ADAM HAKES / STRAY MONROE

Stray Monroe: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

1. Take me through your rig: What are we looking at?

The amp is a Hot Rod Deluxe III and it is just an absolute workhorse. This is the updated version of the amp and has a much tighter overdrive than the originals. A big complaint about the Hot Rod Deluxe is the massive volume gain it gets from putting the volume above a 2. If you can’t push the amp’s volume to at least past 5, you can’t get the natural tube drive that guitarists strive to capture. That’s why I’ve modified the preamp tubes and switched out one of the 12AX7 with a 12AT7. This gives it a much smoother volume control, lets me push the amp volume further, and drops the gain a bit so I can control the level with my pedals more.

The Les Paul is a great guitar but at the end of the day, I am a staunch SG man. I originally needed two guitars for the live shows so I had to pick up another guitar. I own two SGs but I didn’t want to use both in one show. I just wanted a cheap backup guitar that I could keep in a E-flat for a couple of songs live, namely “Tiny Islands”. When combined with my Big Muff, it gives me a great raw, break-up sound that is massive. When I walked into Guitar Center to look for a guitar, I fell in love with the sound and playability of the Les Paul. Bought it out the door for $200. The SG is definitely my main live guitar but the Les Paul still holds up at the end of the day. My main guitar is a 2007 Gibson SG ’61 Reissue. The past few years, Gibson made the SGs have thick necks which does not work for me since I have smaller hands. I much prefer the thin, fast necks that let me get around the fretboard quickly.

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2. I dig the pedalboard — very utilitarian. Do you find yourself using the compressor much?

I am really proud of the pedalboard itself, I actually made it from scratch with my Dad out of a wooden pallet I found in the garbage. My favorite pedals on here are hands-down my TS-9 Tubescreamer and my Big Muff. I love making huge sounds with those and they compliment each other extremely well. It is part of the reason we (Blake and myself) go together so well: We like to center our tone around the Tubescreamer and go in different directions from there. Blake adds a lot of the brightness in the band and I provide the warmth in my tone. I use the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah just on a couple songs like “Take It Fake It” because I don’t want it to be too gimmicky but it is great to change some of the feedback I get when making noise in the live set. The DD-3 Boss Digital Delay is a pretty standard delay, I pretty much use it for all of my solos to get a nice spacey sound. One of my guitar heroes, Noel Gallagher, got his solo sound from a Tubescreamer and a digital delay; he always gets such a great tone that adds so much to the song. My main reason for using the CS-3 is to level out the dynamics of my sound. Most of my tone is crafted out of my various drive settings I use between the amp’s settings, the TS-9, and the Big Muff. Between all of those settings, it can be difficult to keep a consistent volume. The CS-3 helps to level out the volume when I want to use the different drives for their tone. When I turn it off, my drive pedals turn into my lead boost. I am also a big fan of using arpeggios in songs. The compressor helps each note ring out and not get lost in the mix of the song. A great example of this is the bridge on our song “Muddy Soles” where I go through multiple arpeggiated chords.

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

I would get a classic 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Blake and I were considering buying a new Fender Stratocaster to keep as a studio guitar but I think we would both rather have an awesome vintage guitar. A big influence on my guitar playing is John Frusciante, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he owns a beautiful sunburst 1962 Strat. I would love to get my hands on a similar guitar and I think the band would like it if I got a guitar different than another SG for a change. I own a lot of guitars with humbucker pickups and only one with single-coil pickups so it would be nice to have a solid guitar with single-coil pickups for a different sound.

4. I noticed you guys changed your name rather recently — what went into that decision? Has it been difficult to re-brand?

We played a show at The Merrow for Mike Halloran (former 91X DJ) and he advised us to do this in order to avoid long-term legal repercussions. Before we were Stray Monroe, we were The Hype. Unfortunately there are a lot of projects with that name or variations of that name. We decided on the band name, Stray Monroe, after about a month of throwing names around. Brett (our bass player) came up with the name, “Stray Arrows” which we thought was cool, but it didn’t really click. We were at our producer’s house and we were yet again throwing names around again and we liked the word “stray” but needed a better noun. Our producer has this huge picture of Marilyn Monroe hung up by his desk and Blake just blurted out “Stray Monroe”. Even then, it didn’t immediately click right away because we were all still attached to The Hype but eventually we all came to love it.

The only difficulty about the name change was from the band. We had been playing as The Hype for nearly a year so it was hard for us at first. As far as the scene was concerned, we had barely started, there wasn’t much to re-brand in the first place. The name change really helped us to get a fresh start into crafting an image of what we wanted the band to be. We wanted to incorporate “stray” as in we stray away from the norm of San Diego bands with our unique sound. We bring this big British guitar sound that we took from one of our favorite bands Oasis, that I don’t think you hear in other San Diego bands. Monroe was also kind of a risk taker in her time and definitely stood out, which is what we set out to do as well.

5. What’s next for Stray Monroe?

We just dropped our debut EP, The Stray Monroe Show, on the 21st of March. Right now we are in full steam in promoting the EP. We are booking shows for April, playing a show at the Casbah on April 25th, Public Square on May 6th, and Summfest at the The Irenic on August 19th. The band plans to get back in the studio around summer time. I want to keep the momentum going for the music and believe that putting together a follow-up to the EP is critical to that. Blake and I have a bunch of new songs that we are working on for the next record that we are excited to put out.

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THE GORGEOUS BOYSCOUTS

The Gorgeous Boyscouts: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Website

1. First, give me a run down on what everyone plays?

Nick Schwarz – Vocals, Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Mike Lomangino – Bass, Vocals
Brandon Albu – Drums, Guitar, Programming

2. When did you guys start playing together? And how did you decide on the name?

The band name came about during a camping trip, our friend kept calling our camping group, The Gorgeous Boyscouts. It always gets a laugh any time someone hears it for the first time — so we stuck with it.

We started at the end of 2015 but after a few months, the original bassist quit and we took a few months hiatus. Mike joined the band in June 2016 and we’ve been going strong ever since. We’ve been having a ton of fun hanging out, practicing, and playing shows!

3. Who’s using the Line 6 amp, and for what?

The Line 6 is used for the acoustic guitar which all three of us will play depending on the song. It is a very new piece of equipment and just saw its first live show (at The Merrow show on Dec. 13th).

The amp is described as the amp for the modern guitarist and we agree. It comes with a ton of built-in effects that can be controlled by the pedal board or a smartphone app and is extremely customizable. You can experiment with a built-in looping station and large array of drums tracks making it easy to jam out by yourself and great for writing new material. Haven’t messed with the wireless feature, but good to have options. It also has XLR output. Been impressed with the overall sound and flexibility.

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4. I once had a Fender Twin Reverb but it didn’t have a master volume so I could rarely use it. Looks like you guys are using a vintage one from the ’70s – how did you come to acquire that, and what are your thoughts on its tone?

Nick plays his Strat through the Twin Reverb. He believes it is either from 1970 or ’71.  Nick bought it off an old bandmate (Will from Mariel – they still play around town and you recently just did a piece on their guitarist, Opie). The tone is great. Super clean and very full – classic Fender tube amp sound. It handles the distortion effects amazingly well and the best part is it can get loud. Real loud.

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5. Talk to me about the TC Electronic voice pedals. Do they work well live?

This is tricky. The autotune pedal can be real finicky – but sounds great when it is dialed in. Nick will use it for about 50% of our tunes – just when we’re aiming for a specific sound. Sometimes, the autotune just won’t work right and it sounds better to sing with it off. Not sure if it’s due to the key the song is played in or another factor. It took a few months of experimenting with the pedals on and off and effects being changed to really utilize them properly.

The other vocal pedal is for tone, shape, compression and “de-ess”ing and is always on. Helps add some fullness to the vocals. And really helps with the overall sound.

There are also gains on both pedals so Nick can adjust the vocal volume from the pedal board. You can also change the vocal pitch lower and higher which helps add some variety to the songs. We play a few different styles so it’s a good fit.

 

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

Brandon: I do not have a ‘holy grail’ item for myself but I would really like to get Nick new effect pedals and patch cables 😉

Nick: I would love a Gibson Les Paul or an SG. Brandon’s right — I could really use some new patch cables but the constant buzzing and cutting out really spices things up.

Mike: An Avella-Coppolo. They sound amazing and support the local craft.

7. Give me a link to a song that you have online that you feel is best representative of your sound?

It’s hard to pick one song that is best representative of our sound because we all write material and bring a lot of styles and influences to the table. The collaboration forces us out of our individual comfort zones. The end result makes for a very diverse live set that is fun to play and hopefully keeps the audience interested. This is a straight-forward rock tune called “Chrees.” It is one of the first songs we started playing together.

8. What do you guys have coming up?

We have a string of shows throughout December and January, including our album release show on December 19th at Soda Bar. Upcoming shows, social media links, and our brand new EP (which can be downloaded for free) can all be found on our website, www.gorgeousboyscouts.com. We are currently working on a bunch of new songs and are doing some more recording; expecting to release our first full-length album within a year.

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.

 

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]

SCOTTIE BLINN / BLACK MARKET III

Black Market III: Facebook / Website / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube

1. Tell me about the stuff – what’s in your rig?  From ’91-’14, my rig was (all vintage): A ’65 Fender Super Reverb chained with a ’62 Fender Bandmaster head through a 4×12 Marshall 1960A slant cab, and a ’62 Fender Reverb tank.

But since discovering Quilter amplifiers, I get the same beefy tone…and more! The main set up is a Micro Pro 200 Mach II, and/or (original) MP200 and Pro Block 200 through a 4×10 tweed cab (or two) loaded with either Weber or Carvin speakers. Depending upon the size of the show, I’ll run either one head or two, and through smaller cabs like the Fender Excelsiors (only speakers), the tweeds, or the Marshall 1960A…or any combination within!

Quilter amps (under the QSC parent company) are all analog, class D solid state amps (no modeling) that saturate and communicate with the speakers exactly like tube amps. Add in all the other huge advantages these amps offer, especially for touring musicians, and there’s no reason to risk taking the vintage gear in the road. We are huge believers in these amps and are honored to a part of their family. Check out their website, or ask me about all the killer things these amps offer!

Effects: Boss ME70 and and a Boss ’65 Fender Reverb pedal. Shit sounds great and the vintage stuff stays at home now! My old set up included an original Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer I bought when I was 13 (some fucker stole it at a show in ’97!), a Vox Wah, an Ibanez Rotary Chorus, and a Danelectro Tape Delay.

Guitars: We balance our stage with matching cabs, and tend to do a bulk of the show with matching guitars and basses. I always use my first Stratocaster — the sunburst (a highly sought-after ‘80s Japanese reissue) ’67 body (which was split in half at an early Belly Up show with the Mississippi Mudsharks, and hung on the wall of the Tiki House until they closed last year) with ’62 neck, and typically a black Gretsch Electromatic hollowbody, a white blonde Stratocaster FSR, Danelectro Longhorn Baritone, and more recently, a black Frankensteined Telecaster (with a god-like neck pickup) and a sunburst Fender Cabronita Telecaster. We are also stoked about our endorsement deal with Boulder Creek Guitars – amazing instruments (you can see my red Telecaster in the outdoors photo with the MotorCult cab, and our black acoustic guitar and bass in our videos for “Black Mountain Side” and “Hummingbird”). ’67 Red Gibson 355 (pre-stereo) and black Gibson Lucille 355 (eat your heart out). The ’67 is an acquisition with a friend of mine for a joint collection. It lives at my house. The Lucille was a birthday gift from a close friend. Other guitars include: A ’48 Gibson acoustic archtop, a ’52 Gibson 125 with p90, a natural ’51 P-bass I handmade and pinstriped for Roxy, a silver Gretsch Electromatic solid body, a 2000-or-so Gibson Les Paul Standard Honeyburst (another gift!), and a custom painted semi-hollowbody (greenburst).

2. What song of yours (or your band’s) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?  “Black Roses.” At it’s heart, it’s traditional blues, musically and lyrically. Played on an old archtop and just stomping your foot, this one could have come right out of the Delta. But by getting more creative and poetic with the lyrics, not rehashing what has been done over and over, cranking it up with huge tone, and making a strikingly dark video, “Black Roses” is getting play across blues, rock, and metal radio shows worldwide. It is one of our best examples of a true crossover.

“Drinking water poured from the moon’s reflection.
Dead bird lying in your path.
You count the cars in a funeral procession.
Bad luck, won’t ya just pass…

Black Roses growing wild at the crossroads.
Hear the howlin’ on the hellhound’s trail.
The Cross of Salem protects from the inroads.
Ring a bell just to keep you away.”

Based on old superstitions, it’s a song about wearing God’s armor to protect ourselves from all the evil that surrounds us.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy?  An original ’62 Fender Stratocaster or a ’50 to 60’s Telecaster. Absolutely nothing feels or sounds as good…in my opinion.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?  Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. I don’t need to go into the ‘why’ part, now do I?! Hahaha!

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about – shows, records, videos, news?

Shows: We’ve got a killer show at The Merrow on March 22 (info), great shows in CA, NV, ID and more April-June; a four-month European tour August-November; and then we are slated to headline five or six festivals in New Zealand February-March 2017 (more on this soon!)

Recording: We are still pumping the new Live CD Vanarchy, as well as our first two, Songs That Shake The Cage and Black Roses. We have recorded a few new tracks, including (with a video) Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side.” The next CD is in the works, and is going to hopefully trip out a lot of people!

Videos: Here’s the brand new video for “Black Mountain Side.” We have a couple more on the schedule. A full blown production of our song “When The Sun Goes Down” is underway. This song and “Black Roses” are hitting in New Zealand and Europe!