In this post, we’ll be profiling Julien Kasper. You should know about him, because this guy knows tone!
Julien Kasper’s style can best be described as an organic amalgam of rock, jazz, blues, and funk. He has released three critically acclaimed albums of original music and has performed extensively in the United States and abroad as a leader and sideman. He has been featured and reviewed in Guitar Player, Guitar World, Vintage Guitar, Jazz Times, and numerous other publications. Kasper holds a master’s degree in Jazz Studies from University of North Texas and a bachelor’s degree in Jazz and Studio Performance from University of Miami. He is now in his 20th year on the Berklee Guitar Department faculty.
Julien’s Thoughts on Tone
While I don’t consider myself a gear-head or a vintage snob, it seems to have turned out that the gear that helps me realize the tones in my mind’s ear is usually vintage or of vintage pedigree. I grew up playing a Strat through a Fuzz Face, Echoplex, and an old four-input Marshall. I love the unforgiving clarity, honesty, and anarchic nature of this rig and it continues to be the center of my tone universe. My music and playing have evolved to embrace a more chromatic aesthetic but my basic rig remains the same. I strive to hone my technique so that complex lines pop out of such an unforgiving rig with power and clarity but I love to turn on a dime and unleash the fury that is lurking just under a small twist of the guitar volume knob.
My primary guitars are Stratocasters either one of a couple of older Fenders or amazing Strat-style instruments made by D’Pergo. I seek a combination of warmth, responsiveness, and extreme clarity, which is hard to find on most guitars, particularly newer Fenders. D’Pergo has created recipes to make this happen with every guitar he builds. My main gigging guitar right now is a D’Pergo Signature Limited, which has an enormous maple neck with no truss rod. In the studio I’m likely to grab a Tele, SG, or Les Paul on the spur of the moment, to make myself play differently or to better serve the track. Occasionally I’ll bring a Gibson on a gig to use on a few tunes.
I prefer the natural response of simple low gain vintage amps without master volumes, channel switching, or reverb. I record overdriven sounds with high wattage vintage Marshalls or a Vox AC-30, but usually gig with lower wattage amps as the volume curve in just about every venue has dropped so dramatically. In the studio I love the clean tones of small vintage amps – a Fender Princeton, tweed Deluxe, tweed Champ, and Vox AC-10 cover the clean tones on Trance Groove. I generally use the stock speakers originally intended for the amps.
My live setup has changed since recording Trance Groove. The new material has a broad array of clean textures so I have converted to a two-amp rig which consists of either a Vox AC10 or Marshall 1974x 18-watt combo for overdrive tones and either a Vox AC30, a modified Fender Bassman, or a Fender tweed Bandmaster for clean sounds.
One piece of new gear that has become indispensable to me is the Faustine Phantom attenuator. It the first attenuator I’ve found that doesn’t destroy the tone and the feel of an amp. Venue size permitting, it has allowed me to return to my higher wattage amps live and for really small rooms I’ve successfully used it with my 18-watt Marshall. I’m also using the Faustine as a load box/ D.I. in my home studio. The speaker emulation circuit in the attenuator works quite well and I’m experimenting with impulse response speaker modeling in conjunction with the D.I.
My pedals constantly change, depending on amp selection but I always use some form of Fuzz, boost, and delay. For color, I’ll add an Octavio, tremolo, Univibe, and occasionally chorus. I avoid overdrive pedals because I’m so accustomed to natural cranked amp overdrive and nothing comes close to that. However, when I’m forced to play through a clean and/or horrible amp for a fly-in gig or clinic I’ll use a JAM Rattler or a Xotic AC Comp.
Custom Jeorge Tripps (Dunlop) Fuzz Faces, JAM Fuzz Phrase, Fulltone Soulbender and ’69 Deluxe, JAM Red Muck, Dunlop Octavio, MJM Roctavios
Echoplex EP-3, Maxon AD900, MXR Carbon Copy (for modulated delay), Digitech Hardwire (for reverse delay)
Occtone Elmore, Way Huge Angry Troll or Red Llama, JAM Boomster
Univibe, tremolo. chorus: JAM Retrovibe, MJM Sixties Vibe, JAM Chill and Waterfall
For specific amps, pedals, and guitars used on my CDs see the pages on my website.
Julien Kasper Video Clips
Stratocaster, 100-watt Marshall, Fuzz Face
D’Pergo, 50 watt Marshall, Fulltone Soulbender, MJM Rocktavious
D’Pergo, Vox AC 30 (clean), Vox AC10 (overdrive) and Occtone boost