Former Kyuss/Vista Chino/Unida/etc vocalist John Garcia has been the flag-waving standard-bearer of smokin’ psychadelia for over two decades. Not one to be daunted by legal disputes over his former band’s name, his new record simply bears his name, and well it should. It calls to mind his vast resume of previous work while subtly evolving his sound.
Some of that freshness is likely due to Garcia’s current guitarist, Ehren Groban. In true gear aficionado style, Groban finds inspiration the easy yet expensive way: by walking into a gorgeous studio environment filled with a goldmine of the nicest amps to ever exist. And look at those fine, fine guitars hanging above the amplifiers, begging to be picked up and played. So as the Joker said to Batman, “where does he get those wonderful toys?” Let’s get to finding out.
Hello Internet! My name is Ehren Groban and I play guitar for John Garcia’s solo project. The new self-titled record, released on Napalm Records, is now available worldwide and features the likes of Dave Angstrom (Hermano), Mark Diamond (The Dwarves), Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age), and the legendary wizard Robby Krieger (The Doors)! Check it out! In this gear write up, I’ll go over some of the equipment that was used on the record, as well as what will be employed on the road. Here we go!
The studio was a smorgasbord (I never get the chance to use this word enough) of talented musicians, with producers Harper Hug and Trevor Whatever at the helm at Thunder Underground Studios in Palm Springs, CA. We employed a number of amps, both modern and vintage, stacks and combos, and a couple of rare goodies I’ve never had the opportunity to plug into before. Most of the guitar work on the album features the stereo combination of an Orange OR50 and a Marshall 81 JCM800 or late 70’s JMP. These amps were cranked to get some really nice tube saturation. Even professionally installed soundproofed walls and doors weren’t enough to keep the ferocity of these rigs from filling the console room with the awesome wall of sound these heads produce! We knew we were getting some good tones when we left at the end of the day with our ears ringing from 8 hours of mayhem! My stand out favorite tone has to be on the track “Argleben,” which features the use of an old Gibson Ranger. This has to be one the sweetest sounding combos I’ve ever had the opportunity to plug in to! If you took a great white shark, crossed it with a wooly mammoth, a grizzly bear, Mike Tyson, and the 1984 Chicago Bears, and then converted all of them into a vintage amp, this is what the result would be… An utterly insane, utterly beautiful sounding wall of noise! We laid this tone over the stereo tracks from the Orange OR50 and Marshall JCM800 and the result is what you hear on the record… Fuzzed out, over-the-top, saturated bliss!
A plethora of guitars were used on the album as well. Ranging from Gretsch hollow body’s to rare Schechter’s, and of course, Gibson’s. The track “Confusion” features the use of Trevor Whatever’s beautiful Gretsch hollowbody, plugged into the stereo rig, with an early 90’s Russian Big Muff in the front. Utter chaos ensued… And the result is the wild feedback you hear on the track. What’s really badass, is that if you listen closely to the latter half of the song, you can hear one of the tubes going out in the Orange OR50, as it succumbs to being tortured by the crazy volumes it’s being played at! Other than the Gretsch, the majority of the tracks featured a Les Paul Studio equipped with Burstbuckers. This turned out to be my favorite guitar in the studio. Great action and feel… And when plugged into the Gibson Ranger it just sang. Tone for days!
Now that the record has been finished, we will be taking the tunes out of the road, first in Australia for a string of shows September 11th thru the 14th, and then for a month long jaunt in western Europe, beginning November 5th. For the live show, I will be using early 80’s JCM 800’s equipped with 6550’s. You see, I think of tubes in terms of women… And who doesn’t like a larger woman? The 6550’s are great, because compared with EL34’s they sound fatter, more full, and have a greater low end that is ideal for this type of music. I’ll be matching these heads with cabs loaded with 55hz 25w Heritage Celestion Greenbacks, as the lower bass frequency response of these speakers really gives some nice full low end, without sounding too muddy, especially in lower tunings. Because they are a lower wattage speaker, they break up at lower volumes, which really gives the dry signal some nice snarl! I’ll be running this setup stereo in tandem with an Orange OR100 and/or a Marshall Superlead Reissue, because why use only one 100w stack when you can use two? And why only use two 100w stacks, when you can use three!
Pedal wise, I’ve tried to keep it simple and really let the character of these amps shine. I’ll be using a Boss SD-1, as well the same early 90’s Russian Muff used in the studio for the track “Confusion.” This thing really gets some crazy awesome over-the-top tones… It’s a beast! In addition, I’ll be using wah, delay, and a couple other modulation effects for different tones found on the record.
As for live guitars, I’ll be using several Burstbucker equipped Gibson Les Paul’s. I’ve found I like the non-chambered Studio’s from the 90’s the most, because they feel more solid to me than the newer chambered/weight-relieved models, and can be had for less than the cost of a new car, or boat, or refrigerator. Add some heavy gauge strings and that’s it!
Looking forward to seeing you on the road!
Photos by Andrew Nethery: