We introduce guitarist Tom Leighton from a great Midlands rock band The Bad Flowers.
A minute’s all it takes to find out what makes a great guitarist tick. Before he jumped into his limo for the airport we grabbed a quick chat with Tom Leighton, guitarist and lead singer for Midlands-based rock band, The Bad Flowers.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
TL: I use the Jim Dunlop Jazz IIIs, the red Max Grip ones. I kept dropping picks all the time because of sweating on stage but these are great. They’re also really easy to tuck away when I need to use my fingers to play. I find heavier picks better for control and dynamics.
GT: If you had to give up all your effects pedals but three, what would they be?
TL: I’ve actually scaled down my pedals massively recently. I was going out with a huge pedalboard and I kind of took a step back and thought, What can I get away with live? But there are three pedals on that board I really couldn’t do without. First is my Analogman King Of Tone. I use the orange side to drive my amp and the red for lead breaks. Such a good pedal. The others are my EHX Micro Pog and Basic Audio Gnarly Fuzz. These two just work so well, and when used together they add a monstrous thickness to my tone.
GT: Do you play another musical instrument well enough to do so in a band?
TL: I’ve played a little bass on some demo stuff at home but I wouldn’t say I’m good enough to ever do it live. I’ve always fancied learning the drums, as I hear guitarists say that it really improves your rhythm when going back to the guitar. I think I will give the piano or keyboards a try next though; I think it would be pretty cool to use it on some recordings in the future.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
TL: Oh hell, no! Music charts baffle me. I’m self-taught so I’ve always learned by ear or from tab. To be honest though, I think it’s something I’m going to start looking at to expand my mind; I just don’t want it to kill the creativity of writing music.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
TL: I have noticed differences in clarity between different brands. I’ve also tested out different lengths of cable to and you do seem to lose some signal with longer cable lengths. I’m currently using Klotz cables; they’re really well made and seem to stand the test of time on the road. In fact, I remember buying my first half-stack years ago and the salesman told me I’d have the Klotz speaker cable longer than the amp. He was right. I still use it now.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re slightly jealous of?
TL: Well last year we toured with Jared James Nichols and his playing is insane. No pick, no neck pickup and he just shreds. He mixes a lot of different styles and does stuff with the guitar I’ve not seen anyone else do on the circuit.
GT: Your house or studio is burning down: which of your guitars do you run in to salvage?
TL: I’d be running back in to get my 2005 Les Paul Standard. It’s unique with the burst it has on the finish, and it was a gift for my 18th birthday from my Dad ,so it has a lot of sentimental value. I just seem to connect with it and it sounds absolutely killer!
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
TL: I’m using an Orange OR50 head through a 1970s Orange cab. It’s such a great amp. I’ve always been a fan of single-channel amps that take pedals well. I used to run a Marshall JTM45 but I could never get the break-up out of it unless I turned it up super loud, which didn’t make me popular with the sound engineers. The Orange I run the gain at half and use my pedals to push it a bit more. It also has this cool ‘punch’ knob that adds extra mids. I run that almost flat out.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
TL: It’s not too high and not to low. I like that feeling of having a fight with the guitar. I think it adds to my playing. I have the same tech set up all my guitars, so they’re all pretty similar and we tune down a half-step so it has to be right for that too.
GT: What strings do you use?
TL: I’m using D’addario NYXL 0.11s at the minute. I switched to them the last year and they seem to last a little longer and don’t need stretching in so much. The bends feel great and the tuning stability is definitely improved.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
TL: There’s always been music in my family. My Dad and Uncle were both pro musicians so I had a lot of influence from them. But as a kid I was obsessed with Thin Lizzy, especially the twin-guitar stuff that Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson did. I’d spend hours locked away learning all the parts to stuff like Emerald and Dancing In The Moonlight. Pretty weird really as I’ve ended up in a trio!
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
TL: That would have to be my Dad’s old tobacco sunburst Les Paul. I remember the first time I ever saw it, and just thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. He still has it nd I still think the same thing.
GT: Can you remember t the best gig you ever did?
TL: We did a show at the Camden Assembly last summer, opening for Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. It was the first time we’d been part of a sold-out show in London and the atmosphere was amazing. The crowd was amazing too and I think we fed off that and played one of the best shows of 2017.
GT: And your worst playing nightmare?
TL: It’s got to be gear failure. I had an old Marshall that used to pop tubes just for fun! I was always counting my blessings when we got all the way through a set. But we played in Swansea recently and I hit the first note of the first number and my sixth string went... there was some serious improvising going on throughout that song!
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learn?
TL: I think it was learning when not to play and learning how leaving space in the songs can actually have just as much impact as a note or a chord. I’ve had a steep learning curve when it came to songwriting, too. I had to learn to write parts for the song, and not just cram things in for the sake of it.
GT: Do you still practise?
TL: Yeah! I try and practise as often as I can but it’s normally just off-the-cuff stuff. I like trying to come up with new riffs and chord structures and just sit and enjoy playing the guitar. I’ve been using a lot of the backing tracks you can find online recently to practise solo lines and try and improve my range of scales. It’s all about repetition; the more you play something the better you get. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied; that’s the beauty of it. Every day’s a school day!
GT: Do you have any kind of pre-gig warm-up routine?
TL: I try and find somewhere out of the way to warm my voice up for a few minutes. Then I’ll sit and noodle on the guitar a little; try and go over some scales and warm my fingers up. Then I normally pace up and down waiting to go on stage, or I’ll grab a pre-show whiskey - just the one though!
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be?
TL: It would have to be John Bonham on drums, Geezer Butler on bass, Dave Grohl on rhythm
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