RORY MORISON / THE BAD VIBES

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The Bad Vibes: Facebook / Bandcamp

1.Take me through your pedalboard: What are you using and what are your favorite pedals?

We got the Vox Wah Wah, the MXR Bad Ass Distortion, the Death By Audio Apocalypse, Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter, Empress Tremolo, Earthquaker Devices Transmissor, and last but not least, the TC Electronic Flashback Delay. I’m definitely a delay junky so that Flashback gets me a lot of mileage, especially because I can navigate my way through three different settings so quickly with that pedal. However, that being said, more than any specific pedal, I’m more into what certain combinations can get me sonically. It’s taken me a while but I’ve found a balance in the possibilities on this board and most of the time, I have more than one running.

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2. That’s a beauty of a Gretsch: What made you want to play that particular guitar? 

First and foremost, I’ve always been a huge Neil Young fan. Always loved loved the brittle rust tone he gets out of the White Falcon. I’ve owned other Gretsch guitars but this one I got out of necessity because my trusty Epiphone Les Paul was on the fritz and I couldn’t get it fixed before some upcoming shows. She’s certainly a beauty with some real bedroom eyes! The feel on the neck and her body are great but her personality is kind of hard to deal with (certainly a reoccurring story in my life). She has that Gretsch twang but bites more than any I’ve ever played. For Bad Vibes, I find myself dialing back the high end on the amp to keep the midrange of my tone while trying not to lose the personality of the guitar. It basically makes me dig in on the action if I want that bite — which isn’t too hard since I lack any finesse as a player.

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3. That pedalboard is seriously impressive: Talk to me about that Death By Audio pedal — what does it do and what do you use it for?

Fuck man, that pedal is fucking nuts — it’s a touchy touchy pedal that has to be readjusted every time it comes out the case. Basically it has five fuzz circuits that you can select from and then a tone knob that shifts the frequency. Live, I mainly use what they call the Gainiac setting at two o’clock for riffs on “Cathedrals” and on call-and-response solos that take place on a new song called “The Tower.”

4. What’s a Bad Vibes song that you think really showcases your gear?

Most definitely “Vultures”: I think I use every single pedal on that song, which seems fitting since it’s our rock opera/war dance.

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5. Talk to me about the new album: What makes it special to you?

This is the band’s first record and we are putting it out on Daniel Cervantes’ (Mrs. Henry, Creature and the Woods) label, Blind Owl. Its special for many reasons but as an individual, I’ve never been able to focus long enough to put a record together, so there’s a sense of accomplishment and fear in that. For the band, we’ve been through a whole lot of struggles, smiles and cries, freedoms and arrests — you know, life — during the making of this album, which is why it gets the title No One’s Safe. This music is the result of that wild ride and it was recorded at Le Chateau de Bad Vibes, a house long
known for hosting parties till 9 a.m. involving fireworks, impromptu jams and what the Latin community would call “convivios.” The songs are embalmed in that energy and remind me of wonderful and horrible times in my life. The songs have changed a lot and continue to do so, but I think we will relish this moment, take a breath and continue on in a new direction.

6. With No One’s Safe dropping on Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Casbah — what’s next for you guys?

We’ve already started work on a new EP being recorded and engineered straight to tape by Jordan Andreen over at Audio Design. We will be playing hometown shows but really trying to get out of town by doing small one-off weekend tours followed by an extensive one in late fall/early winter. We also have plans to begin recording the second album in collaboration with Mr. Andreen and Mr. Cervantes as co-producers. We are also most immediately thankful to you and everyone that has helped us along the way — come take intoxicants with us and dance naked or clothed… please… now… don’t make me ask again.

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JOE & JAYE MacASKILL / PONY DEATH RIDE

Pony Death Ride: Facebook / Website / Soundcloud

1. Tell me about your current rigs: Best parts? Worst parts?

[Joe MacAskill] I’m using a Gretsch Electromatic hollow body. Just got it a couple months ago online. It’s the most expensive guitar I’ve owned which isn’t saying much, but I love it. I’m playing through a Vox  Valvetronix Modeling amp which has way too many settings, and if you’re ADD, it just might make your head explode. I got it for next to nothing at our former pawn shop hookup which is no longer a thing. The amp really isn’t loud enough so it’s on it’s way out, for a bigger Vox. Pedal-wise, I have a Boss ME-50 which has too many settings also, and I don’t have the patience to get it to do what I think it can probably do. I use various pedals as well that do the same thing as the Boss pedal, but I’m not smart enough to combine them all. I also have a vintage Boss EQ that goes for a lot online. I have it in my rig to make people jealous. Jaye plays a neat Univox bass she got at a vintage guitar shop online a few years back.

2. What song of yours is the best representation of your sound/style?

The song that best reflects our style is “I Think My Boyfriend’s Gay For Morrissey.” Lots of delay and chorus and fun little guitar lines that Johnny Marr may have done in his teens. Most of our material is punk-rockish type stuff, or on a ukulele. It was nice to write something that made me remember how to play listenable guitar lines.

3. If money was no object, what would be your “holy grail” purchase?

My “Holy Grail” equipment would have to be a Gretsch Falcon, which I didn’t know existed until last week. You could drop it and it would sound nice. And it’s really big, so it may even have a slimming effect on me! And it’s only $12,000! I guess I’d settle for a 1966 Fender Jaguar. It’s only $2,500! Jaye is holding out for a Gretsch acoustic bass. And maybe a better wedding ring. And harkening back to my metal days, a Marshall stack would be nice and an interesting conversation piece for house visitors.

4. Any local musicians (or otherwise) you admire gear-wise?

For musician admiration, I’d have to go with Zach Condon of Beirut. He plays a Lanakai ukulele, and it’s a $100 ukulele. How punk rock is that?! He tours with it, records with it, everything. I bought one and it really is amazing. I bought the higher-priced model for touring but still use the cheapo model for recording. You’d think he’d be endorsed and only play the top of the line model, but nope! Jaye is a big Simon Gallup of The Cure fan as far as bass goes, but I just can’t sell her on Geddy Lee. And she’s Canadian!

5. What’s next for Pony Death Ride?

We just finished recording our new record, Cat Sounds. It’s all about cats! And we got new costumes and are making some videos. The release date will be Sept. 6. We will be taking our little musical comedy act to a couple different burlesque and comedy festivals as well this summer along with promoting the the album.

Head to Big Front Door (4135 Park Blvd.) tonight, Sept. 6, for the Pony Death Ride CD Listening Party for “Cat Sounds” from 8-10 p.m. [INFO]

BRIAN HOLWERDA / BLACKOUT PARTY

Blackout Party: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1.Tell me about your current rig: How does the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything still a work in progress?

Ah, the never-ending quest. I was bad for a while with Craigslist buying and selling pedals and amps. I would read different forums and think, “Oooh if I can just get this one piece of gear, I will be happy.” I horse-traded probably 10 different amps and way too many pedals. Then my buddy O told me one time that no matter what gear I was playing, I always sound like me. He was basically saying it’s in our hands and in our gut. Not that I don’t geek out on gear anymore, but I’ve thinned the collection significantly since then and choose to take a much more utilitarian approach.

I always come back to small amps that sound like they are about to blow up. They sound huge in the studio and they don’t hurt my back. With Blackout Party, I always needed a bit more clean headroom and jangle so I like using a Bassman or something in the 40 watt range, but for everything else I use a 15-22 watt amp. Running different tube combinations in stereo is fun when you can, like a Vox and Fender. I sold my Blues Jr. to Jesse LaMonaca a few years ago and begged for it back, so finally he sold it back to me before we moved to Nashville. That’s my main right now — it’s cheap but sounds awesome and is such an easy load-in. One time the road case wasn’t latched when I lifted it up and it crashed onto the street and tubes were bouncing everywhere. I plugged them back in and it still works fine. I do see an old Deluxe Reverb in my future, though. 6V6’s are my favorite tubes!

My board changes a bit depending on what I’m doing, but I always go right into the Greer Lightspeed and it stays on. I use it as a slight boost to account for any signal loss and to act as a preamp. If I’m playing a smaller room and can’t turn up my amp to where it sounds best, I like being able to bump up the gain on the Lightspeed. It sounds open, natural, and makes the guitar just “feel” better. I like a slightly pushed sound and use my volume knob on the guitar for cleaner sounds. I’ve seen the Lightspeed on tons of boards lately, and for good reason. Also, Nick Greer and his team are good people and I like supporting good people!

After that, I use any number of fuzzes, but always on super low gain as more of a boost or second level. I try to keep things musical and most times I’m not a fan of having the gain past 10 o’clock. I’ve used a lot of Black Arts Toneworks fuzz, and the Pharaoh and Black Forest are my go-to. I will leave them set a little different and occasionally stack them when things need to go into full warp. Mark from BAT has become a good buddy since we started drinking beers together at NAMM, and he lives in Tennessee as well. I love his mentality and humility, and he will be the first to tell you that tone comes from the fingers, not pedals. The Pharaoh is a classic and was the first BAT I got into. I use the Pharaoh Supreme now on Germanium clipping, lo-output mode with minimal gain. It’s interesting to hear a pedal associated with metal used in different applications, I just love it. The Black Forest is set dirtier to take things over the top. My next BAT will be the Quantum Mystic — it uses the germanium clipping that I dig and has a 3-band EQ so it can be dialed in a bit more. Anyone out there looking for some new fuzz should look at the Black Arts stuff!

After my dirt is a Boss EQ that I use for a slight boost when I want a plain old volume bump, then a EHX Nano Grail that I keep set to a washy spring reverb for a spaghetti Western sound. I used that a lot when I was playing with John Meeks for a real spooky sound. I’m looking to replace the EHX reverb with a Strymon Flint, which does the reverb and a tremolo in one pedal. My friend Erik Olson turned me on to the Flint and now I need one bad.

Last is an old MXR Phase 90 that I got from my buddy Andrew McKeag. He is such a cool dude and badass ripper, so I feel like this one has a little extra something special in it. He told me he used this one with Presidents of the United States of America, which I love! I just use it for that slow Waylon-style country thing, very sparingly. Phaser is like cumin, it’s great but if you sprinkle too much in the pot you are in serious trouble. 1-2 phaser moments per album or set, max.

For guitars, I always used Telecasters until I got the Gretsch White Falcon. I am a huge Neil Young and Stephen Still nut, so to me the Creamy Pigeon is it, quest over. Listen to the intro of “Wooden Ships” by CSN, or “Alabama” by Neil — that’s what this thing sounds like. I’ve got the deluxe top-of-the-line model with the TV Jones pickups, which to me sound a lot better than what comes stock. I’m usually in bridge pickup with a small bit of neck rolled in. At first, it was a little flashy for me, but I took the pickguard off and now it looks perfect. I was worried about taking it out of the house but my Mom and Dad actually encouraged me to look at it as a tool, like a hammer. It has a job. Now she has a few small blemishes and probably some dried sweat and beer, but plays better that way.

The Tele was built by my friend Mark in Crest, CA, and painted by Mike Maxwell who has done a lot of art with the Silent Comedy. It’s an old Civil War general, so we call it “The General.” It’s got a custom hammered copper arrowhead over the truss rod and it’s a total Frankenstein model. We aged the body by dragging it behind a car and throwing it up in the air on the driveway. It was my #1 before the Falcon and I still use it a lot. The pickups are Seymour Duncans, and I only use the bridge.

I love playing banjo too, and am happy to call the Deering family friends. They are such good peeps! It was good to see Jamie, Greg, and the crew recently in Nashville, and it was cool being involved in their ad campaign for their “Solana 6” nylon 6-string model. It’s definitely my go-to back porch and/or travel instrument at our house. The other banjo with the crazy ninja unicorn inlays was given to me by one of my best friends Jeff. I guess he found it in South Carolina and thought I needed it! It’s still one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me, so thanks again, Jeff! It’s got a Deering head but the rest is totally custom woodwork and insane abalone inlay.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

I have to pick “All My Friends” off the newest recording. It’s a song that we’ve been playing since we started out, and even recorded previously. It’s so much fun to go into the extended jam at the end, you can really lose yourself on stage. Tim and Daniel have some neat guitar bits and Jesse and Hoth are just pumping. It feels good. On this tune, I used an old Silvertone acoustic with a P90 plugged into a Black Arts Pharaoh fuzz on germanium clipping and low gain, then layered that track with a baritone guitar into an AC30 and a Bassman in stereo. Really fun recording this one with the guys!

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

Man, hard one because for so long I drooled over the White Falcon and now it’s sitting here. I have to say I’m pretty happy with my current lineup, but an old Martin acoustic would be real nice. There’s a store here in Nashville called Gruhn’s, and they have rows of old Martins STARTING at $10k. Some of them feel ok, but a few of them just sound like they are plugged in when you hit a G chord. An old D-28 or D-35 would be real nice!

4. What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

This ties into my favorite musician as well, which would have to be my Dad Jim and his 1966 Guild D-50. He put the love of all kinds of music in our house, and taught us to appreciate jazz and classical as well as rock and folk. I remember wanting to learn some Metallica riffs when I was a kid, but he sat me down and made me play James Taylor licks or the intro to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” to a metronome. At one point, he told me he’d buy me an electric guitar if I could play the riff in “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Commander Cody at any speed to a metronome. I must’ve sat there for months playing it so slow, but I finally got it — and a Yamaha Pacifica electric guitar. He passed on his prized Guild to me a few years back and it is the one thing besides my wife and dogs I’d grab if the house were on fire. It’s the guitar my Dad serenaded my Mom with at camp before they were married, and has always been real special to our family. Plus it sounds amazing! Turns out Guild gave it to the Serendipity Singers as a promo model just before my Dad bought it in ’66, and we have a clip of them using it on Hullabaloo earlier that year. It’s one of the 2 in the back middle:

5. Blackout Party has a new record coming out — how would you say it stacks up against the your guys’ last one? What’s changed? What’s stayed the same?

It stacks up great to the last one, and feels like the natural next step to us. Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed had a twangy Americana sound and influence, where the newest record is heavier and has more texture. The constant is songwriting and focusing on themes everyone can relate to. We were able to do more on this one and experiment with some different sounds and ideas, where on the last one we literally plugged in and cut it all live in 3 days, even most of the vocals. We cut everything live again on the new one, but went in and layered a lot more fun ear candy on this one. For example, on “Grape and the Grain,” I’m singing vocals through a distorted guitar amp that was plugged into a rotating Leslie speaker to get a really warbly sound. We layered that in below the main vocal, but it added a really neat texture and we took the time to do stuff like that all over the record.

Also we have some cool guests, like Maureen Murphy who sings her butt off on “Smart Too Late.” She sings in Zac Brown’s band and was passing through the studio one night when the engineer asked if she wanted to sing a bit. It was all very random and lucky, but we all had goosebumps the second she started singing.

6. You guys also took a strange route of going all the way to Nashville to record the thing, then did an Indiegogo for vinyl, and then either went on hiatus or broke up (while you moved away) before actually playing a release show — which you guys are getting around to now. What happened and why the weird chain of events?

Yeah it’s been wild, and totally weird! A couple of my buddies were in Nashville working at Zac Brown’s place as engineers, and they invited us out to track here at Southern Ground. It appealed to me to get the guys out of San Diego and our comfort zones. I like being able to unplug from everyday responsibilities and focus on making noise together. The pre-sale thing on Indiegogo was a natural next step, and a big success for us. I see those platforms as a way to let friends and fans be directly involved in the process, and offer a new experience rather than simply buying a CD at a show. We went over our funding goal and did almost $10k in sales before the release, and it’s cool to know that many of the people who supported this project have their names listed on the vinyl as “Executive Producers.” After the pre-orders shipped, I got a great opportunity in Nashville and had to make some moves pretty quick. Tim [Lowman] had a similar situation so now 2/5 of the band is in Tennessee. We never broke up, but just said hey we are going to step back and re-address this later this year. In the meantime, my wife and I were able to buy a little house out here, I love my job, and I’m graduating with a business degree on the same night of our Casbah show! Been very busy, but excited to finally be putting on a proper release for our San Diego friends and fans.

7. What can fans expect at the release show on Aug. 27?

The whole bill is solid, so come early and stay late! The New Kinetics, The Slashes, and Mrs. Henry all will be badass, and then we are going to tie a nice big black bow on the evening. We partnered with Jameson to offer some cheap whiskey specials all night, so hopefully everyone takes advantage of that. It will all be fun, no power ballads! We’ve got a couple covers to sprinkle in there, and we are mostly excited to be back in that room and just feed off everyone’s energy!

8. What’s next for you specifically, and also the band? Any more shows coming up? 

I’m excited to be in Nashville and continue writing with a few specific people. My vision for this year is to focus on the publishing side of things, where I can be home at night with the wife and dogs, drinking a few beers in the yard, not in a sweaty van. I’d love to get the BOP guys out here for a few shows — I know we’d do real well in this market, but will ultimately depend on boring stuff like schedules and budgets. My next project is recording an EP with my neighbor Larry, who is a cool old cowboy. He heard me picking one day and showed up on my porch with a bottle of Jack and 2 vintage Martins! He’s an amazing songwriter and we have become buddies so I want to be involved with documenting the songs he’s written. I’m hoping to have it tracked in a few months, so when the time comes we will keep everyone posted on that.

Besides the Casbah show, there’s nothing booked, but we are hoping to play some more in San Diego. There’s even talk of re-releasing Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed on vinyl with the original alternate art at some point, which would be badass. I’d love to come back to San Diego to play Oktoberfest or another festival soon, or maybe just to play Tim Mays’ backyard! We shall see.

Blackout Party headline the Casbah on Aug. 27 for their “Float On Towards Our Doom” record release. Get info here.

J. ADAM WILLIAMS / THE LOWLAND DRIFTERS

The Lowland Drifters: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud

1. How would you describe your band’s sound.

We are trying to bridge spaghetti Western music with aggressive garage-rock and slight hints of surf. The lyrics all take place in some dying desert trailer-park town…our modern-day version of  ghost towns. It’s pretty dark, lyrically… almost pulp/noir. Imagine Breaking Bad meets The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. We have experimented with calling it “Doom Western”… not settled on that yet.

2. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: Is there anything you’re not stoked on that you might be replacing soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig? 

My ADINEKO from Catalinbread is not the most used effect I have, but it is my favorite… a beautiful soupy analog delay. It was modeled after the old oilcan delay tech from the ‘70s. It modulates in sync with the delay rate and has multiple “delay heads” that allow you to have a mix of reverb and delay in the same effect. Very unique sounding and I don’t think I could ever live without it.

The SPARK BOOST is a great all-purpose boost. Want a Tubescreamer? Flip the switch up and cut your bass and treble. Want just a straight boost? Switch in the middle, giant taste and it will sound just like your straight signal but louder. I have even gotten a setting or two that hint at Vox cleans. Stupid amounts of signal boost on tap and a nice light overdrive.

FENDER VIBRO KING: I wanted this amp for so long it isn’t even funny. I like 10-inch speakers. They just seem more focused in a multi-guitar band.
I used to have a Twin and it was too heavy and I never could get it past two on the volume. This amp is still ungodly loud, but it is manageable and has a nice tonal balance.

The Zoom ME-100 is a great little all-purpose noisemaker. I use it for tremolo, acoustic, and when I want to push the reverb over the top.

I have a homemade phaser from B.Y.O.C. – it sometimes is a little finicky…I need to get in there one day and reflow solder.

The Greenhouse NoBrainer is an interesting high gain pedal. Lots of control over shaping of the mids and highs, but it always felt not as tight in the bass as I’d like. I don’t use this much in the current material, so it is prolly going to leave the board soon.

3. I’ve gotta ask: What’s the little button on the Tele by the pickup?

A kill switch I put in from my ‘60s freakbeat phase.. I still use it on occasion. That guitar has taken 10 years of my obsession with tinkering and mods. Including a new neck from USA Custom guitars.

I also have a small switch by my volume that taps my custom-wound bridge pickup from Cavalier Pickups. He makes fantastic pickups at a very reasonable price and quick turnaround for a custom winder. It gives me the all-important twang.

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

“Johnny Law,” an instrumental and “Left Behind,” a murder ballad about a town sheriff who’s lost his hope and sanity. We are currently finishing mixes on these and they should be up on our pages in a few weeks.

“Cowtown” is an early demo we have that also shows where we are headed. It’s about a midnight robbery gone horribly wrong.

5. If money was no object, what is the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d get? 

Holy Grail… Hmm… I guess if we are talking big-ticket items, the only thing I’d really pine for is a  Fender “White Chicken”. It’s when you merge a Gretsch White Falcon and a Telecaster. Tele shape with a carved top. White paint, gold hardware, Bigsby Tremelo, etc. It’s not an official Fender thing, although the custom shop has made a few.

White Chicken

A 3×10 bandmaster wouldn’t suck either. And a pony…I want a pony.

6. What’s coming up for The Lowland Drifters?

We are finishing mixing work on a 5-song EP and gearing up for more gigs in the San Diego area.

The Lowland Drifters play The Merrow on Tuesday, July 26 with Bighorn Run and Corina Rose. RSVP here to get in for free.

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]

BRETT PATTERSON / THE WHISKEY CIRCLE

The Whiskey Circle: Facebook / Website / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

Comment below, on the Gear and Loathing Facebook page, or email gearandloathinginsandiego@gmail.com to be entered to win a pair of tickets to The Whiskey Circle’s EP release show at the Music Box on June 23!

1. Tell me about your current rig: For example, why do you use the gear you’re currently using? Best parts? Worst parts?

I guess it all depends on which rig we’re talking about? My main project is The Whiskey Circle with my wife Leanna, but I also play my upright bass for some local bands when needed and produce instrumentals with my brother in a project we call “Dream Queen.” For The Whiskey Circle, I play drums and keys at the same time. I’d prefer to just have separate people playing their own instruments, but at one point The Whiskey Circle was just a 2-piece and we felt the need for something more than guitar and drums. I was inspired by Shovels & Rope for the basic drum kit and keyboard combo.

For the most part, the drum kit I use is a Gretsch Catalina Club that we refer to as “Beetlejuice.” However, the 26″ kick in that Gretsch kit takes up too much space on the road and my Roland Juno kept falling off the top of it. So now I use a 22″ kick that came with a no-name, made-in-Japan kit that I scored off CL for $5. When I play live, I never play with more than a kick, snare and floor tom. When we record, I’ll mix the two kits together (13” and 14” rack toms and 16” and 18” floor toms) and make a 6-piece kit with the 26″ Gretsch kick to get that boom. When we play live, I always use small cymbals (Paiste 13″ hi-hats, 14″ thin crash and 20″ light ride), when we record I like to add a second ride and stereo crashes. My goal when playing for The Whiskey Circle is to always be quieter than Leanna’s vocals and let her be the focus of the song. When there’s a voice like hers in the band, it should never be drowned out by the instruments.

For the “organ” part of the rig, I currently use a Roland Juno Alpha-2 with a Behringer reverb/delay/echo pedal and a Marshall overdrive pedal through an Acoustic B20 bass amp for the low end. The pedals help the Juno not sound like a 1985 MIDI synth (which it is and why I originally bought it), but more like the organ on all of our recordings, a 1976 Kimball Entertainer.

Another cool thing about The Whiskey Circle is the other guitar player, Collin Webb, and I switch between drums and guitar throughout the set. The whole musical chairs thing started back when Daniel Cervantes was playing with us and he wanted to play drums on some tracks (if you didn’t know Dan is a drummer too then you’re missing out). It’s also really hard for me to sing the songs I wrote on guitar while playing drums and organ. Collin and I combine our pedals (although most of them are his) to get what you see in the picture. A lot of cool delays, shifters, modulars, fuzz and most importantly that Boss tuner. Collin plays that red Fender tele and I play Leanna’s daphne blue Mustang. Collin and I both play through his 12″ Fender Blues Jr.

Lastly, you’ll see the two fender basses and the Orange 1×12. Bass is my first instrument and my first love. I’ve recorded the bass for all of The Whiskey Circle tracks in the past and was playing bass in the band originally. My main live bass is the white reissue Fender Musicmaster with new Seymour Duncan pickups. My other bass is a P bass that was pieced together from CL parts: Squier P bass neck, MIM body, DIY surf green pick guard and pickups out of a 1971 American. This is the bass that has been recorded on all of The Whiskey Circle tracks. It needs some TLC as some of the higher frets are not quite right, but if you know how to make it work, then it’s the best thing ever. The Orange amp is a newer 1×12 Crush that was upgraded to 100w, new Jensen speaker and a 3″ tweeter installed to pick up some of the highs when we use the Bass Muff. It’s plenty loud enough to compete with the 12″ fender blues amps we all play with. This is the amp that our bass player uses live.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?

This is the demo version of one of the tracks off the new High Deserts EP called “Beaches.” It’s a song about everything I love: Leanna, CA, decriminalizing weed and riding bikes/motorcycles. It’s the first track that I’ve engineered and recorded everything on. Every piece of musical equipment that we own was recorded on the track (all three guitars through the Fender Blues Jr.) and also a Fender Champion (not pictured since we never use it live), the P bass and the Musicmaster (yes double bass tracks are the shit), and the Gretsch kit. It was definitely a pain multi-tracking by myself, but in the end, I think the track has a really nice “if the Velvet Underground hung out with The Blank Tapes in OB” sort of vibe.

 

 

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

I want everything in this video, but most importantly Jack Bruce’s Gibson EB complete with still-lit cigarette burning on the headstock.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

Gear-wise, I would say Kurt Vile.

Music production/badassery-wise, I would say Dave Grohl. He’s from the DC area like me (we had the same HS PE teacher) and he played drums in 2 of my favorite bands, Scream and Nirvana. Not to mention his philosophy on drumming, like my favorite drummer (Ringo), is the best thing ever.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

We are about to release our High Deserts EP via Wiener Records on June 17 with a music video and tour to help promote. [INFO] Our official EP Release Show is Thursday, June 23, at The Music Box with Jimmy Ruelas, Bad & The Ugly and Gary Hankins & the Summer Knowledge. [INFO/TICKETS]

JESSE HOFSTEE / SPERO

Spero: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig.

I’ve always been after a big, bold tone for my guitar. I like more low-end, dark tones which is why I went with a ’66 Fender Bassman as my main amp. I use a lot of vintage gear; I feel that there is just more character in each amp, and nothing beats the simplicity and true tube tones. That has been my go-to amp since I really started playing guitar. It just puts out such a big, full tone and it has that low-end that I love. I more recently got my hands on an ‘60s Vox Super Reverb amp to add to the mix. It breaks up at a lower volume than the Bassman and has a dirtier tone which pairs great with the Bassman when running them stereo. My first electric guitar was my Gretsch Electromatic. It is one of the cheaper models that I bought used, but even after buying more guitars, it’s always been my go-to; I’m a big fan of Gretsch guitars. My other go-to guitar is my Harmony H78. I found it with no paint and no knobs and I knew I had to have it. All the main parts are original and it just has so much character and such a great dirty tone. As far as pedals, I have tried to keep things simple but over the years have acquired more and more. My board is still a work in progress and changes as I learn more. My main pedals that I use are my Boss Blues Driver and delay pedal for a little slapback delay. On some of our heavy parts I use my Boss Super Octave for a fuzzy thick tone. I got the Soul Food pedal for when I just need a little cleaner gain. Never used a phaser ’til our last time in the studio so it’s something I am now introducing here and there. I am a big fan of dynamic playing and songwriting so I use my volume pedal often to help achieve that. It also helps, since there is usually only one guitarist in Spero, to have a rhythm and lead volume level easily accessible.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

My sound has changed over the years but our latest time in the studio I really captured some big, gritty tones that I have been after for awhile. Just a heavy but still natural classic tone is something I really have been into lately. Our latest single release “The Sounds,” is a good portrayal of that tone. It’s big and gritty, and has a tremolo going throughout which is something I have never used, but have been liking lately.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

The guitar I have always been after is a ‘50s-‘60s Gretsch White Falcon. A little aged off white paint and a little wear and tear would be perfect. I just think they are such beautiful guitars and have such a great classic Gretsch tone. One day I will have one.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

There have been a few different guitarists whose sound and gear setup I have always looked to for inspiration and its always changing for different styles. Lately, I have been digging Dean Fertita’s sounds, mostly on the latest Dead Weather album. He just has some screaming raw tones and makes good use of echo and delays to make the parts really sustain and sound like there is more than one guitar.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

Spero has a new EP entitled Eclipse that we released on May 13th. We had the opportunity to record with producer Vance Powell in Nashville and are so stoked on the outcome. [Purchase/listen to it here] We will be headlining a show to support the release at the Music Box on May 26th with Creature and the Woods and Grim Slippers. Hope to see you out there!

BRIAN REILLY / THE HIROSHIMA MOCKINGBIRDS

The Hiroshima Mockingbirds: Facebook

The New Kinetics: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp / Website

The Little Richards: Facebook / Twitter

1. Tell me about your gear:  Right now the guys and I are all using Bonser amps. Jon being the creator of these and our guitar player has surprisingly little to do with that. The amps are all hand-wired, point-to-point class A tube electrics. While they aren’t modeling amp cheap, they are astronomically cheaper than many amps that don’t come close. My Bonser Thundervolt is a fucking animal. It barks a compressed harmonic-pounding grunt that is subdued one moment and howling the next.

Guitar-wise, I have been favoring these three out of the too many I have. I build guitars so the price is right. The triplets here are all hand-built “Number Fifty Nine” one-offs. They started as boxes of parts or bare wood and were stripped, shaped, finished in nitrocellulose, worn and wired in weird ways.

Daphne (blue closet classic, matched headstock, Texas specials) gets played in The Little Richards; Charlie (sunburst heavy relic, CM Daugherty pickups, kill circuit, tone delete) in The New Kinetics; and Roy (blonde ’59 Esquire med relic slab ‘o drab) in The Hiroshima Mockingbirds. Roy is a fatal near miss that came about after reading a lot about Mike Bloomfield’s ’63 Telecaster that he bought with his first paycheck from Dylan and played at Newport ’65.

Charlie on the other hand started as a mission of desperation as years ago I was without a band, money, home or purpose when this crazy cat messaged me saying he had a Strat I could have [Ed. note: That’d be me]. It was supposed to stay stock. It didn’t and every piece and screw was changed, modified or refinished.

I mercilessly destroy guitars and will throw them on stage or swing them at mic stands. We have an understanding with each other.

2. What’s the worst part about ‘em?  They cut me back sometimes so we are even.

3. What’s the one song that portrays your sound the best?  Likely that would be our newer track, “Chicago.” We haven’t recorded it yet but it sits in a funny spot where tonally it’s suited well enough to not need any dressing up. It’s just an honest song about the ridiculous acidic cultural wasteland that we are all in together up to our necks. Roy is a slab ‘o drab and it let’s the sound breathe.

[Video by MaxSoundsMusic.com]

4. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy?  A Rickenbacker 12. That or a Gretsch Country Gentlemen. Both were on “Eight Miles High” and that track rests with Dean coolness in a place that’s one part mover, one part socially awakened and it isn’t too light. The midrange grinds up on the vox sound and creates this dry, driving sunshine noise. I’ve been chasing that for a while but I’m afraid of liking a guitar too much. What would happen if it left? My first Fender was stolen. My mom got it for me before she died. Since then I don’t like being attached to gear. I set up each one every two weeks, replace strings every week and treat them with respect.

If they don’t respect me back, I throw them across the stage and next week we try again. Trips [the band’s bassist] thinks I’m crazy. He’s a good judge of character so I tend to believe him.

5. Musician you admire most gear-wise?  Graham Coxon of Blur. His tones constantly vary wildly, all of them are unique and he knows no fear regarding unintended sounds. He is a dork with glasses and a soft spoken way. When he is on stage he becomes the monster we are all told to refuse at dread-inducing day job nightmares. His versatility is only equalled by the unlikely tenacity he retains after 30 years.

6. What do you have coming up?  We will be at Pitbull Audio on May 7th with The Bassics, Kids in Heat, The Bridge, and Omega Three [INFO]; Art on Adams June 4th; and The Tower Bar with The Fresh Brunettes on May 27th I think. We were supposed to do an EP but it quickly became a full length. We expect to release it early summer.

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!