By David Wilson
We’re not kidding… Mark Johnson has owner virtually every booteek amp we have reviewed in these pages over the past 14 years. Most of them have been sold for one reason or another, but when he got back from Italy this summer he couldn’t stop talking about Clement’s amp. Of course, he knew what he was getting… We had Mark here the first time we played Clement’s ammo can Number 7 – a tempting buy but we laughed imagining the airport chaos that an amp in an ammunition can would cause in Europe. We remember telling him at the time, “Mark, this is the touring amp you need. It will fit in the overhead luggage rack of any airplane, and it sounds incredibly good.” Here’s what Mark has to say about his little BC Audio blaster…
TQR: You played the first BC Audio amp we had here, so you have known about them for a while. You have owned just about every boutique amp that has been made in the past 19 years. What finally inspired you to buy the BC?
We were at your house and we had a vintage tremolux, a vintage Deluxe, one of my Atomic Space Tones and a Germino Lead 55, and the BC Audio head. What held me back at the time was the ammo can look didn’t appeal to me.
TQR: No way you could have taken that amp on planes to Europe, yet your European touring pressed the issue, didn’t it? What were you using in Europe before that?
For 6 or 7 years I was using backline stuff – Blues Devilles, Blues Deluxes or Hot Rod Deluxes, and on the clean channel those amps are fine, but a lot of time they aren’t well maintained. I used backline amps for 6-7 years. Then you get in the middle of a tour and things aren’t sounding the way you want. We are often flying into different countries and I think what turned the corner for me was when I realized that I could get a step-down transformer for the BC Audio amp from the rental company, and he had created a new look with the cabinet as an option to the ammo can. So I could bring my own head, own tubes, and I would rent a speaker cabinet, and I found a Vox 2×12 that worked perfectly.
TQR: And what kind of venues are you playing in Europe?
All sizes, from small to medium clubs and outdoor festivals. Just about every place we play they are miking the amps, so you need a certain amount of stage volume. I run that amp with 6L6s and it works great. I started out with NOS tubes and then switched to Tung Sols because they had a little more punch and volume. Being a bottleneck player with a slightly overdriven tone all the time it works great. I’d step on the Klon for a more punch, I use a Demeter reverb and my favorite tremolo pedal is called a Vintage Technology Blackface tremolo pedal. They don’t make it anymore but I even leave it on when I’m not using the tremolo. I have four of them.
TQR: When you come home do you just put the amp away and use something else? You have a lot of amps…
It just depends. I use it a lot here, but I’ll also use the Headstrong. I really like those 6SL7 preamp tubes in the BC Audio amp. It’s a beautiful compression but it’s also more open sounding. The way he designed it it just works. For me I keep the Normal channel on about 2 o’clock and the Bright channel is on about 10 o’clock. You can’t really get a bad sound out of the amp and it’s super light. I was able to cut my pedal board in half because the amp can do it. It really helps when you are flying in between countries because the weight restrictions are so stringent.
TQR: So you solved a big problem for Europe, and you use it here as well?
TQR: So after spending $39K on amps… You have had just about everything there is in the boutique and vintage world…
(Laughing) I don’t know if it was that much… For Delta Moon a good old school simple sound is what I’m about. I use a Gibson GA5 and GA20 in the studio, and Jeff [Bakos]’s little 8 Ball, which is a great amp.
TQR: How many different countries have you used the Number 8 in?
Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands. There are always guitar players who are interested in what you are using.
TQR: And they will have never seen it.
Yeah, I don’t think Bruce had any dealers over there. You are always trying to standout from all the bands that are out there. I always take at least one Jerry Jones and either a Strat or a Tele, but I just bought a guitar that may be my favorite. It’s a Cabronita with TV Jones Filter’trons. It’s kind of a cross between and Strat and a Tele, and I was looking at Cabronitas as a result of sitting in your room and playing yours. It’s a Cabronita Luchador model. I could have lived with the one pickup model. We were just tracking at Jeff’s this week and I never picked up another guitar.