Let’s start by talking about the Aussie tour! I haven’t seen you live since about 1998, and I remember reading a review of that show in this very magazine, years before I wrote for it.
Oh my god. Well it’s going to be a high excitement, high energy show. A good example is seen through my new live album and live DVD. They were recorded two days apart and if you came to both of those shows or if you listen to the album and DVD, you’re going to get two totally different shows.
I saw some video online of your recent touring and I like the stage setup. You have about three quarters of the stage to run around in and the rest of the guys are over in the corner. Let’s face it: this is a guitar show.
Yeah! With 52 Marshall amps!
Do you have any hearing trouble from all that volume?
WHAT?!? No, I’m cool, I’m good actually. I always felt that the Marshalls never really had that abrasive sound. It’s really warm, y’know? So it doesn’t come across as very loud to me.
What gear are you using to achieve your live sound?
It’s the same as in the studio. I have my Marshall YJM100 signature heads and I also have some Plexi Marshalls and they’re mixed up. The ones I have are big and fat in 200 watt Marshall Major boxes. Then I load my cabinets with 75 watt speakers. I like that more. It’s a punchy sound and I like that sometimes …so I like the Greenbacks, even though the cabinets are designed to look like they have the 35 watt speakers in them. I told my friends from Marshall to make them all in the grey grille because I like them better. But when I go to Australia I’m probably going to use whatever you guys have got there because I’m not going to bring all of my gear over.
Do people flip out when they pick up your guitars? They’re set up so differently to what most players are used to.
I think they’re the most finely-tuned guitars… they’re like a racing Ferrari. They’re just beautiful. The pickups I made with Seymour Duncan has every single aspect of the note that you need. It’s in those pickups.
One thing I’ve always loved about your sound is that you can really hear every note, even when you’re playing a lot of them. And that reveals something about your playing which you mention in your book which is that you work hard to make every note sound ‘right.’
Yeah. Thank you! I think that’s probably one of the most focal points for as long as I can remember. One of the main reasons for that was that when I heard Paganini it freaked me out because every note is so …and he was a violinist, y’know? …and the way the bowing works, you really don’t play more than one string very often. It’s almost like a monophonic thing, almost, and that’s really difficult to do when you have a bunch of distortion. So you have to make sure each note has its place. Each note must mean something otherwise don’t fucking play it.
While I’ve got you, one thing I’ve always wanted to ask you about is the album The Seventh Sign. There’s something raw and heavy about that one, and I feel like it’s kind of under-appreciated.
It was a little different from the others in the sense that in the 80s everything was so cyclical. You wrote a record, you recorded the record, you toured the record, you came home and did it all again. At the time of that record it was still like that, but in a different way I suppose, because I go through some really weird shit at different times, and that was a really weird time with the whole grunge thing. So we had to record in
a different studio and I recorded my guitars to a click track, then we put the drums on afterwards. But I think some of the songs are very strong there. ‘Never Die’ and ‘Seventh Sign’ are good… I think the way I look back at it is that every album I did was the best I could do at the time, and I was going through some crazy shit.
I always like hearing you play the blues, which you do really nicely on that album on the song “Bad Blood.”
Yeah and I did it on my last album, Spellbound, on a song called “Iron Blues.” I love to play the blues. In fact, I was just listening to some blues on the radio, some old Muddy Waters or something, and I really like that because it’s unfiltered blues.
For a full list of tour dates, visit www.tombowler.com.au