KILLOWATT The page that gets into gear

Rory Gallagher explains to Chas de Whalley why he can give the new
bands a run for their money but still keep it basic.

"It may seem old hat to go back to the roots of rock music, but I think it's worth it if only on an educational level. The trouble with many young players these days is that they want to be Van Halen immediately. So they start off with a solid guitar and featherweight strings and never listen to anything but heavy rock. And they don't play any acoustic guitar either, so they end up with a one-dimensional style and no depth or character in their licks.

"It doesn't hurt at all to go back and listen to the Blues. You can learn so much if you hear what guys like T Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, Robert Nighthawk or Hubert Sumlin were doing years ago. It's good for a guitarist to know that it's possible to play a solo without bending notes, for instance. There are all sorts of tricks those old guys used - like hammering on, trills, slurs and scales - that can be very effective and add that extra little bit of variety to your playing.

regalia.jpg"But I must admit I relate more to the Blues than all this Space Invaders rock, leather jeans and smoke bombs! I think ultimately they restrict the music. I'd like to think that we can play on the same bill as some of those bands and give them a real run for their money without resorting to the Cecil B De Mille bits. Flying Vs and banks of stacks aren't really me.

"I prefer a straightforward Fender guitar and an AC 30 combo. I've tried all these ton weight guitars with metal necks and that's all they are - ton weight guitars. They're supposed to give you more sustain, but all I get is a long, metallic twangy sound which I don't like at all. I don't get on with stacks either. A 100 watt or 200 watt head driving eight or 16 speakers can never sound the same as one guy with a small combo cranked up and put through the PA. The only exception is the 50 watt Marshall amp and a 4x12 cabinet. It's very standard but it does work, especially with a Gibson guitar.

Somehow it sounds louder than a 100 watt set-up; it's probably something to do with the speakers. Driving four is just about feasible, but driving eight is more outlandish. As a general rule I always like to have my amp overdriving the speakers, and that's the advantage of a combo amp.

"At the moment, I'm using an AC30 and a Marshall 50 watt combo together. I plug the guitar into a junction box because a splitter lead or a V chord tends to put the amps out of phase with each other so you can never be sure of the sound you're getting. But the junction box avoids those problems because it has a preamp in it which not only balances the signal, but boosts it a little too. I keep chopping and changing my amps, but I always end up with an AC 30 somewhere in the line. They're very hard to beat, especially for recording.

"Something about the tone range hits the microphones just right, and because it has an open back, you can get a good sound by miking it from behind too. "I use the Boss FET pedal which, although a transistor, has been designed to sound as much like a valve as possible. It still can't beat the old Dallas Rangemaster that was doing the rounds in the 'sixties though. The company's now gone bust so they're like gold dust if you can find one. I have a couple but they've corroded with use. They used to be lethal. They'd not only boost the bass and treble, but give you a couple of extra watts as well!

"As far as other effects units are concerned, I go through phases of being for or against, you know? I've never wanted to get into that "Jimi Hendrix or Robin Trower department and be known as an effects man. But if you're a three-piece outfit, like we are, and you play two hour-long sets it doesn't hurt to change the sound occasionally. So I do carry a number of pedals, mostly Boss ones, as it happens, like Phasers, Flangers and Chorus units.

"Echo units are indispensable, however. I always have a small delay on one of my amps, like a Memory Man or a DOD, but if you want anything like that authentic Rock 'n' Roll sound, then you have to have tape echo. The Copicat is great for that, but you can also set it with a very shallow delay and it can compensate for dead halls.

"As a rule, I play Fenders on stage. Either a Stratocaster or a Telecaster or an in-between
which will be basically one or the other with customised pick-ups or something. My premier guitar is a 1961 Sunburst Strat which I bought in a pawnshop in Dublin in 1963. It's been rebuilt over and over again - refrets, new bridges, new machine heads, you name it and the electrics and the pickups have rusted out many times too.

"I've had the wiring altered so that the bottom knob is now a master tone control and the top one master volume with the middle one null and void. The controls are now set up like a Telecaster and you can use the tone control for a wah wah effect. About the only thing I haven't  done is have the body resprayed. I
was going to but then somebody told me that all the sweat going into the wood has caused it to react the same way it would after floating around in the sea. It's now lighter and the sound sweeter, but then I prefer light guitars anyway. If you pick up an old Gibson Melody Maker or an Epiphone they may not feel very chunky, but they sound beautiful.

"I actually have quite a collection of guitars, but I don't have the same glass-case attitude towards them as someone like Steve Howe. They break down into my practical, working guitars and my pawnshop guitars, but some the latter come into their own in the studio like the pear-shaped Vox 12-string with the built-in fuzz and boost like the one Brian Jones used to play in the Stones. And my Gretsch Chet Atkins. It's not very big - about the size of a Les Paul- and if you don't have turned up it's very ordinary.

'I play a lot of slide guitar too and for that I often use a Gretsch Corvette, which I found in pawnshop in Los Angeles for 90 dollars. Most of the best slide players are dead now. The old bluesmen and people like Lowell George and Duane Allman, but Johnny Winter's still around and Schenker plays a bit and does the Edge in U2. But they're not really in the blues tradition like I am.

'The secret of slide playing isn't to play between the frets like you would normally. Instead, you have to play visually sharp or else you'll sound flat. You have to get the pressure the slide right as well and there are some brilliant players who simply can't master it. They press too hard and the strings rattle too much. You have to do a bit of an ice-skater on them, but once you've got the knack you never lose it. But to be a really good slide player, you've to use more than one finger on your right hand. I know that sounds a little traditional, even folky or country, but if you have the ability to pick out chord figures and slide in and out of inversions, then you broaden your scope quite incredibly.

"And it's nothing particularly out of place either. After all the whole concept of a solid electric guitar - lots of treble and little feedback - was originally pinched from the steel guitar. So if it hadn't been for the Country and Western Swing bands of the 1940s, there wouldn't be the Instruments for Heavy Metal bands to play. And if it hadn't been for the old bluesmen of the same period, there wouldn't be rock music as we know it. So it can't hurt to back into history occasionally."

From Kerrang No.15  May6-19, 1982 (thanks to Brenda O'Brien for supplying the date of this one)
reformatted by roryfan
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added 11/20/05