This is the Loud Fast Gear Report. I’m going investigate the noise and loudness of some of our favorite artists to see what they like to use to get loud and gritty. In this second report I went to The Saint in Midtown to visit a friend of mine and ask him about his gear, his tastes and some of his favorite gig stories. This is Jake Painter checking in with Mr. Johnny Bailey while we listen to Pink Floyd.
What’s your name and what bands are you in?
My name is Johnny Harpo or Johnny Bailey and I sing and play guitar in a band called Rigorous Proof. And that’s it.
What rig are you playing on now?
So the amp I’m playing on now I built with the drummer of our band with a tube kit I got online. It’s modeled after 60’s 18 watt Marshall. The reason I built it is because I had this Fender Hot Rod Deluxe or Blues Deluxe, it’s the same amp but it kept blowing up on me and I couldn’t fix it. I fixed it 8 or 10 ten times and the last time I could’t fix it I said “fuck this” I didn’t even decide to fix it again. At the time I had some money so I went online, bought the kit and for the next couple of weeks, the drummer of my band Wes Forster, we painstakingly built this thing in the garage and finally got it fired up and rolling in time for our next gig that was days away.
In 1965 Marshall Amplification released the model 1958 2×10, the 1973 2×12, and the 1974 1×12. They were released having a closed back that gave these amps more low end as opposed to other amps with an open back that gave them more high end.
Are there any effects pedals you’re using right now?
I have some basic stuff. I have a Morley Volume pedal which has the option to have a preset volume which I don’t use because I’m really lazy. I don’t like effects pedals but out of necessity to use them in our band, our band is set up like Pink Floyd. We only got one guitar player, one keyboard player, a drummer and a bassist. So I have to be rhythm and lead sometimes. So I got that and then Steve of Moondog turned me onto this overdrive called the Timmy. It’s basically what he calls a transparent overdrive. Which I like because having a Marshall amp I have the overdrive, which I play clean and is usually at about 3 or 4 and the Timmy does the rest. Before any of that though my guitar goes straight into an Xotic compressor which Drea from Moondog turned me onto. From there, the pedal chain is really important to me. So it goes the volume, then the tuner, then the Timmy, after the Timmy it hits a chorus which is made by TC Electronics or something. It’s a $100 chorus that has three knobs on it which I like. Everything with me is the less I have to deal with the better. I don’t need 800 knobs and I don’t need all these things. My sound’s pretty dialed in and it’s taken me 13 years to do that. So from there it goes to a Carbon Copy and then straight to the amp. I have now a linear power booster for when I take a solo. That’s from Electroharmonix. And I have a phaser I’m trying to fit. I need a bigger pedal board.
TC Electronics was established in Denmark in 1974. The Tone Print pedals were released at NAMM in 2010. The presets can be transferred from the app straight to your guitars pick up.
What guitars are in your collection and which ones do you play live with?
I have a couple of guitars. In the studio I have an Epiphone 12 string that my Step Dad gave me. I have an Epihpne 6 string that my Dad gave me. I have aTakamini that my dad bought in the early 70’s that’s beat to shit and been to hell and back. It has a smokey flavor to it. That one only comes out in the studio. Live, I only use 2 guitars live. One of them is an Epiphone Casino that’s been modded and has a Bigsby and Lollar pick ups. My main, main lady is a Mexican Stratocaster that started off it’s life in Olympic white, and once again me and Wes, we took a high powered hair dryer that you use to strip paint off cars. You can get them at Home Depot for $20. We stripped the plastic paint off the body of the guitar, sanded it down and stained it to this nice ruby red. From there I have all new pick ups in it which i got from Stewmac or GFS but good pick ups. They’re modeled after 60’s Strat pick ups so the’re still staggered. Eventually I’m going to get flush pole pick ups because they were only staggered in the 60’s because people had wound strings and I don’t have a wound G string. Eventually I decided I was going to get new tuners and I butchered my original neck. I went onto Warmoth and got a completely custom neck. After 3 three years of fantasizing about this neck, I pulled the trigger and got it. It’s purple heartwood fretboard with roasted maple neck. And it is classic style with the tuning truss rod at the heel instead of the top. For me I have to play good chords at the top and play good melodies up the neck. The back of the neck though, is modeled after this 1965 Jaguar that I used to have and it’s really fat. It’s an inch at the nut and it’s an inch at the heel which is weird because I have short fingers but it helps me grip onto it and rip a little harder. I used to have a Telecaster but I sold it to Greg Gilmore. He wanted to buy a Telecaster. My Telecaster was on more albums than I was because everyone borrowed it, so I told him to buy it. So he has Debra the Telecaster, it’s in good hands.
All Telecasters until 1956 had flat pole pickups giving the strings a more balanced sound.
What kind of styles do like to play?
When I first started I wanted to learn every Ramones song, which I did. And so when I first started I was playing in my bedroom at 13. That’s when I met Jess the bass player in our band. We’ve been playing together for 14 years. I was strictly playing punk, stuff that was easy. I taught him how to play Blitzkrieg Bop and he filled in the rest of the details. After that though, it grew to punk rock to then you get to classic rock. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. Then we got to the Mars Volta which blew all of our fuckin minds. then we went to the psychedelic phase. Then we got to the refining the tone stage where we’re learning to be musicians and learning to play together as a band. And that’s where we’re at now. The actual band has been together since 2009. Now we’re just fucking around with what I call “Post modern alternative rock” which is lazy by design.
What are some of your influences?
Influences as far as guitar definitely early would be Johnny Ramone after that Jimmy Page, David Gilmore, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Let’s see, there’s some weird influences hanging around. Dave Davies of the Kinks is one of my favorites, Syd Barrett of early Pink Floyd is a favorite. I love anybody who likes to turn the guitar into something that it’s not.
The second album Jeff Buckley recorded but ultimately scrapped was released with the help of his mother and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.
If you could have any amp, what amp would you want?
Mine. But with a few more speakers.
Good, bad or ugly gig story?
Oh man, one time when we were touring in a different band, Groove Box Replica, me, Jesse, Davey who is now in Dankjewel and a couple other friends, we were in Groove box and on tour. We were driving from Las Vegas to Santa Fe. And in the midst of us booking the show 3 months prior, the spot has closed. So we drove 12 hours to get to Santa Fe. We drove around the block 17 times and finally got a place to park the van and trailer only to find out the spot had been turned into a newly remodeled Greek Deli. The dude had no idea we were supposed to play. However the stage was still there and the guy let us play anyways. There was no P.A. but it was just a good practice gig. It just goes to show you that not every gig is going to be the best. But then some of the greatest gigs have been some of the weird ones at a spot in a basement somewhere off Wells where there’s 200 hundred kids stuffed in a room. House on the Hill was one of those. John Underwood used to throw shows at his house on the hill, literally on the hill off University Terrace. One time when Groove Box was playing we almost burned the fucking house down. An electrical socket caught on fire and my friend Josh rips his jacket off, smacks the plug out of the socket and basically saves the day. I think one of the best gigs recently we recorded our live album here at The Saint. We played 3 sets, the same exact material but it was the Midtown Art Walk so there was some many people siphoning in it was a new set for everybody.
You can catch Johnny and Rigorous Proof playing The Saint March 30th. Rigorous Proof are planning on heading out of town this next Summer.