This is an excerpt from the all-new JULY/AUGUST 2016 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this complete story and more photos, plus features on comedian/podcaster/writer/actor/musician Marc Maron, former Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson and his new career as a solo performer and painter, the life and times of comedian, author, and guitar aficionado Dave Hill, and much more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking anywhere in this text.
MISSIONARY OF TONE: To develop a signature sound, Matt Bruck assembled an amazing and exhaustive collection of lesser-known British amps from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies.
By Chris Gill | Photos by Kevin Scanlon
“I thought I had it all covered,” Matt Bruck says as he relaxes on a couch in a large room that’s essentially a highly fortified security bunker in North Hollywood, California, surrounded by dozens of vintage British amps. “Before I started this collection, I had a ’68 Marshall Super Lead and a ’66 JTM45 with a Marshall JCM800 cabinet loaded with Celestion G12M 25’s. It was the mid Nineties, and I was playing in bands in clubs chasing a record deal. I prided myself on having a stellar tone, but I also wanted a unique sound. I wanted an enviable tone that no one else could replicate, at least in terms of the gear. As great as my two Plexis sounded, lots of other guitarists were using them too.”
Bruck wasn’t the average musician on the Hollywood club circuit during the Nineties. In 1988, he started working for Andy Brauer Studio Rentals. “I was a staff tech there,” he says. “We did session setup and cartage for the biggest session players, and Andy had an unparalleled collection of vintage guitars and amps that he rented to producers and bands making records in L.A. I drove a truck around Los Angeles all day carting and setting up guitar rigs for sessions in recording studios for guys like Steve Lukather and Dean Parks in between picking up or preparing rentals for upcoming recording sessions for everyone from Guns N’ Roses to Michael Jackson.”
In 1990 Bruck started working as a tech for Eddie Van Halen, and for the past decade he has played an important collaborative role in the development of the EVH brand of products, including the acclaimed, best-selling 5150 III series amps. Obviously, Bruck’s ear for guitar tone is developed to master’s degree level.
Bruck’s obsession with British amps began in the mid Nineties. “I stumbled across a one-paragraph article in a guitar magazine about Sound City amps,” he recalls. “I remembered seeing Sound City cabinets onstage with Rick Nielsen and Cheap Trick, but I never knew much about them. I was immediately fascinated by their history. That night I found a classified ad placed by a guy in San Diego who was selling a Sound City cabinet, and the next morning I was driving 140 miles to go get it. It was an all-birch, rear-loaded cabinet with 50-watt cast-frame Fanes. When I got it home and put it up against my Marshall cabinet, I was stunned! Not only did the Sound City cab sound better, it sounded unique.”