Anders Osborne on Using Multiple Amps

July 7, 2011

ALTHOUGH HE’S BEST KNOWN AS the unofficial poet laureate of Louisiana’s fertile roots music scene, Anders Osborne is also a wicked slide player and a serious tone junkie. His current palette ranges from bold and beautiful cleans to demonically overdriven noises. A devoted Strat cat, he uses an arsenal of amps to craft his tones with the care of an old-world blacksmith. —Jimmy Leslie

What were the amps on your most recent CD, American Patchwork, and how did you set them up?

I like mixing big and small amps. I used a 100-watt Marshall JCM800, a ’64 Fender Concert, a 50-watt Marshall plexi, a Vox AC30, a ’50s Silvertone 1x10 combo, and a vintage Gibson 1x8 combo. A custom splitter box sent the signal out to four amps, and I daisychained the others. Certain combinations such as the Concert and the JCM800 sound awesome chained together. I plug into one input on the Concert and then run a cable from its other input to the input of the JCM800. I lined everything up in a big room and shuffled the order until I found my sounds. Then I moved around the room to find the sweet spots.

Can you tell me exactly how the Patchwork sessions went down?

I cut most of my basics using two-tofour amps. I like to have a close mic on each amp, and a couple of condensers around the room. I really sculpted the sound with the wall of amps during overdubs. Generally, I will double or even triple track certain licks for emphasis. If I have a peel-the-paint-offthe- walls sound going, then I might play my Strat with a super-clean sound, double that, and tuck it underneath. That provides an articulate string tone in the center of the huge, muddy sound. “On the Road to Charlie Parker” is a good example. It has close to 40 tracks of guitar.

How do you sort through so many tracks during mixing?

I try not to over track, so I don’t have that much to sift through. A particular passage might sound perfect with only one amp. Taking the time to figure that out saves a ton of time mixing.

What’s your stage amp situation?

I’m using two amps. One is my brand new signature Category 5 4x10 combo. It’s a hybrid between a Fender Super and a Concert with the power jacked up to 110 watts. But it’s not just louder—it’s more! Somehow, it’s still very warm and old-fashioned feeling. I’m also using a JCM800 through a 4x12 cabinet. Combining the jabby punch of my Cat 5 4x10 with the girth of the 4x12s is killer. Category 5 is also making me a twochannel amp designed to combine the sound of my plexi and my JCM800. We’re almost there, but I’m waiting to get it just right.

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