Blues-rock connoisseur Anthony Gomes stays on point with his latest, High Voltage Blues. Leaning into the heavier side, Gomes’ feisty recipe of catchy tunes, smokin’ licks has gained him a loyal following, and a new record deal. But he doesn’t kick out the jams for the reasons one might expect.
Did you take time off or go to work when the pandemic hit?
I worked harder than ever. In life, you gotta make the best of any given situation. Sometimes you’re given a sh*t sandwich, but it’s gonna be the best damn sandwich going (laughs). I feel like we’re going to have a renaissance, artistically, that will afford those who make art a luxury they didn’t have before. We had to justify going out on tour to pay our bills and playing 150 dates a year. Now we get to do it like the big boys – take a year off, maybe longer, make a record, and learn more about your craft. It was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity.
Is that how High Voltage Blues came about?
Yes. We were discovered by Rat Pak Records. In the 20 years of that label, we were the only artist they approached in the blues-rock vein. The president said, “I drank the Kool-Aid. I like what you do, and I can market you to a whole other side. People in the rock arena will like what you’re doing, and we can get you out there.” That opportunity may not have happened if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
Do you ever think about playing a different style of music?
Now and then, it’s important to grow and stray, but quickly return to your brand. You can tinker with the secret sauce, but we arrived in our lane because I love traditional blues and B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Every time I pick up the guitar, there’s that. But I also love Ritchie Blackmore, Billy Gibbons, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, and Zakk Wylde. I say I have a blues soul and a rock-and-roll heart, and maybe that’s where my lane is. I try to be honest, and sometimes, in the beginning, it didn’t fit neatly into either lane, but by us doing it long enough and building a fan base, people are taking to this different lane. I make music for the fans. If I want to do something self-indulgent, I can do it for my own enjoyment. I’m grateful people are listening to what we do.
What are your key pieces of gear?
My workhorse guitars are a ’66 Strat and a ’65 Strat, which are player’s guitars with humbuckers and single-coils. I also have a Custom Shop Les Paul that’s remarkable, a Malcolm Young Signature Jet, and a Custom Shop Fender Tele Master Built by Todd Krause.
This may sound sacrilegious, but I used a Kemper on the entire record. Initially, I bought one because I wanted a good guitar tone that I could track then run through a real amp. Then I realized that if I worked hard and miked my real amps for several hours, I could make it sound as good as my Kemper (laughs).
It’s not the sexy answer, but it works for us. Billy Gibbons’ biggest record was done with a drum machine and a Rockman. I still have all my vintage amps, but I love to plug in and play. The Kemper allows me to do that with a variety of tones. I’m a big fan of what Michael Britt does with his tones – it’s a marriage of vintage amps and modern technology. But I’m still a huge fan of vintage tones.
What’s the story behind your Flying V?
I call it my midlife-crisis guitar (laughs). I told my guitar tech I needed a Gibson Flying V. He said, “Get one from 2002.” So, I went online and found a 2002 Flying V. When I hit a couple of chords, it was like, “Oh yeah, this is it!” It stays in tune and sounds great in the studio. It’s a wonderful instrument. I love Michael Schenker, Albert King, and anything Hendrix used.
Your lyrics are very positive. Is that intentional?
When I started in music, I was making no money and had to take out a big loan to buy a van to tour. Making $300 a night, and you gotta ask, “Why am I doing this?” I made an effort early on to say, “I want to make this world a better place, bring joy to people, and put smiles on their faces.” I want to take people away from their lives if they’re going through tough times. Music is such a healing and positive force. I want to bring joy to a crazy world. So how can you be upset when you’re playing guitar? (laughs).
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.