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Ken on amps.

November 24, 2010

Like I said in the video, there are a couple of cool amp stories about The Grand Theater.

I normally get a new foot pedal whenever we’re going back in the studio, but this time I wound up with a new amp instead. Going in to record Blame It On Gravity, our engineer/mixer Rip Rowan had asked me if I’d ever heard a Fender Pro Jr. amp. I hadn’t, but I looked around for one and they were no longer being made and I never ran across one. I didn’t try real hard. But over the past couple of years I’ve always looked around when I’m in a guitar store. I walked into Guitar Center in Dallas about a week before we began recording and they had one. I got it for about $250. It’s a cool little amp. It only has 2 knobs on it (volume, tone), is 15 watts and a little 10″ speaker. The tubes were squirrely but I had a set of spare ones that I had been given years ago by the Mesa company. I put those in and it sounds great. You can here it clearly on “Brown Haired Daughter” on Volume 2 on the main guitar parts (not the solo) and on various other guitar parts on other songs. It really sounds great with the Gretsch I’d gotten for BIOG.

I’ve never used Marshal amps, mainly because they’ve always reminded me of cheesy metal bands. But there was a really old one (not sure, but really old, woody looking. I would say 65 or 66 maybe.) in the studio. On a whim I used it on “Dance Class” and it just sounded amazing. The song is based around a real southern rock lick, something we’ve never really done and it works perfectly. That track is particularly cool since there are pretty much no overdubs. None on the guitars, bass, drums or Rhett’s vocals. We just nailed the thing to the wall.

But the best amp story has to do with this little amp called a Newcome that was at the studio. It’s probably from the 40’s or early 50’s and it’s tiny. Like, 5 watts and a 4″ speaker. It really sounded like crap but it looked really cool. I kept tinkering with it, trying to make it not suck. At some point I plugged in a little 7-channel Boss EQ and EQ’d it kind of weird (I put the ones on the end and the one in the middle all the way up, and the others all the way down.) As soon as I started playing it I knew it I had struck gold. I was making a little “auto-wah” sound that Philip came running in and said it sounded like a duck. So it became known as the “duck amp.” You can hear it on “You Call It Rain” on Volume 2. It’s hot.