…in PremierGuitar.com Articles
Lots has been written about KISS’s Sonic Boom album, but all of the interviews thus far have left info gaps. PremierGuitar.com recently posted a couple of new interviews – a little late to the party, but the info is good. A few gear details are still missing, but not many!
One PG interview is with Tommy Thayer, and the other is with co-producer Greg Collins, which is great because the album is well-produced. The articles are good (except for a few typos – Doug Aldridge?!) and are worth a full read, but the gear info is excerpted below.
Tommy On His Gear
All quotes are Tommy’s:
“I used Les Pauls [including] my Gibson Wine Red Deluxe. It’s not a guitar I use on the road. I got it in the mid-’80s and it’s a good-sounding Les Paul for the studio and at home. I borrowed Paul’s Gibson ’61 SG Reissue and used that more than the Les Paul for rhythm and solos because it has a nice midrange.
“I used an old Marshall, my H&K Tommy Thayer Duotone and Statesman combo amp, and an orange practice amp of Greg’s for the raspy edge on my solos.
“The only pedal I used in the studio to give my solos a nicer boost was an Ibanez Tube Screamer. It’s an original from the 1970s or ’80s that I borrowed from Doug Aldridge [Aldrich] of Whitesnake 24 years ago and never gave back. Every time I see him, he asks for it and I say, ‘I’ll give it right back!’ Doug gave me a really nice lead guitar sound on this album!”
“My live set-up is very straightforward: four Hughes & Kettner Tommy Thayer Signature Edition Duotone amplifiers, plus four Hughes & Kettner 4×12 speaker cabinets. I use four Gibson Custom Shop ’59 and ’60 reissue Les Pauls in sunburst, black and silver-sparkle, one custom Les Paul with rocket/gerb firing system [pyrotechnics], and a Gibson Custom Shop Explorer in Silver Sparkle. I use no effects onstage besides an octave divider and an MXR digital delay, [both] used in my guitar solo.”
Greg Collins on Gear and Mics
All quotes are Greg’s:
“Tommy used a two-amp setup for rhythm guitar consisting of a mid-’70s Marshall JMP 100-watt head—we tried four or five before we found the right one—and his Hughes & Kettner Statesman combo amp. My intention was not to have a too modern, high-gain guitar sound. As a reference point I used the first KISS record, which is probably my favorite sounding of their early makeup era, and also, of course, Destroyer. Over the years KISS’ sound has evolved toward being a lot more aggressive and edgy than that, but I think we struck a good balance between the sound of the 1970s and something a bit bigger and more vivid.
“For rhythm tracks we went cable to amp. The only pedals in line were splitter boxes—Radial Tonebones—so that we could drive two amps at once, and no effects. We tried to find the sweet spot on the amp gain, where it sounded rich but you could still hear every note in the chord.
“For Paul’s amp setup we used a 1966 Fender Bassman head and a Randall MTS head. The Bassman is a great vintage amp, which is the majority of his tone. The Randall MTS is a modern amp but it has modular plug-in preamps based on older classic amp circuits. We used the one modeled after a Marshall Super Lead. All of Paul’s tracks were done with either a Gibson custom-shop Les Paul or SG into the Bassman/MTS rig.”
Guitar solos: “We had Tommy’s vintage Marshall and the H&K head that he uses onstage, as well as a couple of smaller amps, a Fender Pro Junior and a little toy Orange amplifier [Orange Micro Crush] that runs on AA batteries. You can buy it at Urban Outfitters! It blended in fairly prominently for edgy, buzzy solos that sound ’70s and fuzzy.
“On each of the guitar amps I used three mics. Tommy’s Marshall was running through a 4×12 cabinet, and the H&K combo amp is an open-back 2×12. I used a Heil PR30 on the 4×12. It’s a dynamic mic, somewhat similar to an SM57, with a frequency response that’s just great for distorted guitar. I find that it has more clarity and bite than the typical 57. I also used a Royer 121 ribbon mic…. It gives a ton of midrange, and when you boost mid- and high-frequency EQ it always sounds really good. You can really dig in and it never sounds too harsh. It fills things out and sounds thick and full. I also used an AKG 414 for a different flavor. With distorted guitars I don’t compress too much. I used a Neve 33609 compressor, but never more than –3 or 4dB of compression. I find it best to let the amp, and then the tape [Sonic Boom was recorded to tape], handle that. On Tommy’s combo amp I used an old RCA 77 ribbon mic and a Sennheiser 421.
“Paul’s Bassman was going through a 2×12 closed-back cabinet with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. For the Randall it was a Colossus 4×12 cabinet and for both cabinets I used the same mics: the PR 30, the Royer and the 414.”
[The Randall Colossus cabinet was a companion to the solid-state Randall Colossus Paul Stanley head. I believe the cab came stock with V30s, but am not sure.]