What is your main guitar
Interview: Vintage Trouble & Nalle Colt
Some think he has the coolest fucking name for a guitarist. Others consider it one of the most versatile sidemen. One thing is undisputed: The likeable Swede has extremely tasteful sounds and confident views on the subject of equipment.
Hardly any other band is currently traded hotter than Vintage Trouble. The name obliges: The Californian quartet conjures up damn casual, authentic sounds and bows to Otis Redding, the Faces and the Rolling Stones. Guitarist Nalle Colt, studio guitarist with adopted home L.A., convinces with classic components and a lot of taste.
Nalle, your standard equipment includes a Gretsch Duo Jet, a Fender Telecaster and various Les Pauls. You're pretty much "old school".
Exactly. When these classics hit the market, manufacturers hit the nail on the head. Sure, there are a lot of boutique builders out there today who have created loads of cool details, introduced innovations, or tweaked instruments. But they didn't reinvent the wheel.
The classics have something that simply cannot be topped. In 50 years time, you'll still be playing Gibson, Fender, and Gretsch guitars. I'm absolutely sure of that.
Your two Les Pauls are '59 V.O.S. reissues from 2005. Your main guitar has a small “Vintage Trouble” coin on the top and '59 PAF pickups from Crazyparts.
Correct. The pickups sound great. They have their own character, not too much output and a good center shape. They are perfect for the amps I play. I'm not into a heavy metal tone, but a classic rock sound, especially when you turn down the volume on the instrument and the sound becomes cleaner.
How many pickup sets did you try?
Way too many! You try a set, play it, get bored at some point, try the next set and think: That sounds a lot better! And six months later, you're back to the same point! (laughs) But there are also a lot of great pickup manufacturers! On my other Les Paul, I have a set of Monty PAFs, which is great too. Pickups are also relatively affordable, so I'd recommend any guitarist to try a few out to find the perfect tone.
Which can be achieved by fine-tuning the instrument, so to speak?
Let's not kid ourselves: a Les Paul is a great guitar. But it just comes from the factory and you have to make it your personal instrument. You have to design them according to your individual needs.
Did the sound of your two Les Pauls develop through intensive touring?
For sure. It is important to play a guitar regularly. You can hear it. Sometimes you buy your guitar and love it, like mine # 2. I didn't play it that much at first. When I did use it a lot in the studio, I found that a good guitar had become a great guitar! Maybe I just got used to them again! (laughs) She has something of her own, a real character, she can really sing now! When I open a guitar case that I haven't looked in for a long time and grab the guitar, I often get the feeling that it doesn't sound. It only develops after a while, when it has got used to the room, the humidity and starts playing again. Guitars should be played and not collected.
And then you have a Fender Custom Shop Telecaster that you love to play in the studio.
Before joining Vintage Trouble, I played a lot of Telecaster and Stratocaster. For a long time I didn't believe that I would touch a Les Paul! (laughs) But when we started this band, a Les Paul fit the band better. In this band I need a slightly thicker sound and I don't feel like the humming of single coils. One day Fender invited us to a studio session in Los Angeles. And the boys said: Nalle, you don't really want to play a Gibson here with us, do you? (laughs) So they gave me a Custom Shop Telecaster that sounded really amazing. I wanted to buy the guitar, but they said it was reserved for Jeff Beck. I then made a couple of phone calls, did my research, called Fender back and said: Guys, that doesn't seem entirely true! I would like to buy this guitar! I got it and it is really great! I really enjoy recording it, because if you ever want to double a sound, Les Paul and Telecaster complement each other perfectly. The mix of both instruments results in a great, ingenious guitar sound.
You play them over lazy J-20 combos from Jesse Hoff, a boutique builder who specializes in tweed amps. What is special about these amps?
You sound awesome! (laughs) You have exactly the response you want as a guitarist; the guitarist has a favorite tone that he is looking for. I wanted an amp that sounds good when distorted, but also becomes a lot cleaner when I turn down the volume. And those lazy-Js are very, very loud! (laughs) I contacted Jesse Hoff back then after we played at Jools Holland. We got rented equipment and I had a Fender amp - sorry Fender - but it sounded really bad! I told Jesse about it and he sent me one of his combos. I now have six! (laughs) They sound good and are reliable. I've never had any problems with them. Sometimes tube amps start beating after two hours on stage, but the lazy Js stay constant.
Like Stevie Ray Vaughan, you also like to use a Fender Vibratone Leslie Speaker Cabinet from the 60s.
Yes, I now have five of them! I buy them whenever I spot one. They're just super rare. In the meantime I even get offers because the vintage dealers have noticed that I like to use them. Okay, this time we have a keyboard player on tour who uses those Hammond B-3 Leslie sounds himself, so I don't have one with me. But I can only recommend to every guitarist: If you've never played over a Leslie before, give it a try if you can! It is addictive! It makes your sound wide and cool!
What else are the most important components of your effects board?
As overdrive I have a Lazy J Crusier, which gives you an incredible variety of tones. I also have my old Zendrive, which delivers a thick, even lead sound. I bought one or two newer ones, but none of them sound like my old one. Then I have a Boss MD-500 modulation effect, a Boss DD-500 delay, the Boss VF-500H volume pedal and their ES-8 switching loop system, which sounds clean and works wonderfully. All components are easy to use, stable and reliable. Then I have a new favorite effect, the Cali76 from Origin Effects, a really cool compressor. I wasn't into compressors before, but the Cali76 is a copy of the legendary 1176 FET studio compressor. It's really cool and makes your tone really fat. It runs constantly for me and is connected to all effects.
Another important aspect of your sound is the volume control on your guitar. You like to turn down the volume on your Gibsons and achieve remarkably slim sounds that you would hardly expect from Les Pauls.
Correct. We used to have all controls on "10", right? (laughs) When I adjust my stage sound on the guitar today, I set the toggle switch to the middle position and work with the volume controls until the guitar's tone is right for my ears. From the middle position and the volume and tone controls you can get all sorts of awesome sounds. Occasionally, almost a Fender tone like from a Telecaster. Then when I switch to the bridge pickup for a solo during the show, I know that the sound will prevail. But that takes a lot of practice and experience. So: keep listening to your sound. Use your ears! Pay attention to this during the sound check and prefer to spend a few extra minutes on it.
What else has changed in your setup?
I now play thinner strings. I used to use very thick strings, based on Stevie Ray Vaughan's philosophy: thick strings, fat sound! But two years ago I broke my left hand and it took me a long time to get back in shape. Today I play .009 strings and had to learn how to use them. Angus Young showed me that when we were on the road with AC / DC. Angus plays incredibly thin strings and his guitar is very sensitive to every minimal input. Angus is very loud, but he plays almost without strength. This allows it to be totally dynamic. It takes a lot of practice to strike this lightly. But if you can do that, you can get a lot out of your instrument with it.
You're also picky about your cables.
People like to forget the importance of cables in the signal chain. For me, mogamis are the best choice. Certainly there are other good companies, but some cables bring a bit of treble with them - at least to my liking. The Mogamis, on the other hand, reproduce the mids perfectly and their signal is clear. But above all, they have a very good shelf life. I have cables that must have been in use for eight years. So if you're in the process of putting together a setup, don't skimp on the cables!
Thank you for talking to us!
- The Bomb Shelter Sessions (2011)
- The Swing House Acoustic Sessions (2014)
- 1 Hopeful Rd. (2015)
- Chapter II - EP 1 (2018)
(published in Guitar & Bass 06/2019)
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