Kevin Wasserman, The Offspring guitarist better known under his stage name Noodles, recently revealed that, despite wanting to get a Les Paul back in the 1990s, he wasn’t into it when he got one. In an interview with Guitar World, Noodles revealed that the weight of the instrument was the issue. During the chat, Noodles touched upon the topic when he looked back on the guitars that he used back in the earlier days of the band:
“I played Strats and Teles early on, but there was always something missing. I was always searching for a good clean sound that was still distorted. That’s when I started using humbucking pickups, but I still couldn’t afford a good Les Paul, so I’d use cheaper stuff with humbuckers in them.”
“I didn’t get my first Les Paul until ‘Smash‘ came out in ’94. And that’s when I really started to dial in how I wanted to have my sound be.“
Anyhow, as Noodles adds, he finally got his hands on a Les Paul. But it didn’t turn out the way he expected, ultimately leading him into choosing the Ibanez Talman as his go-to model. He said:
“But after playing Les Pauls for a bit, I found that it was so damn heavy and still didn’t feel right. Around that time, I discovered Ibanez Talmans, which changed the game for me.”
Guitar players complaining about the weight of Les Pauls isn’t as nearly as prevalent today compared to a few decades ago. But starting in the 1980s, Gibson began introducing weight relief. Essentially, this means that they started hollowing out the main part of the body, which is usually mahogany, and then put the usual arched maple on top. Today, apart from some non-relief Les Pauls, we have traditional, modern, ultra-modern, and chambered options.
The rule does not apply to the Junior or Special series of Les Pauls since they already come with stripped-down bodies that are only mahogany without maple tops. You can find out more about some of these weight-relief variants in this guide.
As of today, Kevin Wasserman is one of the Ibanez artists with a signature model. His model NDM5 is based on the Talman body shape and the current version features a pair of Seymour Duncan P90 pickups.
Going back to the interview, Kevin also discussed how he approaches writing riffs. To him, simplicity is still the way to go:
“I keep it simple: a riff has just got to sound good. It’s got to be memorable, and that can match the power of the kick drum. When Dexter and I hunker down and work on writing riffs, our thing is if the riff can’t match the kick pattern, we’ll change the riff until it works in conjunction with the kick.”
“But I’ve also found that the best riffs are things you didn’t mean to do. Because when you’re in the studio throwing things at the wall, you’ll end up hearing something that was a mistake, and it turns out to be something amazing. So, you have to be open to taking risks; otherwise, you’ll never stumble across those mistakes that turn out to be memorable.”
Elsewhere in the chat, Noodles also spoke up on how he approaches writing The Offspring music with frontman Dexter Holland:
“When we’re in the studio, Dexter will lay down the first rhythm part, and then he’ll double it. And then I’ll come in and play the same thing, along with the lead. So, we’re essentially tripling and sometimes quadrupling everything.”
“And a lot of times we’ll have it so Dexter pans hard to the right and left, and my guitars will sit right in the middle. But as far as how we write together, it’s a matter of coming up with a lick or a riff, and then we just throw stuff at it until we think it’s done. It’s a lot of woodshedding.”
Noodles wouldn’t be the last person to address the weight of a Les Paul. Additionally, not all Les Pauls were too heavy to carry around. As fusion jazz guitarist Al Di Meola said in an interview from earlier this year, his 1971 Les Paul Custom is “obscenely” heavy although he still loves its tone:
“…As for other Les Pauls, I’m using a reissue 1959 Standard quite a lot right now. I have a real ’59 as well, but I don’t like taking it out. The reissue sounds great, though! It’s pretty light and the sound is sweet. The 1971 Custom, however, is obscenely heavy and growls like nothing else.”
Jeff Beck was one of the most famous players to use both Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls. And he too noticed the massive difference in weight and didn’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. In an old 1970s issue of Guitar Player, Beck reflected on the legendary single-cutaway model and said:
“Fenders are cheap in feel. You pick up a Les Paul and it’s heavy and it really means something – it means business.”
“The Fender was nice because you could grip it like a weapon and really chunk out the chords, but when you came to the more subtle stuff it wasn’t there. After a while I got so used to the Les Paul, there was no turning back. I picked up my Fender and thought, ‘How the hell did I ever play this?'”