THE GT INTERVIEW
Guitar Techniques|March 2021
Legendary LA studio guitarist and solo artist, Mike Landau has been recording outstanding albums for decades. Jason Sidwell caught up with him to discuss his gear, playing style and the stunning new album, Liquid Quartet Live.

THE GEAR

GT: What did you use for the recording of Liquid Quartet Live?

ML: I used a Fender Custom Shop Strat that has two Lollar Imperial humbuckers (standard wind). The main amp was a Dumble Slidewinder, which is similar to a four-input style Bassman amp with two 6L6s. The cabinet is a Kerry Wright 4x12 open back with vintage Celestion G12-65s. The second amp (used for the wet pedal board) was a Fender Hot Rod Deville ML 212.

GT: What dictates you using single coils or humbuckers?

ML: Several years ago, when I started to tour in Europe a lot, I started using a Strat with humbuckers because I couldn’t deal with the single-coil hum at the clubs I was playing. I use a lot of gain from my overdrive pedals and at times the hum was way too overbearing. I love both humbuckers and single-coils though, it just really depends on the venue and my mood. Single-coils sound and feel more immediate to me when I play with my fingers instead of a pick. It feels like there’s nothing between my fingers and the speaker if you know what I mean; the sound coming out of the amp is instant. Because of some of the frequency cancellation that naturally occurs with a humbucking pickup, humbuckers have a ‘lazier’ feel to me, and sound more ‘cloudy’ on the top end; they have a looser feel than a single-coil, but obviously humbuckers have a round, crunchy sounding midrange. Both pickups serve their purpose very well.

GT: Do you prefer overdrive pedals to amp overdrive?

ML: I use both. I set my amps fairly loud with a medium breakup (volume around 5 or 6), then I get the rest of the gain from overdrive pedals. I mainly use the Maxon SD9 for high-gain sounds. My overdrive pedals are before my volume pedal, so the pedals and the volume knob on my guitar determine the amount of gain and distortion, and the volume pedal on my pedal board determines the overall volume.

GT: What do you look for in a good guitar amp?

ML: I use amps that have a loud, solid, medium breakup with a lot of headroom that can handle the high gain from my overdrive pedals. The 60-watt Fender Hot Rod Devilles work great for this.

GT: Do you still like using chorus?

ML: I use a short slap delay most of the time. It’s about 135ms with just one repeat and some modulation just on the delay, this creates a bit of a chorus effect but not in the traditional sense. I also use a Way Huge ‘Blue Hippo’ chorus pedal with the speed set fast, similar to a Leslie effect. I haven’t used the big rack chorus sounds in decades, it served its purpose at the time though. Back in the 80s, I was trying to emulate the chorus sound that Pat Metheny would get. I ended up taking it to extremes back in those days, and at times I would often add a stereo harmoniser after the stereo chorus. I would use a +13 pitch bend on the left side, and a -13 pitch bend on the right side with a 20ms delay on one side and 25ms delay on the other.

THE GUITAR PLAYING

GT: You’ve a unique sound - dark chord progressions, lots of space, bursts of fast licks, a wide dynamic range, switching between fingers and pick, pickup and volume and tone control changes. ..

ML: Like most musicians my age, I grew up on the music of The Beatles, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. But my grandfather was an alto sax player and arranger during the swing era; he mainly played with the Dorsey Brothers and occasionally with Benny Goodman so there was always a lot of great music around my grandparents’ house. Jazz, Broadway show-tunes, classical and of course the pop music of that time. All of these varied influences had an impact on me as a person and as a musician, and eventually it all comes out in some shape or form. As far as the wide dynamic range in my playing, I guess that would be the Gemini in me; the two different personality thing. I can’t play a whole set of live music at one volume level or the same mood; I need to mix it up to keep it moving, the yin and yang effect. I don’t like to hammer the audience by playing one monotonous level the whole night.

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