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Interview With Barb Page Part 2 Ampeg

Greg: How and when did the amplifier project begin?

Barb: It began in the late 80’s. Edward told me that he hired an older man named Jose to build him an amp. He said that he worked with and had known Jose for many years and that he used to work at VOX and Ampeg but now had his own amplifier shop. Edward said that he had some interesting ideas for a high gain amplifier and that he wanted to give Jose the first shot at making him one and to see if he could do it. They both agreed to a weekly dollar amount that Edward would pay to Jose and shortly after that the work on the amplifier began.

Greg: This was around the time when guys who did amp modifications and later created high gain amplifiers were starting to open up their own shops in and around the Los Angeles area and were going into production like Bogner and Soldano.

Barb: Yes that’s right. Edward was doing the OU812 tour and during this time I think he was testing out the amplifier and making adjustments to it. After he came home from touring I showed him a spreadsheet that I had prepared of the costs of the amp project since its inception and he saw that the costs were really starting to add up. He had some discussions with Jose about the costs but he still wanted him to continue tweaking the amp and told him that he needed him to finish the amplifier sooner than later. A few months went by and Jose brought the amp up to the studio. Edward wanted me to come up to the studio to see the prototype. Just from the appearance alone I felt that a designer would need to be brought on board because among other things, the bright orange piece of plexiglass that was on it just didn’t look very good at all. But aside from the aesthetics, what was most important of course was the sound and Edward said it wasn’t there yet.

Greg: That must have been a big disappointment for Ed.

Barb: I think it was. I told Edward that he had the resources to continue on doing the R&D with Jose if that’s what he wanted to do, but that if he wanted to come out with a signature amp line anytime soon he would need to team up with a large amplifier company. Edward decided that he wanted to come out with an amp line sometime in the near future and that he wanted to start over from scratch and Jose agreed. Jose knew some people at Ampeg and they were obviously very interested in working with Edward on a signature amp so in February 1990 Ampeg flew us out to meet with them in St. Louis, MO.

Greg: Ampeg? Maybe I missed something but I had never heard about this before. This might very well be a new piece of information for all the Van Halen historians.

Barb: Yes the meeting really took place and a lot of people knew about it so I’m not sure why it was never talked about (laughs). I met with Gene Kornblum the president and owner of Ampeg to talk business, Edward and Jose met up with the amp guys to talk about sound and Val, (who always stayed in her own lane when it came to Edward’s business dealings), stayed back at the hotel. Edward invited Michael Anthony to join up with us because Ampeg was having great success with their bass amps and he wanted to introduce Mike to the group.

Gene Kornblum, Barb and Jose Arredondo, February 1990 at Ampeg St Louis MO
Michael Anthony, Barb and Ed. February 1990 at Ampeg St. Louis MO

Although all of the guys at Ampeg were great, Edward and I both agreed that we were not a good match and that we needed to explore other options. We thanked Jose for setting up the meeting with Ampeg but I told him I was going to look for a different company to help Edward achieve his goals. Jose was very appreciative that Edward gave him the first opportunity to make his amp and he agreed that Edward needed to move on from him and his small shop to a larger more established amplifier company.