Tom Scholz Releases Boston's Last Recordings with Brad Delp, 'Life, Love & Hope,' an Album 11 Years in the Making
And like all prior Boston albums, you recorded this one with an all-analog signal chain. Why is that?
Analog sounds so much better. I frankly can’t listen to digital audio for more than a few hours without really starting to hate what I’m listening to. Even decent 24-bit digital resolution really irritates me after a while. So I need something that I can listen to for months on end, thousands of plays.
And analog is still the bill for that. My primary tape machine is a 3M M79, the one I’ve been using since 1977. I do a lot of rearranging on tape, so I needed a machine that would handle splices really seamlessly, and the M79 is it. I know it’s considered a little extreme that I record on this analog gear. My repair tech refers to my studio as an archeological dig.
And your guitar signal chain is all analog, naturally.
Yes, I’ve got the same two Les Pauls I’ve played all along. They’re both from 1968 [see sidebar]. I got one in the early Seventies and the other one when I got my album deal. I paid $300 for one and $350 for the other, both secondhand. And they sound and feel almost identical.
So those guitars are all you played on the record?
That’s it. Those are really the only two guitars I own and use. I have a Jackson with a tremolo tailpiece that I keep around for once in a blue moon if I want to do a little something with a tremolo bar. But that’s very seldom. And I have a couple of acoustics and my Gibson EB-0 bass with a Fender Jazz pickup in it. The action is like a half inch off the neck, but I love the thing.
What about amps?
I saved a bunch of the Rockman stuff when I got out of the [equipment] business in 1995, and it’s still my primary amp. But I also have and use two of the old Marshalls that I used early on with Boston. And I also have a Mesa Triple Rectifier that I love. Great amp. I used that on a few songs on the album too. So it’s about 33 percent each: Rockman, Marshall and Mesa.
What does the Rockman do for you that nothing else does?
I gotta say, I love the Rockman sustain, and therefore I use it a lot for lead parts, especially things that are above the lowest octave on the guitar. But the thing about the Rockman that makes it so important to me is I can make changes between sounds on the fly. There’s no way you can do that as effectively with any standalone amp.
Well, I’ll make one slight modification to that statement: I used to have a gigantic setup of gear designed to make a vintage Marshall head switchable between a large assortment of sounds. But the support gear to do it was just ridiculous. Not just power soaks and things like that, which were all switchable, but also all sorts of signal-conditioning equipment.
And the Rockman basically has all of that stuff built into it, so I can go from clean sounds to wild distortion very smoothly. Or I can change to all sorts of wildly different tones. The unit I used for the album is a Rockman head with programmable EQ, switchable delay units, choruses and so forth. There were very few of those made, but I snagged a few of them. And it’s all completely analog, so it’s a warm, beautiful sound, and it lets you do things that are impossible without a whole studio full of gear, basically.
What’s the maximum number of guitar tracks on any given song on this album? And which one has the most?
Most of them have an unconscionable amount, but typically eight to 10. Normally there will be at least two guitars playing any rhythm part. Sometimes four. On “More Than a Feeling,” for example, the last chorus is a very heavy chorus, and the guitars are doubled up and slightly detuned.
Some of the songs on this record go back to before Brad Delp passed away in 2007.
Yes, absolutely. We started in 2002.