Greta Van Fleet guitarist Jake Kiszka revealed that he stopped using the usual Marshall stacks in the studio. As he told the Guitarist magazine in a recent interview, instead of going the usual amp stack path during the sessions for his band’s latest record, he opted to use combo amps. Nonetheless, the record, titled “Starcatcher,” still features your usual old-school or old-school-style amps.
“In terms of amps, there was a blonde Fender Bassman and a [Fender] Princeton ‘silverface,’ both of them vintage,” he said.
As Kiszka adds, there was also “a Magnatone Twilighter and a Vox AC30, which I typically have in the studio for most records. But this record was particularly interesting because I limited myself to only using combo amps.”
The reason behind this decision was simply that he and his Greta Van Fleet bandmates love the tones of these old, smaller combo amps. He continued:
“I think one reason was [embracing] the limitation. The other was, a lot of the early great records we all love – those sounds came from just a combo.”
At the same time, Jake also points out how this is different from what he used to do on previous records, where most of the stuff was your usual amp head and large cabinet setup. But at this point, it feels a little “unnecessary,” as he claims.
“I’ve used 4×12 cabinets and heavy Marshall heads,” Kiszka said. “But it almost felt unnecessary – it just moves so much air, even the lower-wattage stuff.”
Released in July 2023 and featuring a total of ten new songs, “Starcatcher” was produced by Dave Cobb. As he also added in the interview, it was Dave who showed him new approaches to recording these smaller combo amplifiers. He said:
“It was an objective of mine to make one song radically different from the next. Like, you might get to a song’s bridge and it becomes really spatial and outrageous.”
“So it was quite dimensional,” Jake explained while explaining the process. “I was mic’ing with one up close, one two-foot back, one five-foot back, and then a room mic. And then kinda blending it in… If there’s reverb on the guitar, it’s [usually] the studio room itself at RCA.”
The source also states that Kiszka had about 40 vintage guitars at his disposal, all lent to him by Chicago Music Exchange. However, despite having so many, the musician said that he still used his trusty companion “Beloved,” the ’61 Gibson Les Paul, which is, essentially, the early version of the SG.
Speaking of which, in an interview from 2023, Kiszka recalled a story of how he got this valuable instrument, also featuring the old Vibrola tailpiece.
“When we first left Michigan, Josh [Kiszka, vocalist] and I must have been 20, and Sam [Kiszka, bassist] and Danny [Wagner, drums] were like 17 – and we just hit the ground running,” he said.
“One of the stops along that first tour was Chicago, and so, of course, we stopped off at Chicago Music Exchange while we were there.”
“Now, due to the fact that we had grown up in a town of 5,000 people in the middle of a bunch of farm fields, the access we had to instruments was pretty limited, so being in this massive instrument shop that had everything – vintage, contemporary, you name it – it was like, ‘WOW!'”
“And the owner was taking us around, and he was like, ‘If you see anything you like, let me know and we can pull it…’ And so I was walking around being like, ‘Well this is cool, this is cool, this is also cool…'”
“But then I stumbled on that guitar, and we took it back to his apartment, which was right down the street, and plugged it in… And it was like divine intervention because that was the sound that I’d been trying to find pretty much my whole life.”
“Going all the way back to being that kid picking up a guitar at three years old, it was that sound – that was it.”
“I hadn’t even owned a tube amp up until that point,” Jake continued. “I was playing solid-state stuff! We hadn’t even really made our name, we were just starting out touring, and he just said, ‘What you heard, I think I heard it too… take this guitar on the road with you and you can just pay me back when you can.'”
“This guy just let this kid take a $20,000 guitar out the door! And a year later I was able to pay him back, but I have him to thank for that still – we’re friends to this day!”