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Guitar Geeks



Bruce's Guitar Geek Corner - Equipment

New Custom Bruce Amp made by Paul Burford

Paul Burford contacted me through the LA site to say that he’d made a valve amp – he sent me some photos and it looked very interesting so I invited him down to Brighton so we could fire it up and see how it sounded. It was fantastic , very much in the tradition of a mid 80’s period Marshall, but less scoopy with a clear pronounced mid range and tight bottom end. Very AC/DC in fact. I loved it , but with it being a master volume, it wouldn’t be something I’d use personally that often. Paul then got another amp out of a cardboard box. It had my signature on it and one single volume knob and a switch to change the rectifier from solid state to valve. He reminded me of a conversation we’d had where I talked about always bouncing between the AC30 and the Plexis. I wanted the vox mid range and rich harmonics with the roar of the Marshall power amp. Paul had gone away and built it for me and to my astonishment turned up with the head housed in an old Hiwatt box. It was a big moment for both of us when the thing actually came to life. Truly magic – the sound I have heard in my head for the last 5 years. Quite an emotional experience and I know how much thought and time must have gone into getting this so right. Here’s a little clip on the day we met at Brighton Electric rehearsal rooms and some video we did in the studio the following day.

More more information on Paul's Amps please visit www.vsamplification.co.uk


Secret weapon- I have found a power soak that actually sounds usable. Hooray! I am running the amps on 70- 90% of full power- but these sound great down to 50%.. lower than that and you lose the speaker compression- but still sounds pretty good at bedroom levels. It’s a way of running amps without master volume, at full pelt, but this sits between head an speaker so you can control the volume and not kill everyone. I don’t like the cheaper ones- but this I am impressed with. Just think you could do a pub gig with a proper amp... See you all next week! B x


Black Dog

Glass Triangles



Plank Spank Old School

Plank Spank Old School (Outtakes)
As you might remember I was on the lookout for a Kramer Pacer from the right year to recreate some of the very early LA material. Thank you all for your various emails on where I could get parts etc, but I was reluctant to buy anything that was a repro and not the real thing, as the wood rarely matches the quality of the original- and it’s all about the wood! I found one on ebay -the right year and exactly the same as my old guitar (now lost forever). The Pacer (unlike its cousin the Berretta) never caught on as a known guitar and didn’t really become collectable in the marketplace and so I got his one for a song from a lovely goy called Eric. I must admit to being really excited when it arrived, and it felt a bit weird opening the case and reliving that moment when my folks had bought me the original for my 18th birthday. It must have been a big sacrifice for them financially back then as they weren’t cheap, and it was an important guitar for me as it enabled me to do stuff that was impossible on the old strat copy I had. Being a teenager I don’t think I ever said thank you properly … I called my Dad and said ‘thank you’ 26 years later. It felt very nostalgic plug gin it in. I wasn’t disappointed- Into the new JTM 45 reissue flat out , I got instant brown sound circa Eddie pre 1984. I was inspired to finish a little homage to EVH called ‘Plank Spank Old School’- I stopped tapping when we did the Van Halen tour as I felt it was disrespectful to Eddie – but some of you guys have emailed and encouraged me to dust it off- and of course you need the right sort of guitar to do it well. The Les Pauls with high action and big strings don’t make it easy. When we played with VH, Eddie always used to ask ‘ why do you like to make it difficult for yourself?’ I don’t know Ed. …. Anyway, I hope you can hear that it’s done as an affectionate nod to EVH. No one can compete with him on his territory- but what I always take from Eddie is the freedom and spontaneity in his playing. For that reason I’ve included some out takes where the tape just runs for a couple of mins. ‘Plank Spank’ itself has one edit as its half of one take and half of another. Special thanks to Metal Gez who engineered it so well.

Click images to enlarge 

This is a 78 Les paul custom which I bought from Unit Four second hand music shop in Scarborough in 1988 or 9. The finish flaked off quite quickly (older guitars are not covered in that hideous think varnish stuff which chokes all the tone out of a guitar). It didn’t stay in tune as it had an awful brass nut which we swapped for graphite. These days I use bone but this nut still sounds good- so we’ll leave it be. Charlie Cutforth scraped the design into the guitar (he’s the talented guy who created the devil logos for us) and after that it got a proper hammering night after night. The tone pots got removed and it was refretted with the biggest frets I could get at the time (look tiny now compared to the monsters we can get now). Its popper worn in to say the least and some bits of binding have come off.

I had it last in 1996 I think when I thought I’d never play guitar again and I sold it to Chris Leonard. Chris- aka the skinny rock n roll Jesus- had a great career as a session guitar player and is now a songwriter. He’s celebrating as songs he wrote with Jake Gosling with Ed Sheeran have been well received to say the least. Ed’s record has done over a million in the UK alone... How proud I am of the boy... Any way Chris came down to see me yesterday and brought Blackfish back. I opened the case and it exactly the same as it was back in 96. It has a big character. If you listen to the live stuff on the player on the website that this guitar. Old guitars do it for me, I have bought maybe 20 new ones in the last few years and got rid of all of them..... They offend me.

Click images to enlarge

This is what is know in the trade as ‘a bitzer’. I don’t think there is a single Fender USA US part on the whole thing. I bought a squire tele for peanuts, now the thing about Japanese squires is for a brief period in the early 80’s from one particular factory they were better made then the USA Fenders. This is one of those ones. I guled the tele to the banjo for My Kinda Life and when that was retired I bolted the neck onto a ESP strat copy. Tom Mates (great lutheir) made me a new fingerboard from, birds eye maple and did the amazing little inlay and a local carpenter carved the fish on it. I burned all the nasty varnish off it with a blow torch, and with it came the tobacco sunburst finish. I used this for the last Angles tour and for all the blow stuff. Its a big sounding strat – middly and overwound. More Hendrix than Mark Knopfler. I gave this to Luke Potashnick (another guitarist who I had studying with me-- and now teaches me stuff!) when his band Rooster were kicking off, he’s used it ever since, and I have nabbed it back for the Angels stuff – he can have it back soon. Trouble is there are no strats quite the same as woodfish. It sits in the mix between the hats and bass drum, being all fat and cool. I tried to replace it with some masterbuilt and custom shop relics- as did Luke- but they didn’t measure up on sonic weight and tone. BTW I had a great experience with Bare Knuckle pick ups- I bought a set called slowhand for a strat. They are magic and made my other strat come to life - those guys really listen to what you need and they know their stuff.


Here are a few interesting guitars used on the recent noodlings:

· Gibson 1961 LG – small bodied ‘Ladies Guitar’. I am no acoustic player but even I sound okay on this one. Its older than me and much better preserved.

· 71 Telecaster found in a second hand shop in Brighton. Got weird pick ups in – don’t know what they are but they sound big. I could tell it was owned by a great player by the way it was worn. I got the huge frets banged in and removed the tone pot and branded it with fish.

· 76 Les Paul Deluxe -Cherry Sunburst- big frets but original other than that. Brighter than a standard or custom and I use it for over dubs. Pete Townsend used these quite often- but it will never replace my main guitars as it doesn’t have the weight in the mids. Bloody heavy though.

· An ebay bargain . I paid 750 quid for this early 90’s standard and removed the hideous purple finish. Its one piece mahogany bogy and it’s a real working guitar. Big frets one vol pot as usual – but this one feels average but sounds very very good. The best of the bunch in fact.

I’ll stick up some other interesting guitars in a few days time - some that have been returned after a long period of being loaned to some of my guitar playing friends.


On board in order of signal path is: korg tuner, cry baby wah (modified by Rob Triggs), tube screamer, vintage Ibanez graphic eq, mxr micro flange, a Tc electronic delay that I only use occasionally then  a splitter box with a earth lift. The dry signal goes then to the PA and is mic'd with a single sm57 (placed on outside of the cone) out-front sound man is asked not to change the eq!! There should never be two mics on my rig as I dotn want phasing problems or someone else setting the balance. The slitter box sends a second signal through a vintage ( must not be new!) boss dd3 and the whole signal remains dry but is delayed by 30 ms- so the monitor amp comes out fractionally later than the dry amp. This sounds like a double,  and helps me out in a dry venue or when playing outside without the need to add reverb which messes up the sound through the PA.  In the past I have  added a third ac30- but that's why I am deaf now. Two is plenty.  I used to use a boss noise gate but have taken it out the board and it is controllable enough without it. Once the whole thing is up and running it sounds like Concorde taking off and the guitar must not be microphonic in anyway - it should feedback on any given note at will, and be controllable.  I'll mess around with the valves until I get a good set, and burn them in till I get the right harmonics coming through when they are cranked. Once a valve gets a bit whistley, I'll replace it. The old Ibanez graphic does give the amp a right beating and you can literally smell the burning - but what can you do? You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs...


AC30 out of box - so we can mess with the valves- going to orange cab in isolation booth, JCM 800, fender bassman, Cornell version of Marshall Plexi - going to ac30 cab in drum room mic'd with ribbon mic. 


The mic featured here is the sE Rupert Neve RNR1. The RNR1 is the world’s first HF active ribbon microphone. The mic was designed by sE with legendary pro audio equipment designer Rupert Neve. More information about sE Rupert Neve microphones can be found at http://www.seelectronics.com/se-rupert-neve-mics/


Marshall have helped out and sent me a 2061X combo- as usual it has no master vol. This one has only two controls- volume and tone. Both are on full all the time. (I could actually be very happy with this amp with no controls- just on and off.). And right out the box had the classic Marshall vintage magic. I did a little audio clip of the amp warming up with the 74 custom. Sounds like the Alman Brothers- which is fine by me- You can hear me ragging it with a tube screamer and pushing it further with the old graphic on the Aint Gonna Cry clip- a great little amp. Can’t wait for the JTM 45 to come next week. The cabs were also new Marshalls open backs with 2 vintage 30’s in. Sounded significantly better than my faithful orange cab (warmer and more musical) and I ran both. Thank you Marshall !

Audio sample of me playing the new Marshall head straight out of the box:


I have had an incredibly good experience with the guys at Bare Knuckle Pick ups. Although I’m obsessive about tone I’ve been very unadventurous when it comes to pickups tending to stick with what was in the guitar or relying on a few traditional replacement options. But I had an issue recently with a 70’s strat which sounded very good acoustically but a was right dog when plugged in. I knew what I wanted tone wise , but I had no idea on which pick up would deliver it, so I called BNK on the recommendation of Luke from the Temperance Movement. I was looked after right away , and had a long phone conversation on what I wanted, which resulted in me ordering a set of slowhands. They were made to order and when I dropped them in the guitar, I was blown away but the fact that they were the absolute embodiment of what I had described. The detail and weight in the tone was a truly beautiful thing. I am now working with Ben at BKP to replace the Pus in all my les Paul’s. We take care, work slowly replacing one at a time and Ben always has time to talk through the fine detail with my and has really helped me realise the sounds in my head. It’s a curse I suppose - I take guitar sound very seriously and it can drive you mad. But when it comes good- there’s nothing like the feeling of striking that big G chord and the air moving in sympathy with the universe. BK pickups have an organic quality and a ‘soul’ that I have not heard anywhere else. Thank you BKP.