While attending a recent opening at Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., I noticed Casey Roberts was playing guitar with an Orange brand amplifier. It made me think about all the different gear that musicians use to create their own identifiable sound. So, I decided to start writing some short articles about musicians and their gear.
Since the idea came to me during Roberts' performance at Grey, I decided to talk to him first. He currently plays guitar for punk rockers and stands in on bass for the hardcore outfit Blackwater. When he's not laying down some thunder or churning out riffs, Roberts serves up lattes and java at Alabaster Coffee Roaster and Tea Co., 410 Pine St.
"Orange amps - I started playing on them in this band I played with in high school," Roberts said. "I ended up borrowing an Orange amp from a touring band in Boston. I just really liked it, but at the time in high school I really couldn't afford it. At that point - from the time I used it - Orange was my ideal."
Musician Casey Roberts is shown performing. Roberts performs with Orange-brand amplifiers, which have been used by musicians like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.
The Orange amplifier Roberts uses has a storied history that originated in late '60s London. Over the years, guitarists like Jimmy Page have used Orange to create their own distinctive sound and guitar tone.
"I like the medium range between plain and distorted sound," Roberts said. "It's capable of playing heavy things but I don't normally play too heavy. Even the clean, no-distortion sound is kind of rough."
"Before discovering Orange, I played a really cheap solid state Marshall half-stack amp," Roberts said. "At that time, I didn't really know about gear, but I needed something. Then I had a tube amp that I later sold to my roommate in college. For a while, I was using that inside of an Orange cabinet. I bought the Orange cabinet new, but even the new ones retain the vintage tube amp sound of the older ones. I bought my first Orange in 2008 when I purchased a standalone Orange amp 'head.' The cabinet I had picked up earlier in the year."
Roberts has been playing music for 10 years and started out playing bass.
"[I] Started playing bass freshman year of high school," Roberts said. "I learned bass because where I lived not a lot of people were playing it so I figured that I could join a band that way. I played mostly punk when I started. Then, I felt, after a while, it hindered my growth as a musician. As a bassist, I could play fast, but, overall, as a musician, I could grow more by playing guitar and different styles of music."
"My amp is a twin channel," Roberts said. "I usually have the midrange up more than anything, but I do put more treble out to create a higher, thinner sound in the clean channel, but it's actually a twin channel head so both channels are exactly the same, so I put the gain up just slightly more."
As a guitarist, Roberts thinks more along rhythmic lines. Even when writing by himself, he makes drumbeats on the computer and then follows the drums as a guitarist.
"I'm mainly a guitarist - instrumentally - but I consider myself more a music writer than a guitarist," said Roberts. "There are different softwares and programs I've used to create music. I'll use the guitar to create the notes and then I'll transpose or change the instrument to piano or electronic sounds. A lot of stuff I write by myself. I use guitar, bass and electronic drums. This is how I create my own music. For the band, it's more collaborative, so they usually start with my riffs. Once I have a few riffs, I save them and bring them to practice so we can work together.
"I get a lot of positive comments about my guitar tone," he said. "The Orange amp doesn't have reverb, so it has a dry sound; I use a reverb pedal, but I actually end up having more reverb than a normal guitarist would have. I play a Hagstrom Viking guitar. My previous band, Lights Camera Distractions, recorded in a studio in New Jersey and there's a lot of guitarists to choose from, but I really like the way the way it sounds with my Orange. I use distortion with discretion - [I] rely more on reverb and delay to create my guitar sound."
Roberts' band Organs next gig is Dec. 30 in Altoona.