PLENTY OF GUITARISTS HAVE RECEIVED more acclaim in the rock arena than
Gary Moore. Others have gotten more nods from headbangers. And certainly
there are bluesmen with more cachet than Moore. But good luck finding a
single guitarist who has garnered the kind of critical acclaim and
commercial success that the Belfast, Ireland, native has had in all
still a teen, Moore caught the eye of Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter
Green. Besides becoming a seminal influence on the young guitarist, the
fellow Irishman helped Moore’s then-band Skid Row (no relation to the
’80s hair metal band) seal a record deal. He also sold Moore his famed
“out-of-phase” ’59 Gibson Les Paul that would become his main guitar
for years to come.
Shortly thereafter, Moore’s eclectic side emerged. He started his
own trio—taking up vocal duties in the process—before serving several
stints with Thin Lizzy, appearing on an album by classical composer
Andrew Lloyd Webber, and adding licks to projects by drummer Cozy
Powell and bassist Greg Lake. In the early ’80s, he issued a series of
metal-tinged albums full of impressive guitar work before turning back
to his roots with his 1990 masterpiece, Still Got the Blues. Though it
featured guest appearances by heavyweights such as Albert King, Albert
Collins, and George Harrison, it was Moore’s tasty tones and incredibly
lyrical lead work that won the album accolades worldwide. In 2008,
Moore released, Bad for You Baby [Eagle Rock], one of his gutsiest and
most compelling blues statements in years.
Did you have an overarching goal in terms of feel or tones when you began this project?
wanted to capture more of the energy of my live playing. We were
touring all last year, finished in November, and, by January, I was
back in the studio. If you record after a tour, your playing is strong,
your chops are up, your energy is up, your inspiration is there, and
you’ve got ideas for songs. So the best thing to do is get in and make
a record as soon as possible— before that post-tour energy dies off.
Throughout your career you’ve employed numerous traditional
blues forms and progressions, but your tone usually has a lot more gain
and bite than that of traditional blues guitarists.
And I’ll tell you why. I played rock for a long time, and then I made
Still Got the Blues in 1990, starting off very quietly, and going back
to the early Fleetwood Mac kind of format. Then I realized, “Man, if I
play like this, everyone is going to think I’m faking it. It’s not
going to sound like me.” So I decided to keep more of the rock guitar
sound. I’ve tried to get a modern, less high-gain version of that
natural sound that Clapton had in the ’60s. And I’ve pretty much done
that ever since—except for Blues for Greeny [Moore’s 1995 Peter Green
tribute], where I emulated Peter’s tone as much as I could.
What gear did you use for Bad for You Baby?
use my ’59 Les Paul at all. I played a goldtop Gibson Vintage Original
Spec Les Paul on “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and “Trouble
Ain’t Far Behind,” and a ’61 Gibson ES-335 on “Did You Ever Feel
Lonely” and “Holding On.” I played the ES-335 through a little brown
Tolex Fender Vibroverb reissue from 1989, because I wanted a very
old-fashioned sound on those two songs. I used a ’68 Fender Telecaster
on “Down the Line”—the fast country-blues one—and “Walkin’ Thru the
Park.” I had played that Tele on the first track of Still Got the
Blues, called “Moving On,” but I’d never used it for playing lead
before. Somebody changed the neck, so I don’t know what year it is, but
it plays great, and it has a very aggressive, Albert Collins-type vibe.
Did you plug into any other amps?
I used a Fender
Dual Showman head, which is what Peter Green used with Fleetwood Mac.
The original cabinet had two 15-inch JBLs, but I never liked those, so
I use it with a Marshall 4x12 cab loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. I
used that and a custom German solidbody with Bare Knuckle pickups—which
are kind of out of phase to give you a Peter Green vibe—on “Someday
Baby.” I just ran both pickups up full, and I went straight into the
amp for that song. I used a Marshall DSL 2000 for a couple of things,
and I used the ES-335 through a Marshall 1959 SPLX head—which is
basically an old 1959 with an effects loop—on “Did You Ever Feel
Lonely.” That amp has a very dirty sound—almost like it’s about to blow
up. I used DSLs from about 1996 until last year, but now I’m using two
Marshall 1959HWs—the handwired reissues— onstage for a really nice,
big, round sound. They have more presence and a rawer sound than the
DSLs, with a feel that’s closer to that of the amps Cream and Hendrix
used. I’m also having a signature Marshall built that will try to
incorporate all those qualities. I’m going for a 100-watt head like the
old 1959 Super Lead—with a spring reverb and the four inputs—but it
will have a switch that links the inputs internally so you don’t have
to jumper them. It’ll also have a halfpower switch, and a boost with
just enough gain to give a lift to solos.
What effects are you using these days?
I use a
DigiTech reverb pedal because the handwired Marshalls don’t have
reverb. I used a Roger Mayer Stone Fuzz on the opening track, and I
really like the T-Rex Moller, which has a clean boost on one side and
an overdrive on the other. I also use the T-Rex Mudhoney
distortion/overdrive and Replica delay pedals on “All Your Love” and
“30 Days” to get those rockabilly-type sounds. The Mudhoney has a nice,
warm tone. I’ll also be using a T-Rex chorus on the next tour.
“Preacher Man Blues” has sort of a Booker T. and the MGs/Steve
Cropper feel to it, and you really lay back and take a backseat to the
rhythm and harmonica.
The whole song has a very held-back
feel, so you have to really pull back on the solos and not rush ahead.
When you get to those solo breaks, you have to play them really dirty,
and then pull right back. That very thin, hard sound is a red Gibson
Firebird I picked up in Finland last year. That guitar has a nice twang
to it, and it really brings out the twang from the spring reverb. I
played the harmonica myself, which I’ve never done before.
How did you get into singing?
I began singing when I
couldn’t find a singer and had just given up trying. I got sick of the
singers I was working with because there were always problems. I hated
singing rock, though. It wasn’t until I discovered the blues that I
started to enjoy singing. I brought the song keys down a bit, and I
didn’t play rhythm guitar through every song, so I was kind of
answering myself with the guitar, which made it a lot more interesting.
You’ve dabbled in a lot of styles over the years, but you’ve
stayed largely in the blues-rock realm for the last stretch. Are your
experimental days behind you?
No, I would never say that.
Otis Taylor, who I play with, wants me to do an acoustic album. He had
me playing banjo and lots of acoustic instruments this year, so that is
a possibility. I’d also like to make a cover album of songs from when I
was growing up in the ’60s, but I’d do my own versions, rather than
trying to capture the original sounds. That would be experimental by
nature, because that era was so psychedelic. I just saw Jeff Beck last
week, and he got me thinking about sounds on the guitar again, because
he was using so many different tones. He had ring modulators and lots
of reverbs and delays, and they really worked for him. He had a
beautiful sound, and it made me realize that sometimes you should be a
bit more sonically adventurous.