Here are a few more excerpts from that book “Gear Secrets of the Guitar Legends,” these from the Edward Van Halen section – which is at best incomplete, at worst “wrong” in some places. “Wrong” is in quotes because for the most part no one’s really sure, so just IMO based on considerable research (ongoing!).
Anyhow, here’s what EVH said in that book about various. Interesting stuff. When reading, bear in mind these quotes are from an interview done in 2002 or 2003, the Peavey period. Also, I bolded the stuff I thought was particularly interesting.
ODs, Variac and Marshalls
“I’ve never used an overdrive box. That’s what made me use a Variac when I used to use the Marshall. I’d lower the voltage to about 89 or 90 V, instead of 110, because that seemed like the sweet spot to me. The Variac makes the amp overdrive, but at a lower volume. It would make the amp a lot quieter and I’d get the exact same tone.
“The only way I can use a Marshall is with everything turned all the way up. But for a Marshall, when you turn everything all the way up, it’s flat. So you’re not adding anything, you’re just taking it out, when you touch any of the controls.”
“Those old Marshalls are all so different and you won’t find two that sound the same.”
Original 5150 Amp
“Tonally, the 5150 is a whole dfferent ballgame compared to a Marshall. We added an extra preamp tube because I wanted more sustain but without a massive amount of distortion on top of it, and [Peavey amp designer] James Brown figured out a way to do it.
“For recording, I use three 5150 heads through three cabinets and I have them all mic’d a little bit different. So when you go to mix you would have three sounds to combine: one setup clean, one’s kind of medium and one’s full over the top. When you’re mixing, you’re bringing in and out the balance between the three.”
Strings and Setup
“With my guitars, the most important part is the setup – the guitar is a piece of wood and metal, and that’s it.
“My guitars are set up with regular Peavey 9-42 gauge strings. I lower the strings to the point of buzz and then back it off just a hair. Why make it hard to play? Tone comes from your fingers and how you play, not how high the strings are off the fingerboard.”
Style and Tone, and the Nuge Story
“The main thing people have to understand is that even if you use the same gear as me, set up in exactly the same way, you’re just not going to sound like me. As I’ve always said, how you sound is more about how you play than what you play.
“Years ago, we were opening for Ted Nugent at the Capitol Center in Largo, Maryland. I’m play my original Frankie and my 100w Marshall. I used a long speaker cable instead of a long guitar cable and I had my amp right by my feet at the edge of the stage. I was going through my MXR Flanger into my Phaser, then into the Echoplex and finally into the head.
“We’re doing soundcheck, and Ted, who’s a pretty funny guy, shows up. He comes up and goes, ‘Hey, where’s the little magic black box you got? How are you getting that sound?’ I handed him my guitar he played, and it sounds like Ted.
“If he expected to pick up my guitar and sound like me, I’m sorry. If anybody out there thinks that if they buy my guitar and my amp and then they’ll sound like me, you’re wrong. It just doesn’t work that way.”