Last week I had the immense pleasure of seeing Fleetwood Mac at Rod Laver Arena here in Melbourne. As you no doubt know, the 2019 incarnation of the Mac features Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (I’ll be bringing you a podcast episode with Mike when his new record comes out next year). Neil used plenty of gorgeous guitars during the show and his tones were impeccable. The man responsible for wrangling this stable of axes is Marcus Catanzaro, and he graciously lent his time to talk us through what’s what.
What are Neil’s main guitars on the Fleetwood Mac tour? He seems to mainly go between a red Gretsch and a Les Paul Goldtop.
Neil has about 17 guitars out on this Fleetwood run right now. Ten of them are Gretsch Duo Jets in some form. We tend to always default back to his 1958 Firebird Duo Jet as a reference for ideal tone and gain structures. Actually, whilst we were in Los Angeles rehearsing last year, I had the privilege of spending a bunch of time with Mike Taft and Gretsch Master builder Stephen Stern. We spent hours taking detail from Neil’s 58’ Firebird, and Stephen, along with help from Tom at TV JONES pickups, managed to create a custom shop replica that looks and sounds mind-blowing. We also have a 1956 red Firebird, a 1964 black Duojet and then a whole bunch of brand new factory reissues. These newer models sound and feel incredible, but more importantly, are so much more rock solid than the vintage ones they followed (a hugely important factor on the road and in extreme climates).
Tell me about the Maton acoustic and how come it sounds so damn nice!
Neil plays the 808 classic body Matons. They are significantly smaller-bodied than most other Matons which means they don’t need as much of a heavy hand to really push sound, and they can put out a seriously balanced and controlled tone. I believe Neil worked closely with Maton to develop this particular model a decade or so ago, he found that the guitar performed well across all stage sizes and between multiple playing styles. We have about six of these in total on the road, each varying slightly in timbers. The AP5 pickup system that sits inside each of these is stupidly stable, so much so that we never use feedback busters on stage! Thats a big win for tone!
What’s the deal with that Maton 12-string electric? It’s beautiful!
It’s the ultimate 12-string tone….. I will never divulge the secrets!
What’s on the pedalboard? What amps?
Right now on Fleetwood Mac we have a new system that we built in rehearsals last year. The extensive setlist meant covering new tones and sounds that Neil wouldn’t normally look for, whilst trying to maintain Neil’s iconic sound in there. Neil and I went through about 30 vintage amp combinations, wet/dry/wet rigs, stereo rigs etc etc etc. We finally settled with an offstage and on stage rig to balance volume, feel and tone. Offstage you will find two isolation cabinets next to me. Cabinet 1 holds two vintage 1968 VOX AC30s (main and spare) and Cabinet 2 holds two (main and spare) Fender Bassman 69 reissues from the team at Fender. These both run mono (so both get all sounds and effects evenly). The concept is that the Vox is allowed to run loud and a little harsh (as Voxes do best) and then the Bassman can come in with a lower-end frequency and balance out that tone.
On stage, Neil has a 60’s Fender Princeton Reverb and a 1950 Gibson GA50. Same again; both amps get all signal, the Princeton is the bulk of the tone and the GA50 helps round out the bottom end and smooth it all over. Neil’s pedalboard is pretty simple and features two vintage Electro-Harmonix Memory Man delays, the famous kiwidesigned HOT CAKE, a Bondi Effects SICK AS over drive, a Boss DD-3 delay, an Electro Harmonix Freeze pedal and then two of amazing new Echo Fix Australia analogue tape delay machines, which can be controlled by pedals at Neil’s feet.
Tell us about your background and some of your tech adventures! What do you like to play for fun?
Well, I grew up in Western Sydney and from the age of 13, played in or worked for almost every punk, hardcore or rock band ever (it felt like anyway!). Later down the line I was a guitar player on the X Factor and for Sony Music’s artist roster, then went back to teching around the world for a whole bunch of excellent Australians bands. I was introduced to Neil a few years back by another one of his techs, Rowan ‘Digga’ Johnston and I’ve been lucky enough to keep working for him ever since. It’s been a wild ride on tour with Fleetwood Mac, the lessons have been totally invaluable and the caliber of crew out here is mindblowing. I’ll either know how to do everything ever or be able to write a killer ’behind’ rock and roll book by the end of this! Haha.
Thanks to Heath Blows and Fender Music Australia.