SIXTY SECONDS WITH...
A minute’s all it takes to see what makes a great guitarist tick. Before he jumped into his limo for the airport we grabbed a quick chat with that mighty southern blues-rock maestro,
Southern blues-rock master, Lance Lopez answers our gritty Q&A in some style.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
LL: I love Jim Dunlop Tortex picks. The .73mm yellow ones. I’ve used them since 1989. When I was a kid I used Fender picks when I first began playing guitar, but couldn’t make them last very long. I met Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch from the band Tesla after a concert they played in Shreveport when they were at the height of their career in the late 80s, and they each gave me a handful of guitar picks, which were Tortex picks. I’ve used them since. I’ve tried other picks over the years but always went back to the Tortex.
GT: If you had to give up all your pedals but three, what would they be? (And why)
LL: Does a tuner count? Man, I have so many groovy overdrive pedals so that’s a tough one. I love my old-school Mojo Hand FX Rook Overdrive, Vertex Boost and Bogner La Grange; they all have a bit of different drive which is very cool.
GT: Do you play any other instrument well enough to do so in a band?
LL: Other than guitar I have been playing bass a lot lately around Texas & Louisiana with a couple of different bands. I play bass with a group of kids I am mentoring called Salvation From Sundown and I also play bass with my longtime sidekick in Texas, Wes Jeans in his trio. Playing bass in the Wes Jeans Trio is very cool because I produced his albums and wrote a lot of the material which means I also wrote the bass lines. It’s a very heavy blues-rock power trio so I get to really get into the whole Jack Bruce, Felix Pappalardi, Tim Bogert, John Paul Jones style of bass playing. I usually play a Thunderbird Bass which I love because I play Firebirds. Its a heavy, gnarly sound. My good friend Jorgen Carlsson (Gov’t Mule bassist) always gives me some great bass tips, so I always kinda follows Jorgen’s lead.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
LL: I am not a sight reader. It takes me a while to go through and get the piece. I always admire guys that can just sight read and play with feel. Steve Lukather and I have talked about this a lot and I feel like it’s something I could definitely improve on.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
LL: Absolutely! I am using the Wireworld Cables designed by David Salz. They are fantastic! I am currently using the Wireworld Micro-Eclipse cables. They have Ohno Continuous cast copper conductors with silver plug contacts and Composilex 2 insulation. The most unique thing about these Wirewocables is their DNA Helix conductor geometry which uses the Electromagnetic field to push the signal... it’s truly incredible. I’ve never heard anything like it.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re slightly jealous of?
LL: I absolutely love David Grissom down in Austin. I have always wanted to play like David. He has the right amount of everything... rock, blues, country, Americana... he never plays too much, never plays too little and his tone is beyond belief. I’ve never really been jealous, more like in awe.
GT: Your studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
LL: That would be my True Historic R9 Les Paul the ‘Barton Creek Burst’. Shortly after I went down to Austin and got it from Gibson, I texted a picture of it to Billy Gibbons and he replied back, “Don’t let that one get too far out of your sight”! When the Reverend speaks you listen (laughs) so I keep it close by at all times.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
LL: I love the Bogner Helios 100. Its platform is based on a 1968 Super Lead 100. But it has many of the different mods that Reinhold Bogner did for Eddie Van Halen, Jerry Cantrell, and other great guitarist who love the classic Plexi tone. What I love so much about it is there is a switch on the back to go from JTM-45 to SLP 100. I can use it in a small or a giant hall. Smaller rooms I use a 2x12 cabinet loaded with a Vintage 30 and Creamback 65; my 4x12 has two Creamback 65s and two Creamback 75s. You asked about pedals and which ones I could take away... well with the Helios 100 I don’t need pedals. I am perfectly content plugging my Les Paul or my Firebird straight into the any front and watchin’ it go.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
LL: I don’t like to fight the guitars much any more. When I was a young man I did all that, heavy strings, high action and all that, but I found it really just ends up hurting your hands in the long run. I Like my action medium to low. I like to let the guitar do some of the work too. On my guitars for slide the action is set very high, obviously.
GT: What strings do you use?
LL: I use Ernie Ball Slinky and have for many, many years. My gauges range from 009 to .011 but I mainly use the Super Slinky .009s on my main guitars. On other guitars I use Regular Slinky .010s, and on my guitars I have set up for slide I use Power Slinky .011s. I love Ernie Ball’s Cobalt strings, but I mainly just use the old-school Slinky sets.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
LL: Elvis Presley and Scotty Moore. My Dad was in the Army with Elvis in Germany. They were good friends. When I was three or four years old my Dad showed me footage of the ’68 Comeback Special where Elvis is in the black leather suit and they are all sitting around playing guitars and telling stories. When I saw that I knew I wanted to be a guitarist for the rest of my life.
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
LL: A 1959 Les Paul! When I was 10 or 11 years old I saw the Led Zeppelin movie The Song Remains The Same, and watching Jimmy Page play that Les Paul was completely flooring. I loved the Bursts from the beginning; it has never changed. I have loved guitars of all types, Strats, Teles, SGs, everything, but I have always loved the Burst more than anything.
WHEN MY DAD SHOWED ME ELVIS’S COMEBACK SPECIAL I KNEW I WANTED TO BE A GUITARIST FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE
GT: What was the single best gig you ever did?
LL: I would have to say the Nottodden Blues Festival in Norway in 2016 was one of the best ever, with Supersonic Blues Machine. We had Billy Gibbons, Steve Lukather, Walter Trout, and Robben Ford. It was an incredible night.
GT: And your worst playing nightmare?
LL: It’s opening the show with a guitar that is completely out of tune.
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
LL: Always be a great supporting musician and play to make other musicians sound great. I’ve learned a great musician makes any musician onstage with him sound great, especially if he is the leader.
GT: Do you still practise?
LL: Absolutely! All the time. I always love trying to create new riffs or lead patterns and working on my tone. I’m always striving to be better. I never want to be better than anyone else; I just want to be better than myself.
GT: What about a pre-gig warm-up?
LL: If there is time before a show I
like to warm up and practise scales to loosen up. I usually like Pentatonic patterns of descending fives and sixes, or ascending sixes and eights. I always like to make sure the strings are good and stretched and that I’m in tune. I usually keep a Snark on the headstock until it’s time to go out there so I know I am in tune when we hit the first number.
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be?
LL: Wow I don’t know. I’d love to play with Bad Company - can you ring up Paul Rodgers up and tell him I’d like to give it a go?
GT: Present company excepted (and notwithstanding the stupidity of the question!), who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
LL: Jimi Hendrix. Period. But we all know that! (laughs)
GT: Is there a solo by someone else you really wish you had played?
LL: Be Careful With A Fool by Johnny Winter. Johnny was on fire back then with Unc (John Turner, bass) and Tommy (Shannon, drums). I can really relate to what Johnny is doing there, and I really miss Johnny a lot. That song is what Texas blues-rock is all about.
GT: What’s the solo or song of your own of which you’re most proud?
LL: I really love the solo on Down To One Bar from Tell The Truth; it’s more the tone I guess. It’s that big, fat, Les Paul neck pickup tone that I really love about it. We had the Les Paul dialled into the small Bogner Brixton amp with a 2x12 with Greenbacks in it. I think it’s some of my best tone I’ve ever recorded.
GT: What would you most like to be remembered for?
LL: For being a hard working musicians and trying to keep the blues-rock tradition alive, as well as passing it on to the children.
GT:What are you and the band up to at the moment?
LL: We are preparing for some touring in support of the new album, Tell The Truth and looking forward to getting out there and playing like we never have before. We look forward to seeing you all out there on the road! For more information on Lance, his band, gigs and merchandise please check him out on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
I PRACTISE SCALES TO LOOSEN UP. PENTATONIC PATTERNS OF DESCENDING FIVES AND SIXES AND ASCENDING SIXES AND EIGHTS Lance Lopez