Since Gear and Loathing is, by and large, about local musicians and their gear, I’ve never run a profile on an area shop. Mainly because I didn’t put this site together as a tool to sell stuff for stores, etc. However, my buddy – Rodrigo Espinoza (videographer) – was at Satellite Amplifiers’ new(ish) storefront (1322 Gertrude St.) the other day and sent me a bunch of great photos. Since they’re constantly building some of the finest amps/guitars around, I figured I’d share the pics without further commentary. If you want to know more about them and their products, hit them up on their Facebook page, visit their website, or stop into their shop. – Dustin
1. Take me through your rig: You’ve got some really cool stuff – how’d you end up using what you do?
I’ve accumulated a lot of equipment, and a lot of junk, over the past 25 years! Some of my pedals were recommended by the other guitar player in my old band (El Gato) from Denton/Dallas, TX. We started in the mid-‘90s, so there were no internet reviews or YouTube demos. His guitar always sounded better than mine, so I just took his word for it on a lot of stuff. These days, I do some research online and peek at other people’s gear if I think their guitar sounds good.
2. How did you end up with that Jaguar? What model is that? And give me the backstory on the Texas sticker…
I got that Jaguar new at a guitar show in Dallas back in the mid-’90s. It was made in 1994-95 in Japan. I recently put some Curtis Novak pickups in it, which I like way better than the stock pickups. I also got a modified Mustang bridge which has solved the problem of strings jumping into the wrong groove on the saddles when I play hard.
Aside from being from Texas, the flag sticker idea was inspired by (or stolen from!) one of my favorite guitar players, Chris “Frenchie” Smith, of the Austin band Sixteen Deluxe. He plays at high volume with a reckless enthusiasm that I love. He has an American flag sticker in that spot on his Jazzmaster, so I guess I put that Texas flag sticker on my guitar as a constant reminder that it is more important to play fearlessly and expressively than to be timid and technically “perfect.”
3. I used to have Musicman head that I loved, so I’m way into that combo you have. What drew you to the Sixty-Five?
I really love my Musicman 210 Sixty-Five. I played a Vox AC30 for a long time, and I do still have it. My Vox is from 1985, and it has a darker sound than a lot of the more desirable AC30s. Recently, I started wanting an amp that would give me more of a twang sound, and I was researching Fender Twins. A lot of people were recommending vintage Musicman amps as a less expensive alternative. I found this one on craigslist for $400, and jumped on it. I’m super happy with it, and I’ve pretty much been using the Musicman live, but I use both amps for recording.
4. Love your pedalboard: What’s the one effect you use the most?
The effect I use the most is probably my Death By Audio Fuzz War. It’s my favorite distortion pedal that I have ever owned.
5. I’ve heard mixed reviews on those Dunlop Tremelo pedals. Give me your quick review of it. Also, that big-box Memory Man looks like a slightly older one — late-‘80s/early-‘90s before the reissues? Totally drool-worthy. What do you like most about it?
The Dunlop Tremolo works fine for me, and I’ve had it for about 20 years. There was a time when I couldn’t get it to go as fast as it originally did, but some friendly elves must have come and secretly fixed it one night because it started working again. I think there are less expensive alternatives that work just as well or better, but that’s what I got. It takes up a lot of room – like the Memory Man – which is also about 20 years old. I can do some fun stuff with the chorus effect on the Memory Man when recording, but live, I pretty much use it as a straight delay.
6. If you could get one piece of gear for one of your bandmates as a gift — what would you get, who would it be for, and why?
I think I would get Jozette a giant Orange Amps full stack that would tower over her. She loves those amps, and I think it would be fun to see such a tiny woman with such a giant rig. Of course, I would wind up loading and unloading it, so maybe I should rethink that…
7. What’s your favorite Oxen song to play live and why?
Probably “Glass Pastures” just because it’s weird and has a lot of fun little parts.
See The Oxen at The Merrow on Saturday, Feb. 17, with Nowhereland and Sweet Myths. They’re also up for Best Rock Band at the 2018 San Diego Music Awards (vote for them here)
1. Tell me about your guitars.
Fender Telecaster: I use this guitar for songs in standard tuning. It’s got a Seymour Duncan humbucker in the bridge for some extra oomph.
Gibson Les Paul: This guitar is used for songs in Drop C — and also has a secret weapon, a 15dB boost switch.
Moniker Dixie: Custom guitar that I designed with the Moniker Guitars team in Austin, TX. I keep it in Drop C tuning.
2. That Moniker guitar looks killer. How’d you come into possession of that and what separates it most from the Les Paul and Tele that you use?
The Moniker Dixie is a very special guitar because it marks the beginning of my relationship with Moniker Guitars, a company based here in Austin that I endorse. I worked with the team to build the guitar exactly to my specs. I always liked the classic look of the Tele body, but I wanted to beef it up with some Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups.
3. Talk to me about these wild guitar finishes on the LP and the Tele! Are they custom?
The finishes were actually put on at the factory, but the interesting thing is that for both guitars, the patterns are unique. I picked up the Les Paul at Sweetwater Gear Fest in Fort Wayne, Indiana. People have come up to me after shows and told me that it looks like everything from blue cheese to fancy bathroom tile.
4. I’m drooling over that Jubilee. Is that a reissue? Have you had a chance to compare it to other Marshall amps? I’ve always been curious if they sound much different than a Plexi or a JMP?
I was drawn to Marshall initially because some of my favorite guitarists were always known as Marshall guys — Slash, Tom Morello. I’ve always lusted over Marshall’s Silver Jubilee. The original was released in 1987, but the one I have is a reissue from 2015. It’s a lot like the JCM 800, but with extra gain. It’s got a cutting, mid-range tone that works great for the hard rock sound that Black Heart Saints require. I’m interested in getting a power attenuator so I can really crank it up at club shows.
5. What’s your thoughts on the Zoom G3?
I use the Zoom G3 for three uses: a noise gate, pitch shifter (+1 octave), and a boost. I won it in a contest that Guitar Center sponsored. My band at the time got to open for Slash and Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, and we also got a badass prize package. I’m very thankful for having the opportunity to open for Slash twice (most recently with Black Heart Saints).
6. If you had to point someone to a song of yours that showcased your sound/style the best, what would it be and why?
A song called “Call to Arms” has been a recent favorite of mine. It came out last year on our album ALIVE. It’s a killer track because it features the catchy riffs that I’ve been known to lean on, but also highlights the groove that I think is missing in hard rock today.
7. What’s the shittiest piece of gear you’ve bought and why did it suck? On the flipside, what’s the raddest piece of gear you’ve bought and why is it so great?
I love my Les Paul, but I have to be honest that I’m not too thrilled with the G-Force tuning mechanism (otherwise known as a robo-tuner). I’ve found that it can be unreliable at times, especially when trying to tune in lower tunings like Drop C.
8. What’s coming up for Black Heart Saints?
We have a music video in the works that we’re slated to shoot right after our Winter Tour 2018. Then after that, we plan to get back to the studio to work on some new material. This band is always doing something productive, and I love to stay busy — if we’re not on the road, then we’re either in the studio or working on something special.
Black Heart Saints perform at The Merrow on Wednesday, Jan. 24th.
1. Take me through your rig: What do you primarily play during shows? Do you bring all this stuff out or pair it down?
Yes, all the gear is set up for shows — well, except for the baby grand. My brother’s first go-to instrument when he was younger was the piano and he played a lot of classical music like Beethoven and Chopin. Its great for making arrangements. You can create bass, rhythm, and lead and to think that composers created whole symphonies on this. Although its an amazing instrument, it doesn’t make it out to the shows.
2. Talk to me about your synths! Why do you have those two in particular? Which do you find yourself gravitating toward playing more?
I have been a fan of Korg synths. They are pretty affordable and you get a lot of bang for your buck. They are also small enough to fit in tight places. We are mostly guitar-driven so the idea of having a small synth that can do the trick is appealing. The Microkorg does create a wide variety of sounds and I could see how it gets usage by a lot of popular bands like The Killers and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. You can get pretty big sounds out of this little box with black and white keys and create and store patches easily. Plus, there are some cool presets already. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are going for a good electric piano or piano sound, but we have songs like “Instant Radio” and “Broken Love,” where Wes [BMPV’s other guitarist] plays these really cool wicked organ sounds for parts at a time. The MS-20 Mini is quite different to the Microkorg. It’s a monophonic all-analog synth. I like listening to some of the music that came out of the ‘80s new wave era, where analog synths were widely used. I think the MS-20 Mini does a pretty good job at creating those sounds and can get pretty deep bass. It does seem like there is a resurgence of analog synthesizers and some companies have been reviving old and creating new analog gear. Out of the two synths, I would prefer the Microkorg because you can get a wide variety of sounds and they can be a lotta fun.
3. Which model Vox is that? And is that a Johnny Marr Jaguar? What do you like most about it? Did anything inspire you to pick those up?
This particular model is the Vox AC30 TB which I believe stands for top boost. I’m not sure if they make these anymore but these have the Blue Celestions, which make a nice warm tone with a healthy mid-range. I have owned Fender tube amps which I really like a lot, you can’t really go wrong with some of the Fender classics or reissues. Wes plays out of a Fender Twin Reverb and it sounds great for recording and live. I just found for me that the AC30 was warmer and could capture some of the lower ranges a little better. Yes, the Jaguar is the Johnny Marr signature model. I spent a lot of time at the guitar shop playing around with different guitars. I found that this guitar felt good and was a good match. It is versatile and, for me, had a creative feel to it which is important when writing music. It has two single-coil pickups but a setting where you can combine them to have a humbucker effect. It also has some boost and treble switches on it, which is really nice. Johnny Marr is one of the pioneers and arguably one of those musicians who started “indie-rock.” I listen to a lot of The Smiths. It was pretty much the album “The Queen is Dead” which made me say, “I have got to learn how to play the guitar.” He created some great music throughout the decades and I’ve kept up with a lot of his music. So in that case, it was hard not to pass up on a guitar that was designed by Johnny Marr.
4. Very impressive pedalboard! I’ve got an old big box Memory Man too and I’ll never sell it. Do you notice a big difference between the tone/feel of the Boss delay and the DMM? Do you prefer one to the other?
Nice, I agree with you — not for sale. It could be one of those that you regret later. The Memory Man and DD7 are both delay pedals that can do similar things but have their differences. The Memory Man has a warmer and organic sound. The Boss DD7 has a brighter sound to it and seems to respond quicker. I like to use them both but regularly use the Memory Man and then use the DD7 for certain effects for parts of songs for the effects. It can create some psychedelic sounds with the reverse delay too. Although I feel that they combine well together and if I had to choose one, I would probably go with the Memory Man.
5. If there was one piece of gear you could buy yourself (and money was no issue), what would you get?
Rickenbacker 330, black and white.
6. What does Be Mine Phantom Valentine got going on right now?
We are currently creating new music that we are really excited about! And just started shooting some videos. They should go up soon on our sites. We also finished enough songs to look into recording our music, so definitely stay tuned!
1. Hey Peter, talk me through your live rig: Why is that Mesa amp your No. 1? I’m surprised not to see any modulation or delay/reverb effects on your board. What else would you add if you had the option?
I decided to go with the Mesa 5:25 Express + for live for a few reasons. First and foremost, it just sounds the best for the kinds of heavy (but not too heavy) tones I’m going for, but also because of its flexibility and because it packs a ton of features into a head that will be easy to move around and keep in good shape. It has enough foot-switchable options that I was able to keep my pedalboard simple, which was important to me because for this band I decided I wanted to be able to focus more on playing and having a good time than setting up a complicated rig, and having extra patch cables, etc. to worry about. In addition to switching between a high and low-gain channel, it also lets me have foot-switchable reverb, two foot-switchable EQs per channel (the graphic EQ and the preset EQ knob which is a nice sounding midscoop) and also a foot-switchable boost. All that saves me 3 or 4 pedals on my board, which means I can keep it small in the one briefcase and I don’t have to use the effects loop since everything on the board is in front of the amp so that’s fewer cables to have to set up, trip over, or break.
I didn’t bother with modulation, delay, or pedal reverb on this board because as of right now, the songs we’re playing don’t really call for it. There’s definitely a few spots where I would normally use my Carbon Copy a little bit, but not so much that I wanted to add the complexity or the tap dancing. I could definitely see changing it up and adding the Carbon Copy, Timeline, and Moore modulation pedal in the future if we end up using more effects for our next album. In which case I’d think about finding a smaller volume pedal, tuner, and/or power supply to free up some space.
2. How did you settle on both an SG and a Tele?
All our songs right now are in drop D except one in drop C, so I’m using the Tele for the bulk of them and the SG for the one drop C song. Ironically, the Tele is the cheapest guitar I own, but somehow it just feels the best to play; the weight and balance is nice, the neck is fast, and I like the look of it. I swapped out the stock Fender humbucker in the bridge for a Seymour Duncan SH4JB and it sounds great. The SG handles the lower tuning the best out of all my guitars and it’s my second favorite, so it was an obvious choice.
3. Out of all the effects you used on the record, which one got the most use and why? Were there any other effects you wish you had on-hand that you would’ve used?
The other pedals that got used the most on the record were the Tube Screamer and EQ. They were on pretty much the whole time, pushing our other guitar player’s amp a bit more for one of the main guitar tracks. I think I used a little Carbon Copy and reverb from the Strymon Blue Sky here and there, but for the most part, our guitar tones are pretty much straight-forward gain.
4. Talk to me about the extra amps in this pic…what’d you use ’em for?
The other amps are a 1964 Ampeg Jet J-12, Peavey 6505 Mini Head, and Fender ’94 Twin (not to be confused with a Twin Reverb, this one has two drives that are actually pretty cool). I was planning on using the Peavey for the main guitar doubles, but our other guitar player’s Peavey XXX won out. I actually used the Fender for all the leads since its drive has a nice mid-range bite that compliments the mid-scooped Mesa and Peavey well. The Ampeg unfortunately didn’t make it onto the EP since I mainly use it for cleans or light bluesy drive, but it gets used in the studio all the time.
5. You guys have a new EP coming out — how did the recording process go? Who did you work with and where did you record it?
In addition to playing in the band, I’m actually a full-time professional engineer, so I recorded most of it at my studio: The Grey Brick Recording Studio. Two of the songs were recorded up at Catacomb in Orange County last year before I joined the band, but we ended up making some changes to those songs so the only part of those recordings we really kept was the drums; everything else for the five songs I recorded, mixed, and mastered.
6. If you got to buy ANY piece of gear for one of your band mates, what would it be and why?
That’s a hard one since we’ve all got our rigs pretty well dialed in right now. Our bass player just got a new P-Bass and has a great Amgeg SVT and cab, our other guitar player’s Peavey XXX and Tele sound great, and our drummer just refinished his kit. Really the best thing for the band would probably be nice in-ear monitors. I just got some Shure SE315s which are awesome and some of the other guys are just using normal earbuds. Not the sexiest answer, but hearing protection is important, kids!
7. Besides the EP release show at SOMA on Friday, December 1st, what else does Hard to Hit have coming up?
The release is definitely the biggest news, it’s been almost a year since Hard to Hit has played because of some changes to the lineup and we decided to just focus on the EP before getting back out on stage, so this will actually be the first show back with the new lineup. We will also be releasing a video the same day. The following weekend, we will be doing a short run up to Bakersfield, Grover Beach, and one other city that’s still TBD. We will have another local show in February and we’re planning on a bigger West Coast tour for March.
The Parker Meridien: Bandcamp
1. First off, who’s in The Parker Meridien and how did the group come together?
Nathan Hubbard: Parker Edison and myself first worked together on the live video for his “Apefood” single. After that, he contacted me about putting together a group to perform music from his release “The Parker Meridien” EP, and Parker Meridien is the resulting group. Currently the lineup is Parker Edison on vocals, John Rieder on bass and myself on drums and production. As we rehearsed and performed this music, I started throwing hooks and music at Parker, he wrote verses and more hooks, and we started adding these to the set. So we ended up with a set that is one-quarter tracks from the EP and three-quarters original material. We spent most of 2017 working on recording this material, and the release date of our new album “Fists Like Gotti” on Nov. 1 [the record release party will be Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club] will be almost exactly 24 months since our first gig.
2. Give me a rundown on your equipment? Was this the primary gear used to record the album?
After writing and performing this material many times, we decided a recording was in order, and decided to keep it “in-house,” so to speak, so we recorded the entire thing at my house. We recorded on an old Mac G5 using Pro Tools and an Allen & Heath board for the preamps. I had recorded all the samples, keyboards and background vocals when we were writing, so with those in place, we started by tracking drums in the garage. Rafter Roberts came over and gave me a few cool micing options, and I spent a bunch of time getting specific sounds, changing snares and hi-hats depending on the track. We used a 24” ‘60s Slingerland kick, a bunch of vintage snares, and hi-hats ranging in size from 12″ to 16”. I would like to say that a personal goal for me was to make this record with no quantizing/beat detective/sound replacing on the drums — an honest take on how I play. So there are two tracks that are loops of my playing, and all the rest is full performances – if a take had problems, rather than use digital editing to fix it, I would just do another take. The only exceptions are “Someway About It,” where we punched in the double-time section with a smaller drum-kit, and I did move one kick drum hit over a bit in “No Sequels.”
Next we moved inside, tracking bass via a DI – no amps were used for this recording. John has a cool take on effects, so we spent some time getting specific sounds for each track, using a Moog FreqBox and Lo Pass Filter, a Zvex Wooly Mammoth and my old green Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. We did a bit of double-tracking the bass, either octave doubling or doubling with different effects, or in the case of “Someway About It,” we beefed up the Freq Box track by layering in a bass-ier sound underneath it playing a condensed version of the bass line.
Vocals were all tracked in my backroom; we built a little blanket isolation booth, and used a couple microphones – a hi-fidelity condenser for most of the tracks, a beat-up dynamic with a bit of squashed frequency range for “40 Foot Tall” and all the background vocals, and a homemade telephone mic for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” Parker has a strong, rich baritone range — so depending on the track, we used different mics to either amplify or modify those characteristics. From there, I mixed and cleaned up all the samples, layering in field recordings and re-tracked some the keyboard parts for a more unified sound across the record. I also added vibraphone and glockenspiel to several of the tracks. I wrote the track “No Sequels” specifically for Rebecca Jade to sing the hook and the ballad middle section, so the last step was getting Rebecca in to sing. Thanks Rebecca! From there, we made stems of the audio and took it over to Rafter Roberts to master.
3. That outer kick drum is massive. Give me the lowdown on why you’re using a setup like that?
After tracking drums for a few weeks, I wasn’t getting the kick sound I wanted on a few tracks, so I switched out the 24″ for a smaller 20″ Ludwig bass drum. That drum sounds great and is a bit more punchy, but lacked a bit of bottom, so I placed a 28″ Ludwig Scotch bass drum with no muffling in front of the other drum and placed a condenser very close to the front head. By blending the two mics, I got the punch from the 20″ with more sub-by bass from the 28″. You can hear that drum on “40 Foot Tall.” On a nice sound system, it pushes some air.
4. WTF is that weird can-looking mic? Never seen anything like that before.
The chili-can mic is a microphone from an old analog telephone; I wired it to an XLR jack and melted a garlic-chili hot sauce can to hold the diaphragm. I also modified an old mic clip to fit the can. It got used all over the recording, we used it as a hi-hat mic on the drums, on the piano for “No Sequels,” and most notably on the vocals for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” It has a super squished frequency range which really blended well with all the samples, making the vocals really settle into the mix. It has become such a defining sound of the group, we’ve been using the microphone on live performances.
5. Talk to me about the Moog FreqBox — what did you use it for?
John Rieder: You’ll hear the FreqBox in conjunction with the Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter on “Someway About It.” The FreqBox is kind of hard to explain. It’s not a typical synth pedal that processes the signal of the guitar but instead uses the input signal to trigger an internal oscillator. The result is very frenetic, and a little unpredictable, synthy goodness. I selected a sawtooth wave shape on the FreqBox and then ran this into the low pass filter pedal. I have an expression pedal controlling the cutoff frequency on the filter pedal, which helps me attain all the vintage Mu-Tron-type filter sweeps that you hear.
6. What’s a track off the new album that you’re particularly stoked on?
I really like the track “40 Foot Tall.” It was a hook I started singing to myself in the car driving somewhere, I sang it into a recording app on my phone, took it home and lined it up with a few samples, brought it to rehearsal and we jammed on it, realized we could go back and forth between the main groove and the more rocking half-time groove, and built it up from there. For me, it’s the track where we found a portal to what the possibilities for this band were: “Are we a hip-hop band? Are we a live funk band? Are we an over-driven rock band? F it, we are all of those things and more….” This was also the hardest track to translate our usual “sweaty, all engines on go” live performance into the sterile microscopic recording studio situation.
7. Aside from the record release show on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club, anything else coming up soon?
We have a 360 video of our full set from an AC Lounge performance a few months ago coming out via local production company Audioscope Radio. [Watch it here] This is a cool experience, with a phone or tablet you can turn the viewer to see both the band and the audience. With virtual reality goggles, its super intense, like you’re floating above the audience. Beyond the release concert, we’ll be performing in San Diego and surrounding areas well into the spring to support this album.
1. Take me through your rig: What model Vox is that? How did you settle on this particular setup? Anything you tend to play more than others?
I use a Vox AC30C2. It’s hands down the best amp I have ever played. I think every guitarist has this sort of “ah-ha” moment where they plug into an amp, strum the first chord that comes to them, and then immediately realize this is the amp they’ve been looking for…
I most definitely had that experience when plugging into this guy. Oasis is my biggest musical influence, so I immediately ran to the British amps (Marshall, Orange, and Vox). I also tried out a few Fenders, but nothing clicked quite like the Vox. I love how it can go from a sweet clean sound to gnarly distortion and everything in between. I’m not the type of guy that enjoys having lots of EQs, so when I saw that the Vox had just three basic EQs, tone cut, reverb, and a pre-amp and master volume, I was sold. I love 4 different inputs which can really cover a wide range of sounds. One trick I have been into lately is the channel-jumping feature. It adds just the right amount of punch and let’s me cut down on my pedal usage.
My pedalboard has been a work in progress for the better part of a few years now. I started with the tried-and-true Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. I still, to this day, believe it is the best pedal a guitarist can own. The distortion it adds to your tone is just the perfect amount of grit while still preserving your amp’s natural characteristics. I never turn this pedal off, so I guess you could say I use it almost more to shape my tone rather than boost sound. Adam and I really consider this pedal to be the building blocks of that Stray Monroe sound and it helped shape all of the guitar tones on The Stray Monroe Show. I then started to branch out into some modulation pedals like the MXR Uni-Vibe and Carbon Copy. I can’t speak highly enough about the Carbon Copy. I think it’s the best analog delay on the market in terms of price and tone. I like that sort of “slapback” tone when playing leads and this pedal is perfect for that. Later on, I added on a Boss CE3 and an Xotic Effects EP Booster and SP Compressor. The CE3 is straight from the ‘80s and its tone truly shows that. I love its almost “too much” chorus sound. The Uni-Vibe, CE3, and Carbon Copy are how I achieve that beach-y tone on “Broken Records”. The EP Booster is a beast of a pedal. For being a one-knob pedal, it packs a serious punch. Sometimes I will just plug in this pedal by itself and get lost in its killer tone. I use this pedal mainly as a boost for solos. The SP Compressor is my newest addition. I had previously been using a Boss CS3 but felt I needed a compressor that suited my needs a little better. The SP compressor has met all those needs and even surpassed them. It adds that perfect balance to chords and arpeggios. I almost always leave this pedal on too.
2. Looks like you’ve got quite a few different kind of guitars: Tele, Sheraton, Casino — lots of tonal possibilities. What drew you to those three guitars in particular?
I’m a hollowbody fanatic. Growing up idolizing Noel Gallagher, who is infamous for playing hollowbodies, I knew this was the style of guitar I wanted to play. I would daydream as a teenager about one day owning a Gibson ES-345, but being on a 14-year-old’s budget, I had to settle on the Epiphone Dot. I think this is where my love of hollowbodies took off. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the aesthetics is what attracted me first, but after I started to understand tone, I realized that the tone of these guitars is something truly unique. I’ve got some big hands too, so I always felt like having a bigger guitar was easier for me. I’ve since upgraded from the Dot to a ’92 Sheraton and an ’05 Casino.
The Tele was a guitar I knew very little about when I purchased it. It still is the nicest guitar I own to this day. It’s an American 2011 60th anniversary edition. It’s an absolute dream to play. This is my main guitar in Stray Monroe. One thing I admire about the Tele is that it never falls out of tune. I can play an entire show and never need to tune up. I wish I could say that about my hollowbodies! When I think of why mine and Adam’s tones work so well together, I attribute a lot of that to our choices in guitars. The bright sound of my Tele is the perfect complement to his full SG sound.
When playing live, I’d say I use the Tele about 80% of the time. I tend to just go off whatever I’m feeling that night for the hollowbodies, but lately I have been favoring the Casino.
3. I noticed you changed the pickups in your Casino (I did too actually) — what pickups are those and why did you swap them out?
So those are actually Lollar P90 Soapbox pickups. I was fortunate enough to buy the guitar with those already installed. I picked up the guitar from Guitar Pickers in Scottsdale, Arizona. I walked into the shop with no intention of purchasing a guitar, but the minute I saw the wine red finish I was sold. I plugged it in and was just floored by how good the P90s sounded. The tone reminds me of if a Tele and a 345 were blended together. It’s super punchy but can be rolled back to get some warmer, more bluesy tones. I had been on the hunt for an ‘80s or ‘90s Riviera for a very long time, but hadn’t had any luck (if you’re reading this and have an ‘80s or ‘90s Riviera — get at me!). When I walked into the shop and saw this Casino sitting on the wall, I was immediately intrigued. Everything from the tailpiece, to its weight, to the neck profile, to the setup… it was all perfect. It quickly has become my favorite guitar.
4. Love your pedalboard: I’ve always struggled to find a place to use a Uni-Vibe on songs — do you use yours much?
I find that the Uni-Vibe is almost like that expensive bottle of wine that you only bring out when you have fancy guests over… You can’t just continuously use it, especially in a rock band setting, but it definitely has its moments. I use it on “Broken Records” and whenever I’m playing some Hendrix-styled chords/leads. It’s such an awesome sound, but you can’t overuse it.
5. If you could get one piece of gear for one of your bandmates as a gift — what would you get and who would it be for?
If money was no object, I would get Adam a 1961 Gibson SG with a side-pull trem. From the day I met him, he’s been rocking an SG. It started with an Epiphone and then more recently, he upgraded to a newer Gibson model. It’s such a quintessential part of the band’s sound. He’s always going back and forth about which guitar he wants to get next, whether it be a Yamaha, a Danelectro, or a brand new SG, but I think I’d definitely steal the show by getting him the ’61. It’s such a timeless guitar and the tone is unparalleled. You could strum a G chord, let it sit there, take a walk around the block, come back, and the thing would still be ringing out. Adam is super particular about the neck profile of his guitars. It’s quite comical, but over the past year since he’s been on the hunt for that “perfect” SG, he’s probably tried out over a dozen different models and said no to each one just because of the neck. Each time I’d get my hopes up thinking thinking, “Ok, this one has GOT to be the one,” just to have them let down. If I got him the ’61, his search would most certainly be over.
6. What’s your favorite Stray Monroe song to play live and why?
My favorite Stray Monroe song to play right now has got to be “Broken Records.” It’s definitely one of our slowest songs, but the riff and chord progression always suck me back in. That riff was a very spontaneous creation after a night of frustrated jamming, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. One of the most satisfying moments in the song for me is kicking on my CE3, Uni-Vibe, and Carbon Copy, and just hearing that warm yet warbly tone. I’ve been changing up the outro solo recently to keep it fresh which is always a plus. Outside of guitar, I always enjoy singing that song because the lyrics mean a lot to me. I tend to get pretty into the story when playing that one. We actually released a music video for that song back in December which you can check out here!
Be sure to check out the band at Soda Bar on October 23rd with Frederick the Younger and Sights & Sages. Tickets are available here.
1.Take me through your pedalboard: What are you using and what are your favorite pedals?
We got the Vox Wah Wah, the MXR Bad Ass Distortion, the Death By Audio Apocalypse, Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter, Empress Tremolo, Earthquaker Devices Transmissor, and last but not least, the TC Electronic Flashback Delay. I’m definitely a delay junky so that Flashback gets me a lot of mileage, especially because I can navigate my way through three different settings so quickly with that pedal. However, that being said, more than any specific pedal, I’m more into what certain combinations can get me sonically. It’s taken me a while but I’ve found a balance in the possibilities on this board and most of the time, I have more than one running.
2. That’s a beauty of a Gretsch: What made you want to play that particular guitar?
First and foremost, I’ve always been a huge Neil Young fan. Always loved loved the brittle rust tone he gets out of the White Falcon. I’ve owned other Gretsch guitars but this one I got out of necessity because my trusty Epiphone Les Paul was on the fritz and I couldn’t get it fixed before some upcoming shows. She’s certainly a beauty with some real bedroom eyes! The feel on the neck and her body are great but her personality is kind of hard to deal with (certainly a reoccurring story in my life). She has that Gretsch twang but bites more than any I’ve ever played. For Bad Vibes, I find myself dialing back the high end on the amp to keep the midrange of my tone while trying not to lose the personality of the guitar. It basically makes me dig in on the action if I want that bite — which isn’t too hard since I lack any finesse as a player.
3. That pedalboard is seriously impressive: Talk to me about that Death By Audio pedal — what does it do and what do you use it for?
Fuck man, that pedal is fucking nuts — it’s a touchy touchy pedal that has to be readjusted every time it comes out the case. Basically it has five fuzz circuits that you can select from and then a tone knob that shifts the frequency. Live, I mainly use what they call the Gainiac setting at two o’clock for riffs on “Cathedrals” and on call-and-response solos that take place on a new song called “The Tower.”
4. What’s a Bad Vibes song that you think really showcases your gear?
Most definitely “Vultures”: I think I use every single pedal on that song, which seems fitting since it’s our rock opera/war dance.
5. Talk to me about the new album: What makes it special to you?
This is the band’s first record and we are putting it out on Daniel Cervantes’ (Mrs. Henry, Creature and the Woods) label, Blind Owl. Its special for many reasons but as an individual, I’ve never been able to focus long enough to put a record together, so there’s a sense of accomplishment and fear in that. For the band, we’ve been through a whole lot of struggles, smiles and cries, freedoms and arrests — you know, life — during the making of this album, which is why it gets the title No One’s Safe. This music is the result of that wild ride and it was recorded at Le Chateau de Bad Vibes, a house long
known for hosting parties till 9 a.m. involving fireworks, impromptu jams and what the Latin community would call “convivios.” The songs are embalmed in that energy and remind me of wonderful and horrible times in my life. The songs have changed a lot and continue to do so, but I think we will relish this moment, take a breath and continue on in a new direction.
6. With No One’s Safe dropping on Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Casbah — what’s next for you guys?
We’ve already started work on a new EP being recorded and engineered straight to tape by Jordan Andreen over at Audio Design. We will be playing hometown shows but really trying to get out of town by doing small one-off weekend tours followed by an extensive one in late fall/early winter. We also have plans to begin recording the second album in collaboration with Mr. Andreen and Mr. Cervantes as co-producers. We are also most immediately thankful to you and everyone that has helped us along the way — come take intoxicants with us and dance naked or clothed… please… now… don’t make me ask again.
Ed. note: Ahead of Old Man Wizard’s two-week West Coast tour to promote their upcoming new 7″ single “Innocent Hands” (out digitally on Aug. 25 / check out the b-side “The Blind Prince” below), the band’s guitarist/vocalist, Francis Roberts, was awesome enough to share some of his fairly unique studio (and live) equipment with Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Enjoy. ~ Dustin
1. The Wizcaster! My friend Connor (@highspiritguitars on Instagram) built this for me as a gift when he was launching his custom guitar brand. I think it was the first guitar he made for somebody other than himself. I think the design is based on an Epiphone Wilshire, but the neck feels more like a Fender. Really simple electronics, two P-90s. Really tough to beat.
2. My High Spirit Strat! I helped Connor build a few of his Strat-style guitars, and took one home with me. This is basically exactly like a Strat, but the neck is nearly the width of a classical guitar. Featuring my wallpaper.
3. The original Old Man Wizard live guitar/bass! These both ended up on the recordings [listen/download the band’s debut album here]. The bass is on both, I think that guitar is only on “Innocent Hands” (I know because took a video of myself recording with it on the LEEM amp). The guitar is a SonicF Z-7. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing that was built by a Seattle-based artist in 2009. He made a bunch of weird things (see for yourself). I tried a bunch of his guitars, and this was the one that was magical to me. It plays and sounds great, but the killswitch broke. I should get that fixed.
4. Pedals and effects! I never use my live setup to record, and I never use a pedalboard. I do my own guitar tracking, and I go on binges of testing sounds and come back later to choose which takes to keep. I don’t actually know which pedals made it on to the record; I just chose the tracks that I thought sounded best. The only effects I know for a fact ended up on the record are the Univox Super Fuzz, a homemade Rangemaster, and the Echoplex in the photo. The guitar amps were all mic’d up with an SM57, nothing fancy in that realm.
Here’s the live pedalboard. I’m experimenting with a SoloDallas storm pedal as part of my main live rig. It sounds huge but it only plays well with certain amps, so it’ll depend on the amp I bring along. I plan to bring my Ginormouse electronics delay/clean boost for leads (this was a custom build by a guy named Lewis Davis here in San Diego, and he makes really cool stuff. Worth checking out. He also built a rad phase shift that I use in my other band). I have a Catalinbread Belle Epoch “tape delay” that I pretty much always leave running these days. It seriously sounds almost as good as an Echoplex, but it’s better for live because it requires no maintenance and is nearly indestructible. And then I guess the last piece worth mentioning is the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic. It’s a killer inexpensive delay/reverb with XLR jacks for microphones, and it’s the best thing ever for vocals when you play a small venue that doesn’t have delay or reverb on the soundboard. The first time I used it at a show, I was asked if we had started using backing tracks. Sounds awesome, highly recommended.
5. Frederick II: This is actually a Gibson Flying V from the early 2000s. I painted over the pickguard and Gibson logo years ago, and added a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The pickups are stock, but I’m planning to rout out some space to replace one of them with a P90 soon. That’s the Old Man Wizard sigil thing burned into the body. I used a soldering iron to do that.
Update: And here’s the V with a P90 in it, getting set up and ready for tour. I’ll probably still take the Wizcaster or the Z7 with me just in case it doesn’t feel right after a few nights.
6. What do you got against Fender and Gibson?
I don’t like sporting logos of brands who aren’t giving me anything! [laughs]
7. The recording amps! I used the LEEM one on “Innocent Hands” as an overlay. It sounds really bad, so if you turn it up all the way, it sounds even worse, which was exactly what I wanted for the black-metal inspired parts in the song. The other amp is my Valco. I used that on every other guitar track on both of these recordings. All the knobs were actually turned up to 10 the whole time.
8. That’s the back of my little Valco amp with the snakes painted on top.
9. The keyboards! We don’t have a keyboard player for shows (and we don’t run backing tracks), but I’m a huge fan of layering keyboards on parts of songs to get a little bit of extra energy in a studio recording. From the top left, that’s a ‘70s ARP Quartet, a modern reissue ARP Odyssey (the small version), and they’re sitting on top of a chopped Hammond M-3, which is sitting on top of a two-speed Leslie cabinet.
If you’re in one of the cities listed below (or know someone in these cities), be sure to catch Old Man Wizard when they come through. “Innocent Hands” will be out digitally on Aug. 25th — before then, pick up the limited 7″ from them at these shows.
Aug. 11: Tijuana, BC – Mi Pueblito
Aug. 13: San Francisco, CA – Hemlock
Aug. 15: San Jose, CA – The Caravan
Aug. 18: Seattle, WA – The Victory Lounge
Aug. 19: Anacortes, WA – Kenelly Keys
Aug. 20: Tacoma, WA – The Valley
Aug. 22: Los Angeles, CA – The Lexington
Aug. 23: San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
1. Take me through your rig: That Danelectro is so rad — is that new or old? Does it go out of tune a lot? I had one once and could never get the dang thing to stay in tune! How have you settled on the gear you’re currently using?
John [Vineyard, husband and bandmate in The Oxen] got me the Danelectro for Christmas. I have an Epiphone Les Paul, but I have back problems and it is so heavy. The G string on the Danelectro does go out of tune more than I would like, but I am going to have it looked at. I think a new nut might fix the issue.
2. I dig the pedalboard: Take me to school on that Visual Sounds Jekyll and Hyde. I’ve never played one but you’re like the third musician I’ve seen recently that is playing one. What do you like about it?
I like that I can get 3 different overdrive/distortion sounds out of the Jekyll and Hyde depending on whether you have one or both switches pressed, and it’s really solid. John used that pedal and the Big Muff for years, but he gave them to me so he would have an excuse to buy new pedals for himself.
3. I know absolutely nothing about that Ampeg amp! What is it? Where’d you get it? How old is it? What does it sound like?
I didn’t really know much about it either when I got it at Mark’s Guitar Exchange in Point Loma about 12 years ago. It’s a 1968 Ampeg Gemini II. It was $500, which was as much as I could afford, and it turned out to be a great deal. It’s loud and has a great built-in reverb and tremolo.
4. Talk to me about that microphone! What on God’s green earth is that? Do you use it in the studio or live, or what?
That is a Placid Audio Copperphone. When John lived in Dallas, his friend Mark Pirro (bass player for Tripping Daisy and The Polyphonic Spree) was starting the company and sleeping on John’s couch while looking for a new place to live. He gave John that microphone as a “thank you” for his hospitality, and it’s one of the first Copperphones ever made. Mark has gone on to grow his company and has created a whole line of unique, hand-built microphones that have been used by everybody from Snoop Dogg to Rush. The Copperphone sounds like a telephone (or some say an AM radio), and we have used it live some. We use it all the time when recording – especially on vocals and guitars.
5. If money was no object — what’s the one piece of equipment you’d get next and why?
If money AND space were no object, I would love to have a grand piano. We live in a small apartment, so maybe I would just get an Orange amp instead.
6. What’s next for The Oxen?
We are doing a lot of DIY recording in our rehearsal space right now, and it’s turning out pretty good. We would love to finish up a full-length and release it early next year, but in the meantime, we are working on a split 7” with our friends, The Gift Machine. We are sending it out to get mastered and pressed in the next week, so hopefully it will be available in a few months. We took a break from shows because we had to find a new bass player, but we found a great one named Kevin Shumway! We just booked a couple of shows: Aug. 5 at The Stag and Lion in Carlsbad, Aug. 16 at the Belly Up with Creature Canyon, and at Soda Bar on Aug. 20 opening for Warbly Jets and the Schizophonics.