Greg Fryer: Full Interview

In the latest issue we´ve reviewed three of the brand new Brian May treble boosters from Greg Fryer´s Fryer Sound. Space didn´t allow us to print as much technical and background information as we'd have liked; we got some in, but by no means all...

So, here we redress the balance. Here follows some background and additional technical gubbins to go with the review.

Greg Fryer's background is in guitar, effect pedal and amp making and has become well known through his work for Brian May over the past 10 years. In 1997 Greg made 3 ultra-accurate replicas for Brian of his famous Red Special guitar and in 1998 undertook a major restoration of Brian's original priceless Red Special. Greg has designed and hand built pedals and custom AC30s for Brian May's own use, as well as for the We Will Rock You theatrical productions playing around the world.

In 2003 Brian and the WWRY production team asked Greg to come up with a solution for both the amps and guitar pedal chain used in the WWRY show by its two guitarists. As with Brian's own AC30 amp rig, the guitarists in the shows were using their AC30s at full volume in order to achieve the authentic Brian May/Queen sound, however running the amps like this greatly increases the risk of failure due to the over-stressing of valves and components as many people would know. Greg was asked to develop ways of achieving the full volume BM sound at lesser amplifier volumes and to look at ways of improving reliability under the demanding night after night playing conditions of the WWRY productions.

This work entailed designing three new guitar effect pedals to suit the dual amp BM style requirements, as well as hand building the AC30s to Greg's own specs in a manner not dissimilar to the way the amps of the 1960s and 1970s were made. This template has fortunately proved very successful and since 2004 every WWRY production throughout the world has used Greg's hand built amps and pedals.

Over the last few years Greg has kept the white lab coat firmly on and has developed a range of guitar effect pedals which he and business partner Nigel Knight are currently putting into production. Some of these pedals are aimed at achieving the Brian May sound, whilst several others have been developed for the wider electric guitarist market as well as for bass players and acoustic guitarists.

How long has Brian been using your boosters and what is their background?

Since 1998. During the making of my 3 Red Special replica guitars for Brian in 1996-7 I also worked on the treble booster circuit and developed a couple of variations. It was important for the pickups that I developed for these 3 guitars to have a good understanding of how Brian's treble boosters worked and how they sounded with the Vox AC30. Replicating Brian's sound as closely as possible in my workshop was an essential part of the exercise. Dozens of pickup variations were fine tuned over a period of about six months using a Guild Brian May guitar as a working test bench (this was done at the same time that my 3 replicas were being made).

Each new pickup variation was assessed in the manner that Brian creates his sound, with a Red Special guitar played through the treble booster into the Vox AC30 normal channel set at full volume. When I returned to London with the three completed replicas in late 1997 I also had the first treble boosters ready to show Brian.

Which booster is best when using a speaker attenuator with the amp?

Because running a the Vox AC30 amp at full volume like Brian does is out of the question for most people especially when practicing at home, many people choose to use a speaker attenuator (such as Marshall, THD, Weber, Tube Juice etc) with their amp in order to lower the sound levels to what is required but keep (in theory) the overdriven distorted full blown BM amp sound.

It depends on personal taste of course but the most popular choice has been either the TB Deluxe or TB Plus.

People have found that when they use a speaker attenuator with their amp they have to compensate to some degree by driving the amp with a louder fatter sound than they would need to otherwise if they were running the amp like Brian at full volume. (BM finds that at full AC30 volume the TB Touring gives him all the sustain and richness of sound that he needs).

The reason for needing this louder fatter treble booster signal is because the dynamic interaction between the amp/speakers/air/pickups/ears is diminished when using a speaker attenuator. When the speakers are being driven hard in normal loud ‘Brian May´ amp use the guitar and pickups want to burst forth 'singing' with their own feedback frequencies and will give almost effortless sustain. Hence the need in quieter amp volume situations when using an attenuator to drive the amp with a louder fatter signal.

The full review is in issue GIT309, out now.

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.