Total Guitar


John Notto of Dirty Honey chose a Les Paul to rock like his heroes Page and Slash

- Words Jenna Scaramanga Photo Will Ireland

In 2023, no young band is carrying the torch for riff-based hard rock brighter than Los Angeles’ Dirty Honey. And for guitarist John Notto, blasting pentatonic­s through a Marshall at antisocial volume, only a Les Paul will do...

How did you get into playing Les Pauls?

By discoverin­g Led Zeppelin, and watching [Zep’s concert movie] The Song Remains The Same. Jimmy Page’s moves, the way he played the guitar, the sound and the look of it just immediatel­y made the Les Paul iconic for me. And then Slash, who obviously follows in that line of artistry. The two of them are my shining lights in Les Paul-dom!

When did you get your first Les Paul?

I got it about 10 years ago. I’d just moved to LA and I bought it on Sunset Strip, a ’58 reissue in cherry sunburst from 2003. Like most people I thought thin necks are easier to play, but the tone of that guitar was just so much more woody, I just learned to play the thick neck because I liked the sound. It was a learning curve but once I got used to it I couldn’t go back.

What guitars do you record with?

I look at the studio as a place to pull out the Swiss army knife and use whatever’s right for the mix, so the secret of our sound is it’s not always straight up Les Paul. We’ve used a ’65 ES-335, 50s Les Paul Jr’s, early-60s SGS, and a ’50s Tele. On our album, the big moments for the Les Paul are Gypsy and Another Last Time. For California Dreaming, the biggest song off the album, I think I used the Les Paul for the solo.

I’m not as loyal to one guitar when I get in the studio, but live I can’t imagine using any of those other guitars.

Is there anything else you love about them?

It’s funny – no there isn’t! I would say that there’s such a great sound and great look that you put up with their charmingly difficult attributes. Anyone who tells you they stay in tune easily is lying; especially the G string. You put up with it because it’s worth it. It just has so much sustain from the thickness of the body, and so much bottom end. I also have a treble bleed on my neck pickup, so I can turn it down a little and still have a usable, un-distorted tone without having to step on anything. I can be anywhere on stage and do that. That’s handy, but I think most of it is that when I have that guitar in my hand, it just reminds me of my heroes, so I feel like I know what I’m doing.

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