SW: It's easy to get caught up in our own little worlds.
BS: Yeah, I've gotten letters from fans in Japan who were near suicidal and they'd say they would listen to my music and how it got them through this point in their lives. It's pretty touching actually.
SW: Was there any talk of doing any more shows with Talas, A tour maybe?
BS: We did a final, one-last-blast in November at the same place. It's pretty cool to know that people came out in support of how it used to be. I thought that a lot of them had moved away and when we first planned this I thought we could play a little club, but it ended up being at Kleinhans, which is the 3,000 seater in Buffalo, and it sold out both times. But, logistically it's difficult to get us all together. Everyone's got their own thing and lives going on. On the other hand, there's only three of us so we wouldn't need much of a production. I mean, in the old days we never even used monitors. All we had was two, 2-12 inch speaker cabinets on the sides and a Fender Dual Showman. That was our PA. We did that for years.
SW: Is that the reason for the headphones I saw you wearing in the photos of the CD booklet?
BS: Yeah, that was the first in-ear monitor set up.
SW: Are you serious?
BS: I swear to God. It was in about '74 or '75 that I had the bright idea of using headphones for monitors. They were huge too. I used a Crown power amp and a Soundcraft stereo equalizer and we dropped the low end out so they wouldn't blow out the little speaker. They worked great. We always had 3 or 4 extra sets cause you would sweat into them and short 'em out. But it was a great set up, you could fit your entire monitor system into a small case or bag.
SW: I also noticed in the older photos that you set up your 15 cabinets on top of your 8-10 cabinets. Is there a reason you had the 15's at your ear level?
BS: Yeah, I used 15's for the high frequencies. Even though people would use smaller speakers for the higher frequencies, back then the 15's went almost a high as the 12's. But the 15's naturally roll off at a certain point so the high frequencies won't kill you. So, I can tune it to my face so that by the time it reaches the audience it isn't just killing them. But, now, I've pared it down to just the 8-10 cabinets.
SW: Well, I guess that brings me to ask you how you get your sound...I know you're using Ampegs but...
BS: Well, in the old days I used one for highs and one for lows. I had the highs rolled off the low amp and the lows rolled off the high amp. Then with the old SVT's, I could get the amp to scream distortion especially with the lows trimmed off. When Ampeg went out of business I had to come up with some other way of doing it so I started using pre-amps and power amps. It was a long and arduous task but I finally came up with a tone that was like the old SVT's from a solid state pre-amp and at that point it was easy to amplify it with the power amps. I'm actually testing a new prototype of a pre-amp from Ampeg that I've been working on with them for two years now. And this thing has two separate signals that you can mix together. It has clean channel that you can mix with the output and a distorted channel that you can mix with the clean channel. So you can blend the two independently without either signal canceling the other out.
SW: Your sound is so consistent, from the lows to the higher fretted stuff. Everything is always right there and smooth.
BS: That's partially due to the dual amp set up. And the design of my Yamaha bass which is a replica of my old P-Bass with the separate output for the second pickup. The bridge pickup gets sent to an amp that is primarily all lows. The opposite for the middle pickup. As odd as it seemed back then by me putting a hole in my P-Bass with a chisel and installing the Gibson pickup in the neck position, I learned later that John Paul Jones did something very similar. And Alembic did that too some years later with two separate outputs on the bass.
In Part 2 - Mr. Big, Niacin and Billy's first solo record.
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