Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Apologies For an Extreme Lack of Posting

image taken from official site

I've been way damned busy (which is a good thing)

I've been pulling down my first gig as a musical director for an equity waiver show. My first official act was to hire myself as the guitar slinger. Since taking this gig my time has been full of some of my least favorite things. Like rehearsals. If every musician was as obsessive compulsive about showing up with the charts down as I am rehearsals would last an hour max. In all fairness to the band I've hired, straight from the call board of the union hall (Live better. Work Union.) they showed up with the music down, as written. Most of the band's rehearsal time has been spent identifying the places and times where we can play off the page. I've gotten some great progress, and co-operation from the cast too. There are a few non-singers who I've been working with on ways we can, since we can't make them good singers in the space of a week or two (maybe never), we can make them effective singers. One will most certainly have to act his way through and out of his numbers. It can all be done.

(warning, heavy namebrand endorsments will follow) (i love sunburst finishes, plus, i almost always buy my working gear at scratch and dent, or factory blemish sales, after all, working axes end up in situations where they are going to get nicks and stuff anyway. it also lets me spend a few moments inside my head deriding the "collectors" who buy beautiful guitars to stick under glass and not let anybody ever play)

This is also the first major gig I've been using my Line6 Variax® as the main workhorse of the show. I am in deep gushy geek love with this instrument. For the technogeeks out there here is my setup.

Line6 Spider III 150
This is what's called a "modeling amp" in that by using settings inside the amp's processors I can conjure up sound models of vintage amplifiers, and create new sounds. The amp is hooked up to a PODxt Live which places the amplifier controls right there at my feet. It also provides a USB link to my laptop.

What is so wonderfully fucking glorious about this setup is that back in the stone age of electric guitars I would have to approach a gig like this ready to bring two or three electrics, a couple of acoustics, two amplifiers and a whole tangled array of cords and stomp boxes. Almost all my time between numbers would be spent plugging, unplugging, twisting knobs, putting down and picking up various and sundry axes. With this, I can set my voicings for the amplifiers by song title in the laptop by song name (or for that matter, any file name I choose) and pull them up with a touch of the fingerpad. The guitar can switch seamlessly from sounding like a Les Paul, Stratocaster, Gretsch Chet, Ricky12, Gibson 335, along with a couple of very serviceable acoustic patterns with the flick of a switch and the twist of one knob. Using this guitar alone allows me time to quit fiddling around to produce sound patterns, and concentrate instead on making music.

The genius of the Line6 crew is that they didn't waste time and memory space so that you can make your guitar sound like a string section, pipe organ, accordian, or other things. They made it sound like guitars. They make it sound like great guitars. Adding in the laptop means that I can use software to create my own modelings. I can also switch tunings as easily as I change guitar models. I began to really appreciate this setup when a singer I was backing was doing his version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." During his singing I was set up to sound like a Strat playing through a shimmery, etheral reverb heavy Fender Supertwin. When the vocals ended I stomped a couple of foot buttons, flicked one switch, twisted one knob and stuck a slide on my pinky to sound like I was blasting a Les Paul (in G tuning) through a Marshal Stack. I went from artyfarty pretty tones to ballsout in the blink of an eye. I have since added another Variax to my arsenal because slide work requires a different setting on the neck action. They also have an acoustic Variax which will soon come into the stable.

(in the interest of full disclosure I have made a few minor modifications to the stock instrument. Instead of the neck which came with the guitar I am playing a custom Stratocaster neck, it fits my hands, I'm used to it, and my heart is happy when I have an unfinished ebony fingerboard and german silver frets. I replaced the factory machine heads with a set of Silver Schalers and the bridge with a Fender Stock Strat bridge. Oh, yeah, I also have played several promotional gigs in music stores where I play my setup live and get a percentage of the sales. The idea is that budding players will think that equipment alone will allow them to sound like me. I figure they'll learn those harsh lessons anyway so, why not now?)

Age of the geek baby.

Guitar players and other musicians always geek out on their equipment. Players get involved with individual instruments and can obsess for years in the chase for that perfect fit of style and sound.

This frees me up to really work on the music.

We start a 16 show run on Thursday. I'll try and come up for a peekaboo post or two.

Since this is supposed to be first, and foremost, a political blog, I will pass along another quotation from Jean-Paul Marat. For some reason the writers and thinkers of the French Revolution have been providing me with the most appropriate food for thought. Marat, Danton, Robespierre and the others were on to some shit.

No, liberty is not made for us: we are too ignorant, too vain, too presumptious, too cowardly, too vile, too corrupt too attached to rest and to pleasure, too much slaves to fortune to ever know the true price of liberty. We boast of being free! To show how much we have become slaves, it is enough just to cast a glance on the capital and examine the morals of its inhabitants.


In the Credit Where Credit is due world, this was inspired by a regular feature at Kung Fu Monkey where Michael Alan Nelson writes his "Guitar Fridays." Great work Mike. Anybody who is not familiar with Michael's work can read his web published work Dingo.