Joe Walsh Discusses His Career, Gear and New Album, 'Analog Man'
“Joe is extremely generous,” his wife confirms. “Sometimes maybe a little too generous. So I’ve been trying to get some of the great vintage guitars that he’s given away over the years back in his collection. Not the actual guitars, of course, but some of the same models and years.”
“I don’t know how she knows what to get, or how to find it, but she does!” Walsh marvels. “She bought me a ’58 Goldtop, and she found me a ’53 Broadcaster, from before Fender named it Telecaster. And a ’57 Gretsch 6120 like the one I gave Pete! So I’m getting some vintage guitars on the wall.”
Marjorie obviously takes very good care of Joe. Analog Man is dedicated to her, and she played a key role in its creation. It was she who brought Jeff Lynne in the picture and who encouraged Walsh to complete the recording and put it out.
“These songs were kind of a Sunday project that I worked on when I was home during Eagles’ time off,” he explains. “But I never got any momentum going for the past 10 years because the Eagles has been a full-time job. We worked a lot last year. But Marjorie said, ‘You know, you ought to get your shit together and finish this.’”
The title track for Analog Man expresses Walsh’s misgivings about the putative digital wonderland we all supposedly inhabit these days. “It’s an observation, not a judgment,” he says of the song. “I’ve always written observations on the world, and now there’s two of them. The virtual world is a new thing, and it doesn’t really exist, but people are in it a lot. People try to function in the real world — the analog world — while they’re texting in the digital world, and they run into the car in front of them. It doesn’t work to be in both.”
But Walsh is no Luddite. Its title notwithstanding, Analog Man was recorded digitally. “I learned Pro Tools, and the album is digital,” he says. “Those of us who used to record analog have had to make some adjustments.”
True to his self-conferred title of “Analog Man,” however, Walsh was able to wrest a cornucopia of warm, analog-flavored guitar tones from his digital recording rig. “I found this little Fender amp called an FM15,” he says. “It’s a digital amp with sampled amp tones. I’d come out of the headphone jack of that amp into a tube recording preamp and into a hard drive. Do that, and the Pro Tools sees tubes.”
Walsh’s guitars for the album were all analog, of course, notably the aforementioned 1957 Gretsch 6120 plus a selection of Les Pauls, Stratocasters and Telecasters. Walsh has so many guitars he tends not to be overly fussy about vintage years. He just grabs whichever one is closest to hand. His tastes in amps are varied.
For instance the remarkably crisp and present slide guitar sound on the song “Wrecking Ball” was achieved via a 30-watt Peavey amp with a 10-inch speaker.
“That’s what you’re hearing on there,” Walsh elaborates. “I like small amps, not big ones. Another one I’m really fond of is Dr. Z amps. He’s a guy in Cleveland who makes these really great amps. Brad Paisley and I are both really in love with those. And I love Fender Champs, too. An old blackface Champ is actually what I did ‘Funk #49’ on. A blackface Champ and a Tele, straight in.”
“Funk #49” by Walsh’s group the James Gang is one of his signature tracks and, to this day, a garage-band and jam-night staple. With its syncopated rhythms and unison guitar-and-bass riffs, the song earned the James Gang a prominent place among the American power trios that sprang up in the wake of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience as the late Sixties gave way to the early Seventies.