GEAR TALK TUESDAY: How Airpark and Black Tape Amplifiers Work Together Towards Their Vision
    • TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2017

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

    A few months ago, we premiered the track "All The Time" from Nashville-based alt pop/rock duo Airpark, who formed after The Apache Relay called it quits. It was rhythmic and catchy, and we couldn't wait to follow them along on their journey. Since then, it seems like things have been going pretty well for them, as they've gotten support from Team Coco and recently built their very own studio in Nashville... And if they built their own studio, they must be pretty serious about gear, right? Right. Turns out the band had a lot to share with us, and we were stoked to dig into the technicality of their danceable music with not only the members, but the designer of the gear himself.

    One half of the duo, Ben Ford, told us about the importance of their Black Tape amplifiers, "[they] are our most important and beloved pieces of gear we take out on the road. They were custom made by amplifier designer John Capito in Nashville. He is known around the city as an amp guru/genius/whisperer. We first met John after bringing him an early 60's Fender Princeton to inspect and quickly became buds. We had many conversations of what we loved in vintage amps, as well as the needs of touring artist in regards to gear. Those conversations lead to what would become the basic features of these custom amps."

    Ford continued, "Ultimately we wanted him to make a unique pair of matching heads for the road, which would be light and portable, but could also take a beating. Mine is a wonderfully strange take on a Fender Vibrolux with a 2x12 cab, and Michael's is a twist on a Showman with a 3x10 cab. We wanted the aesthetic to feel somewhat vintage, which is why we went with brown tolex and the largest knobs we could find. Both were hand-wired with love."

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    And you know what we don't get to do a lot on Gear Talk? Have the designer themselves tell us about their work. Capito expanded on his designs as well, "Michael's amp is a custom 60-watt head that uses one 12ax7, one 12at, and a pair of 6L6s. Michael makes great use of a modern pedalboard, and his amp serves as a loud, clean platform for this. For Michael's rig, think of a well-equipped, modern pedalboard plugged into channel 1 of a Super Reverb."

    And Ben's amp is a custom 35-watt head that uses two 12ax7s, a 12at7, and a pair of 6L6s, which he runs into a 2x12 speaker cab (phew, say that five times fast!), "Ben's approach is to use more of the amp's natural overdrive, and the 35-watt power supply affords him this at a reasonable volume. For Ben's rig, think of a guitar and boost pedal plugged into channel 2 of a blackface Vibrolux Reverb that is driving a Bassman speaker cab."

    Okay, the nerdy side of me has always been passionate about gear, but this is a whole new level. It's so inspiring to see musicians and designers work together to create such a specific vision - and without compromising the sound.

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