Custom-built ESP with aged finish, vibrato and no tone control
hard to beat my Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, a 2002 in a NOS sea foam green finish. I used this on the new album with a sprinkling of flange and chorus here and there. It’s a great guitar to have around for meaty lead lines. It’s a tried and tested design that’s still influencing guitar players some 60 years after its birth.
Classic white Les Paul/ SG Standard reissue
‘I’ve also got a Vintage V52, which sounds and plays really well and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Cosmetics come first for me – I wouldn’t buy a guitar if it sounded great but looked crap. It’s not vanity… if you’re on TV in a high-profile act, you need something that looks good.’
During a Robbie Williams performance Neil will have a large selection of guitars on stage, but for amplification duties it’s almost written in stone. ‘For Robbie’s live shows and studio work I need a versatile selection of sounds, and I’m happy at the moment with a variety of Boss and Line 6 pedals running through a Marshall JCM 800 and a Triple Super Lead head. This set-up gives me five channels – one for straight clean, another clean one for the pedals, one for crunch, one for big chords and another for lead work.’
Vintage V52 and Fender Custom Shop Telecaster
Left: a ’72 Gibson SG Pro with P90s and plastic control plate. Right: an LP goldtop with mini-buckers
Neil loves older guitars, but he hasn’t got space for any that don’t function to modern standards. ‘They have to be reliable,’ he insists. ‘I’ve had so much trouble with 50-year old guitars! Sure, they look great, but I can’t afford to have a problem on stage with old machineheads and worn frets. I’ve done all those upgrades on guitars in the past, and I usually ended up selling them for far less than I bought them for.
‘My brown SG is a ’72 with P90s. It can be a bit dark-sounding sometimes, but it’s got bags of character and plenty of bottom end. This is one of my best recording guitars. It’s been on the pro circuit for a long time; I acquired it a few years ago from the lead singer from a pop band called the Four
Pennies, who had a big hit in 1964 with a song called Juliet. I loved the look of it the second I saw it – you can just visualise all the smoky clubs it’s been in. At some point in its life the original Bigsby was removed, but I can put up with that.
‘Another real rock guitar is my white Les Paul/SG, which has yellowed pretty quickly even though it’s only 11 years old. It’s got 57 Classic PAF reissues which give it some extra highs that are great for lead lines… it just seems to effortlessly soar. It really comes alive through an angry overdriven amp.’
Neil keeps stage guitars in various tunings – some standard, some in Eb. When it ➻
102 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012