GARRETT PRANGE / EXASPERATION

Exasperation: Bandcamp / Instagram / Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. What’s next for Exasperation?

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

NAMM 2017: In Photos

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

THE BEST OF NAMM 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RC KRUEGER / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / TwitterSoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. Take me through these rigs!

To clarify, the guitar set-up I sent you is what I plan on playing in the coming month when Mariel adds another member. For the past year or so we have been playing as a three piece: Opie Tran on guitar, Billy Hagan on drums and me on bass, but prior to that we had another guitar and keys and that’s closer to how I hear it in my head and what the recordings reflect. Also on the recordings is a female voice, which has been fun trying to replicate with us three boys all taking those parts, but again not how I hear it. So the plan is for me to move to guitar and add a lady on bass and vocals. I just thought I should explain why I sent you two set-ups.

For my bass setup, I play a Music Man Sterling, which is a cheaper version of the Stingray, through an Orange Terror Bass combo and the only pedal I use is a The Wolf by Devi Ever, which is fuzz.

For guitar, I mostly play a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster. It’s the one with the simplified electronics, it doesn’t have those knobs at the top, just a normal three-way switch, which I like. I play that through a Vox Night Train with just the 112 cab. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want a whole lot going on pedal-wise, so now I just have a Malekko Spring Chicken reverb, and two stages of dirt, an Earthquaker White Light overdrive and a Walrus Audio Iron Horse distortion. Opie thought I was crazy when I told him I didn’t even want one delay on my board. He has like 12.

2. Either that skull is giant or that bass amp is really tiny. Which is it? Next: Where the heck did you find that skull and does it accompany you guys to shows?

Both. The Skull, affectionately called Skulliosis, is very large, but a huge reason for me getting that Terror Bass was how small it is. It’s super small, sounds amazing and is plenty loud. Skulliosis does come with us to shows. My friend Seth Eubanks of the band Sullen Ray used to carry it around to shows and always have it at the front of the stage. A couple years back, he was moving out of a warehouse space that we at one point shared and he told me he had a pile of stuff that either belonged to me or I could have. Skulliosis was in that pile so I decided I would carry on the tradition and he’s been at every show we’ve played since. Also in that pile was a suit of armor that now sits on my front porch. So if you’re ever in North Park and see a suit of armor, that’s my house.

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3. Praytell – what is that Wolf bass pedal?

The Wolf is a fuzz pedal made by Devi Ever. It’s wicked. It’s been really important since we’ve been a three-piece. On big parts where it’d be nice to have another guitar chumming along while Opie plays a lead, I can turn that on and play chords and it fills that spot. All the harmonic goodness really helps those parts.

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4. Talk to me about your Vox Night Train: There’s a million amps out there – why rock the Night Train (which rules)?

You’ll start to see a pattern here, but I really liked the idea of getting a lunchbox amp for ease of transportation and the Night Train is my favorite one. I agree that it rules. I think it sounds great, but I’m definitely a Vox guy. I also have an AC-15 that I love.

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5. Walk me through this awesome pedalboard: Some excellent boutique choices – what’s the difference between the EQD White Light and the Walrus Iron Horse?

For me, a lot of the fun in pedals is the collector aspect of it. I’m a pretty big geek. I love screen-printed posters, small record labels, toys, geeky stuff like that. Boutique pedals can fall into the same category for me. I love the idea of one guy making this awesome piece of gear in his basement and then his print-maker buddy puts this incredible art on it. Not to say that that’s more important than the actual function of the gear, but it factors in. It’s why I’d prefer to have that Spring Chicken as opposed to say a Boss reverb. You know what I mean?

The White Light is overdrive. I pretty much always have it on and the Iron Horse is for when I want to get dirty. I chose the Iron Horse specifically because I used to have this old Rat from the ‘80s, so it had the LM308 in it and it sounded incredible, but it did wacky things. When you turned it on, it would work fine, but when you turned it off it would cut the power on everything else on the board, so it ended up only being used on some Mariel recordings because that wouldn’t work live. But that Rat got me into the idea of tighter distortion rather than fuzz and that’s where the Iron Horse came in because it can do that.

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6. When and where’d you get that Malekko Spring Chicken? I know some folks that’d like to get their hands on an original issue version like that one.

I got that Spring Chicken a few years ago on eBay. It’s pretty sweet. It can get real wacky if you want it to. And the art is so good.

7. I can confidently say you’re the first to send over pics with Star Wars figurines – which I love cuz I’m a super Star Wars nerd. Firstly: Rogue One – are you stoked? Secondly: The Force Awakens – good or no? Thirdly: Favorite Star Wars character and why?

Already got my Rogue One tickets. I’m super stoked. Maybe more so than I was for Force Awakens. That first Rogue One trailer was so good.

The Force Awakens was really great. I don’t know why people hate on it so much. People’s complaint was that it was too much like A New Hope, I think that’s silly. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on TFA? I thought it was a lot of fun. I like Kilo Ren a lot too because I imagine him saying and doing the raunchy things he does in Girls. Which he’s hilarious in…. oh man, do I lose geek points for bringing up Girls?

Since I was a kid, my favorite character has been Han Solo. I suppose I like his journey the most. He goes from being this shady, out-to-make-a-buck pirate, to respected General. Luke goes from farm boy to Jedi Master, but he’s always the good guy. Han’s intentions start out being pretty shady and he redeems himself pretty hardcore. In Battle Front, my favorite character to play as is Vader — but whose isn’t?

8. What else do you guys have coming up?

All of that. I have big plans for the coming year. We have enough songs for a record, so let’s record them and put them out. I went to film school and could do another Gear and Loathing just on film gear, but do you see any film content for Mariel? That will happen too. But the first step is to get the line-up in order. Hopefully after all that we can get a sick write up from Dustin Lothspeich. Hopefully.

TOMMY GARCIA / MRS. MAGICIAN

Mrs. Magician: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about your current rig? The amps I’m using are all Satellite amps or things that we have modified. The one I use most often is a 75 watt model called the OMEGA that we added an additional tube preamp to, so I could get the sound I was after at a lower volume. Second up is a clone of a ’64 Fender Bassman called the ASSMAN; I love this amp for it’s slightly overdriven tones but that doesn’t really happen until it’s too loud to play live so it’s mostly a studio tool for me. And lastly, I’ve been using a ‘60s Dukane PA amp that we re-wired for use as a guitar amp with an old Vox Super Beatle cabinet, that we replaced the speakers in with modern Celestion greenbacks — it kind of reminds me of a brownface Fender Deluxe on steroids.

Guitar-wise, I’m using a parts-Jazzmaster that my friends all helped me put together by donating or selling me guitar parts for really cheap. The end result was a really inexpensive, great-sounding guitar that I think is as good, or better, than any model that Fender actually makes. Secondly, I still use my trusty ‘60s Silvertone Silhouette — mostly unmodded except for an added ground for the electronics and a bridge modded by my friend Brandon Madrid.

Then there’s pedals. When it comes to my live rig, it’s always kind of similar: Fuzz, boost, trem, two analog delays (set to different times) and reverb. In the studio, all bets are off and I just make shit up as I go along, usually trying new pedals that I’ve never used before — but live, I keep it the same and try and emulate the studio sounds with what I have in front of me.

2. What Mrs. Magician song do you feel is the best portrayal of the sound/style you’re after? “Where’s Shelly,” off of our upcoming LP Bermuda and I say that because it really has all of the different sounds that have been associated with our band over the years all rolled into one song. [Ed. note: Since the new album isn’t out yet, I’m including the band’s new single below. Enjoy!]

3. You work here in town at Satellite Amplifiers — in your eyes, what sets Satellite amps apart from others? If someone asked you they should buy one, what would you tell them? At Satellite, we strive to make things that we want to play and in many cases that’s how a prototype for something comes about. If I was asked why someone should buy one, I would just tell them to come play one and they would know why.

4. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy? A Mosrite Ventures model. I am a firm believer that the cooler the piece of gear looks, the better you will sound using it and that is the coolest looking guitar out there.

5. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise and why? The musician who’s sound I admire the most would have to be Rowland S. Howard. He wrote some of my favorite songs and was the most influential guitarist for me (other than the Swami). I also love that he used the same amp, guitar and pedals all the way from The Birthday Party up until he passed away, proving gear is secondary to imagination.

6. What do you have coming up that we should know about? Our new album comes out May 20th via Swami records. We also leave for SXSW next week.

3/12: Phoenix, AZ @ Viva PHX with The Growlers, RFTC, Mystic Braves
3/13: Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress with Rocket From The Crypt
3/14: Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad with PRAYERS, Plague Vendor
3/15: Denton, TX @ Rubber Gloves with Mind Spiders, SAVAK
3/17: Austin, TX @ Breakaway Records — 1PM
3/18: Austin, TX @ BD Riley’s (Official Showcase) –– 9PM
3/19: Austin, TX @ Dozen Street (Little Dickman Records Party) –– 4PM
3/20: Austin, TX @ Empire Control Room –– 4:30PM

DUSTIN LOTHSPEICH / OLD TIGER

Thank you for visiting Gear and Loathing in San Diego. As the guy behind the scenes of this whole thing, I figured I’d start the whole project off by sharing what musical equipment I use and get the ball rolling. I hope y’all enjoy the site and find some musical inspiration along the way. ~ Dustin

Old Tiger: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

1. What is your favorite piece of gear? The JHS Colour Box. I’ve never been able to get the perfect light, full-bodied overdrive sound I’d always heard in my head until I played through that thing. It just purrs at all frequencies – and it’s great at doing a ton of other stuff (like crazy velcro fuzz noises). It’s pricey but worth it.

2. What song of yours (or your band’s) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? I think “Get Along,” off Old Tiger’s record, Love Have Mercy, is a good indication of what I try to do as a guitar player. That record has a lot of cool parts and different players, so while it’s not a great example of how I actually play live, that song has always been a nice one to listen to.

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy? Probably a vintage Gibson ES-355, ES-330 or Gibson Barney Kessel model – because vintage guitars (especially old Gibson semi-hollowbodies) have so much mojo, and they’re so comfortable to play.

4. What’s the worst or weirdest piece of gear you’ve ever bought or used? I have a weird Squier Bass VI that I still haven’t bonded with yet. It’s a cool instrument and has some funky sounds in it, but playing a bass with that many strings on a neck that thin has turned out to be a difficult task.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? Currently working on writing lots of music for Old Tiger’s next record. Hope to share some new stuff soon.