BRIAN GOWER / PLANE WITHOUT A PILOT

Plane Without a Pilot: Facebook / Instagram / TwitterWebsite

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: How did you come to own these things? Makes/models/brands, etc.? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything a work in progress?

GUITARS:

The red Stratocaster with all the stickers is “Big Red,” my main gal. She started life as a Squier Fat Strat. I’ve done quite a few mods over the past 15 years. I have replaced the neck with an unfinished Maple Warmoth Neck (with custom star inlays), Schaller Locking Tuners, a Graph Tech nut, Graph Tech saddles, a Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker in the bridge and wired up to have a single volume knob. I gutted all the stuff I don’t use. I ripped out the tone controls, pickup selector, neck and middle single coil pickups, and some of the pickguard haha. Big Red isn’t just a looker, she’s got immense playability with the smooth and snappy maple neck and has a great, solid, mid-focused tone. I’d say we’re both lookin’ a bit worse for wear these days… but we’re both still kicking!

The pink one is my Gibson Les Paul Junior. She has her share of mods as well. First the headstock broke off at a gig a few years back…which sucked. I’ve since got that repaired, put on Sperzel locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, a Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbucker, and a Leo Quan Badass wrap-around bridge. My bassist, Kyle, stripped and repainted this guitar. It was originally TV Yellow. I told him I wanted a pink Gibson and he obliged. Now I think she’s sassy and unique, as pink Gibsons are few and far between.

The Black one is my Gibson Les Paul Classic. I changed out a few bits here too… picking up a theme here? I added Schaller locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, Graph Tech saddles, and Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB humbuckers. This one’s got a thick sound that can get bass heavy without getting muddy.

The last one is a Fender American Reissue of a ’62 Jazzmaster and it’s the most stock guitar I own. The only thing I switched was the Jazzmaster bridge for a Mustang one. It has a tone that’s really unique. I’d say it’s kind of twangy like a Telecaster, somewhat beefy like a Les Paul, and it’s a bit biting like an SG. With both pickups on it’s unlike any guitar tone I’ve ever played before. It’s worth noting that I use the shit out of the trem bar whenever I play this live.

AMPS:

Both amps are Orange 2×12 combos. I’ve become an Orange fan boy quickly over the past year. I blame my buddy Sean Tolley (Nothing Sacred/ Short Stories) for that. We used to share a rehearsal space with his band. One night, my amp was on the fritz so I asked if I could play on his Orange AD30 that was left in the room. I plugged in and was blown away immediately. It was the sound I had been searching for out of my similar Vox AC30 but couldn’t quite dial in. I swiftly bought my own Orange AD30r and ditched the Vox. It’s a Vox-y style EL84 amp that has more “oomph” in comparison. I’d say it has a ton more mid focus and more preamp drive on tap. It’s a fairly simple one-channel amp without an FX loop.

In addition to the AD30, I wanted a backup amp. You gotta have a backup, right? I wanted an amp with some more bells and whistles. So that brings me to the Orange Rockerverb 50 MKII 2×12 combo. It’s a 50-watt amp with clean and dirty channels, spring reverb, and a tube-driven FX loop. The dirty channel is where the Rockerverb really shines. It can go from subtle crunch to insane saturation. With these two amps, I can cover a myriad of tones. I only use one at a time for shows. Which one depends solely on my mood.

PEDALS:

Pedal chain goes Guitar > Dunlop Mini Volume > Dunlop Mini Wah > Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive > Fulltone Full Drive 2 w/ JHS boost mod > Black Cat Mini Tremolo > Boss DD-500 Delay > Catalinbread Talisman Plate Reverb > Amp.

I utilize different gain stages and the volume boost at key points of songs to bring dynamics to the band. I stack the drives and can use the clean boost independently. The reverb is on all the time. It really fills up some space, gives the guitar more impact, and doesn’t clutter anything up. The tremolo is used sparingly and is dialed in for a slight effect. The DD-500 is an incredible delay station. I can get tape slap, crisp dotted 8th delays, modulated patterned repeats, etc. all at the click of a switch. It has 200 editable presets… I’m only using 8 of them.

I’d say the pedalboard is the best/worst part of my rig. I’m happy with the flexibility and dynamics it brings to the band’s sound but it’s such a constant evolving thing. Let’s just say I change my board more than most people change their socks. Sometimes I want to scale it back. Then other times I’ll want to add more. I’m working on getting a midi pedal switcher system for my board so I won’t have to tap dance around as much. Hopefully I can get that squared away by the end of summer.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of the particular sound/style you’re after?

I’d say “Falling For You” off our upcoming full length album, Just Another Unsung Tragedy. Taken at face value, it’s a catchy, upbeat pop-punk song but if you dig deeper you’ll find it has some desperate lyrics hidden behind that forced optimism. Guitar-wise, it has some nods and winks to various rock ‘n roll and post-punk stylings strewn about. The main riffs and choruses have been dubbed with heavy gained guitars that blend into the verses that switch to guitars that have a lighter crunch tone. The bridge cleans up with strummed chords that have a touch of tremolo and slap delay. These tones are sort of a call back to a more retro ’60s feel. The lead “solo” guitar comes in with a lot of delay and reverb to give it a big ‘80s rock feel.

3. I noticed you use those big button things on some of your pedals. I’ve never seen anyone else use them, so I wanted to know why you do, and would you recommend them?

They are called “Barefoot Buttons” [www.barefootbuttons.com]. They are a newer company I found whilst browsing reddit. These buttons easily attach to pedal switches and make it easier to click on/off. They were made to also not hurt your feet if you play barefoot. I never play barefoot on stage but I do like the idea of having a bigger target to hit when clicking my various switches. I’m the lead singer and only guitarist in the trio. I have a lot of space to fill and need to switch sounds quickly and as seamlessly as possible. These buttons help me do so. Also the red boost switch and “A” delay (one on the right) on the DD-500 can be switched on at the same time if I get my foot stomping just right. I do that quite a lot to make solos stand out. Also these buttons look dope.

4. I’m sensing kind of a Billie Joe Armstrong vibe with the Strat, the LP Jr. and the Orange (I think he used an Orange at some point?) — is there something to that or no?

Bingo! Guilty as charged! Yes, I am very heavily inspired by Mr. Armstrong and Green Day. They were the first band I ever started listening to and I am still listening to Green Day albums to this day. I continue to find more and more things I enjoy about them. Whether it be the songs as a whole, his use of guitar tones/sounds, song structures, the album production, his lyrics, his live sound/gear… yikes I’m sounding like a creep, huh? As far as Orange amps, I know he’s more of a Marshall Plexi guy and has used JCM 800s & 900s in the early Kerplunk days but who knows, he might rock an Orange every now and then.

5. If money was no object, what’s the one ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you’d buy?

OK, so we’re back to the Green Day/Billie Joe thing. I’d buy a Marshall Plexi and get it modded with his same Dookie gain mod that cascades the front end and adds a preamp tube. I could finally have THAT tone. Maybe one day I’ll pull the trigger and get one.

6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

“Big Red”, the red stickerfied Strat, was my first guitar I ever bought. I was 12 and I really wanted to play guitar. My dad wouldn’t just buy me one because he said, “If you worked for it and bought one on your own, you’d appreciate it more.” Boy, was he right! As impatient as I was then, I truly appreciate that sentiment nowadays. So I did all the chores, mowed all the lawns, recycled all the cans I could until finally one day, I had enough cash to buy a guitar. I went to the local guitar store and the clerk asked me what I wanted and I just pointed to the red Squier Stratocaster that was on the display rack. The clerk was gone for a while then finally came back from the stockroom and said “I’m sorry but we don’t have anymore of these in red. Do you want the one on display? I can take some money off the price and give you a cable, some picks, etc.” I said OK and was out the door a happy boy. It was already dinged up and scratched a bit from being a display model but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I threw some stickers on over the years, broken a piece here or there, swapped some bits and I am still playing it at live gigs. My USA Fenders and Gibsons are all quite nice in their own right but they could never replace this one. It’s special. It’s the guitar that started PWP.

7. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

We’re headed on a West Coast tour the first week on June (dates below). Our first show is on Thursday, June 2nd, at Soda Bar with Squarecrow opening for Toyguitar (Fat Wreck Chords). We are also releasing our full-length, Just Another Unsung Tragedy, this fall. The album is mixed/mastered and we are in the final stages for artwork. We’ll have a few more things to nail down before we can have a release date and corresponding tour. Keep an eye out for that. For everything else you can check us out at www.planewithoutapilot.com and your various social media sites. We out here… we grindin’.

“The Big Dirty Tour”

Thursday, June 2nd- Soda Bar (San Diego, CA) [INFO]
Friday, June 3rd- The Caravan (San Jose, CA)
Saturday, June 4th- Triangle Tavern (Salem, OR)
Sunday, June 5th- High Water Mark Lounge (Portland, OR)
Monday, June 6th- Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA)
Wednesday, June 8th- The Roxy (Vancouver, BC)
Thursday, June 9th- Johnny B’s (Medford, OR)
Friday, June 10th- Jub Jub’s (Reno, NV)

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DANIEL CERVANTES / MRS. HENRY & CREATURE AND THE WOODS

Mrs. Henry: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramWebsite

Creature and the Woods: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramWebsite

1. Tell me about your current rig.

My current rig is an early 1970’s Acoustic 150 Solid State Head through a 6X10” 104 Cabinet. I’ve come to love pretty everything old and vintage but particularly ‘70s solid state and the amazing Acoustic Control Corporation. ACC was a staple of the ’70s rock sound, from John Paul Jones to Frank Zappa to Robby Krieger. Real good stuff and mine breaks up a bit more then the average model so I’ve been told. My main axe is a 10-year-old Mexican Fender Strat. This guitar has outlived them all, been beaten and abused for years and has an incredible neck and feel, setup with 12-gauge strings and a bridge to dive and soar bomb to heaven and hell. The two other guitars I’ve been using a lot recently are a 1970s Hohner Les Paul and a Fender Thinline Reissue Telecaster with humbuckers. Both have incredible sustain and tone, the tele I usually keep in open G or tune up for country stuff. For pedals, I’ve always got my Dunlop wah-wah and volume pedals, Diamond J Drive MK3 Distortion/Clean Boost, MXR Carbon Copy Delay and Xotic EP Booster which is modeled after the EP3 Echoplex Tape delay pre amp used by the likes of Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. Can get the bulk of sounds I am after with these guys.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? 

“Rock N Roll Band II” would be a great example of my tone and gear. Used a combination of these three guitars on the majority of the new Mrs. Henry recordings all done analog and to 2” tape at Audio Design Recording here in San Diego, CA. On this song, I am using my trusty Strat tuned to open D with a real crapped out and glassy tone getting that Stones/Faces a la Ron Woods vibe. Hit the EP boost on the solo and let it ride.

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy?

Gotta go with the Holy Grail Gibson ’59 Les Paul. Nothing swings like a Les Paul around the neck. Sustain for days, go have a bite and come back and that sucker is still ringing.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?


One musician I am particularly in awe every time I hear him is Adrian Belew. His use of the whammy bar is out of this world. First time I ever heard noise with such finesse and atonal fuzz was Talking Heads Live in Rome 1980, got the whole concert on YouTube and it’s just crushing. Parachute pants and all, and I believe a Strat through a Roland JC-120.

Be sure to catch Mrs. Henry at The Casbah on Thursday, June 2nd with Taken By Canadians (record release show)and Jimmy Ruelas. [INFO] Copies of Mrs. Henry’s new album, Otay, will be available on vinyl at the show.

AL HOWARD / DANI BELL & THE TARANTIST, THE MIDNIGHT PINE, AND THE REDWOODS MUSIC

Dani Bell & The Tarantist: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

The Midnight Pine: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

The Redwoods Music: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / YouTube

1. Tell me about your weird-ass setup.

I’d refer to my rig as post-Sanford & Sons, but pre-MacGuyverian. It’s about as dangerous as a badger with rabies being walked by a Trump supporter, but it gets the job done. It’s mostly derived from me not being particularly good at music, so if I play a saw blade people say “Holy shit, that guy’s playing a saw blade” instead of “holy shit, that guy sucks, lets boo him and throw tomatoes!” Not sure if they still throw tomatoes at acts, but I’m not above playing a Farmer’s Market, so…… I got a couple of interesting things in this hodgepodge of bullshit that looks like Kobey’s Swap Meet vomited on Home Depot after drinking shots of rubbing alcohol and Robitussin (we called those Rubbitussins).

I got this karaoke machine that has two fucking 8-track players in it. Seriously, TWO FUCKING 8-TRACK PLAYERS. One day, I’ll drop the first Scorps 8-track in there, for some between-sets filler. That first record is good, Lonesome Crow, don’t sleep on that shit. Anyway, it’s got some inputs for a microphone so you could sing a shitty version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” for your homies, but I run a circuit-bent radio to it and totally misuse this ratty ‘80s echo effect. This thing gets LOUD AS FUCK and sounds ugly as Iggy Pop’s stomach skin. Which is the goal. And if there’s some kid on LSD at your set, you can totally make him weep. Speaking of LSD, my buddy made me this circuit-bent radio. I went over to his house to pick it up on a Tuesday and he was like “you wanna drop some acid?” I was like, “are you fucking serious? It’s a Tuesday and I’m 35.” And he was like “whatever.” This little guy makes me wish I wasn’t such a pussy and I could pop a couple weekday hits and just tweak out for hours. It sounds like fucking space people arguing about space bullshit. He explained to me how to make one, but I feel like you really need to drop acid midweek to perfect it, so I’ve yet to do it. Shine on, you crazy diamond!

I got this wooden doodad made of drywall screws and bottlecaps. This fucker is dangerous. I call it the tetanus clap, cause I’m sure this’ll provide you with tetanus. I mean shit, it’s all rusty and pointy. It doesn’t even sound like anything and it hurts to play. I’m sure Ramsey’ll press it to some pregnant woman’s gut on a episode of Game Of Thrones when you thought they couldn’t shock you anymore and you wished they wouldn’t. I used to have a bunch of bottlecap instruments. My sober ass asked a friend to get some bottle caps for me. She came back wasted with this huge bag of bottle caps. She risked alcohol poisoning to bring you this thing and I never even use it. Ha. Idiot. The Heineken caps sound best, but she didn’t wanna drink that shit. I have a huge bucket full of bottlecaps, I’m gonna make some awesome shit one day, but since I borrowed Marissa’s HBOnow password, I really don’t have time to be making stuff.

Let’s see, what else. I got this saw blade. The first saw blade I incorporated was literally out of tune with everything, so I ruined a lot of songs by hitting it along with the last chord, but it was fun to see the jazz guys die a little inside at the clashing of notes. The next one I got was much less offensive. Now bandmates and soundmen just get pissed when they bump into it and cut themselves.

One time, I was in the adjacent urinal to this old hippie at a music festival. I walked up and started my business after him and when I left, he was still pissing. I waited cause I realized something magical was happening. He pissed longer than a live Allman Brothers song. It was insane. This rainstick is like that old man. It makes rain sounds for days. I left it at The Casbah once. Nothing worse for a guy trying to eclipse the fact that he had dreadlocks and owned a Spin Doctors cassette single than getting getting a call from The Casbah saying “you left your rainstick here”!

Sometimes I use this hair dryer to get an atmospheric wash sound, but the goddamn thing sucks so much electricity, it shut down the stage at Art Walk. It also smells like burnt ferret hair. Lastly I have this skull that sounds like ocean waves. It literally looks like a shrunken head, and who the fuck knows, it may well be. All I know is it sounds good and I’m probably making a mockery of some ancient tradition and will likely be cursed within the year.

2. On what song of yours is your stuff best portrayed? 

If you notice my input on our recordings then I’m doing it wrong. For all the loud clamoring my instruments make, they’re best served with subtlety, accentuating what’s already been recorded by a killer rhythm section. “Crave” on the Dani Bell & The Tarantist Dark West record has a lot of elements that are understated. It starts with this ‘60s Acetone drum machine that gives way to real drums; there’s a spray bottle we used to discipline Erik Canzona’s dog drenched in reverb, doubled with a box of couscous cause I’m old school and haven’t started playing on quinoa yet. The intention is to add something slightly unusual to a familiar rhythmic pattern, perhaps it’ll make the ears perk up when you listen in headphones. There’s a lot of stuff I’m really proud of on the new Midnight Pine record, a lot of patience on the short wave radio to find some really psychedelic sounds to weave in and out, a large piece of sheet metal to get some thunderous atmospherics and lots of circuit-bent radio acting like a Theremin, that’ll be out late summer/early fall.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one piece of junk you’d buy?

I’d get a 36-inch chain and a Mellotron.

4. What’s next for you and your bands that people should know about?

Dani Bell & The Tarantist’s Dark West Vinyl Release Party at Kakalak Collective at 2191 Main Street Union in Barrio Logan on Saturday, June 4th. [INFO]

Photos by Kristy Walker. See more of her work here.

GLENDON ROMETT / QUALI & RECYCLED DOLPHIN

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

Recycled Dolphin: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud

1. You’re primarily a drummer, right? What bands are you playing in at the moment?

I only have time to work on one project at the moment, and that’s Quali. I like playing drums in Quali because the music caters to my personal style, laggy and apathetic. When I had more time, I would play in other projects that were different from my personal style, to challenge myself to get better. Working in Quali is especially awesome for me because Isaiah (guitars, vocals) is a drummer first. When he writes a song, he has an idea of what he wants for the drum part. He allows me to be creative in my own right in the band, but if I am ever having trouble writing my own part, I can have him show me how he would play the part and pull influence from there. His drumming style is a lot different from mine but we have a similar approach to feel so it’s easy to communicate how he wants the song to feel and I can make that happen.

I’ve been fortunate to play with bunch of bands since I moved to San Diego including Primitive NoyesBruisecaster, Paper Forest, and I performed live with Indoor Cities, who made one of the best records I’ve heard come out of San Diego since I’ve been here, so I want to shout them out. When I can, I also make electronic music under Recycled Dolphin.

2. What does your current setup look like?

I have a ’71 Ludwig Blue/Olive badge kit with a pearl white finish. It was a gift from my amazing partner. My drum kit was stolen in the fall of last year in North Park. It was a ’76 ludwig Blue/Olive badge that had a fake wood vinyl finish. The dimensions were really unique: 24”, 18” and 14”, so if anyone sees it out there, let me know. I hope to get it back one day.

The kit that was gifted to me is exactly what I would’ve gotten myself. I feel really fortunate my partner took it upon herself to get me this amazing kit ‘cause honestly I was considering quitting. So many people went out of their way to support me when my kit was stolen. I feel blessed because as much as it sucked, I understand that the world is a tough ride for everyone and people are going through a lot of tribulations daily. Me losing my drums is not a big deal. Musicians around town were offering to float me kits, pitch in for a new one, and I was gifted new cymbals. It was really supportive. Thank you.

3. Outside of playing drums, you also program beats — what pieces of equipment do you use for your electronic stuff?

For my electronic music, my main instruments are a modded Gameboy with LSDJ tracker cartridge, a Yamaha Portasound PSS-470 digital synthesizer that I found at Amvets for $12, a Numark DXM06 DJ mixer, and various field recordings on my iPhone or a tape recorder.

I will usually start with a loop that I make either from a field recording or on the synth and build from there. I can’t really make the music that I hear in my head. I’m better at building on an atmosphere that I like and then just adding layers and layers until I have an ample amount to work with and then editing the shit out of it in Ableton with in-the-box plugins. Once I have the structure of the song how I like then I try out new melodies and rhythms track live over it. I keep going until my newer ideas don’t stick to the original. This could take months. When I feel I can’t add any more elements, I start to get into really trying to mix the song. And then…Ozone! Cause I can’t afford to pay a mastering engineer (hope to one day).

4. How does your approach towards playing drums differ, if at all, from making beats?

My approach to playing drums in a band, as opposed to making beats, is very different. In the band format, I love being supportive. My goal is to be a compliment to the song. If you’re writing songs and you have a vision of how to make them a reality in a band format and can communicate that with me, I think that I can be very helpful in making that happen, especially if I dig your style. I’m an introvert, so when I perform, I want nothing to do with front of the stage or talking to the crowd. I just want to close my eyes and try to get in the pocket with my bandmates.

When I am making beats, it’s totally different. I create atmospheres through field recordings and synths, and also program beats. Once the initial feel of the song is established, I’m off and running with the rhythms. I will program beats on beats on beats. Then, I will setup to record drums live and just make loops. I’ll set the BPM, feel, atmosphere and then just fuck the rhythms up by playing live over top of it so I have a bunch of live drums on top of the initial ideas. Then I take those and create loops in Ableton, and match and mix them to my liking.

A good example of that is in “The Yearning.” I created atmospheres over a drum break I played then built the composition of the song around that. I took samples of me playing drums, chopped them and ran them through filters. In the middle of it all there is even a short live drum solo. The song ends with an ambient blend of field recordings with me playing live drums over top of it.

Another example of a way I make beats is, if I like another artist’s feel, I will try to make a song with a similar feel in my style. I really like the Gold Panda song “You” and wanted to make a song with a similar feel. So I picked a BPM and recorded myself playing a 4-to-the-floor beat on drums in a variety of ways. Cut up my drums then built a song around that rhythmic feel. The result is “Don’t Die Alone.” I don’t know if I nailed the feel down or not because my goal wasn’t to copy another artist’s song, it was to create a similar feel, mood or pocket based off a piece I really like.

5. What new projects are you working on?

Right now, the only project I’m working on is the new Quali album. We are almost done tracking and I’m happy with the results so far. It will be the follow up to The Familiar and the Other [Listen/purchase it here]. Quali was founded by Isaiah Nery when he lived in LA. While recording the first album, he moved back to San Diego, and started to pull together people to play live with him. We’ve been really fortunate to receive a good response around California and have been able to connect with communities like OCDiy and Dirty Rabbit Records in SF. It’s been really fun to get out of town and play and I hope that we can continue to meet different creative communities with the release of the next record.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.

JESSE HOFSTEE / SPERO

Spero: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig.

I’ve always been after a big, bold tone for my guitar. I like more low-end, dark tones which is why I went with a ’66 Fender Bassman as my main amp. I use a lot of vintage gear; I feel that there is just more character in each amp, and nothing beats the simplicity and true tube tones. That has been my go-to amp since I really started playing guitar. It just puts out such a big, full tone and it has that low-end that I love. I more recently got my hands on an ‘60s Vox Super Reverb amp to add to the mix. It breaks up at a lower volume than the Bassman and has a dirtier tone which pairs great with the Bassman when running them stereo. My first electric guitar was my Gretsch Electromatic. It is one of the cheaper models that I bought used, but even after buying more guitars, it’s always been my go-to; I’m a big fan of Gretsch guitars. My other go-to guitar is my Harmony H78. I found it with no paint and no knobs and I knew I had to have it. All the main parts are original and it just has so much character and such a great dirty tone. As far as pedals, I have tried to keep things simple but over the years have acquired more and more. My board is still a work in progress and changes as I learn more. My main pedals that I use are my Boss Blues Driver and delay pedal for a little slapback delay. On some of our heavy parts I use my Boss Super Octave for a fuzzy thick tone. I got the Soul Food pedal for when I just need a little cleaner gain. Never used a phaser ’til our last time in the studio so it’s something I am now introducing here and there. I am a big fan of dynamic playing and songwriting so I use my volume pedal often to help achieve that. It also helps, since there is usually only one guitarist in Spero, to have a rhythm and lead volume level easily accessible.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

My sound has changed over the years but our latest time in the studio I really captured some big, gritty tones that I have been after for awhile. Just a heavy but still natural classic tone is something I really have been into lately. Our latest single release “The Sounds,” is a good portrayal of that tone. It’s big and gritty, and has a tremolo going throughout which is something I have never used, but have been liking lately.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

The guitar I have always been after is a ‘50s-‘60s Gretsch White Falcon. A little aged off white paint and a little wear and tear would be perfect. I just think they are such beautiful guitars and have such a great classic Gretsch tone. One day I will have one.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

There have been a few different guitarists whose sound and gear setup I have always looked to for inspiration and its always changing for different styles. Lately, I have been digging Dean Fertita’s sounds, mostly on the latest Dead Weather album. He just has some screaming raw tones and makes good use of echo and delays to make the parts really sustain and sound like there is more than one guitar.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

Spero has a new EP entitled Eclipse that we released on May 13th. We had the opportunity to record with producer Vance Powell in Nashville and are so stoked on the outcome. [Purchase/listen to it here] We will be headlining a show to support the release at the Music Box on May 26th with Creature and the Woods and Grim Slippers. Hope to see you out there!

DJ PNUTZ

DJ Pnutz: Facebook / Bandcamp / Twitter / Instagram

1. What’s your current set up?

I’ve got two turntable setups on either side of my production desks. My main DJ set up is two Technic 1200s and a Rane 64, the other setup is two 1200s and a Rane 56. For my production setup, I have Ableton Live 9.5 Suite, an Akai APC 40, Roland Gaia synthesizer, an Ensoniq ASR 10, and a DBX 166 compressor. I also like to use a Korg Monotron ribbon synth and my Roland 307 depending on the type of sound I’m going for. I’ve got some cheap electronic drums that I’ve sampled from occasionally as well as a couple of old keyboards, a musical saw, and various percussion instruments.

2. What piece do you use most often?

Most often I use the APC and Gaia recording into Ableton. I tend to use a lot of samples which I’ll sometimes run through the DBX (especially if I’m sampling drums). Second most, I love to play with my Roland 307. I’ll just sit on the couch in the living room, plug in some headphones and make some really old school-sounding electro stuff.

3. How did you get into producing?

Making music is something I’ve been interested in since I was a child. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I got a small Casio keyboard for Christmas and started teaching myself to play by ear. In 5th grade, I started playing the snare drum and got a full drum set a couple of years later. In high school, I became more interested in electronic/hip-hop music and had so many ideas for songs that I wanted to make. I felt like I was always remixing songs in my head, so for my graduation present I asked for a set of belt-drive Gemini turntables and a small 2-channel Vestax mixer. I eventually saved up enough money for Technic turntables and a Pioneer 500. My first real piece of “gear” was a Yamaha djx keyboard. It has a sampler in it and a huge bank of typical stock sounds. It was a lot of fun to play around with but a couple of years later, I got a used Roland 307 and that is when I really started getting serious. Around age 22 or so, I began using Sound Forge and Acid. I’d sample records, flip them around a bit and add some additional sounds from my keyboard and 307. I practiced this way for a few years until I was given a copy of Ableton Live. That has been my main DAW ever since.

4. Are there any challenges, as a woman, in such a male-dominated field?

I would say the biggest challenge I face as a female producer is the fact that no one knows I’m a female. Most people just assume that I’m a guy. It bothers me because I don’t like people to think I make good beats “for a girl,” I just want them to think that I make good music…period. I didn’t get into to DJing/making beats because my boyfriend did it either, I got into it because it’s something I personally was interested in.

5. What projects are you working on?

I am in the final stages of mastering my second solo album that I’m releasing on June 6, 2016. This will probably also have a 45 single to accompany the release just as my first solo album Rackmount did. After that is competed, have a few emcees who I am collaborating with and will be releasing albums with them also.

Be sure to see DJ Pnutz at the Air-Conditioned Lounge on Thursday, May 26, for the record release of her new album, The Good Wife’s Guide To Beatmaking. [INFO]

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.

ANDREW MONTOYA / ALE MANIA, THE SESS & BEATERS

Ale Mania: Facebook / Bandcamp

The Sess: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramBandcamp

Beaters: FacebookBandcamp

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos:

In the photos are a mountain of steel: maple, birch, mahogany, acrylic, brass and aluminum snares collected over the course of 20 years or so. All based on tone and nothing but tone. Appearance is always secondary but it’s on the plus side if something sounds as good as it looks. I own many kits that get used a lot in the studio and on stage. There is never a shortage of tonal possibilities here at the studio [Pandemonium Recorders]. Aside from the snares, there are also a plethora of Remo roto-toms, Tama concert toms and miscellaneous percussion items.

The Pearl kit is from 1973 and is made of 100% fiberglass in standard sizes. This is the loudest kit I have ever played. It gives you so much sound per stroke of velocity. This is the kit I like to use in live situations especially when drum mics are not available. And they will cut through some of the meanest amps including Tommy’s [Garcia, from Mrs. Magician] extremely loud Satellite amp or Jeremy’s [Rojas] 2,400 watt bass amp. In the studio they have this natural brightness that works well with faster music such as metal or similar styled faster-paced music.

The Tama Imperial Star kit is from 1979, it’s made from 100% mahogany with an interior sealer. Its the mellowest, darkest and yields the most bass response naturally. They have a lot of low-end in recordings that help some of the lower tuning’s on slower tunes you might encounter. The hardware on this kit is well over-engineered to the point it is very heavy but also very dependable, not fun to load in and out on a constant basis unless your roadie is a bouncer on the side. Although a basic kit is displayed, an entire set of 8 concert toms, 5 standard double-headed toms and two floor toms are composed of this kit and available in all sorts of configurations depending of what is ordered.

The Ludwig Classic is from 1971 and is made of 3-ply maple and poplar with reinforcement rings. This the quietest kit with the best tone for general recordings from rock to jazz. With single-ply heads, these are the most musical sounding drums to record with, they have this distinctive tone that can only be associated with the Ludwig name. I can’t put my finger on it. The bearing edges are very irregular, untrue, uneven and hard to tune, however; I believe this accounts for that great classic tone you can not achieve with perfectly machined modern drums.

The Ludwig Vistalite is from 1972 or so. The shells are made of 100% acrylic Plexi-glass made by Cadillac, yes Cadillac – their plastics division manufactured these shells for Ludwig. The sound is very bass heavy, more bass than mahogany with similar loudness to fiberglass without the brightness. With coated single-ply heads on the tops and the bottoms, they become this very musical drum in the studio. Clear two-ply heads typically kill the musicality these drums are capable of. The bearing edges are not perfect but with a little patience, you can dial in that tuning and of course they leave nothing to hide of the drummer as their clear shells reveal every aspect of the drummer who usually likes to hide behind his kit. This is my favorite kit to play in general.

The 1984 Black Ludwig S/L kit is somewhat of a unusual American-made kit. It was manufactured during an era when Japanese markets were dominating the drum industry and killing companies like Slingerland, Camco and Rogers. They are nothing short of typical Ludwig American quality. The shells are made of maple/poplar with an interior sealer similar to that of older Tama shells. The hardware on this kit is very heavy in that it’s the same kind of solid core fittings found on their marching drums. It has that great Ludwig tone yet is very dry and dark with similarities to it’s Japanese counterparts. The bearing edges on this kit are perfect when compared to their older Ludwig siblings from the 1970s.

2. What song of yours (or any of your bands’) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? There is not one song that can sum all of that up for you; you have to spend some time listening to a few of records I have made over the years to really understand when and why. When you have nearly 30 years of drumming under your belt, diversity is really the only thing to keep you interested in what you do.

 

3. If money was no object, what’s the #1 piece of gear you’d buy and why? An API 1608 console to mix drums and music on.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? Keith Moon, for his style and sound. As easy as that question is, its always hard to choose just the one. Although drums are my fuerte, there are plenty of other other instruments that kindle my interest in music. I have always admired good musicians who are good at their instruments and for certain talents in the many fields of musicianship and performing.

5. What is your current favorite piece of equipment? Ludwig Vistalite, because they sound and look awesome!

6. What do you and your bands have coming up that we should know about? I am currently recording a new record with a new band named “Teach Me”. It’s a power trio that is exciting and bit harder-sounding compared to some of the music I have been involved with over the years. Its very fun to play and an easy relationship within the band as the three of us exercise certain musical powers. More details on this project will be revealed as the record slowly simmers and manifests into fruition.

On May 15th, Ale Mania is playing a huge benefit concert called Hardcore Matinee at Bar Pink for the new Swami Records compilation. [INFO]

On May 21st, The Sess is playing at Soda Bar in support of the Mrs. Magician record release party of Bermuda. [INFO]

KYLE AREFORD / THE PARAGRAPHS & EL CONSUMPTION

The Paragraphs: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

El Consumption: FacebookBandcamp

1. You’ve got a ton of cool gear, tell me about it:  As far as pedals go, it’s pretty standard stuff. Nothing too crazy. I don’t typically like to rely on pedals that much. With exception of the Boss ’63 Reverb I rarely have a pedal going the whole song. I like to let the guitars and amps sound like, well to put it simply, what they sound like.

Amp-wise I used a VOX AC15. But she blew up not long ago. The Fender Super-Sonic head is fun and fuckin’ cranks. Lastly, I use a Fender 2×12 Deville. I’m not in love with any of these amps. Still looking for “the one”. In the back, there is an old Standel P.A. Like I said before, I like to let the guitar do the talkin’ so to speak.

From left to right: A DiPinto Mach IV. I have never heard of those guitars but I randomly saw it on Craigslist. It was cheap and left-handed. It quickly became one of my favorite guitars. Next up is an Epiphone Casino. Bought because of John Lennon. It’s the guitar you hear on the track below.

The Les Paul is my go-to guitar for live and studio. I got that about 6 months ago. It’s a ‘90s Goldtop. I fell in love with the look and sound of a Goldtop from Duane Allman. When I found a lefty, I couldn’t pass it up.

Next up is a MIM Fender Jazz bass, and finally a Gibson ’60s Tribute SG that feels like a child’s toy compared to the Goldtop, but its fun to beat around sometimes.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?  In both my main bands (The Paragraphs & El Consumption), we kinda cover a few different “styles” I guess. This song below is one El Consumption has been doing for a while and will be on an album we are working on now.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy? Hands-down a left-handed American Telecaster B-Bender. Clarence White being the inspiration there. I have no idea if one exists or not but I want one.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it? My first piece of gear was a red Fender Squier Strat that I painted a vintage blue color. In a whiskey-fueled evening, I smashed it into about 5 pieces. The largest piece bounced up, cut my head open and concussed me at the same time. There is a video someplace.

5. Who (local or famous) do you admire most gear/sound-wise?  Hhhmm. That is a hard question. There are so many people I admire. I’m gonna go with a local favorite. A band I worked with for years. Jesse Kling from Dead Feather Moon has always been one of my favorite guitar players. He’s got that tone that will kick you straight in the ass. Get us together with some whiskey or a good amount of beers and we are hanging around the record player all night showing each other different songs.

6. What do you have coming up that we should know about?  Up next for The Paragraphs is a show at the Merrow on May 14th, and El Consumption is playing there on May 17th. Both bands are working on a full-length album. Check out the respective pages for updates.

IAN TRUMBULL / YPSITUCKY

Ypsitucky: FacebookBandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: My Fender Old Growth Redwood Tele is my baby, they only made about 200 in 2010. The wood comes from a 100-year-old Nor-Cal railway bridge, so it’s incredibly light (5.6 lbs) and rings like a sominobotch. Deluxe Reverb is just a great transparent clean amp, handles pedals well and really sings when the volume is about halfway up.

Pedal-wise, I use the OCD for just a hint of grit and the Mr. Echo for a dash of slapback. The Super Chili Picoso is a great clean boost, and I friggin’ love the SupaTrem for tremolo…sounds better than most built-in amp trems, with far more versatility. I only occasionally use the DVK Goldtop for a vibe effect. I don’t like to use more than 1 or 2 effects at a time, as it tends to sound too washy. Oh, and I have a weird distaste for pedalboards. They’re just too neat and fixed, like Velcro shoes.

I love my ’69 Vibro Champ for recording, as you can really drive that 8″ speaker; it sounds urgent, punchy and warm. I’ll usually either run my Fender Reverb Tank or original ‘60s Echoplex in front. Even if the delay or verb is low, both really help as tube pre-amps to butter up the tone. And the smell of those old tubes…ahhh.

Nothing else I really want right now, these are my tools.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? Probably our song “Bruiser” is the most exemplary guitar tone-wise, it just seems to jump out of the speakers. I also like to overdub a smidge of acoustic for most songs, just for texture, and for that I have a Gibson J-45.

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy?  Hmmm, although I don’t really need another guitar, I’ve been eyeballing those Red Rocket Atomic Tele’s. They’re really well-made customs, have Gretsch Dynosonic pickups and rosewood fretboards. I think that or a similar custom shop Fender would be a good compliment to my current set up. Ideally though, I’d love a soundproof room in my house more than anything. Then I could do all kinds of stupid shit.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Probably my first real acquisition was my Marshall JCM 800 head sometime in the late ’80s. I used it exclusively up until a few years ago for rock and roll, and you just can’t get a bad tone out of it. Toured with that thing and wouldn’t trade it for the world, it’s like an old buddy that’s always there when I need it.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? Hope to have a second EP out mid-year, and then combine both EPs into a 12″ LP.

Ypsitucky play Soda Bar on Friday, May 13, with The Downs Family and Behind The Wagon. Don’t miss ‘em.

PAUL MOFFAT / NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH

Neighbors to the North: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current bass rig: Best parts? Worst parts? Any funny/strange stories about how you came to use any of this stuff?  Best part of my rig: That bass. It’s THE bass. I’ve had many, and this one will be buried with me. A $285 Craigslist find, ’80s-era Yamaha BB-2000 rescued from San Francisco that is the roundest, fattest, punchiest, ballsiest thunderstick out there. It’s got Beyonce ass. J-Lo ass. Mo’Phat ass. It weighs more than a building, shoots through schools, screams with restraint, and whispers with authority. I’ve never played an instrument that sounds so good with so many different groups. In Neighbors to the North, as a trio, the bass must take up a lot of room, and this bass does. The reverse P-pickup configuration is genius at regulating the volume and presence over all the strings. It doesn’t sound like a Fender, which can be a very good thing.

As for amps – I’m using a Gallien Krueger MB Fusion 800. It weighs 5.5 lbs and pushes 800 watts. That’s enough to blow a skirt up. The DI is accurate and is very front-of-house friendly.  The noise comes through either an easy-on-the-aging-back Genz Benz Neo 2×12 or my ‘This Old House with Bob Vila’ homemade 2×15 cabinet. That thing is a butcher’s block of menace.  The design is based on the ElectroVoice TL-606 enclosure plans, which I glanced at, and made my own.

Effects? On Bass?! Yes, sir. Blame Cliff. Blame Flea. Blame Les. Blame Bootsy. Blame Ox. I use fuzz, OD, wah, filters, octave, and whatever else. My color palette is diverse. Factoid 1 – the envelope filter on the Source Audio Manta is a Mutron killer. Not sorry, Mutron fans. Factoid 2 – the Smallsound/Bigsound Team Awesome! Fuzz Machine is the most musical and perfect bass distortion I’ve ever played. Both are featured below…at the same time. Prepare yourselves.

Worst part of my rig/funny story: That damned MicroKorg. So, Sutton [Paponikolas, singer/guitarist in Neighbors to the North], Danny [Katz, the band’s drummer] and I are in the studio in late 2012 recording our debut EP Starfisher, and working on the eponymous track. The second verse was ‘same as the first’, and needed something. Brad Lee – Producer, SDRL – had this MicroKorg sitting there. I turn it on, plug in the headphones while Sutton is working on guitars, and the first sound that comes up is what I go with. I noodle a small part and…just like that…it’s added to the song and now I’m a synth player in the band. Of course, we use it all the time now.

We have a song off All Southern View called “Shake ‘Til You Die,” where I’m tapping the bass part with my left hand and playing the synth at the same time. Why is it the worst? Because the keys are skinny and I can’t play piano. I really have no idea what I’m doing…which, I guess, makes it fun?

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear and why do you feel that way? “Captain Trips” off of All Southern View – I pulled out any stops I may have had and let loose. It might not be the most ‘musicianship-y’ tune, but I used all my toys and tricks. It’s the little things – the 3-4-5 fret harmonics during the choruses, the switch to a 16th note arpeggio during the key change of the 2nd verse, the octave-dropped TA!FM fuzz leading into the filtered fuzz swamp monster part…and I was able to play my wah pedal at the end, in an actual song, on record, which is really cool. I also can’t say enough about Brad Lee’s production and placement of my bass in the mix. He ‘got’ me, and I really appreciate it.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object and why?  I don’t want another Yamaha BB-2000, unless this one bursts into flames, which is possible with all the lacquer on it.

There are three custom luthiers whom I’ve admired for years – Jens Ritter, Jerzy Drozd, and Vinny Fodera. I’d probably opt for a Jens Ritter R8 singlecut 4-string, simply because he’s the only one I’ve ever met. Day One of NAMM 2002, I walk by this unknown bass builder booth in the depths of the Anaheim convention center. Where Fender and Ampeg were in Hall A, Ritter Basses was in Hall xz. Down by the boiler room and leper colony, if the convention center had either. Jens was all alone with five or six of the most exquisite basses I’d ever seen. I ogle. I gasp. I….get interrupted by Jens asking if I could watch his booth so he could take a quick piss. I accept. He thanked me, and I’ve yearned for one of his basses ever since: www.ritter-instruments.com

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? I’m about to reveal how ‘not hip’ I am – both for the players and that I can’t pick just one. Some players have moments that capture the ‘it’ according to my ears:  Rush – Geddy Lee on the Counterparts album. No Doubt – Tony Kanal on Tragic Kingdom. Mudvayne – Ryan Martinie on L.D. 50. The Killers – Matt Stoermer on Hot Fuss. The Used – Jeph Howard on In Love and Death. Rage Against the Machine – Tim Commerford on Evil Empire. Living Colour – Doug Wimbish on Stain. Michael Jackson – Louis Johnson on Off The Wall. Peter Gabriel – Tony Levin on So.  There may be better albums by these artists, but these albums represent their best tone, according to me. Notice no Beatles, no Parliament, no Zeppelin. While I love and admire the playing that made those artists great, the question you posed was about sound.

See? Not hip…not one bit.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?  Neighbors to the North is playing Thursday, May 12 in Downtown Long Beach for the ‘Live After 5’ series. Saturday, May 14 at The Merrow with Brothers Weiss, The Paragraphs and Paper Days. We are road-tripping to Flagstaff for two days in July, playing The Music Box on Friday, August 19, and we are playing the Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach in September. Kaaboo is in the mix again this year as well.

Both our EP Starfisher and most recent LP All Southern View are available for free at http://nttn.bandcamp.com.

I’ve also been playing with The Martin Coughlin Band over the past few months, and we will be at RB Alive and June 5 and at Company Pub and Kitchen in Poway on June 11. We’ll also be a the Del Mar Fair this summer. Martin is a stellar songwriter, so check him out at www.reverbnation.com/martincoughlin.