This article series is about the tools of popular guitarists. What are their favorite guitars and how is it related to them? This time with Mike Holtzman (Bad Penny).

Bad Penny is a band comprised of terrific players like former Queen bassist Danny Miranda and Blue Oyster Cult drummer Jules Radino, behind some amazing, well-known lead singers. The whole concept of the band is to write and record music we dig and that stretches us creatively; from metal to hard rock to classic rock. So when it comes to my guitar rig, versatility is key.  Over the years, I’ve pared down my guitars to the workhorses that give me the greatest sonic range.

“Push Comes to Shove” is a heavy tune, with Rob Halford of Judas Priest and Militia Vox just shredding on vocals. I played the whole song on a stock Gibson Les Paul Classic. You can feel its weight on the chunky verses and its signature tone on the solo.  We ripped the tracks in the cathedral-like Applehead Studio in Woodstock and I played through a jacked-up Friedman combo. This rig achieved the vision I had for the song.

On “The Mirror Lies,”  which features Queensryche’s frontman Todd LaTorre on vocals, the main riff is played on my Les Paul and my Paul Reed Smith, and the bridge section on my Taylor 314ce. The solo is played on my tricked-out Fender Stratocaster, which has two stock single coils and a mean Seymour Duncan JB humbucker in the bridge position. I wrote the solo the day Eddie Van Halen died and I wanted it to be an homage of sorts to him, so there is tapping on the fretboard and divebombing on the Floyd Rose whammy.  The bridge is set high like Jeff Beck’s, so its super-sensitive and I just beat on it on this song.  I was amped through my Marshall JCM 800 combo, which gave it such a classic metal sound.

“Lose Myself,” which features former Journey lead singer Steve Augeri is a straight-up power ballad.  It’s Steve’s songI layer the Strat over the Taylor and it just sounds gorgeous.  The solo is also played on the Strat and the the effect comes off a bit like a slide part or a backwards tape, but its just technique and harmonization and delay.

Our debut track, “Voices in My Head,” sung by Todd, was played on my late great Gibson Flying V. I sold it because it didn’t give me enough range and it was uncomfortable as fuck. But it laid down a nice dirty sound that was appropriate for the heavy blues sound on this record.  The solo is played on the Strat.


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