We asked our online audience which local guitar player they would like to see interviewed and featured for a rig-rundown. I was happy to see Jeff Lusby as the primary request. For those who don’t know, Jeff is a veritable gear maven with the history and experience of an unsung rock hero, of which he almost is– and that of a studio engineering-master-producing-guru, of which he certainly qualifies. In addition to playing and touring professionally, Jeff has recorded a plethora of different musicians and styles while taking on the roll of chief engineer and producer for many recording sessions. Until recently he lived here full time in Flag. He now records at his own studio Retrograde down in Mesa.
Jeff is now playing in ENORMODOME! A two-piece rock phenom with the power of Rage Against the Machine and the stylistic finesse of The Black Keys. Mike Seitz from Telescope plays drums. They both sing. The last time they were in town playing a show I had a chance to hang out with Jeff and get the rig-rundown and much more. The interview covered a wide range of topics, from amp choices to pedals and signal chains, to the different approaches taken in the studio vs live. As an avid gear hound, Jeff gave me an added bonus. He showed up eager to talk about gear!
We started with amps. Interestingly, Jeff isn’t “married” to any particular amp (or cab for that matter.) He likes using a single channel “really good sounding and powerful” British amp. But sometimes he goes with a 6L6 Fender sound too. Matchless, Marshall, Mesa, Fender. He loves his Mesa F100 2×12 combo which runs 6L6 tubes. But his favorite is a late 70’s Marshall…
CS: What other amps do you use? Does it change from studio to stage?
JL: Ideally I would use that Marshall JMP head– we think it’s a 1978– with the cab that goes with it, but it’s enormously amazing and huge. It’s an 8×10. You’ve seen pictures of Hendrix with those Marshall 8×10 cabinets on stage. They’re this high (holds flattened hand to eye level)… and so there’s eight ten inch speakers in it. There’s a pic on our facebook of it set up at the Orpheum last time we played there. (Shown above.) It’s just too big for small shows, but my ideal thing would be the Marshall JMP on top of it’s intended 8×10 cab. I also have a 1970 Fender Bandmaster Reverb head with a matching cabinet. It’s a vertical over-sized gigantic 2×12 cab with the vintage orange-label JBL drivers in it… it’s awesome. Tonight I’m using the Marshall JMP head through Mike’s Orange 2×12 cab. That’s it.
CS: So, what’s the true-bypass for. No amp switching?
JL: No amp switching tonight! The true-bypass is only for the secret weapon pedal. [The bypass] takes it completely out of the signal chain because when it’s off you can still hear like half of the effect. It’s so old. Your tone sounds like it’s going through a wet sponge when you have that thing turned off. I’ll show it to you now. It’s on about every record I’ve made since 2006.
Note: Jeff kept referring to his secret weapon pedal before we really started the interview, but had yet to reveal it’s identity.
JL: This is a 1969 all original VOX Stereo Fuzz-Wah… the only thing not original are the little rubber feet on the bottom, but I have the original degraded ones in a plastic bag somewhere. There’s also a power adapter end wired into the battery leads so it can run on a power supply instead of batteries. I’ve also put this rubber pad here [to keep the toe switch from engaging accidentally.] The true-bypass is the on-off switch for this pedal only. I keep the actual pedal always on and the bypass acts as the on-off.
CS: Do you use the Fuzz-Wah always on with both effects, or sometimes one and then the other (meaning ever just fuzz, or just wah?)
JL: Sometimes I’ll play with the wah off, just the fuzz on. The fuzz sounds… it’s just gooood. I think they made it hoping that Hendrix would start using just this instead of the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face alongside their regular VOX wah pedal. But apparently he never went for it. But you turn this on and it’s instant, instant Hendrix! It’s so weird. If you already have an over-driven amp sound and you add this fuzz on top of it, you get these crazy and amazing harmonics– easily, without even trying– these great Hendrix-ish tones. I spent a lot of stupid money on this pedal. But I was on the label at the time so I think they actually bought it!
CS: So, you’re almost done with the new record. What are the main sounds we will hear on that? Any new pedals you would like to note?
JL: DMB pedals. There’s one in particular– the Lunar Echo. But the main amp sound on the record is this Marshall JMP going through a special 4×12 with 75-watt Celestion speakers. It’s a secret cab. Not your standard 30-watt Celestions. That way you hear the overdrive of the amp more, and not so much of the speaker breaking up.
CS: So what are the secret Celestions? Different or all matching?
JL: They all match. I don’t– I don’t open it up, I don’t touch it. I record that cab a lot…
(Here, Jeff changes the subject back to the amp, refusing to reveal the secret speaker choice in his recording cab after asking twice.)
JL: … I love that (JMP) amp– I just set it to stun man. I go with the preamp section at about 10, and the master is set to about 7-8. It’s great, it’s fun– funny. I turn it sideways so I can get the tone I want and not overpower the PA system or kill the audience. We also don’t need any guitar in the monitors. I get the sound and volume I want on stage, and the sound guy can mix it through the mains how he wants.
CS: What’s your take on digital vs analog, rack gear and switchers vs pedals on the board?
JL: I’m into real pedals. I’m not into the digital or rack processor thing. But I’m totally down with the whole DBX switcher thing where your actual analog pedals are in a drawer somewhere and everything is on its own loop and then you can program the foot switcher to go from these four pedals to these other three pedals with one button! That’s great and if I could afford it I’d probably set that up. But in a way its fun to have the challenge of changing a scene from say a verse to a chorus manually. The choreography and the challenge of that, the order you have to go in to make something happen on the down beat… It makes you feel like you’re really playing your pedals. But from the tonal perspective, those switchers are totally cool because you’re still using the real pedals but you have the functioning of a [multi FX] processor… I just feel that it’s a lot more inspiring to have a bunch of pedals on the floor in front of you. All your little toys are right there.
CS: How do you approach and translate all the tricks available in the studio to a live performance, especially with just a two-piece and no backing tracks? (Some studio toys can be seen here.)
JL: I reconcile those two things by when it’s a live show it’s fucking loud. And on an album– someone talked me out of being worried about that a long time ago and it made perfect sense to me once I got it. It was the first producer I ever really worked with and I kept saying, “well how are we going to do that live?” and he was like, “just don’t worry about it and play your track.” A couple weeks in I was still like, “I just don’t understand how we’ll do this live,” and he turned to me and said, “Fuck how you’re going to do it live! This is a record. We are making the record now. Your live show will be your live show. They have nothing to do with each other so get over it!” He was like tough love, but then he said this– and I adopted this– he said, “at a live show you don’t need as many layers as you need on an album because it’s fucking loud. The sheer volume and the energy is there for the audience because they are there seeing you play.” You know? On a record you have to make up for that feel and that physical energy of the volume and the sound waves actually touching you– you have to make up for that the best you can by using layers and textures… And not necessarily a bunch of different parts that you can’t replicate– well sometimes, but this is what gives a recording mix the ability to blow out of the speakers and make it feel big. So, to me the challenge is making the record sound as exciting and energetic as the live show… That’s why you quadruple the guitar track and pan it everywhere… you have to create the stereo field somehow because [at a live show] with one guitar and one mic on the cab, it then goes through every PA speaker in the house and you hear that one guitar coming at you from everywhere in the room and bouncing off the walls. And that’s why you do lots of different mic placements [in a studio environment] and put different mics all over the room or down the hall for the drums or whatever.
CS: That makes sense, to add the kind of dimension and dynamic into the recording which is naturally there in a live show.
JL: Yeah, so ultimately I don’t care. The record is the record and the show is the show. You know? We’re two dudes and I’m not gonna get a looper and start looping stuff, I’m just not into that kinda thing. It’s supposed to be simple. That’s cool for some people, I’ve just never been into that idea, and so I play, I turn the guitar up really loud and have that double octave pedal on most of the time, and we just play. And we have a good time. Because it’s so simple that’s why it’s so fun. And on the recording we were like, ‘well let’s just have a good time’ and I think that really translates. Whatever we could think of we just did! I think it came out good and now I need a few more pedals [on the live board.]
Jeff’s full gear list the night we caught up is here:
Pedals in Order:
- Boss Tuner > Boss Tremolo > Line 6 DL4 > Boss Octave > MXR Phase 90 > Boss Flanger > Boss Chorus > Tube Screamer #1 > Tube Screamer #2 > Bypass/Vintage VOX Fuzz Wah > out to amp.
- 1978 Marshall JMP head into an Orange 2×12
-Custom Sound: Interview and article by Ryan Elewaut and Bryce Schneider