OPIE TRAN / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. You’ve got quite the collection — which guitar do you play the most and why?

Up until a few years ago I only had a couple guitars. It wasn’t until last summer during recording guitar tracks for my other band did I catch GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) haha. I’d say the guitar that honestly has been played the most is my acoustic guitar I got from Vietnam back in 2007. When I was a preschool teacher, I played it every day for the kids. I got tired of CDs skipping so I figured I’d just make my own versions of all the popular kid songs while making up my own along the way. It’s also been on random camping trips and is just always within an arm’s distance away when I feel like strumming some chords or writing new riffs.

Out of the electrics, I say the Squier J. Mascis Jazzmaster gets played the most. I originally got it to replace a P90 guitar that I was using with my other band but realized the tone and vibe fit Mariel much better. I also really like the fatter neck and Tune-o-matic bridge, being so used to Gibson-type guitars I felt right at home. I put locking tuners on it so string changing takes seconds and the balance of the body feels very comfortable. Its also a pretty inexpensive guitar so I don’t stress about too much about taking to gigs and beating the crap out of it.

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2. Is that the Ibanez DL7 on your pedalboard? Why do you use that and the Boss GigaDelay on the same board? Is one better than the other?

Yes it is! It was the first “effects” pedal I ever bought. I only ever use it for a slapback-type of delay and the occasional oscillation. The DD20 is my main delay used for medium to longer delay sounds. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other they just serve different purposes. I suppose the DD20 is more versatile but it also takes more brain power to use and the DE7 is less distracting with its simplicity. The main reason I got the DD20 is for the tap tempo function and LED screen (I have a terrible memory and need visual reminders). If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the Boss just because it’s a tank and I tend to be rough on my gear. I have both because I’m lazy and don’t want to switch between banks on the DD20 and also I’m super sentimental and I get attached to my gear. Joking aside, stacking delays can make simple riffs sound gigantic and lead to super interesting sounds. I usually play super simple guitar parts and sometimes use delay as its own instrument similar to the Edge from U2. At one point, I had three delays but I realized it was overkill for what I was doing and that I should just get good at using two instead.

3. What’s the nondescript blue Digitech/DOD pedal?

Whoa you’re like a pedal detective! It’s a Digitech Bad Monkey, I’ve had that thing forever and it was the second “effects” pedal I’ve ever bought. I feel like there’s way better OD pedals out there but again, I’m super attached to my gear and it just works in my rig. One day, my bandmate and I got bored and started spray painting pedals so thats why it’s blue. I always have this dumb fantasy of some gear nerd trying to figure out my rig and starting a thread about it somewhere on the internet. Silly, I know. (Not necessarily! – Ed.)

4. Have you gone through a lot of different guitars and pedals to get to this point, or are you still searching for stuff?

Overall, I think I’ve been pretty good about getting to where I am with my gear. I tend to really research gear and make sure I really like whatever I’m getting. Considering how long I’ve been playing, I think the amount of gear I’ve gotten rid of is pretty low compared to how much stuff I have now. Pedal-wise I’m pretty satisfied, maybe one day I’ll replace that Bad Monkey with something else. If anything, I’d like to streamline my live rig and bring out my other toys for just recording. As far as guitars, I can’t see me wanting to stop collecting! I’d like to add an SG and Mustang to the quiver hopefully in the next year or so.

5. What song of Mariel’s is the best representation of your gear?

“We Lost the Fight.” We’re actually going to be recording soon so the best I have is from when we played at The Merrow a while back.

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

A Gibson Les Paul Custom; it’s the guitar I saw so many of my heroes playing growing up and I still get aroused every time I see one!

7. What’s coming up next for the band?

We’re playing at The Merrow on 12/15 [INFO]. We’re also going to be working on new material, recordings and hopefully some touring.

 

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ISAIAH NERY / QUALI, MICE ELF & FIVEPAW

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud / Website
Mice Elf: Facebook
FivePaw: Facebook / Website

1. You play guitar in Quali, are you a member of any other bands?

Yes, I’m currently in two other active projects besides Quali. I play bass in this band called “Mice Elf”. It is more of a jammy/space alt-rock type of band. We actually just had our first show at Black Cat bar the other night. The other project is “fivepaw”. I play drums in that project. It has more of electronic, sci-fi elements to it, mixed with synths and modular-type stuff. I have also been messing around with Ableton lately, trying to get into sampling and making beats.

2. I’m assuming your first piece of gear was a guitar, I could be wrong though. Do you remember what it was?

The first instrument I ever owned was a Ludwig drum set when I was 10. I actually didn’t start playing guitar seriously until I was about 16 and I really didn’t get serious with messing with gear and becoming a total gear head until I moved to LA and started Quali.

3. What’s your current setup?

My current set up with Quali:

I play a Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster. I personally think it’s the only guitar you should own due to its sonic versatility, tremolo arm and beauty.

The Jazzmaster goes into a TC Electronics Polytune, then into my favorite pedal and part of my signature tone, the Ab-Synth Supreme by Fuzzhugger. This pedal gives me the harsh zipperyness I want from a fuzz while also somehow managing some clarity in my chord playing. It also has a second foot switch to activate an oscillation mode which can get pretty nuts sometimes.

Next in my pedal chain is a Marshall Shredmaster. I really like this high gain pedal for more of a conventional overdrive/distortion type of sound. That goes into this boutique pedal I got at NAMM a couple years back called The Epsilon, by dreadbox. This is more of a hybrid pedal of sorts. It can be an overdrive pedal or an auto wah. And of course you can blend the effects to get an even crazier sound. It also has a gate switch on it. This is a very cool interactive pedal. The next pedal in my chain is one of my favorite pedals, the Superego by Electro-Harmonix. This pedal is so innovative for guitar. It is basically a piano-style sustain pedal for guitar. The tracking is insane, you can just sustain chords while playing over them endlessly. The superego then goes into my Line 6 M9. This pedal is such a workhorse for me for the fact that you can have three effects on at the same time while also being able to have an expression pedal that can be used for all of them simultaneously if you want.

Next on the chain is the Timeline delay by Strymon. There’s really not much to say about this pedal except for the fact that it is the king of delay pedals, period. The Timeline goes into my Hardwire RV-7 reverb pedal. Just a really solid reverb that pairs perfectly with my fuzz. And that goes into my crazier reverb the Descent by Walrus Audio. This pedal is the ultimate ambient reverb pedal with separate wet and dry knobs, reverse reverb, 3 preset saves. You can also have shimmer-style reverbs with dedicated knobs for an octave down and up. And at the very end of my pedalboard chain is the Ditto X2 by TC Electronics. I really like the looper that was on the DL4 by Line 6 and this pedal is just that in a smaller housing.

The board then goes into my pride and joy: The Fender Bassman 70. This amp is the ultimate pedal-playing amp. You get such a nice clarity and headroom with this amp while also getting some really nice, felt lows. I actually got mine modded to carry 6550 tubes in it for more headroom and now it runs at about 110 watts. Also known as a sound tech’s nightmare. But to me, there’s nothing better than really feeling the sounds go through you. I play this with a Fender DT-412 cab. I believe it has Celestion G12T-100s in it.

4. What piece of gear, if any, are you looking to add? 

Right now, I’m looking to get a 2×12 cab to run on top of my 4×12. I used to have a 1×15 bass cab that came with my Bassman and I would run that with my 4×12. Having a full stack rig is so unnecessary and necessary at the same time. Nothing feels better in my opinion.

5. What new projects do you have lined up? 

The newest project I’m working on would have more beat-based and sampling stuff I’ve been doing on Abelton. I’m still new to the program but I have some cool ideas I want to work on with it. I also occasionally play drums for Recycled Dolphin, who happens to play drums in Quali for me. Also, be on the look out for the next Quali album which should be out hopefully later this year.

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

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.

JUSTIN COTA / GLOOMSDAY

Gloomsday: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos (any gear that caught you by surprise? Favorite pieces?):  Well, strictly regarding what I use in Gloomsday, I play a Fender Baritone Custom. That would also be the piece that surprised me the most of all gear I’ve purchased – its versatility and distinctive sound.

As for amplification, being in a two-piece, I have been religiously using a first generation Bogner Uberschall for low end. The funny thing about this is that after years of it being my workhorse amp throughout various musical projects, it only works upside down. I’ve taken it into the plant in LA before but since it’s over 10 years old, they have been uninterested in touching it. All it really does is make a loud growling hum until you rotate it upside down and then perfect. It has head room for days. Fills the room with great low end with a solid compressed drive. I’ve even built an enclosure for it to function without the feet up and teetering on a handle. The Uberschall is going through a 2×12 cab I built with Celestion T-75s and a Genz Benz 4×10 cab.

With the low end covered, I A/B/Y with a Fender Hot Rod Deville 4×10 combo. I dig the warmer, air-ish tone it brings. Almost a fuzzy sound without committing to a constant fuzz sound. That’s what I use for a mid/high sound for the baritone. I do whatever I can to make my sound two-dimensional.

As for my pedal board, I use more through the Fender than the Bogner.  A delay, a looper, a wah, a pitch shifter, and the T-Rex Octavious – a rad fuzz/octave pedal with a gain boost built in. For the Bogner, only an octave, a boost, and a loop pedal to loop rhythms to lead and solo to while Lori (drummer) plays along.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your sound/style?  “Vacation Gloom” off of our new album, Worst Coast Scenario. It starts with just the Fender, then with Bogner without octave, then Octavious, then the octave as the whole song kicks in. It repeats that dynamic again later. There are parts where I use every pedal on my board with exceptions to the loopers. Those are only used for live sets.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy?  Honestly, I’m not particularly fond of ownership of a vintage whatever that was played by whoever. That’s a souvenir. And not worth the money it would cost me  to acquire it. That aspect of gear gathering aside, I would rather work with Ben Verellen, creator of Verellen amps, to build a one-of-a-kind monster. I love his work. That’s my idea of the holy grail. Making one up.

4. Who is the musician you admire most gear/sound-wise? Hands-down: Jon Bonser. Solid drummer. I’ve seen and heard his amplifiers – they are stunning works of sonic art. A local I’m sure most have seen live. I am hoping to unload a combo amp to make room for one of his. Currently, I am working with the two members of Badabing – a new project that requires the use of what Bonser can build. But that’s another story.

5. What’s next for you?  Gloomsday will be playing April 9th at Til-Two with the Schizophonics and the exciting debut of The Hiroshima Mockingbirds – Jon Bonser and Brian Reilly’s (of The New Kinetics) new jam. [INFO] A couple weeks later, April 22nd at Soda Bar, we will be headlining for our friends from LA, Pleasure Burn, and local darlings Subtropics. Also, we will be releasing our new album, Worst Coast Scenario, on vinyl this summer on Tower Bar Records. [Listen/buy the album here]

CARRIE GILLESPIE FELLER / HEXA

Hexa: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: How does it help you achieve the sound/style you’re after? I have a Roland Juno Di and TC Helicon Vocal Harmonizer pedal that I run through a Digitech Jam Man. I loop layers of keyboard and vocals and those become the foundations of my songs. I recently started adding some drum tracks from an Alesis SR-16, which I run through a Golden Cello delay pedal. I also run samples from my cell phone, through a voice recorder app that has cool effects like “Optimus Robot” and “Small Alien” and “Death.” Every piece of gear I use for Hexa is really versatile, which has been important to me in writing and performing solo.

2. What is your favorite piece of gear? My TC Helicon Vocal Harmonizer and my microphone. The TC Helicon is made out of magic and makes your vocals sound amazing. And the Harmonizer is super creepy so I love it. There is nothing fancy about the mic I use, but it’s special to me because I’ve had it forever and it’s stained pink from lipstick.

3. What song of yours (or your band’s) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? “Campo,” from the Bata Motel EP I put out recently. It’s has a dark sound and the lyrics are pretty heavy, but it still has this catchy, pop thing going on.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it? When I first started performing in bands about ten years ago, I bought a Kurzweil full stage piano. It’s completely impractical in that it weighs like 90 lbs. and is a total pain in the ass to transport. It sounds amazing and I still have it, but I am thrilled to be playing a compact little keyboard that I can throw in my trunk that weighs next to nothing.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? I released a four-song EP on Bandcamp called Bata Motel on Feb. 8th [Listen/buy it here]. I am performing at The Merrow on Feb. 23rd and at The Hideout on March 17th.