By Andy Boden
BD: The whole thing was great from start to finish. The band played well and we all got on – so it was easy and just about the music rather than selling anything – just like being in a band should be but rarely is!!
MR: Was it difficult to narrow down the set-list to a manageable size, with so many anthemic songs to choose from?
BD: I must admit I did spend some time on this. I tend to rough out a set list and send out to the guys and they think about it and comment and we put it together over a few days. You’re looking at how well a tune might have stood the test of time, how well known it is and then I’ll be thinking of tempo and keys, trying to get some shape into the set. Just trying to entertain and give Toby a bit of scope to work the crowd a bit. If a set is right, it kind of plays itself.
MR: The Little Angels sound is quite unique, with the keys and brass section having a major influence. Was it problematic getting so many people interested in hitting the road again?
BD: Well it took 20 years so I suppose so… Rich’s day job is drumming in Skunk Anansie. So we have to factor that in and on this tour he was depped by Dom from REEF which was great. Mark Plunkett lives in Thailand and is busy managing Ronan. Toby has always got ten things on the go including performance and production jobs and Jim’s a senior academic lecturer at Bath Spa Uni.
I go fishing a lot… Not quite as impressive is it? Mind you I catch more fish than them. But we all decided to prioritise these dates and the festivals in the summer and made sure it happened. This year we’ll do the Isle of Wight with Bon Jovi and a few warms ups I expect. That will do us for 2013. It’s a privilege being able to pick the guitar up and do gigs like that. I don’t take it for granted.
MR: You use quite a variety of guitars throughout the set, what are your ‘live’ ones of choice?
BD: Well I am very careful about all aspects of my guitars and amps. I love sound and a guitar tone to me is what it’s all about. I have tailored my rig so its sounds good through a big PA. I use old Les Pauls, with most of the finish removed, as it helps the resonance of the wood. A heavy lacquer strangles the tone. They are customs and a standard and I will use three in the set. They are all so different.
The crowd favourite is the black 78 custom as it has character and people remember it from back in the day. It has a maple neck and roars like a beast. I also have a 74 custom and an early 90’s chopped up standard all branded with a fish symbol. They all have bare knuckle pick-ups which are wound by hand – this makes a massive difference to the’ soul’ of the tone. I also use a very special 73 Tele and a good 79 Strat. I have done loads of work on all the guitars, massive frets, all tone pots removed and they do get hammered and required daily maintenance to be in shape to play live.
Amps are either AC30’s or Marshall Plexis or rebuilds of those maps. I hate master volumes and will never play with one. My back line is old school loud and I have no guitar in monitors. I use two heads on full – both running at all times with 4 cabs. I like a combination of open and closed 2 by 12 cabs with a mixture Vintage 30’s and Greenbacks. I change sounds by control of the vol pot on the guitar. Minimal pedals, wah, a treble booster, flange and a delay which I barely use. I like it dry because you have to work harder on your phrasing. I have tested every patch lead and pedal by ear, and I have a friend who mods pedals for me (simplifies them) so nothing is standard.
The rig was really reliable on last tour every night, no problem. That’s new for me as usually I blow amps up all the time. I was using my favourite amp ‘the Iron Horse’ made by Paul Burford at VS. It is a vox pre amp in to a JTM 45 (early Marshall) power amp; its the sound I have had in my head for years. Chimey rich harmonics and mid range of a vox with the roar of the back end of a vintage Marshall. No stupid effects loops or anything – in fact it only has one control – a vol pot and I set it to maybe 7 or 8. The distortion is of course mostly power amp, so it’s very old school.
Maybe Van Halen 1 would be close, or Clapton Beano period, early Lizzy that sort of thing, but with more midrange… I suppose that bit is me, that and my vibrato are the signature of what I do. I don’t care about technique – just feel, attitude and excitement and I try to make guitar playing exciting to people who don’t play guitar themselves. It’s not a guitar lesson – Its rock n roll.
MR: Do you do any of the mods yourself?
BD: The only mods I do on the guitars are the brutal removal of any varnish or coating with a blow torch. I also brand my guitars with a branding iron made by a local blacksmith, but I only do that when they are 100% right.
MR: Many guitarists buy and hoard guitars…do you have an extensive private collection?
BD: I don’t have a massive collection of guitars as I only keep ones I’ll actually use and as I’m so fussy about tone I go through a lot of instruments and only keep the really special ones.
My guitars don’t seem to be much use to other people, what with the massive frets, lack of tone pots and extremely high action. I am drawn to 70’s guitars as 60’s instruments are expensive and my improvements would massively devalue them. A Les Paul custom from say 1974 is still the bargain of the century.
I have considered hoarding a few in the loft but guitars are for playing not collecting. The ones I have kept are really great guitars with character and tone with maybe the exception of the natural wood early 90’s LP standard (an ebay bargain). It’s got a lovely Jimmy Page middley mahogany cello tone but is nothing special to play. But it records the best of them all. It has that EVH brown sound in the mids especially when paired with a plexi Marshall. If I had to save one though it would be the black custom, that’s a one off… closely followed by the ‘71 Tele. Again its impossible to replace as it has aged into something of real character.
MR: And finally… any prospect of any new material from Little Angels?
BD: I don’t think so. I’m not feeling a good reason for us to record a record in 2013. You have to have something really clear to say as a band- as a unit I mean- too many bands make records for the sake of it. I don’t think we want to do that.
MR: Thanks for your time Bruce, its appreciated.
BD: Thanks, it’s been fun.