The British Laney Amplification manager Simon Fraser-Clark, aka the Tone Wizard, appeared with the Guitar World during coronavirus outbreak and disclosed the unheard sides of Tony Iommi‘s Black Sabbath style.
While they talk on Tony‘s guitar tone, Simon noted that when the output section was saturated, an octave came from below, but this was not an octave.
“The original Laney LA100 BL amps Tony was using in 1967 were super-simple: very, very unsophisticated. Single-channel, very little gain, with a quartet of EL34s in the power section. You had to dime it all the way across and get everything up to 10.
“There’s a really weird thing as well: the first amps that were built used Partridge box-frame transformers.
“And there is this thing that happens when you saturate the output section – there’s a weird undertone that is there. It almost sounds like an octave below, but it’s not an octave below.”
While he continues his words, he described the tone like a ghost tone.
“When we were working on recreating those amps, Tony sent me a load of guitar tracks, just soloed stems from the album – and I thought they were multi-tracked. But he said, ‘No, it’s not multi-tracked,’ so I was listening to just one guitar.
“But there was this sub-undertone, which as soon as you notice it’s there it becomes really obvious. When you bend it doesn’t track properly – it gives you this weird oscillation that then catches up to the note. It’s kind of like a ghost tone.
“The fact everything had to be turned up loud with those amps was why Tony also used a Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster with them in the front-end, purely to hit that amp harder to make it break up.”
Simon also touched Tony’s pre-Black Sabbath times and Black Sabbath’s forming process.
“Before Tony formed Sabbath he was playing in a band up north with another guitar player, who also had a Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster.
“It sounded better than Tony’s. So Tony said, ‘Why does yours sound better than mine?’ And the guy said, ‘Well, my brother modified it.’ So Tony said, ‘Well, would he modify mine?’ So he did.
“Tony came back, the band broke up, he formed Sabbath. So, an LA100 BL, modified Dallas Rangemaster… that was his sound until, in 1982, they employed a new tech who went through Tony’s gear, built him a new pedalboard, everything. Old stuff? Thrown away.”
He also touched Tony’s request when they built a new LA 100 amps for him.
“Problem was, Tony had never opened the back of the Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster in order to see what the mod was. So no-one knew.
“So when we built the new LA 100 amps for Tony, he said we’ll need the pedal as well. So we said, ‘What do you mean you’ll need a pedal as well?’ And we said, ‘What do you want?’ And he said, ‘I want one like my old Rangemaster.’
“So, again, we bought up some old Rangemasters to try out, but because we didn’t know what the mod was, we had to basically mod something, send it to him and say, ‘Is it that?’ and he’d be like, ‘No.’
“But we carried on listening and testing until eventually we said, ‘Hang on, how about that?’ and it was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ And he said, ‘All right, I’ll have one.’ And it was sat in his rack.
“But that was like 18 months of R&D time in a box, so then we thought, ‘We don’t make pedals – let’s make some pedals.’
“So that’s where the TI Boost came from, where we were 50 years old so we decided we’d reissue 50 sets of Tommy’s original amp, his original speaker, and the original pedal.”
Tony Iommi rocked stage under the name with Black Sabbath between 1968 to 2006 and 2011 to 2017.