Monday, December 9, 2013

Ok, just one more.

I know this is boring as hell for everyone else, but it's fun for me. One more post about my musical instruments: I know rig rundowns serve a purpose entirely counter to what I do here, but I promise I'll make this worth just a little of your time.
I've got a few guitars, and two amps, and several pedals- I've had an electric guitar since I was about 14, so, of course I've got some gear. I've also got a couple of keyboards, a bass, and recording equipment- nothing really all that pro- just enough that I have a hobby kit.
So, I do expect anyone to care about my main rig, but I'm going to explain it to get to my point. My main rig is a modded out 1995 lefty Epiphone G-310 into a 1978 Script logo Distortion plus, into a 1980 Crate CR65 with a Celestion speaker.  The mods to the guitar are as follows- I put a Dimarzio super distortion on the neck, and split the coils on the bridge, with a push-pull on the volume knob, and Gotoh tuners. The Script logo pedal was a gift, and is pretty much the same model used on several classic LPs, because it was bought as a replacement for that same MXR used on those LPs. I keep the out dialed on max, and the distortion level dialed at 2 PM. The Crate is a pretty transparent solid state, so almost all my distortion comes from pick up and pedal- I never use the built in reverb, and I keep the brightness switch dialed on. I slightly scoop the mids on the amp's EQ, but it's mostly flat.  Pretty basic small rig, and cheap, too, right?
The edifying part is why- I'm a lefty. There aren't very many sub-$1000 lefty guitars in the 1990's, and only one with a mahogany neck- and that mattered to me- see, I like the feel of rosewood, sure, but if you play a lot of arpeggiated chords a mahogany neck is as comfortable as it gets. So, the Epiphone was actually a step up for me, going from a Mexican made right handed Strat flipped over. I don't think I need to explain the pick up mods, though, right? Stock Epiphone pick ups are just hot enough to be muddy. Why the neck, and not the bridge? Because I'm not much of a lead guitar player. So, I wanted to play rhythm with gusto, and for those rare times I play a lead line, I wanted to be able to get noisey and brittle, like a garage strat. Get the idea? The Script Logo MXR is, in my opinion, the perfect mix between overdrive and fuzz, leaving "distortion" in the classic Metal sense out, entirely. Yes, Mr. Rhoads used it for metal, but it's much more suited for fuzzing up some notes, but leaving enough articulation that I can do the same stunt as Greg Sage and Bob Mould- bass strings play chords, while treble strings play melodies.  If you're a hobby guitar player, playing by yourself, it's really the best way to go. Finally, the CR 65 allows just enough volume that I can move a little air, clean but it never gets to stage volume.
See, the point is this- the tools get done what I want to do, and nothing else. They surmount my challenges, but do not dictate my direction. My favorite rig less about the rig, and much more about me. I don't think I would have this rig, if not for my being a lefty, who didn't want to take it to the stage, any more. That's the kind of thing that I look for in other people's Art, too- how have they turned their limitations into idiosyncrasies, and how far have they gone with following their own muse? It's why I think some bunch of Metalheads from Romania are far more likely to come up with Art than a bunch of Brooklyn Hipstars - In Romania, you have much less opportunity to duplicate James Hetfield's rig than our Brooklyn heroes have to duplicate Bryce Dessner's- So, even though I prefer the National to Metallica, I'll be more inclined to give Kultika a shot. I know that their limitations virtually promise that they'll end up sounding entirely different, and new, and idiosyncratic. So, yes, I really would suggest that all these American bands playing a PRS into a Mesa Boogie, or a Les Paul Custom into a Marshall JCM 800 just dump their equipment. I really do think it holds you back to be able to track down the exact same specs as your heroes.
But, that's just me. I'm a freak who plays a rig that sounds good only to me, because I'm the only audience I care about.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

As long as I'm talking about my hobby

You know that uber-stupid interview question: "Who are your influences?" I can see how that's stupid, if you're creative, and want to make something new. But, for a guy like me? Just a hobby, never going to be outside my house type player? Well, that's a whole different ballgame. If I tell you my influences, I'll bet you can guess exactly what I sound like on a guitar.
So here they are:
Billy Zoom  Mick Jones and Joe Strummer Greg Sage  Mike Palm Bob Mould  Guy Kyser and above all others- Geordie!
I might like other musicians for other reasons, but I listen to these with a little bit of  " Gee, I want to make that sound..."
 I know some musicians, both professional and not read this. I'd like to hear what you folks consider your influences? I mean this purely on a hobby/ amateur level- I know that when you play professionally, you make compromises, and you play for what the band needs, and what the song demands. I mean, when you're sitting at home, noodling around, who/what is your "go to" sound inspiration? 

I'm not creative

 I'm not saying this with false modesty: I'm not particularly creative.  I don't have an 'artistic" temperament. I'm more of a "problem solving" type.  So, I got an Engineering degree, and, I got an English Lit degree, followed up by a library science degree, and an Education  certification ( yes, I've taught High School, but it was more a "Walter White" type scenario than a Jaime Escalante type deal). I played in a band or three, but I never seriously considered myself as falling into the "talent" side of the equation. No, my place has always been on the technical side.
Still, that doesn't mean that I haven't played some instruments, or made a few duct-tape wallets, or designed a few T shirts. I'm not totally devoid of the the "maker" impulse.  I'm just saying I usually prefer helping the creative types to realize their vision than to try to come up with a vision of my own.
So, this past week is somewhat anomalous in that I've spent more time playing music than listening to other peoples' music. The reason? Well, I got a new, cheap toy- a Behringer Super Fuzz pedal.  Why? Because I wanted something my venerable Script logo MXR Distortion plus, nor my Boss OS-2 could provide. The Behringer provided that- simple problem solved. But, there is this thing called "GAS"- gear acquisition syndrome"- the more gear you have, the more gear you want. I've been pretty good at keeping it in check, but the desire is getting pretty overwhelming. Mostly, I want three things- one of these, one of these, and one of these. Yup, champagne tastes, I know.  But, I actually have a chance to get the micro terror- a hundred and fiddy bucks is do-able. The others? Well, maybe if I come into a vast windfall. But, can you imagine the three together? Well, now you're in my head...
So, I'll get back on mission, soon. I'm just indulging in my hobby, right now...