Thursday, June 28, 2007
I guess the lessons to be learned from this are 1) never trust the french, 2) don't be away from the office for extended periods of time, and 3) french people have a lot of time on their hands.
Boo-yah and whatnot
Or, as you typically find in scientific articles: Adapted from "Car music" by Anders, posted on m-factor week 25. Sounds a lot more justified than "I sho' nuff done jacked dis f'om dat geek Anders last week is all"
Kamelot - The Black Halo (2005)
One of our favorite bands. Roy Khan is perhaps THE best melodic/epic/power metal singer out there. This one has a couple of fantastic tracks on it, like "March Of Mephisto" (featuring guest "vocals" from Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir), "When The Lights Are Down", "Soul Society" and "Abandoned", plus the absolutely stunning semi-ballad "The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)" featuring Simone Simons of Epica. Both this one and "March.." have been favorites on "Svisj:Metall", so maybe you've seen them. No?
On a side note I really like the fact that Kamelot features female vocalists alongside clean vocals, as opposed to the "beauty-and-the-beast" approach way too many bands opt for, where you have a goth'd-out female singer with 15 minutes worth of classical vocal training and some growling dude tryin' his very best to be bad-ass. This despite the fact that he wears as much or more make-up, has an immaculately trimmed beard and highlights in his hair. News flash: If you wear eye shadow, have your own hair stylist and use your "indian" name (which is always something cool like "Shadow-wolf" - true example from Nightwish), then it takes a lot more than growling, invisible suitcases and a leather jacket to make you appear as anything but a legendary wuss. You rank alongside Ben Affleck on the asskicker scale, ya epic, ozone-layer-depleting, ammo-belt-guitar-strap-wearing clown.*
*Does not apply to Dave Mustaine on grounds of him being Da Man.
Kamelot - Ghost Opera (2007)
The greatly anticipated new album. Like every cd since Karma, it takes a while for the songs to work, but so far, this one's promising. Not a concept album like the previous two (based on "Faust"), but I'm sure it'll grow.
Edguy - Vain Glory Opera (2002)
Now THIS is German Power Metal. Not a weak track on the album. Title track, "How Many Miles" and "Scarlet Rose" are standout songs.
Wig Wam - Wig Wamania (2006)
If you're into good-time rock'n roll/metal in the style of Van Halen, early Extreme, or 1987-era Whitesnake, you'll love Wig Wam. Their new live-DVD is a find also.
Yngwie Malmsteen - LIVE!!! (1999)
Awesome live-cd from the 1998 Brazil tour.
Billy Joel - The Essential Billy Joel (2004)
Collection with the Urban Bruce Springsteen.
Monday, June 25, 2007
My cell phone totally broke today, as can clearly be seen from the accompanying photo. Not only is the glass broken, but there's an actual dent in the metal casing. All this happened to my phone while I was carrying it in my front pocket, without me noticing it before way after the fact. I've carried my phones like this since day one, and inexplicably, today it backfired.
Freak accident or missed payment on Karmic debt?
The worst part is that the electronics stores always have an f'ed up cell phone on display as visual aid for their "Insurances for the Cerebrally Challenged" (ICC), wherein the basic concept is that if you pay an additional 50% of the phone's worth, they'll replace your phone if you drive your car over it, accidentally drop it in a glass of beer and whatnot, so long as this unforeseen damage occurs between the cash register and the entrance door of the store, between 11.59 AM and 12:01 PM Monday through Wednesday. Basically you need an insurance for the ICC if you actually want to use it, and even then, it's caveat emptor. Still; today I wish I had one of those.
At least I get to experience the unbridled joy of shopping for a new phone + subscription.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
In other news, Earth rotates around the sun rather than the other way around. Apparently, there are some indications that the Easter Bunny might be a hoax also. Who'd have thunk it, eh?
I'm absolutely thrilled that this type of research gets funding.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
But Gibson was one of the first to introduce signature guitars; guitars developed in collaboration with a musican and with the name of a musician on it.
1950's Gibson Les Paul goldtop.
As far as I know, this is the earliest signature electric guitar. Gibson made the Les Paul with input from Les Paul. How much input the good Les Paul actually gave is a bit unclear. But at least he was the one that decided on the gold color ("makes it look more expensive"), trapeze bridge (which didn't work very well) and dark fretboard ("makes your fretting look faster"; you hear that Wilhelm?). Even though none of these features are really the essence of a Les Paul, the collaboration was the start of an iconic guitar classic.
1934 Gibson Roy Smeck guitar.
Roy Smeck was one of the more famous musicians at the beginning of the 20th century, but is now forgotten by most people. He was really a ukulele player (an instrument that at some point was more popular then the guitar), and the general decline in interest of ukulele music would explain why he is forgotten. Anyway, this beast got a FAT neck and came set up for lap style (Hawaiian) playing. It's basically a 12 fret dreadnought size guitar.
1928 Gibson Nick Lucas
Actually I don't know who Nick Lucas were, but he was involved in the first Gibson flattop. This is a small bodied size instrument, but with a really deep body compare to the L-00 and such. It's basically an L-2 body shape), but with more ornaments (or the L-2 is a plainer version of the Nick Lucas, since the Nick Lucas came first).
As far as I know, the tradition of signature models is much newer at Martin and Fender, which are Gibson’s main competitors. The above signature models were brand new models, not pimped up versions of already established models. Which more often then not is the case today, especially among the big companies (Fender, Gibson, Martin, etc).
So, these are the few early signature guitars I could think of right now. Anybody got any other then Gibson?
Friday, June 22, 2007
Ernie Ball Music Man Axis
Eddie Van Halen is a rather prominent figure in the world of rock in general, and in the world of guitars in particular. In addition to his musical and performance-related accomplishments, he also pioneered the concept of Floyd Rose-equipped superstrats. This started with the Charvel Frankensteins, before he struck a deal with Ernie Ball/Music Man to make an Edward Van Halen signature model. Being a somewhat fickle character, he soon parted ways with Ernie Ball, supposedly because he was dissatisfied with how the guitar was marketed. From there, he went on to collaborate with Peavey guitars on the Wolfgang guitar model, while Music Man slightly modified their signature model to the one seen above. Not surprisingly, this is essentially the exact same guitar as both the previous Music Man EVH and the Peavey Wolfgang - copyright laws seldom appear to follow logical patterns. Anyhoo; the Music man Axis as shown above represents what EVH brought to the scene - DiMarzio pickups, an offset, low-action maple neck, a perfectly balanced body (for stage work, that is), an actual Floyd Rose whammy system, and a single volume control. Simplicity itself, yet so incredibly functional.
Ibanez Universe UV777
Little Stevie Vai's second major contribution to the construction of electric guitars - the first serial-made seven string guitars, with an added low B to the standard string set. Check it out in use on every Vai album since "Passion and Warfare". Of course; with the emergence of so-called Nu-Metal and subsequent genres, the Universe and later seven-string guitars have gained tremendous popularity due to the possibility of extreme detunings. Whatever - mostly a bunch of closeted bass players anyways. Used properly, though, the Universe is a thing of beauty. Pick up a Steve Vai album today.
Does the name Phil Collen ring a bell? No? His band is more famous, though - Def Leppard. This is a phenomenal axe - a 24-fret Fender style neck + headstock with a Jackson Dinky body, a Floyd Rose, DiMarzio pickups in an H-S-S configuration + the awesome Sustainer/Driver system which, if activated, keeps the note indefinitely - think Gary Moore's feedback in "Parisienne Walkways". In combination, this makes for an excellent and versatile instrument.
Paul Reed Smith Johnny Hiland
Johnny Hiland is a phenomenon, with a playing style ranging from bluegrass and country to metal. The PRS JH is a beautiful instrument - essentially a McCarty with a wider, flatter neck profile and 24 frets, special pickups with push/pull tome pots and a specially-designed trem system. You don't necessarily have to think of this as a signature model, but rather as an opportunity to acquire a custom-made PRS at stock price. Check out Johnny Hiland at your earliest opportunity.
Dean USA Rebel Razorback
Dimebag Darrel may have been most famous for playing Dean ML's or his eerily similar Washburn signature model, but shortly before he was shot and killed onstage in Columbus, OH, he designed the Razorback in collaboration with Dean Zelinsky - founder of Dean guitars. It comes in various designs - the above image is simply the one I feel best fits the spirit of Dimebag as portrayed in Pantera and Damageplan. 'Tis a thing of dubious beauty perhaps, but it's got a set neck with ebony fingerboard for sustain, Floyd Rose, The Seymore Duncan Dimebucker treble pickup and a Dimarzio rhytm pickup, plus Grover tuners and a mahogany body. Basically, this is the ultimate high-output machine. If you can't get squeals and ungodly harmonics from this guitar, your amp's not on. Of course, the popularity of this guitar is helped by lots of up-and-coming metal guitarists like Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu of Trivium using these exclusively, but that aside - the Razorback is a unique creation.
Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
Typical Waits record, from the mid 80's. Has a couple of other, but this one was the one that made it to the car this week. A lot of the typical Waits percussion (which I guess Kaizers Orchestra has been inspired by) and the signature Waits vocal. The album is best when the songs have simple arrangements, like Gun Street Girl and Bride of the Rain Dog (a beautiful instrumental, Mr Waits often has one of these on his albums).
Fabulous Thunderbirds - Hot Number
What can I say, early T-birds and it got Jimmy Vaughan on guitar. Straight rhythm and blues. But...
..I like this later one better. No Vaughan on guitar, but Kid Ramos ain't no slough on guitar either. The overall sound on the album is a bit heavier then Hot Number. Starting of with the title track, which is one of my favorites from the album, showcasing the excellent harp work by Kim Wilson. Other highlights are How Do I Get You Back?, I Don’t Wanna Be The One, Mean Love, Looking Forward to Looking Back and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (hey, did you ran out of lyrics there, mr. Wilson?).
So, what's in your car stereos this week?
The other side of the story is the signature models which actually comprise a significant difference/improvement over the parent model, and which gives you the advantage of a custom-made guitar (woods, pickups, hardware, electronics) at much more reasonable prices compared to having one made just for you. This thread is about "artist signature" guitars that are actually worth buying (provided you like the style of music etc. of its would-be inventor). Starting with:
Ibanez Steve Vai JEM7V
Developed and road-tested by Steve Vai ever since he played with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake back in the late 80's. 24 frets with scalloping on frets 21-24, wide, flat neck profile for high-speed fretwork antics, Edge Pro trem system, and DiMarzio Evolution pickups in HSH configuration. Doesn't hurt that it's a looker either. I bought one of these last Spring, and I couldn't be more pleased with it. Low action, medium-to-high output and fantastic tuning stability. As you'd expect, it's difficult to imagine a guitar better suited for whammy-bar antics. Playing one doesn't make you sound like Steve Vai, but it has the wide tonal variety which allows you to express yourself freely on a high-quality instrument. Which is what you should be after anyways. The only thing I'd change about this guitar is the location of the input jack socket. If you're not using a wireless set-up and you practice sitting down, the cable can get in the way.
One word of caution: This isn't for players of any damn music style, and a certain technical standard is also expected for someone wielding a JEM7V. There's simply no need for an instrument of this type if you're into light singer-songwriter strumming or rhytm-only power chords. This is an axe made for lead work in rock/metal genres where technical proficiency is highly appreciated, but where neither players nor audiences are expected to adhere to all the metal clichés (all black clothes, bat wings, ammo belt straps, corpse paint, "all men play on ten"-attitudes towards feedback, etc.
Fender YJM Stratocaster
YJM, of course, refers to Yngwie J. Malmsteen, the greatest guitar player to date. This is a heavily modified 70's stratocaster, with a brass nut (essential for heavy whammy bar use without string locks), DiMarzio YJM pickups (it used to be DiMarzio HS-3), which are somewhere between single-coil and buckers in output, a heavily scalloped neck, very high action, and 21 frets (either maple or rosewood, depending on how much treble you like in your sound). What the scalloping does is allow for a wider frequency band width in your vibrato, as pushing down on the strings will higher the pitch, in addition to the up-down or lateral movements. The acoustic sound in the YJM is really wonderful, however, it's quite hard getting used to the very high action on these models. So don't think for a second that Malmsteen adopted the scalloping and action in order to facilitate speed - quite the contrary. You probably won't be able to play at your normal speed without some significant practice if you buy one of these. Also, the scalloped neck is best suited for players with a very light grip on the strings (if you grip hard, you'll be out of tune and shit out of luck). The fact that you've "only" got 21 frets can also be perceived as limiting - until you listen to some of Yngwie's work, that is.
Fantastic guitar for lead-work, and of course a must if you're in a neoclassical metal band. The pickups don't quite have the sheer output you need if you're into playing extreme metal-style rhytm, and if you're primarily a tapping kind of player, you'll probably want to opt for a wider, flatter fretboard with lower action and 'buckers. Sooner or later, I'll get one of these.
Ibanez RBM2NT Voyager
Unfortunately, this gem was discontinued in the mid-90's, following the implosion of the metal scene. The Reb Beach (of Winger) model was a fantastic instrument, with the lower cutaway offering extreme whammy bar mobility. Even though it was a bolt-on, it has great sustain, and excellent playability. Really high output too, even though that wasn't obvious from the recordings. Great allround-guitar.
Another great guitar made in collaboration with and road-tested by the artist. Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) has his name on an extremely high-quality instrument - here the N4. Sustain and playability are excellent, and the combination of Bill Lawrence and Seymore Duncan pickups provides the possibility of a wide range of sounds, from rather clean to near Dime-like output. Add to that the unsurpassed high-fret (well; at least it's got 22 of them) access, the Buzz Feiten tuning system and a Schaller trem system, and you've got yourself a great instrument for technical lead-work in most genres. Of course, it's not pointy and black enough that you can get away with it if you're opening for Immortal or Dimmu Borgir, but for most genres this fits right in, both with respect to sound and appearance. A case of signature models providing excellent value without adding severe limitations.
Jackson RR5 Rhoads
The Randy Rhoads guitar - a 'V with actual significant modifications. Neck-thru for sustain, offset body for high-fret access, Seymore Duncan pickups for that classic sound -a great instrument. Difficult to sit down with, but if you're into hard rock/metal, you can use this for just about anything.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Awesome shape, Set-Thru, proper whammy bar, Seymore Duncan Distortion pickups and a thin, flat neck profile. Gus G (Firewind, formerly of Dream Evil)really has found a great hybrid of the Dean ML, a BC Rich Warlock and the once mighty Ibanez Reb Beach (Winger)model. The only perceivable drawback is that it's only got 22 frets. Damn; ain't that something........
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
One of the funniest book I've ever read: The autobiography of the autoproclamed most famous rock band of all time (ha ha ha) : Motley Crüe.
I will not say much about this book except that it's a fantastic one. The 4 members of the band (Nicky Six, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee) are so stupid that they become lovable. Definitely a must that you must read. Strange though that it's not in the list of the 1001 books you should read before you die.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I know, I know - the headliners are Dream Theater, but I'd rather have it the other way around. Mind you; Dream Theater rules, as can be seen in this live version of "Another Day". Also; check out this clip of DT covering Pantera's "Cemetery Gates" (including guests Russel Allen and Dave Mustaine). If you've heard the original - and you should've, you'll notice how John Petrucci is nowhere near playing Dime's patented off-the-wall whammy bar harmonics, despite Petrucci being the far more technical guitar player. The one thing that really stuck in my memory from having played one of Dime's guitars is the blunt force trauma gain that sucker produced. The combo of the Dean and the Bill Lawrence pickups was capable of producing harmonics (not to mention feedback) without even trying. Insane output.
Still; the pearl of the line-up is Symphony X. Check out live clips of "Inferno" and "Of Sins And Shadows". Absolutely breath-taking! Russel Allen is an awesome singer, but more importantly (at least for me), Michael Romeo is one of the best guitar players ever. Dude's like 0.85 Yngwie Malmsteen. The total effortlessness with which he plays those incredible runs, sweeps and taps is almost unparallelled. Back to the metronome for me....
Also, if all the stars are aligned just right and the bulletin board rumors are true, Pagan's mind might also be on the bill. Check out "Aegean Shores" - damn how I wish I wrote this one.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Came across this great little clip on YouTube:
Really short, but right to the point. And played side by side, there is a clear difference between the clips. Mike Richter has posted some more details on his page.
So, what do you guys think: Is this truely a decrease in sound quality, or just some ravings from the audio nerds?
Since this occurred in the middle of the Bergen International Music Festival, getting a hotel room was no easy task. My wife spent a good couple of hours before finding an available room in downtown Bergen. The hotel looked cool on the internet, but it was located in the same building as Fotballpuben, Bergen's most famous watering hole for soccer fans in general and supporters of the local team - Brann - in particular. As we checked in around 9 PM, I optimistically inquired whether room service was still available. The clerk informed me that the hotel did not have a kitchen - so no. The included breakfast consisted of a baguette, a small carton of orange juice and a newspaper which was affixed to our doorknob in the morning. Also, we had requested a room on the top floor, but on account of old-fashioned incompetence, we got a room on the second floor. Oh well.
Monday, June 11, 2007
- Unless you're the guitar player for a whiny singer/songwriter act where it's ok to sit on a bar stool, start to practice the guitar standing up. If this is a blinding flash of the obvious - good. Otherwise, don't think that your reach and handpositioning is the same sitting down as standing up.
- About ten seconds after you land the gig, you should decide on the set list (including order) and devote every band practice to playing those songs in that exact order. That way you'll see right away if certain songs don't fit in succession, and you can change things around, device segues, etc. Also, it'll be more familiar if and when the nerves kick in.
- Start practicing in a "stage" conformation, i.e. with the drum riser in the back, lead singer in the middle up front etc. Decide which side of the stage you're comfortable with, and arrange the band accordingly.
- Know the main parts of the songs well enough that you can move around while playing. Not necessarily doing a full-on Van Damme helicopter kick or anything, but at least have the possibility of motion.
- Bring a spare guitar! If you break a string mid-set, you shouldn't have to halt the gig in order to change strings. Very few bands have that kind of routine where they can still entertain in the face of technical difficulties like this. If you can't afford a second guitar, borrow one. Odds are you're not Knut Reiersrud and thus not able to changing a string while holding a rhytmand making jokes, so don't.
- Two words: Noise Gate. If you think you can uphold a great distorted tone at high volume settings without it, you're in for a surprise.
- If you don't normally play with your amp at gig volume, don't think you get the same instrument response when you crank the amp, unless you plan to run your rig directly through the console.
- Ally yourself with the sound guy at the venue - figuring out how much you need to adjust settings to correct for the acoustics of the venue + crowd takes experience.
- In the event that some of you screw up mid-song, don't start looking at each other. Odds are noone else noticed, and you should just carry on. Don't pull a Manowar and start the song over because you didn't fret the second arpeggio of the first verse wrong.
- Know Thy Technical Limitations when it comes to soloing. If you plan on doing a solo that you can barely pull off under the best of circumstances on the third try, don't even think of doing that live. Two options: practice until you can do it, or simplify your bit.
- No drum solos! Dragonforce don't do drum solos, and unless you claim your drummer has technical qualities Dave Macintosh doesn't possess, stay away from the five-minute trial of boredom that is drum solos.
- So you want to do an unaccompanied guitar spot? Unless you've got a) godlike technique and b) you're essentially playing an embellished melody. Surprisingly few people care about diminished sweep-and-tap arpeggios. However; playing one instrumental song can work, provided you don't go on for 20 minutes.
- Don't go on stage drunk. Even if you've read that the guys in AC/DC never play sober, or that Dime used to down five Black Tooth Grins before going onstage. If you're drunk, the performance might sound better to you, but probably not o anyone else.
- For the love of everything that's sacred, play in tune.
- Two minutes before you're going on stage is not the right time to figure out that you get nervous in front of crowds....
- Warm up your fingers properly prior to rocking out.
- Make good and damned sure the financial arrangements are taken care of and agreed to before the show.
- Have fun
Friday, June 8, 2007
Anyhoo; this is my list - feel free to follow suit. I'm gonna list both acts I would've liked to see, and acts I'd like to see again.
- Yngwie J. Malmsteen: Sooner or later I'm gonna see Yngwie. It almost happened in Charlotte, NC back in 2001, but grad school duties came in the way. Dammit!
- Last Tribe: This Swedish AOR/Power Metal act is really high on my list. What? You've never heard about LT and Magnus Karlsson? For shame!
- Steve Vai: In or out of a G3 setting - I don't care. It's probably gonna be a total guitar nerd extravaganza...so right up my alley. Hopefully with Billy Sheehan on bass.
- Joe Satriani: Same as above
- Kamelot: This US/Norwegian power metal act played Rockefeller in May, and they've released the best live DVD I've ever seen. Next time...
- Angra: Brazilian power metal. Ideally with Andre Matos on vocals, but the odds of that are rather slim...dude could totally pull off Kate Bush songs.
- Edguy: German power metal led by the inimitable Tobi Sammet
- Symphony X: NJ power metallers with monster shredder Michael Romeo
- Dream Evil: Ideally with Snowy Shaw on drums. Are you prepared to get evilized?
- Firewind: Saw them in October 2006 - I'd love to see them again
- Dragonforce: Witnessed their first ever Norwegian concert last fall. Yes; they're actually able to pull the solos and whammy bar stuff live
- Dio with Vivian Campbell on guitar: Last In Line, We Rock, Rainbow In The Dark, Holy Diver, Don't Talk To Strangers......Look Out: The Sky is falling DOWN!!!
- Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads: Alas, this won't happen, seeing as how Randy passed away in 1982....
- Poison: Nuthin' but a good time, I tells ya
- Van Halen with David Lee Roth: Not gonna happen...
- Van Halen with Sammy Hagar
- Extreme: If they ever get it together - I'm there
- White Lion: The original line-up, not Mike Tramp and four hired musicians.
- Bon Jovi: I've played so many of their songs live, it'd be cool to see how they do it
- Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time/Seventh Son tour. Not the current version
- Megadeth: Dave is always Angry Again...preferably with Marty Friedman or Al Pitrelli on lead guitar
- Stevie Ray Vaughan: Pretty much the only pure blues guitarist I like, and dude's dead. Bummer.
- Europe: ...why not?
- Billy Joel: The urban Bruce Springsteen...you bet I'd like to see him live.
- George Michael: We just missed him in the Fall of 2006...MAJOR bummer.
- The Kids: I've recently discovered why Dag Ingebrigtsen and Torstein Flakne have been consistently successful for so long.
- DeLillos: Feelgood music with Oslo west accent
- Skid Row with Sebastian Bach: ...like that'll ever happen
- Wig Wam: Good showmen, and Trond Holter is a monster guitarist
- Roxette: We're so there if the opportunity presents itself
- Running Wild: Pirate metal rules like it's nobody's bidness'
- Dokken: If they can manage to stay together without self-combusting onstage
- Whitesnake: The 1987 era with Steve Vai, Adrian Vandenberg and Billy Sheehan.
- David Lee Roth: Line-up from Eat'em And Smile - again Vai and Sheehan
- Gary Moore: If either someone could provide me with a time machine or if someone could convince him to cut out the bluesy stuff he currently insists on bothering the audience with. Whichever is more likely - I just want to hear Dirty Fingers, Back On The Streets, White Nuckles, etc.
- WASP: "The Headless Children" tour
- Frank Zappa: Another dead dude
- Queen: Ditto. Witnessing the "Live Killers" gigs would've been awesome, I tells ya
...and that's all the acts I bothered to list......quite a few, actually
So, just a quick quiz on this Friday: What is the asking price for these two guitars? (Yes, Wilhelm, they are different. Don't you see the pickup? And no, they are not rusty scrapmetal.)
Candidate number one:
Candidate number two:
Thursday, June 7, 2007
In Bergen, I was really happy with Hagstrøm Musikk where I bought my Ibanez S, but I never got any work done on either of my guitars, so I know nothing of the workshop.