NICK DISALVO / ELDER

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Elder: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp

[I was lucky enough to chat with Elder’s Nick DiSalvo for a SoundDiego interview recently (you can read that here) but while I was at it, he was kind enough to answer a few gear-related questions for a G&L feature. Be sure to check out Elder’s albums at the links above if you haven’t already. ~ Dustin]

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1. Take me through your live rig? What are you playing these days at shows? Is there anything you leave at home that you wish you could bring on the road with you?

Depending on where are are touring I use different gear but the sound is about the same. In the US I’ve been using my trusty Sound City 120, modded to sound like a hot-rodded Hiwatt DR103 with a master volume. I’ve been using that amplifier for years and years and still love it. In Europe I have an actual Hiwatt DR504 that I’m using on tours. I’ve got a really amazing sounding early 70’s Marshall JMP, I forget the build year but it must be right after the Plexi era because I’ve never heard another amp sound like it. Unfortunately it’s been the problem child and I haven’t had it properly fixed yet, so I haven’t had the chance to bring it out live.

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2. I’m obsessed with the fuzz/distorted tone you get on especially Lore and Reflections of a Floating World — it’s super thick but defined. Are you using any pedals or is that mainly from amp & guitar?

The heavy guitars in that album were all done with the JMP mentioned above! The base crunch sound is just the amp and the more saturated fuzz sounds came from stacking pedals on top of it. I use a Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh for my rhythm fuzz sound and am always switching out other pedals for lead sounds.

3. Did you have any go-to gear in the studio, or did you mainly use your live equipment?

We use all our own live equipment and want the records to sound like the live shows!

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(Photo from DasViken Guitars’ Facebook page)

4. If you were to have a custom fuzz pedal created for you (like a signature model) — what would you call it and would it have any specific features?

Actually, I am so lucky that I have a custom fuzz made just for me by DasViken Guitars from France. It’s a switchable germanium/LED diode pedal that sounds absolutely gnarly. I have too many fuzz pedals by now though — I don’t even know what the hell I’d look for if I needed another one…

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5. If money was no object and you could buy any piece of guitar gear on the planet, what would you get?

I would love to own an original Marshall Plexi!

6. What’s the worst piece of equipment you’ve owned, or conversely, what’s the best — and why?

Anything I played with when I was a kid just getting into music. I had a Digitech multi-effects pedal I bought when I was 14 that I thought was the best thing ever but really sounded terrible — I used it for all of my 4-track home recordings. The best piece of equipment I’ve ever owned is probably my Sound City head: when you tour a lot, the most important thing in equipment is reliability, and that thing has never faltered or failed me ever, besides having some of the most unique tone I’ve ever heard in a guitar amp.

Elder plays Brick By Brick on Monday, August 20th with Red Fang and DVNE.

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ERIC JAMES / ENDCASTLE

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EndCastle: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / Spotify

1. Take me through that luscious rig of yours.

Guitar: 2014 Gibson Firebird

Pedals: Dunlop 535q Multi-Wah > EarthQuaker Devices BitCommander > ToneBone Hot British > ZVEX Box of Rock > Boss RV5 Reverb > Boss DD7 > TC Electronic Flashback > TSVG Emperor > Mad Professor Ruby Red Booster > TC Electronic Spark Boost > TC Electronic Poly Tune

Amp: Music Man RD100

Cabinet: Hand built by my buddy, Frank Andrews. It has 2 12″ Warehouse speakers.

I have a lot of distortion options on my set up and they all sound different. I usually use two of them at the same time. I can go from Skynyrd-style distortion to Dimebag Darrell distortion really quick. I recently picked up the BitCommander, which makes some incredible sounds. It sounds like a synth at times. I haven’t found a use in any of our songs for it but I cant wait to use it in one. For now I just use it for sound effects. I love my TC Electronic Poly Tuner. A lot of people don’t like the idea of it or are scared of it or say it doesn’t work but I have had lots of success. My old boss TU2 I couldn’t see during daytime shows at all, I think they fixed that on the TU3 though. My Poly Tuner pedal is so bright and clear its unbeatable, and once you get used to it, you just strum all the strings at once and it tells you if one is sharp or flat, it makes quick work of tuning in between songs or even during.

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2. Diggin’ the assortment of pedals on the board: I noticed you have two delays on your board — what is each for and why did you choose those two to use?

I use the Boss DD7 for just basic delay use. It has a built-in tap tempo that I’ll use. It is a powerhouse delay that I under-utilize however, only because it is a pain to get down on the floor and mess with the dials during a show. I like to just set it and forget it.

The Flashback delay is also a powerhouse – I wish I had bought the big boy one – the Flashback X4, which has presets and whatever else you need. I use the Flashback for modulated delays. It has a mode for Reverse which does exactly what it says, believe it or not. I go back and forth between the Reverse and the Lo-fi mode. The Lo-fi also does what the name says, it roughens up the sound of the delays and sounds like an old low-fi Beck cassette.

More often than not, I have both the DD7 and the Flashback going at the same time. It works great when clean or distorted. Most of the times I’ll use it clean with the DD7 on and the Flashback delay set on reverse and the notes ring out with a ghostly delay that creeps up back on the note again.

3. Same question with the boosters: Why use both a Ruby Red and a Spark?

The Spark has been on my set up for a few years now and will never leave. It’s a great little boost that I can use for solos to bring my level up a bit. A nice feature with the Spark is that you can either click it on and click it off like a normal pedal, or if you hold your foot down on the switch – it activates – and when you take your foot off, it will turn off right away, so it helps prevent my treestump feet from tripping up on stage, which still happens often.

The Ruby Red is kind of on loan to me from Jesse [Kling, guitarist in Dead Feather Moon]. I use it as a treble boost. I don’t run any EQ pedals and so my Firebird can at times sound more like a Crow when I don’t have any pedals going — so this adds a nice treble boost. It’s a night-and-day difference really and since I received it, I have had it turned on pretty much non stop. I used it in the studio on two tracks recently, and it is the only pedal in use I think for one of the songs.

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4. I remember talking with you about your guitars one time and you mentioned the Firebird was like the worst guitar ever built. But you’ve got it in your rig — why is that?

I have a weird relationship with the Firebird — anyone who has played in a band with me knows it. They are great guitars, but mine was a lemon, and Gibson was no help. Around the time I purchased my guitar, I noticed that a few of my guitar heroes were quietly switching from Gibson. Zakk Wylde, for example, who is known for his massive Gibson collection and signature Gibson guitars, all of a sudden cut ties with them and launched his own brand. Now as we all know, Gibson is dealing with bankruptcy issues. I feel like it is because their quality has gone way down.

I wanted a Firebird ever since seeing the Def Leppard “Hysteria” album tour videos as a kid; 15 years later I finally got one. I should have backed away from the deal when the ‘Big Guitar Store’ employee couldn’t figure out how to tune it, nearly twisting the wrong end of the tuner off, and wouldn’t take my advice of turning the tuning knobs on the back of the head stock. Shortly down the road, it would have tuning, electrical, and cosmetic issues. As soon as I’d fix a problem, another would pop up. I want to point out that the Steinberger Tuners they used for only about one year on the Firebird are both incredible and also the worst thing to go on a Gibson. If one breaks, which they do, you cant just buy one you have to buy the whole pack of 6. Steinberger went out of business and Gibson would not tell me what I was supposed to do with my broken tuner. I had to look on eBay dozens of times per day because apparently it was in high demand, but there weren’t many out there. If it did pop up it would be a pack of 6 for almost $500. I got super lucky one day, months later, and only had to pay $50.

I remember one night throwing my guitar against a tree at an outdoor party that my cover band played, it has honestly played better since that night. I’ll occasionally go back and forth between it and my Telecaster and my SG, but the Firebird fits on me much better and Ill never get rid of it.

5. Love the cabinet you’re playing through: Looks like one of those old Marshall 4×12” tall boys. Surely it must be a pain to haul that around — why not play a smaller combo and mic it live?

It looks massive, but really isn’t too bad. My buddy Frank, who I used to play with (he now plays in SD’s best Black Crowes tribute band The Black Crowes Revival) built it for me. It has two 12″ Warehouse speakers. Really nothing special inside there but it makes a good sound. The top speaker is angled up to my head so I can hear it at shows where we don’t have monitors. I have often thought about a smaller combo and I used to have smaller combos but I like that it is tall so it’s easy for me to turn knobs during the show or more importantly set my beer on top of it so I don’t have to bend down and pick it up.

I really do think there is a sound benefit – although during shows the mic might not pick that up. In practice, it sounds great. Jason from The Bad Vibes has a small Music Man combo that sounds huge however. Also having smaller amps on stage with me makes me feel like I’m in Spinal Tap during the Stonehenge scene — I’m always stepping on whatever is rolling around on stage, so that also explains the big tall cabinet.

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6. I also had a Music Man head for a while and loved it. Where’d you find yours? What do you like about it? Have you had any problems with it, being vintage and all?

I found mine at Moze Guitars in La Mesa. I played Kyle Areford’s [from The Paragraphs, Dead Feather Moon] Music Man and knew I had to copy him and get my own. It took a long time to find but it popped up on the Moze Instagram and I drove down the next day and bought it. I like it so much because I am able to get a tight solid distortion out of it if I want, or I can switch to clean channel and have a warm clean sound with as much built-in reverb as I want. It sounds like a mix of Fender and Marshall to my ears. I think my amp was built in the early ‘80s. The only problem I have had is with the foot switch, but it’s aftermarket so it’s not the amps fault. It’s built like a tank. Kyle and I have had to take his apart to fix it and it took both of us to lift the guts up and put them back in the head.

7. Fun question: If a pedal manufacturer approached you and wanted to build a signature Eric James pedal — what brand would you want it to be, what features would it have, what would you name it, and why?

You’re right, that is a fun question. I don’t know if this would even sound good, but maybe EarthQuaker Devices will read this and be inspired: I want to be able to have a delay/tremolo thing where you can use an expression to slow the speed of it down or speed it up. I have the MiniMoog MF Tremolo that has the expression pedal so you can pretty much do what I described, and I’ve tried it with delays, but I just can’t come close to the sound I’m trying to make. So that would be cool, but realistically if the day ever came to make my own signature ERJ pedal, it would just be a big box with a bunch of lights on it, no effects or anything — just the little led lights all over it that turn on and off because I love lights.

8. What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve ever owned and why? Conversely, what’s the best?

The only thing that comes to mind is the Boss Metal Zone. I guess it has its use somewhere, and everyone likes their sounds but on my set up it sounded like garbage. I ended up selling it to a guy who collected them and had many Metal Zones for some reason.

I think my Music Man RD100 head is the best amp I’ve owned. Its built like a tank. It gets super loud but I am usually able to get a good sound at lower volume.

Not the best — but my favorite piece of gear is my Boss RV5 Digital Reverb. I bought it from Steve Stevens of Billy Idol. It makes some great hall reverb that doesn’t sound like anything an amp reverb could do. I use it often now in our songs.

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9. Wait…you bought a pedal from Steve Stevens? WTF?

[haha] The story isn’t as fun [as you’d think]. Steve Stevens is one of my most influential musicians. Occasionally he sells his personal gear on his website (his Premier Guitar Rig Rundown video is incredible by the way). I was lucky enough to catch one of his sales and that’s how I got it. He autographed it to me and included a Steve Stevens playing card and some of his signature picks with his ray gun logo. I also hit him up one day asking a question about how he recorded one of his guitar tracks and he wrote right back — he’s a great guy!

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10. That’s straight up awesome. Speaking of awesome — you’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re always scoping out what everyone’s using: Who do you think has the most awesome gear?

I can’t remember the last time that I went to a show and didn’t come home wanting to buy new gear because of whoever played that night. There’s no shortage of great guitar setups and guitar players in San Diego or traveling through on tour.

Jesse, from Dead Feather Moon, has my favorite sound. Between his gear and his playing style, he definitely has a unique sound that really comes to life when he plays live. He’s a wizard when it comes to his gear. Also Daniel “Cuervo” Cervantes from Mrs. Henry and 10 other bands. I remember one night being blown away at one of their Belly Up shows at how great his sound was, and he explained it was just his cheap Acoustic amp. [Read Cervantes’ own Gear and Loathing feature here to find out more about his rig]

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(Photo by Moses Namkung)

11. If money was no object, and you could buy any piece of equipment on the planet for one of your bandmates — what would you buy, who would you get it for, and why?

Dennis, our frontman/singer/guitar player extraordinaire, is one of the craziest, most expressive guitar players and songwriters I’ve ever met. I would get the guy who made Matt Bellamy’s crazy guitars [Hugh Manson, from Manson Guitar Works] with the built-in midi pad and what not, and have him make Dennis something even better. Also I’d have to get him a Theremin because he knows how to use those things.

12. What does EndCastle have coming up?

We’re stoked to be playing with Bosswitch and M. Crane at The Merrow on Thursday, July 26th. After that, we are playing on August 18th at Manhattan Bar and August 19th at Aztec Brewery. We are slowly recording songs at Emerald Age Recording, so we will have a few more songs up on our Spotify page soon. We’re working on new artwork and merch; I’d really like to make some EndCastle pogs.

TONY GIDLUND / SHADES MCCOOL

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Shades McCool: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

1. Tell me about your rig these days. What are you using?

I’ve made the Jazzmaster my primary guitar and demoted the SG to backup status. Now that I’m old, I want that note definition more than gnarly distortion and the tremolo system let’s me do a lot more tricks. Also, I’ve heard it said that P-90 pickups are the best for recording.

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Amp-wise, I’m using the Orange “Dual Terror” (Tiny Terror on one channel and a Dark Terror on the other) into an Avatar 2×12 and/or a Sovtek 4×12. It’s 30 watts but can go as low as 7.5, which I love. I can’t even imagine a scenario where I’d need 100 watts. There’s this constant battle between guitar players who think their tone doesn’t even get good until 3 and sound people who want them to turn down to half that. With a 30-watt amp, I’ve removed myself from that conversation. No amps were used on any of our recordings though. All plug-ins.

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Effect-wise, I’ve got myself a tuner, EHX Mel9 Mellotron emulator, EHX Microsynth, EHX Ring Thing, Ibanez TS9DX, and a Boss DD-7 all velcro’d to an old red shelf. I went kinda nuts with pedal purchasing this year. The Ring Thing is probably the coolest because it does alien-sounding ring modulation stuff, octave/pitch effects, and more normal effects like vibrato and chorus. Crucially, it allows you to save nine settings.

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2. Tell me about the band: It started as a solo “hardcore karaoke act” and now it’s a full group, yea? Are all the Shades McCool songs, like, joke songs?

That is correct. As the legend goes, Ben Johnson aka Grammatical B was looking for an opening act. I had been going to Pants Karaoke a lot and signing up as this “character” that was not much except sunglasses and a standoffish attitude. I saw Ben’s Facebook post and was feeling very “say yes to everything” so I did and he was kind enough to indulge me. I put together a set of covers and a couple bits and just went for it. It was surprisingly well-received so I did that around town at non-traditional venues for about a year before assembling my backing band, The Bold Flavors. The best show of that era was playing on a friend’s lawn during the Rock & Roll Half Marathon.

Shades McCool & the Bold Flavors is basically a spoof of a rock band in the way that Stephen Colbert was of Bill O’Reilly. Each song is a vessel for a comedic premise, e.g. “Pretty Good Guy,” a list of non-sequiturs in a dating profile; “Custom Croutons,” a recipe that descends into madness; or “Inauguration Song,” a song written for Donald Trump to sing with The Beach Boys at his inauguration. So yeah, they’re all joke songs.

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3. With “The San Diegan National Anthem” for example — how are you not getting sued by Toyota of Escondido, Pacific Nissan, etc?

I’ve actually been asked this a bit and I have a few thoughts. I am not getting sued because:

A) It’s a medley of several things that were FORCED into the public consciousness over the years. We’ve basically repurposed public works into a drastically different piece of art.

B) It has no negative impact on the brands. It gets people talking about those jingles/dealerships and in fact, it may hurt a brand to not be mentioned in the song. Cal Worthington keeps leaving me passive-aggressive voicemails.

C) When you read the actual lyrics, they’re not the same as in the jingles (“Bah Bay Curse Otto Group. Pear, he’s got it. Mas y niece on”) and parody is extremely well-protected. Furthermore, no reasonable person would mistake this for a real commercial. It’s too rad.

D) They love it.

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4. What’s the next piece(s) of gear you’d would like to add to your rig?

I’m always looking for a good synth pedal to get some big weird sounds. The Microsynth sounds amazing but it’s a little unreliable as far as triggering and what kind of sounds you’re going to get out of it. I’m eyeing the Earthquaker Bit Commander. I’ve also wanting to mess around with some kind of compressor pedal.

(When not in character as Shades McCool, I play bass in Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place and Goblin Cock. I just bought and returned an Ampeg SCR-DI preamp pedal, then bought the preamp-only version of it. I’m planning to get a Tronographic Rusty Box before the next time we play).

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5. What’s coming up for the band?

We’re usually pretty slow writing songs because good premises are hard to come up with. We need a few more before we can record our full-length. We do have a new top secret song experience that I am very excited about. There are also a couple cool plans for “The San Diegan National Anthem.” The ultimate goal is to have it replace the regular National Anthem at local sporting events.

Shades McCool play the Music Box on July 20th with Pinback and Bit Maps.

JAMES ALBERS / BABYDOLL WARRIORS

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Babydoll Warriors: Facebook / Instagram

Whoa: Walk me through that rig, buddy.

My main guitar for Babydoll Warriors is Goldie. It came together once Emily Connell (saxophonist) asked me to be in her soon-to-be band. I started following her on Instagram right after her plush album covers were put up for an art show at Fall Brewing, so I went to meet her and her husband (and now-Babydoll Warrior drummer) after a year of being up. A few days later, after adding me on Facebook, she messaged me about joining her band she was putting together with members of The Goldettes and Chinese Rocks. I had been out of the gigging band-scene for a while so I said “sure.” Multiple nerdy conversations later about cool bands, cult classic movies, and craft-making, and I knew I wanted to do something different than I had with prior bands. Emily’s favorite color is gold (gold is a color, right?) so that got me thinking — I should go over the top and have a full rig of gold — gold tolexed amp, only gold pedals (this posed to be a difficulty to find later) and, of course, a gold guitar — but not any gold off-the-shelf-guitar – it had to be obnoxiously gold. I have been building guitar bodies for myself and selling them to the DIY community for the past 10 years so building a Strat was as simple as getting 3 feet of 8/4 alder at the lumber yard, cutting and sanding, and finishing in some gold lacquer with gold flake.

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Goldie is based off my #1 Strat, which oddly serves as a backup to Goldie. The sunburst Strat was made for me by Fred Marotta at the Repair Zone back in 1997-ish. I had expressed interest in learning the craft of guitar repair and he agreed to let me “intern” and show me how to do setups and basic repair stuff. In the end, he rewarded all my hard work with a custom Strat that was my ode to SRV and a nod to Hendrix with the bigger headstock. Both #1 and Goldie are built exactly the same — 21-fret maple/rosewood Allparts neck with the ‘70s headstock, bullet trussrod, and 7.25″ fingerboard radius. I found recently after using #1 for a while with Brodeeva and Secret Seven that I like fatter necks and rounder fingerboards. They’re both equipped with gold hardware, Seymour Duncan Classic Stack pickups (b/m/n), classic trems with full-sized blocks, no backplate (I did this first, John Mayer!), some foam from the Duncan pickup box under the springs, and Sperzel Locking tuners. I made Goldie’s body, but my #1 was an offcenter 2-piece alder body from Allparts. Goldie got extra lacquer love with the back of the neck painted, but leaving the rosewood stripe visible.

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At the moment those are the two I’m using but since Babydoll Warriors is still growing as a new band, I may need to pull out some of the other guitars I own from the vault, or build myself another custom-made guitar. Or since I’m always buying gear, it could be a new guitar. (I literally just bought two more guitars).

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My amp rig is set up as a pedal platform since I really can’t find a one-stop amp for all the sounds I need. For Babydoll Warriors’ debut show I used my 1×12” Dr. Z Maz 38 paired with a Dr. Z 2×10” extension cab. That one is also my #1 amp and if I had to sell all my amps, that would be the very last one to go. It’s a great mix between a Fender and a Vox. I got into Dr. Z after becoming infatuated with Brad Paisley’s guitar playing and gear. I was able to test a Maz 18 up in Seattle and ended up loving the amp’s preamp breakup when dimed and how clean it could run if the master and gain were flipped. A used, 38-watt version fell into my lap a few years later and it became love at first twang. It began as a blonde-colored amp, but there was bleed-thru with the tolex glue so after contacting Dr. Z, they referred me to their tolexing guy and I had it re-tolexed to look like a custom Dr. Z Mazerati amp in a Black with Red motif. It has a Eminence 12″ Texas Heat speaker. The 2x10s are stock Dr. Z speakers and I believe also Eminence. It was a beast to move as a mini-half stack, so for future shows, I may revert back to the amp I bought for the band.

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My actual amp I got for Babydoll Warriors is a Fender Blues Deluxe. I bought it as a chassis off eBay and was going to build a custom cabinet with gold tolex, but I saw a used cabinet with speaker for sale in LA about the cost of the speaker alone. Its a pine cabinet — super lightweight with wheat grill and burgundy tolex made by Mather Amp cabs. It was such a good deal for the cab plus the Jensen speaker that I opted to not go the gold tolex route and leave it as is. Even though it is larger than the Dr. Z, it is much lighter, so for future gigs, I’ll probably be using the Fender going forward. It’s currently at home with all of his amp-brothers awaiting a mod of metal input jacks, a faceplate-facelift, and a new set of JJ tubes.

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My pedals have gone thru a number of changes and at the moment I have this set up so it fits on this hoopty little board I built to specifically fit in this one bag. I realize basing your pedals on a bag to carry it in is probably the worst plan, but so far, it’s working.

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For the most part, my pedal need is tuner, low-gain overdrive into a Dumble-style overdrive, boost, tremolo, delay, reverb, and EQ. Currently, I use TC Electronic mini’s and a few Wampler pedals to make this happen. The Wampler Tumnus is a Klon clone and I always leave it on so that my cleans poke thru the mix and it gives a little gristle when you hit the strings harder. I recently changed from a Mad Professor Simble pedal to the Wampler Dual Fusion. It’s meant for those super technical sweep-picking fusion jazz guys so it’s a ridiculous pedal for our style, however it works for my needs on the songs. I had used the Wampler Euphoria for years as my main overdrive tone, and always paired it with a TS-style low gain pedal for boosting the gain on it. The Dual Fusion is essentially that in one box – a modded Euphoria and the Brad Paisley signature pedal (TS-esque, but based on the Trainwreck amp). The Paisley side I use as a solo boost and the Euphoria is my main overdrive. The effects are all TC Electronic and I use them because of size and their beam-in setting function. The Pipeline Tremolo is set for a fairly heavy square wave tremolo. The Hall of Reverb pedal uses a spring reverb patch, and the Flashback Delay uses a slapback patch. I have a number of other delays, reverbs, and tremolos, but I found these were pretty versatile because if the effect didn’t suit the song, I could beam a new setting using the app on my phone. Size also does matter on this board so the mini Flashback and HOF are a plus. The board is rounded out by a MXR 10-band EQ for fine-tuning the EQ spectrum. I found that it helped round out my Blues Junior amp and not make it sound boxy, so I kept it onboard for the Dr. Z and Fender Blues Deluxe. I might replace it with the Source Audio EQ since there are no sliders on that pedal and right now I have a piece of plastic protecting my sliders from being bumped. The second tier of the pedals sit on a hidden Voodoo Labs Pedal Power.

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I love your Strats. I’ve been craving a Strat again lately and I like that yours look so clean. Since there’s such a huge market right now “relic”-ing, what are your thoughts on it? Do you like the trend?

Dustin, I can build you one! Just let me know. 😉 As for relic-ing, I have mixed feelings about it. It definitely has the mojo look and with true artisans who can recreate it, it’s awesome. There is a science to understanding lacquer shrinking and expansion of lumber, cracking patterns, and how your body-interaction with the guitar creates the wear. So those builders that understand it, or have studied it, I think it’s cool. However now I’m rolling my eyes as it’s starting to be over the top with almost every company having a line of relic’d instruments. Relic-ing can also be lame if builders half-ass it or don’t even take into account actual wear and tear. I mean really, how long are your fingernails that you “relic” a circle around the knob? And ewww…

As a builder of guitars — what’s the one guitar build that is your dream project?

I would say a Benedetto archtop-style jazz guitar. It’s essentially the Stradivarius of guitars IMO. Each step a luthier takes to learn and refine their craft is in that direction. For years, I’ve done bolt-on Fender- style bodies and that’s relatively simple if you purchase a neck and have the woodworking tools. Building a flattop body is just like shaping a cookie with a cookie cutter – as long as measurements are “square” (perpendicular or parallel), then it’s fairly simple. You then move onto building necks, and then archtop electrics, like a Les Paul or PRS style. Eventually you learn kerfing and bracing and can build acoustics. The last step is learning to carve a 1″ piece of wood to be uniformly thin top with structural integrity…AND you don’t do it with $20 piece of maple from Home Depot, you do it with some expensive wood — the kind that hurts your soul if you mess up and that you apologize to the tree it came from — so skill is the utmost importance at that point. But I think that’s decades away for me, so when I can build out a Gibson Les Paul Custom without hesitation, I’ll feel like I’m at my high point.

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What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve ever owned? Conversely, what’s the best?

I usually do my research on stuff before I commit to buying it, so I don’t think of it as “worst,” but I did buy an Epiphone Dot flametop semi-hollowbody back in the early 2000s. It lasted a week with me and I returned it because the neck didn’t feel good to me. Best would be my 2003 Ruby Red PRS McCarty Rosewood that I got while in Divided By Zero. I’ve used it on every recording I’ve played guitar on since 2004 –whether it was a hard rock band, indie rock, or singer-songwriter. The low gain pickups can still push an amp or pedal to metal territory, or retain a sweetness through a low overdrive for bluesy singing. It’s my Swiss army knife. Actually its the same color as a Swiss army knife, haha. It’s still relevant to me tonally in the music I enjoy now, as was the music that I was into when I bought it 15 years ago.

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I know from stalking your Insta that you just picked a Silvertone “Chris Isaak” semi-hollowbody — tell me about that guitar.

Ha…yeah itchy eBay trigger finger. It’s a 1963 and its mostly all-original — I’m going to get a Bigsby and and a set of period-correct tuners for it. So the long story is I love hollowbodies and had a few that I loved but had to sell (Epiphone Casino, Sheraton, Dot, Gibson ES-137) and now only have the Gretsch White Falcon (yeah, yeah…woe is me with a White Falcon :P). I like the deep-body versions equally as much as the thinner-depth versions, and love hearing it through a clean amp with reverb. I was on the hunt for either an ES-330L (similar to the Casino which were full hollow, but the neck joins the body farther out) or the well-known semi-hollow ES-335, but newer models were outside of my price range, and vintage ones I could only dream of owning. I thought it was not a dream in grasp so I gave up on the search. Stephen El Rey opened our first show and his guitarist, Mike Butler, had this model. I immediately recognized it as the Silvertone Chris Isaak model — one that I had looked at years ago when I was in the market for Silvertone 1484 and 1432 amps — and mentally put it on my “to get” list. I went home that night and checked eBay and found this one, bid, and won it. I thought it would be a tough one to play, but it was set up awesomely and plays so easy.

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I love the logistical ease-of-use of your pedalboard — but if you could put together a board of your favorite 5-6 pedals EVER on a board of any size, what would you put on there?

Funny you should say size. I have four boards — the mini, the big one with the pedal switcher, the home version, and Babydoll Warrior’s board which borrowed a few pedals off the others. They are pretty simple and relatively the same set up. All have a low gain OD, higher gain OD, tremolo, delay, reverb. The two different overdrives give you a third tonal option when you stack them together. I like Dumble-style overdrives because I like sitting in the mix without fighting drum and bass frequencies. It’s mid-heavy but still has low and high frequencies, so whether you are in a band jamming or at home by yourself, it feels like the overdrive fills out the tonal spectrum. I found that most Dumble ODs on the market are exceptional, but the Wampler versions (Euphoria/Dual Fusion) do it for me. I am a fan of the Strymon Flint (tremolo and reverb), so if that counts as one pedal, I’m going to add a Dunlop Wah to the mix, haha. But if I had to roll into a guitar store to build or replace a pedalboard, I’d pick up either the Wampler Euphoria (or Suhr Riot if I needed metal tones), pair it with a Mad Professor Sweet Honey or Tubescreamer type, into a digital delay with tap tempo that does dotted eighths (like my Diamond Memory Lane Jr, or Wampler Doctor), Strymon Flint, and top it off with a TC Electronics tuner. I hate being out of tune so that’s probably the most important pedal.

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If Wampler approached you and wanted to build a signature James Albers pedal — what would it be, what features would it have, and what would you name it?

Ha! The guys at Wampler are awesome. Side story: those guys are from Indiana, so I used to bring them beers from San Diego breweries to the NAMM show every time I went to give them some SoCal beer love. I had listened to their older podcast religiously and grew to love all of the products they put out. On one of the podcast shows, Max Jeffrey was joked at because he was a fan of the fancy hipster beers, so I thought I would do something special for that one guy in Indiana that likes craft beer. The next NAMM, I brought him the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout and a Modern Times IPA. In the “NAMM episode” podcast he makes reference to it, so after years of going and bringing them limited release San Diego beer, I am now officially James “Beer Guy” Albers to them. So on that note, it would probably be a double overdrive pedal — a Tunmus (Klon style) into a modified Euphoria (Dumble OD) where the Tumnus side has the option of on/off or switches from a low gain (i.e. always on) to higher gain mode. No clue what I’d call it, but I guess appropriately it should have some reference to beer on it.

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Little-known fact: We actually first met each other years ago through Craigslist while trading each other pedals — what’s the one or two things gear-wise you regret getting rid of the most?

Yes! And other little known fact, we used to run into each other at the Normal Height’s Vons and have long conversations about gear in the meat and produce sections for extended periods of time. Haha. I am a bit ADD with my gear, so gear comes in and then goes out, and usually I’m fine with selling gear because it usually means getting something newer and cooler. But there are two that I know of that I can say “I wish I hadn’t sold it”. A few years back, I had to take time off work for a few months for disability. I ended up having to sell a number of my amps and a few guitars just to pay bills until the state caught up with back-filling paychecks. Most of them I made peace with in selling but one of the guitars I had to sell was a limited edition John Mayer Fender Stratocaster in Shoreline gold with a maroon racing stripe. Kicking myself for selling it because I can’t seem to find another now and all of his Fenders are going up in price due to him leaving for PRS. But in standard fashion, if I can’t find it (or afford it), I’ll build it. I decided to build myself a custom one out of swamp ash and purple heart, and hot rod it the way I always hot rod my guitars. The other was my second guitar I ever owned, a late-‘80s/early-‘90s black and gold Japanese Epiphone Les Paul Custom my mom bought me for my birthday for $200 used. The Japanese models featured a cooler Gibson-esque “open-book” headstock, and the craftsmanship probably rivaled Gibson’s in that era. It was my main guitar in high school. My logic (way back in 1994) was that if I sold it to my brother so I could buy this hard-to-find Ibanez Sabre S5407 seven string, then I could buy the LP back at some point. He ended up loaning it to friends in a band, who I believe sold it for weed. Sigh…

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To put you on the spot: I know you’re a fan of John Mayer and people talk about him like he’s the best thing since sliced bread in the guitar world. Who do you think is the best guitarist (or your favorite) alive in the game right now? (and you better not say Mayer or God help me)….

Haha, yeeeah, I’m a fan, but don’t judge me. I like John Mayer’s gear (Dumbles and vintage Strats, even that Powell Peralta Charvel!), his guitar licks, and his guitar experience, not the pomp and circumstance that follows him. But I digress… if I’m not putting in a John Mayer vote or any obvious “idol-worthy” guitarist, I would go with Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles. I grew up listening to U2’s “Joshua Tree” album and it was an eye-opening experience to hear texture applied to music from the guitar instead of just riffs and flashy scales. It eventually became something ingrained in my style and something I craved when listening to new music.

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(Photo credit: Rueven Tan)

Fast forward to recent years of trying to appreciate hard rock and metal again, a few bands I liked (for example I love Red Fang) but all the guitarists out there didn’t wow me on how fast they could play or what scales they knew, or how low they tuned their guitars. Enter Russian Circles — a three-piece instrumental hard rock band that just kicks ass. Mike Sullivan creates textures using loop pedals and live playing over the top, does two-hand tapping, chugs out massive stoner rock riffs, and does all of that within a single piece of music that still has melodic lines. I met him at NAMM last year at the Nik Huber booth and he was super nice and chatted with me and my buddy for a good 30 minutes. Check out “Carpe” and “Death Rides a Pale Horse” from their first album “Enter”.

Dustin and Jennifer Lothspeich Wedding Ceremony and Reception - October 9, 2016

(Photo credit: Alex Matthews)

You’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re like me and scope out what everyone’s using — who do you admire the most, gear-wise?

Well, I haven’t caught everyone yet, so I could easily change this answer…but one person I’ve recently nerded out with is Ian Owen of Oh Spirit and who plays in a number of the Redwoods Collective bands like Midnight Pine and Dani Bell & The Tarantist — all bands who I enjoy seeing play. Ian is another Dr. Z Maz amp user so we bonded on that originally, but he’s also got an awesomely cool pedalboard of boutique pedals that make you go “oooh, what’s that pedal?”. Our last conversation was about his recent acquisition — a Satellite Amp which he is gleaming over. Satellite amps are from San Diego and on my list of amps to get at some point — support local! Ian is not only super friendly but he took the time to nerd out with me, and that’s something I respect guitarist to guitarist. Also there are guitarists out there that make guitar playing sound so good and seem so effortless, and he’s one of them.

If money was no object, and you could buy any piece of equipment on the planet for one of your bandmates, what would you buy and who would you get it for?

Well, our drummer Kevin is in need of a drumset. The one he’s been using is cool, but belongs to a friend, so he needs one of his own. I would probably try to track down a cool looking vintage one with the weird drum wraps, like one of those old Ludwigs or Gretsches in sparkle white or oyster blue. But likely, Emily would chime in and say “get one in gold!” so I probably would end up getting a Champagne gold sparkle drumset.

Since I know you’re a beer guy: If Babydoll Warriors had their own beer — what style would it be, what name would you give it, and who would you want to brew it?

I love IPAs and recently the hazy IPAs, but my original love of craft beer was Belgians. So I guess appropriately it should be a Golden Belgian Ale. As for who, I would probably be most excited if Mikkeller, Amplified Ales (who did Low Volts’s beer recently), or if Modern Times did it, however there are a number of awesome breweries in San Diego, so I would not be unhappy with any local brewery doing it. If we aren’t talking local, Unibroue from Quebec — the Maudite and La Fin Du Monde have been some of my favorites for a while, so I figure they’d be a good option. They specialize in Belgian style, and it’d give the Megadeth beer a run for it’s money! Agh …naming … hardest thing ever. I would probably be lame and just call it “The Golden Babydoll Warrior Belgian.” Golden Babydoll Warriors used to be our original band name before we shortened it, so it would be good to put it back in use.

What’s coming up next for Babydoll Warriors?

We are scheduled to play The Merrow on Tuesday (July 10th) this week and Vinyl Junkies at the South Park walkabout later in July. The response to us from just our one show has been awesome so we’re taking it all in and trying to be strategic but move quickly. The next item of business for us is to get the songs we have recorded and put out either an EP or the full-length before the end of the summer.

EVER DE LA ROSA / POLUX

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Polux: Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Website

1. Tell me about the stuff in these photos: brands/models, etc. Are you using all this stuff live, or is this for recording too? Is there anything you’re not stoked on that you might be replacing, or adding soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig?

My rig is used for both recording and live playing, except for the Strat that I only use on recordings on certain songs and to jam at home.

Pedalboard:

1. Joyo PXL8 Effects Loop Router
2. Electro Harmonix Superego Synth Engine
3. Two TC Electronic Flashback Delays
4. TC Electronic Ditto Mini Looper
5. Boss TR-2 Tremolo
6. Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
7. Electro Harmonix LPB-1 Booster
8. 1985 made in Japan Boss DS-1 Distortion
9. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

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The only thing I want to replace on this pedalboard would be the Ditto Looper; I want to get the newer Ditto Looper X2 that has separate footswitches to stop and play a loop instead of the mini one where you have to click a couple of times to stop and re-record with the same footswitch. Being the only guitar player in Polux, it will make it a lot easier to play with sounds and ambient noise.

I can’t live without the Electro Harmonix Superego Synth Engine, the Boss CH-1 Super Chorus and the Tube Screamer — they are the base of my sound at this moment.

Guitars:

1. Fender Jaguar upgraded with ’62 Pure Vintage American Jaguar pickups and a modified Mustang bridge.

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2. Custom build Strat, painted by me with 1980s American Stratocaster pickups and a custom build neck.

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Amp:

Kustom ’36 Coupe Tube amp, made in USA

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2. Which guitar do you like more? The Strat or the Jaguar? And why???

Currently the Jaguar, the scale length I do find a bonus, and the neck profile is beautiful, love the sustain and the overall sound, I always use the same pickup settings (lead circuit with lead and rhythm on and mid tone cut off) and have taped the switches so I don’t accidentally engage them while playing (hahaha), works awesome.

The Strat I use it to jam at home mostly, to get ideas rolling, it’s the one always resting on the stand ready to be picked up.

I also have an Epiphone Les Paul with upgraded pickups, I put a single coil on the neck and a humbucker on the bridge. The sound is interesting to say the least, but not for what I’m doing now, but who knows, maybe for the next album, I’ll get that sucker out and experiment.

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3. What are a couple of your particular favorite pedals that you can’t do without – and explain why? Are there any pedals you have your eye on?

The Electro Harmonix Superego Synth Engine and the Boss Super Chorus with the Flashback delay (need to add an extra pedal here), I love those 3 combined, love the ambient sound you can get with the Superego — it’s a subtle synth, that goes just a bit long and the Super Chorus gives it that sweet spot, throw in that delay and you have this ethereal sound, still sounding like a guitar but with a dreamy tripping sound, for us as a trio, musically covers a lot of dead spots that sometimes are not needed.

I want to try the Electro-Harmonix Synth9, I think it would go well with our current vibe, also the Thermae by Chase Bliss as well as the Empress Zoia — this last one is getting all my attention right now, can’t wait to get my hands on that one; it’s supposed to be available in the Fall, so we’ll see…

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4. Let’s talk about that Kustom amp: When and where did you get it? Does it give you any issues being an older amp? Have you tried other amps? Why do you like this one the most?

It’s a funny story, I actually owned a Fender Super 112 Red Knob, that has to be the worst amp I ever owned, at least for me. I could never dial in the sound I wanted, so I put it up for sale about three years ago on OfferUp, after a month or so, some dood send me an email asking if I was interested in a trade. I guess he had been looking for the Super 112 for a while (no idea why, lol), he said he had a 2005 Kustom Coupe 36 to exchange. At the time, I was interested in getting a Fender ’65 Twin Reverb 85-watt 2×12″ so I was hesitant, but took the chance and went to see the Kustom amp.

As soon as I started testing the amp, I was blown away by the sound, the sound on this thing is first rate — it ranges from clean through great tube distortion, has an enjoyable, ballsy midrange overdrive sound and respectable fat rhythm/clean tone, all-tube sound, not a hybrid. One of the coolest things about this amp is the reverb has a tone on it! There is a direct out (low Z) with a direct volume as well. And it looks awesome!

No issues whatsoever, this thing is solid.

I am currently looking for a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus to add to my gear, love the clean sound on that amp.

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5. If money was no object and you could buy any piece of gear for one of your bandmates, what would you buy them and why?

I would probably get Albert a Ludwig Breakbeats Series drumset. It’s compact, has a cool punchy sound and we can carry that sucker easily to all the gigs, haha.

I wouldn’t want to leave Luis out, so I would get him a Fender Rumble Stage 800. Has a ton of features, one that I like the most is that you can have presets and you can easily navigate them in between songs. And of course, it’s super easy to carry around.

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6. What’s the worst 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?

The worst has definitely been a Boss Metal Zone pedal given to me like eight years ago — that’s the worst pedal ever invented (for my taste at least, haha).

The raddest so far has definitely been my Electro Harmonix Superego pedal — that opened a ton of ideas and experimentation for me. To date, I keep playing with settings and I can always get something different.

7. What’s coming up for Polux?

We have a gig this Friday, June 8, at The Merrow; we signed with C&R Music Group for management to start getting gigs in Mexico City and Hispanic gigs in San Diego; and we are also currently recording the last two songs for our album coming out in August, together with our music video for our single “1984.” We are trying to get more into the Latino rock scene as well after pretty much hitting almost every cool spot in San Diego.

 

JOAQUIN TORRES / FUTURE HUMAN

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Future Human: Facebook / Bandcamp

1) Tell me about the stuff in these photos: Are you using all this stuff live, or is this for recording too? Is there anything you might be replacing, or adding soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig?

My main guitar that I’m using is a white Fender Hendrix Stratocaster made in Mexico.  And I run that into a Vox AC30 and run the preamp section into a Marshall 4×12″ cabinet (depending on the size of the show).

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The effects I use from [left to right; top to bottom]: Stone Deaf Tremotron /// Eventide H9 /// Boss Cp1-x compressor /// Zvex Loop gate /// Boss TU3S Tuner /// Empress Echosystem /// Chase Bliss Brothers /// Black Arts Toneworks Pharoah Supreme /// Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler /// Meris Ottobit /// Ibanez De-7 Delay /// Boss ES-8 /// Digitech Freqout.

I’m always trying out new gear and new stuff that comes out. So while this is my board that I’ve used for recording and I’m using live, there’s some stuff that will probably change, yeah. I haven’t really been using the Z-Vex Loop Gate all that much so I might stick something else on there. I’ve been really interested in Rainger Effects’ new reverb or throwing my Deep Space Pulsar pedal on my board and use it for my synths. If there was one fixture on my board I’d probably say it’s the H9 just because it can do multiple effects in one algorithm. I’m pretty happy with it but one day I might just redo everything and not keep anything from this board’s build, I don’t know…

 

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2) Your pedalboard is fucking insanity. What are a couple of your particular favorite pedals that you can’t do without – and explain why? Do ever wish you had a smaller board? Do you think you’ll ever put a smaller, separate board together? 

If I had to pick my favorites at the moment, it would probably be the Empress Echosystem and the Digitech Freqout. The Echosystem is a delay machine. It’s got a bunch of different kinds of delays. It’s probably my go-to pedal when I’m just jamming because it’s one of those pedals that is very easy to use and I’m always finding new sounds that can come out of it. I think it could be nice to have a smaller board. I’ve never been able to actually do it though. I’ve always had about this size of a board. I used to have a board that was just ridiculous! (hahaha!) It was probably 2 1/2 times the size in length and was double-tiered in the back row. But I mean, the shit was ridiculous to gig with as you could probably imagine. If I did go smaller, I would just use my H9, Echosystem, and Chase Bliss Brothers or BAT Pharoah……if I had to.

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3) Talk to me about that H9 pedal — I don’t know much about them except that you can program a bunch of different pedals/sounds into it right? What do you use yours for?

It’s an everything box of effects. It can only run one algorithm at a time, but some of the algorithms contain multiple effects within one algorithm. I mostly use it for big reverbs, big walls of sound, modulation, and pitch shifting. There’s even a song I use it to make my guitar sound like a bass in a part of the song. I definitely will be digging deeper into this guy on our new material we’re writing.

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4) How do you like that Hendrix Strat? I’ve never been able to bond with a Strat (I’m more of a Gibson guy). What drew you to that guitar? 

I bought it slightly used for pretty cheap. No problems with it really. I first learned guitar on a Strat and then went to a Gibson Les Paul, that I still own. I like both, really. Strats are prone to a lot of noise issues and tuning problems but I just like the tone of the guitar especially with the reverse bridge pickup and the feel of the guitar. But like I said, I might want to change it up for a while and rock something else for a bit.

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5) Talk to me about that Organelle? It’s some type of synth or sampler, right? What do you use it for and what do you like most about it?

Yeah, it’s an Organelle. It’s such a deep piece of gear. Technically, it can pretty much do anything if programmed. I’m pretty sure it’s like a Linux computer that runs “pure data,” which is a computer language used to make algorithms for like a synth, a sampler, an effects engine, a lighting controller, whatever you want it to do. I’m not super knowledgeable about how to build pure data patches but there’s a huge community that do that share these patches. Anyways, I love it! I use it as a secondary instrument usually, and that’s why it’s awesome: you’re not limited to one instrument or one specific type of synthesis.

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6) I’ve gotta ask about the Deep Mind: Have you played any of the synths that are similar to it? What are some pros and cons (if any) about it? If you had a bunch of money to blow on a new synth — what would you get?

Not many, no. I still have a lot to learn on this front. Coming from guitar, and the world of effects, and venturing into making electronic music, I became interested in synths and started getting into this type of sound design, even though I wish I was a better player. There’s a lot to like about the Deep Mind honestly.  The price, the voice count, the effects the semi-modular design. To me, it sits really nicely in a dense mix, and isn’t overbearing, especially when Matt, our synth player, has a Korg Minilogue and I think it sounds most similar to vintage Roland synths but it truly is a chameleon. I was surprised at how good you can make the thing sound for the price. I think it is super underrated.  Especially when you consider I’ve gotten tones that sound amazing that emulate vintage synths without even using the effects engine section or modulation matrix at all! If there is one con, I’d say that I wish it was multi-timbral out of the box without having to polychain it to another DeepMind, but that’s what I use the Organelle for usually.
Hmmm…That’s a tough one. There’s so many cool older synths I would love to mess around with and there’s always new stuff coming out.  But if money was no issue and neither was space, I’d love to get my hands on a Waldorf Quantum or Arturia’s Matrixbrute.

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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 used to have a Line 6 Uber Metal pedal that was pretty bad. It was just too overbearing and it was really hard to find a place where it didn’t stick out in a bad way.  The most disappointing piece of gear I’ve had was when I was in a guitar-synth phase and I had a Roland GR20 and GR33. I could never get used to the feel of it. As much as I wanted it to sound good — and don’t get me wrong it was cool sometimes — it wouldn’t track very well and it would always happen at the worst times (hahahaha)! Other than that, over the years, there hasn’t been too many pieces of gear that I didn’t like. I’ve usually let go of stuff because they were either too one note, or my musical interests had changed.

8) What’s coming up for Future Human? 

I’m super excited to announce we will be entering the studio very soon to begin work on our debut EP! We also have a rad show coming up at The Merrow on Tuesday, June 5th (get info here) with Blacks Beach Boys and The Gorgeous Boyscouts — big thanks to you and 91X’s Tim Pyles for putting the show together!

TODD ANDERSEN / DAYTRIP

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Daytrip: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: brands/models, etc. Do you run both of those amps in stereo? And what is that weird, old lookin’ one? Looking to add or change anything in the future?

My live rig includes: A white Squier Jaguar (with custom spec Buddha pickups), yellow Prisma Sunset Series guitar, Sovtek Tube Midget amp head with Orange 1×12” cab, and an Otis Amplifiers Trudeau head with 1×12” extension cab. The pedalboard is running a Korg tuner, into a Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor (used primarily as a splitter), which splits into the Analog Alien Joe Walsh Double Classic overdrive and compressor on one signal path, and into the Stomp Under Foot Violet Menace fuzz and Boss CH-1 Chorus on the other signal path. Haha, it’s a bit confusing — I’ve twisted my mind in knots trying to figure this set-up out – but it serves a very specific purpose. I run both amplifiers at the same time, but not in the classic sense of a stereo set-up — my intention is to have one amp always running cleaner and jangly-er and the other amp running more distorted and powerful. The Double Classic’s signal path goes into the Otis, to get that going with some nice break-up, but with clarity and sparkle. The Violet Menace and Chorus go into the Sovtek – which has the headroom to handle the Violet Menace. So essentially: my “clean” tone is the Otis amp slightly broken up and the Sovtek completely clean; my “dirty” sound is the Otis slightly broken up and the Sovtek pumping out the Violet Menace fuzz. In my mind this set-up allows me, as the only guitar player, to sound bigger, clearer and jangly-er (which is always my ultimate desire a Beatles, Tom Petty and Big Star fan…)!

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The unique looking amp is an Otis Trudeau, made by my friend August Graybosch. He wanted the aesthetic to be similar to a 1940s radio with some midcentury modern vibes … I think he’s been killing it with his amp design and aesthetics! The amp itself is loosely modeled after/inspired by old Valco or Supro amps — it’s 15 watts but surprisingly loud and clean. The amp head actually has a built-in 8-inch speaker, but for playing live it is necessary to use the 1×12” extension cab, which looks awesome as well! It never hurts to have unique and eye-catching gear (that actually sounds GREAT) — I want people to be intrigued by the instruments I’m playing, I think it provides another element of standing apart from the pack.

I’m planning on sticking with this rig for some time, the only change would be if I can find way to purchase a Rickenbacker guitar… that’s been my dream ever since I started playing guitar and following music. I really want a 360 or 370, because those have stereo outputs and that would be an intriguing feature given my amp and effects set-up. I mean George Harrison, Tom Petty, Pete Townsend, Paul Weller, John Fogerty … all played those Ric’s … that’s the sound that lives in my head and my heart … I must attain it!

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2. Talk to me about that Prisma guitar. They’re made out of recycled skateboards or something like that, right? How does it sound vs. your Jag? What kind of pickup is that?

Yeah, they’re made by my friend Nick Pourfard, who I met at NAMM a few years ago. He does indeed make them out of recycled skateboard decks. The Sunset Series was his idea to produce a less expensive version of his guitar that has accents made from skateboard decks, as opposed to the entire instrument. This is one of the early models that only has one pickup and no vibrato. The pickup is a McNelly Stagger Swagger — which he describes essentially as a humbucking P-90 … it sounds fabulous! So, it’s got a different vibe than the Jag — it’s got a chunkier neck and a thicker, more classic rock kind of sound. I really like the simplicity of a one-pickup guitar that just rocks. Plus, it’s fun to play a guitar that your friend built and to be able to talk to random people about it and promote what they’re doing.

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3. I’ve got a soft spot for white Jags. Let’s talk about the old Squier vs. Fender debate. How do you think your Jag holds up compared to the American or Mexican models? If someone was on the fence about checking out a Squier Jag, would you recommend it? Also, got any choice words you’d have for Squier naysayers?

I love the feel of the Jaguar and this Squier Jag in particular: it has a fretboard radius that is bigger than a classic Jag, but it’s still a small and fast neck, which suits my hands and playing style well. Whatever idea you once had about Squier guitars needs to eradicated, they make some super solid guitars for an affordable price, and they are perfect for modding. I added some custom spec Buddha Jag pickups that run a bit hotter than a classic Jag pickup — I found the builder on Reverb — and then had it re-wired with new pots, switches and jacks. It’s also nice having a more or less inexpensive guitar — it feels right to really dig into it and thrash it around; I hate feeling too precious about instruments … they should have scratches and dings and dents and abuse, that means they’ve truly been loved! I’d certainly go for a Fender Jag if one of the versions has the same neck profile as my Squier, but for now I’m thoroughly happy with mine.

4. Talk to me about that Joe Walsh pedal: What is that? Where’d you find it? What do you like about it?

So it’s a dual function pedal: It acts as an amp-like overdrive/mild distortion and as a compressor. You can choose whether the compressor comes before or after the OD, which provides lots of tonal options. I thought I needed a compressor in my set-up but have found that it’s not entirely useful to me in the live context — though I do use that portion while recording. The OD section is always on, pushing the Otis into jangly breakup. I love researching gear and watching demos, so I came across it through those means. It didn’t hurt that Joe Walsh endorsed it — I grew up listening to and loving the Eagles, and his and Don Felder’s guitar tone is ingrained in my musical essence.

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5. I’m always interested in people’s fuzz choices since there’s so many out there. How’d you settle on that particular Stomp Under Foot?

Matt, who runs Stomp Under Foot by himself and builds the pedals, is an expert on the myriad variations of the Big Muff. Last year I got really into Dinosaur Jr. and wanted to have a sound similar to J. Mascis … which means have a Big Muff! J. uses a Stomp Under Foot Muff, so I decided that’s the way I should go. It also further assured me that the Big Muff was the way to go knowing David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd), who is my end-all-be-all favorite guitar player, has used a Big Muff in his rig for decades. I originally bought a special Ram’s Head version Big Muff to use in DAYTRIP. Matt sent me a message though Instagram and said he dug our sound, and that if I ever thought that the Ram’s Head wasn’t cutting it live, that he would send me a Violet Menace — which is similar to a Ram’s Head Muff but with an added mid control. After a couple of subsequent gigs, I determined that my distortion sound was getting lost in the mix and asked if he could send me one. Since then, the Violet Menace has been kicking ass and taking names! The addition of extra mids really lets the Muff cut though the live mix, without being obnoxiously loud. I’m a Stomp Under Foot guy from here on out — thanks Matt!

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?

I definitely think our first release, “Coolly (When Hell Freezes Over),” is indicative of my sound — and serves as a kind of mission statement for DAYTRIP. It’s bright and jangly, interspersed with some sonic blasts of distortion – but never does it lose clarity. I want DAYTRIP to aspire to be in the lineage of The Beatles, The Byrds, Big Star, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Jam, Buffalo Tom and Teenage Fanclub — all of which exhibit big, bright guitars and catchy riffs and melodies.

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 really don’t think anything has been “shitty,” it’s all served its purpose: if I’ve gotten rid of it, that was more due to the desire to improve my gear or just the fact that I no longer was going in the direction that the gear was meant for. Even gear that I love, I’ve gotten rid of… I’m always scheming a way to get something new and better! The raddest pieces of gear are the Otis amp and the Prisma guitar — nothing is cooler than playing something one of your friends made, and oh by the way, they’re top-of-the-line incredible instruments!

8. What’s coming up for Daytrip? 

We have our debut EP coming out very soon (I think we’re just waiting to get some CDs and general merch made, and then we’ll have an official release show). Otherwise, we’re always writing new songs, trying to build the best live set possible, and we’re digging deeper into the San Diego scene. We want to be consistently playing the top SD venues and playing with killer bands that have a motive and sound similar to ours.

Daytrip performs at The Merrow with Michael McGraw and Retra on Tuesday, April 24, as part of a local-music showcase hosted by 91X Loudspeaker’s Tim Pyles.

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SATELLITE AMPLIFIERS

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

JOHN VINEYARD / THE OXEN

 

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The Oxen: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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)

MARK SEAN / BLACK HEART SAINTS

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Black Heart Saints: Facebook / Website / Instagram / Twitter

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.

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Gibson Les Paul: This guitar is used for songs in Drop C — and also has a secret weapon, a 15dB boost switch.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.