In chronological order......
The first guitar I bought myself after my schoolboy band "cheesegraters" was an acoustic, an EKO Ranger XII, which as the name suggests is a 12 string. On the odd occasion I need a 12 string this is it.
After that came an electric a "Squier by Fender" Stratocaster. It's a "Made in Japan" that I bought brand new in 1985. The 80s were a golden period for Japanese Fenders and this is a lovely playing guitar. It's unusual in that it has twin humbuckers, surface mounted, and a 24.75 inch scale length, a la Gibson. I do still play and record it, but this is now in semi-retirement.
In 1988 I added another MIJ guitar, this one a standard Fender Stratocaster. I've changed pickups in it but apart from that it's standard and produces all the typical Strat sounds. Most of the clean guitars are my tracks, especially the bright ultra clean are played on this.
In the late noughties I had a Playmate six string acoustic bought for me which I used to write a lot of my acoustic based songs on.
2010 and I went searching for a Gibson Les Paul, which has always been my favourite looking guitar. However, since I started playing in 1977, I have always had Strat copies or proper Strats and every time I tried a Les Paul I’ve always found the heel block annoying and off putting, it makes playing higher up the neck more difficult that I was used to. Long story, short, and most of the day in Anderton’s music shop in Guilford I came out the proud owner of a PRS SE Torero. Yep, the heel block of the Les Paul had put me off again, so I bought a real shredding guitar instead.
It has a straight through neck, flat ebony fingerboard and playing right up to the 24th fret is an absolute doddle. In fact when I use this guitar for playing lead straight after one of the others I have to recalibrate myself as I usually end up 4 frets further up than I think I am because it’s that easy to play high up the neck. It also has a pair of EMG pickups that put out plenty of power making pinched harmonics really easy to dig out, as well as a Floyd Rose locking tremelo for those dive bombing and pulled, squealing harmonic moments. It also has a lovely flamed maple veneered top, which started a bit of a love affair with flamed maple, more on that later. Any of my heavier sounding lead solos, as well as much of the heavy rhythm sounds are played on this.
In 2012 I added a Nineboys six string acoustic. I went out with the intention of buying a really nice acoustic with a budget of £1000. After several guitar shop visits I narrowed it down to two, one was a Martin at the lower end of their price range, and the other was this Nineboys who I had never heard of before. I finally decided on this on playability and the way it sounded. All acoustic guitars on my songs are played on this.
That was it until the COVID 19 lockdowns started and I had a bit of a guitar and equipment buying spree. I didn’t think I’d ever buy guitars online without trying them first but I’ve now done that twice and I don’t regret either of them. November 2020 and I bought my second PRS SE, this one a Custom 22 “semi hollow” mahogany body with a thick maple cap and a flamed maple veneer in a grey black colour. It’s a really nice top but the colour itself is a little too dark in my opinion and hides some of that lovely flame. The neck is also mahogany with a Rosewood fingerboard and has the famous PRS “Birds” inlays, albeit not in mother of pearl like the much more expensive “Core” versions.
Sound is picked up by twin humbuckers with coil splitting via a push/pull tone pot. It has a unique lovely bright sound with plenty of acoustic sustain, this guitar is going to feature on a lot of my newer recordings. It might even take preference over the Strat for some of the cleaner sounds. For a guitar that was less than a quarter of the price of a £3500 PRS core guitar though it is tremendous.
A month later in December I finally took the plunge on a Les Paul for a couple of reasons. I had seen several review videos on how good the newer Epiphone guitars are, and also rave reviews about the new “Modern” Les Paul. There’s several features that make it “modern”, coil tapping, and phase switching being two of them as well as locking machine heads, but the one feature that really caught my eye was the chamfered heel block that has always put me off whenever I went to buy one in the past. They also looked great with yes, several flamed maple tops to choose from. Not only that, but they were only £600. That’s a full £1700 less than the Gibson version so the order was placed.
I was not prepared for what arrived though. The top is absolutely stunning. It’s almost perfectly book matched (the flame lines up at the join) and is truly stunning to look at. Not only that but it plays beautifully and sounds great. Had I picked this up in a shop I’d have been prepared to pay much more than this actually cost. Without a doubt this is going to take over a lot of the rock guitar. The only downside of this guitar is it has such a beautiful top that I just can’t bring myself to drill into it to put the pickguard on, so it’s staying off, for now at least.
I have a total of four amplifiers, although I am giving some serious consideration to buying a Marshall Origin 50 soon. But of those i currently own there are three that I record with and a small Marshall MG30 practice amp.
The first is a Session Rockette 30 that I bought new in 1985. I actually bought it as part of a package with the Squier Strat mentioned above. It's a MosFet amp with a 12" Celestion in it, that back in the day claimed to sound as good as valves. That's up for debate, I'm never too hung up on names or types. As long as amps, just like my guitars sound and play well I'm happy.
The Session certainly is a great sounding amp, Eric Clapton must have thought so too, as he bought two that he used to record and tour his "August" album with. It is a twin channel amp that can mix channels if needed and has very simple controls. The clean channel is simply volume, bass, & treble. The dirty channel has overdrive, Volume, and a "Filter" that acts as tone control.
Although the overdrive channel sounds good, especially for a transistor amp, I mainly use this for the clean channel. It is very bright, crystal clear, and loud too. It has is capable of producing ear splitting, glassy clean sounds that really cut through a mix. Think Fender amp clean on steroids. Almost all of the clean electric guitars are recorded on this.
Next up is a laney Pro-Linebacker 100 watt head with a 4 x 10 cab. This is one loud amp that I just can't bring myself to sell, mainly because it still sounds great even though it's now 30 odd years old. Not quite as crystal clean as the Session it is still capable of some great clean tones with a lot of headroom before it breaks up into distortion.
This too is two channel with a mix input. The controls are comprenhensive with a lot of the pots being push/pull such as a boost on the gain, and the three EQ controls on the dirty channel. I use this occasionally for distorted guitars, and the same for clean sounds that are a little fuller than the Session. In the studio though I run it through a homemade speaker cabinet, a 1 x 12" cab with a Celestion G-12K in it.
My main amp is a Marshall JCM600, one of the lesser know JCM range but still a great sounding amp. 60Watts of valve power with 3x ECC83 valves in the preamp,and a pair of EL34s in the power stage. Output is via a 4 x 10 Marshall cab. Sometimes I mic this cabinet up but most of the time I run it into a Koch power soak. Like most valve amps it sounds great when driving the valves really hard but of course that makes it incredibly loud, too loud for my control room, so I use the soak to reduce the volume out to the speaker cab but take an emulated signal from that to the studio desk. It can emulate a couple of mic positions as well as the choice of a 4x12 or 1x12 cab.
It's a twin channel amp but the clean channel will start to break up into that lovely crunchy sound once the channel gain is above halfway. This amp gets more use than any of the others. Sometimes a straight through the amp set up, other times it's via a BOSS GT-100 multi FX pedal. More details on FX and processors below.