Rush are again playing to full houses around the concert halls of Germany this week. The gig at Oberhausen was again a feast of Rush music, with classy performances from Alex, Neil and Geddy throughout.
Alex Lifeson then took some time out to visit us in St Wendel on Saturday 19th after this gig. Myself and my colleague Martin Reichhart drove Alex south to St Wendel from Oberhausen early Saturday morning, and I took the opportunity to sit with Alex and do an "in car" informal interview whilst Martin drove. We had plenty of time since there was a 20 kilometre traffic jam around Koln!
H&K: "Alex, when you are playing, it is incredible just how loud clear and powerful the Hughes & Kettner stack becomes". The harder you drive it the better it seems to get".
Alex: "The master volume is always on less than five. (Paul and Martin express their amazement). The Triamp is so versatile and the Zentera is such a great complimentary amp with a huge array of sounds and effects, that I get all I need at half master volume. Sometimes I am not even using all the cabs. Your products are perfect for me. They work well within their capabilities and never fail."
H&K: "You have been using our amps for quite a few years now. What in the first instance made you make that phone call to us in our USA offices to get hold of a Triamp? And, I was actually in that office when the call was made, sitting next to our US sales manager who hurriedly scribbled your name on a piece of paper and smiled!"
Alex: "I am a very fussy player, and want exactly the sound that I want, and not the sound I heard when someone else was playing. Most companies do make great amps. Where Hughes & Kettner is different is that with other companies the main sound is the singular sound character of the amp within each channel, and anything you do with that amp just varies two or three notches, all of which are good. With Hughes & Kettner amps, once you understand the sheer versatility of the Triamp and Zentera in particular, you can actually get your own sounds and as many as you like. So you have what in effect is an amp you can tailor to your needs. Then your amp does not sound "just like all the others", it just sounds how you wish it to. I need a huge array of different sounds for three and a half hours of playing on stage each gig, and have to use many different guitars to do this. The Triamp and Zentera do everything else I need."
H&K: "But why would you come to a lesser known non traditional amp company like Hughes & Kettner? Surely some of the bigger boys would tailor an amp specially for you?"
Alex: "Because I love that you use modern technology to your advantage. You take on classic amp ideas, but developing them further with the advantage of German engineering and know-how to create great tone at every stage. Your attention to detail is critical for me. Even at low volume the tone is still superb. I know that a huge amount of thought goes into what you do, and that also is a great motivation for me to buy your amps. Your designers are not steered by price points, they are driven by the desire to find the best tone, and they succeed. That is why I love Hughes & Kettner amps. I also love German cars for the same reason; and with them you also pay more to get more."
H&K: "It is a great honour for Hughes & kettner that you are visiting us in our home town to see our facilities and designers."
Alex: "I am really looking forward to seeing your R & D facilities and to meet the guys who design your amps."
We spoke over the course of the journey about many things, some related to music and some not. I have had the pleasure of meeting many famous musicians over 30 years, both in the guitar industry and in classical music. I can truthfully say that Alex Lifeson is one of life's gentlemen, and without doubt one of its finest musical craftsmen. It was a sheer pleasure to sit and talk with him.
We had a superb time showing him around the Hughes & Kettner facilities. Alex met the key designers and research personnel of the company, and he was very interested and pleasantly surprised by what he saw, and gave us plenty of good ideas to think about.
If you get the chance, go and see Rush during their last gigs before they return to Canada. It is twelve years since their last tour in the UK and Europe. Lets hope their next return tour will be a little earlier than twelve more years. 2016 seems too far away for me!