NICK DISALVO / ELDER

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Elder: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp

[I was lucky enough to chat with Elder’s Nick DiSalvo for a SoundDiego interview recently (you can read that here) but while I was at it, he was kind enough to answer a few gear-related questions for a G&L feature. Be sure to check out Elder’s albums at the links above if you haven’t already. ~ Dustin]

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1. Take me through your live rig? What are you playing these days at shows? Is there anything you leave at home that you wish you could bring on the road with you?

Depending on where are are touring I use different gear but the sound is about the same. In the US I’ve been using my trusty Sound City 120, modded to sound like a hot-rodded Hiwatt DR103 with a master volume. I’ve been using that amplifier for years and years and still love it. In Europe I have an actual Hiwatt DR504 that I’m using on tours. I’ve got a really amazing sounding early 70’s Marshall JMP, I forget the build year but it must be right after the Plexi era because I’ve never heard another amp sound like it. Unfortunately it’s been the problem child and I haven’t had it properly fixed yet, so I haven’t had the chance to bring it out live.

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2. I’m obsessed with the fuzz/distorted tone you get on especially Lore and Reflections of a Floating World — it’s super thick but defined. Are you using any pedals or is that mainly from amp & guitar?

The heavy guitars in that album were all done with the JMP mentioned above! The base crunch sound is just the amp and the more saturated fuzz sounds came from stacking pedals on top of it. I use a Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh for my rhythm fuzz sound and am always switching out other pedals for lead sounds.

3. Did you have any go-to gear in the studio, or did you mainly use your live equipment?

We use all our own live equipment and want the records to sound like the live shows!

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(Photo from DasViken Guitars’ Facebook page)

4. If you were to have a custom fuzz pedal created for you (like a signature model) — what would you call it and would it have any specific features?

Actually, I am so lucky that I have a custom fuzz made just for me by DasViken Guitars from France. It’s a switchable germanium/LED diode pedal that sounds absolutely gnarly. I have too many fuzz pedals by now though — I don’t even know what the hell I’d look for if I needed another one…

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5. If money was no object and you could buy any piece of guitar gear on the planet, what would you get?

I would love to own an original Marshall Plexi!

6. What’s the worst piece of equipment you’ve owned, or conversely, what’s the best — and why?

Anything I played with when I was a kid just getting into music. I had a Digitech multi-effects pedal I bought when I was 14 that I thought was the best thing ever but really sounded terrible — I used it for all of my 4-track home recordings. The best piece of equipment I’ve ever owned is probably my Sound City head: when you tour a lot, the most important thing in equipment is reliability, and that thing has never faltered or failed me ever, besides having some of the most unique tone I’ve ever heard in a guitar amp.

Elder plays Brick By Brick on Monday, August 20th with Red Fang and DVNE.

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ERIC JAMES / ENDCASTLE

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EndCastle: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / Spotify

1. Take me through that luscious rig of yours.

Guitar: 2014 Gibson Firebird

Pedals: Dunlop 535q Multi-Wah > EarthQuaker Devices BitCommander > ToneBone Hot British > ZVEX Box of Rock > Boss RV5 Reverb > Boss DD7 > TC Electronic Flashback > TSVG Emperor > Mad Professor Ruby Red Booster > TC Electronic Spark Boost > TC Electronic Poly Tune

Amp: Music Man RD100

Cabinet: Hand built by my buddy, Frank Andrews. It has 2 12″ Warehouse speakers.

I have a lot of distortion options on my set up and they all sound different. I usually use two of them at the same time. I can go from Skynyrd-style distortion to Dimebag Darrell distortion really quick. I recently picked up the BitCommander, which makes some incredible sounds. It sounds like a synth at times. I haven’t found a use in any of our songs for it but I cant wait to use it in one. For now I just use it for sound effects. I love my TC Electronic Poly Tuner. A lot of people don’t like the idea of it or are scared of it or say it doesn’t work but I have had lots of success. My old boss TU2 I couldn’t see during daytime shows at all, I think they fixed that on the TU3 though. My Poly Tuner pedal is so bright and clear its unbeatable, and once you get used to it, you just strum all the strings at once and it tells you if one is sharp or flat, it makes quick work of tuning in between songs or even during.

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2. Diggin’ the assortment of pedals on the board: I noticed you have two delays on your board — what is each for and why did you choose those two to use?

I use the Boss DD7 for just basic delay use. It has a built-in tap tempo that I’ll use. It is a powerhouse delay that I under-utilize however, only because it is a pain to get down on the floor and mess with the dials during a show. I like to just set it and forget it.

The Flashback delay is also a powerhouse – I wish I had bought the big boy one – the Flashback X4, which has presets and whatever else you need. I use the Flashback for modulated delays. It has a mode for Reverse which does exactly what it says, believe it or not. I go back and forth between the Reverse and the Lo-fi mode. The Lo-fi also does what the name says, it roughens up the sound of the delays and sounds like an old low-fi Beck cassette.

More often than not, I have both the DD7 and the Flashback going at the same time. It works great when clean or distorted. Most of the times I’ll use it clean with the DD7 on and the Flashback delay set on reverse and the notes ring out with a ghostly delay that creeps up back on the note again.

3. Same question with the boosters: Why use both a Ruby Red and a Spark?

The Spark has been on my set up for a few years now and will never leave. It’s a great little boost that I can use for solos to bring my level up a bit. A nice feature with the Spark is that you can either click it on and click it off like a normal pedal, or if you hold your foot down on the switch – it activates – and when you take your foot off, it will turn off right away, so it helps prevent my treestump feet from tripping up on stage, which still happens often.

The Ruby Red is kind of on loan to me from Jesse [Kling, guitarist in Dead Feather Moon]. I use it as a treble boost. I don’t run any EQ pedals and so my Firebird can at times sound more like a Crow when I don’t have any pedals going — so this adds a nice treble boost. It’s a night-and-day difference really and since I received it, I have had it turned on pretty much non stop. I used it in the studio on two tracks recently, and it is the only pedal in use I think for one of the songs.

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4. I remember talking with you about your guitars one time and you mentioned the Firebird was like the worst guitar ever built. But you’ve got it in your rig — why is that?

I have a weird relationship with the Firebird — anyone who has played in a band with me knows it. They are great guitars, but mine was a lemon, and Gibson was no help. Around the time I purchased my guitar, I noticed that a few of my guitar heroes were quietly switching from Gibson. Zakk Wylde, for example, who is known for his massive Gibson collection and signature Gibson guitars, all of a sudden cut ties with them and launched his own brand. Now as we all know, Gibson is dealing with bankruptcy issues. I feel like it is because their quality has gone way down.

I wanted a Firebird ever since seeing the Def Leppard “Hysteria” album tour videos as a kid; 15 years later I finally got one. I should have backed away from the deal when the ‘Big Guitar Store’ employee couldn’t figure out how to tune it, nearly twisting the wrong end of the tuner off, and wouldn’t take my advice of turning the tuning knobs on the back of the head stock. Shortly down the road, it would have tuning, electrical, and cosmetic issues. As soon as I’d fix a problem, another would pop up. I want to point out that the Steinberger Tuners they used for only about one year on the Firebird are both incredible and also the worst thing to go on a Gibson. If one breaks, which they do, you cant just buy one you have to buy the whole pack of 6. Steinberger went out of business and Gibson would not tell me what I was supposed to do with my broken tuner. I had to look on eBay dozens of times per day because apparently it was in high demand, but there weren’t many out there. If it did pop up it would be a pack of 6 for almost $500. I got super lucky one day, months later, and only had to pay $50.

I remember one night throwing my guitar against a tree at an outdoor party that my cover band played, it has honestly played better since that night. I’ll occasionally go back and forth between it and my Telecaster and my SG, but the Firebird fits on me much better and Ill never get rid of it.

5. Love the cabinet you’re playing through: Looks like one of those old Marshall 4×12” tall boys. Surely it must be a pain to haul that around — why not play a smaller combo and mic it live?

It looks massive, but really isn’t too bad. My buddy Frank, who I used to play with (he now plays in SD’s best Black Crowes tribute band The Black Crowes Revival) built it for me. It has two 12″ Warehouse speakers. Really nothing special inside there but it makes a good sound. The top speaker is angled up to my head so I can hear it at shows where we don’t have monitors. I have often thought about a smaller combo and I used to have smaller combos but I like that it is tall so it’s easy for me to turn knobs during the show or more importantly set my beer on top of it so I don’t have to bend down and pick it up.

I really do think there is a sound benefit – although during shows the mic might not pick that up. In practice, it sounds great. Jason from The Bad Vibes has a small Music Man combo that sounds huge however. Also having smaller amps on stage with me makes me feel like I’m in Spinal Tap during the Stonehenge scene — I’m always stepping on whatever is rolling around on stage, so that also explains the big tall cabinet.

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6. I also had a Music Man head for a while and loved it. Where’d you find yours? What do you like about it? Have you had any problems with it, being vintage and all?

I found mine at Moze Guitars in La Mesa. I played Kyle Areford’s [from The Paragraphs, Dead Feather Moon] Music Man and knew I had to copy him and get my own. It took a long time to find but it popped up on the Moze Instagram and I drove down the next day and bought it. I like it so much because I am able to get a tight solid distortion out of it if I want, or I can switch to clean channel and have a warm clean sound with as much built-in reverb as I want. It sounds like a mix of Fender and Marshall to my ears. I think my amp was built in the early ‘80s. The only problem I have had is with the foot switch, but it’s aftermarket so it’s not the amps fault. It’s built like a tank. Kyle and I have had to take his apart to fix it and it took both of us to lift the guts up and put them back in the head.

7. Fun question: If a pedal manufacturer approached you and wanted to build a signature Eric James pedal — what brand would you want it to be, what features would it have, what would you name it, and why?

You’re right, that is a fun question. I don’t know if this would even sound good, but maybe EarthQuaker Devices will read this and be inspired: I want to be able to have a delay/tremolo thing where you can use an expression to slow the speed of it down or speed it up. I have the MiniMoog MF Tremolo that has the expression pedal so you can pretty much do what I described, and I’ve tried it with delays, but I just can’t come close to the sound I’m trying to make. So that would be cool, but realistically if the day ever came to make my own signature ERJ pedal, it would just be a big box with a bunch of lights on it, no effects or anything — just the little led lights all over it that turn on and off because I love lights.

8. What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve ever owned and why? Conversely, what’s the best?

The only thing that comes to mind is the Boss Metal Zone. I guess it has its use somewhere, and everyone likes their sounds but on my set up it sounded like garbage. I ended up selling it to a guy who collected them and had many Metal Zones for some reason.

I think my Music Man RD100 head is the best amp I’ve owned. Its built like a tank. It gets super loud but I am usually able to get a good sound at lower volume.

Not the best — but my favorite piece of gear is my Boss RV5 Digital Reverb. I bought it from Steve Stevens of Billy Idol. It makes some great hall reverb that doesn’t sound like anything an amp reverb could do. I use it often now in our songs.

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9. Wait…you bought a pedal from Steve Stevens? WTF?

[haha] The story isn’t as fun [as you’d think]. Steve Stevens is one of my most influential musicians. Occasionally he sells his personal gear on his website (his Premier Guitar Rig Rundown video is incredible by the way). I was lucky enough to catch one of his sales and that’s how I got it. He autographed it to me and included a Steve Stevens playing card and some of his signature picks with his ray gun logo. I also hit him up one day asking a question about how he recorded one of his guitar tracks and he wrote right back — he’s a great guy!

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10. That’s straight up awesome. Speaking of awesome — you’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re always scoping out what everyone’s using: Who do you think has the most awesome gear?

I can’t remember the last time that I went to a show and didn’t come home wanting to buy new gear because of whoever played that night. There’s no shortage of great guitar setups and guitar players in San Diego or traveling through on tour.

Jesse, from Dead Feather Moon, has my favorite sound. Between his gear and his playing style, he definitely has a unique sound that really comes to life when he plays live. He’s a wizard when it comes to his gear. Also Daniel “Cuervo” Cervantes from Mrs. Henry and 10 other bands. I remember one night being blown away at one of their Belly Up shows at how great his sound was, and he explained it was just his cheap Acoustic amp. [Read Cervantes’ own Gear and Loathing feature here to find out more about his rig]

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(Photo by Moses Namkung)

11. If money was no object, and you could buy any piece of equipment on the planet for one of your bandmates — what would you buy, who would you get it for, and why?

Dennis, our frontman/singer/guitar player extraordinaire, is one of the craziest, most expressive guitar players and songwriters I’ve ever met. I would get the guy who made Matt Bellamy’s crazy guitars [Hugh Manson, from Manson Guitar Works] with the built-in midi pad and what not, and have him make Dennis something even better. Also I’d have to get him a Theremin because he knows how to use those things.

12. What does EndCastle have coming up?

We’re stoked to be playing with Bosswitch and M. Crane at The Merrow on Thursday, July 26th. After that, we are playing on August 18th at Manhattan Bar and August 19th at Aztec Brewery. We are slowly recording songs at Emerald Age Recording, so we will have a few more songs up on our Spotify page soon. We’re working on new artwork and merch; I’d really like to make some EndCastle pogs.

TONY GIDLUND / SHADES MCCOOL

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Shades McCool: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

1. Tell me about your rig these days. What are you using?

I’ve made the Jazzmaster my primary guitar and demoted the SG to backup status. Now that I’m old, I want that note definition more than gnarly distortion and the tremolo system let’s me do a lot more tricks. Also, I’ve heard it said that P-90 pickups are the best for recording.

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Amp-wise, I’m using the Orange “Dual Terror” (Tiny Terror on one channel and a Dark Terror on the other) into an Avatar 2×12 and/or a Sovtek 4×12. It’s 30 watts but can go as low as 7.5, which I love. I can’t even imagine a scenario where I’d need 100 watts. There’s this constant battle between guitar players who think their tone doesn’t even get good until 3 and sound people who want them to turn down to half that. With a 30-watt amp, I’ve removed myself from that conversation. No amps were used on any of our recordings though. All plug-ins.

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Effect-wise, I’ve got myself a tuner, EHX Mel9 Mellotron emulator, EHX Microsynth, EHX Ring Thing, Ibanez TS9DX, and a Boss DD-7 all velcro’d to an old red shelf. I went kinda nuts with pedal purchasing this year. The Ring Thing is probably the coolest because it does alien-sounding ring modulation stuff, octave/pitch effects, and more normal effects like vibrato and chorus. Crucially, it allows you to save nine settings.

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2. Tell me about the band: It started as a solo “hardcore karaoke act” and now it’s a full group, yea? Are all the Shades McCool songs, like, joke songs?

That is correct. As the legend goes, Ben Johnson aka Grammatical B was looking for an opening act. I had been going to Pants Karaoke a lot and signing up as this “character” that was not much except sunglasses and a standoffish attitude. I saw Ben’s Facebook post and was feeling very “say yes to everything” so I did and he was kind enough to indulge me. I put together a set of covers and a couple bits and just went for it. It was surprisingly well-received so I did that around town at non-traditional venues for about a year before assembling my backing band, The Bold Flavors. The best show of that era was playing on a friend’s lawn during the Rock & Roll Half Marathon.

Shades McCool & the Bold Flavors is basically a spoof of a rock band in the way that Stephen Colbert was of Bill O’Reilly. Each song is a vessel for a comedic premise, e.g. “Pretty Good Guy,” a list of non-sequiturs in a dating profile; “Custom Croutons,” a recipe that descends into madness; or “Inauguration Song,” a song written for Donald Trump to sing with The Beach Boys at his inauguration. So yeah, they’re all joke songs.

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3. With “The San Diegan National Anthem” for example — how are you not getting sued by Toyota of Escondido, Pacific Nissan, etc?

I’ve actually been asked this a bit and I have a few thoughts. I am not getting sued because:

A) It’s a medley of several things that were FORCED into the public consciousness over the years. We’ve basically repurposed public works into a drastically different piece of art.

B) It has no negative impact on the brands. It gets people talking about those jingles/dealerships and in fact, it may hurt a brand to not be mentioned in the song. Cal Worthington keeps leaving me passive-aggressive voicemails.

C) When you read the actual lyrics, they’re not the same as in the jingles (“Bah Bay Curse Otto Group. Pear, he’s got it. Mas y niece on”) and parody is extremely well-protected. Furthermore, no reasonable person would mistake this for a real commercial. It’s too rad.

D) They love it.

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4. What’s the next piece(s) of gear you’d would like to add to your rig?

I’m always looking for a good synth pedal to get some big weird sounds. The Microsynth sounds amazing but it’s a little unreliable as far as triggering and what kind of sounds you’re going to get out of it. I’m eyeing the Earthquaker Bit Commander. I’ve also wanting to mess around with some kind of compressor pedal.

(When not in character as Shades McCool, I play bass in Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place and Goblin Cock. I just bought and returned an Ampeg SCR-DI preamp pedal, then bought the preamp-only version of it. I’m planning to get a Tronographic Rusty Box before the next time we play).

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5. What’s coming up for the band?

We’re usually pretty slow writing songs because good premises are hard to come up with. We need a few more before we can record our full-length. We do have a new top secret song experience that I am very excited about. There are also a couple cool plans for “The San Diegan National Anthem.” The ultimate goal is to have it replace the regular National Anthem at local sporting events.

Shades McCool play the Music Box on July 20th with Pinback and Bit Maps.

SATELLITE AMPLIFIERS

Since Gear and Loathing is, by and large, about local musicians and their gear, I’ve never run a profile on an area shop. Mainly because I didn’t put this site together as a tool to sell stuff for stores, etc. However, my buddy – Rodrigo Espinoza (videographer) – was at Satellite Amplifiers’ new(ish) storefront (1322 Gertrude St.) the other day and sent me a bunch of great photos. Since they’re constantly building some of the finest amps/guitars around, I figured I’d share the pics without further commentary. If you want to know more about them and their products, hit them up on their Facebook page, visit their website, or stop into their shop. – Dustin

MARK SEAN / BLACK HEART SAINTS

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Black Heart Saints: Facebook / Website / Instagram / Twitter

1. Tell me about your guitars.

Fender Telecaster: I use this guitar for songs in standard tuning. It’s got a Seymour Duncan humbucker in the bridge for some extra oomph.

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Gibson Les Paul: This guitar is used for songs in Drop C — and also has a secret weapon, a 15dB boost switch.

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Moniker Dixie: Custom guitar that I designed with the Moniker Guitars team in Austin, TX. I keep it in Drop C tuning.

2. That Moniker guitar looks killer. How’d you come into possession of that and what separates it most from the Les Paul and Tele that you use?

The Moniker Dixie is a very special guitar because it marks the beginning of my relationship with Moniker Guitars, a company based here in Austin that I endorse. I worked with the team to build the guitar exactly to my specs. I always liked the classic look of the Tele body, but I wanted to beef it up with some Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups.

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3. Talk to me about these wild guitar finishes on the LP and the Tele! Are they custom? 

The finishes were actually put on at the factory, but the interesting thing is that for both guitars, the patterns are unique. I picked up the Les Paul at Sweetwater Gear Fest in Fort Wayne, Indiana. People have come up to me after shows and told me that it looks like everything from blue cheese to fancy bathroom tile.

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4. I’m drooling over that Jubilee. Is that a reissue? Have you had a chance to compare it to other Marshall amps? I’ve always been curious if they sound much different than a Plexi or a JMP?

I was drawn to Marshall initially because some of my favorite guitarists were always known as Marshall guys — Slash, Tom Morello. I’ve always lusted over Marshall’s Silver Jubilee. The original was released in 1987, but the one I have is a reissue from 2015. It’s a lot like the JCM 800, but with extra gain. It’s got a cutting, mid-range tone that works great for the hard rock sound that Black Heart Saints require. I’m interested in getting a power attenuator so I can really crank it up at club shows.

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5. What’s your thoughts on the Zoom G3?

I use the Zoom G3 for three uses: a noise gate, pitch shifter (+1 octave), and a boost. I won it in a contest that Guitar Center sponsored. My band at the time got to open for Slash and Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, and we also got a badass prize package. I’m very thankful for having the opportunity to open for Slash twice (most recently with Black Heart Saints).

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

A song called “Call to Arms” has been a recent favorite of mine. It came out last year on our album ALIVE. It’s a killer track because it features the catchy riffs that I’ve been known to lean on, but also highlights the groove that I think is missing in hard rock today.

7. What’s the shittiest piece of gear you’ve bought and why did it suck? On the flipside, what’s the raddest piece of gear you’ve bought and why is it so great?

I love my Les Paul, but I have to be honest that I’m not too thrilled with the G-Force tuning mechanism (otherwise known as a robo-tuner). I’ve found that it can be unreliable at times, especially when trying to tune in lower tunings like Drop C.

8. What’s coming up for Black Heart Saints?

We have a music video in the works that we’re slated to shoot right after our Winter Tour 2018. Then after that, we plan to get back to the studio to work on some new material. This band is always doing something productive, and I love to stay busy — if we’re not on the road, then we’re either in the studio or working on something special.

Black Heart Saints perform at The Merrow on Wednesday, Jan. 24th.

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.

FRANCIS ROBERTS / OLD MAN WIZARD

Old Man Wizard: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

Ed. note: Ahead of Old Man Wizard’s two-week West Coast tour to promote their upcoming new 7″ single “Innocent Hands” (out digitally on Aug. 25 / check out the b-side “The Blind Prince” below), the band’s guitarist/vocalist, Francis Roberts, was awesome enough to share some of his fairly unique studio (and live) equipment with Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Enjoy. ~ Dustin

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1. The Wizcaster! My friend Connor (@highspiritguitars on Instagram) built this for me as a gift when he was launching his custom guitar brand. I think it was the first guitar he made for somebody other than himself. I think the design is based on an Epiphone Wilshire, but the neck feels more like a Fender. Really simple electronics, two P-90s. Really tough to beat.

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2. My High Spirit Strat! I helped Connor build a few of his Strat-style guitars, and took one home with me. This is basically exactly like a Strat, but the neck is nearly the width of a classical guitar. Featuring my wallpaper.

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3. The original Old Man Wizard live guitar/bass! These both ended up on the recordings [listen/download the band’s debut album here]. The bass is on both, I think that guitar is only on “Innocent Hands” (I know because took a video of myself recording with it on the LEEM amp). The guitar is a SonicF Z-7. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing that was built by a Seattle-based artist in 2009. He made a bunch of weird things (see for yourself). I tried a bunch of his guitars, and this was the one that was magical to me. It plays and sounds great, but the killswitch broke. I should get that fixed.

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4. Pedals and effects! I never use my live setup to record, and I never use a pedalboard. I do my own guitar tracking, and I go on binges of testing sounds and come back later to choose which takes to keep. I don’t actually know which pedals made it on to the record; I just chose the tracks that I thought sounded best. The only effects I know for a fact ended up on the record are the Univox Super Fuzz, a homemade Rangemaster, and the Echoplex in the photo. The guitar amps were all mic’d up with an SM57, nothing fancy in that realm.

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Here’s the live pedalboard. I’m experimenting with a SoloDallas storm pedal as part of my main live rig. It sounds huge but it only plays well with certain amps, so it’ll depend on the amp I bring along. I plan to bring my Ginormouse electronics delay/clean boost for leads (this was a custom build by a guy named Lewis Davis here in San Diego, and he makes really cool stuff. Worth checking out. He also built a rad phase shift that I use in my other band). I have a Catalinbread Belle Epoch “tape delay” that I pretty much always leave running these days. It seriously sounds almost as good as an Echoplex, but it’s better for live because it requires no maintenance and is nearly indestructible. And then I guess the last piece worth mentioning is the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic. It’s a killer inexpensive delay/reverb with XLR jacks for microphones, and it’s the best thing ever for vocals when you play a small venue that doesn’t have delay or reverb on the soundboard. The first time I used it at a show, I was asked if we had started using backing tracks. Sounds awesome, highly recommended.

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5. Frederick II: This is actually a Gibson Flying V from the early 2000s. I painted over the pickguard and Gibson logo years ago, and added a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The pickups are stock, but I’m planning to rout out some space to replace one of them with a P90 soon. That’s the Old Man Wizard sigil thing burned into the body. I used a soldering iron to do that.

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Update: And here’s the V with a P90 in it, getting set up and ready for tour. I’ll probably still take the Wizcaster or the Z7 with me just in case it doesn’t feel right after a few nights.

6. What do you got against Fender and Gibson?

I don’t like sporting logos of brands who aren’t giving me anything! [laughs]

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7. The recording amps! I used the LEEM one on “Innocent Hands” as an overlay. It sounds really bad, so if you turn it up all the way, it sounds even worse, which was exactly what I wanted for the black-metal inspired parts in the song. The other amp is my Valco. I used that on every other guitar track on both of these recordings. All the knobs were actually turned up to 10 the whole time.

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8. That’s the back of my little Valco amp with the snakes painted on top.

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9. The keyboards! We don’t have a keyboard player for shows (and we don’t run backing tracks), but I’m a huge fan of layering keyboards on parts of songs to get a little bit of extra energy in a studio recording. From the top left, that’s a ‘70s ARP Quartet, a modern reissue ARP Odyssey (the small version), and they’re sitting on top of a chopped Hammond M-3, which is sitting on top of a two-speed Leslie cabinet.

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If you’re in one of the cities listed below (or know someone in these cities), be sure to catch Old Man Wizard when they come through. “Innocent Hands” will be out digitally on Aug. 25th — before then, pick up the limited 7″ from them at these shows.

Aug. 11: Tijuana, BC – Mi Pueblito
Aug. 13: San Francisco, CA – Hemlock
Aug. 15: San Jose, CA – The Caravan
Aug. 18: Seattle, WA – The Victory Lounge
Aug. 19: Anacortes, WA – Kenelly Keys
Aug. 20: Tacoma, WA – The Valley
Aug. 22: Los Angeles, CA – The Lexington
Aug. 23: San Diego, CA – Soda Bar

WILL PARSONS / GRIM SLIPPERS

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Grim Slippers: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramWebsite

1. Tell me about your rig: What do you use most live and why?

I use my SG most live because I love the larger width of the neck compared to skinnier neck of the Stratocaster. It’s home for me. My rig is very simple and I like it that way. Since I sing and play guitar at the same time I don’t like to be switching pedals more than I have to. I really love to be mobile on the stage since the other two players in my band are stuck to their spots. Truthfully, in the live setting, I’ll sacrifice some technicality for more showmanship because I believe it helps the crowd to get into the show. I love eliciting a response from the audience. My Fender Hot Rod III is amazing. I love the ultra clean tones and spring reverb. Its overdrive is no pushover either. Perfect for Grim Slippers’ hard rock tones.

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2. I dig the guitar choices. Let’s get into that Fender vs. Gibson discussion: A lot of people fall into one camp primarily — do you like one guitar more than the other?

It depends on the type of music I’m playing. I grew up obsessing over John Mayer and John Frusciante’s awesome Strat tones and that’s the first electric guitar I played on. However, I never really picked up a Gibson until someone stole my first Strat out of my truck. I ended up doing a GoFundMe and when I went to go try out new guitars, the Gibson SG tone and playability felt amazing so I went with it. I like to play the Strat when I’m playing soul, funk, or blues rock. When I want some creamier, heavier tones I play the SG. I love both a lot! One isn’t better than the other, it just depends on the tone you want 🙂

3. You guys have a new record coming out – what were you using mostly on the record?

I switched between guitars almost 50/50 on the album. On some of the tracks I played both.

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4. Interesting pedal chain. You’ve got it nearly backwards (vs. traditional pedal placement) except the wah. Why? Any method to your madness? How did you settle on the Aqua Puss and the ’78 Distortion? Did you go through other pedals to get there? Still on the hunt for anything in particular?

To be honest, I thought that was the standard way of setting up a pedal chain of effects. I did a little research on the net and it told me to do it that way and it works out fine for me. Not really any other thought into that. My Aqua Puss pedal is my favorite pedal. It’s so versatile and you can get so many different sounds out of it. My favorite aspect of it is how it interacts with my overdrive or distortion. It produces a very metallic-tinny sound that is really extraterrestrial and unsettling. Perfect for solos and adding more heaviness without increasing volume or distortion. As for the ’78 Distortion, I love classic distortion. It has just enough grit and even a little fuzz sound in there that gives you that dirt nasty for your solos without decimating the audience. These are the only pedals I’ve owned. I’ve been meaning to get a reverb pedal for certain parts in two of our songs but money is tight. I’ve been drooling over a couple phaser and chorus pedals too. They seem like they’d be fun to play with but not really necessary in Grim’s sound.

5. What’s next for the band?

Well, we’re going on a Midwest tour starting mid-June and then we’re coming home for a bit and then going back out on a West Coast tour late-July-August. We are releasing our new album Graveyard Soirée [listen/buy it here] this Thursday, May 18th at the Belly Up [INFO]. And we are trying to shoot a music video before we leave on tour for one of our songs.

 

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.

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

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