Rick Nielsen: 2000 Man

Originally published in Guitar World, November 2009

Rick Nielsen picks from his 2,000-strong guitar collection for Cheap Trick’s latest album.

‘‘Cheap Trick have always prided ourselves on being groundbreaking,” guitarist Rick Nielsen says with mock sincerity. “So when it came time to title our latest record, I thought, we should just call it The Latest. That way, when people say, ‘Hey, have you heard the latest Cheap Trick record?’ they’re really saying the title without knowing it. You see? Groundbreaking.”

Although it’s Cheap Trick’s newest album, The Latest (Cheap Trick Unlimited) features a few of the band’s years-old demos that were newly recorded for the disc. Nielsen says, “We actually opened up the vaults, cleared away the cobwebs and dug up some old demos. We found some gems that were just waiting to be recorded. The track ‘Sick Man of Europe’ we wrote over 30 years ago [the title was actually the group’s name early on], and I think it sounds totally current. In fact, it sounds too current. We may have to take it off the record and put it out in 30 more years, which we very well could do.”

Beyond choosing songs, one of the biggest dilemmas that Nielsen faced was deciding which of his 2,000 guitars to record with. It’s a predicament he’s had to deal with on previous albums as well. “It can be daunting if you let it,” he says. “Basically, I try to let the song dictate what guitar I use. If it’s a really loud, crazy song, I’ll pull out the cheapest, oldest guitar I own, one that feeds back easily. But most of the time I just use whatever’s around.”

One mainstay of Nielsen’s studio and live setup is a Fender Deluxe amp, of which he owns dozens. “Since ’77, they’ve always done right by me,” he says. “I only have them set one way and I don’t think I touch the knobs, ever. Face it: I have too many options when it comes to guitars. I’m not about to torture myself the same way with amps.”

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