Prince, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Toto, James Taylor, Keith Richards—these stars and thousands of others all owe a debt of gratitude to Rob Turner who revolutionized the electric guitar and bass.
Chasing Tone tells Rob Turner’s story from humble beginnings rewiring his father’s transistor radio components to founding EMG and, finally, to the world’s largest concert stages. Jim Reilly provides a wealth of fascinating insights by weaving together many exclusive interviews with top artists and colleagues, including James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo of Metallica; legendary session musician Leland Sklar; Vernon Reid of Living Colour; Victor Wooten; Béla Fleck; Nili Brosh; Jim Root of Slipknot; and guitar builders Mike McGuire and John Carruthers. Along the way, Reilly not only sheds light on the history of the electric guitar and bass and how EMG pickups forever altered their course but also explores the elusive relationship between builder and creator, showing how these artists found their sound.
This book takes a deep dive into the creative process while providing a history of popular music told from a side of the stage previously underexplored.
Jim Reilly is an accomplished musician with degrees in music, journalism, and education. He has contributed to many music industry magazines, has had his work featured on CBC Radio One, and is the author of Steinberger: A Story of Creativity and Design. Visit his website: www.jimreilly.ca.
Musician Reilly tells the story of Rob Turner, a serial innovator best known for refinements to the electric guitar pickup. This component converts string vibration into amplifiable electrified signals. Coming of age in Southern California in the late 1960s, Turner saw iconic acts, including the Doors, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane, all of which provided ground-floor exposure to a musical and cultural revolution. Turner and his brother applied the family’s inventive penchant to changing the evolving musical landscape. Turner’s key breakthrough was developing a preamplifier built directly within the pickup, creating a new design with improved vibrancy and clarity. As he continued to explore and refine, he rubbed elbows with a host of rock stars who were eager to find new sounds. Keith Richards, Béla Fleck, Jim Root, James Hetfield, and many other famous musicians used Turner’s EMG pickups, often working closely with him to find their ideal tone. The book describes these encounters with engaging, fluid prose that brings readers deep inside the creative process and details an inspiring life of ingenuity. A captivating backstage view of the music industry and a pivotal player in the electric guitar evolution.
EMG is a huge part of my sound. My first Fodera bass was outfitted with EMG pickups, and I still use those pickups in most of my basses.
I’ve been a good friend and collaborator with Rob Turner for some 40-plus years, and I still learned so much from Jim’s in-depth exploration of this dynamic figure who has played such a pivotal role in the evolution of the electric guitar.
This book reveals Rob Turner’s tenacious approach to making the best product for specific sound applications. The ACB Barrel is a great design we add to almost every banjo we use on stage, giving us consistent sound with an elegant design for installation.
Rob Turner is a revolutionary. His creative vision and attention to detail have opened doors for artists across a wide musical spectrum.
Rob Turner opened up a new avenue of sounds and tones for guitar players. EMGs were the only performance feature Prince insisted that I put on the Cloud guitar. This story helps us understand the guitar’s evolution and sheds light on how Rob stepped up to meet a need.
Chasing Tone is a wonderful deep dive into the pickup maker’s life and creative process. From modding his friends’ instruments to building sets for the world’s most famous rock stars, Turner has gained many insights into tone and how to achieve it. Part of what makes this tale even more interesting is how Reilly weaves in the stories of the players that use the pickups. Interviews in the book explore how each guitarist and bassist worked with Turner to find their sound. EMG artists include Prince, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Toto, James Taylor, Keith Richards, and many more, but the list of bassists alone is staggering. Reilly includes interviews with Victor Wooten, Joel Landsberg, Robert Trujillo, and Bobby Vega. The pages with Vega are especially interesting, as the bassist worked with Turner to develop their bass pickups. Vega helped develop the X Series, and Turner used the bassist’s 1960 Fender Precision to model the Geezer Butler signature pickup. If you’re an EMG fan or just interested in the quest for tone, Chasing Tone should be on your list.
Playlist of important recordings and artists featured in the book: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5dlqQkE3yDbQniekzLCcxz?si=08b30df37b3b457f
8/21/23, For Bass Players Only: Author Jim Reilly and Rob Turner are interviewed about the book.
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