TONY GIDLUND / SHADES MCCOOL

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Shades McCool: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D) They love it.

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

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

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

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5. What’s coming up for the band?

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

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

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JAMES ALBERS / BABYDOLL WARRIORS

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Babydoll Warriors: Facebook / Instagram

Whoa: Walk me through that rig, buddy.

My main guitar for Babydoll Warriors is Goldie. It came together once Emily Connell (saxophonist) asked me to be in her soon-to-be band. I started following her on Instagram right after her plush album covers were put up for an art show at Fall Brewing, so I went to meet her and her husband (and now-Babydoll Warrior drummer) after a year of being up. A few days later, after adding me on Facebook, she messaged me about joining her band she was putting together with members of The Goldettes and Chinese Rocks. I had been out of the gigging band-scene for a while so I said “sure.” Multiple nerdy conversations later about cool bands, cult classic movies, and craft-making, and I knew I wanted to do something different than I had with prior bands. Emily’s favorite color is gold (gold is a color, right?) so that got me thinking — I should go over the top and have a full rig of gold — gold tolexed amp, only gold pedals (this posed to be a difficulty to find later) and, of course, a gold guitar — but not any gold off-the-shelf-guitar – it had to be obnoxiously gold. I have been building guitar bodies for myself and selling them to the DIY community for the past 10 years so building a Strat was as simple as getting 3 feet of 8/4 alder at the lumber yard, cutting and sanding, and finishing in some gold lacquer with gold flake.

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Goldie is based off my #1 Strat, which oddly serves as a backup to Goldie. The sunburst Strat was made for me by Fred Marotta at the Repair Zone back in 1997-ish. I had expressed interest in learning the craft of guitar repair and he agreed to let me “intern” and show me how to do setups and basic repair stuff. In the end, he rewarded all my hard work with a custom Strat that was my ode to SRV and a nod to Hendrix with the bigger headstock. Both #1 and Goldie are built exactly the same — 21-fret maple/rosewood Allparts neck with the ‘70s headstock, bullet trussrod, and 7.25″ fingerboard radius. I found recently after using #1 for a while with Brodeeva and Secret Seven that I like fatter necks and rounder fingerboards. They’re both equipped with gold hardware, Seymour Duncan Classic Stack pickups (b/m/n), classic trems with full-sized blocks, no backplate (I did this first, John Mayer!), some foam from the Duncan pickup box under the springs, and Sperzel Locking tuners. I made Goldie’s body, but my #1 was an offcenter 2-piece alder body from Allparts. Goldie got extra lacquer love with the back of the neck painted, but leaving the rosewood stripe visible.

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At the moment those are the two I’m using but since Babydoll Warriors is still growing as a new band, I may need to pull out some of the other guitars I own from the vault, or build myself another custom-made guitar. Or since I’m always buying gear, it could be a new guitar. (I literally just bought two more guitars).

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My amp rig is set up as a pedal platform since I really can’t find a one-stop amp for all the sounds I need. For Babydoll Warriors’ debut show I used my 1×12” Dr. Z Maz 38 paired with a Dr. Z 2×10” extension cab. That one is also my #1 amp and if I had to sell all my amps, that would be the very last one to go. It’s a great mix between a Fender and a Vox. I got into Dr. Z after becoming infatuated with Brad Paisley’s guitar playing and gear. I was able to test a Maz 18 up in Seattle and ended up loving the amp’s preamp breakup when dimed and how clean it could run if the master and gain were flipped. A used, 38-watt version fell into my lap a few years later and it became love at first twang. It began as a blonde-colored amp, but there was bleed-thru with the tolex glue so after contacting Dr. Z, they referred me to their tolexing guy and I had it re-tolexed to look like a custom Dr. Z Mazerati amp in a Black with Red motif. It has a Eminence 12″ Texas Heat speaker. The 2x10s are stock Dr. Z speakers and I believe also Eminence. It was a beast to move as a mini-half stack, so for future shows, I may revert back to the amp I bought for the band.

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My actual amp I got for Babydoll Warriors is a Fender Blues Deluxe. I bought it as a chassis off eBay and was going to build a custom cabinet with gold tolex, but I saw a used cabinet with speaker for sale in LA about the cost of the speaker alone. Its a pine cabinet — super lightweight with wheat grill and burgundy tolex made by Mather Amp cabs. It was such a good deal for the cab plus the Jensen speaker that I opted to not go the gold tolex route and leave it as is. Even though it is larger than the Dr. Z, it is much lighter, so for future gigs, I’ll probably be using the Fender going forward. It’s currently at home with all of his amp-brothers awaiting a mod of metal input jacks, a faceplate-facelift, and a new set of JJ tubes.

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My pedals have gone thru a number of changes and at the moment I have this set up so it fits on this hoopty little board I built to specifically fit in this one bag. I realize basing your pedals on a bag to carry it in is probably the worst plan, but so far, it’s working.

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For the most part, my pedal need is tuner, low-gain overdrive into a Dumble-style overdrive, boost, tremolo, delay, reverb, and EQ. Currently, I use TC Electronic mini’s and a few Wampler pedals to make this happen. The Wampler Tumnus is a Klon clone and I always leave it on so that my cleans poke thru the mix and it gives a little gristle when you hit the strings harder. I recently changed from a Mad Professor Simble pedal to the Wampler Dual Fusion. It’s meant for those super technical sweep-picking fusion jazz guys so it’s a ridiculous pedal for our style, however it works for my needs on the songs. I had used the Wampler Euphoria for years as my main overdrive tone, and always paired it with a TS-style low gain pedal for boosting the gain on it. The Dual Fusion is essentially that in one box – a modded Euphoria and the Brad Paisley signature pedal (TS-esque, but based on the Trainwreck amp). The Paisley side I use as a solo boost and the Euphoria is my main overdrive. The effects are all TC Electronic and I use them because of size and their beam-in setting function. The Pipeline Tremolo is set for a fairly heavy square wave tremolo. The Hall of Reverb pedal uses a spring reverb patch, and the Flashback Delay uses a slapback patch. I have a number of other delays, reverbs, and tremolos, but I found these were pretty versatile because if the effect didn’t suit the song, I could beam a new setting using the app on my phone. Size also does matter on this board so the mini Flashback and HOF are a plus. The board is rounded out by a MXR 10-band EQ for fine-tuning the EQ spectrum. I found that it helped round out my Blues Junior amp and not make it sound boxy, so I kept it onboard for the Dr. Z and Fender Blues Deluxe. I might replace it with the Source Audio EQ since there are no sliders on that pedal and right now I have a piece of plastic protecting my sliders from being bumped. The second tier of the pedals sit on a hidden Voodoo Labs Pedal Power.

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I love your Strats. I’ve been craving a Strat again lately and I like that yours look so clean. Since there’s such a huge market right now “relic”-ing, what are your thoughts on it? Do you like the trend?

Dustin, I can build you one! Just let me know. 😉 As for relic-ing, I have mixed feelings about it. It definitely has the mojo look and with true artisans who can recreate it, it’s awesome. There is a science to understanding lacquer shrinking and expansion of lumber, cracking patterns, and how your body-interaction with the guitar creates the wear. So those builders that understand it, or have studied it, I think it’s cool. However now I’m rolling my eyes as it’s starting to be over the top with almost every company having a line of relic’d instruments. Relic-ing can also be lame if builders half-ass it or don’t even take into account actual wear and tear. I mean really, how long are your fingernails that you “relic” a circle around the knob? And ewww…

As a builder of guitars — what’s the one guitar build that is your dream project?

I would say a Benedetto archtop-style jazz guitar. It’s essentially the Stradivarius of guitars IMO. Each step a luthier takes to learn and refine their craft is in that direction. For years, I’ve done bolt-on Fender- style bodies and that’s relatively simple if you purchase a neck and have the woodworking tools. Building a flattop body is just like shaping a cookie with a cookie cutter – as long as measurements are “square” (perpendicular or parallel), then it’s fairly simple. You then move onto building necks, and then archtop electrics, like a Les Paul or PRS style. Eventually you learn kerfing and bracing and can build acoustics. The last step is learning to carve a 1″ piece of wood to be uniformly thin top with structural integrity…AND you don’t do it with $20 piece of maple from Home Depot, you do it with some expensive wood — the kind that hurts your soul if you mess up and that you apologize to the tree it came from — so skill is the utmost importance at that point. But I think that’s decades away for me, so when I can build out a Gibson Les Paul Custom without hesitation, I’ll feel like I’m at my high point.

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

I usually do my research on stuff before I commit to buying it, so I don’t think of it as “worst,” but I did buy an Epiphone Dot flametop semi-hollowbody back in the early 2000s. It lasted a week with me and I returned it because the neck didn’t feel good to me. Best would be my 2003 Ruby Red PRS McCarty Rosewood that I got while in Divided By Zero. I’ve used it on every recording I’ve played guitar on since 2004 –whether it was a hard rock band, indie rock, or singer-songwriter. The low gain pickups can still push an amp or pedal to metal territory, or retain a sweetness through a low overdrive for bluesy singing. It’s my Swiss army knife. Actually its the same color as a Swiss army knife, haha. It’s still relevant to me tonally in the music I enjoy now, as was the music that I was into when I bought it 15 years ago.

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I know from stalking your Insta that you just picked a Silvertone “Chris Isaak” semi-hollowbody — tell me about that guitar.

Ha…yeah itchy eBay trigger finger. It’s a 1963 and its mostly all-original — I’m going to get a Bigsby and and a set of period-correct tuners for it. So the long story is I love hollowbodies and had a few that I loved but had to sell (Epiphone Casino, Sheraton, Dot, Gibson ES-137) and now only have the Gretsch White Falcon (yeah, yeah…woe is me with a White Falcon :P). I like the deep-body versions equally as much as the thinner-depth versions, and love hearing it through a clean amp with reverb. I was on the hunt for either an ES-330L (similar to the Casino which were full hollow, but the neck joins the body farther out) or the well-known semi-hollow ES-335, but newer models were outside of my price range, and vintage ones I could only dream of owning. I thought it was not a dream in grasp so I gave up on the search. Stephen El Rey opened our first show and his guitarist, Mike Butler, had this model. I immediately recognized it as the Silvertone Chris Isaak model — one that I had looked at years ago when I was in the market for Silvertone 1484 and 1432 amps — and mentally put it on my “to get” list. I went home that night and checked eBay and found this one, bid, and won it. I thought it would be a tough one to play, but it was set up awesomely and plays so easy.

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I love the logistical ease-of-use of your pedalboard — but if you could put together a board of your favorite 5-6 pedals EVER on a board of any size, what would you put on there?

Funny you should say size. I have four boards — the mini, the big one with the pedal switcher, the home version, and Babydoll Warrior’s board which borrowed a few pedals off the others. They are pretty simple and relatively the same set up. All have a low gain OD, higher gain OD, tremolo, delay, reverb. The two different overdrives give you a third tonal option when you stack them together. I like Dumble-style overdrives because I like sitting in the mix without fighting drum and bass frequencies. It’s mid-heavy but still has low and high frequencies, so whether you are in a band jamming or at home by yourself, it feels like the overdrive fills out the tonal spectrum. I found that most Dumble ODs on the market are exceptional, but the Wampler versions (Euphoria/Dual Fusion) do it for me. I am a fan of the Strymon Flint (tremolo and reverb), so if that counts as one pedal, I’m going to add a Dunlop Wah to the mix, haha. But if I had to roll into a guitar store to build or replace a pedalboard, I’d pick up either the Wampler Euphoria (or Suhr Riot if I needed metal tones), pair it with a Mad Professor Sweet Honey or Tubescreamer type, into a digital delay with tap tempo that does dotted eighths (like my Diamond Memory Lane Jr, or Wampler Doctor), Strymon Flint, and top it off with a TC Electronics tuner. I hate being out of tune so that’s probably the most important pedal.

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If Wampler approached you and wanted to build a signature James Albers pedal — what would it be, what features would it have, and what would you name it?

Ha! The guys at Wampler are awesome. Side story: those guys are from Indiana, so I used to bring them beers from San Diego breweries to the NAMM show every time I went to give them some SoCal beer love. I had listened to their older podcast religiously and grew to love all of the products they put out. On one of the podcast shows, Max Jeffrey was joked at because he was a fan of the fancy hipster beers, so I thought I would do something special for that one guy in Indiana that likes craft beer. The next NAMM, I brought him the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout and a Modern Times IPA. In the “NAMM episode” podcast he makes reference to it, so after years of going and bringing them limited release San Diego beer, I am now officially James “Beer Guy” Albers to them. So on that note, it would probably be a double overdrive pedal — a Tunmus (Klon style) into a modified Euphoria (Dumble OD) where the Tumnus side has the option of on/off or switches from a low gain (i.e. always on) to higher gain mode. No clue what I’d call it, but I guess appropriately it should have some reference to beer on it.

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Little-known fact: We actually first met each other years ago through Craigslist while trading each other pedals — what’s the one or two things gear-wise you regret getting rid of the most?

Yes! And other little known fact, we used to run into each other at the Normal Height’s Vons and have long conversations about gear in the meat and produce sections for extended periods of time. Haha. I am a bit ADD with my gear, so gear comes in and then goes out, and usually I’m fine with selling gear because it usually means getting something newer and cooler. But there are two that I know of that I can say “I wish I hadn’t sold it”. A few years back, I had to take time off work for a few months for disability. I ended up having to sell a number of my amps and a few guitars just to pay bills until the state caught up with back-filling paychecks. Most of them I made peace with in selling but one of the guitars I had to sell was a limited edition John Mayer Fender Stratocaster in Shoreline gold with a maroon racing stripe. Kicking myself for selling it because I can’t seem to find another now and all of his Fenders are going up in price due to him leaving for PRS. But in standard fashion, if I can’t find it (or afford it), I’ll build it. I decided to build myself a custom one out of swamp ash and purple heart, and hot rod it the way I always hot rod my guitars. The other was my second guitar I ever owned, a late-‘80s/early-‘90s black and gold Japanese Epiphone Les Paul Custom my mom bought me for my birthday for $200 used. The Japanese models featured a cooler Gibson-esque “open-book” headstock, and the craftsmanship probably rivaled Gibson’s in that era. It was my main guitar in high school. My logic (way back in 1994) was that if I sold it to my brother so I could buy this hard-to-find Ibanez Sabre S5407 seven string, then I could buy the LP back at some point. He ended up loaning it to friends in a band, who I believe sold it for weed. Sigh…

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To put you on the spot: I know you’re a fan of John Mayer and people talk about him like he’s the best thing since sliced bread in the guitar world. Who do you think is the best guitarist (or your favorite) alive in the game right now? (and you better not say Mayer or God help me)….

Haha, yeeeah, I’m a fan, but don’t judge me. I like John Mayer’s gear (Dumbles and vintage Strats, even that Powell Peralta Charvel!), his guitar licks, and his guitar experience, not the pomp and circumstance that follows him. But I digress… if I’m not putting in a John Mayer vote or any obvious “idol-worthy” guitarist, I would go with Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles. I grew up listening to U2’s “Joshua Tree” album and it was an eye-opening experience to hear texture applied to music from the guitar instead of just riffs and flashy scales. It eventually became something ingrained in my style and something I craved when listening to new music.

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(Photo credit: Rueven Tan)

Fast forward to recent years of trying to appreciate hard rock and metal again, a few bands I liked (for example I love Red Fang) but all the guitarists out there didn’t wow me on how fast they could play or what scales they knew, or how low they tuned their guitars. Enter Russian Circles — a three-piece instrumental hard rock band that just kicks ass. Mike Sullivan creates textures using loop pedals and live playing over the top, does two-hand tapping, chugs out massive stoner rock riffs, and does all of that within a single piece of music that still has melodic lines. I met him at NAMM last year at the Nik Huber booth and he was super nice and chatted with me and my buddy for a good 30 minutes. Check out “Carpe” and “Death Rides a Pale Horse” from their first album “Enter”.

Dustin and Jennifer Lothspeich Wedding Ceremony and Reception - October 9, 2016

(Photo credit: Alex Matthews)

You’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re like me and scope out what everyone’s using — who do you admire the most, gear-wise?

Well, I haven’t caught everyone yet, so I could easily change this answer…but one person I’ve recently nerded out with is Ian Owen of Oh Spirit and who plays in a number of the Redwoods Collective bands like Midnight Pine and Dani Bell & The Tarantist — all bands who I enjoy seeing play. Ian is another Dr. Z Maz amp user so we bonded on that originally, but he’s also got an awesomely cool pedalboard of boutique pedals that make you go “oooh, what’s that pedal?”. Our last conversation was about his recent acquisition — a Satellite Amp which he is gleaming over. Satellite amps are from San Diego and on my list of amps to get at some point — support local! Ian is not only super friendly but he took the time to nerd out with me, and that’s something I respect guitarist to guitarist. Also there are guitarists out there that make guitar playing sound so good and seem so effortless, and he’s one of them.

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

Well, our drummer Kevin is in need of a drumset. The one he’s been using is cool, but belongs to a friend, so he needs one of his own. I would probably try to track down a cool looking vintage one with the weird drum wraps, like one of those old Ludwigs or Gretsches in sparkle white or oyster blue. But likely, Emily would chime in and say “get one in gold!” so I probably would end up getting a Champagne gold sparkle drumset.

Since I know you’re a beer guy: If Babydoll Warriors had their own beer — what style would it be, what name would you give it, and who would you want to brew it?

I love IPAs and recently the hazy IPAs, but my original love of craft beer was Belgians. So I guess appropriately it should be a Golden Belgian Ale. As for who, I would probably be most excited if Mikkeller, Amplified Ales (who did Low Volts’s beer recently), or if Modern Times did it, however there are a number of awesome breweries in San Diego, so I would not be unhappy with any local brewery doing it. If we aren’t talking local, Unibroue from Quebec — the Maudite and La Fin Du Monde have been some of my favorites for a while, so I figure they’d be a good option. They specialize in Belgian style, and it’d give the Megadeth beer a run for it’s money! Agh …naming … hardest thing ever. I would probably be lame and just call it “The Golden Babydoll Warrior Belgian.” Golden Babydoll Warriors used to be our original band name before we shortened it, so it would be good to put it back in use.

What’s coming up next for Babydoll Warriors?

We are scheduled to play The Merrow on Tuesday (July 10th) this week and Vinyl Junkies at the South Park walkabout later in July. The response to us from just our one show has been awesome so we’re taking it all in and trying to be strategic but move quickly. The next item of business for us is to get the songs we have recorded and put out either an EP or the full-length before the end of the summer.

NAMM 2017: In Photos

We went, we saw, we conquered. Gear and Loathing in San Diego presents: Winter NAMM 2017 in photos. Many thanks to James Albers for his photo contributions (and for the badge!) — Dustin

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BRIAN STRAUSS / OF ENNUI

Of Ennui: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about your current rig.

So currently I have two setups. What you see on the left is an early 2000s Mexican Fender Stratocaster with a Line 6 Duoverb combo amp. The Stratocaster has been rewired with unshielded wiring so it’s great for getting really excessive feedback and the playability is incredible. At this point, I only use them occasionally for recording, mostly when I need a warm clean sound that other guitars can’t quite replicate. The pickups, even though they’re stock, have also been re-coiled so the output in the neck pickup is especially hot. It creates a fat, warm, clean sound that, when distorted, really reminds me of early Mudhoney or Melvins.

My main rig however has become what you see on the right. The amp is a Marshall AVT-275. The reverb is really nuanced on it and it really sort of layers itself in a beautiful way. That’s an Epiphone SG Pro 1966 reissue with the split-coil humbuckers instead of the P-90s. The sustain on it is what really sold me. It really allows my lead playing to shine and when paired with my E-Bow, it’s an intense combination. The E-Bow is a bit of the secret weapon of the band. Christian (my bandmate) and I share it because when you pair it with some delay and reverb over a brooding sort of melody, it really builds a landscape, and as we progress as a band, we pull farther and farther away from verse-chorus-verse and more towards movements. Compared to some of the other shoegaze players I’ve seen, my setup is pretty minimal: Boss Compression Sustainer, FV-50, CE-2, DD-3, Korg stompbox tuner, Big Muff Pi, a Crybaby wah, and the recently acquired Dwarfcraft Eau Claire Thunder Boris edition. I’ve got the Morley Fuzz/Wah purely for recording.

I like to keep things relatively simple. I think once I’ve got a reverb pedal, I’ll be pretty set for a while. As for now, however, all the pieces have their roles. The compression sustainer is great for pulling back the mids on my sound and letting me blend a bit more with Christian, since we have no bassist I’m usually handling the low ends. But when I need to, I switch it off and push the volume on the FV-50 and my leads cut through the mix, which is useful for all the sounds Christian has, and the volume changes that come with them. I’m constantly adjusting and compensating for the changes, which is great because it gives me constant room to experiment live. The Big Muff really pushed it over the edge. Before, I was using a Boss DS-1 which is a great pedal for how cheap and simple it is, but for what we’re playing I needed something more powerful and a little more concise of a sound. The Eau Claire Thunder is my crown jewel, just a harbinger of doom and sludge and that feedback loop is great for builds. I recently used it for a 45-minute noise song I recorded and the sound was so devastating just on its own, I was blown away. I’ve almost always got my chorus pedal on, coupled with the delay, so it adds a full shimmer to my sound and is more the ambiance of the songs, often serving as a mirror to what Christian plays. I usually build my guitar parts all around what he’s playing, so it’s really essential for me to fill all the cracks of our wave-lengths while adding some syncopation with Julio (bandmate).

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

We have a song called “Delta of Venus” which is a really pretty song, but it’s also deeply despairing. We are very much inspired by that sort of duality, but there’s always a long-worded sense of humor to it. I use most of my pedals throughout that song, but it never feels very far-removed which I think is good, it creates a tonal continuity and it’s fluid all while expressing a dynamic range of sound. My pedals are very nuanced in “Delta,” and it’s as simple as switching my delay on for a few seconds during a build or turning on the Big Muff during the song’s climax and leaving it on during the final two choruses. Small but impactful touches. Volume changes are my biggest friend and provide more of a dynamic than anything texturally. I think volume is really underutilized by many guitarists in that way. Our debut EP, recorded at Rarefied Recording and Studio West, includes “Delta of Venus.”

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

Holy grail would probably be a vintage Orange head from their OR series. I take a lot of inspiration from Wata of the band Boris, evidenced by my acquisition of the Eau Claire Thunder. Plus Tony Iommi plays Orange and they’re wonderful amps, but the price range leaves me stuck with solid-state amps for the time being. The E-Bow was actually a big purchase I had wanted for a long time, but never got around to getting until last year as it just didn’t seem viable for the music I had been playing before that.

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

When it comes to gear, I’m usually thinking in categories of clean/distorted and loud/quiet and so I pull influences from pieces of different guitarists’ setups. Clean is hugely influenced by Johnny Marr and he’s probably the reason I own a Boss chorus pedal from before it technically became a Chorus Ensemble as they widened their line. Surprisingly cheap. I see a lot of guitar players knock Boss, but I’m in love. The simplicity of them and their durability coupled with that sound is revolutionary and Johnny Marr really utilized a simple setup because of it. Distortion, I’m usually influenced by Wata, as she’s just such a dynamic presence and her board really adds to that. Her board definitely influenced some key purchases I made including the E-Bow, the Korg tuner, and the Eau Claire Thunder.

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

My favorite piece is my delay pedal. I get a huge array of sounds from the most subtle tweaks in the knobs and it really took my sound so much further. It became an essential companion piece to my playing and an invaluable component to what I have crafted as far as my sound goes as an individual guitar player. Above all, it added nuance and atmosphere that you just can’t capture purely with guitar playing. People knock guitar players like Tom Morello by saying that they rely on effects too much and I don’t really see anything wrong with that. Maybe it doesn’t make him the “greatest” guitar player, technically speaking, but it does make him a stronger musician by putting the overall sound above all else.

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

First piece of gear I bought aside from my guitar and amp was a Boss DS-1 distortion and that little pedal went so far. I do still have it and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I had to take it off rotation to make room for the Big Muff when I got that. But now Christian uses it as an overdrive so it still gets love. I’ve had it for about 10 years and aside from some paint chips, it still works like a dream.

7. What does your band have coming up that we should know about?

Of Ennui is playing The Merrow on Saturday with our buds The Filthy Violets and The Paragraphs. We also recently finished recording our EP. If there’s interest we’ll do a vinyl release down the road. Along with the EP, we’ll have additional merch and some videos coming.

BRIAN GOWER / PLANE WITHOUT A PILOT

Plane Without a Pilot: Facebook / Instagram / TwitterWebsite

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: How did you come to own these things? Makes/models/brands, etc.? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything a work in progress?

GUITARS:

The red Stratocaster with all the stickers is “Big Red,” my main gal. She started life as a Squier Fat Strat. I’ve done quite a few mods over the past 15 years. I have replaced the neck with an unfinished Maple Warmoth Neck (with custom star inlays), Schaller Locking Tuners, a Graph Tech nut, Graph Tech saddles, a Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker in the bridge and wired up to have a single volume knob. I gutted all the stuff I don’t use. I ripped out the tone controls, pickup selector, neck and middle single coil pickups, and some of the pickguard haha. Big Red isn’t just a looker, she’s got immense playability with the smooth and snappy maple neck and has a great, solid, mid-focused tone. I’d say we’re both lookin’ a bit worse for wear these days… but we’re both still kicking!

The pink one is my Gibson Les Paul Junior. She has her share of mods as well. First the headstock broke off at a gig a few years back…which sucked. I’ve since got that repaired, put on Sperzel locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, a Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbucker, and a Leo Quan Badass wrap-around bridge. My bassist, Kyle, stripped and repainted this guitar. It was originally TV Yellow. I told him I wanted a pink Gibson and he obliged. Now I think she’s sassy and unique, as pink Gibsons are few and far between.

The Black one is my Gibson Les Paul Classic. I changed out a few bits here too… picking up a theme here? I added Schaller locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, Graph Tech saddles, and Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB humbuckers. This one’s got a thick sound that can get bass heavy without getting muddy.

The last one is a Fender American Reissue of a ’62 Jazzmaster and it’s the most stock guitar I own. The only thing I switched was the Jazzmaster bridge for a Mustang one. It has a tone that’s really unique. I’d say it’s kind of twangy like a Telecaster, somewhat beefy like a Les Paul, and it’s a bit biting like an SG. With both pickups on it’s unlike any guitar tone I’ve ever played before. It’s worth noting that I use the shit out of the trem bar whenever I play this live.

AMPS:

Both amps are Orange 2×12 combos. I’ve become an Orange fan boy quickly over the past year. I blame my buddy Sean Tolley (Nothing Sacred/ Short Stories) for that. We used to share a rehearsal space with his band. One night, my amp was on the fritz so I asked if I could play on his Orange AD30 that was left in the room. I plugged in and was blown away immediately. It was the sound I had been searching for out of my similar Vox AC30 but couldn’t quite dial in. I swiftly bought my own Orange AD30r and ditched the Vox. It’s a Vox-y style EL84 amp that has more “oomph” in comparison. I’d say it has a ton more mid focus and more preamp drive on tap. It’s a fairly simple one-channel amp without an FX loop.

In addition to the AD30, I wanted a backup amp. You gotta have a backup, right? I wanted an amp with some more bells and whistles. So that brings me to the Orange Rockerverb 50 MKII 2×12 combo. It’s a 50-watt amp with clean and dirty channels, spring reverb, and a tube-driven FX loop. The dirty channel is where the Rockerverb really shines. It can go from subtle crunch to insane saturation. With these two amps, I can cover a myriad of tones. I only use one at a time for shows. Which one depends solely on my mood.

PEDALS:

Pedal chain goes Guitar > Dunlop Mini Volume > Dunlop Mini Wah > Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive > Fulltone Full Drive 2 w/ JHS boost mod > Black Cat Mini Tremolo > Boss DD-500 Delay > Catalinbread Talisman Plate Reverb > Amp.

I utilize different gain stages and the volume boost at key points of songs to bring dynamics to the band. I stack the drives and can use the clean boost independently. The reverb is on all the time. It really fills up some space, gives the guitar more impact, and doesn’t clutter anything up. The tremolo is used sparingly and is dialed in for a slight effect. The DD-500 is an incredible delay station. I can get tape slap, crisp dotted 8th delays, modulated patterned repeats, etc. all at the click of a switch. It has 200 editable presets… I’m only using 8 of them.

I’d say the pedalboard is the best/worst part of my rig. I’m happy with the flexibility and dynamics it brings to the band’s sound but it’s such a constant evolving thing. Let’s just say I change my board more than most people change their socks. Sometimes I want to scale it back. Then other times I’ll want to add more. I’m working on getting a midi pedal switcher system for my board so I won’t have to tap dance around as much. Hopefully I can get that squared away by the end of summer.

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

I’d say “Falling For You” off our upcoming full length album, Just Another Unsung Tragedy. Taken at face value, it’s a catchy, upbeat pop-punk song but if you dig deeper you’ll find it has some desperate lyrics hidden behind that forced optimism. Guitar-wise, it has some nods and winks to various rock ‘n roll and post-punk stylings strewn about. The main riffs and choruses have been dubbed with heavy gained guitars that blend into the verses that switch to guitars that have a lighter crunch tone. The bridge cleans up with strummed chords that have a touch of tremolo and slap delay. These tones are sort of a call back to a more retro ’60s feel. The lead “solo” guitar comes in with a lot of delay and reverb to give it a big ‘80s rock feel.

3. I noticed you use those big button things on some of your pedals. I’ve never seen anyone else use them, so I wanted to know why you do, and would you recommend them?

They are called “Barefoot Buttons” [www.barefootbuttons.com]. They are a newer company I found whilst browsing reddit. These buttons easily attach to pedal switches and make it easier to click on/off. They were made to also not hurt your feet if you play barefoot. I never play barefoot on stage but I do like the idea of having a bigger target to hit when clicking my various switches. I’m the lead singer and only guitarist in the trio. I have a lot of space to fill and need to switch sounds quickly and as seamlessly as possible. These buttons help me do so. Also the red boost switch and “A” delay (one on the right) on the DD-500 can be switched on at the same time if I get my foot stomping just right. I do that quite a lot to make solos stand out. Also these buttons look dope.

4. I’m sensing kind of a Billie Joe Armstrong vibe with the Strat, the LP Jr. and the Orange (I think he used an Orange at some point?) — is there something to that or no?

Bingo! Guilty as charged! Yes, I am very heavily inspired by Mr. Armstrong and Green Day. They were the first band I ever started listening to and I am still listening to Green Day albums to this day. I continue to find more and more things I enjoy about them. Whether it be the songs as a whole, his use of guitar tones/sounds, song structures, the album production, his lyrics, his live sound/gear… yikes I’m sounding like a creep, huh? As far as Orange amps, I know he’s more of a Marshall Plexi guy and has used JCM 800s & 900s in the early Kerplunk days but who knows, he might rock an Orange every now and then.

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

OK, so we’re back to the Green Day/Billie Joe thing. I’d buy a Marshall Plexi and get it modded with his same Dookie gain mod that cascades the front end and adds a preamp tube. I could finally have THAT tone. Maybe one day I’ll pull the trigger and get one.

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

“Big Red”, the red stickerfied Strat, was my first guitar I ever bought. I was 12 and I really wanted to play guitar. My dad wouldn’t just buy me one because he said, “If you worked for it and bought one on your own, you’d appreciate it more.” Boy, was he right! As impatient as I was then, I truly appreciate that sentiment nowadays. So I did all the chores, mowed all the lawns, recycled all the cans I could until finally one day, I had enough cash to buy a guitar. I went to the local guitar store and the clerk asked me what I wanted and I just pointed to the red Squier Stratocaster that was on the display rack. The clerk was gone for a while then finally came back from the stockroom and said “I’m sorry but we don’t have anymore of these in red. Do you want the one on display? I can take some money off the price and give you a cable, some picks, etc.” I said OK and was out the door a happy boy. It was already dinged up and scratched a bit from being a display model but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I threw some stickers on over the years, broken a piece here or there, swapped some bits and I am still playing it at live gigs. My USA Fenders and Gibsons are all quite nice in their own right but they could never replace this one. It’s special. It’s the guitar that started PWP.

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

We’re headed on a West Coast tour the first week on June (dates below). Our first show is on Thursday, June 2nd, at Soda Bar with Squarecrow opening for Toyguitar (Fat Wreck Chords). We are also releasing our full-length, Just Another Unsung Tragedy, this fall. The album is mixed/mastered and we are in the final stages for artwork. We’ll have a few more things to nail down before we can have a release date and corresponding tour. Keep an eye out for that. For everything else you can check us out at www.planewithoutapilot.com and your various social media sites. We out here… we grindin’.

“The Big Dirty Tour”

Thursday, June 2nd- Soda Bar (San Diego, CA) [INFO]
Friday, June 3rd- The Caravan (San Jose, CA)
Saturday, June 4th- Triangle Tavern (Salem, OR)
Sunday, June 5th- High Water Mark Lounge (Portland, OR)
Monday, June 6th- Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA)
Wednesday, June 8th- The Roxy (Vancouver, BC)
Thursday, June 9th- Johnny B’s (Medford, OR)
Friday, June 10th- Jub Jub’s (Reno, NV)

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.

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!