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.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

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

I’vE haD TO lEarN TO wrITE parTS fOr ThE SONg, aND NOT juST Cram ThINgS IN fOr ThE SakE Of IT

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