Why a MESA/Boogie? by Doug West
At dinner with the fellas tonight, after a long day of intense R&D on a developing product, an interesting subject came up… again. Consistency. Being able to play consistently day in and day out. This is absolutely critical in our long journey through the development of a product. How can you know where to go from any given point – if the reference is constantly changing? You have to be able to play the same thing the exact same way time and again as you evaluate parts or sub-circuits for hours, days and even months on end. Otherwise you’re shooting at a constantly moving target. No Good.
This has no less importance to the performing musician. Your fellow bandmates or engineers rely on you to uphold your end and play your part with accuracy and conviction in a variety of environments and changing situations… consistently.
What began as an observation about “play testing” amps – versus “playing music” – ended in a global discussion of the approach, ideology and sometimes handicap – that players of all instruments have to navigate. From the Recorder to Saxophone, Blues Harp to Hammond B-3, Rosewood Dreadnaught to Spruce or Maple Carved-Top, musicians face the challenge of overcoming and adapting to the daily nuances and idiosyncrasies of their chosen instrument in order to make great music.
As electric guitarists and bassists, we definitely face our share of these challenges. Temperature, humidity, gauge/brand/composition and age of strings, wood type/ characteristic and set-up of the instrument (action/frets/intonation), caffeine intake, checking account balance and the current state of a significant other’s happiness level are all factors in daily “freedom” and consistency on your instrument.
Then there’s the amplifier.
That led us to a question we are constantly asked – “Why A MESA/Boogie?” After keeping the patient staff at our favorite restaurant until way too late (as usual) discussing this, we packed it in on another Tone-full day.
On the drive home I was tempted to try and answer this question. So here goes…
Your amplifier defines YOUR tone
In my three decades here at MESA/Boogie – in a wide array of roles – from Customer Service to Artist Relations, Product Development to Marketing – and in trying to help players ranging from first-time amp buyers to iconic touring Legends… across all styles – I have made the following observation:
Most of the players I’ve encountered – from passionate hobbyist to road-worn professional – fit into one of the following two groups or camps:
An elite few whose talent and skill transcend the medium and are largely unaffected by their gear…
Or, those players who are either partially – or wholly dependent on their gear to play with confidence AND define their sound.
After all, a Tele always sounds like a Tele, but that same guitar can transform into MANY different things depending on the amp you plug it into…
This second group includes both those who are set free when they find that magic rig and those who – once finding that rig – go on to establish a unique and signature sound and style that is built upon the symbiotic exchange between player and gear. Carlos Santana and Larry Carlton with their Mark I Boogies, Duane and his Marshall Stack on “Live At The Fillmore East”, Brad Gillis and his MESA Mark II-B with Ozzy and Night Ranger, Eddy Van Halen and his Jose–modded Marshall, John Petrucci and his bar-raising, journey with Boogie Mark II-C’s and Mark Fives, James’ and Kirk’s II-C’s on Metallica’s Black Album, etc. These iconic players maximized their stylistic impact by crafting a sound all their own. They are their Tone – and their Tone is part of their style. We may never know whether these Greats actually needed this gear, or subconsciously knew how to exploit it to their advantage. Either way… they did, and it worked for them. Big Time.
Your amp is likely the piece of gear that defines your sound more than anything else in your rig.
Once you find it, you’re hooked!
Thankfully – at least for my role in R&D here at MESA – I fall in to the latter group. I’m one of those players that feels like I can’t play at all if I don’t have a great tone and a great feel behind me. Randy has said to me many times over the years – (and I have to remember it hurts for a common good) “you’re the guy for this gig, ‘cause when, your playing sucks… I know we’re going in the wrong direction and when you start to flow and rip, we’re getting close”. All I know is – when it starts sounding and feeling good to me – I’m instantly free.
I don’t feel lonely here either, because my many and diverse guitarist and bassist friends – as well as the vast majority of players I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to and help over the years – share this gear-dependent handicap with me.
MESA and it’s family of users is a world-wide brotherhood of compulsively-obsessed, tone-chasing fanatics locked in a perpetual Tone-Quest. Family, friends and significant others don’t understand us. Musical Instrument companies and creditors love us. But our relentless search goes on to find that which will make us free to play our best. Effortlessly. Uniquely. Consistently.
I know I speak for the entire MESA Family when I say – we are grateful to all of you who have found MESA/Boogie on your musical journey. We sincerely hope we’ve helped you connect to your instrument and your ideas and rise to that player you aspire to be.
I want to encourage you to benefit from all the insane talent we’ve attracted in one building over the decades here at MESA/Boogie. I want to sincerely wish you the same inspiration and ‘hand up’ I’ve received in my playing from my time playing MESAs and help you create a long and gratifying musical journey. You are cordially invited to join the world-wide MESA Family. It may sound hokey – but there’s a lot of Love and Passion here in the little amp shop in Petaluma, CA. Just ask any member. And please – reach out! Call us… Email us. And let us know how we can help you!
Best Wishes For You and Your Music,
R & D – MESA/Boogie Ltd.