MATT RESOVICH / JOHN MEEKS, THE ALBUM LEAF & ROLL FILM

John Meeks: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube / BandCamp / Website / SoundCloud
The Album Leaf: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Roll Film (Matt’s solo project): Facebook / Bandcamp / YouTube

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: How does it all work together? What’s routed through what? What is each thing used for? Especially tell me about those nondescript pedals! What do those do!?!

Probably easiest to start at the amp. It’s a Musicman Sixty-Five; a little 2×10 that looks like a ‘baby Fender Twin’. I need this because the two channels allow me to run my chain to either clean or effect channel plus the spring reverb really does the Teisco justice.

On the pedalboard, I have a Boss A/B switch for each of these amp channels. The effect line switches between channel 1 of my mixer and the guitar/violin line which has a Boss tuner and a modified Linear Power Booster pedal I built. It has a switch to engage a passive tone pot based on the Big Muff tone pot and is just there to make the violin a little louder and deeper. The clean line switches between channel 2 of my mixer and the lapsteel line which has a modified Deluxe BazzFuss pedal for making the lapsteel growl. Between this A/B switch and the amp is a loaner Ditto looper just because and my favorite pedal PT the Fool. It’s a really fun delay pedal I made using the PT2399 delay chip. It’s an easy circuit to experiment with but what is fun about mine is the speed(rate) and repeat(feedback) can be ramped up together or separately using two separate momentary switches. It’s stupid fun.

Up top in the box/workstation I built just for the Meeks band, the lapsteel lives with plastic toys all arranged so I can play it and port it. It’s an old Gibson BR6; not a glamour model but a sweet sounding slide guitar. I chose C6 tuning and just stuck with it for years now. It’s on The Album Leaf’s “Tied Knots”.

Everything else in the box goes though a little mixer I made just for this rig. It’s a 4-channel, 2-bus, mono line mixer which is only cool because I can switch between sending to the clean or effect chains. Changing your mind is cool. Channels one and two are from DS8 Drumsynths 1 and 2. They are drumsynth clones built from kits by Synthrotek, one of which I sort of play by ear and the other I set to a drum tone to be triggered by our drummer Tom. I built 2 triggers for him but as of now there is one drum hit in the set. Channel three is essentially a spare currently occupied by a Korg Kaossilator which hasn’t got much use yet. Channel four is my Casio chain. Its a Casio VL5 keyboard though a Korg Monotron through a Korg MiniKP through a Nose volume knob. I know the VL1 is the standard little white toy keyboard but I love the VL5. It’s ‘polyphonic’ but gets really messy when you play chords which could be a drag or, in my case, a thrill. Only thing better would be to actively filter that sound so that’s why it goes through both Monotron and MiniKP. Sometimes I use the Monotron or the MiniKP to generate sounds and because of differing output levels I use the Nose volume knob at the end to compensate for songs which contain more than one level.

There’s also an old 36-key Hohner Melodica for reedy spookiness. At the end of the violin/guitar chain is either an inexpensive Chinese violin with a Barcus-Berry 3100 clamp-on pickup or my Teisco.

2. Your setup is one of the strangest and coolest I’ve seen in recent memory, and incorporates a lot of cool gadgets: What’s your favorite piece of gear and why? What do you use most? What do you wish you could use more?

This is one of the harder questions actually. Being a multi-instrumentalist, it is hard to pick favorites when you could just have more options. In a way, my favorite instrument is the one I’m playing at the moment and then it’s the next one. In this rig, I guess it would be my delay pedal PT the Fool because I made something that works and is fun to mess with.  My most used gear has to be the violin because I use it in so many different projects but on this latest Meeks record I use a lot of lapsteel. Frankly, I wish I could play all of them more. Any time I get to play live or record with a new piece of gear, it vindicates my purchasing or building it. I’ve been using samplers more recently and really hope to get more into that.

3. Are there any musicians that you particularly admire gear/tone/style-wise?

I guess picking one of anything is hard for me. But since its a question of gear, tone and style, I’d have to say Jaga Jazzist. They have the most evolved sound, naturally combining old and new styles and instrumentation.

4. What song of John’s do you think your sound/style comes through the best?

I totally don’t know but I’ll say “Night Sea Waltz.” In it, I jump back and forth from Teisco to Casio to Monotron, which gives a good idea of my role in the band.

5. How would you explain the difference between what you do with John vs. what you do in The Album Leaf or what you’ve done in Blackheart Procession and Little White Teeth? Do you apply a unique approach to each musical outlet, or do these instruments work well in your other projects too?

In some ways the approach is the same for all these projects. I listen. I rarely, if ever, start any songs so my role is sort of like a catalyst. If I’m listening to a work in progress, it’s a bit like a chemical reaction that needs help to finish. So I specialize in counter-melodies, harmonies and atmospherics. If I’m good, I’ll help the song go in a good direction. The big difference is in the various projects themselves. I’m reacting to them so what I bring to each project might be very different. Most projects, I’ve mainly tried to stretch the sonic possibilities of the violin which is a lot of fun. As far as instrumentation, I currently use the largest amount of toys for the Meeks band mainly because he’s been experimenting with different genres and I have a lot of random instruments.

6. What was your first piece of musical gear, and do you still have it? What are your thoughts on it? If you could go back in time knowing what you know now, what would be your first purchase and why?

The first instrument that was technically mine was my first violin and I still have it although I use it rarely. It’s a 1902 Curatoli which is actually a German boutique instrument but is old and fragile and rarely gets used except for getting that really classical violin sound. My first purchase was a Gretsch Silver Anniversary guitar and a Kustom black tuck-and-roll naugahyde amp. Beautiful sounding on their own, they were just a feedback monster in a loud rock situation. I left the Gretsch with my brother years ago and I still have the amp. If I had a time machine I probably wouldn’t go gear shopping.

7. Tell me about that Teisco: Where’d you get it? Does it stay in tune well or no? What sets it apart?

So it’s a Teisco Del Rey Tulip guitar; like an E-200 (2-pickups) with a flowery body design and I scored it back in my eBaying days for like $78. Pretty cheap way to try out a guitar with a whammy bar and it has a really distinct surf-rock sound. It is in pretty good shape for a cheap eBay score and doesn’t drift out of tune very often but the whammy isn’t exactly a precision piece of equipment, doesn’t recenter consistently and has started squeaking. But stab it though a spring reverb and you can almost smell the ocean.

8. What have you got coming up?

Coming up is the record release show for the new John Meeks album On a Sea Darkly July 30th at the Soda Bar. It’s the second recording I’ve made for the band and we’re all excited to put it out there. [INFO] Then on August 26th, the new Album Leaf record drops followed by support tours. I’m very excited about this new record and can’t wait to hear people’s reactions. And I recently finished recording an album for local visual artist Perry Vasquez so I’m also curious how his music is going to be received. Exciting times.

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J. ADAM WILLIAMS / THE LOWLAND DRIFTERS

The Lowland Drifters: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud

1. How would you describe your band’s sound.

We are trying to bridge spaghetti Western music with aggressive garage-rock and slight hints of surf. The lyrics all take place in some dying desert trailer-park town…our modern-day version of  ghost towns. It’s pretty dark, lyrically… almost pulp/noir. Imagine Breaking Bad meets The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. We have experimented with calling it “Doom Western”… not settled on that yet.

2. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: Is there anything you’re not stoked on that you might be replacing soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig? 

My ADINEKO from Catalinbread is not the most used effect I have, but it is my favorite… a beautiful soupy analog delay. It was modeled after the old oilcan delay tech from the ‘70s. It modulates in sync with the delay rate and has multiple “delay heads” that allow you to have a mix of reverb and delay in the same effect. Very unique sounding and I don’t think I could ever live without it.

The SPARK BOOST is a great all-purpose boost. Want a Tubescreamer? Flip the switch up and cut your bass and treble. Want just a straight boost? Switch in the middle, giant taste and it will sound just like your straight signal but louder. I have even gotten a setting or two that hint at Vox cleans. Stupid amounts of signal boost on tap and a nice light overdrive.

FENDER VIBRO KING: I wanted this amp for so long it isn’t even funny. I like 10-inch speakers. They just seem more focused in a multi-guitar band.
I used to have a Twin and it was too heavy and I never could get it past two on the volume. This amp is still ungodly loud, but it is manageable and has a nice tonal balance.

The Zoom ME-100 is a great little all-purpose noisemaker. I use it for tremolo, acoustic, and when I want to push the reverb over the top.

I have a homemade phaser from B.Y.O.C. – it sometimes is a little finicky…I need to get in there one day and reflow solder.

The Greenhouse NoBrainer is an interesting high gain pedal. Lots of control over shaping of the mids and highs, but it always felt not as tight in the bass as I’d like. I don’t use this much in the current material, so it is prolly going to leave the board soon.

3. I’ve gotta ask: What’s the little button on the Tele by the pickup?

A kill switch I put in from my ‘60s freakbeat phase.. I still use it on occasion. That guitar has taken 10 years of my obsession with tinkering and mods. Including a new neck from USA Custom guitars.

I also have a small switch by my volume that taps my custom-wound bridge pickup from Cavalier Pickups. He makes fantastic pickups at a very reasonable price and quick turnaround for a custom winder. It gives me the all-important twang.

4. If you had to point someone to a song of yours that showcased your sound/style the best, what would it be?

“Johnny Law,” an instrumental and “Left Behind,” a murder ballad about a town sheriff who’s lost his hope and sanity. We are currently finishing mixes on these and they should be up on our pages in a few weeks.

“Cowtown” is an early demo we have that also shows where we are headed. It’s about a midnight robbery gone horribly wrong.

5. If money was no object, what is the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d get? 

Holy Grail… Hmm… I guess if we are talking big-ticket items, the only thing I’d really pine for is a  Fender “White Chicken”. It’s when you merge a Gretsch White Falcon and a Telecaster. Tele shape with a carved top. White paint, gold hardware, Bigsby Tremelo, etc. It’s not an official Fender thing, although the custom shop has made a few.

White Chicken

A 3×10 bandmaster wouldn’t suck either. And a pony…I want a pony.

6. What’s coming up for The Lowland Drifters?

We are finishing mixing work on a 5-song EP and gearing up for more gigs in the San Diego area.

The Lowland Drifters play The Merrow on Tuesday, July 26 with Bighorn Run and Corina Rose. RSVP here to get in for free.

SEAN BURDEAUX / PAPER FOREST

Paper Forest: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Website

Where The Fawn Grows: Bandcamp

1. What band/bands do you currently play with?

Within the past year or so I’ve been working on a handful of bedroom recording projects. I’ve put out some instrumental stuff under the names Get Off The Map and Where The Fawn Grows and two experimental/soundscape collections under my birth name. My main baby is Paper Forest, though with the recent (temporary?) death of my laptop, the Paper Forest full-length I’ve been working on for a while now is on hold again.

2. How would you describe your sound?

Where The Fawn Grows is stuff I wrote primarily on bass and sequenced beats. To me, it’s kind of uplifting and contemplative instrumentals — my friend says it reminds him of penguins walking around. Get Off The Map is a little more experimental. Still based on sequenced beats but with a little more of a sense of space, a little more headroom. Paper Forest is indie-songwriting stuff.

3. Do you remember the first piece of gear you owned?

The first piece of gear I owned was a white right-handed (I’m left-handed) Ibanez Roadstar II. I strung it lefty and taught myself how to play “Dammit” in 8th grade.

4. What’s piece of gear do you use most often?

Laptop/MIDI controller and my Fender Stratocaster.

5. What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been playing with Brandon Relf and Stephanie Martinez recently. We’ve been trying out a bunch of stuff, we’re all over the place. Noise, thrash, dance-punk, math rock, mellow moodscapes, experimental electronic drone jazz meets the sound of living under the flight path. We’re probably just going to end up making movies. We need cameras, though.

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

BOTANICA CHANGO

Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp

Members: Joshua “J.B.” Becker (percussion/vocals), Tyler J. French (guitar/keys), Carlos Vicente Jr. (vocals/guitar), Sean Davenport (keys), Michael Alan Hams (drums), Bobby Roquero (bass)

1. Tell me about your guys’ stuff.

Carlos: We are currently in the writing process, so our rigs are a bit different. We are experimenting with a lot of vintage synths, drum machines in addition our normal pedal setups. A lot of the sounds that are coming out of this pre-production are pretty indicative of the time period the gear was made. Finding sound that fits the song we write next is always a work in progress.

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

Tyler: I/we get a lot of joy from finding new sounds, and we make a conscious effort not to get comfortable. One particular song in the new batch that we are all excited about, “Every knows,” is a pretty synth-heavy track that hopefully can make the girls in black move their hips.

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

JB: I’d probably say we could use some Quincy Jones brain, there’s nothing holy about our grails.

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

Carlos: My first piece of gear besides a guitar and amp that really brings back memories was a DOD RP-6. It was my first foray into effects and it definitely influenced me quite a bit. I used it for about 6 months and started buying standalone pedals. The RP-6 is long gone, but it was an eye-opener for me.

5. What is your current favorite piece of equipment and why?

Tyler: My favorite piece of gear that we are writing on right now is the Moog Opus-3. It’s like a church organ you can play at Studio 54.

6. What’s coming up for you guys?

JB: The album we are currently working on is titled Action Park and is being written to be performed by professional figure skaters as Botanica Chango On Ice in LA. Our next show is SoundDiego’s Summer Splash Party at Harrah’s on July 16th, and we’ll be unveiling lots of new material from the album for the first time. [INFO]

MICHAEL McGRAW

Michael McGraw & The Butchers: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig.

When I’m in my studio, I try different guitars depending on the vibe but as a live setup I’ve always played through a similar pedal setup, only changing out the overdrive a few times. For the past few years, I tried a more traditional amp/guitar combo with the ’65 Reissue Fender Deluxe Reverb amp and the Epiphone Casino and what I found was that the tone was incredible but I lost a lot of the dynamic control I had in the past. I recently switched back to my early ’90s Bedrock 2-12 amp; it was boutique before boutique amps were cool! The Bedrock is all hand-wired and modeled after the Vox AC-30 with a 100-watts of power at my disposal. The rumor is Bedrock made great amps but they were lousy businessmen!! I also love the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb and lately I use the Electro Harmonix Soul Food overdrive for it’s great tone. I was using the BBE Boosta Grande for added volume but now I added my JHS Superbolt on top of everything instead for some extra chaos!

2. Why do you use the gear you’re currently using?

I have used some version of my current setup for years because of how I play. What I do that’s kept me going in music is write songs and sing… frankly I play so much guitar because I have to! I’d much rather have a great lead guitarist but bands are a tough long-term dynamic so if you want to keep going in music for as long as you can, you do what you have to!! I started on acoustic in college so I am a strummy guitarist with some accents here and there. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a lead guitarist regularly in awhile and I rarely solo so I find a nice reverb and some yummy overdrive help add character/dynamics to my guitar while allowing me to concentrate on singing.

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

When you’re writing and recording, sometimes you have no idea what songs people will grab onto or what sound will define them. As the years go by, certain songs stick around and tend to come up in conversation. For me, those songs are “Poorboy,” “Hillside” and “Closer Tonight.” “Hillside” was a song I wrote in a band called True Crime Authors with my buddy Lee Sammartino (drums) and I recorded it for my first EP in 2009. The song “Poorboy” really embodies the spirit and camaraderie I had with my close friends Chris Decatur (drums) and Mark Lane (bass) when we made the second EP in 2011. Lastly is “Closer Tonight,” which is a song that I carried around for years before releasing it last year on the full-length record.

4.Dream gig: What bands would you ask to play your all-time raddest show, and where would you play?

That’s easy…Stereophonics, Richard Ashcroft and Doves at Wembley Stadium!! I’m a Brit-rocker at heart.

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

I put an album out last year [listen/buy it here] but I am currently switching gears and getting back to my garage-rock roots so we should have a new single soon, hopefully in August. We’ll be playing next at the Soda Bar on Sunday, July 10, with the talented Jimmy Ruelas and a great band from Athens, GA called New Madrid. [INFO]