My Rig Rundown

Europa Carlos Santana cover
Europa Carlos Santana cover

Ovation Breadwinner

My main electric guitar is a 1973 Ovation Breadwinner. It was quite an innovation in its day being the World's first production guitar with active electronics - which is actually a pain because it requires 2 x PP3 batteries else, no sound! It doesn't lose power often but Sod's Law means it happens at the most inconvenient time. I don't use the active switch much except for funk.

I bought it new in the 70's and it turned vintage on me (or I turned vintage on it, depending on how you look at it!). The reason I bought it was I saw the Earth, Wind and Fire guys playing them on one of their album covers. That was the funk sound their rhythm players had on 'Shining Star' and other tracks of that era. Rhythm is a major part of my 'game'.

Ovation only made electric guitars for a couple of years in the 70's so they are quite rare. It's got this axe shape body that is actually very ergonomic; if you squat to mess with a pedal the back cut-out means it doesn't foul your leg. It's good for playing whilst sitting down too, the cut-out allows it to sit on your lap nicely. The aerospace guy who designed claimed the shape was random, but I don't believe that. The Ovation Breadwinner is a distinctive looker and I'm stuck with it I guess as all my pic's on social media show it. I do also have an Ibanez S420 that has a Floyd Rose tremolo and sound like a Strat so I sue that a lot on my 'Jimi Meets Miles' album.

My strings are basically Ernie Ball Super Slinkys which should run 9 11 16 24 32 42 but I use a 10 and a 12 for the E and B strings. I do that because I once read Jimi uses a lighter G (3rd) string so the guitar doesn't sound G string 'heavy'. My idea is the same principle only I beef up the 1st and 2nd strings instead. They have a bit more sustain and don't go out of tune so much.

Live setup

I don't have an amp, well I do (Peavy practice amp and Vox AC100) but I haven't gigged either of them. I haven't found an amp with a guitar tone I liked since 1970! It was a Linear 50 and didn't have an enclosure, just a bare metal chassis with red hot tubes sticking up! I'm thinking amps are a bit old fashioned now anyway. Everything is amp modelling these days and I have a Line 6 pod 500X pedal with loads of amp models in (the jury is still out on whether I'll keep it). With modelling what is the point of putting a modelled signal into an amp anyway? I can get the Vox very clean but am still not happy with it. What I recently discovered is that what I need is a Full Range Flat Response (FRFR) amp. Most PA kit is exactly that these days so I direct inject into the PA. Losing your backline presents problems as you must rely on your monitors to hear yourself, not always achievable without a soundcheck. I'm currently investigating in ear monitoring systems. I'm hoping to be able to monitor off my pedal as my biggest live bugbear is to hear myself. See more of the thinking behind FRFR here

Recording setup

I always direct inject into my computer (well via an interface) and have had some success with modelling pedals but I now do all my modelling in software. I know, modelling plug ins that come with your DAW are lame. I have discovered Scuffham S-Gear - modelling software that really works. I swear by it for all my killer tones. If you want that American sound it is a MUST

I have also worked out I can use it live so may well DI that direct into the PA. Trouble is you need another interface and your laptop so is setup intensive. What I want is S-Gear in a plug and play box controlled by footswitches. One guy here has done it