Updated: Mar 19, 2021
Jimmy discusses his style and gear
Jimmy Law, co-lead guitarist and vocalist for Asbury Park’s Dogs in a Pile, plays every gig with a single guitar: the PRS 30th Anniversary Custom 24. Law’s stylish sound is built around the power of the PRS’s 85/15 humbuckers controlled by a five-way blade switch that splits the pups in and out of various humbucker and single coil combinations. How he uses his guitar and which switch position he selects depends on the guitar role he’s assigned during any particular tune. He notes that on rhythm he will generally use the full neck humbucker, but for his solos (especially jam solos) he starts with the neck pick-up and then will call on the pedals to build the tone and then, “…click onto my boost channel…and then once the solo builds up and gets more energy, I flip it (the blade switch) down to the bridge…and then just crank it.” And crank, he does. Remarkably fast and, eclectic, his playing style exhibits a vast and diversified musical background. Law and four out of five of his teammates are all formally trained musicians (University of the Arts (Philadelphia) and Berklee College of Music (Boston)) and are equally comfortable with rock, jazz, country, psychedelic and, of course, plain old Grateful Dead-style, band-jamming formats (Law is a self-acknowledged “Deadhead”).
Noting he is pretty tough on the strings, Jimmy avoids slinkier, light gauge strings and opts for the sturdier, chunkier, round-wound sound of the GHS .11-.50 Boomers. He changes them after each gig, “especially in the summer” and plays them with Dunlop JD Jazztone 208 guitar picks designed especially for heavy gauge strings and fast jazz performance. “I started using them for acoustics at first,” he says, but when he tried them on the PRS he was pleasantly surprised by the results, “these just cut right through…”
Law amplifies his Custom 24 with a 1964 Twin Reverb he calls “Gus”. The amp his been modified with two 12-inch Legend Eminence speakers, noted for their rich and solid sound, and he’s impressed with their performance, “I’ve never been happier with my tone.”
And assisting in the creation of his tone is his pedal set-up. He runs everything through the Octa-Switch II which allows him to engage various pedal combinations (and pedal by-pass) as the need arises. His favorite foot gear is a pair of stacked Tube Screamer 808s in a single channel which especially allows for the incredible sustain he gets during many of his performances.
Besides doing some standard covers of their favorite bands, the Dogs create very interesting original music. It’s usually a group effort to bring a tune to complete fruition, but often, sitting around playing acoustic guitars is where the germ of any song is born, “The acoustic is definitely the best way to flesh out ideas and solidify things…” When writing, Law plays either a Martin acoustic/electric or the more recently acquired Taylor Koa about which he says, “That guitar has been my go-to…it just feels incredible.”
But the final version of any song is only achieved with extended practice and experimentation, “We just keep jamming and stuff happens and then, ‘Oh, that sounds good, we should keep that,’” and the ultimate product is settled upon, with each musician still committed to the freedom of improv granted him by the group’s diversified genres.
When not writing, Law spends a lot of time practicing technique. He says he works jazz riffs at home on a Gibson ES-335 but does not perform in public with it. He also has a Warren Haynes sunburst Les Paul about which he admits, “I’m ashamed not to be playing more…” He concedes its vocal presence is beefier than the PRS, but the thicker neck and extra weight are liabilities for live shows. He also proudly displays his first real electric guitar which is a weathered Gibson SG that was used when Law was young and is subsequently in dire need of a pair of knobs as well as new volume and tone pots. When pressed as to why he doesn’t play that either, he lays the guilt on the PRS, “It’s damned addictive.”
On guitarist influences, “Jerry (Garcia) is definitely number one from the beginning.” Number two is Trey Anastasio from Phish, and there is a tie for third place between Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Stevie Ray Vaughn (for bends and wah technique), Jimmy Herring and Tommy Emmanuel (whose version of “Over the Rainbow” is a source of study for one of Law’s music classes). And all in all, his biggest influence is exposure to his band-mates’ tastes, which intertwine with his to create uncharted and impressive improvisation, “Sometimes it feels like we’re sitting up there in a jam…and we don’t even know what the hell we’re doing but…something’s happening…so okay don’t mess with what’s happening right now…just let it happen, you know?” Anyone who listens to the Dogs, definitely knows something up there is happening.
COMING FRIDAY MARCH 12 - Interview: Brian Murray of Dogs In A Pile