Jason Falkner On Orchestrating Gutars

June 14, 2011

imgJASON FALKNER IS REVERED IN THE pop-rock world as a guy with a seemingly endless supply of catchy hooks and cool tones. Here he reveals how he employs some of those guitar sounds.

You seem to use different guitar tones in an almost orchestral sense, the way a conductor might use violins, cellos, or brass. Describe some tones and when you might call on them.

I do try to create most of my recorded textures with my various guitars, amps, effects, and mic techniques before I pursue other instruments. I love those damn guitars that much. My favorite guitar tone is straight into my Supro 88T 2x12 combo without any effects at all. It’s the most intense, dark, sludgy distorted tone. It kills me every time with my early ’70s Tele Custom, because the bridge pickup is fairly bright and it pairs up really well with a darker-sounding tube amp like the Supro. I also use a 1966 Fender Super Reverb quite a bit for more chime. It sounds amazing with a vibrato pedal. I’ll use that amp with my ’67 Hagstrom 12-string for a very aggressive ’60s 12-string tone. Those amps are really underrated in my opinion. The four 10" speakers have a really cool depth of tone and quad image, and they are freaking loud! I also love small, low-wattage amps. I have several, but one of my faves is a really rare ’60s Guyatone 1x12 that sounds very pissed off, like a Vox AC15 but nastier. I love having something like that driving the tune and then more esoteric sounds coming in and out of the arrangement.

imgHow would you say your approach to guitar tones changed from Jellyfish to the Grays to your solo records?

When we made the Jellyfish record, I was 21 years old and I didn’t know that much about layering guitars. Even though that was the sound that was always in my head, I didn’t have any experience with multitracking at that point. We also made a concerted effort to leave lots of space in the arrangements, so many of those guitar performances are one pass with no overdubs. I had two amps set up and an A/B box. I would perform the rhythm guitar and when the solo came up I would stomp on the A/B box. Then an AC30 that was about to explode would be kicked on, and I’d do the solo on the same track. It’s a pretty exciting way to record. After that experience, I wanted to make a record with all the little voices and noises I hear in my head. That was Ro Sham Bo by the Grays, which was a complete kitchen-sink record where every idea was recorded and usually used in the final mix. I think we got some incredible sounds on that album. Then, on my first solo record, I really started to get into a philosophy where every sonically amazing tone should have a counterpart lo-fi or crappy tone so that you can really appreciate both ends of the spectrum. I still work like that. If a recording only has the most beautiful tones on every instrument it leaves me a bit cold. Same with some of the über lo-fi things. I like a mix of both on my recordings.

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