Greg Hoy

Greg Hoy

A Discussion of Gear

You might say Greg Hoy is a gearhead. The vocalist/guitarist’s band Greg Hoy & The Boys recently released their EP, Holy Mother of God, along with a music video for the title track, which borrowed its name from another title track: Genesis’s 1976 album A Trick of the Tail.

Holy Mother of God, Greg Hoy & The Boys, 2024
Carissa Johnson
Holy Mother of God, Greg Hoy & The Boys, 2024

Hoy started his career in Brooklyn, writing and playing music with various projects. In the early 2010s, he relocated to San Francisco, where he worked at well-known startups. Still residing in the Bay Area, Hoy is now all about music.

When not writing or performing music, Hoy works as a producer and recording engineer at his record label, 30 Peak Recording Company. He continuously finds new ways to experiment and express himself through his music. He takes inspiration from every corner of the rock world, whether it’s from the legendary names of classic rock like Led Zeppelin, or the indie alternative works of experimental artists such as Beck and Brittany Howard.

As a dyed-in-the-wool gearhead, Hoy is particular about his sound, which entails everything from his guitar, to his pedals, to his amp. Fascinated by the arcane world of gear, I spoke with Greg Hoy to learn about his setup on Holy Mother of God, how he produces his unique sound, and a gear-gone-wrong moment.

• •

[Randy Radic] First things first. What was your setup on Holy Mother of God?

[Greg Hoy] Recording for this session was unique in that 100% of our gear was borrowed. My dear pal Steve Sutherland — an occasional collaborator and drummer in Greg Hoy & The Boys — let us haul his gear the four-hour drive north of his Minneapolis studio so we could record at my cabin on Lake Superior. The drums and guitars were cut live in the room, and raw with no edits. Guitar left, which is my live track, is a modified Les Paul Special with a Lollar P90. Sounds great for that roomy, Kinks-like chording that starts the track. Paul used a similarly modified Telecaster in the right speaker. The kit is Steve’s lovely Ludwig. We also shot a video for one of our singles at that time, “Highway 101,” so you can actually see the setup we used for the tracking!

What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?

The one commonality, especially for performing live, is using a semi-hollow body electric guitar. I’d say 85% of my shows are with something like my Gibson 339, a Hagstrom, or a semi-hollow Telecaster with humbuckers or P90s. I like the way they sound distorted. Lately, I’ve switched to Fender amps after being a Marshall player for many, many years. So for big gigs, I’m now using a Hot Rod 4×10, and the smaller ones, a Blues Junior with the FAT channel engaged. My back just can’t lug my 1979 Marshall JMP head and 4×12 cabinet around much anymore.

If you could, or wanted to, what would you tweak or mod?

Ha, I can! I want to! And I do! My amps all get a little extra gain sweep. All my guitars get specific setups, so they work well with a mixed gauge of strings (heavier top to .10s). Before the last tour, I redid my Shure Beta 58 with a different foam filter, and a black grill. Tweaking is fun!

What brand do you usually lean towards when looking up new options?

My ADHD means I get hooked on collecting certain things, particularly in the guitar realm. There’s a specific Indonesian factory that made INCREDIBLE Squire Telecasters during a VERY specific time some years back (that’s all I’m gonna say, because if folks caught wind of these inexpensive gems, my cover would be blown, and it would drive up their price on the market). Also, any Japanese-made Fender usually is lovely. I have two Telecasters that were made specifically for the Japanese market that are “studio-only.” My newest obsession is Hagstrom guitars. Even the Chinese reissues are a pretty great bang for the buck. My 1973 Hagstrom Swede is beat up and modded to crap but sounds amazing live.

Destroying instruments on stage: yay or nay?

That’s not cool, and it’s never been cool at any level. If you don’t want your instrument, donate it to a school.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done with a musical instrument?

Wow, that is a great question. The best I can think of now is a DJ mixer I had in the 2000s living in NYC. I used to play records at a few joints in the Lower East Side: Iggy’s, 12 Inch Bar, Fontana’s. Maybe Iggy’s is still there? So anyway, I used red, white, and black electrical tape, and decorated this square-box Stanton mixer to look like Eddie Van Halen’s famous “Frankenstrat” guitar. And then when I got to the gig — and after a couple of drinks — I couldn’t remember which switches did what, because I’d covered them all in tape! So in a drunken moment, I ripped the tape off, mid-gig, and the stickiness of the tape took with it the markings that said what each switch did. Dumb! There are probably better things to think of than this story, but that’s all I can recall right now.

What setup did you spend the most time idolizing as a kid growing up?

When I was coming into my early years as an electric guitarist, the scene was wild. Every hair metal dude on MTV had these, like massive rack things with tons of blinking lights and switches that seemed to do mysterious things to their tone. It was the time of excess all around. That’s why, when Kurt Cobain and Nirvana hit, it was so wonderful. Here’s a dude with like two pedals plugging straight into an amplifier making amazing, melodic noises. Toss in your Pearl Jam, Pixies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc., and you soon realized your standard western Pennsylvania 3-hour bar cover gigs sounded amazing with just a tuner, maybe an overdrive, a delay, and a great tube amp.

What setup do you think serves musicians like yourself the most in the style of music you play?

Much like the clothes that make it to a wardrobe, comfort is key. It took me years to hone in on things like the shape of the guitar neck and the height and weight of how it sits off my shoulder, to understand the nuances of making my playing as proficient and efficient as can be. Having been doing the live thing to various degrees for 30-plus years, it’s pretty easy to make anything work, so to speak. Given my experience and the virtually endless amount of options for a live rig, it’s a no-brainer to dial everything into preferences that will get me pretty close to “there” before I ever step foot on a stage.

Time for some fun. Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.

Ha, well, there’s a lot to choose from; however, since my brain is thinking back to my earliest live performances, this seems apropos. My college band Bad Gravity was in a “Battle of The Bands” at RJ’s Lounge in beautiful Youngstown, Ohio (shout out to Mike, Justin, and Chris on this one). Now, back in the mid-‘90s, playing covers was not only acceptable for these types of shows, but encouraged. I’d bought a used Laney tube combo amplifier, and it sounded like God. Something I soon learned at a tender young age, yet most seasoned guitarists already know: a tube amp sounds best just before it completely dies.

So there we were, a few songs in, crushing the cover band scene with a blistering version of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” when… that amp left this world. Suddenly our little guitar, bass, and drums-with-a-singer band sounded a lot less full, missing its signature guitar part. My academic minor in college was in theater, so in the spirit of improvisation, I just sang the guitar riff part into my microphone for the remainder of the song. It was beyond ridiculous. But, hey — we won the contest! ◼

Featured photo of David E. Richman, Greg Hoy, and Joan Chew (Greg Hoy & The Boys) by Vlad Borimsky, Brooklyn, NY.

Greg Hoy30 Peak Recording CompanyGreg Hoy & The Boys

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