Live > Equipment
During the tour Greg Lake made the change to Gibson after many years of keeping company with the Fender Jazz Bass. A new prototype model distributed by Gibson called 'The Ripper', this instrument embodies more powerful pickups than the standard bass humbuckings, as well as a mid-range choke to wring greater highs from the instrument. Greg feels it is the most 'reliable and accurate' instrument on the market. He likes a bass that is electronically well-designed with an absolutely precise neck in perfect tune all the way up to the 22nd fret of the low E string. He also prefers for nothing to be heard resonating in sympathy with a particular note; that is, the bottom E string is of the same intensity as the high G.
He's been using Rotosound strings for a considerable period following flirtations with all sorts of strings for his many and varied types of guitar. He's got the amazing habit of changing all strings, including those on his bass guitars, after every set whilst he's on tour. As might be imagined, he goes through a few sets of strings. Greg likes that really toppy sound only get with new strings. That's why he changed it after every concert. He's got a high degree of treble response in his equipment to get the top end over and his bass doesn't really sound like a bass.
Fender Jazz bass
Used during the first US leg. The Jazz Bass (or J-Bass) was the second model of electric bass guitar created by Leo Fender. The Jazz Bass has a more articulate, defined sound than the Fender Precision Bass. The bass is distinct from the Precision Bass in that its tone is brighter and richer in the midrange with less emphasis on the fundamental harmonic. Greg prefered Rotosound wire-wound strings for the Jazz Bass.
Gibson 'The Ripper' bass
Used during the second and third US leg. The Gibson Ripper is a model of electric bass guitar made by Gibson Guitar Corporation. The Ripper was manufactured from 1973 until 1983; the peak year being 1976. Most had a maple body with laminated maple neck, however a significant number manufactured in 75-76 had lighter alder bodies while retaining the maple necks. They were equipped with two humbucking pickups - designed especially for the Ripper, and a four way varitone control; a familiar Gibson feature from the older Gibson EB-3 bass.
Alembic Scorpion bass
Used during the end of the third US leg. Alembic was founded in 1969 and is a manufacturer of high-end electric basses, guitars and preamps. Greg's eight string bass has four pairs of strings, each comprising a regular bass string and another lighter string tuned an octave higher. But there was one problem with this bass: because of the pressure on the neck caused partly by the strings and partly because Greg played it so hard, the headstock snapped off. It was repaired but it was not really playable after that. In the end it was bought as a collectorís item by John Entwistle.
"I did use the Alembic for a while. The company built a whole series of custom basses for me. The one youíre probably referring to had lights going up and down the neck. It was a fabulous bass guitar, but unfortunately the tension was always too great, and the headstocks would snap".
Zemaitis six-string electric guitar
Tony Zemaitis was always seeking to improve and innovate. His original concept for the Zemaitis Custom Metal Frontô was to shield the guitar and reduce the hum found in many mainstream guitars. Greg used Fender light gauge strings.
"My only pedal is a fuzz box. I don't know what kind it is, but I only know it goes zzzz. It doesn't really matter either, they all do the same things, and it's just whatever you like".
Gibson Les Paul Custom
The second issue of the Les Paul guitar was introduced to the public in 1954. Called the Gibson Les Paul Custom, this entirely black guitar was dubbed the Black Beauty. The Les Paul Custom featured a mahogany top to differentiate the instrument from its Goldtop predecessor's maple top. It also featured the new Tune-o-Matic bridge design and a pickup with an alnico-5 magnet, P-480, in the neck position.
Greg used this guitar very sporadic and this is one of the rare image showing him on stage.
"I used to play that sometimes. The Les Paul created almost an entire genre of playing. It inspired a particular kind of music, and a particular kind of performance. Itís among the greatest instruments ever invented."
Zemaitis twelve-string acoustic guitar
"To perform 'Still...You Turn Me On' my 12-string acoustic was always the best choice. But I also have a beautiful acoustic with inlaid mother-of-pearl body and a soundhole in the shape of a heart. Itís a very large, very thin guitar. Itís got a beautiful, harpsichord-like quality that I love. It has similar properties to the Gibson J200".
Gibson J200 acoustic
"I used a Gibson J200 with Guild medium gauge strings on 'Lucky Man'. Iíve played Gibson J-200s all my life. If youíre strumming, they sound deep and rich, and if you cross-pick, they possess a really delicate sound, and you can use it equally well for both picking and strumming. Itís a fantastic, all-around rock singerís guitar."
Custom made bass amplification: Crown and HiWatt amps to power his JBL bass bins and various horns
Greg powers his guitar with Crown International Amps which run through a separate EQ circuit. The sound comes from two or three (it varies) cabinets with JBL speakers which Greg describes as a 'very flat and sensitive reproduction of what the strings are putting out.' Two stacks of four JBL's (two mid-range, two bass) are powered by the two Crown stereo amps and produce a total of 2,000 watts.
"It's a hi-fi system, a huge hi-fi system, and it reproduces the tops, the highs, the mid-range, and the lows. The Crowns are specially built high-powered units tagged DC-300 which drive the JBL's as well as a set of large short range/long range Lansing horns. A crossover takes the bass signals, and at about 400 cycles pushes them through the acoustic lense horns."
The Crown amplifier is the worlds first reliable, solid-state, high-power amplifier featurering extremely low distortion and noise. Two years after its introduction, High Fidelity magazine calls it the worlds best stereo amplifier.
"I have also experimented with new bass guitar sound effects. I've done something with amplification of the bass that's never been done before. You'd have to hear it live before it would mean anything to you. You know when you feel the resonance from a bass? It's deep and guttural and hits you in the chest. Well, I've found out how to get it even deeper, really hitting low so that you feel it right through your body. It's done by reproducing very low frequencies. If you've ever been in a church and heard a deep, deep organ note, that's like what I've got going. You could amplify any instrument that goes down as low as 20 or 21 cycles. I worked with an electronics company to devise a system whereby certain frequencies were reproduced by certain types of speakers, so instead of all the sound going through one type of speaker it's split, so that very high frequencies go through tiny speakers and very low through enormous ones. It's got an air-pressurised cabinet - it's quite clever. There's no distortion attached to it at all, it's a true 1,000 watts. On stage my back vibrates with the sound when I'm playing. It's very heavy."
Four Fender Concert Combos for the guitars
Fender Concert Reverb 50-Watt All-Tube Amp with 4x10" Eminence Speakers. Fifty watts of pure, glowing, purring 100% tube power delivers unbelievable richness, presence, sustain, and musical distortion.
Mavis mixing desk with sophisticated EQ (shaped for Greg to create his own original sound)
The Mavis mixer was built by Dave Hardstone from New Zealand, an old friend of Greg Lake.
And...his Persian rug
Greg's carpet appears to be a Persian Rug from the Qum, Iran region. Qum rugs often identifiable by design as they tend to be among the more flexible in designs. However, hunting scenes such as the one seen here are among the more distinct motifs which Qum seems to produce a higher volume than other areas in Iran. It is a very fine example with excellent design and very high knot count made entirely of silk in the typical 4'6" x 7' size usually sell anywhere from $4,000 to $14,000 at a retail showroom depending on age, and other characterisitcs. Greg still has this carpet in his house in London.
"Because I got so many electrical shocks in the head! 240 volts right into the mouth off the microphone. I put a rubber mat down and then the rubber mat didn't look very nice, so they got me a carpet and it was a Persian carpet."
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