Submitted by HeadDino on Wed, 05/28/2008 - 22:40
Watch Pat Travers in Action at the bottom of this page!
Famous / Infamous for
Famous for: Boom Boom Out Go the Lights, and Snortin' Whiskey — two staples of Classic Rock radio. And unless you're a fan already they're probably the only Pat Travers songs you've ever heard. Firing Pat Thrall and Tommy Aldridge at the height of his band's success. Touring incessantly for three decades despite his career status.
Infamous for: Going through drummers faster than Anna Nicole Smith goes through a case of Twinkies! Two of these guys went on to fame and fortune with some of the biggest metal bands of the 80s — Nicko McBrain with Iron Maiden, and Tommy Aldridge with Ozzy and Whitesnake. At one point in the 70s, Travers went through five drummers in two and a half years!
Obvious: Hendrix is the only guy who Travers will admit to listening to. He claims to not be influenced by any guitarists in particular.
Not so obvious: Leslie West, Bob Marley, David Gilmour.
Tone. Travers' signature tone is massive and fully capable of filling up an entire track in one pass with no overdubs or doubling whatsoever. You can really hear this on the Crash and Burn album, which was cut mostly live in the studio. For example, on Snortin' Whiskey, there's only one rhythm guitar.
Attitude. Travers is from the "rock out with your cock out" school of guitar playing. Hit the switch, turn everything up and play like you mean it. Travers always sounds supremely confident and totally in control of what's going on, yet it's right on the edge of total meltdown.
Rhythm guitar. Pat Travers had a huge influence on my rhythm guitar playing. Most guys approach rhythm guitar as something they have to do between solos. Travers had as much or more going on in his rhythm parts as he did in his leads. There's a lot of single note riffing, big, full chords with open strings thrown in, and the creative use of effects almost as another instrument, as in the solo backing for Heat in the Street.
Accessibility. Travers' music was a fusion of progressive rock and blues influences. He was able to make prog rock for the masses. Sophisticated enough for musicians to get off on, yet accessible to the average music fan.
Unstable Lineups. Pat has been through a LOT of musicians in his career. He has said that "I lose three or four months off my life every time I fire a drummer." At this rate, he's probably lost about 20 years. Basically, he has to start over every couple of years, and has never been able to generate any career momentum.
The Blues. I could write a book on what I think about Travers' turn to the blues in the early 90s. Out of all the guys who have contracted Stevie Ray Vaughan Disease (SRVD) and felt the need to make themselves "legitimate" by taking on the blues, Travers is the guy who disappointed me the most. Why? One spin of any of his Blues Bureau releases will answer that question. He has completely abandoned his identity — the progressive rock influence, sophisticated arrangements — and instead seems content to crank out third rate I-IV-V blues songs with some of the stupidest lyrics this side of a Loudness album. It's blues by the numbers, and it sucks. Hard.
Pat's sound requires quite a bit of gear to really nail. Around the time of Go For What You Know and Crash and Burn, it went as follows: an MXR Phase 100, MXR Blue Box, and a Cry Baby wah, into a 50W Marshall head. He would take a split from the Marshall and run it into two old Maestro Echoplexes (later replaced with various digital delays). One of the delays would be set in tempo with the song; the other would be set to a very short repeat to give a double tracked sound. This went into the infamous A/DA Flanger, and then into a couple of 100W Marshalls. There was also a separate output from his pedalboard that went to a Leslie speaker, which was always on. Mic'ing all this was a bit of a nightmare, and Pat used a little different mic selection in the studio than most of his contemporaries. A Neumann U-87 was used to close mic the guitar cabinets, a Shure SM57 was used on the Leslie, and a Sony 414 for ambiance. Another key to Pat's sound, which you might assume from the amount of gear used, is level. Pat Travers is one of the loudest guitarists I've ever seen live.
So what's all this stuff sound like? Pat's tone is bright, ridiculously thick, and because of the Leslie it's very full and really doesn't need any second rhythm guitar at all, due to all the delays and chorusing going on. It's very close to Peter Frampton's sound from Frampton Comes Alive, owing to the fact that they both used Leslies and similar tricks with delays, but more overdriven. Pat's fat rhythm sound allowed Pat Thrall to play totally different rhythm parts and lead fills when he was in the band without having to worry about the bottom dropping out if he didn't double the rhythm.
Pat is primarily a Gibson player and typically preferred Gibson Melody Makers with full size humbuckers replacing the original single coil pickups. He had two of them: a red one, which was his main axe, and a black one. The red one is featured on the cover of Puttin' It Straight. Pat also has a rather unique double cutaway Les Paul. This guitar is not an "SG Les Paul" but rather a true Gibson Les Paul, in that it has the Les Paul's body thickness, binding, etc. — it just has two cutaways — kind of like an Ibanez Artist. Pat also used a '73 Telecaster Deluxe on his early albums. This guitar appears on the back of the Makin' Magic album. Strings were Dean Markleys: .009 - .042.
As a rhythm player, there are really two sides to Travers. On the one hand, you have the heavy blues riffing machine that appears in his heavier stuff, like Snortin' Whiskey, It Makes No Difference, etc. Then, there's the more subtle player who sneaks in reggae licks and big, chorused chords along the lines of David Gilmour's work with Pink Floyd. There's a lot here to digest, and to get a real feel for Pat's ryhthm work requires some listening time with the classic Pat Travers Band albums listed in the Recommended Listening section below.
As a soloist, Travers is primarily a blues based player, as were most of the guys in the 70s. He uses a lot of major and minor pentatonic, heavily laced with wah and the occasional unmistakable growl of the MXR Blue Box. Where he distinguishes himself is sheer attitude. Like Leslie West, he doesn't really show you a lot of tricky scales or wild modal runs, but he puts everything into every note he plays. Travers is a wild soloist, careening on the edge of disaster, yet always landing on his feet. Pat never really considered himself a particularly fast player. He can turn on the jets if the situation calls for it, but for example, he's neither as fast or as fluid as Pat Thrall. Travers is a huge proponent of the harmonic chirp — you'll hear this frequently in his lead work.
Travers is not a disciplined picker, he's more of a hack, slash, and whack kind of player. He picks very hard, relying on a lot of downstrokes and hammer on/pull offs.
Medium fast, chaotic, average width. His application of vibrato does not seem particularly schooled or studied, but he is always on pitch.
Pat Travers Band
Avoid the Blues Bureau releases!
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