So can we say that the Scholz Rockman was NOT used on Eliminator, and instead Billy used a Legend amp? I’m in that camp – for now. That leaves us what he used on Afterburner, which to my ears has a noticeably “less” woody/meaty guitar tone.
To paraphrase from part 1 of this supremely enlightening series (LOL), Billy said he used a Rockman into a variety of Fenders and Marshalls all on at once at high volume. Honestly, it doesn’t mean a whole lot because we’re talking about recording tone – but I don’t hear it. I hear the Rockman, maybe through an amp, but the huge volume just isn’t coming across. This tune is close, though:
Here’s what else he said about Afterburner, from a March 1986 Guitar Player magazine cover interview. All responses and quotes are Billy talking.
What he used for different sounds:
…The few tonal variations that you might encounter on the Afterburner sessions were mainly done through some guitar changes. If we need a little bit thinner sound for a particular passage, I switched to a different guitar to achieve that rather than going to great extremes changing amplifiers and whatnot. We wound up using more guitars than different amplifiers.
GP Q: Which instrument is featured in the “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Sharp Dressed Man” solos?
…The Dean Z [Explorer shape], and we continued to use that same instrument for some of the Afterburner sessions. Believe it or not, one of the bright, shiny stars came through from strings and things in Memphis, one of their St. Blues models. It was a Stratocaster-shaped instrument outfitted with Floyd Rose’s wiggle stick and one of Duncan’s high-powered pickups [JB?]. The combination was an amazing kind of magic. It’s got nice bottom end, and then it cuts through as well at the top. You can hear it on “Velcro Fly” and “Can’t Stop Rocking”….
[To me that sounds like it would sound terrible (Floyd, high-output pickups, Rockman), but it’s not so bad.]
On the “Dipping Low” tone:
We unplugged everything [in the amp room] except the Legend 50 [combo] and a Marshall 100 through a 2×12 cabinet. We used a little of the Rockman, so the two amps were running in sync along with the Rockman through the board.
[This does sound a little more raw, though it’s tough to hear it with the synth and the mix.]
More on Afterburner
GP Q: What was your soling process for the new album?
Billy: Most of them were done on the spot. One exception was “Rough Boy”…the structuring in the beginning of that track was written beforehand. The solo tracks in the middle and toward the end were improvised…. My favorite comment to date has been that it was the closest thing to an Eagles track that you’ll ever hear ZZ Top doing, only it was played with a10-penny nail instead of a stylus!
> Somewhere in “Sleeping Bag” – in “a little Egyptian-sounding passage,” Billy said – an MXR Pitch Transposer was used.
> Supposedly “Delirious” was written “back in the Deguello days,” Billy says (what part, just the lyrics?!). He notes vocoder – kind of like a talk box – was used at some point on the track, presumably for the ’80s robot-like backing vox.
Listen if you must.
More On That Era
> He said he played bass “on a few tracks” on the album.
> Live rig: “We’re still hanging heavily on the old Bisarktone. Ibanez came out with their new rack stuff – DDLs and choruses, flangers. I still have a couple of the Roland items. Some of the new stuff we’re leaning towards is made by Peavey. We’re using all Peavey graphic EQs within the effects loop. We’re still using Marshall amps, but we’re taking a real strong look at the new Peavey Butcher.” [The mid-’80s Peavey Butcher was 120w of tube power, 4x6L6, supposedly very similar to a Marshall JCM800. The Butcher name was recently resuscitated by Peavey for a metal amp.]
> Live guitars: “We’re using all Dean’s right now. Mr. Tom Holmes out of Nashville has offered up a couple of his custom pieces. The Dean mummy video guitar is getting some play. George Gruhn has a couple of new, interesting things which have caught my fancy – the Guild offering, the Night Bird, is pretty neat, but George is also offering up some custom instruments from the back side of his shop.”
> On pick harmonics: “You are actually picking with the fatter side, the shoulder. That gives you a wider grip and offers that meat connection: When the pick slides off, the edge off, the edge of the thumb can graze that twine and make it whine. Harmonics are the upper registers, and chorusing always enhances the higher end. So it’s not a bad idea to try a little chorusing when attempting to harmonic-out in the stratosphere….”
> Q: Do you for see the day when the straight guitar — amp combination will be obsolete…? “No, I really don’t. When all is said and done, I go back to the house and plug into a 4×10 Bassman, and just turn it up.”
> Q: What’s your all-time favorite setup? “Pearly Gates [his ’59 Les Paul] and a Fender – give me a piggyback Bassman in blonde!
> Q: What would you most like to improve about your playing? “What I’m striving for is to pick up speed. It’s like rock ‘n roll was built for the fast!” [Remember it was the ’80s….]
> Q: Do you practice? “In the past, I recounted the words of Bill Wyman. He said, “I’m in the Rolling Stones, I don’t have to practice.” But we do. We turn in a couple of hours a day if we can. I think it’s important.”