1. Tell me about your rig these days. What are you using?
I’ve made the Jazzmaster my primary guitar and demoted the SG to backup status. Now that I’m old, I want that note definition more than gnarly distortion and the tremolo system let’s me do a lot more tricks. Also, I’ve heard it said that P-90 pickups are the best for recording.
Amp-wise, I’m using the Orange “Dual Terror” (Tiny Terror on one channel and a Dark Terror on the other) into an Avatar 2×12 and/or a Sovtek 4×12. It’s 30 watts but can go as low as 7.5, which I love. I can’t even imagine a scenario where I’d need 100 watts. There’s this constant battle between guitar players who think their tone doesn’t even get good until 3 and sound people who want them to turn down to half that. With a 30-watt amp, I’ve removed myself from that conversation. No amps were used on any of our recordings though. All plug-ins.
Effect-wise, I’ve got myself a tuner, EHX Mel9 Mellotron emulator, EHX Microsynth, EHX Ring Thing, Ibanez TS9DX, and a Boss DD-7 all velcro’d to an old red shelf. I went kinda nuts with pedal purchasing this year. The Ring Thing is probably the coolest because it does alien-sounding ring modulation stuff, octave/pitch effects, and more normal effects like vibrato and chorus. Crucially, it allows you to save nine settings.
2. Tell me about the band: It started as a solo “hardcore karaoke act” and now it’s a full group, yea? Are all the Shades McCool songs, like, joke songs?
That is correct. As the legend goes, Ben Johnson aka Grammatical B was looking for an opening act. I had been going to Pants Karaoke a lot and signing up as this “character” that was not much except sunglasses and a standoffish attitude. I saw Ben’s Facebook post and was feeling very “say yes to everything” so I did and he was kind enough to indulge me. I put together a set of covers and a couple bits and just went for it. It was surprisingly well-received so I did that around town at non-traditional venues for about a year before assembling my backing band, The Bold Flavors. The best show of that era was playing on a friend’s lawn during the Rock & Roll Half Marathon.
Shades McCool & the Bold Flavors is basically a spoof of a rock band in the way that Stephen Colbert was of Bill O’Reilly. Each song is a vessel for a comedic premise, e.g. “Pretty Good Guy,” a list of non-sequiturs in a dating profile; “Custom Croutons,” a recipe that descends into madness; or “Inauguration Song,” a song written for Donald Trump to sing with The Beach Boys at his inauguration. So yeah, they’re all joke songs.
3. With “The San Diegan National Anthem” for example — how are you not getting sued by Toyota of Escondido, Pacific Nissan, etc?
I’ve actually been asked this a bit and I have a few thoughts. I am not getting sued because:
A) It’s a medley of several things that were FORCED into the public consciousness over the years. We’ve basically repurposed public works into a drastically different piece of art.
B) It has no negative impact on the brands. It gets people talking about those jingles/dealerships and in fact, it may hurt a brand to not be mentioned in the song. Cal Worthington keeps leaving me passive-aggressive voicemails.
C) When you read the actual lyrics, they’re not the same as in the jingles (“Bah Bay Curse Otto Group. Pear, he’s got it. Mas y niece on”) and parody is extremely well-protected. Furthermore, no reasonable person would mistake this for a real commercial. It’s too rad.
D) They love it.
4. What’s the next piece(s) of gear you’d would like to add to your rig?
I’m always looking for a good synth pedal to get some big weird sounds. The Microsynth sounds amazing but it’s a little unreliable as far as triggering and what kind of sounds you’re going to get out of it. I’m eyeing the Earthquaker Bit Commander. I’ve also wanting to mess around with some kind of compressor pedal.
(When not in character as Shades McCool, I play bass in Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place and Goblin Cock. I just bought and returned an Ampeg SCR-DI preamp pedal, then bought the preamp-only version of it. I’m planning to get a Tronographic Rusty Box before the next time we play).
5. What’s coming up for the band?
We’re usually pretty slow writing songs because good premises are hard to come up with. We need a few more before we can record our full-length. We do have a new top secret song experience that I am very excited about. There are also a couple cool plans for “The San Diegan National Anthem.” The ultimate goal is to have it replace the regular National Anthem at local sporting events.
Shades McCool play the Music Box on July 20th with Pinback and Bit Maps.