Thursday, June 28, 2007

Never trust the french this is the sight that met me when I came back from a trip last summer....guess which office door is mine

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.

Car music week 26

In a severe case of GTO (Grand Theft Originality), I'm jacking Anders' idea of listing the music I've been listening to in the car this last week. And I'm further stealing his thunder by reporting it on a Thursday, since I'm out of town for the remainder of the week.

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

Welcome to Loserville......

...population: Me.

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

From the world of anthropology.......

From Dagens Næringsliv: The American anthropologist Anne Kirah reports that shyness is the major reason for the exponential growth of online communities such as Facebook. It's easier to deal with people from behind a keyboard than face to face.

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

Signature guitars part tres - Old School style

So you think signature models are a new trend? From the day that guitar making went from a one man shop to (more or less) a factory, guitar manufacturers have equipped the famous musicians of the time with their instruments. We're talking standard production guitars here, not "signature" guitars.

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

Signature guitars part dos

...continuing on the theme, here are some more signature guitars which are not simply a stock model with polka dots or "custom" fret inlays. Starting with...

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.

Jackson PC1

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.

Car music

Since it's Friday, I thought I should liste the CDs I've been listening to in the car this week. (Ok, I admit it, this is another twist on "playlist" or "best of..").

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...

Fabulous Thunderbirds - Roll of the Dice

..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?).

ZZ Top - Degüello
I never get tired of this one. Probably the favorite album of my favorite band. Starts of with a great cover Sam and Dave’s "I Thank You"; lyrics modified ZZ style. The only two tracks from this album that made it to the Greatest Hit album are Cheap Sunglasses and I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide. Great songs, but I can't understand why A Fool for You Stockings didn't make the cut. It's probably ZZ Top best song. Period. Senõr Gibbons guitar tone is slightly cleaner then on the previous albums, which I really like. A true classic.

So, what's in your car stereos this week?

Signature guitars part uno

As I wrote in the previous posts, the concept of a "artist signature" guitar is often a thinly veiled screwjob, where a completely stock instrument is given a slightly different paint scheme, a new set of pick-ups and "custom" fret inlays. Or in the case of Good Charlotte's Benji Madden, the signature Music Man model consists of a Silhouette Special with a slightly faded color and the neck pickup removed. That's one side of the story.

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.

Washburn N4

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

ESP Guitars

I've always dismissed ESP as a second- or third-tier guitar manufacturer. All their models appear to be knock-offs of Charvel/Jackson, Fender and Gibson with no new value added whatsoever. Their signature guitars have traditionally been especially close to downright plagiarism - the George Lynch (of Dokken and Lynch Mob, in case you didn't know) signature models are (depending on which model) Fender Stratocasters or Jackson Soloists with tricked-out paint jobs and either Seymore Duncan Screamin' Demons or Pearly Gates pickups. No extra electronics, no spesial woods used, no special trem system, no nothing. Essentially, you could buy a Squier and a set of pickups and get pretty damn close to the same sound and feel.

The James Hetfield (of Metallica, dontcha' know) "Trucker" model? Epic Gibson Les Paul rip-off, but with woods etc. more akin to an Epiphone. Pimp an Epiphone LP up with EMG's, and you've got the "Trucker" sans the subpar paintjob.

Kirk Hammet (still of Metallica) KH-models? Bolt-On black Jackson Soloists or Epiphone LP's with EMG's and lame-ass skull&bones fret inlays. I've tried several of the KH-models over the years, and I never had the feeling of playing something special. When switching from a KH to, say, a stock Ibanez RG or a Music Man Silhouette, I had a distinct feeling that I just upgraded to a better instrument. When I tried a KH-2 immediately before trying the Ibanez Jem, it felt like I just traded in a cardboard box under a bridge for an oceanview mansion. Guess which one I bought...

The Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom) model? An exact replica of the Jackson RR (Randy Rhoads) model with sawteeth instead of shark fin fret inlays, and with a slightly altered geometry of the pinstripes. Big Whoop.

The Jeff Hanneman (Slayer) model? Jackson Soloist with optional Neck-Through, EMG's and lame eagle&dot fret inlays. Michael Amott (Arch Enemy) signature model - the "Ninja"? More like Gibson Flying V with a slightly rounded concave arch and "X" fret inlays. Ron Wood's signature model? Straight-up Fender Telecaster with no fixin's whatsoever. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) inexplicably left Jackson to make an inferior King V copy with 8-ball inlays at ESP, before leaving for Dean guitars.

My mental image of the R&D department at ESP was eerily similar to an image of a creepy guy with a camera running around at a NAMM show. So imagine my surprise when I noticed this addition to their signature series:

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

Seven movies from 2006

...most of them beginning with "The"

Rocky Balboa (2006)
Surprisingly good. Stallone brings the character back to what it was like in the original, and he does a damn good job. This is very reminiscent of the first one, and is a reminder of the fact that Stallone can act pretty well when he damn well pleases.

The Covenant (2006)
Should have been called "Night Of The Living Guidos". It looked quite promising in the flyer-thingy they pass out in the video stores, but it turned out to be a cross between "X-Men", "Coyote Ugly", "Charmed", "Dragonball Z" and a generic boy-band music video. The four main characters all have different characteristics, so as to appeal to as broad segment of teenage and pre-teenage girls as possible. However, they've all got long or spiky hair, all gelled up and wind-tunnel tested. And even when they're thrown trough walls, or they're swimming, the hair stays perfect. Of course, they all wear wife-beaters or cut-off shirts - when they're not showing off the six-packs and the "I do chest and arms every Monday" wannabe-buff look. Just to reinforce the stereotype, they wear pants or long shorts, so as not to reveal their Johnny Bravo-like chicken legs. Proper guidos work chest, abs and arms three times a week, and always chest on Mondays, dammit! Also, there's plenty of gratuitous T&A with unnecessary shower scenes starring no-name teenage "actresses". If you're the kind of person who enjoyed the Charlie's Angels and Tomb Raider movies, or if you work chest and abs on Mondays, or if you thought Brad Pitt was hyooge in "Troy", or if you're just about shallow enough to sleep in a Petri dish, then this is the movie for you. Even Samuel L. Jackson couldn't have made this one much worse than it was.

The Illusionist (2006)
This one, on the other hand, was a fantastic movie. Besides starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, it takes place in Wien, and it was awesome recognizing various locations. Best movie I've seen this year by far. Compared to this one, "The Departed" was like "House Party 2".

The Wicker Man (2006)
Nick Cage-flick about a weird society on a secluded, privately owned island. Well-made, and Cage does a splendid job, as always. The ending was quite surprising, and if you wanna know why it's called "The Wicker Man", you've got to hang in there until the very last few minutes. Totally OK movie, but nothing more.

The Last King Of Scotland (2006)
Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for this one, and I can totally understand why. Dude always does a good job, and in a perfect universe, he'd have gotten one for "Ghost Dog" also. That being said, about 30 minutes into the movie, I started getting some pretty non-PC thoughts about the culture this movie depicts, and about ten minutes later, we stopped watching altogether. Weird and disturbing movie, but with a great performance by Whitaker.

The Prestige (2006)
Unlike "The Illusionist", this is a run-of-the-mill movie dealing with magic and the people who purportedly perform it. Well-made and all, but it just drags on for too damn long - 45-minute storyline stretched to way over two hours.

The Queen (2006)
I totally don't care about royalty and the circus the British royal family consitutes, but this quasi-documentary movie was excellent. Helen Mirren is a fantastic actress, and as Queen Elisabeth II, she puts on an absolutely stellar performance. Check this one out.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dirt by Motley Crue

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

Symphony X and Dream Theater in Oslo....

..September 29th, and we're so there. Finally I'll get to see one of my favorite bands - Symphony X - live (see my wish list a couple of posts down). Yesssss.

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

Does new CDs sound weak?

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?

Travelling to Bergen can be arduous indeed

The first weekend of June we travelled to Bergen - primarily because I was to attend/organize a bachelor party. We went straight from work to the airport on Friday, and returned Sunday afternoon. Not everything went swimmingly according to our plan, though.

Seeing as how I brought my Ibanez S, I had some trepidations as to whether I'd be able to get through the airport security with no more than the accustomed feelings of oppression and abuse, but that actually went surprisingly well. Apparently it's no problem to bring an electric guitar in a gig bag onto the airplane. You can't bring a nail file, a pair of scissors or a small beverage past the security control, but the geniouses in charge of safety rules and regulations have no qualms about someone bringing what is essentially a baseball bat with strings. Good news for me, but that did absolutely nothing to reinforce my faith in airport security. Anyways; I made it through the security station with holding my belt, my jacket and my 'S, feeling violated and looking for somewhere to regroup, a support group or a shower to cry in, whichever was first available. Business as usual at airports. The first obstacle had been overcome.

As we were almost about to board the plane, our flight was delayed - of course. New estimated time of departure - ten minutes to whenever. This time we flew with Norwegian, an airline which has returned to being the bush-league, glorified charter airline staffed with SAS rejects it truly is. After the usual long wait at the baggage claims at Flesland, we were ready to get our rental car. We were given a choice between a Ford Focus C-Max and a Renault Megane. Being an idiot, I suggested the french car, since we hadn't tried one of those before. There are good and bad engineering solutions, and replacing a key + small remote with a humonguous block of plastic between the size of a cassette/8-track which accordingly does not fit in either wallet or pockets and which serves no extra functions compared to a standard key is undoubtedly a bad solution.

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.

Now a bit disillusioned and quite hungry, we entered our room, which turned out to be directly above the smoking section/patio of Fotballpuben. There was no airconditioning and the weather was nice and warm, so we absolutely needed to keep the windows open. In the mother of all ironies, we had a non-smoking room, with "smoking prohibited" signs. Yet, being as how this was directly above the smoking section/patio of Fotballpuben, everything in the room smelled of cigarette smoke. Oh well. On to more pressing matters: grub. We were tired after a long day of work and travel, so we opted against going out to eat. Instead, we called for pizza using a flyer we found in our room. Dolly Dimple's had an arrangement with the hotel, where we could get pizza delivered to our room without any discount whatsoever, but no soda, as the rooms were not equipped with a minibar. Damn. Still; how this would affect us not getting cold sodas delivered is beyond me. Anyways; we made our order, and went to an open grocery store to stock up on soda before the food was delivered.

Back at our room, we rediscovered that soccer fans are loud yet inarticulate, and that they smoke a lot and spill plenty of beer on tables, floors, etc., as a result of which our room smelled of cigarettes and beer, and the noise level well past annoying. But that was ok, 'cause we had a TV in our room (presumably a color TV), so we could sit back, turn up the volume and vegetate while we waited for the pizza to be delivered, right? Not quite. After several failed attempts to turn the TV on, including cursing, we noticed a conspicuous absence of power cords between the TV and any socket and called the night manager. After discovering that the phone didn't work too well either, my wife walked down to get him while I waited for the Pizza delivery. The night manager came, and expressed his surprise that we didn't have a flat screen, because by now, all the rooms were supposed to have a new, wall-mounted flat screen instead of the old ones. Well; not our room, apparently. Still; despite having (presumably) the only room without a flatscreen we should still have one in working order, right? After some fumbling, the night manager discovered the lack of a power cable, and informed us that he'd call someone to fix it. Right.

Like two minutes before the pizza would have been free, I got a call from the delivery girl, who sat outside the hotel in her car wondering how she'd get into the hotel and up to our room. She actually asked me whether she was supposed to go out of the car and through the entrance door to the hotel. Uhhhh...yeah? Five minutes after she had embarked on the perilous journey from her car to our room, we finally got the food, and prepared to chow down. My wife opened the lid on the pizza box, and started laughing. The pizza was in a state somewhere between slightly burnt and full-on singed. After eating, we asked the night manager what's up with the guy who was supposed to come and fix the TV. Dude wrung his hands and indicated that he'd fix it tomorrow. Right.

Apparently, soccer fans get even louder when they're drunk. Who'd have thunk it, eh?

We never got the TV fixed - big surprise. I also discovered that the shower varied randomly between two settings; Arctic Discovery and Molten Lava.

Good thing the bachelor party went 67% according to plan.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tips for playing live your band landed a gig and you're primed for fame and fortune. In the very unlikely event that you're a guitarist in a gigging band with less onstage experience than me and you're reading this blog, here's some advice (inspired by this month's issue of Total Guitar) based on my trials and tribulations in a rock band:

  • 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

Pop/Rock concert wish list

In light of the fact that TNT, Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne play in Trondheim today, I thought I'd list acts I'd really like to experience in a live setiting. I wasn't at the BLS/Ozzy concert today - by choice, I might add - seeing as how I think the present incarnation of Ozzy is primarily a scheme to line Sharon Osbourne's pockets, plus the fact that the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness hasn't produced anything worth listening to since "No More Tears".

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 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 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: 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

Friday quiz...

Since I can't post pictures in the comment section, I had to make a new post with my nonsens.

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

Great guitar shop in Trondheim

It's damn hard to find a music shop where you've got a good selection of guitars, amps and whatnot, a decent workshop, knowledgeable staff and good service. Whenever you find one of these, count your blessings and make sure to let the staff know. Having played since the early 90's and having been around geographically speaking, I've been fortunate enough to locate a few really good guitar shops.

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.

When we lived in NC, I was fortunate enouh to find a great guitar shop well within walking distance from our apartment (quite a feat in the South, I might add); the Music Go Round at Crossroads Plaza in Cary. The store owner/guitar tech is a fantastic guy, who gave me some really good advice and traded me some parts to my 'S for a cup of coffee. I've forgotten his name, but Dude; U da MAN. A couple of months before we returned to Norway, my main man Joe was kind enough to take me to Guitar Center Raleigh on Capitol Boulevard which totally made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Joe also turned me on to Line 6 gear, which now is the only brand of amps and effects as far as I'm concerned. Good service, great people and a selection to die for. Before settling on a superb, black-as-night BC Rich Neck-Through NJ Warlock, one particularly metal-looking staffer handed me a Dimebag Darrel signature Dean guitar which had actually been owned and played by Dime himself. On a side note, I see now how Dime got his squeal on, seeing as how I needed a noise gate to control the feedback off of that SOB even at the lowest volume settings. Seeing as how I enjoy playing without uncontrollable feedback, I never went for the Dean. Looking back, this was two months before Dime was shot and killed on stage in Columbus, OH. I wonder what the value of that guitar has increased to now.......

When we shipped our stuff back to Norway and Trondheim, the transport screwed up the neck on my Warlock up something fierce, and I contacted two guitar shops in Trondheim - RIFF and That Other One, who shall forever remain nameless. After some runarounds and exceptionally bad service from That Other One, I stumbled into RIFF and got my Warlock taken care of. Audun is the man when it comes to taking proper care of pointy guitars. Last year, when I was looking for a new axe, I had narrowed my list down to four guitar models; the Fender YJM signature strat, the Jackson King V, the Ibanez JS1200 or the Ibanez Jem, so I looked around to compare prices and whatnot. The useless punks at That Other One tried to convince me to buy other brands in the same price bracket without any concern for how I actually like my guitars to be (even after explaining that I had narrowed it down to four models), etc, and one of them even tried to sell me one of his own guitars. While I was trying out gear in the shop. At RIFF, it was a different atmosphere - they did not try to interfere with my selection, but retrieved info whenever I needed it.

That pretty much settled it for me - I went for the Jem, and have used RIFF Trondheim exclusively after that - both for purchases and for repair/set-up. If you're a guitar player living in Trondheim and you read this (yeah, right), RIFF is the way to go. Don't even consider That Other One.