Jake E. Lee’s Badlands Tone: Woody or Not?

February 5, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More

Lee_JakeE_whiteCharvel_chuckTsAs a kid in high school in the ’80s (early ’80s!), Jake E. Lee was on my list of favorite guitarists – another one of the seemingly endless supply of amazing, cool-looking axemen coming out of LA. I wondered how Ozzy found these guys: Were they lined up on street corners? Hanging out under palm trees?

After two albums with Ozzy, Jake took a break – then came back with Badlands, a GREAT blues-rock band fronted by NJ’s own Ray Gillen (yes, I saw them in Jersey!). Ray’s death played a role in the breakup of the band, which released two albums (Bandlands and Voodoo Highway) before they broke up, and one after (Dusk). All three are great.

About the title of this post: Do you think Jake’s tone is woody? Though I still admire him as a player, I never have dug his tone. Just wasn’t “wide” enough (in an early EVH or Back in Black-era Angus way) nor distinctive enough for me personally, though his style definitely was distinctive.

I looked into his Badlands-era gear, and though there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly solid for the first album (point me to it if you have a reference), here’s what he told Guitar World magazine in 1991 about recording Voodoo Highway:

> Guitar – His white “Charvel,” actually a repainted mid-’70s Fender Strat (not sure if alder or ash) with a maple neck/rosewood board, and a Seymour Duncan Allan Holdsworth prototype pickup in the bridge (nearly identical to the Duncan JB) and two DiMarzio SDS-1 single coils.

> Effects – “I run into a Boss Overdrive [OD-1], but the drive is always on zero because I don’t use it for the distortion. I use it for the bass cut – it tightens up the bottom end.” But he also said, “The overdrive…in the studio, it varied between 12 o’clock and 8 o’clock, depending on how much distortion I wanted.”

> Amps – “I used three different Marshalls on the album. I had two 100 watts – a ’69 or a ’70 with the metal face, which got a grungier sound, and a ’68 plexi-face one which is a little smoother-sounding. I also used an old 45-watt with the plexiglass logo, which is like a combination of the other two: dirty but smooth.”

> Cabs – 4×12 Marshall cabs with Electro-Voice EVM-12L speakers. “I like my EV speakers because they’re nice and clean when I play soft, but they get woofy when I turn it up. So whenever I play loud I hit the Boss and it cuts out some of the real low end and tightens it up.” [These are the same speakers Joe Bonamassa uses.]

To me, the combination of the Holdsworth/JB – a very high-output pickup – and the Boss OD-1 knocks his tone down a few pegs on the woody scale. Too compressed, too much bzzzzzzzzzzzzz in there. But my opinion hardly counts: Jake was awesome.

Is he still awesome? Lots of rumors, possibly more than rumors, on the ‘net about drug use. All I can say to that is, I sure hope not.

Here’s some cool footage of Jake and the band.

High Wire, rehearsal
> Not the greatest vid quality, but you can hear Jake loud and clear.
> Search for “Badlands rehearsal” on YouTube for many more.

Devil’s Stomp, studio?
> Short clip, but great close-up stuff.
> Can you tell what pedals Jake is using? Let me know!

Devil’s Stomp, live

Jake Jamming in the Studio

Category: Boss/Roland, DiMarzio, Electro-Voice speakers, Fender, Jake E. Lee, Marshall, Seymour Duncan

Comments (3)

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  1. Khriss Bliss says:

    Gotta say this website is just dripping w awesomeness! God I absolutely loved Jake E. on the Bark /Moon tour. Before I discovered Seymour Duncan jb, my friendly neighborhood music store guy said if I was shooting for 80s metal, two advances to consider was the master vol. on jcm marshals, and the boss od1 , which of course no longer exists. Does anyone know if another ever emulated the od1 circuitry, or how close other pedals may be? Back then I figured all metal guys had good distortion pedals, but it was a more innocent age. Nonetheless, Jake got a great tone w Max Norman but he says on Ult Sin Ron Nevison wouldn’t let him vary his tone. Although that lp came out blander, every solo is fresh, communicative and stretches the shred vocab. I think if you want shred , jake is an awesome influence because he did so much to broaden the rhoads halen palette without phoning in a single lick. And that’s the hard part. I think of him every time I play because he could surprise and seduce and spook your ears within the rockin metal framework, and I could write a book on his showmanship, which , to me, he was the veryvery best, just Olympic!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Jake E. Lee used a Dimarzio Very Metal pedal on the first Badlands album. I have one and I can confirm it sounds just like his tone on that album. A bit fuzzy but still with good note definition.

  3. Khrissbliss says:

    Ok, … In a Seymour Duncan forum thread called ” RE: Jake E Lee tone”, a user named DeanSweden, on 10/23/2005 claims Jake’s axe was a 1974 Fender with northern ash (Charvel logo added), H/S/S. Not THE Allan Holdsworth model that was a doublescrew JB, but A “Allan Holdsworth prototype that was a doublescrew ’59, per a Duncan employee. The rest of his guitars had JB’s.” This would explain alot. Bark live & Ult. Sin REEKS of JB, YET the Bark at the Moon record is crisper and crunchier. ****Could it be a 59?**** Soon after, with some notoriety & probably an endorsement, he used real Charvels, some one humbucker, no tone pot, and white w/ black pickguard: if that sounds familiar, he even said Eddie’s brown sound was a starting point for his tone palette.

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