TOTAL GUITAR MARCH 2020
PEOPLE - NEWS - NOISE
As on all my Les Pauls, the volume control for
the bridge pickup is a speed knob, and the
other three are top hats. Before in-ear monitors
I’d have to shut off the volume with my right
hand pinky on staccato parts, like the chorus of
Pour Some Sugar On Me, to prevent feedback.
I don’t need to do that any more, but I thought
it was a nice, quirky touch. Somebody has since
pointed out to me that Gary Moore did that too,
I had no idea!
a coincidence:I toldPhilip
I wanteda dark,charcoal-like,
came back with this colour
called Antrim Basalt Burst,
after the basalt rocks of
the Giants Causeway on
the North Antrim coast, and
I was actually raised in County
Antrim. That was a nice bit
In the mid-90s we were still using
wedge monitors on stage, so the
guitars were at a hefty volume and would
feed back a lot. My guitar tech and I stole
some DiMarzio HS-3 pickups off [Leppard
co-guitarist] Phil Collen’s guitar tech and
put one in the bridge position of my guitar!
I got used to the tonality, so that’s what’s
in the bridge here, with a DiMarzio Super
Distortion in the neck.
TonePros make really good,
professional grade, tour-
worthy hardware, and I’ve found
over the years that I need that.
My two heroes are Rory Gallagher
and Gary Moore, who were both
physical players with a really
heavy right hand. In LA in the
80s there were all these great
technical players who played like
butterflies, barely touching the
strings, whereas I was trying to
kill the thing! I’ve learned over the
years that you have to embrace
your idiosyncrasies – your
shortcomings sometimes define
your style and make you unique.
A fixed-bridge instrument fits my
aggressive playing style.
We based the guitar on the bastardised
Les Paul I was playing with Def Leppard
at the time. It had a slim neck from a 1978 Les
Paul Custom I’d bought in a Nashville pawn
shop for $400, and this one’s very similar. All
my Les Pauls have these jumbo Dunlop frets. I
cannot bend with little skinny frets, they have
to be big and wide. I bend aggressively in solos,
and put a lot of vibrato on chords.
My first guitar was a Les Paul, when I was 15. In the 80s
I played Charvel/Jackson S-types, but came back full
circle to Les Pauls just after joining Def Leppard in 1992. For
a long time, Gibson wouldn’t even return my calls. Eventually
I got a call from Philip Whorton who runs the Gibson Custom
Shop in Nashville, asking if I’d be interested in working on
a signature model. I said, ‘Absolutely!’ I’m really pleased
with it. I had the first one at the end of our 2017 tour, and
Gibson released it at the Vegas Consumer Electronics Show.
The Leppard, Dio
legend talks us
Les Paul Custom
ME AND MY GUITAR
DEF LEPPARD/LAST IN LINE
Def Leppard’s new box
set, The Early Years 79-81,
is released 20th March.