When most guitar players make lists like this, it's because they are listing things that made them play guitar differently or want to play guitar better or something like that. When I list things, it's because certain pieces made me hear something different and challenged the way that I viewed the sound of guitar. Most often they shaped me as a person which lead me to where I am today as President and Head of Design at Wampler Pedals.
I really can't narrow it down to five points, so my list may be a little bit longer than the others, but I think by showing you a few more things than five you will see a trend in how I got to where I am now. The truth is that there were several different moments that define points in my life that would eventually point to where I am now. Most guitar players think about guitar solos, riffs or maybe even song structure or something along those lines. To me, the things that really struck me were more related to guitar tone and also effects. Not even necessarily guitar effects but effects in general, such as the case with Pink Floyd mentioned below.
Van Halen – Beautiful Girls
When I was growing up as a kid, Van Halen was definitely the guitar sound that defined rock 'n' roll to me. It wasn't necessarily the group itself, or a song, or a particular EVH solo that made me want to pick up the guitar. The guitar tone that I heard from the early Van Halen albums (up until around 5150 I believe) was something that was such a massive influence on me personally, and was something that I was always striving to achieve with my modest rig I had setup as a young guitar player. I loved the ‘brown sound’ (as it’s came to be called) on songs like “Beautiful Girls”, “DOA”, “Feel Your Love Tonight”, “Everybody Wants Some”, and all that stuff from that era. Even when 1984 showed Eddie using more chorus, I liked the effect. Once 5150 and OU812 came out though, I wasn’t as big of a fan of the tones… the effects were too ‘wet’ in my opinion in many cases. Additionally, it seemed like they were turning into a pop band with songs like “Love Comes Walking In” and “Finish What Ya Started”. “Black and Blue” had a cool groove to it though. I do feel there were a few decent, but very new tones with the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album. For example, “Runaround” and “Top of The World” definitely aren’t Eddie’s brown sound, but it was fairly unique in that era.
Dokken – Mr. Scary
A big influence for me during my younger teen years was Dokken. Not so much the love songs, but George Lynch’s tone at that time was huge! He had a ton of catchy licks and melodic yet tricky solos as well. Songs such as “Night By Night”, “Mr. Scary”, and “Sleepless Night” off of the “Back for the Attack” album had great tone for the era. Both that album and “Under Lock and Key” were my two favorite Dokken albums, due to the guitar tone. As far as the songs themselves…. eeehhh… the lyrics got in the way of the guitar playing. ;)
As I got a little older in the 80s, I loved what George Lynch was doing in the Lynch Mob years. The “Wicked Sensation” album had tons of great tones and more catchy Lynch riffs. I have a lot of great memories as a 14 or 15 year old playing in a garage band with some friends, and playing songs like “Wicked Sensation” and “All I Want”.
The second Lynch Mob album was entirely different than their first, but tonally I loved its departure. Some of those guitar tones are something that really influenced me at that time, and showed me how guitar effects can actually create a mood. Whether it's a very moody but spacey, warm chorus sound like “Tangled in the Web”, or whether it's just a very warm midrangey-yet-crunchy distortion tone like on “No Good”, it was a driving force for me at that time. I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until I heard Lynch’s version of “Tie Your Mother Down” that I paid much attention to the Queen version of that song… so thank you George Lynch for introducing me to Brian May J
It should be noted that this is the time that I met Steve Townsend, who plays on many of our 80’s rock dominated YouTube videos. Even as a teenager he could play all that stuff note for note… such a great player even to this day.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
When I was around 16 or so, a bandmate of mine let me borrow a Pink Floyd tape (yes, I’m old), called “Delicate Sound of Thunder”. It was a live album, and believe it or not, it wasn’t the guitar playing that bent my ear... it was the reverb on the vocals on “Wish You Were Here”. From that point on, I’ve always had a secret crush on various reverb sounds.
Pearl Jam – Alive
Around my senior year of high school or so was when Nirvana and Pearl Jam really hit it big, and Pearl Jam was a huge influence on me at that time. It was revolutionary for me as an impressionable 17 year old… the guitar parts were so simple, there weren’t tons of effects, there were no huge refrigerator sized racks… it was just a guy with simpler gear and maybe a pedal or two creating great songs. He was doing it without showing off finger acrobatics and he was achieving more melodic solos. The moods and feelings they evoked with the simpler equipment were amazing to me. It was the way that they made songs come alive and made me feel emotions and spoke to me in different ways; it was something I could identify with compared to the corny love songs of the 80’s. This was a big inspiration on me personally... I realized just how much those types of things affect a person as a listener, not necessarily as a guitar player. For a consumer of music, I realized that the guitar tones and effects used could often help affect the listener just as much as a good lyric. Hearing the song “Alive” made me re-realize the power of a cranked JCM800. It just had BALLS. Such great stuff; I’m a huge fan of the first 3 albums from Pearl Jam in particular.
Alice in Chains – Would?
Through those years, I was a huge fan of the movie “Singles”, and especially the soundtrack. Some of my favorites were from Alice In Chains (with “Would?” being my introduction to them) and “Breath and a Scream”. I got into Alice In Chains, Sound Garden, and various other bands (including Weezer). During this time, I was in a band playing clubs around our local college, having way too much fun and loving life. Keep in mind that I did not have a ton of great gear at all. I was borrowing a solid state amplifier (Peavey Supreme 160 and a GHS 4x12 cabinet) from a friend, and I had a little RP 50 (and later upgraded to a RP-5) Digitech processor that sounds terrible by today’s standards, that I would use for different effects. This was during a phase of my life where one starts trying to “find themselves”, and I hopped from cover band to cover band, moving from Indiana during the warm months to Tampa, Florida during the winter and playing with different bands there. It was in during one of my stints in Tampa that I upgraded to an RP-10. All of this gear ended up getting pawned so I could eat one day. Such is life I guess.
Brent Mason – Hot Wired
Eventually, at some point while I was playing for that band I just got tired of playing the same songs. Soon I got offered a position in a country band. I did not know much about country guitar or country music at that time at all, but it paid good and I needed money so that was the route I took. The other guitar player in that band actually introduced me to the fact that it was Brent Mason on those recordings that was making my life miserable trying to learn all the solos he was playing! That started off an obsession with him, and I really started digging into his solo stuff and everything that he was putting out with different artists. It amazed me how he used effects in the same way, to evoke emotion and to create a mood within a song simply by his choice of notes and his choice of effects within those notes. By this time I had ‘upgraded’ to a Peavey Bandit (yes… it’s true….) and then my first tube amp, a Peavey Delta Blues. I also purchased my first Telecaster, the MIJ ‘52 Reissue that you might see in our older videos on YouTube. I also went and bought the brand new, super amazing Digitech RP-7 and spent a ton of time creating “Brent Mason” patches. If you were a user and member of the RP forums back then, you may have seen me interact on there during the time. It was around this time that I decided to ditch the RP-7 and I bought a Peavey Classic 50 amp, along with different pedals. I found the Harmony Central gear forum (which actually was pretty cool in 2001 or so) and The Gear Page effects forum. Being a tinkerer, I found DIYstompboxes.com and decided to start pulling my pedals apart. The rest was history as far as pedals went… I read a ton and experimented a lot. Eventually the electronics side became more of an obsession than trying to learn how to play all the fancy licks like Brent and the next guy were putting out…
Brad Paisley – Me Neither
I'll never forget where I was when I first heard Brad Paisley song “Me Neither”. It’s one of those things that made me pull over to the side of the road and do nothing but simply listen to the song. I was floored by the way Brad was using a special choice of notes that was unlike anyone else at that time; he was playing licks that others were playing that you would not think would fit within the song, but they did somehow. I immediately bought the album and heard “The Nervous Breakdown”. This was my introduction to Vox tones. Up until that point I simply wasn’t a fan of them. Brad completely changed that. Every album to date, they’re just full of great tone and creative licks and solos. Not to mention, the guy can write too. PLUS, he’s as big of a fan of gear as anyone else I know. He LOVES pedals, and routinely walks into stores in various towns looking for new gear… even to this day.
I digress. Here are some more great songs that you’ll love from Brad:
- “Munster Rag”
- The entire Mud on the Tires album is FULL of great tone. I can’t narrow this down to one song. “Make a Mistake with Me” and “Spaghetti Western Swing” (with Redd Volkaert) are two of my favorites if I HAD to choose. Of course, check out the solo in * “Little Moments”… perfect note choice, perfect tone in that solo.
- “Time Warp” … every player in the band is just amazing. Seriously, flat out amazing. This is Brad’s road band on the album too – not “studio musicians” like what is commonly the case in most of country music.
I could go on and on here. I’d have about 80 songs to point you to just from Brad. So suffice to say, just check out his stuff – even if you don’t like “country music”, you’ll love Brad’s stuff. In particular, check out his instrumental album “Play”.
And that’s where I personally am today. I love A LOT of great bands that aren’t necessarily country, but the stuff mentioned above is what has shaped me both as a guitar player, as a effect pedal creator/designer, and as a person.