real thing. So when you combine big
and small amps, you simply get a variety of
tones. Small amps bring different textures
that can’t be replicated, either.
Most of the time, the signal path was
straight in: just guitar, cable, and amp.
Yes. I guess I’m pretty much a purist. I really
want what’s coming out of the amp to go into
the computer or whatever we’re recording
on. Once it’s in there and it’s right, you can
always tweak it with plug-ins or by pumping
it out again and re-recording. But when you
get a really good amp sound direct, it can
help you give a really good performance. The
most important thing is capturing that performance, and if we need to change the tone a
little bit, we can effect it down the road.
How did you decide on using the blend of
Les Pauls, Strats and Teles?
I’ve been doing that since my first solo record.
I had a couple of old Teles and Strats lying
around, and I discovered it just created a great
blend. Since they all have completely different
harmonic ranges, they can create a much fuller
sound when mixed in with each other. You can
also get a lot of different sounds, depending
on how you split them in the mix. I also discov-
ered that I’ll play something slightly different
on a Strat or Tele than I would on my Les Paul,
simply because of the difference in the body
and fingerboards. If you double something
on each of those guitars, it’s slightly different
in the way you finger it. When you put them
together, that little difference makes it that
much better. I remember recording Destroyer
with Bob Ezrin, and he told me to knock my
guitar a little out of tune before I did a double
because the frequencies would make a rub
with each other. And it really worked!
Ace performing in Detroit, Oct. 31, 1987. Photo by Ken Settle.
Let’s talk about that unusual, resonating
doubleneck sound you got on your new
version of “Fractured Quantum.”
I discovered that with Eddie Kramer when I
was doing the original “Fractured Mirror” on
my ’ 78 solo album. We had a room filled with
amps and the control room was outside the
Colgate Estate in a Fedco truck mobile unit,
so we could use all the amps without worrying
about feedback—because the control room
was so remote. I remember turning everything
up to 10 on a lot of different amps. One day,
I happened to be playing the doubleneck and
I didn’t have the other neck’s pickup off—I
forgot which neck I was playing. It was all coming out of the amp through the other pickup,
too, even though I wasn’t playing that neck.
It had this really cool bell sound. And if you
remember, we kept making notes while we
were recording “Fractured Quantum” this time