Firewind guitarist Gus G., also known for his work in Ozzy Osbourne’s backing band, revealed that he has a pretty simple rig that he uses for live shows. Instead of an elaborate cleverly designed rack with advanced switching, it’s pretty much four pedals and an amplifier for Gus.
“Live, I use a Blackstar St. James amp. It’s a 50-watt head. It’s tiny. It’s like a lunchbox type of amp and sounds massive. That’s the main tone for me.”
Blackstar’s St. James is a fairly compact piece of gear that you could take for any gig. But apart from a modestly-sized amplifier head, Gus G. also revealed how incredibly simple his pedalboard is as well.
“And I have a small pedalboard that I use that basically has three pedals on there, or four,” he continued. He explained that, on it, he has a simple tuner along with “an overdrive by J Rockett [Audio] Designs.” The musician added:
“It’s called the Archer. I use it to boost my signal, my distortion, and that’s the core of my tone. And then I use a delay pedal and a wall pedal only.”
And the whole thing is rounded up by his signature Jackson guitar:
“I use my Jackson signature Star guitar. And that’s about it! I have a very simple rig.”
This may seem a little unusual for an experienced seasoned metal player. But according to Gus, the very essence of one’s tone is within the guitar player. Or, as they usually say — “the tone is in the fingers.” He continued:
“The guitar is not gonna play itself and sound like the person that owns a guitar. It’s a little bit of a myth.”
Sharing one of the examples of how he realized this, Gus recalled a story of trying Joe Satriani’s signature model:
“I remember, when I was a kid that I used to look at Joe Satriani’s guitar, and I picked it up, I was like, ‘Wow, it must have that Satriani tone.’ And I picked it up and it definitely didn’t sound like Joe Satriani. [Laughs] Only he can sound like him.”
“The sound, the tone comes from within — from your fingers,” he added. “It’s how you touch the guitar. Because it’s a piece of wood and metal and the strings and stuff like that. But it’s how you approach, how you pick.”
“Like I said, it’s something that comes from within. Like the feeling that you put in your playing. That’s something very personal, like the vibrato, how you express yourself with the instrument.”
Of course, he doesn’t underestimate the impact that the gear will have on one’s sonic output. But the very core of the tone isn’t in your guitar or gear.
“Sure, the tone might change. If you play with less gain or more gain, or this tube or whatever. That stuff — yeah, it will give you a different color. But the core of the sound and the style and the expression comes from within.”
Going over to his studio setup, Gus G. also made a somewhat shocking discovery. Instead of making an elaborate setup with micked-up amps, he simply goes directly into an audio interface and uses the digital stuff to shape his tone:
“I use plugins, just straight into the interface. I just use plugins. I don’t have anything fancy. I think I think pretty much all guitar players nowadays use plugins because they’re just so good and so convenient to record quickly and make a good sound.”
In another interview done earlier this year, Gus G. also reflected on his decision to switch from ESP to Jackson guitars. Despite his signature instruments being practically the same with both brands, the shift was due to business reasons.
“If we’re going to compare brands, to me, they’re both great manufacturers,” he pointed out. “I love the guitars ESP made, and I love the guitar that Jackson are making for me.”
“The reason why I had to move from ESP was purely a business decision. A lot of the people that I was working within the company, they left.”
“Sometimes that happens, when people move from a company and the team sort of falls apart. And you’re not looked after, and things like that.”
“So yeah, I felt like my time with ESP was coming to an end. But they were good to me for many, many years, and we created some great instruments.”
“And the same is happening with Jackson — they have a really nice team, great manufacturing team, great master builders. I have been to their factories in California, we were always like discussing ideas together when we were designing new guitars.”
“So it really is a blessing for me to be able to work with some of the biggest companies in the world, make instruments, and put my signature on there. It’s incredible.”