THE PARKER MERIDIEN

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The Parker Meridien: Bandcamp

1. First off, who’s in The Parker Meridien and how did the group come together?

Nathan Hubbard: Parker Edison and myself first worked together on the live video for his “Apefood” single. After that, he contacted me about putting together a group to perform music from his release “The Parker Meridien” EP, and Parker Meridien is the resulting group. Currently the lineup is Parker Edison on vocals, John Rieder on bass and myself on drums and production. As we rehearsed and performed this music, I started throwing hooks and music at Parker, he wrote verses and more hooks, and we started adding these to the set. So we ended up with a set that is one-quarter tracks from the EP and three-quarters original material. We spent most of 2017 working on recording this material, and the release date of our new album “Fists Like Gotti” on Nov. 1 [the record release party will be Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club] will be almost exactly 24 months since our first gig.

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2. Give me a rundown on your equipment? Was this the primary gear used to record the album?

After writing and performing this material many times, we decided a recording was in order, and decided to keep it “in-house,” so to speak, so we recorded the entire thing at my house. We recorded on an old Mac G5 using Pro Tools and an Allen & Heath board for the preamps. I had recorded all the samples, keyboards and background vocals when we were writing, so with those in place, we started by tracking drums in the garage. Rafter Roberts came over and gave me a few cool micing options, and I spent a bunch of time getting specific sounds, changing snares and hi-hats depending on the track. We used a 24” ‘60s Slingerland kick, a bunch of vintage snares, and hi-hats ranging in size from 12″ to 16”. I would like to say that a personal goal for me was to make this record with no quantizing/beat detective/sound replacing on the drums — an honest take on how I play. So there are two tracks that are loops of my playing, and all the rest is full performances – if a take had problems, rather than use digital editing to fix it, I would just do another take. The only exceptions are “Someway About It,” where we punched in the double-time section with a smaller drum-kit, and I did move one kick drum hit over a bit in “No Sequels.”

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Next we moved inside, tracking bass via a DI – no amps were used for this recording. John has a cool take on effects, so we spent some time getting specific sounds for each track, using a Moog FreqBox and Lo Pass Filter, a Zvex Wooly Mammoth and my old green Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. We did a bit of double-tracking the bass, either octave doubling or doubling with different effects, or in the case of “Someway About It,” we beefed up the Freq Box track by layering in a bass-ier sound underneath it playing a condensed version of the bass line.

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Vocals were all tracked in my backroom; we built a little blanket isolation booth, and used a couple microphones – a hi-fidelity condenser for most of the tracks, a beat-up dynamic with a bit of squashed frequency range for “40 Foot Tall” and all the background vocals, and a homemade telephone mic for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” Parker has a strong, rich baritone range — so depending on the track, we used different mics to either amplify or modify those characteristics. From there, I mixed and cleaned up all the samples, layering in field recordings and re-tracked some the keyboard parts for a more unified sound across the record. I also added vibraphone and glockenspiel to several of the tracks. I wrote the track “No Sequels” specifically for Rebecca Jade to sing the hook and the ballad middle section, so the last step was getting Rebecca in to sing. Thanks Rebecca! From there, we made stems of the audio and took it over to Rafter Roberts to master.

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3. That outer kick drum is massive. Give me the lowdown on why you’re using a setup like that?

After tracking drums for a few weeks, I wasn’t getting the kick sound I wanted on a few tracks, so I switched out the 24″ for a smaller 20″ Ludwig bass drum. That drum sounds great and is a bit more punchy, but lacked a bit of bottom, so I placed a 28″ Ludwig Scotch bass drum with no muffling in front of the other drum and placed a condenser very close to the front head. By blending the two mics, I got the punch from the 20″ with more sub-by bass from the 28″. You can hear that drum on “40 Foot Tall.” On a nice sound system, it pushes some air.

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4. WTF is that weird can-looking mic? Never seen anything like that before.

The chili-can mic is a microphone from an old analog telephone; I wired it to an XLR jack and melted a garlic-chili hot sauce can to hold the diaphragm. I also modified an old mic clip to fit the can. It got used all over the recording, we used it as a hi-hat mic on the drums, on the piano for “No Sequels,” and most notably on the vocals for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” It has a super squished frequency range which really blended well with all the samples, making the vocals really settle into the mix. It has become such a defining sound of the group, we’ve been using the microphone on live performances.

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5. Talk to me about the Moog FreqBox — what did you use it for?

John Rieder: You’ll hear the FreqBox in conjunction with the Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter on “Someway About It.” The FreqBox is kind of hard to explain. It’s not a typical synth pedal that processes the signal of the guitar but instead uses the input signal to trigger an internal oscillator. The result is very frenetic, and a little unpredictable, synthy goodness. I selected a sawtooth wave shape on the FreqBox and then ran this into the low pass filter pedal. I have an expression pedal controlling the cutoff frequency on the filter pedal, which helps me attain all the vintage Mu-Tron-type filter sweeps that you hear.

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6. What’s a track off the new album that you’re particularly stoked on?

I really like the track “40 Foot Tall.” It was a hook I started singing to myself in the car driving somewhere, I sang it into a recording app on my phone, took it home and lined it up with a few samples, brought it to rehearsal and we jammed on it, realized we could go back and forth between the main groove and the more rocking half-time groove, and built it up from there. For me, it’s the track where we found a portal to what the possibilities for this band were: “Are we a hip-hop band? Are we a live funk band? Are we an over-driven rock band? F it, we are all of those things and more….” This was also the hardest track to translate our usual “sweaty, all engines on go” live performance into the sterile microscopic recording studio situation.

7. Aside from the record release show on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club, anything else coming up soon?

We have a 360 video of our full set from an AC Lounge performance a few months ago coming out via local production company Audioscope Radio. [Watch it here] This is a cool experience, with a phone or tablet you can turn the viewer to see both the band and the audience. With virtual reality goggles, its super intense, like you’re floating above the audience. Beyond the release concert, we’ll be performing in San Diego and surrounding areas well into the spring to support this album.

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THE BEST OF NAMM 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BOTANICA CHANGO

Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp

Members: Joshua “J.B.” Becker (percussion/vocals), Tyler J. French (guitar/keys), Carlos Vicente Jr. (vocals/guitar), Sean Davenport (keys), Michael Alan Hams (drums), Bobby Roquero (bass)

1. Tell me about your guys’ stuff.

Carlos: We are currently in the writing process, so our rigs are a bit different. We are experimenting with a lot of vintage synths, drum machines in addition our normal pedal setups. A lot of the sounds that are coming out of this pre-production are pretty indicative of the time period the gear was made. Finding sound that fits the song we write next is always a work in progress.

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

Tyler: I/we get a lot of joy from finding new sounds, and we make a conscious effort not to get comfortable. One particular song in the new batch that we are all excited about, “Every knows,” is a pretty synth-heavy track that hopefully can make the girls in black move their hips.

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

JB: I’d probably say we could use some Quincy Jones brain, there’s nothing holy about our grails.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

Carlos: My first piece of gear besides a guitar and amp that really brings back memories was a DOD RP-6. It was my first foray into effects and it definitely influenced me quite a bit. I used it for about 6 months and started buying standalone pedals. The RP-6 is long gone, but it was an eye-opener for me.

5. What is your current favorite piece of equipment and why?

Tyler: My favorite piece of gear that we are writing on right now is the Moog Opus-3. It’s like a church organ you can play at Studio 54.

6. What’s coming up for you guys?

JB: The album we are currently working on is titled Action Park and is being written to be performed by professional figure skaters as Botanica Chango On Ice in LA. Our next show is SoundDiego’s Summer Splash Party at Harrah’s on July 16th, and we’ll be unveiling lots of new material from the album for the first time. [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]