Part 2 (Here’s Part 1)
Warren DeMartini is yet another example of the fact that much of someone’s tone is in the hands. I say that because Warren played an alder/maple/maple super strat with a Floyd Rose bridge and Seymour Duncan JB humbucker through a 100w Marshall head into Marshall cabs. A typical setup for the LA (or anywhere) ’80s.
Yet Warren didn’t sound like anyone else – except for stealing a few things from George Lynch! – and still doesn’t. Warren’s precise touch and fluid, melodic style distinguish him from anyone else. So a lot of it is in the hands – but not all, which is why I asked him to run down his gear. We talked about what gear he used on the new Ratt Infestation album, a little bit about his live gear and a few details about his Invasion-era gear. Details! Here we go:
WoodyTone: What guitars did you use on Infestation?
I had two Charvels, the black and [the] white ones with the French writing. [The writing] says “Too fast to live, too young to die” – it’s from a James Dean tribute I thought was cool. [Btw, even though the fans call these guitars "Frenchie, he doesn't!] I also had a Performance Guitar variation of a strat or [Jackson] Soloist made out of koa, and a Gretsch Nashville.
I used the Gretsch on a couple overdubs for textural stuff, so it was mostly the Charvels and the Performance guitar.
[Warren has been working with Performance Guitar in Hollywood for a long time. The company makes high-end, expensive replicas of some of Warren's guitars.]
Do all the guitars have your signature Duncan pickup?
The Charvels have that pickup with a Seymour Duncan Quarter-Pounder in the neck [everyone calls it that, but Duncan calls it a Quarter Pound]. The koa has JB [no neck pickup].
What’s the difference between your signature pickup and the JB?
They’re pretty similar except that I think the JB is around 17 ohms and mine is 18.5 ohms. I tried about 6 or 8 [prototypes]. I took the original crossed swords Charvel I recorded Invasion with to the Seymour Duncan factory in Santa Barbara. I spent an afternoon with Seymour and Maricela. We’d sink something in, tune up and try it. Four or five people were listening – it was kind of a consensus thing, and we always kept coming back to that one [pickup].
I’m getting into the subtleties of that stuff more and more, but I don’t know everything there is to know about wire and all that stuff. To me, if it sounds good, it is good.
[A few items:
> Duncan lists the JB at 16.4 ohms DC resistance and the WD signature at 17.6 ohms – but these measures can vary from pickup to pickup. DC resistance is often assumed to be an indicator of pickup output, but pickup manufacturers always stress that DCR doesn't tell the whole story. What's worth noting the most above is that Warren says his pickups are around 18.5!
> The JB has an alnico 5 (A5 or AV) magnet while the WD has an A2 (or AII). The A2 will sound more middy and the A5 will have more top and bottom.
> Maricela Juarez is the semi-famous Duncan custom shop pickup expert often better known by her initials, MJ.
> Warren doesn't use stock Floyd Roses. He upgrades the blocks and possibly other parts presumably to get a warmer tone, the main reason Floyds are altered.]
What picks and strings are you using now?
For strings I’ve been using Rotosound 10s, the nickel Roto Yellows, 10 to 46. For picks I use nylon 73 mm Dunlops.
So no more steel picks?
I don’t use steel picks anymore. It made sense at the time, but after a while it sort of solved one thing I was going after [quick attack] but created other problems. They’d actually shave the winds off the E, A and especially D strings so by the sixth or seventh song I’d have half a string. That doesn’t sound too good (laughs).
[A reader wanted to know if using the steel picks ever caused Warren any physical issues like tendinitis. He said no.]
You said you used Diezel V4 and Soldano SLO 100 heads on the new album, both through Diezel cabs. Why not the Marshall cabs you’ve always used?
I didn’t get to compare the Diezel cabs with a Marshall, which I’ve been using since high school, or junior high. So I can’t answer that thoroughly. I just thought [the Diezel cabs] sounded very good. It wasn’t something we had to mess with too much. I’d use them again, but I haven’t been able to compare them with Marshall 4x12s which I know best.
Can you share any amp settings?
The room is such a big player in the overall sound that [settings change] every day. The same system will sound completely different from one room to another. I have sort of noticed that I tend to set everything sort of in the middle, then adjust it from there depending on the room.
What amps do you use in your live rig?
Most of the time I use one head and have the other as a backup. I used Diezels when we toured in 2007, last year it was Soldanos, this year who knows. I usually Marshall cabs live [with 25w greenback Celestions].
Invasion-Era Gear Questions
Rumor is you had a grail [Marshall] plexi that you used to keep fans on in the studio because the plate voltage was so high. It supposedly blew every few hours. Is that true?
It is true. It’s a mid/late ’70s 100-watt. I used that amp on Invasion – I bought it just after the Out of the Cellar tour and before the Invasion of Your Privacy album. I used that plexi head with another, and on most of Dancing Undercover. Jose [Jose Arrendondo, the same Jose who may have worked on EVH's pre-VH1 gear] told me that something had happened inside one of the trannies – a seal had worn away, causing it to arc, so every third time we turned it on it would blow something up. He was able to inject it with something to solve that problem. It’s [still] working fine. The last thing I used that amp on was on Detonator, “Nobody Rides for Free.”
What guitar did you use on Invasion?
The crossed swords with a [Duncan] JB. Actually, for that record I might’ve had a Dan Armstrong pickup in the sword. I never wrote that stuff down back then, but now I’m actually curious to know. I had it in that guitar for a while. It was a different-looking pickup – completely flat. It didn’t have the [bobbins]. Thanks for reminding me – I’ll have to look that up somehow.
A fan wanted to know about your side-to-side vibrato, where you picked that up. Was it from George Lynch?
It was a George Lynch thing. I think he saw Jeff Beck do it, and he started doing it and it just sounded so cool I started doing it. It’s exactly like you would do with a slide, except there’s no slide. [George said in one interview that he started doing that to try to mimic a sound Hendrix made.]
Did you really use a Fender Super Champ to record the solo tones on Out of the Cellar?
Yes, a Fender Super Champ, and I disconnected the speaker and plugged it into an EV speaker that was loaded in an Orange cab. I had an orange cab with four 200-watt EV speakers – the thing weighed about a million pounds. We went directly into one of those speakers and mic’d that up.
Your lead playing seemed to shift after Out of the Cellar, from shreddy to more bluesy. What inspired the change?
I don’t know. I guess I hear a definite departure from Out of the Cellar, but it’s all connected. You know, you sort of grow with experience and the more you do it, and it kind of gets refined. When I listen back to stuff, I think I hear my playing changing but it’s connected at the same time.
> The May 2010 issue of Guitar World runs down Warren’s 2009 live rig. It states that he sometimes uses a modified Boss SD-1 overdrive pedal live, as well as an MXR Carbon Copy analog delay, but prefers not to use either.
> I’ll be interviewing Ratt’s other guitar-slinger soon, Carlos Cavazo. So if you have any questions for him – about gear, Ratt or even Quiet Riot – send them to me here.