Interview with Rob Walker

Behind Mal’s Guitar Sound …
Live I currently only use Fender Stratocasters – four of them. I do own other guitars but I find the Stratocaster to have the most beautiful and irreplaceably clear sound. It’s five different pickup positions, together with constant use of the volume control, offer the wide variety of sounds l need to cover our broad range of material.

My main axe is a ’57 re-issue tobacco sunburst with a maple neck and Fender Texas Special pick ups. Each Strat sounds slightly different, and I try and choose the right guitar for the right song. I use Fender strings, gauge l0 to 52 and change every night on my main one for the right tone.

I love Fender amps and am currently using two different models together in stereo. They are both stock but I always make sure the tubes and reverb are healthy. As I get older I am preferring a cleaner sound to start from, and you can always get it dirty from there. As a young player I preferred more distortion as it’s easier to get sustain. A cleaner sound requires finger accuracy as it exposes all the wrong things you do as much as the good things and that’s a challenge I enjoy.

My main amp is the latest Fender Twin, which has three different channels. Channel 1 is the traditional clean Fender Twin sound, Channel 2 has the same tone circuit but adds a gain and a master volume, and Channel 3 has heaps of overdrive. I couple this amp to a 50watt original Fender ’65 Pro Reverb and only use its reverb channel, which has a beautiful sweet tone. Using the two amps together gives me more power ceiling to work with before the natural clipping comes in, and a “best of both together” thing. The combination provides a beautiful body of sound which can offer me both amps clean, one clean and one dirty, or a distortion pedal over both of them.

My pedal board consists of a custom-made Fuzz Face/Octavia combination, an Ibanez Tube Screamer, a Cry Baby Wah Wah, a channel switcher, reverb on/off switches, a tuner and a Boss Stereo Chorus pedal, and that’s where I get my two splits to the amp. An extra A/B box in line mutes the signal to the amps and deviates it to the tuner, enabling me to silently check my tuning at any time during the show.

RW: Are you into music technology at all?
ME: I am in a studio sense. In the past, ‘live’ l used to have one of the biggest rigs around. But I got rid of it after realising that no matter what I did and how much money I spent, a bigger and better tone was more easily achieved by running less things in the signal chain and using top quality cable – no longer than you need.
Nothing beats a relatively simple system and putting your time into what your fingers are doing!