Not angry at all: Tommy Shaw strums his Taylor 12-string.
POP-ROCK LEGEND TOMMY Shaw is currently on the road with Styx, playing the band’s smash albums The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight in their entirety. Styx is also offering new recordings of some of their classic tunes, and Shaw explains how he tracked them, then and now. —Matt Blackett
“I had a very simple rig when I first joined the band because I came out of playing clubs,” he says. “I had a plexi Marshall and a 4x12 Marshall cabinet that only had one speaker working. When it came time to redo ‘The Grand Illusion,’ I used a newer Marshall— a TSL100 into a 4x12 cabinet—and miked it with an AKG 414 and a Shure SM57. I played an Explorer. I wanted it to be a Gibson with humbuckers, and I had my Les Paul, but for some reason that Explorer just seemed to speak better on that track. There’s a lot of wood on that guitar, and that solo needed a lot of wood.
“For ‘Fooling Yourself,’ I think I originally played a Gibson J-45— tuned to dropped-D—and I used my Taylor for the new recording. ‘Crystal Ball’ is an interesting one. The first time we did it, I tried to play that part fingerpicking on a 12-string, which is kind of a lost cause even though I still do it [laughs]. But on record you could really hear all the imperfections. So what we decided to do was take the high strings off and double it. Then we took the regular strings off, put the high strings back on—Nashville tuning—and I doubled it again. So it comes off like this very precise-sounding 12-string. I did the same thing this time around but I didn’t put as many overdubs on it. I used my smaller-bodied Taylor for the lower part and then I doubled it with the high strings on my big jumbo Taylor 12. We wanted them to give fans the same feeling that those songs first did, but also let people experience the band as it is now. I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Grand Illusion
Pieces of Eight