Guitarist Scott Carlson uses the following gear:
2000 Fender Stratocaster customized with the largest possible left-handed maple neck, jumbo frets, Stringsaver saddles, Fender Texas Special single pickups (middle/neck) and Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbucker pickup (bridge), and Buzz Feiten tuning system. (Note: the Buzz Feiten system did not make a dramatic change in what I heard coming from my guitar. I guess the big change is moving the nut a little closer to the bridge. The change is subtle, however, well worth the cost if you play a lot of 7th, 9th and Hendrix-type chord inversions in high neck positions because they definitely sound more in tune with the Feiten intonation.)1998 (left/right on bottom) and 1999 (left/right on top) custom shop Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan model Stratocasters "relic'd" to match #1. The 1999 was my first acquisition for Rude Mood's SRV Tribute. It features Stringsaver saddles, Buzz Feiten tuning system and was aged by Tracy Longo of Guitar Tech Corner to replicate #1 at the time of Texas Flood. (Note: my wife was aghast when I paid my favorite guitar technician to “ruin” my brand new SRV strat in 2000, however, I had the last laugh when I showed her the $10,000 custom-shop replica that Fender began selling in 2004. It probably saved my marriage because if I didn’t already own a replica, I would be scheming to buy the $10,000 one and even I can’t think of a good justification to pay that much money for a beat-up strat. Tracy Longo is an awesome guitar technician and has been featured in many guitar magazines. He invented the Tone-O-Matic bridge that Brian Setzer uses on all of his vintage guitars. Check out his "Guitar Repair and Setup" DVD that is sold by Metal Method. I'm very lucky that his repair shop is close by and he fits me into his busy schedule.) The 1998 was a 2004 E-Bay acquisition. It has been further refined and modified to my liking by Tracy Longo so that it is interchangeable with the 1999.2000 Gibson ES-335, 1959 reissue, Stainless Steel Tone-O-Matic Bridge. (Note: I could see myself playing this guitar all the time if I didn't love all the tonal/pickup options available through my Line6 Variax. Larger than my Les Paul but lighter, the acoustical properties and slim neck of this guitar make it a joy to play. The strings are set up high for aggressive slide work and it's featured on the recording of “Spit Anxiety.” Now I know why George Thorogood always uses big fat hollow-bodied Gibsons to achieve his steel-driving tone. The only downside of this guitar is that I live at the beach in southern California and the salt-air has corroded most of the metal hardware to a sickly green color.)1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom, cream finish, Stainless Steel Tone-O-Matic Bridge. (Note: this is my Randy Rhoads guitar that didn’t seem so heavy after a few hours when I played it as a teen. Now, I start missing my lighter guitars after gigging an hour with it. There is a lot of history with this guitar as I spent countless hours in my youth trying to figure out how to play my favorite guitar player's riffs and leads. This is my only guitar with low action and lighter strings so that I can play along with Eddie Van Halen and big hair 80's metal bands. Everything is stock except for installation of Tracy's Tone-O-Matic Bridge that makes it sound even more vintage. I’ll never part with this guitar until they pry it from my cold dead fingers and hopefully give it to one of my sons to enjoy.)2001 Taylor 310-CE Acoustic. (Note: I spent a few days playing every acoustic guitar that I could find at both Guitar Center and some local music stores. I was looking for a guitar that had a huge full sound and an excellent balance between treble and bass. This guitar stood up side-by-side with some of the best Martins and Fenders that I tested. I was biased to purchase a Martin when I started out my search, however, this guitar beat all the competition. It also had the benefit of the cut-away for access to higher frets and Fishman electronics for amplification and direct recording).2004 Line6 Variax 700 Electric, red translucent, Hardtail. After suffering from excessive string breakage at the contact point of the metal saddles, Tracy replaced the RL Baggs saddle pickups with Graph-Tech Ghost Saddles. The signal from the Ghost pickups was stronger than the stock saddle pickups, but adjustments using Line6's Workbench program evened everything out. Tracy also installed locking tuning pegs and replaced the unmarked metal volume/tone controls with numbered ones where I can see their status in a glance. This is my primary gigging guitar at this pint and it sounds outstanding with FireWire Custom Regular strings. This guitar is unique from my others in that rather than using traditional guitar pickups to amplify string vibrations, its uses digital technology that can model all kinds of guitar bodies/pickups. The guitar plays well and the models are very close to the modeled guitars that I have played. In my hands, it feels more like a Les Paul than my Fender strat, however, it doesn't have the weight of the Les Paul. On cover gigs, I don't have to sacrifice playing "Voodoo Chile" with a Les Paul humbucker sound where the Variax models both a Fender Strat single coil bridge pickup and humbucker from a Les Paul. This is the perfect guitar for cover gigs when you want to nail the exact tones for each song. Think about covering "Crazy Little Thing" by Queen with the ability to play acoustic guitar and then step on one footswitch to switch to the Telecaster slapback echo rockabilly tone of the Lead. My real strats sound better on the SRV songs, however, here I can save specific tonal patches for each SRV cover and also lock in the specific pickup combination and tone control setting used by SRV that leaves me less things to remember while playing live. Also, it has the ability to change tuning with the flick of the pickup selector and yet the actual strings remain in normal tuning. Use of Line6's Guitar Workbench software allows the user to save alternate tunings so that you can change from regular tuning to open G, dropped D or 1/2 step down merely by stepping on a footswitch on the Line6 PODxt Live. This additional versatility has made the variax my primary guitar for cover gigs and eliminated the need to bring along three guitars. When used with Line6's PODxt Live modeling device, the guitar is connected with a computer cord that powers the active technology as well as enabling the PODxt to control the pickup selection and tone control position of the guitar through patches triggered by a footswitch. After underestimating the advances made in digital modeling over the past few years, I have now embraced the technological advances that allow unprecedented control over my guitar tone when played through a Bose Personal Amplification System. Gig setup and teardown without a guitar amplifier, pedalboard and multiple guitars now takes me only fifteen to twenty minutes. The combination of the Variax, PODxt Live and Bose Personal Amplification System is simply amazing. Read Scott's review of the Bose PAS, Variax 700 and PODxt Live at Vettaville Review
FireWire Custom Regular gauged .011, .014, .018, .028, .038, and .049 for the Vairiax. Elixir Nanoweb Medium Electrics gauged same as foregoing for black Strat, ES-335 and Les Paul Custom. The Elixir strings are not as durable as the FireWires (I believe they are D'Addario strings coated with a polymer), however, they are best used on guitars that don't get restrung every gig. Generic Bulk Strings gauged .012, .015, .019, .034, .044 and .054 for the two SRV #1 replicas. Elixir .012s for the Taylor acoustic guitar. (Note: guitarists typically value name brand strings over generic bulk strings and in my experience, except for FireWires and Elixirs there is no basis for the conclusion. The price of brand name strings must include the overhead costs from packaging, marketing and artist endorsements, yet most of these sellers don’t manufacture their own strings. I have had excellent experience purchasing generic strings over the internet (juststrings.com) and enjoy the ability to both create my own custom gauge and change the strings frequently without seeing dollars flushed down the drain. I have not noticed the Dean Markley, Ernie Ball, GHS, D'Addario, etc. strings being of any higher quality than the generic strings. The Elixir strings break similar to the non FireWire strings, however, they are coated with a protectant that prevents rusting and remain the best investment for use on guitars that you don't play often. I believe that you generally get what you pay for in life, but haven’t always felt that this applied to guitar strings. For the SRV Tribute, I used the GHS 1300 Set (.011-.058) that Stevie apparently used. But I didn't like the feel of the .058 E-string with the .038 A-string and .028 D-string. My custom set feels more balanced as the bottom three string gauges are closer together and I no longer break the A and D strings as I did with the GHS set. On a similar note, one of the enduring stories about SRV is that he normally used a .013 for his E string and only went to a lower gauge on nights when he had to superglue his calluses onto his left hand finger tips. After spending hours playing Texas Flood's Albert King-inspired bends with a .013 gauge E string, I remain skeptical of the story. Let's just note for the record that the GHS 1300 set actually comes with a .011 for the E string and the extreme difficulty of bending the .013 three half-steps to play Texas Flood does not produce any bigger tone than the more manageable .012 or .011)
Dunlop USA Tortex .96mm (purple pick with while gator graphic). (note: The heavy attack on thick strings with my notoriously sweaty hands resulted in a flying pick hazard to audience members until Tracy showed me a trick. The idea is to create a raised texture on both sides of the pick surface so that it's no longer slippery. I use a sharp X-Acto knife blade to cut criss-crossing lines on both sides of the fat end of the pick. This creates a raised uneven “sandpapery” surface to grip the pick by and allows me to flail away with wild abandon.)
PEDALBOARD EFFECTS (in order of signal flow)
The true bypass wet dream “A Team”: Teese McCoy Custom Wah RMC3 with foxrox wah retrofit; Barber Electronics Direct Drive; Analogman Sun Face NKT275; Analogman Clone Chorus; Sweet Sound’s Mojo Vibe; Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler; Klon Centaur; Tonebone Radial JX-2 Pro Switchbone with mid boost gain. The two outputs of the Switchbone each feed a guitar amplifier while the tuner output feeds a Peterson VS-1 Virtual Strobe Tuner. All effects are secured to a Fuhrman powered SPB-8 Pedal Board and connected with George L cables. A tube amp with a slightly overdriven Fender tone is always connected to the right output and a tube amp with a clean Marshall/Dumble tone is connected to the left output. (Note: In constant pursuit of the purest blues-rock tone, I have purchased effects pedals like Imelda Marcos purchased shoes. I live in constant fear that my wife, the subject of my song "Dedicated to My Wife," will find each new UPS package before I can squirrel it away in my rehearsal space to avoid her question of whether I really need this latest boutique pedal. I used many effect pedals on the CD recording and am finally satisfied with my guitar tone, for the moment, with the foregoing live rig that features only pedals with true bypass. To achieve this “true bypass nirvana,” I had to replace my two Ibanez TS-9 Tube screamers (see below) with the Klon and Tonebone’s Switchbone mid-boost respectively. The Klon was definitely an upgrade and the Switchbone maintained the same TS-808 quality. I can also set my Direct Drive to get a superior TS-808 sound rather than the ZZ Top setting it usually remains on. I still maintain a few of my old favorites on a second pedalboard that represents the B-team that saw limited action during the recording of "We're Inna Rude Mood".)
The non-true bypass “B Team": Vox Wah; Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer modified to 808 specs by analogman; Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer modified to 808 specs as well as the "silver" and "Kenny Wayne Shepard" mods by analogman; Foxrox Captain Coconut I (ie. the ultimate Jimi Hendrix sound tool featuring true-bypass replicas of the Dallas Arbiter FuzzFace, Uni-Vibe, and Tycobrahe Octavia); speed pedal to control the univibe; Fulltone Fat Boost; Boss TU-2 Tuner; SKB PS-25 fully-powered pedalboard. (note: With this setup I also used a Whirlwind Selector A/B box to send the guitar signal to two amps. The JX-2 Pro Switchbone on the A Team is a vast improvement as it's active technology takes care of all the potential grounding/looping problems and sends a pure clean signal to two amps as well as a third to a tuner outside the primary signal path. If you look closely at the picture, you will notice that there are no cables connecting the various B team pedals. That's because, in the constant pursuit of pure tone, I'm attempting to adapt my wireless DSL line technology to my guitar setup and see if I can create a virtual signal flow from guitar to amp. I'm kidding of course; I usually keep the B team loose so that I can call them in whenever their counterpart on the A team needs respite. I like many of these effects, however, each has at least one major shortcoming that will keep it on the back bench. For instance, I was happy with my Boss tuner until I got the Peterson strobe and realized how much difference greater tuning accuracy can make when you play a lot of 7th and 9th chords all over the neck.)
The "One Stop Shop Team": 2004 PODxt Live pedalboard with Line6 Variax cable. My band recently changed from using a traditional Mackie PA to the Bose Personal Amplification System (see below). The theory of the Bose PAS is that each musician controls one sound stick (24 small Bose speakers in a pole) and subwoofer(s) where all their vocal and instrumental sound generates from. It eliminates the need for monitors and a sound person to adjust everyone's levels. For guitar tone, it's a vast improvement from the one directional sound coming from a radial speaker and allows the user to fill the room with the "sweet spot." After playing gigs with a miked guitar cab that I increasingly turned lower, I tried one gig with my PODxt and usual pedalboard and liked the results after some extensive tweaking. I had never heard my guitar tones so clearly throughout the entire stage area, not just in front of my amp. When I saw the PODxt Live, I saw an opportunity to eliminate one more part of my setup by combining the pedalboard and PODxt. I hooked it up to my computer with a USB cable and used Line6's Edit software program to craft tones for each cover song that I then saved to the PODxt Live. With everything so visual in Edit, I didn't even need to read the manual and was able to interact with modeled pedal controls that looked similar to their analog counterparts. The value of this new equipment went up even higher when I figured out how to control a Variax in each patch (see above) and discovered that I could now exactly match multiple guitar tones from every cover song simply by stepping on a new footswitch. My only lingering complaint is that the wah pedal is not as adjustable as my Teese RMC3, however, I would expect that a future upgrade to the software will allow adjustment of the Q freqency and size of sweep. As I get older, simplicity of setup/teardown is often the deciding factor in accepting low paying small venue gigs and the PODxt Live, Variax and Bose PAS have combined to enable me to bring world class guitar tones to any venue within 20 minutes of arrival. This ones a keeper until I get my own personal roadie.
AMPLIFIERS After years of lugging around large amps that sounded best at volume levels impractical for a live band situation, I discovered the joys of low wattage tube amplifiers. I also discovered the tonal variety that only comes from the ability to separate the head from the speaker cabinet. Let's just say that not all low wattage tube amplifiers are created equal and that the following amps are more than enough power for any live music situation (especially given the fact that bigger venues don't like it when stage volumes overpower the mix from the front of house sound system). Since SRV embraced the early version of Matchless' boutique point-to-point wired Class A tube amps, it's safe to assume that he would have loved all the variety available to today's player who wants to upgrade from the mass-produced circuit board amps cranked out by the Fender and Marshall factories.
Dr. Z Maz "Junior" 18 watt head with a Dr. Z open backed 1X12 cabinet. (Note: Due to exceptional craftmanship and point-to-point wiring, this 18 watt amp has more than enough power to handle most venues. The definition and headroom are such that it doesn't even need to be miked in small clubs. Once the EQ is set, the amps "cut" knob works similarly to a Marshall "presence" control and allows finetuning of the extent of "edge" to cut effectively through the mix of a live band. This amp loves strats with single coil pickups and effects pedals on the front end. The tone center of the amp is something between a Fender and Vox. It costs slightly more than the higher watt Fender Vibroking, however, it leaves the Vibroking in the dust in terms of quality construction. I sometimes use it with a closed 2X12 cabinet at bigger venues when I want to feel the bass. There is a Weber MASS direct input/attenuator sitting on top of the head in the picture that provides more options than the Trainwreck Z Airbrake but does not deliver the same quality results.)Dr. Z Route 66 32 watt head with a Z-Best Theile Ported closed back 2X12 cabinet (tuned to 30 hertz for controlled resonance in the bottom end). (Note: The Route 66 is an improved design of the Marshal JTM-45 and the non-master volume output is tamed as necessary with a Trainwreck Z Airbrake. Eric Clapton used the JTM-45 to achieve the outstanding tone on the Bluesbreakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton album and Angus Young records exclusively with it for all AC/DC albums. Guitar Player Magazine describes the Route 66 as a blend of Marshall and Vox AC30 characteristics. This has been the most responsive amp that I have ever used with effects pedals and it really cuts favorably through the mix in a live band situation. If Mark Knopfler wants to improve his bell-like strat tone even more, he should consider experimenting with one of these babies. Don't look for this amp at Guitar Center, as it's only available through the builder and a few boutique music stores [my source is Trutone Music in Santa Monica]. As I've gotten older with less time to fiddle with controls to find a decent tone so that I can just enjoy playing, I've really come to appreciate products like this amp with only a few very responsive tone controls. It lacks a reverb effect and at first I felt naked playing my strats without some reverb dialed in, however, now I appreciate the clear bell-like tone and let the room create natural reverb. This amp also responds well to humbucking pickups and distortion effects.)Dr. Z Carmen Ghia with an open-backed 2X10 Z cabinet. (Note: You can't just own one Dr. Z amp. This amp compares favorably with Fender’s best tube amps yet can be driven harder on small stages due to the lower power rating. Guitar Player Magazine describes it as a more muscular Fender tweed Deluxe or Champ. All I know is that it puts a huge smile on my face every time I crank it up. The concept of having only one tone control concerned me before I purchased the amp, however, I was pleased to find that whatever they did to setup the tone knob in this manner works brilliantly. I certainly haven't found myself wishing for more tone controls and can adjust the sound between brighter fender singles coils and darker gibson humbuckers with a twist of the knob. Again with only two knobs, one for volume and one for tone, I spend my time playing happily rather than fiddling to find the elusive best tone.)Bose Personal Amplification System with one subwoofer. Although not a traditional guitar amplifier, when you combine the Bose PAS with the PODxt LIve on the special "Bose PAS" output setting, you create a guitar rig with the largest sweet spot you will ever find. Unlike a unidirectional guitar amp speaker cabinet, you hear the same consistent tone whether you are standing directly in front of the PAS stick or 90 degrees to either side. I consider myself a recovering true tube amp snob and even I need to recognize when a technological breakthrough allows the average guitarist to enjoy playing live more than ever. You have got to check out this system before allowing preconceived stereotypes to deny you the pleasure of pure consistent tone as far as the eye can see. Whether miking a low-powered tube amp or playing direct through a digital modeler and Variax, this new system rocks. Check out Scott's review at Vettaville.Fender Blues Junior 15 watt amplifier that has been hotrodded to the extent that even it’s own mother wouldn’t recognize it (Note: I bought this before any of the Dr. Zs and was pleased with the tones achieved until a side-by-side comparison with the Dr Zs reduced the little Fender into a blubbery flatulent mess. Reviewers at Harmonycentral rave about this amp’s value for the cost but I found it very noisy, especially with the higher gain single coil Texas Special strat pickups. There seems to be somewhat of a herd/group-speak quality to many of those Harmonycentral ratings and this is a good example of where the product does not match the hype. The incredible thing about the Dr. Zs is that there is no hiss/buzz coming from the strat pickups even when the amps are cranked. I don't know how Dr. Z does it, and apparently neither does Fender. I'd be happy to sell this amp to any interested party. Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder.)Johnson Millenium stereo 150 watt integrated modeling amplifier; J12 Foot Control System; additional Johnson cabinet with 2 Celestian Vintage 30 speakers (Note: This amp represents my brief flirtation with digital modeling after I tired of the one note song from a 1980s Mesa Boogie Mark II C and Ampeg V4 half-stack. Before I got a powered pedalboard, I was also tired of lugging around all my effect pedals and making sure that they each had sufficient battery power. When I purchased this amp in 2000, it had set a new standard that Line6 sought to achieve and eventually surpassed with the development of their Vetta flagship line and PODxt technology. The amp has since been discontinued, although it revealed true value in direct recording some of the guitar parts on the CD. I still think it's an outstanding amp for digital modeling, however, it's not very responsive to effects pedals and needs to be cranked too loud in order to achieve a decent tone. I'm keeping this for my son to use when he tells me that he needs a loud stack for whatever new death metal band that he is joining.)Line6 PODxt (Note: although not really an amp per se, this little wonder box produces the variety of sounds found in the Johnson Millenium and has a permanent place in my guitar accessories bag. I primarily use a setting that I believe gets as close to Steve Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood tone as possible with digital technology. I run a third guitar signal to it from my pedalboard for use in practice and band rehearsal through headphones. Sometimes I also use it live and ask the sound engineer to blend it into the front of house sound system along with the tones from my two Dr. Zs. The primary benefit is the peace of mind at gigs knowing that I will always be able to make some decent guitar sound regardless of what awful tragedy may occur to my tube amplifiers. I also backup all tones from my PODxt Live to it so that it can stand in at a live gig following any malfunction.)
DISPLAY AND PLAY: One of my favorite pieces of "gear" is my Display And Play cases that adorn the walls of my house. The cases enable you to decorate your walls with your "guitar art" and then make it much more likely that you will actually play your guitar collection. The clear plastic covers protect the guitars like a regular guitar case and use of Elixir strings prolongs their string life. The cases are hand built in Texas and so far I have a Tweed59, Fender Princeton and Chrome Dome model. Check them out below and then speak with Charlie and Marguerite about getting your own. Their website is located at Display and Play
Bassist Maggi Hall uses the following gear:
2003 Fender Deluxe American Precision Bass Guitar.
Alvarez Electric Bass Guitar.
Warwick Pro Fet IV Amplifier with Line6 Bass Pod Pro preamp, Warwick 4X10 speaker cabinet (Note that the speaker cabinet faceplate has been upgraded to the "Maggi" signature model that features an "M" on the front rather than the "W."). Maggi also uses a Line6 Bass POD as a preamp for her bass amplifier or direct in to the Bose Personal Amplification system with dual subwoofer modules In addition, Maggi has been increasingly bringing her keyboards to gigs to expand the trio's sonic capabilities.
Maggi's essential vanity gear includes: curling iron, hairspray and hoop earings. (Note: although she might be anal about many things in her musical life, you can surely see that its' Scott who appears to have the problem with anality in regards to equipment.)
Drummer Ruben uses the following gear:
5 piece Yamaha drum kit with 22” kick drum; 10”, 12”, and 14” toms; 15” snare; tama bass pedal, hi-hat and 3 cymbal stands. (Note: Unlike his bandmates, Ruben doesn’t appear to be anal about anything.)
The Live Performance Sound System:
When performing at an indoor or outdoor venue with no house sound system, the band uses three state of the art Bose Personal Amplification Systems. Each performer has their own unit that they control the volume/tone of their vocals and instrument amplification. The drummer and bass player each have two subwoofers to fill out the low end, while the guitarist uses one subwoofer for a complete sound. The fidelity from these systems is on par with the finest home stereo system and allows the band to set a suitable volume for every venue. It's high powered enough to fill a 700 person venue with full sound and flexible enough to provide background dinner music during the first set at intimate venues. Check out the details of the system here. Although the band will use a house sound system when it's very important to the venue, experience has shown that the sound from the Bose system will surpass the quality of sound that can be achieved by a traditional PA system.