'95 Per Cent of Tone Is in the Player'
Total Guitar|February 2022
How Eric Gales is taking one of electric guitar’s oldest art forms and reimagining it for a new generation
By Jonathan Horsley. Photographs by Katrena Wize and Getty

The blues has been appropriated by every style of popular music but maybe it’s time for pop culture to repay the favour. Maybe it’s time for the blues to consume those styles and put them in a different context. If so, Eric Gales is the man to do it. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he is a player of catholic tastes and an uncanny ear for incorporating alien styles back into the realm of electric blues. With each passing release, it’s like he is redesigning the future of the art form, augmenting it with licks and phrases gleaned from funk, jazz, rock, Eric Johnson, Andrés Segovia – from whomever catches his attention.

Gales’ new studio LP, Crown - produced by blues-rock’s premier production duo Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith - is an eclectic piece of work that torpedos the received wisdom that blues exists only inside a I-IV-V progression. It’s iconoclastic. There’s a hip-hop sensibility to how Gales deploys his styles, like he has a channel switcher. This is the record you play to those who say the blues is an archeological musical endeavour, that the best music has already been made. But what goes into a style like this?

RAW INGREDIENTS

If mastering Eric Gales’ flamboyant playing style is a task akin to scaling Everest in a pair of Dunlop Green Flash, it is some consolation knowing that amassing a rig to give you a Raw Dawg tone is eminently more achievable. Gales’ sound on record is all spanky Strat-style cleans, meticulous, detailed, with a raunchy, juicy overdrive when he engages blues-rock mode and takes aim for the centre of the sun. Crown was recorded with his signature Magneto RD-3 S-style electric going into a tried and trusted setup.

“I used my signature amps, the DV Mark Eric Gales Raw Dawg model, 250-watts,” he says. “[A Dunlop] Cry Baby, distortion, Xotic boost/drive, MXR Raw Dawg boost, Tech21 [Boost D.L.A. Analog Delay Emulator] delay, and that’s it. It’s been pretty much the same for the past few years.”

All of this is readily available. Okay, the Magneto is niche, but any Stratstyle guitar will do. The DV Raw Dawg head retails for £399, the stack for £859, but pick any US-voiced amp with sweet cleans, plenty headroom and a nice reverb and you’re good to go. Like B.B. King before him, Gales has gravitated to solid-state amps in recent times. Certainly, cheaper than the Tone Kings he used to run, and also better for any of us looking to get a good tone at home without having to crank a tube amp and send the cat into hiding.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TOTAL GUITARView All

THEM TONES!

EPIPHONE UNVEILS A BRACE OF JERRY CANTRELL LES PAULS

2 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

The Many Faces of Jack White

Innovator. Visionary. Gearhead. And a guitar hero like no other. Jack White is all of these things and more...

10+ mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

RIFF LESSONS

Get inside Jack White's playing style from past to present

3 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

PEDAL SHOPPING-PING-PING!

Build your 'board with TG's delay pedal recommendations...

1 min read
Total Guitar
June 2022

MAESTRO INVADER DISTORTION

Naturally-voiced distortion - with or without gain

2 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

TRACK BY TRACK Fear Of The Dawn

The tones and techniques of Jack's eclectic new album

5 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

WE HAVE NO AMPS-AND CRAPPY GUITARS!

INSIDE THE LO-FI WORLD OF ALT-ROCKERS MOMMA

2 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

"I like the freedom to experiment"

Tips on songwriting, gear and tone, by Grant Nicholas of Feeder

5 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

"I'M THE PROUDEST I'VE BEEN IN MY LIFE OF MY GUITAR PLAYING"

As two new solo albums illustrate the breadth of his art, Jack White believes that he's reaching a new peak as a guitarist. "There are places I've never gone before," he says, "and techniques I thought I wasn't capable of doing...”

10+ mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022

"I DO AS MUCH WITH MY FEET AS I DO WITH MY HANDS!"

Bloc Party's lead guitarist Russell Lissack has two of the most complex pedalboards ever amassed. So how many pedals did he have when making the band's new album? "Probably a hundred," he laughs...

7 mins read
Total Guitar
June 2022