Tell us about your Flying V.
It’s a 1989 Gibson hot-rodded with Seymour Duncan humbuckers, and strung with GHS Boomers, gauged .010-.052. I always end up playing that guitar live. It helps me sound like Malcolm Young!
Do you use other guitars in the studio?
Yes. I also have a ’69 reissue Fender Telecaster, a ’98 Gibson Les Paul Special, and a ’67 Trini Lopez Standard—which is one of my favorites.
Isn’t the Trini Lopez kind of a strange choice for a hard rocker such as yourself?
That guitar sounds like nothing else—the tone is just amazing! It’s very buttery, warm, and round, but it has a bite. In the studio, when I put it up against the other guitars, it often sounds the best. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein, though. The Gibson Custom Shop put on a neck from around ’72, and they replaced the Bigsby someone had installed with a stop tailpiece from a Les Paul. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece.
What about your amps?
I plug straight into a Vox AC30 outfitted with vintage Siemens tubes—no pedals or effects. I also have a Matchless 30-watt combo. Matt uses his Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier, and we often record with a ’59 Sears Silvertone.
What do you look for in a lead guitarist?
It’s hard to specify, because it’s always about feel. They have to play what is right for the song, and yet they must also have a voice of their own.
How did you get Tom Morello and Vernon Reid to guest on Death or Glory?
Somebody once called me the “Pied Piper” of lead guitarists. I’m always looking for my Eddie Van Halen, my Steve Stevens, my Jimmy Page. Somehow, I’ve managed to attract some brilliant players, but all of those connections were pretty organic. For example, Tom caught my band at the Viper Room in Los Angeles a few years ago, and he really liked the show. We became good friends, and when I wanted to enlist some heavy hitters for the album, he was at the top of the list. He plays on “My Machine.” It was kind of the same with Vernon, who guests on “One and Only.” I’ve always been a fan of theirs. Their voices as lead guitarists and songwriters are unbelievable. When I first heard Tom’s playing on Rage’s “Killing in the Name,” I thought, “Holy sh*t! I love this!”