Let’s cut to the chase.

When we’re talking about blues amplification the apple fell a long way from the tree of its origins. Yet there’s something fundamentally organic about the sound of the blues that hasn’t been lost in translation.

That’s because the foundation of blues lies in the roots.

“The Rocker dirty channel has been at the heart of my guitar tone for 12 years. Standing alone it’s warm and hits you like a wall of sound, then stacked it cuts and sustains in the best way possible. It’s hard to imagine a show without that signature Orange overdrive” – Hannah Wicklund

Just like a tree, breaks overtime spawn new saplings, fed from a lineage of ancient roots that continue to feed musicians. Inspiring them to push their limits, evolving in ways that are almost indistinguishable from their forbearers.

But once you get down in the mud you’ll notice that everything that was, still is.

The murky roots of the Mississippi Delta

To some extent, it takes a lot of imagination to tell the story of blues amplification. But what we do know is before amplification; we had the acoustic blues. A melting pot of sound, mixed up from traditional string bands, folk, Creole and Broadway theatre songs.

It’s no surprise that legends like Robert Johnson originally made their crust playing American show tunes at Juke joints. These places were wild and unruly, the name itself ‘Juke’ comes from the Gullah word ‘joog’ or ‘jug’ meaning rowdy or disorderly. So the need for louder instruments was a prerequisite. Resonators became widely used for those who could afford them. Not many of these players could.

Blues: amplified

Consider the first amplifiers these blues legends were using. Makeshift designs built by converting old radios. They were pure grit; filthy dirt that was brutality embodied.

The Orange Rocker 32 is the perfect amp to achieve that level of grime. All valve monster tone within the footprint of a self-contained stereo combo. This is an amp designed for experimentation.

Orange Rocker 32 Amplifier

Just as the pioneers had rewired and retubed army issue radios (often players would swap out the smoother 6v6s for European standard EL34s) to create roaring beasts usually resigned to closing time on a Saturday night, the Orange Rocker 32 gives you so much flexibility.

12AX7s on the front end allows you to dial the distortion all the way up to Mr Nasty while the 12AT7s give more headroom and chimey cleaner tone. Add in 4 x EL84’s at the power amp stage and the whole thing fires up when overdriven.

Now the old school blues players didn’t have luxurious stereo effects returns with separate valve output stages, but you can be sure they would have been melting heads in the process.

Some other cool features include half power mode for tinnitus-free wailing, perfect for those who don’t want to experience the deafening silence of a motor shelling during an intimate gig.

Boomtown USA

Many of the Delta players migrated northwards during the great depression, up to the Mississippi and along Highway 61 towards the big city lights of Chicago, from there, blues exploded.

Where money flows, technology grows, and with that amplifier design took off. Classics amps that today now symbolise the American sound became a common workhorse for blues musicians.

Those amps though from back in the day were dirty beasts. The players; innovators. So when it comes to getting close to those classic sounds you got to think about what was going on over there.

Amplifiers were being modded and tweaked, each one was unique, often driven by a need to keep the thing going long enough to play out the next gig. It’s said that when Keith Richards and Eric Clapton paid homage to their heroes by meeting them on American soil they were expected them to be wielding Gibsons, but in fact, they were playing Kays. A perception that comes from an ability to play the hell out of anything and make it sound badass.

Orange TremLord 30

The TremLord 30 is an Orange take on the classic amps that were around in the 50s. It’s quite likely that this beefed up vintage design is an accurate reflection of what was in use, opting for EL84 (nee EL34s) that break up more than the 6v6 type American tube.

What those guys wouldn’t have were contemporary FX chains that give you far more flexibility without suffering tonal loss.

Probably the single most beautiful thing to happen in modern-day amplifier design is to drop the volume but still retain the springiness of a valve amp. That means you don’t need a plethora of amps to keep you away from an anti-social behaviour order.

The Spirit of Revival

Orange, as you may know, played a role in sculpting the sound of the blues from the late 60s when Fleetwood Mac took the first Orange rig out across America. This was a big step away from those early blues players who sacrificed blood and bone to amplify their sound.

This was a wall of sound, thick with mid-ranged compression, tar-like, knurled and jagged edges reminiscent of sun-beaten highways where its origins were performed in road worker campsites. A sound that rang on endlessly as the birds picked at the carrion that laid in their wake, and which has evolved beyond comprehension, yet still is as relevant now as it was 50 years ago.

The amplifier which embodies the spirit of the British sound is the Orange AD30, our flagship all-valve amplifier.

So we’ll let the music do the talking:

As a few days have passed and the hangover had time to wear off, it’s time to reflect on yet another spectacular Desertfest London. We kickstarted the weekend at The Black Heart at 2pm on the Friday for Israel’s ‘The Great Machine’, who totally kicked ass, by the way, before venturing out in the rain heading towards Electric Ballroom where Old Empire had curated the stage for the day. We caught soothing Jaye Jayle who were a nice little ‘calm before the storm’, as we knew we were about to get our ears blown out over the course of the next 48 hours.

Ben McLeod, All Them Witches

After a Black Heart pit stop for a rum and coke, it was time to interview Swedish ‘Skraeckoedlan’ where our first questions were “HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE YOUR NAME WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHERE DOES IT COME FROM AND WHY DID YOU PICK IT?” We’d tell you the answers to all of the above, but we’d rather keep ya hanging so you’ll watch the interview we did with them once we release it in about four years time. We can tell you this though, they shared their thoughts on it perhaps not being the most beneficial name when it comes to world domination and reaching an international audience – no shit. Still, lovely guys and killer musicians, and totally cool with getting interviewed outside in the freezing rain, gotta love viking Scandis.

Over at the Underworld L.A record label Riding Easy was showcasing a selection of it’s bands, and we caught heavy rock band R.I.P which catered for those wanting fast and heavy rock ‘n’ roll. Later on in the evening saw OM headline Electric Ballroom, Electric Citizen the Underworld and Skraeckoedlan The Black Heart, before The Shrine played Electric Ballroom’s midnight afterparty, which was their first London show with bassist Corey Parks.

From previous year’s we’ve been pretty spoiled with sunshine and summer during Desertfest, something we had to pay for during the Saturday as we had thunderstorms, rain and hail all at once, which also called for yet another great outside interview with Savanna’s swamp metal band Black Tusk who were headlining the Black Heart later on in the evening. The Saturday consisted mostly of legging it between venues to catch as many bands as possible, all while not becoming a soaked mess while doing so.

Isaiah Mitchell, Earthless

Sunday was the grand finale, where we headed early to catch up with Earthless before their show, followed by Witch, All Them Witches and Fu Manchu. Once the Roundhouse headliner finishes everyone knows it’s do or die to get into the Black Heart, where we miraculously landed a table and spent the rest of the evening people watching and drinking until closing time at 3am, which then again calls for another half an hour (at least) lingering outside in the street hoping that somewhere else to party will somehow appear – it did. Fast forward two more hours to dehydration and a headache, and it was time to realise Desertfest London was over, for this time.

Charles Michael Parks, All Them Witches
Desertfest afterparty.

Lo and behold, Desertfest London 2019 is upon us! With just a few more days to go, it’s time to take a moment to check you’ve got everything you need for this years festivities, you wouldn’t wanna show on unprepared now, would you?

Ticket

Well, have you got your ticket yet? If not then you best get going, there’s still some left at Desertfest’s website, phew.

Denim Vest with 8000 patches

Please tell us you’ve got your Desertfest uniform ready to go, no? Well, you’re in luck. As we mentioned above there’s luckily still a few days left, which means plenty of time for a bit of last minute DIY, ripping sleeves and stitching patches to the soundtrack of Sleep and Black Sabbath

Waterproof everything

If you’ve been to Desertfest and The Black Heart before you will be aware of the unisex toilets in their 2am state. If not, well, we can only word this nicely – enter at own risk and don’t ever with a hole in your boots. Bring a wetsuit and and oxygen tank to avoid drowning in a puddle of piss. Do your drugs elsewhere.

Earplugs 

A lot of you kids and grownups thinks earplugs are uncool, but we’ve got news for you, pal, so is permanent damage to your hearing. Yours truly have made the mistake of attending the majority of shows without protection and am now a constant victim of white noise should the decibel reach a certain level. Now that we’ve warned you, don’t look at us when you ears fall off having stood next to an AD200 for three hours.

Band- and music related pick up lines

Guy spots girl wearing KISS t-shirt “Hey girl what’s up, you sure pull the trigger to my love gun!”

….which brings us to the next one…

Condoms

Kidding, no one ever gets laid at Desertfest.

Requests 

Have you got your song requests ready to plea the after-party DJs? Bet you do. DJs LOVE requests and a crowd loves an obscure B-side, keep ‘em comin’!

Suncream 

English people get sunburnt everywhere, even at the Underworld at 11pm – it’s unbelievable.

Cash for Kebabs

Drinking solidly for 11 hour straight will take it’s toll and eating is advised – Woody Grill is often the ‘go to’ place for survival and with good reason, killer kebabs and great veggie options. Also conveniently located only a stone throw away from Black Heart, Underworld and Electric Ballroom – perfect when all you can handle is a 40 second stumble.

Tissues

For wiping tears of joy when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is played at the afterparty.

It’s the Voice of Bass this month at Orange and I have been asked to recommend some albums that celebrate some of the best rumbling bass lines known to the music industry. I have decided to pick albums because at heart I am a hipster who listens to vinyl and I also struggle to pick one song from an album. In this list I have picked some classic songs but I have also tried to steer clear of the really obvious ones such as “Another one bites dust” has i’m afraid been left out, anyway let’s go!

Stone Roses – Stone Roses

For me you cannot have list about bass without Manny being involved, i’ve chosen to showcase his work in the Stone Roses (easily could have picked ‘Screamadelica’) and the band’s debut album. The opening song ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ starts with a cacophony of sounds, then the rumbling bass tone comes in and brings in the rest of the band. I could have picked any of the songs on this great album, from the bass line that opens ‘She Bangs the Drums’ all the way through to the bass riff that is the main groove of the albums eight minute finale ‘I Am the Resurrection’. What impresses me so much is the groove that goes through all of Manny’s playing and how he is always locked in with Reni. They are one of the best rhythm sections I have ever seen live.

Paul Simon – Graceland

I made a promise to myself that I would not have slap bass in any of these selections and already I have broken my rule (I also think there is another one later as well). But in my defence, this is here because of the musicianship that occurs across the album and the standout part is the bass playing, closely followed by the drumming!  I had to choose as the example ‘You Can Call Me Al’ mainly because of the bass solo that occurs at 3.44, yes I know it is a slap bass solo but sometimes, just sometimes they can be done well. Throughout the album the bass is the key component in the songwriting, especially on ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ and ‘Graceland’ it takes centre stage with carefully considered slides and beats in the bass line that propel the songs forward.

Lou Reed – Transformer

Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’ is a great record for many different reasons, the iconic bass line that makes up it’s most famous track ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is one of the main reasons. The iconic sound was created by interlocking bass lines played on a double bass and then overlaying a bass guitar line over the top. Herbie Flowers who played bass on the track came up with the idea so he was able to charge double for his work on the track! Herbie played bass across many of the tracks except for “Perfect Day”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “Satellite of Love” and “Make Up” which Klaus Voorman played on. If you haven’t checked this album out (one where have you been?) I recommend it very highly.

Alexisonfire – Old Crows/Young Cardinals

Described by the band as being “f**king heavy” Alexisonfire’s final album before their hiatus opens with the grizzled bass tone of “Old Crows.” The album is full of great moments of bass playing with Chris Steele locking in with drummer Jordan Hastings through out. I picked this track mainly because of the tone that starts the track off, another highlight on the album is the locked in groove of “The Northern.” This slightly slower paced track sits in the middle of the album and has a classic bass tone and groove.

Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine.

It couldn’t be a list without Rage Against the Machine! But you can’t have a bass list without Timmy C from Rage Against the Machine. This album has so many high points for a 4 string player it’s a masterclass in different techniques. From the start of “Bombtrack” with the staccato finger playing to the slap bass from “Take The Power Back” (sorry about more slap bass.) This album should be taught to every bass player! I chose “Know Your Enemy” because the bass line has such a groove and swagger in the intro and then it just switches back on itself into a walking bass line for the verse with such ease. The album is full of musicianship like this, from start to finish not only is it a great record but exceptional bass record.

fin.

So i’ve missed out a lot of other great records for bass, I know but I made a decision to only choose five so you guys could comment and let me know more. Maybe you found some records that had passed you by and this makes you check them out. Leave in the comments your recommendations and I will check them out!

Outside Reckless Records on Berwick Street in Soho, London.

Once again Record Store day is upon us, a day to celebrate music in physical form, all while helping musicians put dinner on their table. Record Store Day was started to “celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store.”, and is now on it’s 11th year after the 2008 launch. As much as I love Record Store Day and the idea behind it all, I must admit I tend to do my shopping at quieter times, when I don’t have to queue just to get into the shop. What can I say, I’m a lady of leisure! I prefer my records to be bought peacefully without anyone impatiently waiting for me to finish flicking through the 70s section. In honour of this year’s Record Store Day (as I also did for the last one), I’ve gone through my record collection to pick out my current Top 10. I say current, as these things change, and my collection keeps on growing. I do see a slight pattern here with all albums being released between 1968 – 78, so any later recommendations are also very welcome!

Free – Tons of Sobs
Released – 1968
Acquired – Sister Ray Soho, London

Free’s 1968 debut album Tons of Sobs might just be one of my favourite albums and the fact that they were all under 20 when recording it is just beyond me; a nineteen year old Paul Rogers (with sexy, sultry lyrics such as “You don’t need your horses baby, you’ve got me to ride, you don’t need your bed, I’ll keep you warm inside.”), an seventeen year old Paul Kossoff on lead guitar, nineteen year old Simon Kirke on drums and baby Andy Fraser on bass and keys, at the tender age of only sixteen, makes you wonder what they put in the water back then, definitely not social media and internet, that’s for sure. Anyway, during the bands short-lived career they proved themselves to be one of the great British blues bands of the late 60s and early 70s, with ‘Tons of Sobs’ proving why.

Human Instinct – Burning Up Years
Released – 1969
Acquired – Reckless Records, London

Sticking with the sixties blues, this one a year later than the last and from across the globe in the form of New Zealand’s ‘Human Instinct’ and their debut album ‘Burning Up Years’. The band stood out amongst their peers with their stand up drummer / singer Maurice Greer, who till this day is still active with the band, as well as guitarist Billy TK who was known as the “Māori Jimi Hendrix”. The album, which also carries elements of psychedelia featured several covers such as The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ as well as Neil Young’s ‘Everybody Knows This is Nowhere’. The album never got as big as it’s follow up ‘Stoned Guitar’, but it’s still an absolute gem and well worth a listen.

Slade – Alive!
Released: 1972
Acquired: Second hand store

When mentioning Slade it’s almost impossible to not think of their Christmas banger ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and I mean, with good reason, it’s great pop tune and gets played a million times on the radio every Christmas. However, Slade is so much more than that, something that their 1972 live album ‘Slade Alive!’ proves. The entire album is great as it combines both ballads with boogie, but the opening track alone is worth this record being in my top 10; a mind-blowing cover of Ten Years After’s ‘Hear Me Calling’, the harmonies, the build ups and the absolute explosions, the song itself is a force of nature and I can’t even imagine the excitement of being in that audience.

Agnes Strange – Strange Flavour
Released – 1975
Acquired – Flashback Records stall outside Black Heart during Desertfest London 2019

Southampton’s boogie rock three piece Agnes Strange only released this one full length album, and later the compilation record ‘Theme for a Dream’ which featured unreleased material and demos. ‘Strange Flavour’ has a strange but delicious flavour indeed and contains just as much boogie as blues, as well as some spaced out Hawkwind vibes during ‘Travelling’ and psych jams, solos and pretty harmonies for ‘Loved One.’

Rainbow – Rising
Released – 1976
Acquired – Bought second hand for the outrageous price of £3

I was first introduces to Ritchie Blackmore through Deep Purple’s Machine Head, before my dad later sat me down and put on Rainbow Rising around the age of fourteen, stating “This is one of the best albums within this genre, listen.”,and listen I did, and right he was, as per usual. Opening track ‘Tarot Woman’ sets the bar for the album and became an instant personal favourite alongside “Starstruck”, and of course, the eight minute twenty six second symphonic showpiece of the record, ‘Stargazer”, which features Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. This was Rainbow at it’s finest, while they were still fronted by the late, great powerhouse of a man, Ronnie James Dio,

T2 – It’ll All Work Out in Boomland
Released – 1970
Acquired – Some Californian record store

T2’s 1970 album ‘It’ll All Work out in Boomland’ is probably what one could call a progressive masterpiece, which is mellow, melodic, melancholic and heavy all at once. T2 should be up there while discussing the likes of King Crimson, as well as carrying Pink Floyd-like elements and some heavy rock influences. My first ever encounter with the band was through the third track ‘No More White Horses’, which was enough for me to start the hunt to add the album to my collection. The record is only four songs long, with the fourth and final one, ‘Morning” being a 21 minute long epic journey through all the elements mentioned above.

Rory Gallagher – Calling Card
Released – 1976
Acquired – Apollon, Bergen

Rory Gallagher first made a name for himself as guitarist and founding member of Taste, before later going solo and recording and releasing names under his own name. Calling Card was Gallagher’s eight studio album and shows that he just got better and better with time. He was in 1972 voted Melody Maker’s International Top Guitarist of the Year, ahead of Eric Clapton. Also check out his “Live in Europe” album, “I could’ve had Religion” is the most beautiful blues song.

Judas Priest – Stained Class
Released – 1978
Acquired – Gift from my Dad

Judas Priest was and still is, one of the most influential heavy metal bands the world has even seen and is still going strong today. Their fourth album ‘Stained Class’ is absolutely spectacular and paved the way for so many bands after them, and is also often cited as being their best ever record. A must among heavy metal fans!

Hawkwind – Space Ritual
Released – 1973
Acquired – Brighton vintage shop (For the neat price of £4!!)

The fact that I’ve managed to make Rainbow’s Rising and Hawkwind’s Space Rituals part of my record collection for the total cost of £7 is just insane, take my money! This two-disc gem from Hawkwind’s heyday features Lemmy on bass before he was kicked out of the band, and gives you a teeny tiny insight into the madness that it must have been seeing the space kings live in the 70s as it was recorded on the road in London and Liverpool.

Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous
Released – 1978
Acquired – Bought second hand

Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous is a live double album recorded in London, Philadelphia and Toronto in 1976 and ’77 before being released in 1978. Since first hearing this album it’s been hard going back to their studio ones as the raw energy displayed on this record is nothing that could ever be transferred from stage and into the studio. “Is there anybody here with any Irish in them? Is there any of the gals that would like a bit of more Irish in them?” Phil Lynott politely asks before breaking into an extended jammy version of 1976’s “Emerald”, which is a personal favourite of mine, as well as “Suicide” and “Johnny The Fox meets Jimmy the Weed.”, to mention a few. All in all, the album showcases one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll bands I know at their absolute peak.

My name is Daniel and I have been at Orange for nearly four and a half years, when you put it like that it sounds like a prison sentence! Over the years I have had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting to a lot of artists in my role of European Artist Relations at Orange. A lot of these artists I have grown up listening to, which is I am very much aware i’m in a very lucky position. So i thought I would go through a few of my favourite interviews and some of the background to them.

Tim from Prophets of Rage

I have been a fan of Rage Against the Machine for as long as I can remember, I saw them and nearly died in the pit at Reading Festival 2008 and it is still one of the best shows I have ever seen. So when there was a chance to interview Tim from Prophets of Rage I jumped at the chance, we were in the artist area of Download Festival in 2017 and managed to get 10 mins of Tim’s time. Tim was a gentleman and complete professional, speaking with real enthusiasm about his style of finger playing and how he feels the advent of YouTube is helping to teach new players. What also made me really enjoy his interview was how even after lots of years in the industry he still enjoyed played music in a band. Shortly after interview I got to see the band destroy the Main Stage at the festival and saw how the band hasn’t lost any of its original groove when Tim and Brad lock in. The fact that Tim uses an AD200 live is for me one of best bass players we have on our roster.

Brian ‘Head’ Welch from Korn

I drove all the way to Nottingham for this interview… or it could have been Birmingham, any way it wasn’t in the warmth of London. But it was worth it, to sit down and chat with at the time, our newest endorsee Brian from Korn. Brian had just started to play the Rockerverb MKIII Head, after his guitar tech had come and chatted to us at festival the year before. The Rockerverb was in Brian’s rig and I enjoyed hearing how he called it a ‘Buttery tone’ and also how the band unknown to all of us at Orange has been using our gear since the early 90’s on their records. Jim Root gets an honourable mention as well from Brian and not only was the interview great to shoot but the show was so much fun. Perfect lighting for footage and I was able to get some great live shots. Not only this but the band were playing on a bill with ‘Madball’ and ‘Limp Bizkit’ which is enough of a reason to drive wherever in the UK to go see.

Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity

Pepper has been a guitarist I have followed through his many different bands and projects, I have always felt that for me, COC was the pinnacle of his work. When he rejoined a few years ago, I straight away bought tickets to the show at the Electric Ballroom as I couldn’t miss it. With Orange and my previous employment, I have on and off worked with Pepper but finally I got to interview him properly just last year when the band came into town. You always know with Pepper you will get a great interview and his description in previous interviews of Orange amps being like “petting a snake” has always made me laugh. In this interview you can really see his love for Orange, which I can honestly say was done with minimal prompting, I really only needed to ask “what do you think of Orange?” and leave the camera rolling and he waxed lyrical!

Matt Pike from Sleep, High On Fire

This was a very last minute interview request, i remember being asked if I was able to get down to Kentish Town to chat to Matt Pike, well I really couldn’t say no! Within a couple of hours i was one of the only people in an empty Kentish Town forum (capacity of 2.5K people) hearing Sleep soundcheck. It is still one of the loudest things I have ever heard, I was stood in front a wall of Orange amps being cranked, while Matt was shredding. After I had recovered, I got to chat to Matt about exactly how he controls that amount of noise. His understanding of guitar frequencies and feedback was one of the most interesting points of the interview, he spoke for at least 10 minutes about bringing different amps in to the mix and how they can be used to project different frequencies. Thinking back on it there is still so much from this interview I wasn’t able to put into the edit. The band show that night was a masterpiece in stoner rock and left the whole building shaking. It’s still one of my favourite video interviews I have ever done, due to me being personally incredibly interested in the thought process of building massive amp rigs.

Jim Root from Slipknot

Jim Root has been a guitar player I have been listening to since Slipknot’s first album and when he strolled into the portacabin at Download I was knocked back how friendly and funny he was but also how whatever amp he plugged into it, sounded exactly like the record. He was coming in to try the new Rockerverb 100 MKIII that had just been released and sat down with one of his personal guitars and played for at least a ½ hour. Only stopping to tell me how earlier that week he had been jammin with Josh Homme by playing the classic ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’. Then came the interview and playthrough, which just became every Slipknot hit played note perfect. After the interview Jim was so enamored with the amplifier he took it to play that night in front of 120,000 people, what a way to try a new amp!! This is one of my favourite videos because one, it’s the most popular and two it’s not great quality (one shot is a phone camera!) but it still works. Jim’s playing is great and he speaks from the heart, we really need to film a new Jim Root video!!

Sergio Vega from Deftones

Honestly I think Deftones are one of my favorite bands, they combine so many different elements of music that I love and I feel have consistently made great albums from their first till latest release. So being able to spend time chatting to them about gear, look at the their touring rig and sometimes see them rehearse for shows has been something that I have had to keep cool about during these times. I think this was either the second or third time I had shot Sergio and this was at the end of the day with the band while they were rehearsing before 2018’s Meltdown show at the Southbank in London. We spoke about his use of Orange in Deftones and Quicksand, Sergio also played through a few of his favourite bass lines from his career. The reason why this is one of my favourites is I think it came out really well, the day was long but throughout it all Sergio was fun and an utter pro about getting the right shots and sounds.

I have been asked to write a article about an album that has been a part of Orange’s history and ever since then I have been wracking my brains about the band to choose. Then I had an idea! Why don’t I write about one of the bands that propelled Orange into the 21st century with a bang! The band that came straight to mind was Oasis.

Oasis were formed in Manchester in 1991,consisting of two brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. The band broke into the mainstream in the mid 90’s, with at the time the fastest-selling debut album ‘Definitely Maybe.’

The band followed this success by choosing Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales to record their second album in March of 1995. Critics struggled with the bands change to more ballads and huge chorus based songs, this quote from Melody Maker shows some of the issues reviewers had:

“Laboured and lazy. On this evidence, Oasis are a limited band. They sound knackered.”

Melody Maker

Time would show these reviews to be unfair, with first week sales of 347,000 copies and the album selling over 22 million copies at most recent count. The album cemented the band as one of the biggest British bands ever.

Recording the album

To say the recording of the album was a bed of roses would be a lie, but sessions did start off at breakneck pace, with the band averaging recording a song a day. Infighting between Noel and Liam eventually ground the recording to a standstill, but more about that later.

Control room in Rockfield Studios

The band enlisted Owen Morris to produce and engineer the album, Noel Gallagher the bands songwriter was also on production duties. Morris had previously recorded and produced The Stranglers and Johnny Marr before working with Oasis on their debut. He was largely credited with giving the first two albums the “huge” sound that shaped the bands early records.

Rockfield Studios

‘Some Might Say’ was the first song recorded for the album, it was tracked in March 1995, the reason Rockfield was chosen, was the size of the studios and its accommodation suited the band better.

The studios were split into two, with the Quadrangle and the Coach house which was a smaller room. When Oasis recorded the album they were using a Neve VR console with flying faders. The live room was on the left of the control room, with drum area directly in front and the main studio on the other side. Two vocal and guitar booths were located at the far end.

The guitar amps were all mic’d the same way with an SM57 and a Neumann U87, Bonehead was using a Marshall amplifier while Noel had a Vox AC30, Marshall Combo, a WEM combo and his trusty Orange Vintage Overdrive OR120 Head (see below).

1990’s Orange OR120 Head and matching PPC412 Cabinet from Noel’s collection.

Noel was using Les Pauls and his Epiphone Casinos, while Bonehead just used an Epiphone Casino. The bass amp was recorded using a mixture of an RE20 and DI to the desk.

Into the recording

After the “Some Might Say” recording session came ‘Roll With It,’ this track was recorded live together as the band were familiar with the song. The band played half a dozen takes of the track but in the end the first take was used for the record.

After this the band reverted to using a vocal and acoustic guitar guide to click before the band then overdubbed their parts, this was a method used by Marc Bolan and T-Rex and helped the band to record the songs they were unfamiliar with.

A Visit to the Pub…

Things were going smoothly with the recording session until a visit to the pub stopped recording in its tracks. The band were starting to track ‘Champagne Supernova’ and Liam was bored as he had recorded his guide vocal. So he decided to go down the pub. After a few hours he came back with about 20 locals from the pub and brought them back to the accomodation at the studio. This lead to an argument between Noel and Liam, which led to Liam battering down Noels door to his bedroom. The response from Noel was to hit Liam with a nearby cricket bat. After 10 days of cool down, the band met back up to finish the record and the whole incident was water under the bridge.

The Final Push

All that was left to do was to record the overdubs for ‘Champagne Supernova’, Noel spent most of the time systematically recording his parts without listening back to them in the control room. This lead to them being recorded very quickly. Then the band enlisted Paul Weller to come in and play the lead part on the song. Paul turned up to the Orinoco Studios in South London with his White Gibson SG and an old Vox AC30 amp and laid down the guitar.

He recorded 4 versions of the guitar and then Noel picked his favourite, the Vox was mic’s up with a 57 and there were no pedals used.

What Next

The album became a classic for the band and British music and still is widely regarded as one of the best albums recorded. The band went on to play two huge gigs at Knebworth to a crowd of 250,000 people in total, 2.5 million people applied for tickets.

Noel and Orange

Noel used Orange amps throughout the late 90’s and until the early 2000’s. As well as the OR120 Head and PPC412 cabinet, Noel suggested changes to the Overdrive. He was using the amp with everything up to 10, Orange’s Technical Director Ade Emsley spoke to him about ways to approve his sound. Oasis were on tour in 1997 with U2 and Noel had been using an Orange combo and he wanted more crunch from them. Ade made some changes to the overdrive circuit, which includded modifications to the phase inverter and preamp. These changes gave the amp more sparkle and also formed the basis for the new OTR amplifier.

Noel continued to use Orange amps until the early 2000’s, Orange even built him a Custom Shop Combo 140 amplifier, with 3 12” Celestion speakers. This amp was sold recently on auction site Reverb and fetched £6,800.

Orange Custom Shop NG140 built for Noel Gallagher


Back when the gods of rock were bending our minds with new styles and sounds, it was clear that besides their immense talent, analogue amplifier technology played an imperative role. Even though amp design back then was still in its infancy, that classic analogue tone is still highly sought after. So much so that many manufacturers are attempting to recreate those sounds through digital modelling amps.

Arise the first digital amp

You may or may not know this but Orange Amplifiers were at the forefront digital amp design way back in the ’70s. The original OMEC amp was a digitally programmable 150-watt solid-state amp that could store preset sounds. It was so far ahead of the game that it was produced before the development of the CMOS chip!

These days digital amps has come a long way, making it possible to replicate almost any amplifier by modelling analogue circuitry. Yet still, there is still huge demand for true analogue amps, and that’s not to do with black magic, witchcraft or Don Draper-Esq marketing genius. It goes much deeper than that.

The basics of digital vs analogue amplifier design

Analogue amplifiers come in two main forms, tube and solid-state, although sometime they are configured as a hybrid, with a tube pre-amp and a solid-state power stage.

All-tube amplifiers such as our classic AD series use pre-amp tubes to sculpt the tone, and then power amp tubes to smash pure analogue gooeyness out of your speakers.

Solid-state amplifiers like the Orange 4 Stroke bass head or the Crush Pro Series use all analogue components (transistors, resistors and capacitors) in both the pre-amp and power amp circuit. That means you get the warmth people associate with analogue circuitry but reduce the overall size and weight of the amplifier by switching out the tubes for a solid-state power amp circuit.

In contrast, digital amps use digital algorithms to produce the tone at the pre-amp stage and most commonly, solid-state circuitry for the power stage. Some manufacturers offer a tube power stage, but this goes against the core benefit of a digital amp: flexibility.

Orange AD30 “Flagship” Guitar Amp

Flexibility

These days we’re expected to be everything to everyone. It’s part of the immediacy culture. Rather than learning to understand the nuances of tone, we’re now able to flip a switch and change between two completely different sounding amplifiers. One minute you’re playing country blues and the next moment, black metal. Sounds pretty fun? But nothing is clear-cut.

The cost of flexibility is impact.

We’re talking about pure unadulterated grunt that you get from an analogue amp. It’s not just that you can hear it; you can feel an all-analogue amp pushing through your very soul; whole-bodied and direct, accurately representing the true nature of your instrument across the whole frequency spectrum. When you’re hammering it out on an all-valve or solid-state amp on stage it moves you, undulating like sea waves.

Warmth

Unlike an algorithm that digitally recreates a signal, when you drive valves, they compress and produce warmth that has an almost erogenous aspect to it. Solid-state amps are cleverly designed to meet the needs of the most discerning player, creating complex and harmonically rich tones. When people speak of the warmth of analogue, they’re talking about how the sound unfolds and wraps around the music.

Live or in the studio, that full body of sound of analogue gels together the other instruments into a unified whole, sitting just right in the mix. Yet, solo instruments can still be attenuated without feeling harsh or out of place.

In all circumstances, one of the key aspects to a great sounding analogue amp is just that, you need to do very little to get just what you want from it.

Simplicity

Time is money, in the studio, it’s all about the flow and onstage even more so.

Orange Amplifiers are synonymous with simple setup, be that getting a gnarly guitar tone or Venice Beach muscle man bass.

With an analogue amp there’s no shrillness you’d expect from digital, instead they accent the natural harmonics of the top end, thickening the midrange and levelling the boom of the bottom. The devil is in the detailed response to the natural ebb and flow of your instrument.

On the flipside, modelling amps could be seen the epitome of simplicity. Jogging through banks of classic amplifier setups certainly feels like you can conquer anything you can throw at it. But still, recording studios aren’t discarding their banks of ‘go to’ analogue amplifiers in a hurry, especially when it comes to pummeling the overdrive settings or looking for a sweet clean tone.

Aggression

While valve and solid-state amps have an artful beauty to their clean tone, it’s when you get down and dirty that digital begins to lose its way. That is unless you’re looking for that specific sound you get from modelling amps; incisor sharp, transparent as Perspex.

Digital amps try to get close to modeling pre-amp circuitry but there’s nothing quite like the throaty roar of analogue. It all comes down to the imperfection of the technology that provides depth that is seemingly impossible to replicate honestly.

At a lower gain stage, the waveform becomes asymmetric, rich in even harmonics. But when you push the amp even further the bottom of the wave flattens, producing a symmetric wave with odd harmonics. It’s those odd harmonics that release the beast from within.

4 Stroke Bass Amplifier

Weight

OK, so all-valve amps aren’t all that portable. Designed for functionality above anything else and are unmatched in pure brute strength and killer tone. Their modern digital counterparts sit on the other side of the fence; form is their strength, portability a supreme asset. At a cost, many professional musicians would agree, that is outweighed by their novelty.

Somewhere in-between sits the solid-state amp, the choice for many touring musicians where portability is a big benefit but without compromising too much on the essence of your sound. Ultimately ringing out true to the nature of your composition.

Authenticity

Fundamentally, above anything else, Orange has been at the forefront of producing innovative amplification since the late sixties, creating what is now recognized as the British sound.

First heralded by legends such Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder, and blown into the stratosphere by Led Zeppelin.

Re-emerging, again and again, Orange Amplifiers has always been there to define the sound of artists such as Oasis in the ’90s and again taking the world by storm along with the Arctic Monkeys in the decades to follow. Orange Amplifiers, seemingly the Swiss army knife of the music industry.

When our marketing director asked me to write a blog post comparing analogue vs digital amps, I have to admit that the first thing I did was to turn around to see if he was talking to somebody behind me. Here at Orange there are a number of very skilled musicians, many of whom are seriously into their rigs and can not only play but also understand the technical side of said rigs.  

I do not fall into this category.

Don’t get me wrong – I love playing but the thing is, I’m one of those people who have to work really hard to be mediocre and I’m really not interested in all the bells and whistles, I just want to plug in and play.

First thing I needed to do was find out what the difference is, so I had a chat with our techs. After they realised a primary (elementary) school level explanation was required, we began to make progress and I can summarise thusly:

Analogue guitar amps have a solid state, (transistors, resistors, capacitors etc.) or valve pre-amp that produces the tone and a solid state or valve power amp, which amplifies the signal and drives the speaker.

Digital guitar amps, use digital algorithms (complicated mathematics) to produce the tone and a solid state power amp to amplify the signal and drive the speaker. Digital amps therefore can theoretically reproduce any sound you want. It’s just a case of rearranging the order of the 1s and 0s in the signal. Brilliant!

So why would anyone want an analogue amp? Surely, digital is better. My digital TV is miles better than the old analogue signal I used to get from my RF antenna. (If you don’t remember those, ask your parents.) Before anyone starts, I realise reception and broadcast quality are different things, I’m just making an analogy. No pun intended.

Well, it would appear in this case digital isn’t necessarily better.

If you think about it, the signal going into your amp from your guitar is analogue – it has to be, it’s the sound of a string vibrating. The sound coming OUT of the speaker is analogue, again it has to be. We don’t have digital processors in our ear’oles so we need a soundwave in the air to vibrate our ear drum. So what’s the point of converting an analogue signal to digital and back again? Surely that means that analogue gives you what a digital amp is trying to emulate?

These thought experiments are all well and good but there’s no substitute for giving them a try, so I did. I’m not going to name the amps I tried, that’s not the point of this post – as I said at the beginning, I don’t have any strong feelings either way but I did have fun with both amps.

The digital amp was a bit daunting at first. Lots of knobs and lots of settings but once I sussed out what I was doing, I was able to dial in a load of different sounds and had a jolly old time making some wonderful noises much to the chagrin of the neighbours. The convenience of the digital amp cannot be overstated. I could see how something like that would appeal to gigging musicians hugely. There’s your tone, (or any other you may happen to need) right there in a box. Beats having to cart a load of heavy gear around. Awesome! How can analogue compete?

Pretty well as it turns out. As much as I enjoyed the digital amp listening to the analogue amp made me realise that the digital amp was quite sterile – on reflection, it was almost as if the amp was dictating things.  

I was wracking my brains try to think of a way to explain what I meant by that and the only thing I could come up with was to imagine a beautiful room full of expensive furniture but everything is white. The analogue amp coloured some of the bits in.

I’m no amp reviewer, so I can’t use a load of flowery words but it seemed to me that the analogue amp was as idiosyncratic as my playing. There was a relationship between what I was trying to do and what came out of the amp, that didn’t seem to be the case with digital. Also, I was able to just plug my guitar in and play. No messing around, no working anything out just instant fun.

I’m really not any wiser as to what’s better, all I know is what I prefer and I preferred the analogue amp although I can totally see why people would want to go for digital. The convenience and the ability to have everything right there in one place is very desirable, it just isn’t for me.

As mediocre a player as I am, music is more about how it makes you feel than it is about the technical side of things and for me the analogue amp had feeling.But hey, I’m not trying to convince anyone. What do you think?

So Orange has released a new guitar amplifier, you are shocked right, an amp company releasing an amplifier! But the TremLord is something a little different for Orange. 

The centrepiece of the amplifier is an all valve Tremolo, this is Orange’s take on the 1950’s amplifiers that used this effect to such acclaim.

This made me think one; what is tremolo and where will I have heard it before.

First, what is Tremolo?

Tremolo is simply put a modulation effect, it changes the volume of your signal at certain speed and depth. This is not to be confused with vibrato, which changes the pitch of the signal.

On the TremLord you can set two different speeds of tremolo and also the depth of the modulation. This means it’s perfect for use live with a footswitch.

Uses of Tremolo in Songs

Otis Redding – “A Change is Gonna Come”

This is the song that made me explore songs using tremolo, Otis Redding’s version of “A Change is Gonna Come” is a fantastic example. After the opening horn section the unmistakable tremolo guitar chords float in, which then stay throughout the whole song.

After this I dived headlong into finding more interesting and diverse song that used this effect, trying to find examples from across the musical spectrum and also the past 60 years.

Radiohead – “Bones”

Hearing “The Bends” for the first time I remember the raking sound of the tremolo on “Bones” being one of my favourite parts. It felt like the start of the band moving their sound away from the grunge sound of the first album. I chose a live version as it shows Jonny Greenwood using the effect throughout the song. 

Rage Against the Machine – Guerilla Radio

Tom Morello is known for his unique use of effects and I think this was one of the first Rage Against the Machine songs I ever heard,  I remember struggling to understand what that sound was! Heavily leaning on his trusty boss tremolo pedal the track has become a mainstay of the bands live performances and as the live footage shows it’s no wonder why. 

Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”

The lilting almost glassy sounding guitar intro to the track could be one of the most famous uses of the effect. This stone cold classic was released in 1969, sometimes I feel it gets forgotten about, as people remember “satisfactions” fuzzy tones more. But this for me is the Rolling Stones in a song and the guitar makes it.

The Smiths – “How soon is now?”

This couldn’t not be on the list, its so in your face the Tremolo effect. One of The Smiths most famous songs, this was actually originally a B-Side of the 1984 single “William, it was really nothing”. The original demo for the song was called “Swamp” which hardly surprising when you hear the song.

One thing I noticed while going through this is how many great songs that use this effect, I could have provided another 30-40 songs easily. So if you have any songs that you think I may have forgotten, please comment in the comments and I look forward to delving into even more tremolo songs!