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- BlackBeard Telecaster
This is my favorite axe, it was built at the end of 2017 by Paolo Lardera. I received this guitar on January 2018, just few weeks before my first long USA tour. I soon fell in love with this telly. The tone is twangy and solid, the voice is personal and the playability is perfect. The body is a piece of yellow pine, finished in a roasted sunburst, the neck is a one piece of hard ash, C shape, 9.5 radius with a tusq nut, the frets are 22 medium size. It’s not a super light guitar (the weight is 3.3 kilos) but has an infinite sustain and a lot of natural harmonics. Paolo, the luthier, made the pick ups. Originally this guitar had a classic alnico 5 on the bridge and an alnico 5 “Crossroad” pick up on the neck. This last one is a Paolo’s original design, it looked like a p90 but was basically a double coil with two different sounds (there’s a push pull on the tone knob to switch from the fat sound, like a 60s Stratocaster, to the thin sound, like a 60s telly). Unfortunately in March 2019, while I was playing in Detroit, this pick up decided to stop working. The day after the gig I stopped at Elderly’s Music in Lansing-Michigan and the guy behind the shop replaced the pick up with a Fender CS single coil he had somewhere under his work table. I knew the hole was larger and the metal cover of the new pick up was missing but I told to myself “it’s only for 3 weeks, it looks weird but it’s ok”, damn it sounded great! And I decided to keep it there. In 2022 I decided to change the pick ups again, with a super twangy Alnico V Wilkinson pick up on the bridge position and a Fender Custom Shop 60 stratocaster on the neck position.
The control plate is flipped, thank you Bill Kirchen for the idea (he did it in the 60s I think and now it’s like a standard trick of the tele players), to have the volume control closer to the pinky of my right hand.
This telecaster is a work horse guitar, came with me all across the Europe and the USA since I played it the first time into Paolo’s workshop. Is a trusty companion in the studio too. I love the apparel and the sound and, don’t think I’m crazy, even the knobs are perfect (they are smooth and I can swell the tone control to imitate the wha-wha effect very easily).
Above the guitar today, below the day I received it from Paolo
- Custom Relics Stratocaster
Even if I’m a telecaster fanatic I have to admit that I go crazy for the Stratocaster. I played a fiesta red “Frankenstein” Strat for a long period (I was in the Texas blues mood at that time) before moving to the telly. Few years ago I asked Paolo Pellegrino, the guy behind the Custom Relics Guitars company, to build a ’54 replica with some “telly features”. I asked for a very light swamp ash body (this guitar is only 2.3 kilos), a big big neck (like the old broadcasters), a two tone sunburst finish and a set of pickups with a lot of treble. He did it and I love to play this one during my shows, especially during my surf songs. I also asked to modify the pick up selector adding the front pick-up/bridge pick-up option, like the middle position on the telecaster.
-Breach Amp “Il Cremoso”.
When I first met Paolo Bruschi (the guy behind the Breach Amps Company) I asked him to start a collaboration only if he was able to create an amp answering to these requests: my amp gotta be light, powerful and twangy. Few months after he came up with the “Cremoso”, a 35watts all tube amp into a 12 inch speaker with the size and the weight of a Fender Blues Junior. I was shocked! The amp sounded great, with a bunch of high end, a deep voice and an incredible response to the shades of the guitar. All the harmonics of my telly came out in a very easy way. The voice reminded me the old Fender Princeton, but with a higher volume. This amp is perfect for the club gigs and the big stage performances, but it fits in every car and doesn’t hurt your back when you have to carry it on the stairs.
Here are the specifications:
35 watt single-channel
5AR4 tube rectifier
2x 5881 cathode bias power amplifier
12AX7 phase inverter
1 x 12AX7 preamp
Jensen C12N speaker
Effects and accessories.
My pedal board is really minimal, I’m not a pedal guy and most of the times I keep the pedals on the amp or in the back. The reason is simple: I don’t change the setting during the song using pedals (I only use the pots on the guitar or the pick up selector) so I don’t need to have the pedals close to my mic stand.
The only pedals I use are these:
- Digitech Polara reverb, setted on the emulation of a spring reverb. I love this pedal because the reverb reacts to the dynamic of my right hand. Harder you pick the strings more “splash” effect you have and this is amazing especially if you are playing in a trio and need “something” to fill the empty spaces of the final sound. This pedal stays “on” for the 90% of the show and comes with me everywhere I go. Sometime I fly bringing just this, and a pick!
- CatalinBread Belle Epoch, echo/delay. This pedal is incredible, it emulates the classic Echoplex tape effect, including the famous drive of this effect from the sixties and the modulation of the abused tapes. I use to set the repeats and the speed of the repetitions close to the Cliff Gallup’s sound instead of the classic super fast and “one note” repeat of the Sun studio. I also set the drive control to the minimum (I always prefer the clean sound).
- Mooer Soul Shiver, chorus/vibrato. I first saw this pedal into the Pat Capocci’s pedalboard and loved the way he was using the chorus effect, it was very cheap at that time so I decided to buy it. Once in my pedalboard I discovered that it can emulate the sound of a Hammond B3 in a very cool way and this is the only way I use it. Of course I use it in one or two solos, but it’s damn sixties oriented and people seem to appreciate this fancy sound.
- Strings: I use Elixir Strings (0.10 - 0.46, Nanoweb, Bright-Smooth) and the reason is simply: they stay twangy for a long period! Before using these strings I was using the classic D’Addario 10-46, changing the entire set every two shows. I was wasting my time and my money! Now a set of Elixir can stay on my main guitar for an entire tour without loosing any brightness or twang. I even like the way they feel under the fingers, that coat is silky and helps me to go faster.
- Picks: I use the classic Fender Medium picks for the most of the show (playing by the round side) and an orange Fred Kelley Speedpick (it is a thumbpick) when I play some Chet Atkins songs.