Taken from Guitar Magazine - January 1997
Piano Strings and Banjo Pegs
'Discovering my Lowden was a spiritual experience,' laughs Nick. 'I'd been playing on of those funny shaped Giannini Craviolas for a long time and thought I finally deserved a really good guitar. So I sold my motorbike, managed to accumulate about £1500 and decided to go for it. I went around town playing everything... Gibsons, Guilds, Ovations, Larrivees, Takamines, Martins - I was actually on the verge of buying a Taylor.
'Then I walked into Ivor Mairants off Oxford Street, picked up a Lowden 0-23, played one single chord - C, I think it was - and got hit by this incredible sense of deja vu. It was open and full and big and beefy, absolutely everything I wanted. It seemed about ten times as good as everything else I had played, and about half the price.
'So I thought, hmmm, I'll think about this. I wandered up to Tottenham Court Road in a complete daze. I felt nauseous, I felt sick, I nearly got hit by a car. It was the guitar! I knew that guitar was for me! I rushed back, put a deposit on it, and ever since I've had it, fantastic things have been happening with my playing and music in geeral. It was a very bizarre experience. I'm not superstitious, I'm not into astrology or any of that - but I know damn well some other force was at work. Weird, weird, shit.'
Nick's electric guitar is a baritone-necked copy of a sixties Danelectro made by Jerry Jones of Nashville that, like his Lowden, he tunes a fourth below standard - B E A D F# and B. 'The neck is about two frets longer than a normal guitar, so it's perfect for the low tunings,' he explains, 'the pickups aren't much cop though - I'm changing them soon. Occasionally I use a DOD fuzz, but generally I go straight through to the amp, a Fender Twin Reverb - the only amp that seems to keep the low end nice and defined instead of becoming a horrible mushy mess.'
So where did all this low tuning business come from?
'It comes from my dad,' Nick explains. 'He tunes his guitar down from standard E down to C or C# to match his voice, so he can play the songs he wrote 25 years ago, and I started tuning my guitar the same way, except generally with a B on the bottom.
'The trick is to use heavy strings. Mine are .065", .052", .038", .024", .016" and .013" and I get them specially made by a guy called Malcolm Newton, who I can really recommend (Newtone Strings - 01773 714409 or email him). You'd think having strings made would be expensive but he's cheaper than a shop.
'As well as tuning lower than normal I also use seven or eight altered tunings. I read an interview with Adrian Legg where he was taking about these banjo tuners made by Schaller that have special 'stops' so you can quickly re-tune from one note to another. I've always hated going to gigs where someone keeps you waiting five minutes while they tune up onstage, so I thought "Aha!"
I've now got them fitted to both guitars. The only drawbacks are that they are pretty pricey and that yo have to drill out bigger holes in the headstock to fit them. I did the Lowden myself, and it could have gone horribly wrong - but luckily it didn't! And I read that Adrian used his tuners to mess around in the middle of songs as well, and now I do it too - reach up to the peg, let the note off, then hit the string and tune it back. It's like having a string bender on each individual string.'