Joe Chiccarelli Interviews Ken Scott December 2005

Chiccarelli: You’ve worked with some of the greatest guitar players ever, so I was hoping we could talk about a few of them. What was the Beatles guitar thing? Scott: It was mostly Vox amps, but there was some experimentation by the White Album, and we even used Fenders. The miking was Neumann U67s, positioned maybe a foot to two feet away.

Chiccarelli: Not smashed up against the grille cloth?

Scott: No. One of the things you learned back then, because you didn’t have much control over the sound, was that the sound had to come from the guitar. And, today, one of the other things that has changed the way guitars sound is these high output pickups. Plug in an old Strat or Tele with the original pickups, and you’ll get this amazing sound. But highoutput pickups have this weird high end that you can never completely get rid of, and it just gets so annoying. Every engineer and guitarist should really understand the effects these pickups have on the sound of their rig.

Chiccarelli: What about George Harrison on All Things Must Pass?

Scott: George was a perfectionist. Amp-wise, it was usually Vox and Fender, never Marshall, and we often used Leslie cabinets. The mics on that would have been a Neumann KM54 or KM56 on the top, and a Neumann U87 or U67 on the bottom.

Chiccarelli: Jeff Beck kind of defines for me what a great guitar player is supposed to be. His tone, the nuances, and his dynamics are just tremendous.

Scott: I did Truth and There and Back, and I saw so many different sides of him. I saw Jeff in the “very confident phase,” and then in the times when you had to coax him along.

Chiccarelli: When you’d work with Jeff Beck or George Harrison, did you go out to the amp and make sure the tone was dialed in?

No. They knew what was needed. It was just there—you weren’t trying to fix something. I would have miked them the way I tend to mic everybody—either a U67 or U87 in front of the amp, and, sometimes, maybe a distant mic. You don’t have to do all of that multiple miking kind of thing when the musician is giving it to you. If it comes from the instrument, you don’t have to work too hard to get the sound. It’s just there.

Chiccarelli: Mick Ronson?

Scott: Unbelievable. His whole guitar sound was always perfect, from a technical point. Miking it was, again, a Neumann U67 or U87 in front of his Marshall cabinet. He always went through a wah pedal, and he would get his tone by setting the pedal at a point he liked. So he would kind of crazy EQ everything— that’s how he always got his sound. All the Bowie stuff was done with the wah.

Chiccarelli: John McLaughlin?

Scott: An amazing technician who always liked to show off his technique. He always used 100-watt Marshalls turned up full blast. John liked to crank. There were times when his sound may have been just a little too distorted for me, but that’s the way he liked it. Once, we were finishing Birds of Fire at Criteria Studios in Florida, and this was during the Bee Gees time when the sound of every American record would be acoustically as dead as possible. So we went in there, and he turns up his amp, and it sounded so ridiculously small that he kept turning everything up until the amp blew up. The room was so dead, it just ate up everything. Criteria wasn’t the right studio for Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Chiccarelli: Warren Cuccurullo?

Scott: Warren, yeah, there’s no one quite like him actually. One remembrance is a track on the first Missing Persons’ album called “Noticeable Ones”. We were trying to get the guitar solo. We tried and tried. Nothing. Finally, Warren says, “When we get to the solo section, kill the track.” I said, “What?” He says, “When we get to the solo, turn off the volume of the track, and let me try it without any music going on.” We got the solo the first take.
—Excerpted from the December 2005 issue of EQ