In the late 80s and early 90s, preamps and power amps were where it was at. Amp heads? Pfft. Sure, you put them on top of your dummy stacks on stage, but you didn’t actually use them. In the 90s that all changed and players rediscovered the glories of stacks, half stacks and combos, so everyone sold off their preamps. Now you can’t take a stroll on eBay or through a secondhand guitar store without tripping over a stack of the damn things. That’s very bad news for the clumsy of footfall, but great news for those of us who can’t get enough guitar gear. So I present to you, dear reader, Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More.
This preamp holds a special place in my heart because it was advertised on the back page of the very first guitar magazine I ever got – the March 1991 Guitar World with ZZ Top on the cover. Part of the 9000 range that also included a few different power amp options, the 9001 rocked three channels of 12AX7 goodness. It also had a cabinet emulation switch for direct recording applications. It’s not the most well-known and full-featured Marshall preamp – that honour goes to the JMP-1 – and it seemed to be favoured more for its medium overdrive tones than its clean and screaming settings. Check out the owner’s manual here.
CLICK HERE to see the Marshall 9001 on eBay
This preamp is an undisputed classic. Real tube operation with the flexibility of MIDI control, this one is still the heart of Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen’s rack, and Dave Mustaine has been known to use it pretty extensively. This beast packs four channels into a single rack space: Clean 1, the edgier Clean 2, Plexi-ish OD1 and high gain OD2. I’ve used a few of these in various situations over the years – usually in combination with a Marshall EL34 power amp – and I’ve never been anything less than completely blown away by the clarity and harmonic complexity, especially for fat-ass lead sounds and crunchy humbucker rhythm work.
CLICK HERE to see the Marshall JMP-1 on eBay.
Designed by N.S.”Buck” Brundage, this unit was manufactured from 1990 to 1997 and it was a favourite of producer Max Norman – yes, he who worked with Megadeth on Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia, not to mention Ozzy Osbourne in the Randy Rhoads era. Back in the day, ART said: “Power Plant combines the finest elements and saturation curves of 12AX7s into 6L6 tubes giving the user the thickest, heaviest crunch of classic tube amps without diction and articulation of notes! The Power Plant is one of the most versatile studio and live sound production tools available. It has totally separate clean and overdrive channels, master volume control, a switchable effects loop, and a +20 dB output for a power amp feed (this output has a unique equalization and pre-emphasis circuit that reflects the curve of a guitar amplification section).”
CLICK HERE to see the ART Power Plant on eBay
This little beauty was popular among many players in the early 90s, especially when paired with a Marshall JCM 900 amp head. The typical trick was to bypass the JCM 900’s preamp section entirely by plugging into the MP-1 then sending its output directly into the Marshall’s effect loop return. Players who were big on the MP-1 included Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert, Kirk Hammett and White Lion’s Vito Bratta. Believe it or not, even Billy Corgan used one in Smashing Pumpkins. You get 128 programmable user patches, plus a chorus effect. ADA made an amp called the Quadtube which featured a rather MP-1-looking control section. They also released the MP-2 and the MB-1 bass preamp, and word is that the reactivated company is now developing a preamp called the MP-3 for release some time soon. Awesome. Fore more info, check out the always-excellent adadepot.com.
CLICK HERE to see the ADA MP-1 on eBay.
Another tube-driven preamp with 128 presets and MIDI control, part of the X99’s cool charm is that the passive control knobs are moved by little MIDI-driven motors. The idea is that if the pots themselves were motorised, an additional gain stage would have been introduced, and you’d get all sorts of additional noise. When I was 16 I played in a band with a few older dudes. The singer/guitarist had one of these and an Alesis Quadraverb. I thought it was the coolest damn rig I’d ever seen, and the warmly overdriven sounds were godlike. The X99 is a great choice for rock styles, and although I don’t know if I’d use it for metal, it’s one powerful piece of kit with a killer pedigree. Great colour too.
CLICK HERE to see the Soldano/Caswell X99 on eBay.
This all-tube four-channel blue behemoth is one of the most lusted-after pieces of guitar kit around. Forgive me for going back to Megadeth but if you dig the tones of the Rust In Peace era, they burst forth from this piscatorial pulveriser. It’s also all over a lot of early 90s work by Alice In Chains and Anthrax. The Fish is exceedingly hard to find today, so if you see one, snap the damn thing up.
CLICK HERE to see the Bogner Fish on eBay.
Hafler Triple Giant
The Bogner you buy when you can’t afford a Bogner, the Triple Giant was indeed designed by Reinhold Bogner himself. It’s not quite in the same league as the Fish, but it’s certainly not without its charms. There’s a pleasing depth to the midrange and bass. Just know that if you cover up the Hafler logo with black tape so people think you have a real Bogner, we’re onto you. *cough* Hi Simon.
CLICK HERE to see the Hafler Triple Giant on eBay.
Cool guitars they don’t make any more
Cool guitars they don’t make any more 2
Cool guitars they don’t make any more 3
Cool guitars they don’t make any more 4
“The album was 20 years in the making,” Ace Frehley says, in reference to the years that have elapsed since Trouble Walkin’ in 1989 and the September 15 worldwide release of Anomaly. “I started tracking in 2007. I tried to make it as close to my first solo as possible because most of my fans cite that as their favourite record, y’know? I did an interview the other day and I ask the guy, who had heard the whole album in its entirety, what he thought of the record, and he said ‘You could call it ‘Son of,’ you know? So hopefully I think I achieved that.”
Ace Frehley, 2009 edition is a more sober man than the Ace of 1989 or even 1999, when Ace was back in the KISS juggernaut supporting the controversial Psycho Circus album. Although that CD was the first original KISS studio recording to feature Ace since Music From The Elder in 1981, Ace’s contributions were, by his own admission and much to his dismay, rather minimal. Today though, with KISS about to release their own album, Sonic Boom, Ace has his eyes fixed firmly on the future. Y’know, just what you would expect from rock’s preeminent guitar-slingin’ spaceman.
One thing I really like about Anomaly is that even though you used Pro Tools, it doesn’t sound like a ‘Pro Tools album.’ It sounds like it could have been recorded 20 years ago, 30 years ago…
Yeah, well I used a lot of old amplifiers, old guitars, old mics. And I’ve worked with some of the greatest producers in rock and roll: Eddie Kramer, Bob Ezrin and a host of others. And I’ve learned a lot of mic’ing techniques and ways to record from them. Plus I threw in a couple of tricks I’ve learned over the years on my own. I think I achieved an analog sound even though 90% of the record was done directly into the computer.
One thing that really struck me was that the drum sounds are really sharp and snappy, which is really cool.
Yeah! I had Marti Frederiksen and Anthony Focx mix the record. Anthony Focx really specialises in drums because he’s a drummer himself. He really tweaked the drum sound. I just think he did a wonderful job with the mixing, tweaking the drum sounds, the digital reverbs, and the actual room sounds that we got.
Being a guitar geek, I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t ask about your approach to gear on the album.
I used a bunch of old Marshall amps, old Fender and Vox amps. I used about a dozen acoustic guitars. Les Pauls, about a half a dozen vintage Fenders. I used a (Gibson) Reverse Firebird. I probably used 25 different guitars on the record. I even used a synthesizer guitar on ‘Change The World.’
Cool! Was that a new one, or one of the old ones people seem to be digging into lately?
It was just a Roland synth guitar I had laying around. I just went into Pro Tools and recorded the MIDI information. Then once you have the MIDI information recorded you can trigger anything, any exterior module or plug-in module.
I’ve been getting into that myself a bit.
This is the first album I’ve done completely digitally, and after working that way I could never go back to working all analog again. The flexibility of digital editing is unbelievable. I did a lot of editing, sampling and cutting and pasting in my hotel room. While Marti and Anthony were mixing one song, I was fine-tuning other songs in my hotel suite, which expedited the album.
Did you use it as a songwriting tool too, or more of just a recording or editing medium?
Nah, I don’t use Pro Tools as a songwriting tool. Most of the songs I write, I just have a drum track in the background. Just the beat, and either an acoustic or electric guitar. That’s the way I write, then I add vocals and build it from that. Some tracks were recorded as a three-piece with Anton Fig and my bass player. Some tracks I recorded into Pro Tools with a drum machine and Anton played drums to them.
I hear you’re working on a new Gibson Les Paul model?
Yeah! The first Ace Frehley signature series guitar came out in 1997. That was a Cherry Sunburst. The new one’s going to be a Blueburst with some special features: pickups I designed, speed knobs, lighting bolts… It’s going to be a special guitar. It’ll be released by the end of the year. The new pickups are basically a collaboration between me and Gibson.
One of my readers wanted to know what you use the middle pickup for. Does that come up often or is it just because it looks really cool?
I don’t use the middle pickup very much. I mainly use the treble pickup. In concert I only have the treble pickup – that’s the only one wired.
Are there any plans to do an Epiphone version of the new guitar?
I believe so!
Cool! Speaking of guitar, the instrumental track ‘Space Bear’ has a really bright, powerful tone. What are you using on that one?
I’m using a Les Paul and I doubled it with another Les Paul… actually I doubled the rhythm track on that with a Reverse Firebird. That song, I wrote that a couple years back. I wrote it for a television pilot for a police show that was never picked up by the network. I had that laying around and I developed it into ‘Space Bear.’ That song was probably the least amount of overdubs of any song on the record. I kept that pretty sparse except for a guitar solo and the riff overdubs.
The ‘Fox On The Run’ cover – when I first heard you did that I thought it was a weird choice, but once I heard it, and especially the verse, it really made sense.
Well last year when I was trying to finalise the songs for the record, I thought it’d be a good idea to do a cover. We were kicking around a few different ideas, and the gal who does my makeup for photo sessions came up with the idea to do ‘Fox On The Run.’ I ran it by my engineer, my assistant and Marti Frederiksen and everyone thought it was a great idea. When I went out to LA to mix the record we had not recorded that song yet. Me and Marti threw that song together one afternoon directly into Pro Tools. Marti programmed the drums, played bass, sang backgrounds, and I did everything else. Then I took the track back to New York and overdubbed live guitars on it. Then I brought the track back to LA and Marti put Brian Tichy on it, and that’s basically what you’ve got there.
I’ve had so many guitar students wanting to learn your licks. Is that amount of influence something you think about when you’re writing and recording new songs, or do you try and not think about it?
It’s something I don’t really think about very often, but when people bring it to my attention it seems a little in the abstract. Cos I never took a guitar lesson, I don’t know how to read music, and the fact that I influenced so many upcoming musicians – I almost feel like maybe I should have practiced a little more (laughs). But it’s something I don’t really think much about. I kind of try to live in the now and just focus on what’s at hand, you know?
It’s something I designed on the computer. I took from a lot of different influences. The actual kinda tentacles coming off from the side came from an alien from the movie Invaders From Mars. And obviously the lightning bolts are part of my persona as a spaceman… it’s just something that developed.
Well that’s all the time we have. Thanks so much!
Thanks so much for the interview. I just want to thank all my fans down in Australia for all the support over the years and I’m looking forward to coming down there.
Huge thanks to Riot Entertainment for arranging this interview. Riot are releasing Anomaly here in Australia on September 15.
Dave Mustaine has something on his mind. After a heavy interview schedule he must have had to deflect a question or two about, well, any number of those topics that people tend to bring up when they just wanna get a controversial soundbite out of Dave. So Dave cuts short the topic at hand – the amazing contribution of new guitarist Chris Broderick – to state “I’m a very different kind of person when it comes down to this business. Unfortunately my reputation is nothing who the man is. People have made me out to be a very mean bastard, and I’m no different to you, I just do things differently. As far as what I think is right and wrong, man, I come from a school where things were a little different back then. I didn’t walk uphill both ways to school, it’s just that we didn’t have the same kind of things that young kids have for school nowadays. I love the way I grew up. I wouldn’t change it for a thing, because I enjoyed working hard for the things I got, and y’know, I still enjoy working hard for the things I got. I don’t want handouts. I think I should be entitled to every single thing I’m entitled to, I want it! But if it’s just something that you get because of your job and it’s not because of what you’ve done to deserve it, I don’t want that. That’s just kinda like chump change.’
Megadeth’s new album, Endgame (Roadrunner), is angry, uncompromising, powerful, energetic, dark, and at once raw and precise. Y’know, the kind of album you’ve been hoping Megadeth would have made in 1994 combining elements of both Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction – except heavier. Much, much heavier.
Endgame is really energetic and angry. Where did that come from?
I don’t really know what spurred this on other than just being in a good place right now. I’m happy. I still have some of the things that have wounded me – the scars are never going to go away, but it’s just the way I’m dealing with things now. And I think that’s probably the key to everything. If I look at my circumstances it’s like looking at scores from yesterday’s football matches. In the beginning, even though it’s zero to zero, at some point that time’s already designated and it’s already been exposed, expired, lapsed and it happened. And for me I’ve just got to accept those things and just do the absolute very best I can to work up to those moments. My career right now is better than it’s ever been. I’ve got a brand new contract I just signed with ClearChannel Radio over here for three years, my book’s coming out next year, my record’s coming out next month. I believe I’ve written the best record of my career and I love the way that the fans are reacting to it. And even more importantly than anyone’s reaction to it, it just seems like people have forgiven me for whatever it was they were mad at me about, and my heart is just so, just leaping with gladness. Because I am no longer the easiest boy to hate in heavy metal.
Well I think part of that too is that with the online forum and things like TheLiveLine you’ve made yourself really available to fans.
Yeah, that’s fun too.
It seems like with United Abominations you were really confident going in, but with this one it seemed like you weren’t really giving anything away until it was finished.
I think probably one of the reasons why the timing was different with that was, with the last record there were so many times where we would post about stuff and people would get excited, but I wasn’t really finding myself being able to experience the record as much as I wanted to, and the reason for that was I was too caught up in what people were thinking. And I don’t make music to react to peoples’ thinking. I write music cos I like music. And I don’t know why, but God made me good at this. Why me? I don’t know! I certainly haven’t done anything that stands out to reason why I would be blessed with this talent. I just know I want to try my best to use it, and I want to have fun while I’m doing it. Man, I love watching people have fun while I’m out there doing my job.
How did having your own studio impact the sessions?
I think having the studio was beneficial for us because it gave us the license to be able to come and go at our leisure. If we wanted to start early we could, and if we wanted to start late we could. I think that’s something that really makes the band feel respected as individuals. It’s those little things that make all the difference in the world. I’ve been around the block a few times so those things are second nature to me but it’s not to Chris or to Shawn because even though they’re relatively new, they’ve had their experiences with doing things at the proper level, and I would like, myself, I would love to get Megadeth back to the proper level.
Let’s talk about Chris Broderick for a minute – I loved Glen Drover’s playing on United Abominations but he seemed kinda polite and restrained, whereas Broderick sounds angry.
Funny you say that. When we’ve done these records in the past there’s always been the same standard for doing the music that I’ve always had, and that’s ‘there’s your way, my way, our way,’ which meant that when we were writing the record, if you wrote a part we would listen to it, and if it was good we would leave it completely intact. Secondly if we listened to it and it was good but it could do with a little bit of a change, we would make that change and it was ‘we.’ But if we came down to where it was a ‘my way,’ which wasn’t very often, that would be like… there was a circumstance with Marty Friedman where there was a song called ‘Trust.’ At the end of ‘Trust’ there was a guitar part right before the big breakdown in the solo started up, and Marty had done the solo there. I didn’t like it so I asked him to do something different and he didn’t do it. So I came in, and this guy Dann Huff that was working with us, Dann had said ‘Well we like it.’ I said ‘Hang on a second, can you guys step out for a second?’ So they they all stepped out of the room and it was just me and Dann in there and I said “Don’t you ever say that to me again.” Because I don’t give a fuck who you think you are, or who he thinks he was, but it’s like, c’mon dude, have some couth, have some dignity. That’s the kind of stuff that you don’t expect from professionals like that. Now, we had a song called ‘Breadline’ that Marty had a solo on, and he loved that song. And management called up and said ‘We hate the solo, we want you to redo it.’ I said ‘We can’t redo it, he’s gone.’ And they said ‘Well, you cut it.’ This happened because I told them we have three choices. I can either leave it bare, I can mute it or I can replace it with something I could do. They were like, ‘We want you to replace it’ and I was like, ‘I figured you would.’ So I went in and I tried doing the solo. First idea, they kinda liked it so I did it until I executed it right. Then Marty came out to listen to the song. He didn’t know anything. He’s sitting in the control room, song’s coming up, he’s fucken’ hot-buttered popcorn. Dude is just wetting his pants. Song comes up, solo comes up, solo goes past, song’s over. You could hear a pin drop. Dann had neglected to call Marty and tell him that that’s what was gonna happen to him, that his solo was going to be basically rendered ineffective and looped around so it wouldn’t intefere in the channels. I looked back at Marty and he was cryin’. And I was furious, because at that second it dawned on me that somebody forgot to tell ‘em. Terrible, huh?
That’s crazy! Do you have any new Dean guitar stuff coming up?
Yes I do! It’s a good thing that you asked. At the NAMM show that’s coming up at the beginning of next year they’re going to be debuting a brand-new Dean guitar for me. The exciting part is that I looked at Dean’s catalogue and a lot of the guitars they had and… well, my VMNTs, it’s nothing like the original V that they have. It’s nothing like the ones they’re creating right now too. My line is my line. Neck shape, the configuration of the electronics, the ease and comfort, the way the pitch of the headstock is, the way the strings go through the body for getting all of that extra resonance. It’s a one-of-a-kind mentality towards making a guitar the absolute best thing you could ever possibly want to play through. They had another body style that wasn’t being utilised by anybody. I said ‘Can I get you to make me one of those?’ ‘Well yeah, fuck man, sure man!’ I said ‘Wow, is anybody playing this?’ ‘No man.’ I said ‘Can I?’ ‘Fuck yeah man!’ I said ‘Can I change some of the lines on this?’ ‘Yeah sure!’ ‘So I’m gonna Dave Mustaine this guitar right now, ok.’ So we’re debuting a brand-new style. It’s called the Zero and I can’t really tell you much more than that other than it’s going to be a workhorse and the people who have seen it already over at Dean, they’ve been there for years and they’ve seen everything under the sun, that kinda stuff is exciting. Especially when it’s opening up another area of creativity with the company.
Marshall is something where I honestly believe I’ve died and gone to heaven. Going to Marshall, having them give me the support and endorsement, the belief, the love, the kindness, the things that go along with everything, I thought that was never going to be possible. I got that from Dean but I kinda figured that is what it is and that nobody else would have that kind of relationship with me. Because the big people whose products I use, I’ve never really tried to milk them for anything. It’s just not my style. So Marshall, I asked them to make me a cabinet similar to ones I had made about 20 years ago. I tried them again about 10 years ago. I had these 1960 cabinets and I put this metal grating on the front of them. And they’re bad, they look really bad. Then I ended up not using them for a while because we went to having stuff in scrim, so you don’t need them when it’s behind the scrim. Then we went back to having them show. By that time we changed a couple more things, and now we’ve got the cabinets, and I talked to Marshall, and said ‘Would you guys be willing to help me make these cabinets so that they would be done right? Please?’ ‘Yeah sure, how about we do an endorsement and make you the happiest boy in the world?’ ‘Yabbadabbadoo!’ Man I was the fucken’ happiest kid in school. So now I get Marshall amplifiers. I have not only my own speaker, we also have the covering for that, which is available for all of the heads to go with those speakers. Now, there’s another project we’re working on with them right now – a little tiny stack called the Megastack. It’s for the mid-level guitarist with a mid-priced practice guitar. It’s going to have several presets – there’s four of them in the amplifier and four of them in the footswitch. So that’s something that Marshall is intending on doing with me too, and it’s like ‘Are you kidding? How did I get so blessed!’ I know the grand poobah of the Marshall family, Sir Dr James Marshall OBE, and man, talk about just a neat, neat, neat little old guy. Loves his bands, his guitar players. I had received a letter from him that was so unbelievably flattering, and it just made me feel like I was a million dollars. I was so unbelievably stoked. He said it was one of the first times he’d actually worked on a project with an artist, because all the other stuff was just pre-existing stuff. Now, he did have these guys work with grille cloths and cabinets with different kinda stuff on the front of it. Some of the heads would have different stuff on the front, but nothing that was a real fundamental design change. And I didn’t know that. I thought we were just working on a project of mine. And man, I was so excited. Especially when we went to the MusikMesse show in Germany, watching the way the company was treating me, man I felt like royalty. There’s just something with the guys from Marshall and Dean, they make you feel like you’ve arrived. I love those guys and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of my career with the company and just riding it out.
Here’s a question from the Megadeth forum: Are you planning anything to mark the 20th anniversary of Rust In Peace?
Well if they’re asking about me playing with those guys again I think I’ve made it pretty clear.
Well even something like a special commemorative release, or playing the album start-to-finish live.
Yeah, I’ve heard that, but my answer is pretty simple: If it was gonna happen it would have. I don’t think it’ll ever happen. I don’t dislike any of those guys. We did have some very difficult periods together but I was just as difficult to be around as they were. And all I want to do right now is just bless them and just let them know I’m a fan of theirs. Even the ones I had a hard time with, I’m a fan of theirs. They were part of my life and I look to those times together with great fondness.
Also with an album as strong as Endgame I dunno why you’d wanna look back 20 years?
Yeah, why? People are saying ‘Can you get together and do a reunion thing?’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah but you have to suck both my eyes out first.’ No disrespect to those guys but it’s like that old saying when you marry your girlfriend: ‘Why buy the cow when the milk is free?’ I’m sure there’s something nasty like that. But I love where we’re at right now and I wouldn’t change anything for anything. There’s no reason to make any changes to anything. Period.
As a fan who’s been lucky enough to hear the album pre-release it’s really cool to feel what everyone’s going to get to feel when it comes out.
Did you hear it? That’s awesome, I’m glad you liked it!
Yeah, ‘44 Minutes’ is totally one of my favourite songs of the year.
Really? Aw thanks bud! Well if it wasn’t for guys like you we would probably be over on the side of the road dying from eating roadkill. But we’ve tried really hard to keep our integrity. And I think if anything’s going to happen, it’ll be this record, and it’ll be soon. And if it’s not meant to happen for me, we’re gonna know, and this is pretty much gonna be the end of the road here, because I don’t know if can make a better record than this!
Endgame is out on Roadrunner on September 11 in Australia and September 15 in the US.
Endless thanks to Roadrunner Australia.
An edited version of this interview is also in the current edition of Mixdown Magazine.
“I really like my old Marshall tube amps, because when they’re working properly i.e. when the volume is turned up all the way, there’s nothing can beat them, nothing in the whole world. It looks like two refrigerators hooked together……..”
James Marshall Hendrix – Los Angeles, 1967
Joe Matera: So how did a drummer end up developing a classic guitar amplifier?
Jim Marshall: Well, I’d started in show business as a singer. I’ve been in show business for 64 years, singing for 64 years but drumming for about 58 years. I started drumming afterwards you see. It’s just something that progressed over the years from showbusiness to teaching. I taught many of the top drummers like Mitch Mitchell with Hendrix, Micky Waller with Rod Stewart…many of the top drummers, I’ve taught during the 50′s and then decided to open a drum shop. But that went wrong because Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore and one or two others got onto me and said “why don’t you stock amplifiers and guitars?”. I said “well, I know a lot about drums but not much about guitars”. They told me if I would stock them, they’ll buy them from me instead of going to the West End of London because they were treated there in London like idiots. The rock and rollers used to use the Fender Bassman. That was the nearest thing to the sort of sound they wanted. Later on in 1961 they said to me “well, the amplifier’s (Fender Bassman) not built to give us the correct sound”. So I got together with a young electronics engineer, he was only 18, but he was brilliant and after 6 proto-types we produced the first rock and roll amplifier and its been that sound ever since. That’s how I got into it and I actually only wanted to do it for my own shop and my own customers but it grew and grew and grew until it’s where we are now. We put roughly 4,500 units a week, amplifiers and cabinets, into the world market.
JM: In many magazines over the years, Pete Townsend has always been credited with developing the idea for the Marshall “stack”. Is this true?
Jim Marshall: No! Unfortunately, a lot of magazines write what they think readers want to read. What really happened was this. Pete came to me and said, “the 50 Watt amp I’m using is not loud enough for me, I want a 100 Watt”. He added, “but instead of a 4X12 cabinet, I want an 8X12 cabinet”. I said “well what sort of cabinet do you want?”. He said ‘a great big square one!” and I replied “that’s going to look stupid with a little amplifier on top, but leave it with me”. I said “what I think you need is the first 4X12 I designed, which was a straight fronted one and the second one to make the amp and cabinet look as if it was designed like that, cause that’s why I put the angle on. We’ll make that a stack”. Pete replied “No, I don’t want two cabinets…put them all in one cabinet!” I thought alright it’ll still be the image of the stack, but it’ll be in one cabinet. Well, I was very strong in those days and I had an athlete working for me on the cabinet side and we carried these cabinets out of the factory in Hayes, Middlesex and they were so heavy it was unbelievable and I said to Pete, “your roadies going to kick my ass!” and he said “they get paid!”. Well, two weeks later he came back and said “your right Jim. I tried to help one of the roadies top put one of these cabinets into the truck and IT was heavy!. Have them back and cut them in half”. I said well if I cut them in half they’ll fall to pieces. So leave it to me to go back to what I suggested in the first place to make it a stack”. And that’s the way it came about. It was him that wanted 8X12′s because of the 100 Watt heads, they were the first three 100 Watt heads we ever made…and he had them. Of course the 100Watt was no good in those days with one 4X12, because the speakers in those days were only capable of taking 25 Watts, unlike speakers today that can take 300, 400 Watts. Thats the way the stack really came about.
JM: You had so many of the early classic British bands actually form in your shop. Every one from Hendrix’s band to Deep Purple.
Jim Marshall: Mitch Mitchell, who was a child actor actually, came to me in the first place to ask me if he could have the job in the shop as the Saturday boy. Then he wanted me to teach him drums. Then Ritchie Blackmore was playing with one of my other pupils in a school group and they all came together in my shop. You see, all the guitarists that came in to see me were those playing with my pupils. I was the first drum teacher over here (England) to teach them rock and roll. And Micky Waller was the first one to get me to teach them, because he said to me “can you teach me to play this new stuff called rock and roll?” And I said “its only even quavers, basically its Latin American, so its quite easy and I’ll teach you”. Because the accents are in different places that’s all it is to it, and because I taught the drummers, the guitarists came in and it was like a labour exchange and thats where a lot of the early groups were formed, in my shop in London.
JM: In 1981, you introduced the JCM800 series.
Jim Marshall: There’s another story to go with that too, the true story! I’d just finished a 15 year contract with a company called Rose-Morris and unfortunately being a pro musician, I thought to sign a 15 year contract with regular money coming in was the next best thing since sliced bread….and I was wrong! After about 3 or 4 months I realized I could outsell this company any day of the week and during that 15 year contract they never ever reached a million pounds turnover in a year!. So in 1981 I’d already done re-designing the appearance of some of the things and I was stuck to know what to call it and for weeks I was thinking how can I put this over. Then one day, I walked out to the car park, and looked at my number plate: JCM 800. That was perfect for the 80′s wasn’t it, so that’s how it (the series name) came about. I had bought that number plate way back in 1972, so it was very lucky I’d bought that number plate then.
JM: You were also contracted to do the VoxAC30 re-issues?
Jim Marshall: Yes, because that had gone through 7 different companies earlier who tried to make the AC30′s and 15′s and none of them established the real sound. And although I did not want to do the Vox AC30 and 15, it was a challenge to me because I knew if anybody could do it, we could re-create the original Vox sound which we’ve done. Everybody else gradually before us got worse until Rose-Morris did it and that was a disaster!
JM: What’s the secret to the enduring success of Marshall amps?
Jim Marshall: Well it’s having a good design team as I have now, probably the best in the world and sticking to the original sound. The original sound MUST be in the unit somewhere. Although with the Marshall amps these days, you know, you can choose what sound you like out of it, it can be country and western, jazz, rock and roll etc.
Jim Marshall: Exactly what we’re always tried to do, you know, it’s to produce the best in the world and keep the established Marshall sound going through because that’s what all the rock and rollers and heavy metal youngsters want. But to try and please all musicians too, that’s all we want to do and to keep the quality as it is now…the best.
JM: What has been the highlight of your career?
Jim Marshall: Well I suppose it was the first time I saw Marshall on television.
JM: You would have many stories to tell. Which one in particular is your favorite?
Jim Marshall: I suppose the best one is of course, in regards to my greatest ambassador and that was Jimi Hendrix. He was playing at Ronnie Scott’s in London and Mitch (Mitchell) was on drums with him, but the group that was playing there at the time were all using Marshall and he said “I’ve got to meet this Jim Marshall because my name is James Marshall as well”. So Mitch brought him into my shop and Jimi said to me, “I’ve got to have Marshall amplification”. And I thought, “Christ!, another American wanting something for nothing!”. But fortunately he said ” I don’t want anything given to me. I want to pay the full retail price but what I do want is service wherever I am in the world”. I thought, “Christ, that’s going to be a tough one” because we were only dealing with France, Germany and Canada at the time. They were the only places I had distribution, but his roadie at the time, came and spent two weeks in the factory learning how to change the bias and change the tubes or valves if they went down and do simple soldering. And we were never called out once by Jimi Hendrix. He actually purchased 4 complete stage set-ups to have in different places in the world so he would not have to transport any too far. And that’s one of the best stories of the company.
First off, a disclaimer: this article isn’t about how to record as cheaply as possible, otherwise it’d be called ‘Home Recording For The Stingy Guitarist,’ or maybe ‘How I Recorded Stuff When I Was At Uni.’ If inexpensive recording is your goal, get your hands on a Mac and use Garageband and its inbuild sounds, effects and amp simulators. Rather, this article is about how to make the most of what you have. I’ve accumulated my gear over many, many years, one piece at a time. If you’re interested in buying any of the gear mentioned in this article, there are links to a lot of it at the end, and a lot of this stuff can be found pretty inexpensively in secondhand stores and on eBay.
At the moment I’m using a DigiDesign Mbox Pro Factory with Pro Tools 7.4LE. Yep, I haven’t even had the chance to upgrade to Pro Tools 8 yet. I’ll get there soon, don’t worry. Just pretend this article was written a year ago if that’s a problem for ya.
Now, here’s the key to getting sequenced drums to sound more realistic, especially if you are taking the ‘draw the notes in with the mouse’ option: the MIDI velocity data for each hit. If you leave everything at exactly the same velocity, the exact same sample will be triggered each time. Not exactly great for expressive music. I’ve found that for rock stuff Drumkit From Hell’s kick, snare and tom samples tend to sound best when you use harder velocity settings in the 95-120 range, while the hats sound better if you use softer ones. I arrived at this conclusion by using my MIDI keyboard to tap out various kick/snare and hat rhythms of different velocities, recording the results so I could zero in on the good bits with my ears. Only then did I turn on the option to view the velocity settings for each hit, so I could figure out exactly why I liked the bits I liked. Now, sometimes I tap out the kick/snare part separately to the hat part, and combine them later, so I don’t get all muddled and hit the snare too soft and the hat too hard.
Next up I lay down a guide rhythm guitar. The most important thing for me at this point is making sure I’m recording at just the right level: not too loud, not too quiet. If you’re in the thrall of a creative brainwave it can be easy to overlook this aspect, but DON’T! Nothing can ruin a perfect performance like a bad recording. While tracking I usually use either Amplitube 2 or Guitar Rig 3 for my amp sound. I’ve created some presets in each which give me a nice straightforward overdriven amp tone with a little bit of ambience just because it sometimes can feel a little confronting to hear your guitar totally dry through headphones or small studio monitors.
A similar recording process takes place for the lead guitar, but I try to make sure that I use different guitars for the rhythm and lead parts. I find that if you layer several different parts using the same pickup some of the frequencies can get a little clouded and you have to start deciding which part to attenuate. I use mostly DiMarzio pickups and my favourite combination is the Tone Zone for rhythm and the Evolution for lead. The other way around can sound pretty good too, while multiple Tone Zone takes seem to get a bit mushy-sounding. The Blaze bridge humbucker in my main 7-string, an Ibanez UV777BK, seems to be the only pickup that seems to ‘sit right’ when I use it for both rhythm and lead.
Now it’s time to add the bass. Since guitar is my main instrument I just feel I have a better idea of the state of the song if I have a rhythm guitar part down first, and since my bass idols are John Paul Jones and Geezer Butler I tend to listen to the lead guitar so I can improvise little fills around it. Most other dudes will record the bass before any rhythm guitar but that’s not how I roll. My most valuable secret for getting a good bass performance (and to make up for the chance of a sterile take caused by adding the bass after doing the guitars) is absolutely free: I stand up. I find that stomping my foot and maybe having a little bit of a boogie while playing really helps me make the rhythm more physical and impactful.
Now comes the really fun bit: I decide whether I want to keep the simulated amp models or replace them with my real amp, a Marshall DSL50. I wait for a time when the family is outta the house, then send an output from the Mbox to a Radial ProRMP reamp device, which converts the signal to the right level for a guitar amp, then into my pedalboard and Marshall. The Marshall is plugged into an AxeTrak isolated speaker cabinet, an ingenious little device which includes a small speaker and a microphone sealed inside a soundproof box. Even when the amp is cranked to where it really starts to sweat, the AxeTrak never moves beyond speaking volume. The AxeTrak’s internal mic plugs back into the Mbox and voila: instant real, miced up guitar amp recorded at my leisure. I’m always very careful to copy down the exact amp settings and include them as a note for each track in Pro Tools so I can either add more tracks with the same sound at a later date, or use that setting for a different song.
And there we have it: an entire track recorded from the ground up with real amps and ‘real’ drum performances – well, as real as they can get when you’re tapping them out on a velocity-sensitive keyboard and using samples of actual drum kits – but without the cost of having to rent out a studio, set up a drum room, or scare the heck out of the neighbours with cranked up Marshall power. As I said earlier, in an ideal world I’d record in a real studio with real drums, a human rhythm section and a room full of amps to record extremely loud guitars, but until that day comes, this method works for me.
DigiDesign Mbox units
Digidesign Mbox 2 Mini Recording Package Standard (pictured above)
Digidesign Mbox 2 USB Audio/MIDI Pro Tools LE Interface
Digidesign Mbox 2 Pro Factory Bundle Standard
Digidesign Mbox 2 Micro
Digidesign Mbox 2 Mini Standard
Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0
Toontrack Drumkit from Hell EZX Sample Library Standard
DiMarzio Tone Zone Guitar Pickup Black F-Space
DiMarzio Tone Zone Guitar Pickup Black Regular
DiMarzio DP159 Evolution Bridge Pickup Black Regular
DiMarzio DP159 Evolution Bridge Pickup Black F-Space
DiMarzio DP704 Evolution 7-String Pickup Black
DiMarzio Blaze 7-String Bridge Pickup Black
DiMarzio DP700 Blaze 7-String Neck Pickup Black
The rest of my gear
Here’s a press release about the new Marshall MG15FXMS Micro Stack amp. My favourite things about this amp:
* Built-in digital effects, programmable for each channel;
* Optional footswitch which includes tap tempo and a tuner display.
I guess that with more and more people using software modelling and gadgets like the Waves iGTR modeling headphone amp for practice situations, amp companies really have to pull out all the stops to make a practice amp more attractive. While I really dig the Fender G-DEC 30‘s features and usability, there’s just something particularly rockworthy in a warm analog circuit. My only suggestion to Marshall would be to throw in at least a tube preamp if not power amp – it would drive the cost up but I think it would attract a lot of buyers who might not otherwise buy a Micro Stack.
Marshall Introduces New MG15FXMS Micro Stack Guitar Amplifier
The MG15FXMS Micro Stack is the latest addition to the popular MG4 Series of Marshall amplifiers. The three-piece micro stack includes a 15-Watt compact head plus two matching speaker cabinets—one angled, one straight. Each cabinet is loaded with a full-range 10″ speaker. In addition to being highly transportable, the MG15FXMS also allows many entry-level and budget-conscious players to enjoy the look, feel, and classic tone of the iconic Marshall Stack.
Preserving the best features of the MG4 series, the MG15FXMS provides a three-band EQ section and features four programmable channels—Clean, Crunch, Overdrive1, and Overdrive2—to provide a wide range of tone colors from a single amplifier. The Gain, EQ, Volume, and Master Volume knobs are presented in Marshall’s tried-and-true layout for extreme ease of use. Push-button channel switching offers smooth, silent transitions.
Digital Reverb is built-in, along with a full complement of Digital Effects—Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, and Delay. The Delay time can be set using the Tap button on the front panel, and the Effects are programmable to match each channel.
The MG15FXMS Micro Stack provides a versatile array of inputs and outputs. The Line Input allows players to jam along with an MP3 player, CD player, or other source. The combination Line Out / Headphone Out features speaker cabinet emulation, so the full Marshall sound is always preserved when recording or practicing through headphones.
The optional STOMPWARE® footswitch provides seamless transitioning from sound to sound, as well as tap tempo control and display for the built-in tuner. STOMPWARE technology allows this multi-function pedal to be connected using a traditional guitar cable—eliminating the need for special or hard-to-find cables.
The MG15FXMS Micro Stack carries an MSRP of $510.00 and will be available in October 2009.
For more information, visit their web site at http://www.marshallamps.com/.
06/2009 – Joe Satriani joins the Marshall family!
Marshall Amplification plc is pleased to announce that Joe Satriani will be using a Marshall backline for new group Chickenfoot. The super group, made up of four rock legends, started the European leg of their world tour on June 20th and will be heading back over to the States in August to continue .
Joe contacted Marshall Amplification prior to the first show at the Nova Rock Festival in Austria in order to check out some new Marshall gear. Marshall took some amps to the rehearsals, and Joe loved the tone of the JVM410H.
Joe used the JVM410H for the show at the Nova Rock Festival and will be visiting the Marshall factory this week to have a look around and try out different speaker cabinets.
Chickenfoot recently released their debut album and has taken the States by storm, going in at number 4 on the Billboard Album charts. For more information on Chickenfoot, check out www.chickenfoot.us
WHAT?!? So what of the Peavey JSX series? Is this why the JSX 50 hasn’t come out yet? Or is Joe just using Marshall because in some countries it can be really hard to find Peavey gear, whereas Marshalls are pretty much the standard when it comes to renting backline? I mean, I’m pretty well travelled within the guitar world here in Australia and I’ve only ever seen two Peavey JSX amps, and they were on stage with Joe. So is Joe leaving Peavey, or is he just using Marshall for convenience? I guess only time will tell.
The late great Randy Rhoads left an indelible mark on the guitar world when he passed away in 1982 with just two Ozzy Osbourne albums to his name, and a pair of Japan-only releases with his original band, Quiet Riot (yes, that Quiet Riot). At a time when Eddie Van Halen was revolutionising guitar playing with his party-guy antics, flashy technique and legendary ‘brown sound,’ Randy provided the Yang to Eddie’s Yin with similar technique and tone but an altogether darker aesthetic.
Before recording Blizzard of Ozz with Ozzy, Randy ordered some Marshall amps direct from the factory, based on the 1959 Super Lead but customised with white Tolex and including several modifications. The most important of these mods is a change to the way the two channels interact with each other. Typically, a Marshall Super Lead would have two channels, I and II, which each have 2 inputs. Players discovered early on that they could run these two channels together by joining them up with a short cable, but the 1959RR offers an internally-facilitated variation on this idea, all in the name of increased gain. The mod, which is only on channel II, cascades both halves of the first 12AX7 preamp valve, feeding the output of the first stage into the input of the second, instead of using each half separately for channels I and II. This effectively makes channel I’s volume control function as a master volume, while turning the channel II volume into a gain control. Or if you are after a classic Super Lead sound, just plug in to channel I, throw in some industrial-strength earplugs and off you go.
In a posting on the band’s official forum (free membership registration required), Dave Mustaine has dished out further details of the new Megadeth album. Can’t wait to hear this one, which will be the band’s first recording with Chris Broderick on lead guitar. If you don’t know already I’m a bit of a Megadeth fanboy – I’ve seen them 5 times, including 4 times since 2005. So forgive me if I do a little wee of excitement about this.
Dave also used the forum post to draw attention to Megadeth’s bitchen new Myspace layout.
“Well, some of you have no doubt heard the samples of the songs that have been being worked on by me and the boys that I have been leaving for you at TheLiveLine. It has been a real blast for me to call in, hold the phone up and let you hear what a great job Andy is doing, and how he really does know me better than anyone I’ve ever worked with, and how he really does understand MEGADETH, and how he really does have metal know-how and sensible suggestions, and most importantly of all, how he does have class — English class, I should say.
“I must say that after spending this last year working almost exclusively with Andy, and working with my amazing amplification team, the one and only Marshall Amps, that I have had one of the most refreshing and rewarding year of my career.
“How can I not say that? What with this years events and all of the great things that happened for myself and for MEGADETH, which only made the MEGADETH experience that much more enjoyable for us all, I would be a fool not too. We just got back from one of the funniest tours we have had in a long time on Priest Feast, you guessed it, . . . more Englishmen (and women).
“And now as we are nearing the completion of the new record, I will tell you, it is fast, it is heavy, there is singing, yelling, speaking, and guest voices (maybe not singing — more like in ‘Captive Honor’), the soloing is insane, and I am just starting my parts and so far I have been playing like mad! Both of the two solos I have gotten down are as fast as anything I have played on.
“We have some great song concepts, like ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ a song about having been wiped out, like so many Americans, from the recession and potential depression years of 2000, or ‘Bite The Hand That Feeds’ which is a song about the greed of the fiduciary leaders of the financial world and how they just didn’t care about the responsibility they had to the public. There are also songs like ’1320′ a song about nitro fuel funny cars (something I enjoy), ‘How The Story Ends’ and ‘This Day We Fight’, both inspired by warrior creed from the great Sun Tzu with the use of drums and flags in ancient war, and an impassioned plea from Aragorn to his loyal fighters in ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, respectively. I also have some bizarre songs like ‘Headcrusher’ which is about the medieval torture device, and ‘Endgame’ which is about a bill that ex-President George W. Bush signed into law that gave him the power to put American citizens in concentration camps that are actually called ‘detention centers’ here in the United States, and a favorite lyric of mine on this record about the North Hollywood bank robbery of 1997 (or 1998).”
Be sure to go to TheLIVELine daily to hear snippets of music from Chris and I, in the background while we finish up the record these next 12days and . . . . . . .