What do you use?
Starting with the noise makers I have three Gibson Flying V’s for live use. We don’t have the space to cart around identical guitars for the sake of it so they are all set up differently. On all of these I use 10 – 52. I’m not usually fussy with string brand, but Dean Marklay have always been reliable and last two gigs, where Ernie Ball dull after one, so I’ve stuck with them for about two years.
Gibson 2014 ‘Jap’ V (Black)
American made Gibson for the Japanese market, slightly smaller body, thinner profile and smaller headstock. This guitar gets most of the finger time in live performances these days as it is very comfortable to play, with a great action and it looks ace. The pickups are Bare Knuckle Black Dogs, personally the best all round pickup I ever used, incredibly responsive and musical. I really can’t recommend Bare Knuckle pickups enough, they are pricey but it’s a fair price considering the quality.
I honestly never realised how much the right pickup can compliment your playing until I tried them. Believe the hype! The guitar is tuned to Eb Standard.
Gibson 2010 Standard V (White)
I’ve had this guitar since we started the band and it’s seen the most action over the years. It wears all the scars you’d expect after 5 years being thrown in and out of a van and around a (usually cramped) stage. The neck took a beating from a thumb ring I used to wear, so I sanded off the finish and treated the wood the way I’d read Brad Paisley did with one of his guitars and the neck is smoother and more pleasant to play, especially with sweaty hands. I quite like the way the body finish has organically worn down, rather than a false relic. The pickups are Bare Knuckle Riff Raff in the bridge, not quite as full bodied as the Black Dogs but a hell of a lot meaner, and BK Cold Sweat in the neck, which are still nice and aggressive for a neck position. There is only one master volume control, but there is a very small value capacitor hardwired inside to roll the top end off a touch in lieu of a tone dial. This guitar is tuned to open F# and comes out typically for the songs we play in open F#. Obviously.
Gibson 2005 Standard V (Cherry)
My dad got me this new in 2005 when I was 16 after I watched Thunder and fell in love with Luke Morleys Faded Cherry Flying V. Although I’d always had guitars this was the one that inspired me to practice more and start writing. It’s the only guitar I still use with the original pickups, I’m 99% sure they are stock Gibson Burstbuckers, whatever they are they sound great. Being 12 years old and played hard it also shows heavy wear.
This dark sunburst strat was an impulse buy, it’s got a pretty unique grainy maple neck, never played one like it but it feels great. The frets are also massive! 90% of home playing and songwriting happens on this guitar. It comes out on the road occasionally when space is a premium, as it’s a smaller case than the V’s. It has a Seymour Duncan Hot and Cool Rails in the bridge and neck respectively and an original Fender CS Texas Special in the middle – selecting different combinations on the 5 way switch make it extremely versatile.
I’ve been through lots of amps over the last few years, including almost every standard Marshall model at some point. I believe any Marshall will work as a solid base for filling the frequencies a lead guitar should occupy. This last year I’ve using a 50 Watt 2550 ‘Silver Jubilee’ with no plans to change. I keep the EQ fairly flat, maybe boost the mids and presence, I crank the lead channel volume and use the clean channel volume as the master. I prefer 50W to 100W amps as you can crank it up before the soundman gives you a bollocking. I keep the gain low, about 3 - 4, so that the amp tone just about breaks up when you hit the strings hard, but it’s pretty much a clean, with very slight break up.
As a backup I currently have a Marshall Vintage Modern 2466, which is also great for that straight up, honest British rock vibe. For some reason all the tolex has been removed… no idea why.
Probably the most boring pedal board you will ever see. Signal naturally enters at the Line 6 G50 Wireless receiver straight into the Boss tuner, I tried the TC Polytune for a bit but never really liked it. This then into a Way Huge Pork Loin – which is an incredible overdrive pedal. The great thing about the Pork Loin is that it sends through an un-altered clean signal through to the amp as well as the gain clipped signal, which I really like; it’s a nice fat but clear tone where you can hear every string in a chord. All knobs are kept around 12 noon except the ‘clean signal’ pot which is right up. The signal goes straight in to the amp from here.
The Boss LS2 and TC Flashback are in the FX Loop. The LS2 gets stood on for solo’s for a clean volume boost, one of the loops is fed straight back into the pedal, and buffered up to be slightly louder when engaged.
Picks are InTune Grip X Jumbo Jazz, 1.14mm. With fancy MW text like proper rock stars!
The pedal to amp cables are the Fender Instrument series, nice chunky rubber and I’ve not had one fail on me yet. The three I need are run through a cable wrap for speedy set up and set down.
What would be your dream set up?
If money was no object, I honestly don’t think I’d change that much. I’m a believer in getting happy with your sound and concentrate more on the performing. I have been down the road of thinking this or that will make the ‘tone’ better, but 95% of the audience won’t realise, but they will notice you prodding pedals and tweaking amp knobs all through the set – so find something you are genuinely happy with and leave it alone. Same with guitars, whatever you are confident picking up and performing with is your best guitar, not the best action, pickups or strings. But that’s just my opinion!
Having said that, we hire a backline for select events (Fig 5) and I’d take that with us everywhere we went if we could! I’ve always wanted to try spitting the signal into two separate heads to blend together, but the practicalities of carting two heads around won’t work. I also wouldn’t mind a Gibson Custom Shop Flying V either…