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.

 

ANDY SHAUF

I recently interviewed Andy Shauf for NBC SoundDiego (which you can read right here) but a couple questions I asked him didn’t end up in the final piece. I think they fit here, so enjoy. – Dustin

Andy Shauf: Bandcamp / Website / Facebook

1. You played everything except strings on The Party — is it easier to translate the idea you have in your head by recording everything yourself? Does it come down to a factor of just not knowing which direction to take a song, or not trusting other musicians to get it right? Is it an arduous process?

I really enjoy working out ideas and recording on my own. It’s not arduous at all. It’s not so much about trust, but it takes me awhile to sort out the ideas in my head, and I find it’s a lot easier to do that alone than make people wait around for it to happen.

2. The Party has a very dry sound production-wise — people have mentioned Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman when referencing it, which I think is appropriate. How did you arrive at that kind of sound?

I like the sound of a lot of those records from the ’70s. I also like trying to play quiet, which has informed the way the instruments are recorded and that drier sound.

3. Several songwriters I’ve talked to have mentioned feeling like no song ever feels “done.” When you’ve listened back to The Party, do you feel 100% satisfied with how they turned out? On that note, are there any songs of yours that don’t feel quite right to you when you play/hear them, that you’d like to re-record or re-mix?

I didn’t want to put “Eyes of Them All” on the album but there it is. I mean, I just get to a certain point with songs where I either think it’s good enough or I just never want to hear it again. I don’t think albums are about feeling 100% satisfied. I think you just have to try your best and then move on. If you’re going for 100% satisfaction there’s probably no risk involved.

4. You once told Pop Matters: “I’m a big fan of scrapping songs.” I feel like that’d require such huge restraint and self-control. Is it difficult to let so many songs go? Do you ever worry that there’s only so many songs out there to write?

Scrapping a song is the easiest thing you could ever do, you literally don’t have to do anything to scrap a song. You just forget about it. I think if you keep trying to evolve as a songwriter you won’t run out of ideas. Songs should only open doors to other songs.

5. Obviously, you play several instruments. Is there an instrument you have in mind that you’d want to learn next?

I got a flute for Christmas. I’m going to try and work on that.

6. What’s one song written/recorded by someone else that just blows you away each time you hear it — and makes you wish you had written it?

Randy Newman, “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today.” Everything about that song is perfect.

7. I’ve seen you’ve been playing a Waterloo acoustic a lot, along with a Harmony Rebel and I’ve been loving the tones you’re getting out of them from videos I’ve seen. How did you decide on those two guitars for shows? Are they your go-to’s, or simply guitars you feel comfortable taking out on the road?

I’m a Jeff Tweedy fan so that’s the first place I heard a Waterloo played. I love the tone so much and it’s been my main acoustic since I got it last year. And I’ve always been attracted to the raw sound of the DeArmond pickups in the Harmony so it’s been a go-to for a long time. I also have a Silvertone Jupiter that I play a lot that has the Teisco goldfoils or whatever those are. I just like the clarity of those pickups. They really bite if you gain it right.

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.

JEREMIAH LAFICA / THE FILTHY VIOLETS

The Filthy Violets: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandpage

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?

From the beginning to the end of my chain I have:

Line 6 Constrictor -> DigiTech Bad Monkey -> Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Fuzz -> Ernie Ball VP Jr. -> MXR 10 Band EQ -> Boss DD-7 -> Van Amps Sole Mate Reverb

On the VP bypass output I’ve got the Boss TU-2 Tuner.

The Constrictor has served me well for about 7 or 8 years now. I don’t even touch the dials at this point. The mellow setting really keeps the tone smooth and contained without eating away too much of the tone.

I’ve had the Bad Monkey for about as long and it sat on the shelf for the first few years, but I found a way to get some nice edge out of it with a high boost.

I picked up the Pharaoh Fuzz from a neighbor who was selling off a bunch of gear. I hadn’t heard of it, so I just took it home for a test run and immediately ran back to pay him for it. This thing can scream. It has a 3-way Germanium/Silicon switch that gives you two completely different fuzz tones. I keep it right in the middle to get the best of both worlds. I also keep the tone and high knobs cranked up at about 3 o’clock to preserve some clarity. If you push the Fuzz knob too far it can really get out of control, so I’ve got it around 9 o’clock most of the time.

The VP Jr. is a VP Jr… Not much to say except it’s reliable and does exactly what you’d want a volume pedal to do. I had issues with the sweep when I first got it and realized it was having difficulty with the patch cable I was sending in. Note to self (and others experiencing similar issues), some boutique cables just don’t work the same as the run-of-the-mill Livewire patches.

The 10 Band EQ is pretty nice for rounding out the rough edges of a bright tone or adding some punch to a weak signal. It has a volume and a gain in addition to the 10 frequencies you can dial in, so you can actually get some additional grit, if that’s what you’re after.

The DD-7 is my favorite stomper. I’ve tried other delays and they’re either too quirky, finicky or simply don’t give me the tone I’m after. I’ve been meaning to get the bypass switch for years but just haven’t managed to remember. Hopefully soon… I almost exclusively use the tap delay, rather than turning the time knob. I bounce between the 200ms and 800ms settings. The 200ms is square, giving you double the beats that you tap. The 800ms gives you a dotted 1/4 notes, which can really add a nice touch. Everyone says it’s dotted 1/8 notes, but from my experience they’re dotted 1/4.

Lastly, the Sole Mate Reverb. This is another pedal I picked up from that neighbor who was unloading some of his gear. It’s a pretty tame spring reverb, with an on/off switch, an output knob and a dwell knob. I usually keep the dials pretty low for some extra breath on the tail of the delay, but it can open up quite a bit if you want to crank it.

I also use Voodoo Power and a Monster Power Conditioner. It really does make a difference having strong, clean power.

It all runs to a Vox AC15, the best plug-and-play amp on the planet. Monkeys could dial this thing in and get great tones out of it.

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

This is one of our older tracks, from about 5 years ago. It’s called “You’re The Riot.” I’m not crazy about how the parts of the arrangement turned out on the record, but I liked the tone I was able to get for the solo in the middle of the track. I was actually using an Epiphone Casino for that recording, and I’d like to get my hands on one of my own at some point. In any case, the tone was warm and bright, crunchy and crisp. If I could nail down that tone at every live show, I’d be thrilled.

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

Eventide Space Reverb. Good reverb really stands out from the cheap stuff. That pedal has SO much versatility. It can pretty much replicate any reverb imaginable. Not to mention it also has delay, modulation, etc, etc. My birthday is coming up if anyone is feeling extra generous…

4. I noticed you’re using a Telecaster with two humbuckers instead of the standard single coils. Any particular reason? Can you still get those classic Telecaster sounds out of it or is it an entirely different sound altogether?

I used to be a diehard Strat player, but I realized that I was always cutting my highs because they were so overwhelming. So, I figured a Telecaster would bring me closer to the center. On top of that, I wanted a smoother, warmer tone, and the single coils just sounded so twangy, which I really can’t stand. The tonal range is narrower with this setup, but with the 3-way switch, I really like the amount of variety I can get out of each position. I usually keep it in the middle or down on the bridge pickup. I think it still sounds like a Tele with the humbuckers, but less twangy, which is wonderful.

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

Trey Anastasio from Phish. It may seem like an odd choice, given the obvious difference in the genres we play. But in the mid ’90s, he had an absolutely killer tone. I think he used and still uses two custom Languedoc guitars, which I’m sure was the biggest contributor to his tone, but whatever else he had going on in his effects chain was perfectly dialed in… except when it wasn’t, which was probably like 1 out of 5 shows, most likely because he was too spaced out to realize it. Anyhow, when I first started learning to play, I tried to model my tone after his and ended up learning a lot about playing in general.

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

It was an Ibanez acoustic guitar. I still have it, and I hate it more each day. This was when I was in my first year of playing. Someone told me, “Hey man, it’s got Fishman Pickups, it’s totally worth it.” Nah, not even a little. The truss rod (something I was completely unaware of at the time of purchase or the next year thereafter) was broken. And, the tone just generally sucked. I actually try to be as inconspicuously careless as possible with it, hoping it breaks so I have a fully legitimate reason to find a replacement.

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

We’re playing this Saturday, June 18th at the Casbah, possibly July 18th at Soda Bar, and there will likely be another Casbah show in the next month or so. No other dates at this point. We’re really trying to focus on new material since we just got the band back together this year after a 3-year hiatus. Luckily, someone heard us at either House of Blues or Casbah when we played recently and it sounds like they’re going to fund an 8 or 9-song EP and try to get our publishing off the ground. Fingers crossed!

JERIK CENTENO / SMALL CULTURE

Small Culture: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: How do the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts?

Guitars: My two current favorites are my Teisco Del Rey EP7 and the Silvertone (don’t know what model). The Teisco just sounds so good right off the bat with its clean bite but can be so jazzy when you roll the tone back. It’s also the Teisco version of Tone’s Silvertone guitars from Little Hurricane. My red house-painted Silvertone is the most magical guitar I have. It is my go-to when others are uninspiring and it is the most perfect feeling guitar in my hands and against my body. These two are the lightest guitars in the world. I’ve owned the Strat and Tele since high school. The Strat is a great one when going for “arcade-y” tones because of the neck and middle pickup position. The Tele is the first guitar I ever owned that my Dad bought me from the Philippines. It’s Chinese, but I swapped the stock pickups for Texas Specials, which are super hot. The Tele is a great tracking guitar due to the versatility and an easy one to go to for a modern sound. The Farida JT602DCC is solely owned because it is the signature guitar of Two Door Cinema Club’s lead guitarist, Sam Halliday, who is the utmost reason as to why I ever started playing guitar. To the eye, the upside down headstock is so unique, but what’s more unique is the onboard delay Farida built in because of how important delay is to Sam Halliday’s tone. It is also the only guitar I have with a P90. My guitars help to primarily put me into different mindsets. If I want weird tones, I’ll get the Strat; if I want driving guitar parts, I’ll pick up the Tele; if I want to make up lead parts really fast, I’ll grab the Farida; if I want unique guitar parts or weird chords, I’ll grab the Teisco or the Silvertone.

Cons about the Strat, Tele, and the JT602DCC are that they are freaking heavy now that I’ve been playing the Teisco and the Silvertone.

Pedals: The reason why I own two super shifters is because I tried to resell one, but that never worked, so I just put both to use. One is used as a harmonist/chorus to get arcade-y, Rutger Rosenborg-y, Bombay Bicycle Club-y tones (heard on “Too Late”) and the other is to just frick things up (T-Arm setting referenced from St. Vincent). Bobby Bray, the guitarist of The Locust and coincidentally, my electronics and media business teacher, helped me make a Carbon Copy mod that is an expression pedal idea stemmed from the PS5 so that when turned on, controls the delay parameter to make more noise and to frick things up even more! My pedalboard is designed for clean bite, fun, ambience, swells, and madness!

Cons: Pedalboard tap dancing while having to sing, which actually gives me madness.

Guitar Amps: Gibson G20, Fender Vibro Champ XD. Just really awesome amps that help me get the great tones when I need. G20 for jazzy or warmer stuff and the Fender Vibro Champ for the clean bite I love. Cons: Vibro Champ tube just went out and the G20 needs to be grounded, so I kindly backline amps from friends.

Playback/IEM Rig: Mid-2013 Macbook Pro (also used for mixing/tracking), Ableton Live 9, Motu Audio Express Interface, Audio Technica M2 (x3), Alesis Micron.

The best thing about this rig and a main part of the Small Culture sound is my mid-2013 MacBook Pro, which was a high school graduation gift from my Mom. It has helped me achieve 95% of the audio and music related things in my life by helping me produce, record, and mix other people’s and Small Culture’s music. With my laptop, I am able to produce, mix, and merge electronic elements with real-life instrumentation, which is what the sound of Small Culture consists of.

For live, I use Ableton to run my ears and backtracks and just output stereo tracks to FOH. I track, mix, and obsessively love Pro Tools 11. I’ll do pre-production and songwriting in Logic Pro X. My Alesis Micron is the oldest piece of gear I own and it has some cool synth patches, but I primarily now just use it to trigger MIDI.

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

Since I feel the Small Culture sound can be a myriad of things, “Apartime” is a great example of sound, style, and gear. I mixed majority of “Apartime” hybrid by outputting stems from Pro Tools in the SSL Duality at school and incorporating the outboard gear we had. It helps show my style by the instrumentation and production because Small Culture is about fusing electronic computer-based music with big real-life instruments. I always try to go for huge size with my songs and I find that heavily relying on instrumentation and production.

“Apartime” is the oldest song off the EP and the one that took the longest. I brought a synth pad and vocal doodles to my best friend and live drummer, Ginno Tacsiat, and he laid down the main electronic drum beat and I rearranged it and wrote the rest. I then took it into the studio and had real drums, guitar, and bass guitar added to the end of the song to have a big dramatic scene change. The big factors to the size of the song in the end is the stereo synth bass I have going (actually two different mono synths panned hard L&R). For the electronic drums, we used the stock Ultrabeat drum kit in Logic Pro X and I spruced it up with the SSL Duality.

Every Small Culture song is about or includes very important people in my life, so “Apartime” was about a trip my Mom and I had to the Philippines when my Grandmother passed away and it is the song about how important and how much of a trooper she is. Half of the song title comes from having started the song in my Mom’s apartment in Hawai’i about 6 months before my Grandmother’s passing, how I work part-time at Fashion Valley, and because of how I sing “You took the time” in the chorus.

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

Oh my gosh… Probably an SSL Duality or a Neve 8058. An SSL Duality because that is the first console I ever learned off, which is at The Art Institute of California – San Diego where I graduated and the Neve 8058 is what Guy Charbonneau has in Le Mobile. I heard recordings from a Crossroad festival that he did and just those preamps alone made the live recordings so freaking huge.

4. I’ve noticed you’ve got two older Japanese-style guitars alongside two new Fenders. Why not go all vintage or all modern? What are the drawbacks for either? Benefits?

The only reason why I own the Teisco and the Silvertone were out of pure luck. The Silvertone, I came across at a swap meet at Qualcomm for $35 (also where I got one of the MXR Carbon Copies for $5) and the Teisco came out of a packaged barter (included the Fender Vibro Champ XD). Ironically, I use the Teisco and the Silvertone for gigging because they are much lighter to lug around since I have so much stuff to carry (pedals, playback/IEM rig, laptop). It’s so much easier on my life and back because I’m a pretty small dude. I’m very indecisive and I’m always the person who is in the middle, so I guess that’s why I both have vintage and modern guitars. A benefit is just the myriad of tonal and mindset options.

5. You’ve got “Always play 110%” highlighted on your volume pedal – that’s refreshing in these days, where a lot of musicians seem less than passionate onstage. How do you balance playing your hardest and with 110% effort/energy vs. playing your songs technically correct 100% of the time? Does that matter to you? Or are you able to do both?

I always try to do both because they both highly matter to me. If you’ve ever been to Max Idas’ shows with his band called The Chili Banditos or see Craig Schreiber drum in The Verigolds, these are two guys in San Diego that give every show 110% wherever and whomever they play to. At one show, Craig hit his head on his snare and started bleeding like a gusher candy, but he still finished the song and at every Chili Banditos’ show, I feel more home than my own apartment while screaming with Max to each of his songs. I get chicken skin to these shows because they break down the barrier between performers and audiences and put their hearts out for the world to see. To me, “Always play 110%” is a written reminder because I easily get lost in setting up gear and it’s a goal to let it all out just like Max and Craig. I am fortunate to be able to practice with the guys who help me play live as much as we have been (Max, Cameron Wilson, Ginno Tacsiat), so practicing and having such solid musicians in the band help. I strive to do both and have the confidence because I wrote the parts and have been with them since day one. Ever since high school, I’d also practice like how I’d be moving at a show; it helps to build the muscle memory. You just have to come to terms to just try your best to do both, have fun, own it, and show who you are. You should play 110% all the time because it’s a blessing to be up onstage when others don’t have the opportunity, so I say do it, leave it all out there on stage.

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

I’d say depends and there are a ton, but if I had to speak just about one, it’d have to be Chris Hobson. He can play instruments, but he was my senior project teacher and is hands down one of the best engineers and producers I know. He helped to connoisseur the sound I was trying to obtain with Small Culture and my engineering chops. He’d help put me back on track when I’d stray away from the sound Small Culture is and when I’d doubt myself as an artist and engineer. He’s the kind of producer and teacher that helps you to achieve your artistic vision without making it into his thing. He helped me to not care about what was technically right as an engineer and to just go with my gut if I liked something and it sounded good. I’d talk to Chris a lot and many of our conversations boiled down to his points that music is subjective, it is all taste, and that if I liked something to run with it because we are making art. From him, I fully understood how much engineering and producing music is an art form.

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

Shows:

June 3rd Album Release Show at the Che Café with Splavender, The Chili Banditos, Hit Me Harold, and Yung May May. [INFO]

June 18th Show at The OB Template

News:

Debut EP now for sale via iTunes.

Stream it on SoundCloud.

PAUL MOFFAT / NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH

Neighbors to the North: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current bass rig: Best parts? Worst parts? Any funny/strange stories about how you came to use any of this stuff?  Best part of my rig: That bass. It’s THE bass. I’ve had many, and this one will be buried with me. A $285 Craigslist find, ’80s-era Yamaha BB-2000 rescued from San Francisco that is the roundest, fattest, punchiest, ballsiest thunderstick out there. It’s got Beyonce ass. J-Lo ass. Mo’Phat ass. It weighs more than a building, shoots through schools, screams with restraint, and whispers with authority. I’ve never played an instrument that sounds so good with so many different groups. In Neighbors to the North, as a trio, the bass must take up a lot of room, and this bass does. The reverse P-pickup configuration is genius at regulating the volume and presence over all the strings. It doesn’t sound like a Fender, which can be a very good thing.

As for amps – I’m using a Gallien Krueger MB Fusion 800. It weighs 5.5 lbs and pushes 800 watts. That’s enough to blow a skirt up. The DI is accurate and is very front-of-house friendly.  The noise comes through either an easy-on-the-aging-back Genz Benz Neo 2×12 or my ‘This Old House with Bob Vila’ homemade 2×15 cabinet. That thing is a butcher’s block of menace.  The design is based on the ElectroVoice TL-606 enclosure plans, which I glanced at, and made my own.

Effects? On Bass?! Yes, sir. Blame Cliff. Blame Flea. Blame Les. Blame Bootsy. Blame Ox. I use fuzz, OD, wah, filters, octave, and whatever else. My color palette is diverse. Factoid 1 – the envelope filter on the Source Audio Manta is a Mutron killer. Not sorry, Mutron fans. Factoid 2 – the Smallsound/Bigsound Team Awesome! Fuzz Machine is the most musical and perfect bass distortion I’ve ever played. Both are featured below…at the same time. Prepare yourselves.

Worst part of my rig/funny story: That damned MicroKorg. So, Sutton [Paponikolas, singer/guitarist in Neighbors to the North], Danny [Katz, the band’s drummer] and I are in the studio in late 2012 recording our debut EP Starfisher, and working on the eponymous track. The second verse was ‘same as the first’, and needed something. Brad Lee – Producer, SDRL – had this MicroKorg sitting there. I turn it on, plug in the headphones while Sutton is working on guitars, and the first sound that comes up is what I go with. I noodle a small part and…just like that…it’s added to the song and now I’m a synth player in the band. Of course, we use it all the time now.

We have a song off All Southern View called “Shake ‘Til You Die,” where I’m tapping the bass part with my left hand and playing the synth at the same time. Why is it the worst? Because the keys are skinny and I can’t play piano. I really have no idea what I’m doing…which, I guess, makes it fun?

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear and why do you feel that way? “Captain Trips” off of All Southern View – I pulled out any stops I may have had and let loose. It might not be the most ‘musicianship-y’ tune, but I used all my toys and tricks. It’s the little things – the 3-4-5 fret harmonics during the choruses, the switch to a 16th note arpeggio during the key change of the 2nd verse, the octave-dropped TA!FM fuzz leading into the filtered fuzz swamp monster part…and I was able to play my wah pedal at the end, in an actual song, on record, which is really cool. I also can’t say enough about Brad Lee’s production and placement of my bass in the mix. He ‘got’ me, and I really appreciate it.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object and why?  I don’t want another Yamaha BB-2000, unless this one bursts into flames, which is possible with all the lacquer on it.

There are three custom luthiers whom I’ve admired for years – Jens Ritter, Jerzy Drozd, and Vinny Fodera. I’d probably opt for a Jens Ritter R8 singlecut 4-string, simply because he’s the only one I’ve ever met. Day One of NAMM 2002, I walk by this unknown bass builder booth in the depths of the Anaheim convention center. Where Fender and Ampeg were in Hall A, Ritter Basses was in Hall xz. Down by the boiler room and leper colony, if the convention center had either. Jens was all alone with five or six of the most exquisite basses I’d ever seen. I ogle. I gasp. I….get interrupted by Jens asking if I could watch his booth so he could take a quick piss. I accept. He thanked me, and I’ve yearned for one of his basses ever since: www.ritter-instruments.com

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? I’m about to reveal how ‘not hip’ I am – both for the players and that I can’t pick just one. Some players have moments that capture the ‘it’ according to my ears:  Rush – Geddy Lee on the Counterparts album. No Doubt – Tony Kanal on Tragic Kingdom. Mudvayne – Ryan Martinie on L.D. 50. The Killers – Matt Stoermer on Hot Fuss. The Used – Jeph Howard on In Love and Death. Rage Against the Machine – Tim Commerford on Evil Empire. Living Colour – Doug Wimbish on Stain. Michael Jackson – Louis Johnson on Off The Wall. Peter Gabriel – Tony Levin on So.  There may be better albums by these artists, but these albums represent their best tone, according to me. Notice no Beatles, no Parliament, no Zeppelin. While I love and admire the playing that made those artists great, the question you posed was about sound.

See? Not hip…not one bit.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?  Neighbors to the North is playing Thursday, May 12 in Downtown Long Beach for the ‘Live After 5’ series. Saturday, May 14 at The Merrow with Brothers Weiss, The Paragraphs and Paper Days. We are road-tripping to Flagstaff for two days in July, playing The Music Box on Friday, August 19, and we are playing the Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach in September. Kaaboo is in the mix again this year as well.

Both our EP Starfisher and most recent LP All Southern View are available for free at http://nttn.bandcamp.com.

I’ve also been playing with The Martin Coughlin Band over the past few months, and we will be at RB Alive and June 5 and at Company Pub and Kitchen in Poway on June 11. We’ll also be a the Del Mar Fair this summer. Martin is a stellar songwriter, so check him out at www.reverbnation.com/martincoughlin.

EDWARD LOZA / THE HEART BEAT TRAIL

The Heart Beat Trail: Facebook / Bandcamp

Uniform Victor: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about the gear in the pictures. What is your go-to live rig and why?  The guitar I reach for the most is my 1999 Fender Stratocaster. It’s one the most comfortable and versatile guitars I’ve ever played. This is also the guitar I play the majority of the time in The Heart Beat Trail. For a while, I was modifying the electronics and hardware for fun but the current setup feels and sounds like home. I chose the gold pickguard as a nod to Ken of L’arc en Ciel. Initially, I just thought it looked cool but there ended up being a pleasant side effect. Coincidentally, the pickguard seems to cancel out some of the 60Hz hum from the pickups without screwing up the tone and it even made the guitar a little louder.

My live amp of the moment is a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 through a Fender Bassbreaker BB-212 cab. The amp is fun because I can push it hard and get a lot of reaction from the tubes. At only 18 watts, the amp sometimes struggles to rise above the band. Because of this I had to get a little more creative with the EQ on my amp and pedals than I would if I just had enough watts to be really loud. This lets me sit in the mix better and not be overly loud for the people in the front row.

On my pedalboard, I have one of my favorite flangers, the MXR M117R. I love sneaking flanger into songs. It can also be used to fake a chorus pedal and channel some lovely John McGeoch sounds. There’s also a Fulltone Deja Vibe on the board. This one is used heavily on the live version of “Cherry Blossoms” to get the syrupy wobble.

The red guitar is a Squier Jagmaster I got from my friend Paul Ryu in Mittens. It’s kind of like a wacky Strat with humbuckers and a short scale Jaguar neck. It’s pretty fun to play so I am grateful that Paul was willing to part with it. The Flying V is my newest guitar. It needs a little tweaking before I trust it live. Some guitars take a little more time to bond with but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A strange guitar can tell you weird and wonderful things if you take the time.

In the band Peacock, I play lap steel. It is a bit tricky for me to play as it forces me to approach my parts differently than I would on guitar. The tuning among other things puts me out of my comfort zone, which is a bit of fun. It’s perfect for the spooky ghost notes and chords.

When recording, I almost always use my ‘70s silverface Fender Champ or the Groove Tubes Soul-O 45. That Champ is a magical amp that just sounds incredible no matter how I set it. My Vox VBM1 is the amp I used on “Man of Tin” by Uniform Victor to get that ripping, amp-on-fire sound. Amongst the many pedals by the Vox are two of my favorites: the Zvex Fuzz Factory and the ProCo Rat. As much as I LOVE the Fuzz Factory, I find the Zvex Mastotron a little more controllable live. That’s why one is on my board and the other is in the studio. I never build a pedalboard without a Rat. It goes from overdrive to almost fuzz and I love the span of the tone knob. If I could only have one dirty pedal it would be the Rat!

2. Which song is a good example of your style?  The Heart Beat Trail song “Falling” is a good one. On the solos, I tried to make it sound like when you’re dying to tell somebody you’re falling for them but you can’t quite say it yet. The solos feel like the release when you get the courage to say you’re falling in love. I chose a thick distorted sound because I felt the first solo needed to be like when you’re afraid to say you love somebody so you just keep telling yourself. Then the second solo is like when you finally exclaim “I LOVE YOU!” and kiss like it’s the end of the world.

3. What is your “money is no object” piece of dream gear?  Building a custom guitar is something I dream of. I don’t care if it’s not cool to admit but I want a signature guitar; call me up, Fender. Getting the neck just right would be the most exciting part of the build. A compound radius fretboard, jumbo frets, large headstock and an asymmetrical rear profile sound like a good start. For the body, I’d like to think I could come up with something as unique as the Music Man St. Vincent guitar but it would probably end up being a Strat in disguise. Even though I have two sunburst Strats, I kind of hate that color. I would have to go with a more interesting color like cerise.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?  I am torn between Annie Clark of St. Vincent and Nels Cline of Wilco. They both push the boundaries of expected guitar sounds while also being masters of the more familiar sounds. I also love the way they both have elements of exploding discordant noise mixed with heartbreaking beauty in their styles. What I have learned from them is to play with the beauty and danger of a volcano as long as is serves the song.

5. What shows, news or projects do you have coming up?  The Heart Beat Trail will play The Merrow on April 7th with Daring Greatly and The Peripherals. We are currently writing/recording a follow up to So Long, Carcosa. Peacock is a new band with Berkeley Kent Austin, Lia Dearborn, Evan Bethany and I. We are in the middle of recording with Paul Durso at Zos Kia Studios and should have something available very soon.

TOMMY GARCIA / MRS. MAGICIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN JOYCE / AJ FROMAN

AJ Froman: WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig – what are your likes and dislikes? I use a Fender Jazz Bass. I’ve got a Gallien Krueger RB 1001 head unit with a Gallien Krueger 4×10 cabinet running through an MXR Bass Compressor, an Electro Harmonix Big Muff overdrive, a Behringer Ultra Shifter/Harmonist, a Boss Super Chorus, and an MXR Bass Envelope Filter. I’ve always been more interested in analog pedals rather than digital and am still playing around with my tone. It’s most definitely still a work in progress as I’m planning on purchasing another 15” cabinet to secure the low end and utilize the 4×10 cabinet for the hi and mid ranges. The Ultra Shifter is a lot of fun to play around with before big drops in our songs, it’s fun to dive bomb and drive the octave down a whole step. There’s a knob to control the speed of the drop so it can be fast or slow and it’s a lot of fun playing with that live. The Envelope Filter has given me a lot of enjoyment, as well as frustration. The decay is extremely sensitive so getting that “perfect” swell is challenging at times. Not sure if that pedal is going to stick around much longer.

2. What AJ Froman song do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? “Stranger’s Nod” off our new album, Phoenix Syndrome, has a lot of dynamic to it. I feel our sound shines through in a variety of sections in this tune. Swirling through time-signature changes, to heavy half-time buildups, to faster skate/punk sections, to melodic breakdowns is all very enjoyable and I feel we capture a lot of our diverse sound within all of these sections. In softer ambient sections, I’ll use the chorus pedal and during heavier fast sections, I’ll switch to the overdrive. I especially enjoy the contrast between these two tones.

3. If money was no object, what’s the ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you’d buy? A ’67 Fender Jazz Bass. I like Washburns too, but the Jazz Bass has such a beautiful tone I can’t really get away from it. I’d definitely stick with the GK amps. It’d be nice to have 3 Gallien Krueger 2001 RB amps. One would control the other 2 as slaves and I’d have those running into three 4×10 cabinets and three 1×15 cabinets. That’s what Flea’s been doing for quite some time and I really appreciate his style.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a musician I’ve admired since high school, when At the Drive-In was still together. He has a massive array of delays, trems, and expression pedals to control real-time rate adjustments and may I say, he’s quite good at it. The groups he’s put together have also influenced my rhythmic playing rather than just the sound and tonality he produces. Overall, he is a huge influence of mine in more ways than one.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? We are headlining the Belly Up for our first time on Thursday, March 10th. We just released our new album, Phoenix Syndrome, [listen/buy here] and we have a handful of new music we’re planning on recording very soon.

[Ed. note: I reviewed AJ Froman’s excellent new album for SoundDiego recently. Read it here.]