On my amps…

I appreciate the story of how I became an Orange user because it embodies my “put up or shut up” philosophy of rock music.  Before I moved to America to join our band, Hero Jr., I lived in London, where I worked mostly as a songwriter, producer and studio musician.  My main amps were vintage Marshall JMP 50 watt 2×12 combos from the late 60s and early 70s.  Being a Jimmy Page and 70s rock fanatic I was religiously partial to the Les Paul / Marshall sound.  There was something about the raunch, honk, and presence through that rig that inspired my playing.  I am not really a “technical musician” and I’m extremely sensitive to what instrument and amp I’m playing through.  I’m not the dude that can pick up anyone’s guitar, plug into any amp, and just start shredding.  If it doesn’t feel right it’s not happening for me.  I’ve always been that way!  For the majority of my work I’ve played the same 1972 Les Paul for over 20 years. 

Enter Orange.  To make a long story short, seven years ago I had finished co-writing and producing an album with my friends in the Indianapolis, Indiana rock band Hero Jr.  The band’s singer, Evan Haughey, and I wrote the songs for that album via SKYPE.  We had such a good connection that the hook-up between my studio in London and the studio in Indiana felt like one living room.  We ended up recording the record back and forth between the two studios.  In June 2012 I was invited to the Hero Jr. album release event in Indianapolis.  The plan was to rehearse for a couple days and play the new songs that we had all recorded together.  I came over to America to do that show and the vibes were so cool I never went back to London and joined the band.  When the music feels that right there is no need to think about it!

From that day the never-ending Hero Jr. tour started.  All my gear, except a couple guitars and pedals, was in London and the vintage amp I was borrowing on tour was melting down by the end of each set so I needed a rig.  A friend, and Orange user in London, suggested I talk to her artist representative about potential touring rigs.  She said that the new Orange gear was killing it and that the artist support system at the company was amazing.  She was right.  The dudes at Orange were very cool and really wanted me to find the right amp for my style.  They said I would not be disappointed by Orange and that I would probably not want to go back to my Marshalls.  They were right.  A week later I became an Orange Ambassador and was touring with my first Orange rig, an OR50 and PPC-212 closed back cabinet.  From the get go I was floored.  Not only did I feel that “connection” that I needed to be inspired, but the fans and technical staff at the venues we played all mentioned the clarity and balls of my sound and were impressed.  I was really in love with my amp and spent the next 6 years and over 700 shows playing that OR50. 

I got my Rockerverb 50 Mk. III last year to take on a short spring tour supporting John 5 And The Creatures.  My relationship with the RV had an auspicious start as it arrived just a few days before the tour started, and being such a picky creature of habit with my gear, and having limited gear space on tour, I wussed out and left the RV 50 at home.  My initial opinion was…great amp but not as vibey as my OR50.  As soon as I got back from the tour I realized I was very wrong!  A couple things happened.  First, my OR50 went down and wouldn’t be repaired in time for a short string of shows.  I rehearsed for a few days with it and still felt that homesick (ampsickness!!) longing for my OR50. 

Once we started playing I began to get used to the RV and noticed that it was ballsy, yet clean, and cut really well.  It fit. I usually use one setting and control the tone with my volume on the guitar.  With the RV I could crank the gain but when I rolled off my volume I got the vintage cleanish sound I am used to.  That amp killed it.  Like I said I’m not a technician, but the RV felt like it had headroom for days.  Most importantly I felt it the RV catered to my style of playing and to the band.  Evan and I have a cool dual guitar style together.  We groove so intuitively that it almost sounds like one big guitar.  The RV fit right into that.

The second bonding experience I had with the RV was in the studio playing guitar on a few outside non-rock recording projects.  The versatility of the RV was amazing.  On one session, which was ambient alternative, like Sigur Rós, I used the clean channel as my basic setup and ran a lot of effects.  The RV takes effects really well.  The front end is very tight and balanced and the amp was as true to my vintage effects as it was to the modern gear.  I didn’t have to change settings once on that gig.  In addition to a killer gain channel the amp sounds great using a combination of the clean volume and attenuator to get a bluesier, natural overdrive sound. The RV rocked in the studio on all styles of music.  Whether it was vintage soul/funk with a Strat or Tele, Blues, or Hip Hop, all my sessions were great and I have used the RV50 as my number one studio amp ever since.  Even through a PPC112 the RV has amazing range and depth.

The third bonding session with my RV happened during the shooting of the three videos Orange will be releasing, where I played a Strat, Telecaster, and Les Paul, through it in order to show how the RV played true to the characteristics of each guitar and the effects I used.  Prior to the shooting I used the amp for a short road trip and on some studio sessions and although I was sold on the amp I didn’t really use a lot of different settings.  When it came time to shoot the videos I was kind of winging the settings to show the versatility of the amp with each of the three guitars.  I’m sure that Derik, my videographer, caught me saying, “Fuck, this amp is really the shit” more than a few times. 

During the shooting of this video is when I realized the RV is one of the best new amps on the market.  It can do everything I need in any situation I have been in, live and studio.  I am so impressed that, besides being a monster rock amp, there is so much versatility in the RV.  Both channels have different clean and overdriven possibilities, the EQ is musical and the attenuator really does its job if you need to play soft.  Set up with the gain just right I can even get my Page on!!  After getting to know my RV50 in so many ways I have decided to get and ABY and see what it’s like in my touring rig with the OR50.  I’ve been using Orange amps and pedals for a while now and one thing is for sure.  From the Mini crush all the way up to the RV and OR, Orange has a sound and personality that is perfect for the music I make.  The build quality and harmonic/tonal consistency is awesome.  I don’t use reverb, as I prefer room ambience, but the built in reverb is an added bones for anyone that needs on board verb.  I never use the effects loop so I cant comment on that.  Orange has been my only amp since 2012 and I’ve never thought to change or try others.  Great dudes.  Great gear.  “Put up or shut up!!”

On my music…

I love all kinds of music but I have always had a special thing for 60s and 70s guitar rock.  Maybe it’s because the genre evolved from Soul, R&B, Blues, and improvisational Jazz and has few boundaries.  Bring on the 60s and 70s, add volume and fuzz to the mix and it’s just right.  I favor pre-80s music because, in my opinion, talent, craft and vibe were as important aspects of the business as the need to sell records and many of the “corporate” record people had their roots in music.  They hung out with the artists and bands and released records that, for the most part, touched them, and in turn resonated with the public. 

I grew up as a songwriter and always wrote my own tunes.  My favorite artists have always been Zeppelin, Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Neil Young, The 3 Kings, Miles, and too many more to mention.  The mixture of raw rock power and good songwriting is important to me.  When Evan and I sit down to write a Hero Jr. album we usually start on acoustic guitars.  A typical session starts with a lyrical concept or a lick.  Evan and I are very in tune with each other and we share our ideas freely, trusting that we will always get where we are going.  So far it’s worked like a charm.  We always have an abundance of ideas and work well as a selfless team with one goal, getting the best out of each other during the initial creative phase of developing ideas.  We generally write from our social observations and from the obstacles we encounter in our lives and how we grow.  Our songs always come out having multiple meanings to our listeners. 

Evan and I are different people so each song means something different to him than it does to me.  Even before people hear a song it usually has two meanings coming from two different places.  Before we bring a song into the band we have a finished melody, lyric, and song outline with the main licks and an arrangement in place.  From that basis we start rehearsing and after pushing, pulling and trying many variations of dynamics and parts the song comes out Hero Jr.  This process is so important and is a big part of who we are as a band.  We know when we are finished with a song that we have tried every possible combination of ideas and that we all agree it is “airtight”.  We are very lucky to have our four man family and a creative check and balance system that actually works. 

Both on and off stage we are a band.  I do not think I could have given up my writing and producing career if I didn’t feel this bond and team energy.  My one music biz dream has always been to be in a band that could carry on the tradition of my heroes and stand the test of time.  I think we all feel that way and that’s one reason Hero Jr. has been able to slug it out for seven years of ups and downs on the path to wherever it is we are headed.  We love what we create and I believe rock fans, besides loving the music, react to the “brotherhood” and vibe of a band that is not only talented but scrappy.  Before we go into the studio to record, we take the songs on the road to see how they work in front of people.  We are a live band first and we want to get that feel in the studio.  We have recorded our last three albums and EPs live, with no overdubs. 

To get the songs right it’s important to play the new tunes out live in front of an audience.  Classic rock fans are relentless and you know when they are not into a tune.  It’s what we love about the genre!  We usually record all our rehearsals and shows to hear what works, as the feeling on stage is totally different when you listen back to a show a week later.  When we all agree we are ready, we set up in a studio facing each other in a semi-circle and start recording.  We separate the amps a little but are not afraid of amp bleed as it acts like glue.  Letting the bass bleed into the drum overheads allows for a “surrounding” bottom end that anchors the whole song.  We play each song a few times and usually have a good take in three tries.  If we don’t we move on to another song. 

Keeping it fresh and “unrehearsed” is important in the studio.  We are never stressed out and we really do trust each other on such a level that we all end up being one when the take is right.  I’d say 80% of our last three recordings are from the first three takes.  For me there is no better musical feeling than being in a well-oiled touring rock band.  It’s what got me into this when I was 13.  The vibration of “real” rock music touches every part of me.  I’m grateful for music, creativity, my bandmates, and for Orange.  Seriously. I use all the products I endorse and there are no better rock tools for me than my Orange gear.  “Put up or shut up!”

-Ken Rose, Chicago, IL.

5/5/19

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