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Mackie At Home and On-Stage With Guitar Legend Larry Carlton

Larry Carlton
  Larry Carlton

The name Larry Carlton brings many images to mind. He was one of the preeminent Los Angeles studio musicians in the 1970s, whose credits include work on over 100 gold albums by the likes of Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson. This success carried over to television and movie soundtracks––winning a Grammy in 1981 for the theme to Hill Street Blues. If that isn’t enough, he has recorded over 20 solo albums, proving his influence on the guitar community is virtually immeasurable. And who can forget his groundbreaking work with Steely Dan––his “Kid Charlemagne” solo is still one of the greatest rock guitar solos ever recorded.

Then of course, there is the gear. The Gibson ES-335 guitar, Dumble Super Overdrive amplifier, and Showbud volume pedal––thanks to Carlton’s unparalleled gift for touch, tone and feel––have become as associated with him as much as the notes he plays. Lately, some other pieces of gear have been added to his arsenal–– Mackie mixers. Mackie mixers you say? Well, maybe Mackie mixers are not as ubiquitously associated with Carlton as the ES-335, but Mr. 335 gets quite a bit of work done in his home studio with his 24•8 analog console. From pre-production demos to flying in sequenced parts into his masters, working at home with the 24•8 allows Carlton to fine tune every detail of his compositions before going into final production.

How elaborate are his demos? "Pretty elaborate on a lot of the tunes,” Carlton says. “Once I''m into a song I’ll hear the arrangement, put the string lines on, then maybe add a little percussion. When I bring it into the studio and play the demo for the other players, they know exactly what’s going to happen. I think writing good charts and elaborate demos makes it sound like a Larry Carlton production."

After thirty plus years in the music business, Carlton shows no signs of slowing down. He released his twentieth solo album, Fingerprints, in 2000, and paired up with guitar-ace Steve Lukather for a three-week tour of Japan that culminated with the 2001 release of No Substitutions. This live disc features the two guitar legends slipping and sliding through the Carlton classics “Don’t Give It Up,” and “Room 335,” as well as trading inspired dialogue on Jeff Beck’s “The Pump,” and Miles Davis’s “All Blues.” In addition, he just completed work on his latest Warner Bros. release, Deep Into It, which is slated to hit stores on Nov. 13.

Carlton is in top form as a songwriter and guitarist and his recent recordings demonstrate this, as well as one other very important thing––he is relaxed. His guitar playing reveals an even deeper level of confidence and soul that comes only from life experience and an absolute certainty of what he wants from his music. "I honestly don''t think anymore when I play," Carlton says. "I just watch the changes go by when I''m reading a chart and just play. I''m glad to hear that it sounds relaxed. I''ve just grown to that point after playing the guitar for forty six years––I just play."

Larry Carlton''s RackOn tour, Carlton still uses his trusty ES-335 through his custom Dumble Super Overdrive amplifier that he has owned for over fifteen years. One interesting aspect of his live rig is the addition of the Mackie 1604-VLZ PRO. He mics his Dumble with a Shure SM57 that sends the dry guitar signal into his Mackie 1604-VLZ PRO. This signal is fed into his effects processors that are connected via the mixer’s aux sends, and the effected signal is then sent to a pair of powered JBL stage monitors. "The tone of my reverb is from a microphone on my speaker, rather than preamp out," Carlton reveals. "I''m treating my Mackie as a mixer just like I would in the studio––so that my effects (a reverb and a chorus) get hit with the sound of a microphone."

What keeps Larry Carlton as passionate about music today as he was thirty years ago? "When it''s time to play the guitar, it''s the most passionate thing I can do at that time," Larry reflected. “This continues because my motives for making music are about the passion and not about anything else. So there is a consistency in my approach to life because my motive is to always feel that rush of making the best music I can."


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