Descend Into Andrew Watt’s subterranean home studio, tucked away in the basement of his L.A. home, and you’re greeted with the site of many, many guitars - according to Watt, his collection numbers in the hundreds.
But there are just a handful that he turned to when it came to making Ordinary Man. First on that list is a one-of-a-kind model that he received as a gift - a Les Paul previously owned and played by one of his biggest influences, Mick Ronson.
“It’s an early '70s Les Paul Standard,” Watt says. “It was the backup to his [Les Paul] Custom, and you can see him playing it when he was onstage with Ian Hunter, when he was onstage with Bob Dylan. He was only playing that guitar. And that’s the main guitar on the Ozzy record.”
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After that, Watt pulls a 1964 Gibson SG [electric guitar] Special off the wall, which, he says, “was an obvious choice to use.” The reason being, of course, is the guitar’s association with Tony Iommi [in fact, Gibson’s recent Tony Iommi “Monkey” replica recreates this very model]. And while Watt’s particular SG is not an Iommi guitar, per se, it was, in a sense, touched by the Sabbath great.
“I was on tour with California Breed years ago - funnily enough, we were opening for Slash - and we were in Birmingham, UK, the home of Black Sabbath,” Watt says. “We’re playing our set and I’m playing the SG, and for whatever reason I’m getting the worst feedback I’ve ever gotten at any of our shows.
"So in the middle of the show I turn around to my tech, like, ‘What the fuck?,’ and at the side of the stage I see a shadow of a man in a long trench coat, with his arms folded. I lean forward a little bit, out of the light, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God - that’s Tony Iommi standing on my side of the stage watching me play a ’64 SG Special with P90s… and I’m fucking blowing it!’"
After coming offstage, Watt says, “I go into catering and Tony’s there, and he tells me, ‘Hey man, no, it was a really great show.’ Then he says, ‘And if you’re wondering, take the pickups out and rub skateboard wax all over them and they’ll never feedback again.’ My tech and I did that the next day - never had another feedback problem.
"So this SG wasn’t played by Tony or touched by Tony, but he saw the guitar and helped me make an amendment to it that just made it better. And then I ended up using it all over Ozzy’s album, which is just a weird kind of serendipitous thing.”
Other guitars used on Ordinary Man? Watt pulls out a blond ’65 Fender Telecaster, which he says he used for some of the cleaner tones on All My Life, among other tracks, as well as a ’59 Gibson Les Paul Junior that was a gift from Ozzy and is heard on Under the Graveyard and the solo to Today Is the End.
The gifting of the ’59 Junior, says Ozzy, is something of a ritual. “I gave Randy one, I gave Zakk one… I don’t think I gave Jake one,” he recalls. “It’s something that goes back to the Sabbath days - Leslie West once gave Tony a left-handed Les Paul Junior. It’s kind of like a good-luck guitar.”
From there, Watt also points to a ’69 Danelectro and a ’58 Fender Stratocaster that were employed for “shimmery stuff,” as well as a new Duesenberg Double Cat (“the only non-vintage guitar on the record”) and an '80s-era Gretsch White Falcon, both of which he used for slide work.
There’s also a pair of 1969 Martin D-28s - a six-string and a 12-string - that, along with a 1962 Gibson Everly Brothers, were responsible for all the acoustic parts on the record. Regarding the Martins, Watt says, “We looked up the serial numbers and found out they were made in the same month of the same year, probably by the same guy. So they’re like brother and sister guitars and they sound so good together.”
Amp-wise, Watt relied heavily on a pair of Orange heads - an OR50 “for the classic fuzzed out amp tone,” as well as a Dual Dark. Additionally, he employed a Vox AC30 for clean tones, and also put to work a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Vibrolux.
Finally, Watt pulled out “a really small Supro with a 10-inch speaker, à la Jimmy Page, which we used a lot for solos,” and also one other special amp: a 1987 Marshall Silver Jubilee, which he obtained specifically for Slash.
“Slash was coming in to do his solos, and he was like, ‘What amps do you have there?’” Watt recalls. “And I didn’t want to tell him, ‘Well, I have an Orange…’ because he’s a Marshall guy. So I said to my guys, ‘We have one week - find me a fucking Jubilee and let’s get it in here!’ [Laughs] And then I ended up using it all over the album.”
While Watt clearly had a whole ocean of guitars and amps readily at his disposal, there’s one other piece of gear that was essential to Ordinary Man - a 1960s Univox Super-Fuzz pedal, which Watt describes as his “secret weapon.”
“This is the sound of the Ozzy album,” he says, holding it out. “There’s two sounds - one is kind of like [Smashing Pumpkins’] Gish, and the other sounds like Sabbath. The balance and expander knobs mean absolutely nothing. You keep them completely open the whole time. And I used it direct into the board.
"Anything on the record where it sounds like the guitar’s jumping out of the speaker, like in the middle of Goodbye, or the outro to Today Is the End or the solo on Under the Graveyard, that’s the Les Paul or the SG going through the Univox and straight into the Neve.”