Interviews are usually done during the promotional stage of an album or a tour – and then they centre around these topics. However, albums and shows wouldn’t exist if the interview partners weren’t such enthusiastic instrumentalists. In our series „Saitengespräche“ (pun: „string talks“/“side conversations“) we want to take this into account – with interviews that focus entirely on instruments, amplifiers, effects, and other tech stuff. From gear nerds for gear nerds – and for those who aspire to be.
In part 31 of the series we talk to Jack Owen, guitarist of SIX FEET UNDER, as well as formerly of CANNIBAL CORPSE and DEICIDE.
When did you start playing guitar?
I started playing guitar when I was 16 years old, on my father’s old Gibson acoustic from the 1950s
What made you want to learn guitar back then?
I borrowed a dubbed cassette that my brother had of Kiss Alive! I didn’t know what the band looked like, but I loved the music and the energy. I loved the guitar solos. So Ace Frehley was my initial influence and my father having a guitar was inpiration to learn on my own.
Have you already learned (or had to learn) another instrument before?
I tried piano, since my mother played, but I liked the alignment of the guitar better. I owned a bass a little while after that and and I would try to make feedback and crazy sounds like Cronos from Venom in my bedroom. But I concentrated on guitar mainly…
Do you remember which model your first guitar was?
Since I broke many of the strings on my father’s guitar, he got me a Hagstrom double cutaway guitar and a bass at an auction. Then he got me a Peavey Butcher amp and a P.A. for vocals.
How many guitars do you own?
I think I have 7 electric guitars and 1 acoustic guitar. Only about 3 of my electric guitars work properly. I have to get some of them repaired and/or rebuilt…
Do the instruments have different uses for you, so do you have different ones for different bands or occasions, like studio, live gigs and holidays?
I only need a 6 string and a 7 string in working order to get the job done and I do. Just 2 Blakhart guitars…
What do you attach particular importance to from a technical point of view, what criteria must an instrument meet for you to be satisfied with it?
I don’t have many demands for a guitar. As long as it can survive the cargo hold on an airplane. If not, I carry it on the plane in a gig bag. As far as sound, I can deal with stock pickups since I have a Line 6 pedal that makes anything sound good.
You often hear about musicians who seem to have a special connection to their instrument. Do you feel the same way?
I don’t really have a special connection to any instrument. I like them when they are new and stare at them for a while, but it’s really just wood and steel.
Do you have a favorite instrument?
Not really. I can get the best out of any guitar that I own, wether it is stock or custom. I adapt to the music I am playing in a certain environment.
Did you make special modifications to it, or is it a custom model anyway?
I haven’t customized my guitars to a great extent. I installed a Dean 7 string pickup in my Blakhart 7 string since I liked it in the original Dean guitar, but that’s about it. I had Railhammer pickups installed in another Blakhart guitar, but it was stolen by or lost by an airline. Luckily they paid for it. But the guitar is gone!
Can you tell us the technical details here?
Not many technical details to list. I play pretty much straight into an amp whenever possible, with a stock guitar.
Is there a model, such as the instrument of a great role model, that you would like to play one day?
Everyone would like a vintage Gibson Les Paul one day and so would I!
Which type of guitar picks do you use – and why this type?
Just Tortex m3 picks, customized by InTune. They are small and very easy to grip. They have a sharp edge which I like as well.
Amps are often leased for tours – is that okay with you or do you have your own amp with you?
I don’t mind a leased amp. Our booking agent in Europe owns a backline, so I have been using a Marshall jcm 800 for a few years now.
Besides the instrument and the amplifier, sound effects play an important role in the sound. Do you rely on single pedal mines, a multi-effect board or a combination?
I use a Line 6 HD Floor Pod Plus. I program it initially and it is good to go, wherever I go. That’s all. No other pedals.
Let’s go into detail: Please explain the elements of your effect loop. Which devices do you use, in which order and why?
Just the effects and tones of the Line 6 pedal. The wah is good, the delay and reverb are great and that’s all I need.
Mind game: You are only allowed to take one single (!) effect on stage – which one do you choose?
I really the Univibe pedal, made famous by Hendrix, Trower and Waylon Jennings
Which effect pedal makes up your sound?
The Insane tone setting of the Line 6 pedal, the delay for leads and reverb for a little fun
Do you have an effect that you use in a completely different way than originally intended, or that you have perhaps even (re)built yourself?
I really don’t think so. I used an envelope filter on some Cannibal Corpse things years ago for that swelling sound in my leads.
Do you use a noise gate – why (not)?
Oh yes. I can’t live without my noise gate. There are always stop parts in all of the bands I have been in. And it’s good to just leave your volume on between songs and be ready to jump into the next song…
Is your effect board „ready“ or in constant change?
I don’t change it much, unless I play with another band and need cleaner tones or less gate.
Finally, do you have a tip for beginning musicians?
Play all you want in your bedroom, with your favorite sound, but keep in mind when you play with others, you will want a bigger sound to stand out. And play along with your favorite songs and artists to keep yourself interested. The first thing you should buy after a guitar – is a tuner…