PETER DUFF / HARD TO HIT

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Hard to Hit: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website

1. Hey Peter, talk me through your live rig: Why is that Mesa amp your No. 1? I’m surprised not to see any modulation or delay/reverb effects on your board. What else would you add if you had the option? 

I decided to go with the Mesa 5:25 Express + for live for a few reasons. First and foremost, it just sounds the best for the kinds of heavy (but not too heavy) tones I’m going for, but also because of its flexibility and because it packs a ton of features into a head that will be easy to move around and keep in good shape. It has enough foot-switchable options that I was able to keep my pedalboard simple, which was important to me because for this band I decided I wanted to be able to focus more on playing and having a good time than setting up a complicated rig, and having extra patch cables, etc. to worry about. In addition to switching between a high and low-gain channel, it also lets me have foot-switchable reverb, two foot-switchable EQs per channel (the graphic EQ and the preset EQ knob which is a nice sounding midscoop) and also a foot-switchable boost. All that saves me 3 or 4 pedals on my board, which means I can keep it small in the one briefcase and I don’t have to use the effects loop since everything on the board is in front of the amp so that’s fewer cables to have to set up, trip over, or break.

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I didn’t bother with modulation, delay, or pedal reverb on this board because as of right now, the songs we’re playing don’t really call for it. There’s definitely a few spots where I would normally use my Carbon Copy a little bit, but not so much that I wanted to add the complexity or the tap dancing. I could definitely see changing it up and adding the Carbon Copy, Timeline, and Moore modulation pedal in the future if we end up using more effects for our next album. In which case I’d think about finding a smaller volume pedal, tuner, and/or power supply to free up some space.

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2. How did you settle on both an SG and a Tele?

All our songs right now are in drop D except one in drop C, so I’m using the Tele for the bulk of them and the SG for the one drop C song. Ironically, the Tele is the cheapest guitar I own, but somehow it just feels the best to play; the weight and balance is nice, the neck is fast, and I like the look of it. I swapped out the stock Fender humbucker in the bridge for a Seymour Duncan SH4JB and it sounds great. The SG handles the lower tuning the best out of all my guitars and it’s my second favorite, so it was an obvious choice.

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3. Out of all the effects you used on the record, which one got the most use and why? Were there any other effects you wish you had on-hand that you would’ve used?

The other pedals that got used the most on the record were the Tube Screamer and EQ. They were on pretty much the whole time, pushing our other guitar player’s amp a bit more for one of the main guitar tracks. I think I used a little Carbon Copy and reverb from the Strymon Blue Sky here and there, but for the most part, our guitar tones are pretty much straight-forward gain.

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4. Talk to me about the extra amps in this pic…what’d you use ’em for?

The other amps are a 1964 Ampeg Jet J-12, Peavey 6505 Mini Head, and Fender ’94 Twin (not to be confused with a Twin Reverb, this one has two drives that are actually pretty cool). I was planning on using the Peavey for the main guitar doubles, but our other guitar player’s Peavey XXX won out. I actually used the Fender for all the leads since its drive has a nice mid-range bite that compliments the mid-scooped Mesa and Peavey well. The Ampeg unfortunately didn’t make it onto the EP since I mainly use it for cleans or light bluesy drive, but it gets used in the studio all the time.

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5. You guys have a new EP coming out — how did the recording process go? Who did you work with and where did you record it? 

In addition to playing in the band, I’m actually a full-time professional engineer, so I recorded most of it at my studio: The Grey Brick Recording Studio. Two of the songs were recorded up at Catacomb in Orange County last year before I joined the band, but we ended up making some changes to those songs so the only part of those recordings we really kept was the drums; everything else for the five songs I recorded, mixed, and mastered.

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6. If you got to buy ANY piece of gear for one of your band mates, what would it be and why?

That’s a hard one since we’ve all got our rigs pretty well dialed in right now. Our bass player just got a new P-Bass and has a great Amgeg SVT and cab, our other guitar player’s Peavey XXX and Tele sound great, and our drummer just refinished his kit. Really the best thing for the band would probably be nice in-ear monitors. I just got some Shure SE315s which are awesome and some of the other guys are just using normal earbuds. Not the sexiest answer, but hearing protection is important, kids!

7. Besides the EP release show at SOMA on Friday, December 1st, what else does Hard to Hit have coming up?

The release is definitely the biggest news, it’s been almost a year since Hard to Hit has played because of some changes to the lineup and we decided to just focus on the EP before getting back out on stage, so this will actually be the first show back with the new lineup. We will also be releasing a video the same day. The following weekend, we will be doing a short run up to Bakersfield, Grover Beach, and one other city that’s still TBD. We will have another local show in February and we’re planning on a bigger West Coast tour for March.

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JOZETTE VINEYARD / THE OXEN

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The Oxen: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud

1. Take me through your rig: That Danelectro is so rad — is that new or old? Does it go out of tune a lot? I had one once and could never get the dang thing to stay in tune! How have you settled on the gear you’re currently using?

John [Vineyard, husband and bandmate in The Oxen] got me the Danelectro for Christmas. I have an Epiphone Les Paul, but I have back problems and it is so heavy. The G string on the Danelectro does go out of tune more than I would like, but I am going to have it looked at. I think a new nut might fix the issue.

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2. I dig the pedalboard: Take me to school on that Visual Sounds Jekyll and Hyde. I’ve never played one but you’re like the third musician I’ve seen recently that is playing one. What do you like about it?

I like that I can get 3 different overdrive/distortion sounds out of the Jekyll and Hyde depending on whether you have one or both switches pressed, and it’s really solid. John used that pedal and the Big Muff for years, but he gave them to me so he would have an excuse to buy new pedals for himself.

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3. I know absolutely nothing about that Ampeg amp! What is it? Where’d you get it? How old is it? What does it sound like?

I didn’t really know much about it either when I got it at Mark’s Guitar Exchange in Point Loma about 12 years ago. It’s a 1968 Ampeg Gemini II. It was $500, which was as much as I could afford, and it turned out to be a great deal. It’s loud and has a great built-in reverb and tremolo.

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4. Talk to me about that microphone! What on God’s green earth is that? Do you use it in the studio or live, or what?

That is a Placid Audio Copperphone. When John lived in Dallas, his friend Mark Pirro (bass player for Tripping Daisy and The Polyphonic Spree) was starting the company and sleeping on John’s couch while looking for a new place to live. He gave John that microphone as a “thank you” for his hospitality, and it’s one of the first Copperphones ever made. Mark has gone on to grow his company and has created a whole line of unique, hand-built microphones that have been used by everybody from Snoop Dogg to Rush. The Copperphone sounds like a telephone (or some say an AM radio), and we have used it live some. We use it all the time when recording – especially on vocals and guitars.

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

If money AND space were no object, I would love to have a grand piano. We live in a small apartment, so maybe I would just get an Orange amp instead.

6. What’s next for The Oxen?

We are doing a lot of DIY recording in our rehearsal space right now, and it’s turning out pretty good. We would love to finish up a full-length and release it early next year, but in the meantime, we are working on a split 7” with our friends, The Gift Machine. We are sending it out to get mastered and pressed in the next week, so hopefully it will be available in a few months. We took a break from shows because we had to find a new bass player, but we found a great one named Kevin Shumway! We just booked a couple of shows: Aug. 5 at The Stag and Lion in Carlsbad, Aug. 16 at the Belly Up with Creature Canyon, and at Soda Bar on Aug. 20 opening for Warbly Jets and the Schizophonics.

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]