“This album wasn’t written for a record company—
it’s just a picture of us being on the road during
my tenure at The Tonight Show.”
guitar, just because it feels so personal and warm and everything matters.
It comes out of your hands and your body before you plug it in. He wants
the guitar, whether it’s a solidbody or hollowbody, to have a certain tone
before you plug it in.
Speaking of the acoustic tone of Rivera’s guitars, did you mic the guitar
and mix it with your amp signal?
Yeah, on some of the tracks I did. Wow, you heard that?
Yeah! What amps did you use?
I don’t use any particular amplifier. I just use a preamp that was designed
by Bruce Seifried from Éclair Engineering. The preamp is called a DMS- 1.
It took eight months to design. He didn’t want to do it, but we kept going
back and forth until we finally got it together.
It doesn’t sound like you use many effects.
That isn’t my thing. I use an Ernie Ball volume pedal and a Klon
Centaur. It was so long ago I can’t even remember the name of the guy
who makes them. I just bought a bunch of them so I would have them.
The distortion is really warm and you don’t lose the identity of the
instrument. It really comes off as your sound. This is great for when you
are using a hollowbody guitar and you want to crank a little distortion,
but you don’t want it too crunchy and you want to retain some presence.
You can play a chord and still hear the individual notes in the chord. It’s
really a mysterious pedal, man. When you open the back up, there’s all
this black stuff over everything, so you can’t see what it’s made of. It’s
made by one of those cats.
Tell me about the acoustic guitar on Zen Food.
I have an acoustic guitar Dick Boak over at Martin designed for me [see
sidebar on p. 130]. That’s the one on the record, and I use it for live gigs
too. It is just beautiful. It’s a custom guitar with a really wide neck. It
probably more resembles a classical guitar than a steel-string acoustic.
You’re known for your fingerstyle technique. Did you always use your
fingers or did you start with a flatpick?
Yeah, I went through a phase. I used a pick for about the first seven years I
played. Little by little, I started using my fingers along with the pick, like
a lot of country players do. I then just dropped the pick and started to use
my thumb instead. It was a real natural process.
For nearly two decades, Eubanks’ dapper style, amiable demeanor, and ornate, Bigsby-equipped Abe Rivera Scepter were a fixture on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Photo courtesy of DL Media
126 PREMIER GUITAR JANUARY 2011
Was that because of Wes Montgomery’s influence?
It was happening anyway and I wasn’t even really aware that Wes used
his thumb. Because I was mostly a funk and rock player, I didn’t come
into knowing about Wes Montgomery until I had been playing guitar
for a long time. I didn’t know about the whole history of Wes and jazz
music at all. I remember the day I discovered that Wes played without
a pick. I thought, “Wow, I guess it’s not that big of a deal.” But it wasn’t