VINCENT GABUZZI / THE ANODYNES

image3

The Anodynes: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

1. Take us through your rig: Do you have a main guitar or use both equally? Do you use this stuff in the studio too?

I play a Fender American Deluxe Tele and a souped-up Fender Starcaster with P-rails. I can’t say one is my main guitar because I love them both and they are two completely different beauties. However, on the most recent batch of songs I’ve been writing, I tend to use my Starcaster. I love the full, warm tone I get out of its semi-hollow body and the P-rails are so versatile; the tones are endless. Both the neck and bridge pickups have a 3-way toggle switch, which in position 1 activates a single coil rail, position 3 activates the P-90, and position 2 activates both — creating a humbucker-style pickup. Then things get real crazy when you combine the neck and bridge pickups, I wasn’t kidding…endless!

Now, getting in to pedals…as a kid, I grew up listening to a lot of Incubus, The Mars Volta, RHCP, Deftones and Rx Bandits, so I’ve always been intrigued by psychedelic sounds. I’ve been using delay, flanger, and modulation pedals since I was a kid and they just always seemed to feel right. As I have grown older, I’ve really gotten into the classics — Hendrix, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc. which has influenced me to use more wah, fuzz and other classic effects. But I also do appreciate something as simple as overdrive for the fact that it’s so pure, there’s no technicality with it and there is nothing to hide behind. Nothing like a hot overdrive pushing your guitar through the roof! What draws me to effects is the emotions and colors each one brings when I play and feel them. Yes, I used every pedal on my board throughout the making of The Anodynes EP, with the exception of my Xotic EP booster. Alright I gotta leave it at that because I could go on forever…

2. I used to play a Twin but stopped ’cause it was so loud and so heavy to haul around — what are your thoughts on it?

I really dig the way my guitars/pedals work with the Twin Reverb, especially my Tele, it’s such a classic combo and I think that’s what keeps it in my lineup. Using multiple effects can really mud up your tone, but the clean/punchy Twin seems to keep clarity despite multiple effects. However, Twin Reverbs are super heavy and loud as you mentioned, so I’ve been contemplating down-sizing to a Deluxe. Though they are still very loud, I like that they tend to break up at a quieter volume. I’m also considering something with a dirty channel — only time will tell.

image2

3. The Starcaster is a little-known Fender gem — how did you come to pick that up and what do you like about it that other guitars don’t offer?

I was in Walmart, uhh, I mean Guitar Center and there she was, staring straight at me. I walked up, picked her up and introduced myself. She felt good and looked even better. I was drawn to her offset body and bitchin’ headstock. I was in the market for a new babe, so I pulled the trigger. What she had to offer that stood out to me was the affordable price, good feel, and the unique offset semi-hollow body.

image1

4. I’ve always wanted an EHX Electric Mistress — sell me on it.

The Electric Mistress is a rad pedal that offers classic flange as well as chorus. It’s also got some trickery: When you pull back the rate knob below noon, you can control the rate yourself twisting the knob or you can stop where you want in the middle of a tasty swirl and play in that frequency…as featured in my main tone on “Pretty Little Baby.”

5. What do The Anodynes got coming up?

We have our FIRST show this Thursday, June 15th at The Merrow in Hillcrest and we are all super pumped to play for anyone and everyone. Come watch me tap dance on my pedalboard and let Queen Be win you over with her unique style and soulful voice. Also, we just released our first music video on our Facebook and YouTube — it’s a cover of a tune by Valerie June called “Workin’ Woman Blues” with our own hot sauce. Our good friend, and fellow musician/captain/sheriff Blake Dean of Mrs. Henry, shot and edited the video. He really did a great job and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, thanks Blake! For now, you can listen to The Anodynes EP on Spotify/Soundcloud/iTunes. Follow us on our Facebook/Instagram for other updates on new music and upcoming shows.

WILL PARSONS / GRIM SLIPPERS

IMG_1280

Grim Slippers: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramWebsite

1. Tell me about your rig: What do you use most live and why?

I use my SG most live because I love the larger width of the neck compared to skinnier neck of the Stratocaster. It’s home for me. My rig is very simple and I like it that way. Since I sing and play guitar at the same time I don’t like to be switching pedals more than I have to. I really love to be mobile on the stage since the other two players in my band are stuck to their spots. Truthfully, in the live setting, I’ll sacrifice some technicality for more showmanship because I believe it helps the crowd to get into the show. I love eliciting a response from the audience. My Fender Hot Rod III is amazing. I love the ultra clean tones and spring reverb. Its overdrive is no pushover either. Perfect for Grim Slippers’ hard rock tones.

IMG_1022

2. I dig the guitar choices. Let’s get into that Fender vs. Gibson discussion: A lot of people fall into one camp primarily — do you like one guitar more than the other?

It depends on the type of music I’m playing. I grew up obsessing over John Mayer and John Frusciante’s awesome Strat tones and that’s the first electric guitar I played on. However, I never really picked up a Gibson until someone stole my first Strat out of my truck. I ended up doing a GoFundMe and when I went to go try out new guitars, the Gibson SG tone and playability felt amazing so I went with it. I like to play the Strat when I’m playing soul, funk, or blues rock. When I want some creamier, heavier tones I play the SG. I love both a lot! One isn’t better than the other, it just depends on the tone you want 🙂

3. You guys have a new record coming out – what were you using mostly on the record?

I switched between guitars almost 50/50 on the album. On some of the tracks I played both.

IMG_1278

4. Interesting pedal chain. You’ve got it nearly backwards (vs. traditional pedal placement) except the wah. Why? Any method to your madness? How did you settle on the Aqua Puss and the ’78 Distortion? Did you go through other pedals to get there? Still on the hunt for anything in particular?

To be honest, I thought that was the standard way of setting up a pedal chain of effects. I did a little research on the net and it told me to do it that way and it works out fine for me. Not really any other thought into that. My Aqua Puss pedal is my favorite pedal. It’s so versatile and you can get so many different sounds out of it. My favorite aspect of it is how it interacts with my overdrive or distortion. It produces a very metallic-tinny sound that is really extraterrestrial and unsettling. Perfect for solos and adding more heaviness without increasing volume or distortion. As for the ’78 Distortion, I love classic distortion. It has just enough grit and even a little fuzz sound in there that gives you that dirt nasty for your solos without decimating the audience. These are the only pedals I’ve owned. I’ve been meaning to get a reverb pedal for certain parts in two of our songs but money is tight. I’ve been drooling over a couple phaser and chorus pedals too. They seem like they’d be fun to play with but not really necessary in Grim’s sound.

5. What’s next for the band?

Well, we’re going on a Midwest tour starting mid-June and then we’re coming home for a bit and then going back out on a West Coast tour late-July-August. We are releasing our new album Graveyard Soirée [listen/buy it here] this Thursday, May 18th at the Belly Up [INFO]. And we are trying to shoot a music video before we leave on tour for one of our songs.

 

ADAM HAKES / STRAY MONROE

Stray Monroe: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

1. Take me through your rig: What are we looking at?

The amp is a Hot Rod Deluxe III and it is just an absolute workhorse. This is the updated version of the amp and has a much tighter overdrive than the originals. A big complaint about the Hot Rod Deluxe is the massive volume gain it gets from putting the volume above a 2. If you can’t push the amp’s volume to at least past 5, you can’t get the natural tube drive that guitarists strive to capture. That’s why I’ve modified the preamp tubes and switched out one of the 12AX7 with a 12AT7. This gives it a much smoother volume control, lets me push the amp volume further, and drops the gain a bit so I can control the level with my pedals more.

The Les Paul is a great guitar but at the end of the day, I am a staunch SG man. I originally needed two guitars for the live shows so I had to pick up another guitar. I own two SGs but I didn’t want to use both in one show. I just wanted a cheap backup guitar that I could keep in a E-flat for a couple of songs live, namely “Tiny Islands”. When combined with my Big Muff, it gives me a great raw, break-up sound that is massive. When I walked into Guitar Center to look for a guitar, I fell in love with the sound and playability of the Les Paul. Bought it out the door for $200. The SG is definitely my main live guitar but the Les Paul still holds up at the end of the day. My main guitar is a 2007 Gibson SG ’61 Reissue. The past few years, Gibson made the SGs have thick necks which does not work for me since I have smaller hands. I much prefer the thin, fast necks that let me get around the fretboard quickly.

adam1

2. I dig the pedalboard — very utilitarian. Do you find yourself using the compressor much?

I am really proud of the pedalboard itself, I actually made it from scratch with my Dad out of a wooden pallet I found in the garbage. My favorite pedals on here are hands-down my TS-9 Tubescreamer and my Big Muff. I love making huge sounds with those and they compliment each other extremely well. It is part of the reason we (Blake and myself) go together so well: We like to center our tone around the Tubescreamer and go in different directions from there. Blake adds a lot of the brightness in the band and I provide the warmth in my tone. I use the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah just on a couple songs like “Take It Fake It” because I don’t want it to be too gimmicky but it is great to change some of the feedback I get when making noise in the live set. The DD-3 Boss Digital Delay is a pretty standard delay, I pretty much use it for all of my solos to get a nice spacey sound. One of my guitar heroes, Noel Gallagher, got his solo sound from a Tubescreamer and a digital delay; he always gets such a great tone that adds so much to the song. My main reason for using the CS-3 is to level out the dynamics of my sound. Most of my tone is crafted out of my various drive settings I use between the amp’s settings, the TS-9, and the Big Muff. Between all of those settings, it can be difficult to keep a consistent volume. The CS-3 helps to level out the volume when I want to use the different drives for their tone. When I turn it off, my drive pedals turn into my lead boost. I am also a big fan of using arpeggios in songs. The compressor helps each note ring out and not get lost in the mix of the song. A great example of this is the bridge on our song “Muddy Soles” where I go through multiple arpeggiated chords.

3. If money was no object — what’s the one piece of equipment you’d get next and why?

I would get a classic 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Blake and I were considering buying a new Fender Stratocaster to keep as a studio guitar but I think we would both rather have an awesome vintage guitar. A big influence on my guitar playing is John Frusciante, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he owns a beautiful sunburst 1962 Strat. I would love to get my hands on a similar guitar and I think the band would like it if I got a guitar different than another SG for a change. I own a lot of guitars with humbucker pickups and only one with single-coil pickups so it would be nice to have a solid guitar with single-coil pickups for a different sound.

4. I noticed you guys changed your name rather recently — what went into that decision? Has it been difficult to re-brand?

We played a show at The Merrow for Mike Halloran (former 91X DJ) and he advised us to do this in order to avoid long-term legal repercussions. Before we were Stray Monroe, we were The Hype. Unfortunately there are a lot of projects with that name or variations of that name. We decided on the band name, Stray Monroe, after about a month of throwing names around. Brett (our bass player) came up with the name, “Stray Arrows” which we thought was cool, but it didn’t really click. We were at our producer’s house and we were yet again throwing names around again and we liked the word “stray” but needed a better noun. Our producer has this huge picture of Marilyn Monroe hung up by his desk and Blake just blurted out “Stray Monroe”. Even then, it didn’t immediately click right away because we were all still attached to The Hype but eventually we all came to love it.

The only difficulty about the name change was from the band. We had been playing as The Hype for nearly a year so it was hard for us at first. As far as the scene was concerned, we had barely started, there wasn’t much to re-brand in the first place. The name change really helped us to get a fresh start into crafting an image of what we wanted the band to be. We wanted to incorporate “stray” as in we stray away from the norm of San Diego bands with our unique sound. We bring this big British guitar sound that we took from one of our favorite bands Oasis, that I don’t think you hear in other San Diego bands. Monroe was also kind of a risk taker in her time and definitely stood out, which is what we set out to do as well.

5. What’s next for Stray Monroe?

We just dropped our debut EP, The Stray Monroe Show, on the 21st of March. Right now we are in full steam in promoting the EP. We are booking shows for April, playing a show at the Casbah on April 25th, Public Square on May 6th, and Summfest at the The Irenic on August 19th. The band plans to get back in the studio around summer time. I want to keep the momentum going for the music and believe that putting together a follow-up to the EP is critical to that. Blake and I have a bunch of new songs that we are working on for the next record that we are excited to put out.

IAN DE CERBO / IMD, GONJASUFI, HEZUS

IAN DE CERBO 3IAN DE CERBO 2IAN DE CERBO 1

1. What bands/groups do you currently play in?

Mostly studio work with Hezus and Gonjasufi. I have some other projects with Psychopop, Scatterbrain and a few others.

2. Do you remember the first piece of gear you purchased?

A beater drum kit for like $200. I still use a few pieces from it now but it’s mostly junk now or art.

3. What piece of equipment do you use most often?

Four track or tape deck. Keep it simple.

4. If you had enough resources, money, time, space, etc. what dream piece of gear would you own?

Probably a Mellotron, or EMS modular synth, or a nice mixing board something probably easily over $10K.

5. What upcoming projects should people look out for?

Gonjasufi remix on Warp Records; IMD BeatTape Vol. 1; and a Hezus release on Hit & Run out of LA; release with Scatterbrain; Gonjasufi live band.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego) for this interview.

GARRETT PRANGE / EXASPERATION

Exasperation: Bandcamp / Instagram / Facebook

1. Tell me about your gear: What do you use the most and why? Are you playing both bass and guitar in Exasperation? Or just one?

The guitar I play most at this point is the early 2000s MIJ Jazzmaster, I just bought it a couple months ago so I’m really still just breaking it in. The Fender Bullet has become the back-up these days, but I have a lot of love for that guitar and it may one day reclaim its place. As far as the basses go, I am first and foremost a bass player and have played bass in pretty much every band I have been in in the past, but in Exasperation, I’m relinquishing those duties, although I will still have fingerprints on the recording of the bass, or how it will be recorded.

17105805_10155041795799476_1353835571_o

2. That Traynor is pretty damn spiffy. When did you get it and how it is different than other amps?

Let me preface this question by stating that I love unusual gear, and obviously the sonic quality/character is very important, but I will almost always be drawn to something for how it looks before I investigate how it plays or sounds. I think the Traynor is a perfect example of that; it’s a 1973 YBA-4 Bassmate combo amp — its pretty much the Canadian answer to the Marshall Plexi; super clean and chimey, although a bit darker tone-wise than the Marshall, and fucking loud as hell. The amp has no overdrive channel and no reverb, which I actually really like because it allows you to have a really dialed-in clean tone that you can spice up with your pedal setup.

As you know, back in that time period, the line between what was a guitar or bass amp was pretty blurry. Being able to play both guitar and bass through it, and also having it be in a smaller combo format (easier for dragging around to gigs) checked off all the boxes for me. As of now, it’s not a really expensive vintage amp, and it is really easy for an amp tech to work on apparently.

Another huge factor for me was that I love the band Women; they are a huge influence on my songwriting and playing style and their guitar tones and song structures are just the perfect and hauntingly beautiful marriage between melody and noise. I saw that their guitarist Christopher Reimer (RIP) played through a Traynor combo amp, and that made me very interested in finding one for myself.

The thing about old amps though…they tend to break down. The first show I played through it, I was playing bass and I blew the power tubes out on the second to last song, the amp just shut off and the ominous smell of burning electronics had me cursing under my breath, haha. That was an easy fix, but then I blew out the speaker recording the guitars for our two-song EP a couple of months later. I replaced the speaker with a Weber California Ceramic 15″ speaker, and since then, no problems. *knock on wood*

17149118_10155041796234476_1022641764_o

3. What the hell is that weird Fender guitar? I have no idea what model that even is! Give me the backstory!

That is a Fender Bullet! It’s a student model guitar that was meant to replace the Mustang after production was phased out in the late 70s. I like to think of it as the weird love child between a Tele and a Strat. It has a metal pickguard that the bridge saddles are actually attached to, so in a sense the pickguard is actually a part of the bridge; super weird. I believe mine is from ’80 or ’81. They changed the body shape to look like a Strat in later productions of it, and I think nowadays if they even still make them, they are all Squiers. It sounds and plays great and I love how beat up it is. I usually play completely on the neck pickup cause it has a little more oomph, but if I want to do my best Gang of Four impression with a real harsh ‘shards of glass’-like tone, the bridge pickup definitely does the trick.

4. Between the P-bass and the Rick, which do you like playing more and why?

The Rick plays more like a guitar than a bass; super fast/low action and a skinny neck with a much more mid-rangy tone. I absolutely love the sound and look of it, but it’s from 1976, which means I’d be super nervous to take it out on the road with me. I have had the P-bass for longer, and in that sense I am more used to playing it. It has a really wide maple neck that makes it super punchy and it is heavier overall then the Rick, which factors into playability over long stretches. I love the simplicity of only having one pickup in it as well. It’s a hard choice and some might consider it blasphemy but I’m gonna have to go with the P-bass.

17105984_10155041795749476_1658518972_o

5. That pedalboard is sick. I’ve always wanted an EDQ Sea Machine – does it do like a subtle chorus as well as really warbly stuff?

Thanks Dude! I’m not really what you would call a “Pedal Guy,” but there are certain tones I like that I try my best to either emulate or make my own through what I have. The Sea Machine is rad, I really love chorus-y tones and this pedal is definitely an integral part to my overall guitar sound. I use it in a pretty understated way, but with six different controls on the pedal, you can really dial in a lot of warbly weirdness with it. Dave (Mead, our drummer) likes to call my guitar tone ‘Evil Andy Summers,’ which in a lot of ways is the coolest compliment anyone could give you.

6. Which Exasperation song are you most stoked to play live and why?

This may be a bit of a cop-out answer, but since everything is so new, I’m gonna say all of them! Although I really do like playing the two songs we have recorded: “Not Feeling Great” and “Million Points of Light.” You can check ‘em out on our Bandcamp page.

7. If you could get one piece of gear for Dave and money was no object, what would you get and why?

I would buy Dave an OG clear Ludwig Vistalite kit — not in those huge John Bonham-esque sizes though. Perfect balance of volume and tone, and they look cool as hell.

8. What’s next for Exasperation?

Impose Magazine just debuted our two-song EP, Points of Light, (check it out here) and we are in the thick of recording a proper full length completely ourselves, which has its benefits and drawbacks. I love recording/producing and overall it has been a super fun process so far. We are shooting for 10-12 songs and are about halfway through basic tracking at this point. We also have a few shows coming up, the soonest being on March 29th at Soda bar with Methyl Ethel (tickets available here), followed by April 22nd at Bar Pink with our local buds Dream Burglar, and then way off in the distance we are playing at the Hideout (I guess its gonna be called SPACE now?) on June 9th with Merchandise and B-Boys.

ANDY SHAUF

I recently interviewed Andy Shauf for NBC SoundDiego (which you can read right here) but a couple questions I asked him didn’t end up in the final piece. I think they fit here, so enjoy. – Dustin

Andy Shauf: Bandcamp / Website / Facebook

1. You played everything except strings on The Party — is it easier to translate the idea you have in your head by recording everything yourself? Does it come down to a factor of just not knowing which direction to take a song, or not trusting other musicians to get it right? Is it an arduous process?

I really enjoy working out ideas and recording on my own. It’s not arduous at all. It’s not so much about trust, but it takes me awhile to sort out the ideas in my head, and I find it’s a lot easier to do that alone than make people wait around for it to happen.

2. The Party has a very dry sound production-wise — people have mentioned Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman when referencing it, which I think is appropriate. How did you arrive at that kind of sound?

I like the sound of a lot of those records from the ’70s. I also like trying to play quiet, which has informed the way the instruments are recorded and that drier sound.

3. Several songwriters I’ve talked to have mentioned feeling like no song ever feels “done.” When you’ve listened back to The Party, do you feel 100% satisfied with how they turned out? On that note, are there any songs of yours that don’t feel quite right to you when you play/hear them, that you’d like to re-record or re-mix?

I didn’t want to put “Eyes of Them All” on the album but there it is. I mean, I just get to a certain point with songs where I either think it’s good enough or I just never want to hear it again. I don’t think albums are about feeling 100% satisfied. I think you just have to try your best and then move on. If you’re going for 100% satisfaction there’s probably no risk involved.

4. You once told Pop Matters: “I’m a big fan of scrapping songs.” I feel like that’d require such huge restraint and self-control. Is it difficult to let so many songs go? Do you ever worry that there’s only so many songs out there to write?

Scrapping a song is the easiest thing you could ever do, you literally don’t have to do anything to scrap a song. You just forget about it. I think if you keep trying to evolve as a songwriter you won’t run out of ideas. Songs should only open doors to other songs.

5. Obviously, you play several instruments. Is there an instrument you have in mind that you’d want to learn next?

I got a flute for Christmas. I’m going to try and work on that.

6. What’s one song written/recorded by someone else that just blows you away each time you hear it — and makes you wish you had written it?

Randy Newman, “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today.” Everything about that song is perfect.

7. I’ve seen you’ve been playing a Waterloo acoustic a lot, along with a Harmony Rebel and I’ve been loving the tones you’re getting out of them from videos I’ve seen. How did you decide on those two guitars for shows? Are they your go-to’s, or simply guitars you feel comfortable taking out on the road?

I’m a Jeff Tweedy fan so that’s the first place I heard a Waterloo played. I love the tone so much and it’s been my main acoustic since I got it last year. And I’ve always been attracted to the raw sound of the DeArmond pickups in the Harmony so it’s been a go-to for a long time. I also have a Silvertone Jupiter that I play a lot that has the Teisco goldfoils or whatever those are. I just like the clarity of those pickups. They really bite if you gain it right.

DREW ANDREWS / BIT MAPS

Bit Maps: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your primary rig – what do you use the most? And do you have a live rig vs. a studio rig?

My main live rig consists of two key components – a 1976 Mark 1 Fender Rhodes piano and a ‘65 Reissue Twin Reverb. After many years hacking Rhodes sounds off of computers/soft-synths, in 2013 I came across the opportunity to purchase a Rhodes that a buddy of mine was looking to unload. I think you can get a very decent Rhodes sound out of a Nord Stage/Electro, but nothing compares to the warm bell structure of a real Rhodes piano. You hear it – you feel it. It’s a great example of how analog sound structure most often just can’t be replicated in the box. Just sitting down and letting the tone take you away has been a part of writing many of these new songs, it’s a continually inspiring instrument to write at. My studio setup for the Rhodes is the same, I play with mics and placements, but the Twin Reverb is a must-have component to give my Rhodes the extra punch it needs. I blend one stock speaker with one Eminence Patriot Series Cannabis Rex speaker. Hemp-coned, killer ‘70s warmth. Other amps, like the Roland JC-120 we utilize, the modded Fender Blues Junior we use, or our MusicMan amp (all super cool in different, mostly guitar-based applications), don’t have the low end that I like to adequately get the full tone together out of the piano.

2. Bit Maps has a new album out – how would you characterize the differences between You & Me & Dystopia and the first record? Is there anything you’re doing differently, style-wise/gear-wise/songwriting-wise that you weren’t doing for the first album?

The first record, On-Demand Living, my presence was pretty heavy-handed. A lot of the arrangements, song structures and instrumentation were my own personal journey into finding a new sound while we were dismantling the acoustic guitar-driven (via my ol’ Blueridge dreadnought) remains of my solo project, playing with the same dudes. Recording On-Demand Living, we were ON to a new sound, but we were very much still finding what that sound/direction was during the first record – my approach for that album was to use the studio to tip the scales towards our new direction. After we finished that record, we had a major burst in song ideas, and they never stopped, up to the very days we had blocked out for recording to lay down the basic tracks for the new record (“I Keep Bringing It Up” was recorded live, on the spot, quickly arranging the song structure and pressing ‘Record’).

This new album is much more of a reflection of every member’s talent and style. We tracked bass, drums and Rhodes first, live, no click track, take after take until we felt good about each song’s vibe. Our bassist and gear whiz kid, Erik Norgaard, had bought a ‘busted’ Radar recording unit off of Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie for a steal – Erik fixed it up in 4 hours one afternoon (he may or may not have extracted buried demos from 3 major indie-rock bands, can’t confirm that). We tracked all main instruments on the Radar (which I didn’t even know how to turn on properly), so we couldn’t really even get into a standard DAW (Reaper is our preferred choice) to start cutting and pasting and treating tracks. Basically we worked with this idea: Come in, nail your take live, or keep playing it ’til you land a good one, no overdubs, no drop-in. It was more of an old-school approach than is popular today, it gave us great limitations, but it ultimately captured a unique, human vibe, sounding just like we do live as a band, cutting back on studio tricks. We may not do it again in the future, but it was really fun to push each other (I hope it was fun for the other dudes!).

3. What song on the new album do you think is a good representation of your favorite gear and why?

I really like the song, “Assault and Battery.” It’s clean, complex and layered, and shows each player’s styles in a song that is always really fun to play live.

4. I doubt you’re able to cart that old looking organ around for shows – how do incorporate it into your stuff? 

I have the great fortune of owning two antique pump organs, one built in 1876, and another from 1889. I scored the first one in a steal from an estate sale. It was way underpriced, bought it for $50. Needless to say, it’s worth much more. The other was a recent acquisition from a lady who had kept it in storage as a family heirloom since her father’s passing 20 years past. She just wanted to give it to someone who would value it. When we were loading it up, she had a wave of peaceful nostalgia wash across her face, and said:

“You know, I guess I got to fulfill one of my father’s last wishes.”

“Oh, that’s great….what was that exactly?”

“Well, he made me swear to him that after he was gone, no matter what I did with this, under no circumstances was my Mother supposed to have this. It was divorce payback.”

We almost dropped it out of the truck from laughing so much.

I use these organs to meditate. They are a portal to past lives.

5. You’ve got some cool looking synths (and of course that drool-worthy Rhodes) – a lot of folks are split between analog synths vs. digital synths, etc – do you fall into one camp, or does it not matter to you?

I love analog, I think you feel it more. But, more than that, I am an ‘end justifies the means’ guy when it comes to recording songs. I really don’t care if a dude made a whole electronic album using Reason, or Ableton, or Fruity Loops, or whatever. I just wanna like the songs. Personally, I do prefer utilizing analog gear to immediately get to a warmer tone – I just don’t often sit around and pick apart others’ gear – I wanna hear hooks and weird sounds and good rhythm way more!

fullsizerender-3

6. Are there any musicians local or otherwise that are particularly inspiring to you gear/sound-wise?

Certainly John Reis is a force of nature where tone is involved. Name a band, it sounds great. But, I do have to tip the hat here to Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf. After playing alongside him for 8 years, I really gained more of a blood lust to get my own Fender Rhodes. I’ve now stripped down my live setup to basically just the Rhodes for me, but I did originally steal his idea of putting little keyboards, samplers, etc. on top of the Rhodes, creating a sort of live workstation with more options. Watching him juggle instruments all those years was inspiring and laid a gauntlet down for musical ability, and I try to still keep that in mind always, to challenge yourself, find new plateaus of sound.

Another band I liked for many years was a little band out of Phoenix called Colorstore. The main dude in that band also had a Rhodes that he would lay a guitar across and then sort of play like a pedal steel. Really trippy sounds came out of their shows. This left an aesthetic impact on me that I brought into Bit Maps.

7. What’s coming up for you?

Bit Maps is like a light in the dark for me. Whenever things are too crazy around me, I can always count on the band to inspire and bring out the best parts. We are working on covers right now, which we never have done before, I have never done this in any band before. It’s super fun. Lots of ideas are around, but we will likely begin really writing soon and recording I’m sure by late summer, fall. We are playing out consistently, and we keep gaining new friends! 2016 was an awful year all around for everybody I know – but it made Bit Maps stronger, and we have a lot of piss and fight to use art for public good in 2017.

Well…if the world doesn’t blow up.

Bit Maps play the Casbah on Monday, Feb. 6 with Subtropics and Nite Lapse. Doors are 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $6.

NAMM 2017: In Photos

We went, we saw, we conquered. Gear and Loathing in San Diego presents: Winter NAMM 2017 in photos. Many thanks to James Albers for his photo contributions (and for the badge!) — Dustin

THE BEST OF NAMM 2017

I went to NAMM for the first time over the weekend and was alternately blown away and overwhelmed. It’s been a lifelong dream to go – and this year, I finally got to make the trek up to Anaheim (thanks, James!) While there, I tried to see/do as much as I could but, of course, couldn’t get to everything. I’ve made my top picks below, and hopefully can share some info on some new products that I found to be inspiring. Lots of lots of pictures to follow over the next few days. Thanks for reading – Dustin

img_4334

Best Booth Experience: Earthquaker Devices. Going to this booth was the equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop. Beautifully laid out, super friendly staff, rad guest artists (Juan Alderete, Swami John Reis, Justin Pearson, and Earthless, among others) and some of the best, wackiest guitar pedals around. Their new Space Spiral is an extremely tasty, zany delay that only EQD could dream up. Loved every minute there.

Worst Booth Experience: ChickenPicks. OK, I understand a lot of companies can’t just give away tons of swag, but when your entire exhibit is based on a new style of pick — simply give them away (how much can they possibly cost?). One of their staff approached us with five picks on a silver platter and after he described why they were better than regular picks, I asked if I could have one to try out. He said no, and instead instructed me to go to their website to possibly get one sent to me (“they’re good about sending out samples,” he said). OK, if nearly every guitar company at NAMM is giving away picks, and your entire company revolves around picks, how can you not offer them to people who come by the booth? Makes no sense. Tip for ChickenPicks: Give one pick out to each interested booth attendee after scanning their badge QR code (like D’Angelico did). That way you build your email newsletter database and get something in return for giving away your precious picks. Ugh.

Best Swag: D’Angelico. Dude: hand sanitizer, rolling papers, strings, lighter, and a legit bottle opener? These folks did it right. Besides, their guitars are super legit.

img_4403

Best Giveaway: Clip-on tuner from Reverb. Snagged the last one at the booth! #Winning

Best Off-the-wall Product: VR drums by Aerodrums. Watched a dude play an entire drum kit in real time with nothing in front of him. The future of music? No real instruments needed – just VR programs? Pretty trippy to watch.

img_7997

Best New Pedal: (tie) Satellite’s White Amplifier emulator / Empress Echo System. Satellite (made right here in San Diego) blew me away with their new line of pedals and guitars. Their White Amplifier emulator in particular is just everything a great overdrive should be. Warm, raunchy, amp-like tones – it literally sounds exactly the way a cranked low-watt, small-speaker tube amp should sound. I was blown away. Pricey ($349) but very worth it. Can’t beat the build quality either. Super solid, like everything else they make.

img_4468

The Empress Echo System pedal is like the anti-thesis of the White amp emulator. Whereas Satellite pedals take one concept and make the best pedal based on that, the Empress Echo System takes everything you’d want about a digital delay and ups the ante with 25+ different modes, presets, several different types of dual-delay engine settings while keeping it surprisingly easy to use. I’m not a huge fan of screens and menus, so keeping this all buttons and knobs appeals to me in a big way. Well done. Not sure on the price point but I’m guessing it won’t be cheap.

img_4348

(Honorary mentions: Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe, JHS + Ryan Adams’ VCR, Chase Bliss Brothers Analog Gainstage)

Best New Electric Guitar: (tie) Supro Island + Americana Guitars / Ernie Ball Musicman St. Vincent models. Both of the new Supro guitar series are just great from top to bottom. Had the pleasure of plugging most of them in and they sounded delightfully gritty with much more comfortable necks than their baseball-bat-styled ‘60s brethren. At their price points ($699-$1,299), you can’t go wrong.

Whereas Supro is rehashing older designs, Ernie Ball Musicman and St. Vincent continue to push the envelope with her signature model ($1,899-$2,099). That unique body shape, new pickup configs, and more beautiful colorways improve on an already impressive debut last year. The necks are super smooth and you can get nearly any sound out of ’em too. So rad.

(Honorary mention: Satellite’s Coronet-style guitar)

img_4476

Best New Acoustic Guitar: Martin John Prine D-28. OK, it’s a $7,000 guitar but it played like absolute butter. (Honorary mention: Taylor’s new 800 Deluxe series)

Best New Acoustic Amplifier: Orange Valve Pre Twin Channel acoustic pre-amp. “The world’s first stereo valve acoustic pre-amp and active DI.” Has got everything you’d need covered when it comes to an acoustic pre-amp, and sounds as good as it looks. Not sure on price yet.

img_4314

Best New Guitar Amplifier: Milkman Sideman (50 watt, 1×12” combo). While it’s got a little more power than I look for in an amp, it still sounds beautiful throughout the volume dial. Milkman craftsmanship is unbeatable too (btw, the amp runs around $3,099). Swoon.

(Honorary mention: Paul Reed Smith J-Mod 100)

img_7773

Best New Bass: ESP Frank Bello J-4 ($3,999) / LTD Frank Bello FB-J4 ($999). Fantastic playing and sounding Jazz/Precision-style hybrid with rad red binding. Looks sharp, plays sharper. Honestly though, anything Anthrax gets a thumbs up from me.

img_4399

Best New Bass Amplifier: Trace Elliot ELF Amp (200 Watts, 4 ohm, 1.6 pounds). Put this thing in your pocket and go to work. Only $299.

Best New Synthesizer: Dave Smith Instruments REV2. DSI revised their Prophet ’08 synth with a new step sequencer, wave shape modulation, effects and great price points (12-voice for $1,999 and 8-voice for $1,499).

img_4377

Best New Snare: Ludwig Black Beauty 14×8 Snare. A reissue of a classic!

Booth of the Year: Moog Music Inc. The legendary company took the road less traveled with their booth this year but not displaying new products or their vast product line — but rather paid homage to some of the musical legends that we lost in 2016, including Don Buchla, Keith Emerson, Pauline Oliveros, Bernie Worrell, and Isao Tomita. It was refreshing to see and be a part of such a classy tribute. Hat’s off to y’all, Moog.

img_4304

TAYLOR GOLDSMITH / DAWES

Dawes: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website

In December, I interviewed Dawes’ vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith for NBC SoundDiego. You can read it here. Below are some excerpts from that same interview that didn’t quite fit the narrative of that writeup, but do seem to fit nicely into the Gear and Loathing fold. Many thanks to Eric James and Rodrigo Espinosa for contributing some of their own photos from the band’s Jan. 10 Belly Up show for this feature. Enjoy.

Dustin Lothspeich: Do you guys typically rehearse much for tours? Seems like you’re a well-oiled machine at this point…

Taylor Goldsmith: I mean, through the years there have been tours we set out for where we wouldn’t get together – but this one’s different because it’s “An Evening With” tour so not only do we have to know 2 1/2 hours of music every night, we have to keep it interesting from night to night. We have to brush up on a lot of old tunes that we haven’t played in a while, so there will be a lot of rehearsing for this one.

DL: I’ve been way into acoustic music lately. Been thinking about picking up a real nice Martin or something. 

TG: To me, it’s the most expressive kind of guitar. You can’t pick up an electric and plug it straight through an amp and have it be the perfect sound for a really gentle ballad and a perfect sound for a really loud, angry song – unless you were to turn up the volume or get a bunch of pedals. Whereas with an acoustic, it really can go from the quietest and the gentlest to the loudest and the most aggressive very naturally. People associate it with ballads but it’s actually really expressive.

dawes-1

DL: Do you typically write on acoustic or electric? Or something else?

TG: There are songs I write on piano and then once in a while, I’ll have a riff that I come up with on the electric guitar, like “Things Happen” or “One of Us,” where it wouldn’t have sounded right on acoustic originally, or I wouldn’t have noticed it or thought it was worth paying attention to. But most of the time, most of my songs are written on acoustic.

DL: One of my favorite songs of all time is “Don’t Send Me Away” – how did you write that?

TG: That one was, weirdly enough, written on a piano. And there’s those kinda like “bop-bop-bop” quarter notes that are going throughout while the bass line changes. As you can imagine, it’s a lot simpler and easier on the piano to do that. It took some figuring out how to play it and move the bass part around while keeping those three notes up top. But yea, it was originally written on piano.

DL: The band’s new record mixes a few different types of styles; it’s pretty eclectic. Do you think We’re All Gonna Die is different from your other albums in that regard?

TG: To us, we’ve always done that. I would say that they’re recorded in the same way – songs like “Most People,” or even “When My Time Comes” or “Don’t Send Me Away” even would be right at home on We’re All Gonna Die. I think any of them would be! I think a song like “Quitter,” or “For No Good Reason,” or “Roll With The Punches” would fit on any of our previous albums. I like that each record has a personality but I don’t think any of our records have strayed too far from what we’ve always done.

DL: I think one of your strengths, in particular, is your ability to write about everyday problems and our constant struggle with losing or regaining hope – without being too preachy. That’s a fine line.

TG: I think a lot of us try to get to a place, and I’m a victim of this as much as anyone else, where we get to a place in our lives where we don’t have to suffer. That we can build something around us and we’re never lonely and we’re never depressed and the reality is, that’s not gonna happen. And the only way to deprive that fear of its power is by embracing it and knowing that it’s going to come in strides. And you’re going to have to sit with it and deal with it sometimes but other times, you are going to feel like everything is OK. There’s a great Smog song where Bill Callahan sang something along the lines of: “We all have peace on earth about every other day,” [laughs] and saying it like that kind of no longer allows you to be scared of ever going through the dark times because when they do come along, you can go, “I knew this was going to be part of this equation.”

rodrigo-dawes-1

Taylor Goldsmith’s trusty (and well worn) Fender Telecaster (photo by Rodrigo Espinosa)

DL: Off the top of your head, what was the record you listened to the most in 2016?

TG: Shoot, that’s a good question. I mean there have been several I’ve been going back to a bunch – my girlfriend kind of gets like, “Why are you listening to the same thing again?” So I don’t  live with one record like I used to as much anymore, but I was going back to Blood & Chocolate a lot by Elvis Costello & The Attractions a lot. Putting it on over and over. I’ve always had that record, but when you first discover Elvis Costello, you’re obsessed with This Year’s Model, or Armed Forces, or My Aim Is True, and then eventually Imperial Bedroom and Get Happy!! and all that. I had Blood & Chocolate and I’d always loved it but I hadn’t had that feeling of I-have-to-only-listen-to-this-for-the-next-week moment the way that I’d had with all the other Elvis Costello records that I’d loved. So I kinda finally had that.

DL: What was the favorite gig you played last year?

TG: It would probably be Nashville’s Live On The Green Festival, where it’s just this pretty outdoor show and we were playing after Kurt Vile, who we love and they’re obviously an impossibly cool band. We thought, “Aw shit, they’re putting us up after Kurt Vile? Everyone’s gonna leave!” And I didn’t go out during Kurt’s set – I mean, I love Kurt’s show and we’ve seen a lot of his shows, but I was kinda backstage the whole time with friends so I didn’t see the audience until we walked onstage and there was like 18,000 people and it was the biggest show we’d ever played – at least in terms of us playing last. I mean, we’ve opened for Mumford And Sons, but we were the opening band – people were there because they had to be. But with this, they didn’t have to be. It was the most surreal experience playing for that many people and really feeling connected to them. I’ve never had such a high after a set than I did that night.

DL: What are you looking forward to the most in 2017?

TG: I mean, I guess it’s like equal parts – a good tour (I’m really excited to get on tour and play these shows), but I’m also really excited to get a handle on the next batch of writing. It’s always fun to either be playing new songs or in the studio playing new songs. We never wanna be taking too much time off. That’s kind of how we’ve always been and that’s kinda how we want to keep it. Life is better when we’re working. I’m hoping to have these songs start showing up in a bigger way. I’ve written a couple so far but I’m excited for the new year for that.