Drew Foppe, Guitar Tech Extraordinaire: Interview Part 2

If you haven’t read it, you can check out Part 1 of the interview here.


How long have you been using Celestion IRs and how did you first find out about them?

I’ve been using the Celestion IRs for almost a year now, thanks to Mr. John Paice. However, I’ve been working closely with him and Celestion speakers for almost two decades!

Which Celestion IRs do you have, and which ones get used most – and why?

The Celestion IRs I use the most are the digital representation of the same speaker/cab combinations I use with real amps: the open back 1×12, open back 2×12 and closed back 4×12 cabinets with the G12M-65, G12H-30, Vintage 30, Alnico Blue, Alnico Gold and Alnico Cream speakers.

I’ve found a great starting point with all of these IRs is to load the 48.0 kHz, 200ms files and use the balanced wave file for each mic and/or combination. From there, you can decide if you may need to use the brighter or darker versions of each specific scenario.

I also recently purchased the Orange Cabinets IR package because Orange makes some of my favourite cabinets. I can honestly say these are some of the best sounding IRs with Vintage 30 speakers out there. They have the tone and feel of the real Orange cabinets, which completely surprised me on how accurate they were.

Do you use different speakers for different types of music that you’re working on?

I really only have a handful of speakers that I like to use personally. I try to stick with them for some sort of baseline familiarity and consistency across the board.

Do you use different IRs for live playing versus studio work?

This is where I will probably cause some controversy – but bear in mind I have almost 20 years of experience as a touring guitar tech! I think live and studio situations are two completely different entities. Something produced in a studio – more often than not – does not translate to a live situation very well.

A studio is a fairly controlled environment where you can manipulate everything to create a specific tone that works perfectly on an album. From the specific millisecond delay settings between multiple IRs, etc. When you take your digital setup, complete with IRs from the studio and bring them into a live situation, in my experience, the results have been less than favourable.

When a band has to play songs from multiple albums during a live show, and they try to have each song sound exactly like those specific recordings, 99.9% of the time, it doesn’t work out as they hope, and things usually get changed in rehearsals.

By using the specific IR combinations across multiple album tones in a live situation, those tones will get lost in translation and some will sound good, while others will sound thin and weak. Most guitarists tend to forget that they multi-tracked several guitars for one part on albums and trying to recreate that live doesn’t translate.

In my expert experience with digital setups and using IRs live, it is best to create a baseline tone for clean, semi-clean, crunch and lead – just like you would with a multiple real amp scenario. Have an amp/IR for clean, have an amp/IR for semi/clean and crunch and another amp/IR combination for dirty/lead.

Anything much more complicated than that honestly doesn’t translate very well in a live situation, even more so with a band that has multiple guitar players. I have been faced with this situation more times than I care to divulge. The end result from all my experience is always the same. The number of IRs being used live always becomes less, not more!

Do you have a go-to or favourite IR?

My favourite go-to IR is always the Celestion G12H Creamback with a closed back 4×12 cabinet 48.0 kHz, 200ms, with a balanced R-121 microphone. It has become my standard starting point for all digital rigs, except for heavy metal!

Where do you use them?

I use IRs all the time. If I need to program a preset or patch for an artist, I just need to know what speakers and mics they’re already using. This gives me an excellent starting point in regard to the tone I need to create.

Have you done any ‘IRs-only’ live shows? If so, when was the first one?

I have done many IR-only live shows over the years. Trivium was the first band I worked for where every musician used a Kemper directly with IRs. Since then – 10 years – Deftones and Smashing Pumpkins are just a few of the other bands that I’ve worked for who use a combination of IR tones and real amp tones.

How has using IRs changed the way you work as a professional?

I think that having the option to be able to use IRs has definitely changed the way I can approach things as a professional. Before, there were no other viable options available. The improvements to the IR technology in general, and the variety of tonal options available to guitarists today, is pretty incredible.

I would feel comfortable using IRs and a digital setup to program a tone for virtually any band out there today. I have done many blind tests, both in the studio and live, with artists where they could not differentiate between their real tube amp setup and an all-digital preset I programmed for them. I’ve had both guitarists and producers choose the digital presets over the real amp/cab setup many times, not knowing which was which!

How has using IRs changed the way Smashing Pumpkins work?

I can’t speak in regard to how IRs have impacted or changed the way Smashing Pumpkins in particular create or develop new material. I can share that for the first time in the band’s history, they have the ability to (and have) rehearse(d) by playing 100% digital rigs using IRs.

It may not be an exact representation of their specific rigs at times, however, having the option to get together and rehearse without amps, cabs and mics when they can’t access their actual gear while it is travelling around the world speaks enough for itself.

Can you tell us about any past or current work that was created using Celestion IRs?  If so, which IRs were used?

I’m not at liberty to give the names of specific artists who have recorded using Celestion IRs; however, if you listen to the radio at all today, you have already heard these IRs yourself!

What impact do you expect IRs to have on the music industry over the next few years?

I feel that more and more bands and musicians are embracing the IR and digital rig technologies and are seeing opportunities to save money and reduce the amount of the gear they need at the same time.

Being able to program a complete rig that sounds great into a single pedal or floorboard and take it with you anywhere is honestly something I never would have thought possible. As IRs continue to be developed and created, I feel things will only get better and better.

What new developments would you like to see in the world of IRs and/or digital tone?

This is a tough question to answer as it is almost an ongoing issue that could change from day to day. I feel that the development of digital tone, including IRs, has already reached a point where it has become its own unique ‘instrument’.

Digital tone is just one more tool I can now use to help artists on the search for their own personal, unique, subjective and discerning quest to perfection.


Drew is currently working with Whitesnake and Smashing Pumpkins. Check out Drew’s range of gorgeous hand-made amps, cabinets and pedals over at Foppstar Amplification. But be quick – they go like hot cakes!