IAN DE CERBO / IMD, GONJASUFI, HEZUS

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1. What bands/groups do you currently play in?

Mostly studio work with Hezus and Gonjasufi. I have some other projects with Psychopop, Scatterbrain and a few others.

2. Do you remember the first piece of gear you purchased?

A beater drum kit for like $200. I still use a few pieces from it now but it’s mostly junk now or art.

3. What piece of equipment do you use most often?

Four track or tape deck. Keep it simple.

4. If you had enough resources, money, time, space, etc. what dream piece of gear would you own?

Probably a Mellotron, or EMS modular synth, or a nice mixing board something probably easily over $10K.

5. What upcoming projects should people look out for?

Gonjasufi remix on Warp Records; IMD BeatTape Vol. 1; and a Hezus release on Hit & Run out of LA; release with Scatterbrain; Gonjasufi live band.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego) for this interview.

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

TAYLOR GOLDSMITH / DAWES

Dawes: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website

In December, I interviewed Dawes’ vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith for NBC SoundDiego. You can read it here. Below are some excerpts from that same interview that didn’t quite fit the narrative of that writeup, but do seem to fit nicely into the Gear and Loathing fold. Many thanks to Eric James and Rodrigo Espinosa for contributing some of their own photos from the band’s Jan. 10 Belly Up show for this feature. Enjoy.

Dustin Lothspeich: Do you guys typically rehearse much for tours? Seems like you’re a well-oiled machine at this point…

Taylor Goldsmith: I mean, through the years there have been tours we set out for where we wouldn’t get together – but this one’s different because it’s “An Evening With” tour so not only do we have to know 2 1/2 hours of music every night, we have to keep it interesting from night to night. We have to brush up on a lot of old tunes that we haven’t played in a while, so there will be a lot of rehearsing for this one.

DL: I’ve been way into acoustic music lately. Been thinking about picking up a real nice Martin or something. 

TG: To me, it’s the most expressive kind of guitar. You can’t pick up an electric and plug it straight through an amp and have it be the perfect sound for a really gentle ballad and a perfect sound for a really loud, angry song – unless you were to turn up the volume or get a bunch of pedals. Whereas with an acoustic, it really can go from the quietest and the gentlest to the loudest and the most aggressive very naturally. People associate it with ballads but it’s actually really expressive.

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DL: Do you typically write on acoustic or electric? Or something else?

TG: There are songs I write on piano and then once in a while, I’ll have a riff that I come up with on the electric guitar, like “Things Happen” or “One of Us,” where it wouldn’t have sounded right on acoustic originally, or I wouldn’t have noticed it or thought it was worth paying attention to. But most of the time, most of my songs are written on acoustic.

DL: One of my favorite songs of all time is “Don’t Send Me Away” – how did you write that?

TG: That one was, weirdly enough, written on a piano. And there’s those kinda like “bop-bop-bop” quarter notes that are going throughout while the bass line changes. As you can imagine, it’s a lot simpler and easier on the piano to do that. It took some figuring out how to play it and move the bass part around while keeping those three notes up top. But yea, it was originally written on piano.

DL: The band’s new record mixes a few different types of styles; it’s pretty eclectic. Do you think We’re All Gonna Die is different from your other albums in that regard?

TG: To us, we’ve always done that. I would say that they’re recorded in the same way – songs like “Most People,” or even “When My Time Comes” or “Don’t Send Me Away” even would be right at home on We’re All Gonna Die. I think any of them would be! I think a song like “Quitter,” or “For No Good Reason,” or “Roll With The Punches” would fit on any of our previous albums. I like that each record has a personality but I don’t think any of our records have strayed too far from what we’ve always done.

DL: I think one of your strengths, in particular, is your ability to write about everyday problems and our constant struggle with losing or regaining hope – without being too preachy. That’s a fine line.

TG: I think a lot of us try to get to a place, and I’m a victim of this as much as anyone else, where we get to a place in our lives where we don’t have to suffer. That we can build something around us and we’re never lonely and we’re never depressed and the reality is, that’s not gonna happen. And the only way to deprive that fear of its power is by embracing it and knowing that it’s going to come in strides. And you’re going to have to sit with it and deal with it sometimes but other times, you are going to feel like everything is OK. There’s a great Smog song where Bill Callahan sang something along the lines of: “We all have peace on earth about every other day,” [laughs] and saying it like that kind of no longer allows you to be scared of ever going through the dark times because when they do come along, you can go, “I knew this was going to be part of this equation.”

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Taylor Goldsmith’s trusty (and well worn) Fender Telecaster (photo by Rodrigo Espinosa)

DL: Off the top of your head, what was the record you listened to the most in 2016?

TG: Shoot, that’s a good question. I mean there have been several I’ve been going back to a bunch – my girlfriend kind of gets like, “Why are you listening to the same thing again?” So I don’t  live with one record like I used to as much anymore, but I was going back to Blood & Chocolate a lot by Elvis Costello & The Attractions a lot. Putting it on over and over. I’ve always had that record, but when you first discover Elvis Costello, you’re obsessed with This Year’s Model, or Armed Forces, or My Aim Is True, and then eventually Imperial Bedroom and Get Happy!! and all that. I had Blood & Chocolate and I’d always loved it but I hadn’t had that feeling of I-have-to-only-listen-to-this-for-the-next-week moment the way that I’d had with all the other Elvis Costello records that I’d loved. So I kinda finally had that.

DL: What was the favorite gig you played last year?

TG: It would probably be Nashville’s Live On The Green Festival, where it’s just this pretty outdoor show and we were playing after Kurt Vile, who we love and they’re obviously an impossibly cool band. We thought, “Aw shit, they’re putting us up after Kurt Vile? Everyone’s gonna leave!” And I didn’t go out during Kurt’s set – I mean, I love Kurt’s show and we’ve seen a lot of his shows, but I was kinda backstage the whole time with friends so I didn’t see the audience until we walked onstage and there was like 18,000 people and it was the biggest show we’d ever played – at least in terms of us playing last. I mean, we’ve opened for Mumford And Sons, but we were the opening band – people were there because they had to be. But with this, they didn’t have to be. It was the most surreal experience playing for that many people and really feeling connected to them. I’ve never had such a high after a set than I did that night.

DL: What are you looking forward to the most in 2017?

TG: I mean, I guess it’s like equal parts – a good tour (I’m really excited to get on tour and play these shows), but I’m also really excited to get a handle on the next batch of writing. It’s always fun to either be playing new songs or in the studio playing new songs. We never wanna be taking too much time off. That’s kind of how we’ve always been and that’s kinda how we want to keep it. Life is better when we’re working. I’m hoping to have these songs start showing up in a bigger way. I’ve written a couple so far but I’m excited for the new year for that.

WALTER AYLLON / GRIZZLY BUSINESS

Grizzly Business: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1. Lovin’ the Tele – tell me all about it.

I use to play shows with a Epiphone Sheraton, but as beautiful as she is, she was just too powerful for my sissy style rhythm guitar playing. I found this Thinline Deluxe Tele on craigslist and fell in love with it. Because it’s like a semi-semi-hollow body (if that’s a thing), it has some of the usual Tele twang but not too much with solid mids, which is perfect for me. Coincidentally, I bought it off of Joe from Burning of Rome who had me meet him at a coffee shop in Golden Hill. He told me he never even took her out of his home which led me to accuse him of using it as his bathroom guitar which he denied. It was honestly an honor to buy from such a distinguished guitarist. Sometimes when I hit certain chords I can almost still smell the subtle scent of Febreze 😉

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2. Tell me what “I am Beyoncé always!” means to you and why it’s scrawled on your pedalboard.

Well, it’s my favorite Michael Scott quote that can fit in that space. In a way, you can say it represents my inner diva perfectly. I’m also known around the band as like the awful boss so I guess that’s encompassed in there as well. The beauty of my pedalboard is that I made it out of a little chalkboard and I can write anything in there at any time. Right now, I have our setlist for our Soda Bar show this Saturday but I can also draw unicorns on there as well.

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3. Talk to me about your pedals – rockin’ the Joyo/Donner options, I see. What drew you to them over other pedals? Would you get higher priced options if you could or nah?

I am very new to the pedal party. When I was 13, I bought a compression sustainer which I thought was going to let me wail long notes like John Frusciante in “Emit Remmus.” That obviously didn’t happen as I now know a compression sustainer is the worst first pedal for a young guitarist. I started buying these within the last year and am beyond stoked. I did a lot of homework watching tons of YouTube videos of different brands and ultimately concluded that these were cheaper and sounded just as good. No amount of fancy pedals could or will ever make me sound like decent guitar player so why break the bank, you know?

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4. What amp are you using and why?

These days I use Brian’s (our bass player) Fender Blues Deluxe. All I know about it is that it’s tubed and I’m supposed to put it on standby before and after using it lol. I’ve been so plug-and-play all my life that it’s embarrassing how little I really know about equipment but at the same time I feel it’s kept things simple which I think there’s beauty in.

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5. If you had unlimited money, what is the first piece of gear you would buy?

I would quit the band and buy the most expensive grand piano I can find. Preferably previously owned by Beethoven and used as his bathroom piano. I can only really play the Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump theme songs but I’m sure they would sound great on such a fine piece of musical equipment. Maybe a massive harp too, who knows.

6. You guys got a new record coming out (Spanish Old-Fashioned)– how does it measure up against your last? What’s your favorite song on it and why?

My ultimate goal is to convert Grizzly Business into a Dr. Dog cover band. I think on this record we made a couple of baby steps towards that. There are a lot of backup vocals and layers upon layers of pianos and different noises. Brian was pretty new to the band when we made our first EP and you can tell he really made this one more of his own with some amazing bass lines. Matt left the studio with his usual angst of wanting to redo his drums which is always silly as they’re always great. I did my best to be as silly and sarcastic as I can with the lyrics. My favorite song on there would have to be “Fake British Accent.” It’s just a song about all the things you hate about the person you love wrapped in an almost ’50s-like happy prom song bundle. The best line I think I’ll ever come up with is in it which is “when ‘enough’s’ just a line you drew up to refine.” Pretty stupid, I know, but it’s the best I can muster.

7. What’s next for you guys after your CD release at Soda Bar on Saturday, Jan. 7?

After our release, we are jumping on planes and going on tour through Europe with a couple shows in New York as well! We are beyond stoked and are very much counting the days. We’ll probably get eaten alive and lose all our fingers and toes to frostbite but it’ll be great and hopefully we don’t give San Diego too bad of a musical name out there.

Grizzly Business tour dates:

1/7: Soda Bar (CD release with Inspired and the Sleep, and Spero)

1/12: Friends and Lovers (Brooklyn, NY)

1/13: The Delancey (Manhattan, NY)

1/17: The Windmill (Brixton, England)

1/18: The Bedford (Balham, England)

1/19: The Dog and Whistle Pub (Hertford, England)

1/21: Brussels Pub Crawl (Brussels, Belgium)

1/23: TBD (Berlin, Germany)

1/25: CC Muziekcafe (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

1/26: Le Truskel (Paris, France)

1/28: The Good Ship (London, England)

OPIE TRAN / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. You’ve got quite the collection — which guitar do you play the most and why?

Up until a few years ago I only had a couple guitars. It wasn’t until last summer during recording guitar tracks for my other band did I catch GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) haha. I’d say the guitar that honestly has been played the most is my acoustic guitar I got from Vietnam back in 2007. When I was a preschool teacher, I played it every day for the kids. I got tired of CDs skipping so I figured I’d just make my own versions of all the popular kid songs while making up my own along the way. It’s also been on random camping trips and is just always within an arm’s distance away when I feel like strumming some chords or writing new riffs.

Out of the electrics, I say the Squier J. Mascis Jazzmaster gets played the most. I originally got it to replace a P90 guitar that I was using with my other band but realized the tone and vibe fit Mariel much better. I also really like the fatter neck and Tune-o-matic bridge, being so used to Gibson-type guitars I felt right at home. I put locking tuners on it so string changing takes seconds and the balance of the body feels very comfortable. Its also a pretty inexpensive guitar so I don’t stress about too much about taking to gigs and beating the crap out of it.

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2. Is that the Ibanez DL7 on your pedalboard? Why do you use that and the Boss GigaDelay on the same board? Is one better than the other?

Yes it is! It was the first “effects” pedal I ever bought. I only ever use it for a slapback-type of delay and the occasional oscillation. The DD20 is my main delay used for medium to longer delay sounds. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other they just serve different purposes. I suppose the DD20 is more versatile but it also takes more brain power to use and the DE7 is less distracting with its simplicity. The main reason I got the DD20 is for the tap tempo function and LED screen (I have a terrible memory and need visual reminders). If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the Boss just because it’s a tank and I tend to be rough on my gear. I have both because I’m lazy and don’t want to switch between banks on the DD20 and also I’m super sentimental and I get attached to my gear. Joking aside, stacking delays can make simple riffs sound gigantic and lead to super interesting sounds. I usually play super simple guitar parts and sometimes use delay as its own instrument similar to the Edge from U2. At one point, I had three delays but I realized it was overkill for what I was doing and that I should just get good at using two instead.

3. What’s the nondescript blue Digitech/DOD pedal?

Whoa you’re like a pedal detective! It’s a Digitech Bad Monkey, I’ve had that thing forever and it was the second “effects” pedal I’ve ever bought. I feel like there’s way better OD pedals out there but again, I’m super attached to my gear and it just works in my rig. One day, my bandmate and I got bored and started spray painting pedals so thats why it’s blue. I always have this dumb fantasy of some gear nerd trying to figure out my rig and starting a thread about it somewhere on the internet. Silly, I know. (Not necessarily! – Ed.)

4. Have you gone through a lot of different guitars and pedals to get to this point, or are you still searching for stuff?

Overall, I think I’ve been pretty good about getting to where I am with my gear. I tend to really research gear and make sure I really like whatever I’m getting. Considering how long I’ve been playing, I think the amount of gear I’ve gotten rid of is pretty low compared to how much stuff I have now. Pedal-wise I’m pretty satisfied, maybe one day I’ll replace that Bad Monkey with something else. If anything, I’d like to streamline my live rig and bring out my other toys for just recording. As far as guitars, I can’t see me wanting to stop collecting! I’d like to add an SG and Mustang to the quiver hopefully in the next year or so.

5. What song of Mariel’s is the best representation of your gear?

“We Lost the Fight.” We’re actually going to be recording soon so the best I have is from when we played at The Merrow a while back.

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

A Gibson Les Paul Custom; it’s the guitar I saw so many of my heroes playing growing up and I still get aroused every time I see one!

7. What’s coming up next for the band?

We’re playing at The Merrow on 12/15 [INFO]. We’re also going to be working on new material, recordings and hopefully some touring.

 

BRIAN HOLWERDA / BLACKOUT PARTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. ADAM WILLIAMS / THE LOWLAND DRIFTERS

The Lowland Drifters: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Chicken

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

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

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

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

MICHAEL McGRAW

Michael McGraw & The Butchers: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig.

When I’m in my studio, I try different guitars depending on the vibe but as a live setup I’ve always played through a similar pedal setup, only changing out the overdrive a few times. For the past few years, I tried a more traditional amp/guitar combo with the ’65 Reissue Fender Deluxe Reverb amp and the Epiphone Casino and what I found was that the tone was incredible but I lost a lot of the dynamic control I had in the past. I recently switched back to my early ’90s Bedrock 2-12 amp; it was boutique before boutique amps were cool! The Bedrock is all hand-wired and modeled after the Vox AC-30 with a 100-watts of power at my disposal. The rumor is Bedrock made great amps but they were lousy businessmen!! I also love the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb and lately I use the Electro Harmonix Soul Food overdrive for it’s great tone. I was using the BBE Boosta Grande for added volume but now I added my JHS Superbolt on top of everything instead for some extra chaos!

2. Why do you use the gear you’re currently using?

I have used some version of my current setup for years because of how I play. What I do that’s kept me going in music is write songs and sing… frankly I play so much guitar because I have to! I’d much rather have a great lead guitarist but bands are a tough long-term dynamic so if you want to keep going in music for as long as you can, you do what you have to!! I started on acoustic in college so I am a strummy guitarist with some accents here and there. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a lead guitarist regularly in awhile and I rarely solo so I find a nice reverb and some yummy overdrive help add character/dynamics to my guitar while allowing me to concentrate on singing.

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

When you’re writing and recording, sometimes you have no idea what songs people will grab onto or what sound will define them. As the years go by, certain songs stick around and tend to come up in conversation. For me, those songs are “Poorboy,” “Hillside” and “Closer Tonight.” “Hillside” was a song I wrote in a band called True Crime Authors with my buddy Lee Sammartino (drums) and I recorded it for my first EP in 2009. The song “Poorboy” really embodies the spirit and camaraderie I had with my close friends Chris Decatur (drums) and Mark Lane (bass) when we made the second EP in 2011. Lastly is “Closer Tonight,” which is a song that I carried around for years before releasing it last year on the full-length record.

4.Dream gig: What bands would you ask to play your all-time raddest show, and where would you play?

That’s easy…Stereophonics, Richard Ashcroft and Doves at Wembley Stadium!! I’m a Brit-rocker at heart.

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

I put an album out last year [listen/buy it here] but I am currently switching gears and getting back to my garage-rock roots so we should have a new single soon, hopefully in August. We’ll be playing next at the Soda Bar on Sunday, July 10, with the talented Jimmy Ruelas and a great band from Athens, GA called New Madrid. [INFO]

SCOTT BARRETT / SICK BALLOONS

Sick Balloons: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

1. How would you describe your process and the music you make?

I usually mess around on guitar, just strumming away. Sometimes I riff on a chord or a melody for awhile. I might sit on that for a week, other times it’s ready to go in the moment. I usually record straight to Garageband. I still have a digital 8 track and a nice vocal mic, but i find that out of necessity, it takes too long when racing through inspiration.

After that, I either add more instruments like bass/drums/Rhodes, or just write to the guitar track and finish up everything else later. A lot of it is done on the fly, though. These things become demos that mostly get fleshed out with the band later, who quite honestly make it sound better.

2. What’s your current setup?

Standard S101 Tele-style guitar. I’ve written most of everything on that guitar since 2005. Previous to that, I used a Slammer Hamer standard Chaparral bass, which was the basis for all my earliest songs. Back then, I played that into an ASR-10 sampler and looped everything up.

I’ve inherited a pieced-together drum kit from my friend, Jason aka Glynnisjohns (former bass player and founding member), that we used on our previous records. It’s sort of a Frankenstein built kit. I’ve got a a Memphis electric guitar that sits mostly — that one gets out of tune often. Rhodes Piano for some melodic sprinkling and lastly, a Devi Ever Vintage Fuzz Master pedal. That is my one and only pedal purchase. It’s got a nice clean setting and then a wonderfully mid-fi white noisey fuzz to it.

All of this is for home demo’ing purposes, I don’t play any of this live. I leave that to the professionals like my bandmates and friend’s bands.

I’m the biggest layman you have ever met. My friend Matt once asked me what kind of guitar I play. I told him, “a red one.” Jason bought me a tuner for one of my birthdays. I can barely tune a guitar, but I know enough instrument-wise to make songs. I’m pretty good at handclaps though.

3. Do you remember the first piece of gear you owned?

The aforementioned Slammer bass guitar, on indefinite loan from my sister, who encouraged me early on in my guitar adventuring. She also bought me my S101 aka the ‘red guitar.’

4. Your next piece, what will that be?

Some kind of small practice amp. I like to keep things charmingly lo-fi, or home-fi as we call it. A Moog would be nice too.

5. What projects are you working on?

Sick Balloons is on the cusp of releasing our fourth full length album, Telescopes (on) Parade. It’s the first ever studio, full-band recording, produced by our good friend Dave Matthies of The Gift Machine. Other than that, we have a new interim EP out now, called Pillow Fig, which also features my sister. You can find our stuff on Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes and all those other jazzed up streaming platforms.

Sick Balloons play the Pour House in Oceanside on Thursday, June 23rd, with Mirror Travel (TX) and Scruffles. The show starts at 9pm and it’s free.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.

BRETT PATTERSON / THE WHISKEY CIRCLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Gear-wise, I would say Kurt Vile.

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

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

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