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by Richard Alan Salz
One of the great things about being a member of the Press Corps is the chance to occasionally meet the heroes of your childhood…and have a couple of moments to actually chat with them. It’s Tuesday, March 23, 2010 and I’m here at the 2010 Frankfurt Musikmesse. The show doesn’t officially open until tomorrow morning, but as you’d probably imagine there is a ton of work that needs to get done before the show can start.
In case you’re not familiar with the show, let me give you a little bit of background about it. The first thing that you need to know is that it is ENORMOUS! If you’ve ever been to a domestic (United States) music trade show, you can take that experience and then multiply it. To put things in perspective, imagine a normal sized supermarket. Now remove everything, and fill the entire place with nothing but pianos! I’m not exaggerating, there is really an entire supermarket sized hall at Musikmesse just filled with pianos.
Enough about that already, you want to read about Matthias Jabs, right? Matthias Jabs is here at Musikmesse as an exhibitor showing his own vintage guitar collection, along with his new line of MJ Guitars. Some interesting takes on classic guitars, and well worth searching out!
The Audio Magazine: Matthias, Richard Alan Salz from The Audio Magazine. What would you say the top 3 vintage “holy grail” amps would be for you?
Matthias: Well, I don’t really know…I use vintage amps in the studio a bit, but for live playing I’ve been using new amplifiers for quite some time. It’s a reliability thing more than anything, I play concerts 150 days a year, and I need to have an amplifier that’s not going to hum and crackle and all of that and you know that I have developed my own amplifier, the Mastertone and it sounds great with the vintage guitars. In the studio I will still use my old 50 watt Marshall amps and a custom shop Fender Tone Master.
The Audio Magazine: Are you talking about the JCM 800 Marshalls_
Matthias: I mean the ones that came before the JCM 800’s, I suppose they are vintage now. They are good sounding, but for the kind of touring schedule I do, the new amps just make more sense for me.
The Audio Magazine: And what about microphones for recording guitar cabs?
Matthias: That’s an easy one! The Shure 57. We’ve been through every microphone that you can imagine at this point, but the 57 just always wins out. Sometimes we will add a Sennheiser or a Beyer or a Neumann as a second microphone (to pick up a little more low end) but the 57 is just the right choice.
The Audio Magazine: You could record a whole album with the 57. It’s maybe not the best choice all the time, but it will always at least be usable.
Matthias: Absolutely, we’ve done that same thing!
The Audio Magazine: What about instruments today, that will become the sought after classics, say 25 years from now. What would you tell someone looking to buy a guitar that will still be exciting and collectible in the future?
Matthias: That’s an interesting one… I think that for a guitar to be collectible in the future it has to be rare. Not many of them made, and from a small builder. Perhaps a guitar with an interesting shape? You know the “custom shop” guitars that came out of the major manufacturers in the early 1990’s, those were collectible. There really weren’t many of those made at all, and they were special and well built. Well, now it’s like there are 352 different “custom shop” models. They can’t all be special, they are everywhere. Those can’t keep their value, there are just too many of them out there. Many of them are just the new “relic” version of guitars that have been around for years and years. What is there that is going to be new?
The Audio Magazine: Well it has been a long time since there has been a really new design to come along. I guess you could say that the original Steinberger guitar from the 1980’s was unique, like the Travis Bean from the 1970’s. What is the next big thing?
Matthias: Well there are some interesting things out there. The Gibson Robot guitar, for example. I don’t use one, but for a guy playing in a club that needs to change tunings on the fly, it does something that other guitars can’t. Is it something for collectors though…
The Audio Magazine: Okay, stepping back for a minute. If you were to go back through your career and could have back any guitar that you got rid of, is there something that you wish you had back?
Matthias: Ah, I sold two Les Pauls, a 1958 and a 1960, I would have those back. But at the time, I just didn’t playthem. Every guitar player has something they sold, and they say “Oh it would be worth so much money” but I don’t look back. I wouldn’t have sold those guitars if they were really important. The guitars that I used for the big hits like “Rock like a Hurricane”, ‘Still Loving You” from the 1980’s, I still have all of those.
The Audio Magazine: Great, perhaps we can wrap things up with this. What’s on your iPod, or in your car stereo these days?
Matthias: Of the new songs, every once in a while something will catch my interest but more often, if I want to hear what is current I will just listen to the radio. There aren’t that many new bands that I’m really interested in now. I listen to the classics of guitar; Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, sometimes some old blues music. Not all of the time, but that’s what I like. Music with great guitars, it’s what I love!
The Audio Magazine: Awesome! It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, thanks again for your time.
(pictures to come!)