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Talking Tone With Ben Phillips Of 'The Pretty Reckless'
Guitarist Ben Phillips of "The Pretty Reckless" defines the humble guitar hero, not flashy or fan-fueled, but praised by serious and aspiring players alike for his extraordinary skills, sound and songwriting. His no-nonsense, tone-first approach to playing modern blues/rock guitar has helped "The Pretty Reckless" become a chart-topping, record-setting sensation around the world. No corporate-approved gimmicks here and no quaffed-and-coddled preteens meekly whispering middle-school melodies into an auto-tune. We're talking about serious, fist in the air, groin-swelling, heart-pumping power rock. Ben and his tech, Sean Kelly (also assistant engineer in the studio), generously took some time to speak with Music Aficionado during their summer 2016 North American tour, breaking down the gear that Ben uses and his refreshingly old-school methods for achieving one of the best guitar sounds that we've heard in a long time.
MA: What amps are you using?
Ben: I use mainly Wizard amps live. In the studio, it varies, but the Wizards are always there. They are custom built in Canada by Rick St. Pierre who has been with AC/DC for decades. They are pretty unmatched when it comes to clarity, volume and tone. They’re not an easy amp to play; they force you to be on your game and really show the player themselves.
MA: What tubes are you using in the Wizards?
Ben: JJ's are my standard, warm and not too crazy - just smooth tone.
MA: How about speakers in your cabs?
Ben: It varies depending on what I feel like that day, but some form of Celestions is always in there. A Shure SM57 mic is just fine for me, simple and honest.
MA: I see a number of pedals on your pedalboard. Do you use them all?
Ben: I have a plethora of pedals at my disposal but I rarely use them. It’s mostly just a channel switcher and a standard Dunlop Crybaby wah.
MA: Tell us about your guitars.
Ben: I started playing with Strats, but I've since become obsessed with 335's. I have varying versions, my favorite being a sunburst ‘68 previously owned by Tommy Tedesco. They are all strung with Ernie Ball regular slinky and tuned down a half step most of the time. I like a standard setup that’s low enough to be comfortable and allows me to bend at least two full steps.