Last year I was working on guitar tracks for Mary Maclean’s Beyond CD. I stopped by Quest Musique in Winnipeg to pick up a few things when I came across a cool little amp, the Zinky Smokey. There were about 20 of them in a pail on the counter in assorted colours. I grabbed one and paid for it along with a few packs of strings and some picks. When I got into the studio Brian James was working on trying to get a sound for the track No Other. He had his Rat pedal out and he was trying to get a real buzzy sound through his Vox AC15. It sounded great but he was looking for something a bit quirky. I plugged him into this little amp and the sound was right there. Check out 2:46 on that track. (Mary Maclean’s Beyond CD is available at www.upswingmusic.com.)
I was cleaning out my gear bag today when I found that little amp again. Lately I’ve really enjoyed using small amps for recording. A lot of what I have used lately is my Swart Atomic Space Tone which is 20 watts. You still have to crank it a bit to get a nice slightly distorted guitar tone. More on non-master volume amps in another posting. Great rock guitar sounds come from small amps. The first couple Led Zepplin albums feature a Telecaster into a Supro Coronado.
So, I grab my Telecaster and plug that baby right into the Zinky, put a Shure 57 on it and start rockin’. In this track I use only my Fender Custom Shop Telecaster on the bridge pickup straight into the Zinky. The harmonic bends are done by pressing the strings down between the nut and the tuning pegs.
Check out the end result. Perhaps you wouldn’t want this to be your go-to rig. Normally I would never use this for all the guitar tracks but just to add textures to a track once in a while…or as a practice amp in the hotel room. The level of distortion is controlled by your volume knob. For a slightly cleaner sound (it never gets completely clean) you roll down the volume. For less treble, you roll it off with your tone control on your guitar. Amazingly this little amp will run a 4×12 cabinet…on a 9 volt battery.
Check out the long list of “pro users” like ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Los Lobos, Anthtrax, and Pantera. (OK, perhaps these people got one of these sent to them as a promo?)