Guess I’m on an amp kick. Amps are tough because they sound better than pedals (ya, I know someone will argue me that running a Klon direct is every bit as good as an amp, but I’ve yet to hear it…and of course if I’ve yet to hear it, it doesn’t exist…hehe), but unless you’re famous or an idiot, you’re going to get your different clean and overdrive sounds from 1 amp and 4 or 5 pedals, rather than from 4 or 5 amps. I’ve done it before with 4 or 5 amps……and since I’m not famous, that just leaves the other option. Yep. Idiocy. Just a quick note to those of you who have tendencies like my own, and are willing to ‘take no shortcuts’ when it comes to tone: The bigger your rig, the less sound guys will know what to do with it, the longer it will take to set up, the more chance for something to go wrong, the more noise will be induced, and dare I say the more likely you are not going to know how to run all of it properly. Ans then of course, everyone looks at you and your five amps and thinks, ‘Okay, this better be the best tone I’ve ever heard.’ So now you have inflated expectations, an hour long setup time, tons of noise, and it sounds terrible in the house. All for a church or gig of 25 people. Your bandmates will be nice (hopefully) and say, ‘Good job, tone sounded great’, but in their heads they’re thinking ‘idiot’, and you’ll wait by your phone for them to call you about subsequent gigs, and it’ll never happen. Now, when you’re famous, no one cares and you can have 15 amps, and your band will still call you about upcoming gigs. Amazing how things get less and less stupid the more famous you get. For example:

Tony Levin

No one cares that Tony Levin is wearing a cape. Or that he looks like he got confused and thought this was a Disney stage production of Aladdin. Or that Peter Gabriel is upside down behind him. Now if I tried to to do that, and started off worship upside down, and/or with a cape (as cool as I may think that is…for my own benefit, I’m not going to say just how cool I think that is), it wouldn’t go over very well. Now, enter a little thing called ‘fame’, and suddenly all the stupidity is forgiven. Well, they may be entering a little thing called ‘talent’, too. ;)

But that’s where pedals come in. They allow us versatility without having to lug around 5 amps. Yet even after I said all that, I’m still having delusions of having 8 amps, and an elaborate switching system between them. I just can’t get away from the big rigs! At first, I was all excited about the Divided by 13, and my next experiment of running all channel switching, and selling all my drive pedals (well, except for fuzz…that love affair is still going on). But then as my board gets smaller and smaller, I guess I can’t handle it, and now I want to get a bunch of amps? I think the quest for tone can be summed up by this: Something is wrong with us guitarists, and we love it.

So anyway, I decided to take my Holland Brentwood to my tech to fix it up in case I needed to sell it to keep the Divided by 13. It’s never worked quite properly, but it’s worked well enough to still sound good as my pad rig. So basically I took it to him and said ‘Please make this work.’ Now, quick little plug…if you’re in the Southern California area, and you need amp repairs or mods, Jerry Blaha is the guy to see. Best work out there; and it sticks. I’ve never had to take an amp back to him. Not to mention he’s in Hollywood, so you get to pretend to be famous like Tony Levin in a cape. And, in Hollywood, you can also wear a cape if you feel so led, and no one will look twice at you. Which is awesome. And then of course, Jerry proceeds to mention just off the cuff that he’ll have to wait on my amp so he can get an older Gibson and Marshall out for the guy doing all the guitar work on Terminator 4; so then I look down and see the Gibson, and just casually put my hand on it like I’m resting it, but in reality I’m sucking up all that awesome once-removed, cool-by-association from it. And then when I see Terminator 4, and hear the guitars, I can look at everyone around me and be like, ‘I’ve touched that tone!’ To which everyone will look at me like, ‘What a loser.’ Or, the girls will look at me more like, ‘If you’re not as hot as Christian Bale, you have no business speaking right now.’ And I’m not, so I don’t. Nor am I cool from being in the same room as one of the amps owned by a guy who probably did one volume swell in the background score of a movie. But do these facts hinder in any way my perception of my own hotness and coolness? Nope.

Christian Bale
(Sometimes I do wish that I were Christian Bale…or at least that I had that jacket. I mean, the dude gets to be Batman, and John Conner? And Teddy Laurence? I mean……I don’t know what that last reference is from……)

So I get the Holland back from Jerry, and he’s totally redone the whole amp. It’s called a Brentwood, but it’s more of a cross between Mike Holland’s Brentwood and his Jumpmaster. Mike Holland used to pride himself on unique designs rather than clones, and on never making any circuit or amp exactly the same. So Jerry diagnosed the circuit, found out what it was, found out what it ‘wanted’ to be, and then fixed/modded accordingly. And it’s like a totally new amp. I say again, if you need work, go to Jerry. I put a link to his shop, Amp Crazy, in my links section. Anyway, this Holland/Blaha, as I guess it is now, has some of the best cleans, and the most clean headroom I have ever heard. It’s one input, but is internally jumpered for two channels, kind of like you can do with a patch cable on some of the old 4-input Fenders and Marshalls. And then you can adjust each of the preamp channels to taste. And of course, the famous Holland reverb. And if we want to go into the whole, who can make the best adjective for tone thing (which I love, by the way ;) ), I’ll go ahead and call the tone of this amp ‘living.’ It is very American, with the big, gutsy cleans from two 6L6 tubes, but the warmth is not getting overtaken by its own bass frequencies, which is good.

Here’s a quick demo I shot yesterday, after the mods and repairs had all been done.

Clean Tone

Gerard Melancon Pro Artist Strat (chambered) with Lindy Fralin Blues pickups–>

Loop-Master bypass looper–>

Loop-Master bypass looper–>
          (–>Dr. Scientist Tremolessence
          (–>Damage Control Timeline
          (–>Damage Control Timeline

Holland Brentwood–>

Heritage pine cab with Jensen P12N

So that’s the demo of the, I guess, Holland/Blaha Brentwood/Jumpmaster. We’ll just call it a Holland Brentwood, because I don’t like typing all that. And should I sell it? Yes. There is absolutely no need to not get asked back to gigs because I have so many amps that neither me nor the sound techs know how to utilize them correctly. Will I sell it? hehehe I have all these lofty ideals about what makes the best tone, and how a guitarist should behave, and what gear you should and shouldn’t have, and all that. But when it comes down to it, I think I just like gear. I mean, music. ;)

Splendid.
Karl.