THE BODY AND SOUL BEHIND THE GUITAR SOUNDS OF GISH AND SIAMESE DREAM. This is the guitar amp and cabinet used on The Smashing Pumpkins debut album Gish recorded December 1990-March 1991 at Smart Studios, Madison, Wisconsin and the quadruple platinum Siamese Dream recorded December 1992- March 1993 at Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia.
We fired up the old SOUL yesterday and it was amazing how instantly, without EQ "that" guitar sound just filled the control room.
I talked with long time friend and technician Mike Rubano about the magic combination of this amp and cabinet.
KB: What kind of amp is this?
Mike: Marshall JCM 800 100 watt head. James also used a JCM 800 but his was the 50 watt model.
KB: I asked Billy how he came about this combo and he said you would have the scoop?
Mike: Billy had a Roland Jazz Chorus amp he wanted to find something that would push more air to fill bigger rooms and cut through Jimmy's powerful drum sound. He was looking for a more aggressive sound. So he found an ad for a used JCM 800 and Marshall slant cab in town and asked me to go with him to take a look at it. We went to the sellers apartment where we found an empty room with just the amp, the cabinet and the seller. There wasn't a bit of furniture in the room. It was a bit creepy. As Billy worked out a deal with the seller I took the amp apart and checked it out. It looked great, we tried it out and is was decent sounding. So he cut a deal and we took it home.
KB: So I heard from Billy that changing the tubes really added to the punch of this amp?
Mike: To get it ready for the road I wanted to make sure the tubes would hold up and I had no idea how old the current tubes were, so I ordered new ones. We didn't have much money back in the day but I was able to find a good deal on KT88s at Antique Electronic Supply and ordered a set. When they arrived I tossed the old tubes, installed the new ones, biased the amp and I gave it back to Billy. He just loved the way it sounded. In fact over the years as the band had more money to spend on gear we tried "better" more expensive tubes and he always had me go back to the KT88s from china.
KB to Billy: What are your memories about the amp?
Billy: When I first bought the amp in 1989 from this stoner guy, I thought it sounded ok but I think I was more excited to just be playing thru a Marshall. I realized after a time that I wasn't that crazy about the sound so I asked Mike to look at it and see what he could do. After he changed the tubes to the KT88s the amp just sprang to life, and it was the body of the amp that I used to drive insane amounts of distortion into to get 'that sound'. Butch Vig and I were so sold on the sound of the amp that outside of a few select parts, I would say that 98pct of all guitar parts on the first two albums were done thru this amp/speaker combo. In order to change the sound, the Stratocaster parts would be recorded through a shure 57 on the bottom right speaker, and the Les Paul parts would be recorded through a Sennheiser 421 on the top left speaker. This subtle difference between what speaker we would use created the sense of playing thru a different amp set-up even though obviously I wasn't.