Premier Guitar, Aug '06: Artist Profile - Jim McGorman
Backstage at Rockstar: Supernova

Musicians Hotline is excited to premiere a new monthly article on the hit music reality show Rock Star: Super Nova. Any musician can certainly appreciate the incredible musicianship of the Rock Star house band. Jim McGorman talks gear shop with Musicians Hotline, and keeps us informed on developments with the show and the challenges of producing in a live television situation. MHL first hooked up with Jim at the conclusion of last years Rock Star: INXS season. Jim is a very talented player, singer, song writer and producer. Check out his work with his new band Jamestown at, or at a My Space ( Jim is also a true Gearhead and tone tweaker. Rock on Gearheads. In part one of a three part series, Jim shares his gearbox with MHL.

Hey, everyone. My name is Jim McGorman, and I'm in the house band on the CBS TV show Rock Star. Last year we helped INXS find a new singer, and we're back again this year with Tommy Lee, Jason Newsted and Gilby Clarke of Supernova. If you've seen the show, you know that we have the task of playing cover songs from the 1950s to the present. This requires a tremendous amount of preparation... not to mention tons of gear!

I'm not going to lie to you: One of the best things about doing a show like this is the undeniable excuse to research and use equipment, and I've taken full advantage of that. As the rhythm guitarist (the utility guy, really, since I also play keyboards and sing), I felt that my main responsibility would be to capture the original tone of whatever song we were doing. So, first let's talk about some of the guitars. Because the amount of musical landscape to be covered is fairly substantial, I use quite a few guitars throughout the season. Let's put it this way: If I own it or can borrow it, I'll play it on the show. I'm sure that, like most of you, I pretty much love most guitars, but there are a few go-to models that I rely on frequently. I have a '58 V.O.S. Les Paul that is great for many rock applications. I'm also a big fan of hollow-body Gibsons. I use a 335, a 336 and an Epiphone Casino. I also really like the LP Deluxe with mini-humbuckers. I have a vintage one from the '70s as well as a newer one, and they have a real bite to them. Still, one of my favorite guitars is a vintage Tele that I bought in Chicago when I was on tour with Poison. (Admittedly it was a guilty pleasure, but hey, it was a gig!) I frequent that on Stones tunes. I also use a '62 Relic Strat. For acoustics, I use a Gibson J-200, a J-45 and a J-185 12-string. 

Normally I like to use vintage amps. However, with the skyrocketing prices and reliability factor, I've opted for something new. After checking out a bunch of amps, I decided to go with Matchless. I use three different models, but my main amp is the HC-30 (built in 2006). I also use a Phoenix. I run them through two ESDs, and run an Independence through a 4x12. All of the tubes are Tesla J&J's. The EF86 is a Svetlana. Still, I rely on pedals a lot in order to achieve the vast range of sounds needed for different styles of music, (We have only about 30 seconds to switch between, say, The Who and Evanescence.) But while I was checking out amps I knew I wanted something that not only had its own vibe but would respond well to whatever I put in front of it. Also, because of the volume issues that we're presented with at the soundstage and in the rehearsal studio, we really have to be mindful of overpowering the singers. I needed to have a huge tone that wouldn't blow people away with volume.

Thankfully, the HC-30 has a Hi/Lo power switch that really comes in handy. I can switch from 30 watts to 15 watts and still have the tone I want. As far as pedals are concerned, I'm a big fan of the Fulltone stuff. I probably use the FullDrive 2 about 80 percent of the time. I also frequent the Soul Bender, Deja Vibe and Supra Trem. Occasionally I'll kick on the OCD for a little extra kick, but I'm usually holding down the rhythm. I use a Tube Screamer and the Menatone Red Snapper (this pedal sounds huge) for the heavier stuff. For Leslie and chorus effects I use the Arion Chorus.

They're really great inexpensive pedals, and I probably use that model on every show. For delays and other chorus- type stuff I use the Line 6 Delay (invaluable) and Modulation. I love Line 6, but I wish the Delay had more than three settings (after all, I do 18 songs a week). And though it's a great tool and the overall sound quality is very good, I feel that the Mod pedal can cut your tone and volume a bit if you don't have a lot of time to work with it. Since I'm not a switching-system guy, I had the greatest pedalboard maker on earth design me a custom board. Rooster, at TrailerTrash Pedalboards, put it all together for me and is actually working on a second one right now. I'll tell you, that thing is my life-support system. It's tough, quiet and looks killer on TV. I use a Lehle A/B switcher to keep my tuner out-line and a good old Cry Baby. My new board has a bunch of really cool stuff, too. I'll have more on that for you later. 

One thing I've learned is that the sound coming out of a TV lacks depth. It's an odd thing, but if your tone is dark and in any way muddy, it ends up getting lost in the mix. I feel that if I set my tone a little brighter, it translates better when you hear it at home. I also find that the more direct the sound is - whether it's big and delayed or clean and to-the-point - the better off you'll be.

Now that we have the gear going, I'd like to say a little about preparation. The biggest thing about a show like this is learning the songs. It's an interesting process that starts with listening to the original recording in my bedroom and ends with us playing the songs on international television. Obviously, you have to learn the parts first. Then you have to translate the studio part to a live part. With a show like Rock Star we're constantly altering the songs and arrangements. For instance, in order to have a heavier or more "rock" sound (which we're doing this year for Supernova), I might add a bit more drive or less effects than the studio sound would indicate. But it also has to do with the performance. When the producers were looking for musicians for the house band, they not only wanted professional, competent musicians but they wanted guys who would own every part they play - and play it aggressively.

Obviously, the goal is to be comfortable enough to commit to each part as if you've known it for years. The challenge is that we only have a day or two to get it to that point. So, it's really important to focus. When I first heard that we'd be learning 200 songs for the season (15 to 20 songs a week), I was very nervous about memory. But it's really no different than people on quiz shows have to do. The brain is capable of processing a multitude of information. It's simply a matter of doing it.

Well, I've gotta run and shoot another episode. I'll check back with you soon. In the meantime, please email me any questions or topics. 

Link to the article