Been a loooooong time since I’d heard the Alice in Chains tune “Down In a Hole” until it hit the car radio the other day. First thing that hit me: What a unique use of a standard bottom-of-neck chord progression.
And the tune sounded so dang good! Of course guit-slinger Jerry Cantrell has an uber-distorted tone on the track, just like he always does. But the guitars sounded huge. So…here’s what he used.
From user richrenken on thegearpage.net:
My best friend engineered Dirt. If the sound you want is the layered rhythm sound on that record you won’t be able to get it with just one box or amp. There are multiple layers left and right.
The Bogner Fish and Soldano preamps into the VHT 2150 was a layer. Matchless, the little Marshall, a Bassman and many more were layered depending on the sound needed for the song….would layer guitars as a way to sound shape without compressors and EQ….
So lots of amps. Here’s Jerry talking in a ’93 Guitar World interview:
For the guitar tones, I used my Bogners, a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and a Rockman. Instead of EQing the guitar, I put down guitar tracks of different EQ sounds. I put the low stuff with the Dual Rectifier, the big whomping sh*t, and the real biting stuff that is my sound in the middle [Bogners], and then a real sh*tty, high Rockman on top of it.
I did this on each side, so that even though there’s three tracks on each side, they’re not necessarily used every time. But whatever sound you want, instead of having to twist the knob, it’s already there.
That was due to [producer] Dave Jerden – he’s really smart guy.
And for the acoustic parts:
Dave’s really into collecting old effects, like the stuff Jimi Hendrix used. We used a lot of these old Vox pedals, flanging chorus pedals. On “Down In A Hole,” we ran an acoustic through these ancient flangers and a chorus and it sounded great.
Also Dave Freidman of Racksystems said this in a short thread about Jerry’s ’90s rig, which he built:
It used to have a Rockman Octopus for channel switching and two Mosvalve power amps. He would use Greenbacks on one side and V30s on the other [in Marshall cabs].
Though Jerry was digging a Music Man EVH at the time (see More below), he of course used his desert island guitar on Dirt: a G&L Rampage. Here’s what he said about that guitar, in the context of an interview about an announcement of the is signature Rampage which came much later.
Jerry: “…a few tweaks I came up with simply because some elements of the original design were weak. The locking mechanism at the nut was basically just a couple of plates that clamped down, but they would snap off every time you put pressure on them. So I replaced the nut with a Floyd Rose, which is a lot sturdier and more stable.”
He also modified the pickup, replacing the original Schaller pickup with a Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck model.
Jerry: “The guitar came stock with a Kahler tremolo system, and the low E string would fall out of the saddle when you pushed the tremolo bar all the way down. The solution was to countersink the tremolo, which put more tension on the strings and kept the E string sitting securely in the saddle.”
Most interesting for me:
> A Rockman?!
> The JB – for some reason I thought he used a Duncan Distortion.
> Greenbacks and V30s together.
From the same GW interview:
Live gear for the Dirt tour:
“I got rid of my VHT power amps because they were a little too dark and muddy-sounding. I mean, they sound great, but the way I have it set with the preamps, I needed a solid-state thing. So I switched to MosValves. It gave me a little more crispness and crunch.
“The only thing I used for effects last time was my T.C. Electronic thing, and I sh*t-canned that because it was too complicated to figure out (laughs). I got these two Rocktron multi-effects units, and a Hush system to quiet it out a little. A pretty simple system.”
“I love [the Eddie Van Halen Ernie Ball guitar], I play it all the time. Eddie gave me that guitar and a bunch of other stuff. He’s a generous guy. It was like, ‘What do you want, a couple of stacks?’ I said, ‘No man, just a head would be great. I’ll buy it off you.’ And he goes, ‘F*ck that, man! I’ll just give it to you.’
“Eddie’s very cool. He loaded me up with a couple stacks of his Peavey 5150 stuff and gave me a guitar and a practice amp. He gave me more gear than I had (laughs). He’s a real sweetheart. He hung out in our room more than he hung with his own band.”
Another good one from Dirt