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On songwriting: “I was trying to get to the place where I’m really raw with myself.”
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 27, ISSUE 4
Diet Cig cover story by Jaclyn Wing
The Whiskey Gentry by Alex Lane
4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH:
6. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Junior Astronomers
8. What SoundCloud’s Future Means for Indie Artists
10. Your Recordings Aren’t Memorable.
Oak House by Sarah Brooks
28. Pro Mixing Tips For Better Live Sound 30. MEET YOUR MAKER: U-Turn Audio 32. GEAR REVIEWS: Mackie, Teenage Engineering, DiGiGrid and more…
47. MY FAVORITE AXE: The Wild Now 48. FLASHBACK: Vintage Gibson L-5S
by Anthony Cammalleri
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all. As Record Store Day quickly approaches, I assume most of you are eagerly awaiting my annual grouchy old man rant, wherein I rail against the commercialized nature of what RSD has become, and bemoan the dwindling support indies receive each year as part of the festivities. But I’ll spare you. At least a little bit. OK, not at all. Looking at some of the releases on tap for this year, I can’t help but think, “How many times do I really need to buy [insert album here]?” Here’s where I stand: I think it’s super-cool and totally fun for the youngest generation getting into vinyl for the first time. They have better turntables than I ever had access to. And that classic album on 180g green swirl vinyl? Awesome! I mean, I would have killed for pristine new pressings of a lot of my favorite albums. But when I got into collecting, usually what was left were dusty old record stores with (mostly) beat up copies of Doobie Brothers LPs they couldn’t even give away. So in that respect, I envy those starting out,
as they have a plethora of ultra clean pressings to choose from and easy access to any record they want over the internet. But for those of us who’ve owned a lot of these records for years (sometimes multiple copies, even), it’s just a reminder of that while things are (sort of) getting better, they’re really just becoming hella expensive. LPs that used to grace the dollar bin of every record store in the country are now being shoved in our faces for $20, even $30 a pop. And at a certain point, I just can’t justify the hobby any more. Even top-shelf MM phono cartridges that routinely sold for under $100 just 5 years ago have now almost doubled in price. Yeah, yeah, I get it. Supply, demand, yadda yadda yadda. But what it comes down to, for me at least, is the music. Not the format. Listen, I love vinyl, and I’ll likely be buried with my record collection because I honestly can’t stomach the thought of anyone else touching my records after I croak. But it’s come to the point that if collecting vinyl means shelling out $25 for Whipped Cream and Other Delights, it just seems like we’re getting hosed. Benjamin Ricci, editor
Volume 27, Issue 4 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT
Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com EDITOR
Benjamin Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN & ART DIRECTION
Bob Dobalina email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Alexandra Lane, Andrew Boullianne, Ben Carter, Benjamin Ricci, Chris Devine, Ethan Varian, Jaclyn Wing, Rob Tavaglione, Robert Meigel, Sarah Brooks CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Shervin Lainez, Jodi Cash, Rebecca Cash, Jon Whittaker, Matt Odom, James Atx ADVERTISING SALES
P.S. - so...whadja get for Record Store Day?
Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about.
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4 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will... ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to firstname.lastname@example.org and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com © 2017 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.
very time a record mailer shows up from Athens, GA, I light up. Especially when something shows up with that distinctive HHBTM stamp on the return address. So, imagine my delight when the new Eureka California 7” showed up at the office. I dropped what I was doing, fired up the turntable and cranked the eff out of the stereo. “Wigwam” is just a pure blast of adrenaline, a garage-infused punch in the nuts that bombards its way through your speakers and impales what’s left of your brain in about the span of two minutes flat. Not bad, eh? Speaking of not bad, how’s about a super-rad cover of “Slack Motherfucker” by Superchunk?
Yep, the more I spun it, the more I actually dug the B-Side, which also contains the galloping “Only Birds No Feathers.” Do yourself a favor. Head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page, plunk down 7 bucks for their new 45 and prepare to rock out harder than you have all year. Put simply, the Wigwam 7” from Eureka California is probably the most fun any self-respecting indie rock fan will have this season. Highly recommended.
Eureka California Wigwam 7”
Athens, GA (HHBTM Records)
Listen now at eurekacalifornia.bandcamp.com
Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 5
RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
Hello! I’m Terrence Richard of Junior Astronomers from Charlotte, NC. Music has been a part of my life since I was born. My mother sang and my father played keys and DJ’ed. I decided I wanted to play music when I saw our current guitar player at a battle of the bands when I was in 9th grade. At the time, I was writing poetry and wanted to find an outlet for my writing so I said, “Why not write lyrics and sing in a band?” Here are some of the records that inspired me to become a musician.
Kevin W Condon
LISTEN NOW at juniorastronomers.bandcamp.com and follow on Twitter @jrastronomers
The Strokes Room on Fire (2003)
Amy Winehouse Back to Black (2006)
Radiohead Hail to the Thief (2003)
I remember I was in band class in high school and my friend let me listen to this record; I fell in love instantly. I had never been more excited about a modern rock band until I found The Strokes.
This record floored me. The lyrical honesty and vulnerability of every song changed my concept of songwriting. Made me want to write what was real instead of hiding. I can remember where I was when she passed. She had a very sad story.
I love all their albums, but this one has always spoken to me the most. The combination of guitar songs and electronic songs really intrigued me. Definitely opened me up to a lot more music, too.
Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. 6 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
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SoundCloud is str revamp its busine What could this m
hen Chance the Rapper accepted the award for Best Rap Album at this year’s Grammys, he didn’t just thank his musical collaborators or his family. “Shouts out to every independent artist out there,” Chance said. “Shouts out to SoundCloud for holding me down. It’s another one, baby!” Anyone who’s followed his rise knows Chance owes much of his success to the streaming audio platform. His release Coloring Book was SoundCloud’s most popular album in 2016, according to the company’s year-in-review blog post, totaling over 100 million plays across the album’s 14 tracks. Since launching in 2007, SoundCloud has become an invaluable tool for musicians looking to bypass traditional distribution channels. Chance, a fiercely independent artist who vowed never to sign a record deal, knows how to use the platform, building his massive online audience by sharing free mixtapes and one-off tracks directly to his fans. While indie artists like Chance are thriving on SoundCloud, the privately funded startup has struggled to maintain a steady cash flow. According to a financial statement obtained by Music Business Worldwide, SoundCloud’s net losses totaled $52 million in 2015 and the company is in danger of running out of money by the end 2017. SoundCloud’s dismal financial state prompts speculation the startup may be on the verge of a sale, leaving many to question whether its current business model is sustainable. Although it’s unclear how SoundCloud can compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music in the now-crowded streaming space, the platform provides a unique experience for both artists and fans that other services can’t easily replicate. 8 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
truggling to ness model. mean for artists? Ethan Varian
“It’s truly a community of music lovers for creators and fans alike,” says ambient-electronic artist Instupendo. “I really appreciate the feedback listeners provide through comments. It’s pretty special to know when your music resonates on a personal level with someone.” Instupendo (aka Aidan Peterson, pictured) is a 16-year-old high school student from Philadelphia who began making and uploading beats from his bedroom at 13. He’s now an upand-coming producer in SoundCloud’s thriving electronic music community, boasting more than 23,000 subscribers to his account and over 730,000 plays on his most played track “long live.” “It had no barriers to entry, and I didn’t need a distributor to upload my music, so it was really a great sandbox in which to start,” says Peterson. “Also, the way it’s integrated with other social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr has helped push my music in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced.” In an effort to monetize its engaged network of 175 million monthly users, SoundCloud recently began serving listeners more ads while striking licensing deals with all three major record labels, making music from artists like Adele and Beyoncé available to customers who purchase a $10-permonth premium account. Users can also opt for a $5 subscription, which allows for ad-free listening but blocks most of the service’s major label catalogue. While the new licensing agreements give DJ’s and producers the freedom to sample or remix copyrighted material without fear of receiving takedown notices—great news for independent artists—the moves met with little optimism that they will significantly help to SoundCloud’s bottom line. “The structure of monetization by both YouTube and Spotify are distinctly more efficient than SoundCloud,” says Peter Berry, founder of the popular SoundCloud channel and music blog Aux
London. “I think the subscription concept brought in by SoundCloud’s management was a risky and perhaps impulsive move to save the company rather than to improve the platform.” As the company has yet to release metrics on its premium accounts, little evidence exists to suggest SoundCloud users are interested in paying to listen to major label artists on the platform. And trying to become profitable without a significant subscription base is almost certainly a losing battle. “Though there is room [in the streaming market] for a service like SoundCloud and the audience it caters to, it’s a matter of whether the economics of such an audience is enough to sustain the platform,” says MIDiA Research analyst Zach Fuller. “Existing within a larger entity such as Spotify or Apple, where it would be shielded from the immediate need to turn a profit…would still allow it to retain its unique customer base.” If a sale were to go through to a larger tech company, Fuller expects SoundCloud to be treated as a separate product in the same way as Instagram
and WhatsApp after Facebook purchased them. “What could potentially change would be SoundCloud being used to drive engaged customers over to other aspects of the parent company’s services,” says Fuller. A prospective buyer should have every incentive to keep SoundCloud’s user-base happy, but it’s unclear how listeners would react to a company like Apple pushing outside services onto such a community-driven platform. The company is clearly struggling to make its current business model viable. It’s likely in SoundCloud’s best interest to sell so it can concentrate on making a product that musicians and fans love to use. “The best thing about SoundCloud has been that it’s focused exclusively on music, artists and listeners,” says Peterson. “That’s one of the reasons it evolved into the awesome social-music delivery platform it is today. I’d think that [a major tech company] would recognize that, and wouldn’t buy SoundCloud to radically change it to the point where no-one would use it.” PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 9
Your Recordings Ar HERE’S HOW TO FI
HERE’S WHY WE AREN’T COVERING YOU About fifty times a day, I get asked, “How does my band get coverage in your magazine?” It’s not an easy question to answer (which is why you’ll frequently find me hiding in the corner, or curled up in the fetal position under my desk to avoid such interactions), but there’s one thing that I’ve been saying to more and more artists seeking coverage, who, quite frankly, we have no intention of covering. And it’s simply this: “Your record was not memorable.”
make a career as a musician.
That’s it. Harsh? Probably. But in this industry, I’ve had more bands thank me for my honesty than get pissy because I said we weren’t gonna cover them. I think what happens too often is people (especially those who write fluffy articles geared towards “aspiring artists” – which, can we all agree, is a bullshit term?) are way too coddling to musicians, pretending that every artist has merit, talent, and the ability to
So, what’s my point? Of that 25%, only a small percentage is truly memorable. I’m talking records that engage you to the point where they start showing up in your regular rotation. Records that make us want to go out and interview the band, and spend our money each month printing and distributing copies of the mag with feature-length articles on them because we just have to tell the world about them and their art.
10 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Horseshit, I say. Of the hundreds of new records we get sent each week, only about 25% are any good. That’s the truth, sorry. That’s right, about 75% of what we get sent is simply not very good. And we’re not going to lie about it. Maybe the musicians aren’t that talented, the songs are uninspiring, or (worst case scenario) they don’t have any business being in bands and realistically, they should not pursue a career as a musician.
BUT YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT The rest of that crop is good, not great, but ultimately shows promise. And that’s who I want to speak to in this article. The group of bands putting out good records, who could be putting out GREAT records. Records that people fucking remember, and tell their friends about. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about separating the good from the great, it’s that it sometimes comes down to the performance captured on tape (or digital, or whatever you gall-dern kids are using these days when you’re not busy trespassing on my lawn). What I mean by that is that many times, I can hear the potential when a great song is brought down by just an OK recording. And that’s the worst bummer of all. That makes me more upset than listening to a shitty album. Listening to a record that could have been amazing, had great songs on it but lousy performances, that just infuriates me.
GOOD SONGS MADE GREAT The classic example I like to give is the track “Suspect Device” by Stiff Little Fingers (and I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this before). One of my all-time favorite songs. And by songs, I mean the actual underlying composition – the lyrics, the melody, the chord changes. Great stuff. But if you listen to the single version, it’s completely boring. A waste of vinyl and a waste of a great song. An utterly forgettable rendition. Whoever made them record another version for the LP was a genius, because they must have slapped some sense into the band and forced them to deliver a better recording on the next go. The album cut of “Suspect Device” is everything the 45 should have been: it’s punchy, it’s gutsy, it’s passionate, it’s completely and 100% unforgettable. But it’s not just about showing passion. Not every song is gonna demand a flat out exhausting performance like “Suspect Device.” In fact, just yelling into the mic because you think it somehow conveys passion is just as bad, if not worse, than a dull rendition of a track that should have that feeling on it. IF IT PLEASES THE COURT… I present to you Exhibit B: Rakim. Now, Rakim
is one of my favorite rappers of all-time. In fact, on any given day, he might be my favorite. But go back and listen to those first few Eric B. & Rakim records. Really listen to his delivery. Here’s a man (well, teenager, really) who is so ridiculously in command of his delivery and performance that he doesn’t need to shout. He doesn’t need to be loud, in-your-face or inject a falsified passion into his flow. Despite his deceptively laid-back delivery, Rakim owns, and subsequently destroys, all of hip-hop by his unflinching command of the microphone. One listen to “Lyrics of Fury” will wear you out. It’s the most devastating four minutes of lyrical prowess in hip-hop’s golden age, and it’s the difference between a bomb exploding and a bottle rocket going off. And Rakim pulls it off without breaking a sweat. Now that’s a recording you’ll remember forever. WHAT’S THIS ALL MEAN? I can’t teach you that “X-Factor” that everyone claims is part of all superstardom’s formula for success. There are just gonna be those handful of artists who, for whatever reason, have “it” and will make it. But there are also those who have the potential to break through based on memorable recordings (of memorable songs, let’s not forget). I want you to be one of those artists, truly I do.
Are Not Memorable. FIX THAT. So, what can you do? Be honest with yourself. Listen back to your current mix. Is it memorable? Is there anything different you can be doing that would make the recording (not the song, remember) memorable? A different arrangement? Different instrumentation? A different vocal take or delivery? More aggression? Less aggression? More polish? Less polish? Shorter? Longer? Bigger hook? Sparser drums? More restraint? Faster tempo? Slower tempo? Think. Try. Expiriment. Get feedback. A/B test demos with focus groups you assemble from whoever you can rope into listening to your stuff. Really give thought to how the music you’re making sounds, not just the songs you’re writing. I can count tons of songs where I loved a cover version better than the original, because the recording was more memorable. I like Leonard Cohen, but if I’m being honest, I like him better as a songwriter than performer. His version of “Hallelujah” does nothing for me. Sorry, LC fans. I know that’s blasphemy. But Jeff Buckley (regardless of how overplayed his version has become) slayed it in the studio. That performance is ethereal. It’s angelic. It’s otherworldly. It’s something that refuses to leave you after you’ve heard it. You can close your eyes and still hear it playing in your head. Strive for that. And if you’re not there yet, spend some time seriously exploring how you can make the most memorable recording possible if the songs you’re got to work with are already good to start with. You’d think this would be obvious, but way too often I chat with bands about how they approach the studio, and it’s usually something like, “Well, we wrote the songs, and then everyone laid down their parts and we overdubbed the vocals.” Does that sound like your band? More importantly, does that sound like any thought went into how those songs should sound on record? Come on, you can do better. Sometimes magic can happen that way, sure. Sometimes. But if you expect us to spend our time on your project, don’t you owe it to yourself to give more thought to how you’re going to perform (and yes, it should be a performance, not just a run through of the song) in the studio? I want something more for you, and from you. And you should, too. Just something to think about for next time…
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 11
Letting Go of Musical Competition to Allow for Collaboration with
The Whiske Gentry
Jon Whittaker and Matt Odom
12 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 13
he phone rang twice before Lauren Staley picked up. She answered with a twangy “Hey there,” and before long, I could hear the clang of pots and pans as she went about making dinner, the click-clacking of her dog’s paws on the floor, and the soft lull of whatever tunes she had playing - an orchestra of household sounds that is her daily soundtrack when she’s back in Atlanta. “It’s good to be home,” Staley tells me. As the frontwoman for the country/ Americana sextet The Whiskey Gentry, Staley and her partner in music and life, Jason Morrow, have been leading their band around the country on tour. Most recently, they spent a few days at South By Southwest (SXSW), performing and enjoying the sights and sounds of creativity. “It was super fun. It’s always super fun. But, also super exhausting. We joke about how it’s like cross-training for the Olympics.” An event like that requires a lot of the participating acts, Staley says. Getting themselves, their gear, and their band to the right city on the right days is one thing, but once they get there, hauling all those things from the van, to off-stage, to the stage, back to the van each
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day takes a toll on their bodies. And that’s all not factoring in the actual performance. “South by is also like, hazing. ‘Come out to Texas, make no money, do all of the things,’” she jokes. No matter how hard it seems, Staley is still able to put it all in perspective. “It’s still a job. I mean it’s my full-time job now. And I’m super grateful that I’m able to do this as my job. I wake up, I go into my office, and I immediately start working on the band - emails, whatever has to be done comes to me. It’s the most fun job.” She, and her band, have worked extremely hard to be able to call their passion project their career. Not too long ago, Staley was working fulltime for Georgia’s Department of Labor, burning the candle at both ends, trying to make the music and her day job work. “We’d leave on a Thursday, say at 4 o’clock,” she recalls. “Then I’d take the Friday off and go until Sunday night, when we’d get home from somewhere and then I’d wake up and have to be at work at 8 a.m. That was my life for a good two out of three years that I worked there. It’s a lot. It’s really so taxing.”
When she thinks about it now, she sounds bewildered that she was able to make that lifestyle last as long as she did. “I recognized too - because I cared so much for my boss at the time - that I wasn’t giving him 100 percent. And I think that that is really the lesson that I learned, because like I said, I am so practical and pragmatic. And there’s half of myself that’s like, “What are you doing? You’re not going to be prepared for retirement.’ I just realized, one thing’s going to suffer - you’re either not going to be giving yourself fully to your boss and that job, and you’re certainly not giving yourself fully to your passion and your creative energy and outlet.” With the encouragement of her husband and creative partner, Staley decided to give music a full-time try. Now, she lives off the idea that ‘you get out what you put in,’ saying “you have to live it every day.” She’s committed, and it shows. The band’s latest release, Dead Ringer (2017), is a departure from what might be familiar to fans of The Whiskey Gentry. Their previous albums, Please Make Welcome (2011) and Holly Grove (2013) sound like a young band just gearing up and testing the waters in comparison. Honestly, that very well may be the case. According to Staley, the making of and touring around Holly
“When we got done touring for that record, I was just tired. I was like, ‘I can’t write anything. I’m over it.’ I didn’t even know if that’s really what I wanted to do,” she says. “And Jason, having him around, he found this way to motivate me. Which he has always done, ever since we met. But he was like, ‘Here’s the deal. I’m going to keep playing. So, if you think you’re gonna quit, that’s fine. That’s your decision. But I am not going to quit. And I will play with you in whatever capacity…’ He knows that I am a jealous person.” That reverse psychology maneuver ultimately worked, and Staley got back to work. With Jason’s help, and the collaboration of their band - bassist Sam Griffin, drummer Nico Lembo, fiddle player Rurik Nunan, mandolin
representation of who we are at this point in time,” she says. From the lyrics on songs like the title track, “Dead Ringer,” and the recording techniques on tracks like “If You Were an Astronaut,” there’s a transparency that just wasn’t there on the previous two LPs. When asked about the album, those are the two songs Staley stops to comment on. “‘Dead Ringer’ is the story of…me. If I had to sum up that feeling, [it’s like] I’m out there, bustin’ my ass, playing shows where people are like, ‘Do you know who you sound like? You sound just like whoever. You should go on The Voice.’ Even down to the last song on it [“If You Were an Astronaut”], that is the rawest form of any emotion that I would feel for Jason. And Jason wrote the music to that song, but the lyrics are so deeply personal about us and where we are. And
On SXSW: “We joke about how it’s like cross-training for the Olympics.” player Michael Smith, Chesley Lowe on banjo, and keys player Les Hall - they created a record that is deeply personal, less polished, and more reflective of who they are as a group and who she is as a musician. To make something that comprehensive and all-encompassing is no small task. But Staley says that this time, the songwriting came a little easier. What changed? “I used to be really competitive with [Jason],” Staley admits. “So, if he wrote something good, I’d have to try and one-up him on it. For this record, it became so much more collaborative. When you kind of just surrender to it and go, ‘I need your help. I clearly cannot do this on my own anymore.’ His mark is on every single song on this new record in some capacity.”
there’s other parts on the record that sort of came out of my brain or Jason’s brain. But a lot of it’s autobiographical about our lives.”
the moment. When I listen to it, I can feel those moments. When Jason and I got our test press for our vinyl, we put it on in the living room, and we both got oddly emotional,” Staley says. “Just crying and weird. Because it just feels different... It definitely was not thought out. It definitely wasn’t anything other than an evolution of something that happened between the years.”
Grove really caused her to reflect on her life as a musician, and question whether this was right for her.
The creative growth of the band, and Staley’s own personal shift has allowed The Whiskey Gentry to truly come into their own on this album. It’s raw and refined without being polished. It has flaws and imperfections, but ultimately documents a moment in time that’s real and honest for the group. In life, and music, Staley says “It’s just being a human. I’m just this human. So, [this album has] things about being a human - being hurt, or happy, or being confused, or whatever. Those are all my favorite records. They’re all the band’s favorite records. It’s why we listen to music - for that connection. It hits you and you go, ‘Oh, I’m like that too!’”
Follow on Twitter: @WhiskeyGentry
You can hear that vulnerability on the record. Staley says she hears it too, and that most of that rawness came naturally. They recorded at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, NC, which is notorious for its big studio room known simply as “The Church.” For the first time ever, they recorded with a producer - Les Hall - who pushed them to test their creative boundaries. Staley says she won’t go back to recording alone. “He caught our vision, but also added in so many nuggets of wisdom that we would have never thought of before,” she laughs. “Drum-fills, little parts that made us go, ‘Holy shit. That’s what people have producers for.’”
That shift from competition to collaboration allowed the vibe of the whole writing and recording process to change. It helped Staley to come out of her shell as a songwriter and lean on others in a more meaningful way, creatively.
The record was tracked on 2-inch tape, which was also a new technique for the group. And finally, they let this album have a live-band feel by miking the band all together in the same room and letting the musical magic just happen.
“[The album] feels like more of an accurate
“I don’t know. It’s just a cool thing to be - in
THE WHISKEY GENTRY DEAD RINGER STANDOUT TRACK: “FOLLOWING YOU”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 15
SPOTLIGHT 16 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT Rebecca Cash
Exploring the Air Between Instruments and Translating Studio Textures to the Stage
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 17
ave you heard the hypnotizing sounds of Oak House? If you haven’t yet, you will soon. Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Oak House have made their mark and become hometown favorites—and are poised to become beloved by cities far and wide, too. When I first escaped into my headphones to take a listen to their music, it was immediately hard to categorize—which made it all the more
a moment where someone is begging to be admitted to heaven from purgatory. He basically says, ‘I was faithful. Let me in.’ Despite, being ‘faithful,’ the character is not admitted. This is a terrifying thought to me. This notion spilled into some musical ideas I was working on for the album.” This idea stuck with him to the point where the story needed to be told through the music of Oak House. “Suddenly, I have a decent musical idea, a devastating cosmic idea and combined them to create what I would hope is a moving, dynamic piece that provides an example of what
“Our recorded energy has been captured, but live, it has the ability to become something completely different and more terrifying.” interesting. Being a genre outcast works well for Oak House, keeping listeners on their toes with each passing chord. For inspiration on their newest record, Hot or Mood, lead vocalist and guitarist Gresham Cash turned to literature: “I spend a lot of time reading—a lot more than I do listening to music—and this probably molds my most prevalent inspirations for my songwriting. For example, in Dante’s Purgatorio, there is
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that might feel like when reaching the door and being turned aside,” Cash states. The newest album was recorded with Drew Vandenberg, the sonic genius who has worked on albums by Toro Y Moi, Of Montreal, Mothers, and more. Dubbed “Lord Vandenberg” by Cash, the experience was heralded as “transformative.” And the best part? Throwing the rule book out
the window completely. “We definitely did a bit of exploring throughout the recording process. Some ideas were as spontaneous as hearing a harmonic overtone that was hiding in a track and we would try to pull it out and experiment with it. Other ideas were very planned. But hey, that’s the magic of studio time: come in with a plan, destroy the plan,” Cash muses. As far as songwriting goes, it’s a blend of collaboration and innovative ideas brought to the table by one band member. Their influences aren’t shared; rather, Wes prefers metal music, Connor listens to jazz, and Gresham enjoys classical (think Dmitri Shostakovich). Sometimes Cash will write a song and suggest the instrumentation, or they’ll work together, composing in a lab-style format. The process is atypical—it varies from song to song, which is one facet of Oak House’s sound that is so thrilling. What’s more is that their music is experienced in an entirely different way in a live setting. Translated, the music of Oak House becomes much more than notes on a page and lyrics molded to a verse, explains Cash: “Our live music sometimes feels like we are trapped between a banjo and a hard place. As in, people who like indie folk might think we are too loud, too dark, too intense. Or on the other hand, metal fans might think we are too quiet, too happy, too melodic. Without pulling from what other people might think, I think that, as a three-piece, we have a lot of air to fill. Our drum and bass parts are super important, the textures and pads are super important, the guitar work is occasionally important, and the delivery is most important. Sometimes we mess up, but did the emotion of the song get across? If we wanted to perform perfect music, we would all stand completely still and nail our parts. But I think it’s good to have a live
Their newest work is gripping, with a hold that doesn’t let go and a power that mesmerizes. With the blend of influences they present, it’s hard for Oak House to make music that isn’t unique. “We hoped to tell a story that is indubitably emotional. To me, music is a form of storytelling, and if music feels vapid or uninspiring, sometimes that means that it isn’t telling you anything more than that very regular background noise that you are used to hearing in restaurants or bars. It doesn’t beg you to listen. I hope that our album doesn’t fit well
says Cash. “‘Cut That Out’ is the dream that never ends, the earworm that won’t go away, the anxiety that permeates all your actions. From the pushing of the drums, to the wandering bass, to the bending guitar notes, the song tries to draw a fine line between reality and dreams. Once your eyes close, what is real? ‘Esque’ is the continuation of the dream. We tried to utilize the droning concept from the beginning of the album to the end. So once the friction of ‘Cut That Out’ is ended, the eerie feeling comes right back…I wanted to try and create the fragmented, shifting world of our dreams. One idea moves quickly to the next, then to the next with almost no transition—no grace. However, when you get to the end of the dream, it doesn’t matter how
energy. Our recorded energy has been captured, but live, it has the ability to become something completely different and more terrifying. And hopefully, people enjoy diving into that with us.”
Follow on Twitter: @oakhouseband
“That’s the magic of studio time: come in with a plan, destroy the plan.” in an ambient space. I love ambient music and peaceful instrumental music: However, the mood or general sentiment is probably more important than the cause or message. Think of: most Phillip Glass equals mood, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony demands you must listen,” Cash says. “Cut That Out” and “Esque” are two songs on this album that certainly demand you to listen. Both so different, yet linked in their eccentricity, each song finds Oak House at their most innovative yet. “Cut That Out” is the starting point, while “Esque” propels the vision forward,
shifty and convoluted the rest of the experience was; you remember the end.” Where is Oak House going next, with their dreamy, eerie, juxtaposing music? “I think we have grown from wanting to be a band and musicians to being a band and musicians…To me, it’s that I want to write objectively good music, perform it well, and connect with people while doing that. I think music and art is very important to all of us, and for me, particularly, it is what I intend to do for the rest of my life,” notes Cash. And indeed, I hope that Oak House does.
OAK HOUSE HOT OR MOOD STANDOUT TRACK: “CUT THAT OUT”
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SPOTLIGHT 20 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
BEANS Anthony Cammalleri
On Crafting and Releasing Three Records Simultaneously
he same debate on rap music has been raging to no avail for over 30 years. Ever since its emergence, the question has repeatedly cycled as to whether hip-hop music is simply a modern style of pop, or rather, a form of poetry obscured by a pop-like etiquette. Regardless of whether or not this article might remain merely a single statement in such an everlasting dispute, perhaps hip-hop fans across the United States and abroad can consider hiphop artist and member of the underground group Antipop Consortium, Beans, as newfound evidence that their long-awaited answer is now apparent: both. In his three new albums (yes, three!), Wolves of the World, Love Me Tonight, and HAAST, all released March 31st, Beans strays from his
familiar boundaries to create an artistic reflection of his perception of the world, while still staying true to the free, fun, and experimental facets of his genre. Despite lyrics exposing societal issues like widespread substance abuse, street violence, and racial aggression; however, Beans says that he does not consider his music a form of activism, but merely an expression of his own feelings as a human and as an artist similar to that of those who inspired him. “Honestly, I’ve never considered myself an activist, per se, but I definitely come from the school of Public Enemy where hip-hop was CNN, and you report what you’re seeing, you’re truthful about that, and you base that on your own experience and what you’re going through [...] that’s the school of hip-hop that I grew up with, and that’s the school that I think is lacking.
In particular now, especially with what’s going on. I don’t think that that’s really being reflected in the music that’s being heard,” he says. Beans goes on to reflect the mainstream hip-hop scene and the way that it had, for the most part, abandoned what he considers an essential responsibility of artists to report their environments. “I feel like right now hip-hop is just being served as a sense of distraction, making you forget about the hells and the struggles of what’s going on around you, and that’s not necessarily being reflective of what’s happening in the art. There are little sprinkles here and there but it’s not necessarily the force that it could be, the force that I know it once to be. [I write] without being nostalgic about it, but definitely acknowledging that these things are happening” Beans says. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 21
“I’ve never considered myself an activist, per se, but I definitely come from the school of Public Enemy where hip-hop was CNN…” Along with his love for writing meaningful songs, Beans’ three new albums can be said to reflect a more potent influence of electronic dance music on his work than most of his previous tracks. He also sees experimentation as a way of distinguishing his sound from that of other artists in the genre -- something that, according to Beans, was a highlight of the multifaceted hip-hop scene to which he was exposed growing up: “I’m a big admirer of the electronic sound, I mean the genre started [by] being plugged into a lamppost for power. The whole process of-hip hop is experimental,” he says. “I just came from the school where when I grew up everyone was very distinct. I came into a school where Public Enemy, De La [Soul], Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, X-Clan, they were all considered hip-hop, but everyone was distinct in their particular style - what they were saying, or how they were saying it, but they were all still under the umbrella of hip-hop [...] when I started to come out [as a musician], everyone was digging through crates looking for samples to try to be and sound like the next premier. I was getting tired of that because everyone was coming from the same sources of their particular music. It all sounded the same,” he says. In one of his newly released albums, Love Me Tonight, featuring collaborative work from Interpol’s Sam Fogarino, as well as Laurel Halo, Tobacco, and many other artists, Beans took his experimentation to a new level with tracks such as “Diamond Wizard,” a song that was originally on the album Wolves of the World, but later moved to Love Me Tonight. Beans chose to release all three albums simultaneously because all three, he says, developed their own personalities and styles during his five-year recording period.
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SPOTLIGHT “I started working on the second record Love Me Tonight around the same time as my last album on Anticon, End it All dropped, so the longest album that I had been working on out of all three was Love Me Tonight. It went through all kinds of various transitions and different beats.” He continues, “I think basically the thing about doing the three records over a five-year period is that it does show…where I was at the time of the creation in those particular albums. That’s why for me, it was important to put it out as three simultaneous releases as opposed to ones back-to-back. To me, they all sounded incomplete hearing all three in sequence.” Beans is pleased with the final product of Love Me Tonight, mentioning that the collaborative work of other musicians was a difficult, yet rewarding process for the album, but he also points out that while Love Me Tonight is a diverse record comprising electronic music, as well as party-oriented dance beats, HAAST, Beans’ third album, is more saturated with meaningful reflections of the world today. One of the more prominent statements made through this record is the track “This Knife Got a Gun,” which Beans wrote to expose the racial
oppression and slaughter of African Americans still prevalent in cities today. “I felt at that particular time, rap was really silent about what was happening, and what is still happening with police executing black men in broad daylight, or the multitude of deaths that have been happening at the hands of police. I just wanted to address that in this particular piece [...] the majority of HAAST in particular is very current to the mind state of where I am artistically, and what is happening socially. HAAST is definitely the more political of the three,” Beans says.
Follow on Twitter: @mrballbeam
Being a somewhat ambidextrous musician, Beans put together, in the span of three albums and five years, a cornucopia of musical styles all under the larger umbrella of hip-hop. Tracks like “Let’s Murder the Moon” on Wolves of the World depict a creative edge toward experimentation and risk-taking in electronic sound, while at the same time, not neglecting his crucial role as an artist to address the faults and beauties of the world around him in HAAST. Through the duality of poetry and amusing distraction, Beans stands on a stable balance; he is not a protest writer, nor is he a pop star. He is both simultaneously. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 23
On Modern Feminism in Music and Capturing Raw Emotion in Your Art
DIET CIG Shervin Lainez
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SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 25
he female fronted, punk-rock duo, Diet Cig, has a certain tenacity. Their first full-length, Swear I’m Good At This, balances vulnerable lyrics with powerful instrumentals. The raw emotion runs deep throughout the album. Alex Luciano is on the guitar and vocals and Noah Bowman is on the drums. While the lyrical content comes from Luciano, she gets feedback during the writing process, mainly on the melody of the lyrics. She chipped away at writing while on tour but a good chunk of the album was melded into full songs when they got into the studio. When they were blending the instrumentals and vocals, they focused on capturing raw emotions. Before they got into the studio, some of the lyrics didn’t have instrumentals yet and vice versa. Luciano and Bowman each share a part of Luciano’s story. While Luciano’s lyrics form the foundation of the songs, they figured out the structure and fleshed them out together.
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Luciano really humanizes musicians by talking about social and cultural norms specifically with regards to parties, sex, sexuality and relationships.
was consciously aware of what situation she was trying to recreate and that she had to tap into her emotions; ones that she typically wouldn’t share. “I was writing and tearing up,” says Luciano. Writing “Bath Bomb” was particularly emotional. “I had a rush of emotion. I remember thinking, ‘This song is going to be good because it’s so real.’ I was trying to get to the place where I’m really raw with myself,” she says. The writing process helped her unpack emotions associated with certain experiences. She notes that sometimes it’s harder opening up to yourself than it is to a room full of strangers. The lyrics are a lot about wanting to scream and Luciano yelling her whole life. In “Tummy Ache” she says, “It’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt.” She notes that the skirt she was referring to was both literal and figurative. “As a woman in punk or rock or in the industry, you feel like you have to
“As a woman…in the industry, you feel like you have to prove yourself.”- Luciano From Luciano’s viewpoint, the theme of the album is that “it’s okay to feel your feelings. It’s really powerful to share how your feeling no matter what it is.” She says that all of the emotions we have are valid and that showing honesty allows other people to relate to those feelings. It’s okay to talk about your emotions, your thoughts on things and situations that you’ve been in. “It’s really radical to share your feelings and support your friends and be empathic and listening and just supporting them,” says Luciano. Bowman says that working with Luciano has made him more aware of social and cultural issues that are happening in the world. “We give this message and try to break this wall, but yes, we are musicians and we are on stage, but yes, we are still affected by all of this,” he says. The tracks on the new LP come across as deeply personal situations that Luciano has been in; the album is a reflection on things that have happened in her life. Writing, recording and performing the songs live are cathartic and emotional for her, as well. “A lot of the songs are about very specific feelings I’ve had and writing them was very emotional. I didn’t just sit down and write,” says Luciano. When she was writing, she
prove yourself,” says Luciano. She notes that she has “faced many micro aggressions as a woman; even at shows or talking to bands with guys.” The frustration is very real. Bowman notes that they are a powerful female-fronted band. He knows that when they do a kick-ass show some people think otherwise because of this. “There is a lot more power coming out of this than you think,” he says. Being aware of what she’s up against as a woman in music, she has worked on finding her ‘stage cactus.’ There’s probably a story about how the stage cactus came to be but the short version is that one of Luciano’s friends always brings a cactus on stage; I hope it’s inflatable. Some musicians dress in drag, some wear crazy makeup and some bring cacti on stage with them. Luciano jumps around and has an insane amount of energy. It’s all about finding something to have on stage that makes you feel comfortable so you can be your best self for your fans. Luciano suggests “[finding] a way to set yourself apart and feel comfortable.” Her advice to new musicians is to fake it to you make it but to keep that mentality to yourself. Don’t let on that you have no idea what you’re doing. “You’re going to play so many bad shows until you play a good one.” In addition
“Believe in what you’re doing. If you believe it, others will, too.”
For Bowman, the process of recording an album is so fun and so different than performing live. “I love when I can hear the lyrics because it impacts how I can support the phrase that is being pushed out. When it needs to be heavy, it’s heavy; pushed back, it’s pushed back. The energy is contagious; we play off each other- vibe off each other,” says Bowman. Bowman says there’s an organic feeling that he gets that’s hard to vocalize. He feels that drummers are the backbone and he’s trying to help portray Luciano’s story and help her get everything out. Luciano enjoys being in the studio because there are so many different things that they can experiment with that they can’t try during a live performance. Exploring different aspects of how everything can be pieced together is an adventure in itself.
to the fact that it’s okay to fail, Bowman notes that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. If you’re putting yourself out there and doing what you’re passionate about, don’t beat yourself up. Take a life lesson from him: “Believe in what you’re doing. If you believe it, others will, too.”
Follow on Twitter: @dietcigmusic
DIET CIG SWEAR I’M GOOD AT THIS STANDOUT TRACK: “LINK IN BIO”
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GET BETTER LI ON STAGE: PRO
elcome to the fourth and final installment in our series on getting better live sound, co-presented by Performer Magazine and Yamaha. In this installment, we’ll go over some more useful tips to get the most out of your live mix. Yamaha has been kind enough to loan us one of the compact mixers from
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their wonderfully affordable XU series of analog mixers, as well as a pair of PA speakers from their rock-solid DBR line to test out some of these applications. Keep in mind this entry is designed for beginners to more moderate/advanced users, so if you’re already running FOH for a largescale touring band or venue, this might not be for you.
WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH? One of the best pieces of advice when it comes to live mixing comes to us via Performer fave Doria Roberts, an incredibly talented Atlanta-based singer/songwriter. She shares the following tidbit on frequencies: “Know your actual frequencies for your voice and acoustic guitar. Don’t say, ‘Cut the mids in my
LIVE SOUND RO TIPS wood or concrete, capacity, etc.) Use their notes as a starting point for other rooms and keep taking notes about what had to change about your original frequencies and why.” Your sound is going to differ from every other band’s sound, just based on the timbre of your vocals and the tonal characteristics of your individual instruments. So, knowing which frequencies in particular work and don’t work for your band’s mix will make EQ’ing your live production easier for both you and the FOH staff anywhere you play. MOVING IN STEREO Mixing a live show is a different beast than making an album in a studio. Even though the channel strip of a recording console has many similar features to a live mixer, we typically recommend mixing a live gig predominantly in mono. Yes, even though you’re sending a 2-channel mix out to your PA mains, most good stage mixes we’ve heard, especially at small rock clubs and even mid-sized theatres, work best when most of the mix is centered. Keep in mind that even though the DBR12’s we tested have a nice throw and coverage angle, many venues don’t have ideal acoustic properties, and hard-panning an instrument to the left or right channel might mean an audience member on the opposite side of the room is not hearing that instrument from their position in the venue. In an ideal world, every venue would be set up to have listeners positioned in the “sweet spot” for stereo, but this is never the case. Focus more on the frequencies of the instruments you’re mixing and how they interact with each other, as well as the overall balance of levels being sent to the main outputs. vocal’ or ‘I like a lot of low end for my guitar.’ Say, ‘Cut the 2k for vocal and boost the low end to 80Hz for the guitar to start, please. We can go from there, thanks.’” She adds, “If you really like the sound at a venue, go ask the sound person what they did and also take notes on that room, since that probably contributed to the sound (e.g. tin ceilings, lots of
Mixing too much stereo information when sending a monitor mix to in-ears can also be an odd aural experience for musicians on stage. Again, this isn’t a clinical listening environment, and the world’s not perfect. If one earbud pops out mid-song, you don’t want critical audio information not reaching a band member onstage because a certain instrument was hardpanned to that ear, and now they can’t hear it. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 29
LIVE SOUND Also, many musicians who are still adjusting to in-ears after relying on wedge monitors over the years have noted that a lot of stereo information happening at once can be a major distraction - as information bouncing between the left and right ears causes their brain to focus on this, rather than the levels in the mix and other instruments they’re supposed to be taking cues from during a song. COMPRESSION: MAKE IT DYNAMIC We’re going to start sounding like a broken record, but treat your stage mix differently than your studio mix. On record, compressors and limiters can make vocals and instruments really feel cohesive and gel together. But keep in mind 30 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
what they’re doing is affecting the dynamics of your music. On-stage, if you’ve been using a lot of compression on vocal channels, try backing off or turning the compressors off completely in the mix, and A/B’ing that against what you’ve been used to. You might find your live sound becomes more dynamic with the compression off entirely, relying more on your vocalists to provide dynamics through a mix of vocal technique and mic positioning during quiet and loud passages. Adding compression via on-board fx settings or an outboard unit might work in small doses to “even things out” in less-than-ideal settings, or make back-up vocals hit the board at the same
level without spikes, but you may be surprised at how much more immediate your lead sound becomes without the effect. ADDING THE RIGHT REVERB Again, reverb is an awesome tool that can add depth and texture not only to vocals, but instruments on your recordings. Live, however, too much reverb and/or delay and your mix becomes a swampland of refracted sound and muddled textures. Here’s what we recommend: for more upbeat numbers, go shorter: 800 milliseconds is a good starting point. And if possible, utilize pre-delay to keep your original sound and the reverb from
LIVE SOUND gobbling each other up in the mix. Separating the two will be key here so they’re not overlapping and causing audio confusion. For ballads and slower tracks, you can get away with longer settings and different types of reverbs, like plate. Whereas for faster numbers, we’d recommend more hall-style reverb settings. Remember, the room you’re playing will likely add its own characteristics to the natural reverb of your performance. Some rooms are wonderful acoustic marvels; others feature so many hard angles and weird surfaces that it’s nearly impossible to add artificial reverb without completely confusing your stage sound. So, if your performance space already features a nice, natural reverberation, dial back the settings on your hardware and mixer to accommodate. When in doubt, less is more in a live setting. CAPTURE INSTANT LIVE RECORDINGS FOR FANS One of the features we like most about modern compact mixers is the ability to run our master stereo mix straight out to a DAW via USB. This is super-handy on a unit like the Yamaha MG12XU, since it also comes with a copy of Cubase for ultraeasy recording. What this means is you can livetrack your show onto a laptop on stage or even in your rehearsal facility, and offer up instant live downloads of concerts and jam sessions to your fans almost immediately after your performance concludes. CLOSING THOUGHTS We hope these installments have helped you with the basics of live mixers, PA speaker setup, some more advanced routing options for stage sound, and a few helpful tips about getting better live sound at your gigs. Be sure to check out the entire range of Yamaha live sound products at www.yamahaproaudio.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 31
MEET YOUR MAKER
MEET YOUR M With Ben Carter from U-Turn Audio
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BACKGROUND ON U-TURN AUDIO We started developing turntables in 2011, but didn’t begin shipping to customers until late 2013. I started U-Turn with two former high school classmates, Bob Hertig and Pete Maltzan. We had been listening to vinyl together since we were freshman, but we all owned awful turntables. Good decks were too expensive, and vintage ones require a lot of maintenance. There was a clear need for a decent turntable that folks on a budget could afford – so we decided to build one. MOST POPULAR MODELS Orbit Basic Turntable, Orbit Turntable, Pluto Phono Preamp
WHAT SETS YOUR GEAR APART FROM OTHER BUILDERS? Our design is very simple. We focus on musicmaking components and generally leave out the nonessentials. All of our turntables are built by hand in our Woburn, MA factory. We sell directto-consumer through our website, which helps us keep prices down. WHAT ARE SOME COOL FEATURES OF YOUR PRODUCTS? Our Orbit Custom lets you design your own turntable from the ground up. You can choose
MEET YOUR MAKER
your color (or wood), platter, phono cartridge, and choose from add-ons like a cue lever or builtin phono preamp. LESSONS LEARNED FROM BUILDING AND RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? Always strive to exceed customer expectations. Young brands like U-Turn need to work extra hard to survive. In order to compete with more established companies, you need to consistently treat your customers right and deliver finished products that work and sound great. WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT CONSUMERS TO THINK OF WHEN THEY THINK OF YOUR BRAND? Quality, quality, quality. Our mission is to make great listening experiences more affordable, but we are not a “budget brand.” If the product doesn’t work well, nobody cares how cheap it is. AVERAGE PRICE $179-$665
For more, visit uturnaudio.com and follow on Twitter @uturnaudio PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 33
ACOUSTICA Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio
inexpensive DAW offers up a huge feature set for home recorders in an easy-touse suite. CONS
still Windows only. PRICE
$179 for Pro Studio (only $89 for Mixcraft 8 Recording Studio)
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hen we first checked out Mixcraft, the Windows-only DAW built primarily for the home recording market, we were pretty impressed with not only how easy it was to get setup, but also the powerful features that came bundled at the ridiculously low price point. After about two years on the market with version 7, Acoustica has released Mixcraft 8, available in two versions: Recording Studio for the home/ bedroom user and Pro Studio for the more demanding, pro-level user. Both packages offer up a ridiculously tantalizing set of features, and at such low prices that for most people reading this, it probably makes sense just to go for the Pro Studio bundle since it’s just too good a deal to pass up. So, what’s new? Well, lots, but here are some of the things that Acoustica has made special note of, and that we think are worth touching upon. For starters, the interface is very similar to previous versions (and let’s face it, to many DAWs you may have used), which is not a bad thing at all. You want new users to jump right in and feel that the program is intuitive. But there are some little tweaks along the way in version 8’s UI that just make it feel a bit more modern (and not so 2010). Light and dark themes are a nice touch here. In addition, you’ve got support for VST3, which means Mixcraft 8 can keep up with your latest virtual instruments and plug-ins.
But more importantly, it seems like the entire sound engine has been improved upon in the latest incarnation. What’s even better, and if you know us, you know why we love this, is that you’ve now got integrated support for Melodyne. We absolutely freakin’ love
Melodyne, and the tight, seamless integration with Mixcraft 8 is a fantastica addition to version 8. Recording automation seems a bit easier this time around, and there appears to be more support in general for automated recording. Personally, I like that because panning and volume changes during a mix are something I don’t want to sit there and do by hand all the time, or try to fiddle with a control surface to get right. I’m the kind of person who likes to do it once and save for future use. Additional bonus points go to the newly included synths (we’re totally into the Mooglike VI on-board in version 8) as well as some handy mastering tools (some of which come courtesy of industry leaders iZotope). All in all, Mixcraft 8 is a worthy update to a product we already heartily recommend for users on a budget who don’t want to sacrifice features in order to meet a price point. In fact, at under $100 and $200 (depending on which version you choose), we daresay this is one of the best values in the industry.
The major bummer, still, is that it’s mostyl for the Windows crowd. Now, I hear you. You’re gonna tell me you can run it in Bootcamp, which yes, theoretically you can do (and Acoustica tells us it works great on Macs running Bootcamp). But it would be great if Acoustica could look into a Macnative version as well. If Cakewalk can do it (and they’ve held out for how many years now?!?), then it’s worth investigating. That’s all I’m saying. Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 35
EARTHQUAKER DEVICES Space Spiral Delay Pedal
Great at extreme settings, excellent subtlety at lower ones.
Repeat control tops out around 3:00, which some players might not appreciate.
ome effects when pushed to the extreme, get way too unmusical and over the top. Earthquaker Devices make pedals that thrive in extremes, and yet stay musically useful. The top row of controls on the Space Spiral Delay pedal handle the delay functions; time, repeat and mix. It’s a digital delay, but tops out at a more analog delay-ish 600ms. Overall the delay is nice with the repeats being warm and full. The bottom row controls the modulation of the delayed signal, with Rate and Depth knobs, but the Shape control starts with a soft triangle shape, and increasing it, brings things to a harder square wave response. The modulation is modeled on the idea of oil can delays of the old days, where particles suspended in oil, get electro statically charged, and spun on a disk, and those particles act like the metal oxide on a tape; when run through a playback head, they give a delayed signal. Because of the inconsistencies of all of those variables it had a warble effect to those repeats. That same effect is here, just without all the hassle. Nice. At slower speeds, and longer delays, it’s quite haunting. Using higher depth settings, with the shape and rate controls set low, it’s a nice retro modulated delay that’s perfect to fill things out in a subtle way. Those classic early ’80s pop tones really shine here, while maintaining a sweet warmth. Going into the higher ranges, it still stays musical - the high-speed warble feels like a Univibe-meets-vibrato-unit response. Because these happen on the delayed notes it is quite trippy. Amazingly, each control seems to interact and affect the response of the other controls, so upping the mix or delay time, accentuates the settings of the other knobs. If you want more of one thing, be prepared to possibly adjust another parameter to either compensate, or reduce the effect.
The only downside is putting the repeat control anywhere past 3:00ish, it starts a cascading regeneration and oscillation that can get a bit over-the-top. Players looking for a classic delay and want a bit of that vintage warble/decay, this is right up your alley. The street price is $195, and while there are cheaper delays out there, they don’t seem to have the warmth and haunting vibe that lives here. Chris Devine 36 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Highly adjustable. Works great with other effects.
ELECTRO-HARMONIX Blurst Modulated Filter Pedal
Really needs an expression pedal for maximum use.
lectro-Harmonix has a history of making filter effects, and their Blurst pedal goes back to those days, with added modern functionality. The volume and blend controls affect the overall output and mix of the effect, while the resonance knob sets the filter’s resonance, and volume of the filtered sound. The speed of the modulation is controlled by the Rate control, while the Range sets the range of the modulation frequency response. At the right it sits at the lower frequencies, and increasing it, brings it into higher ranges. Modulations work off of LFOs and the shape can be set from triangle to rising and falling saw tooth wave forms. There is a tap tempo footswitch, and the repeats can be set to triplet, dotted eighths or quarter notes. Pretty awesome stuff. It works like a classic envelope filter, but it the modulated signal is driven not by a player’s attack, but by an oscillator. On its own, it has the feel of a chorus pedal mated with an auto wah, giving birth to an over-the-top warble and pulsing effect. Connect it to an expression pedal, and one of the controls is now run by the pedal: range, rate or filter. Adding this “on-the-fly” control to any of these functions really opens the Blurst pedal up, and makes the effect feel less stationary. Pairing this with other effects is where it really shines. All those options are subtle on their own, but really become evident when combined distortions, overdrives and fuzzes. Adding in an expression pedal, it becomes a cross of a hyper tunable wah wah and a Univibe. With a delay, it can conjure up swirling, pulsing soundscapes that can be blended in with a dry signal for great effect. It’s not really a “meat and potatoes” effect, more like the “special sauce” that spices things up. At $135, it the new Blurst pedal from ElectroHarmonix offers up a lot. An additional expression pedal wouldn’t break the bank, but NOT using one certainly cuts off a lot of opportunities to make this stompbox really do its job well. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 37
ELECTRO-HARMONIX Canyon Delay Pedal
t’s hard to get excited for another single button, mono delay pedal. There are a TON of delay pedals that are slightly larger, yet do so much more than just delay. Electro-Harmonix has provided a new delay pedal to covet, and has a lot more under the hood in their latest Canyon stompbox. PROS
The standard delay controls are there, like effect level, delay and feedback. Like a lot of single button delay pedals, the switch also acts as the tap tempo control, but the division of the delayed notes, quarters, eighths, and dotted eights, can be set as well by the tap divide button, and the LED changes colors depending on this setting. The delay time starts at 5ms, and goes up to 3 seconds, which should give more than enough echo for anyone’s needs. There is a jack for an external tap tempo, as well, should you require it. Now there are 11 modes to choose from: ECHO: This is probably the purest mode, just a nice simple delay. MOD: A delay with soft modulation added to the repeats. MULTI: Multi Tap delay with the delay signal at the same volume level. REVRS: A reverse delay, where the echoes fade in backwards. DMM: Deluxe Memory Man Delay mode. This is the delay EHX has been known for, an analog feeling delay, with a lush modulation added in on the repeats that morph on the way out. TAPE: The delays degrade and warble, like a tape would over the rollers on an Echoplex. VERB: Reverb added on the delay. OCT: Each echo gets shipped up an octave, cascading upwards. EHX added in some of their POG technology here, where SUB octaves can be added in. SHIM: This Shimmer effect adds in a wash of harmonies, adding a string-like effect that feels like a synth and atmospheric addition to the echoes. S/H: This is the sample and hold effect. It senses a note, holds and repeats them until the next note is played. LOOP: A loop mode - with 62 seconds of audio that can be looped, multi-layering can be accomplished simply. The loop can also be retained, even when the pedal is turned off. Internally, a tails switch is available to engage a function where the delay is turned off - the tails keep going for ambience, or shut 38 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Great delay with plenty of musical options in a small package.
Control graphics slightly small, and hard to read. PRICE
off when the switch is turned off. Now where a secondary effect is on top of the delay, holding down the tap/divide button, like a shift key, turns the feedback and delay knobs into the controls for this secondary effect. EHX has certainly added in some great secondary effects like the octave and shim modes, and the ability to tailor these modes makes it way more than a one trick pony. Scrolling through each mode, there’s plenty of musical applications, regardless of the player’s style. It’s certainly inspiring, being able to use an effect that sounds like an extension of the music, and not just something tacked that has to be adapted to, or worked around. The only real downside to this has nothing to do with functionality or sound quality, but
would be a welcome change: the graphics. The font for the varying modes is a bit tiny, and hard to see even under normal light. While the image on the pedal is certainly pretty, a graphic that showed how to access the “hidden” knob function, and which knob did what would be a lot more useful. The street price is $139, and for a player looking for a simple delay, this will certainly fit the bill. For those who want to explore more options that would probably mean getting a much more expensive, larger, and more complicated delay pedal, this is definitely the way to go. It allows you to explore these new territories without having to re-think things or get bogged down in menus or unmusical options. Chris Devine
FREDENSTEIN Magic Eye 500-Series Mic Preamp
00-series gear has made putting together a nice recording front-end quite affordable. If you’ve got your basic vanilla covered and are now looking for some preamplification with a little extra flavor, let me recommend the new Magic Eye mic amp/DI. Sure, the “blinking” green eye (actually a 6E5C vacuum tube indicating output level) is attention-grabbing and mesmerizing to watch, but the ME really deserves mention due its personality-laden colorful audio. The ME uses a single discrete OPA2 amplifier for gain (there are no chips to be found in the signal path) and achieves a not-too-bright sound (to these ears, like a lot of Fredenstein products that boast minimal harshness due to “zero negative-feedback designs”). But I think the ME’s character comes from its input and output transformers…the steel-core output transfo, in particular, brings a sort of a vintage vibe to the sonics that subtly defines the ME. This is especially true with the ME’s Color mode which creates some harmonic content that isn’t quite what you’d call “distortion” (although it actually is). What it sounds like is some extra detail, size and depth, coupled with a bit of mid-range sculpting and you’ve got a sound full of character. I started trying the ME out (without Color) on some acoustic guitars and vocals. I tried some dynamic mics, some condensers and bass guitar through the ME’s 1/4” DI input, too. With drums, I found the ME immediately to be “hot” and overloading my converters with no gain dialed in (although a whopping +70 dB is available), so the -20 dB pad was used quite a bit. Even without running the ME hard, a certain texture and color was apparent with all of the above apps; it’s hard to put a finger on it, a certain non-harsh distortion-free iron-transfo kind-of-thing. A thing that works well with modern indie sounds and loud/harsh sources that don’t need additional brashness. As I got more familiar, I began using the Color circuit and found it hard to turn off. I don’t mind a little non-linear distortion on otherwise clean sources if the result is more “plumply exciting” than “screechy gritty” and that’s what Color delivers. It’s cool on drums, basses, guitars, vox, mono keyboards (how I wish I could’ve tried two for stereo) and even things like shakers. If only this ME had an output level control, so you could drive the input harder into overdrive and then back-off on the final output level, it would be simply the coolest audio paintbrush ever! Well, I guess you might could do that with another gain stage after the ME like a compressor. But the bottom line is that this ME can bring a whole lot of unusual, chewy, dramatic color to your tracks for only $499 (street) and that is quite a good deal for a unique piece of kit. If you’re into sounds that are either vintage old-school gritty, modern indie dark (and probably reverb-y too), or noisy loud-music that needs a thick and non-fatiguing presentation, then give this Magic Eye a closer look. Just don’t be surprised if it blinks back at you as you approach optimal levels. Rob Tavaglione PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 39
GRUV GEAR GigBlade Sliver Gig Bag
rotection for instruments in gig bags usually means big and bulky padding, which kind of defeats the reasoning of a gig bag. Gruv Gear’s latest offering, The GigBlade Sliver, is hyper-thin, with top-quality protection. The exterior is waterproof 1680D nylon, which is usually found in more expensive luggage, while the inner material is an orange faux fur that has a soft microfiber-ish feel to it. The overall construction is excellent, with wellmade zippers, that are deeply stitched in, and have bright orange zipper pulls, which make finding the zippers in a dark club much easier! The interior padding is over a 1.5” thick, and has a dense interlocking brace that feels like two interlocking “L” shapes, preventing sideto-side movement of the neck. We tried it out with some Fender and PRS guitars and they fit in snugly with no space issues, no feel of sliding around inside. On the bottom edges, there are two rubber panels that can prevent an instrument placed against the wall from sliding down, while you yell, “No, no, no, no, no!” like Cleveland Brown on Family Guy!
Great construction, excellent materials, thin, plenty of protection. CONS
Spine and front pockets are slightly shallow. PRICE
There are plenty of storage compartments - at the headstock, a small storage area that’s perfect for clip on tuners, capos, etc. It’s also a great place to stash a wallet, or a phone during a set. When traveling, a passport and ID could easily fit in there, and be easy to grab. The front has a long pocket that runs the length, and is meant for an instrument’s strap, while the lower section is large enough for a fullsize notebook, or large tablet. Along the spine there is another pocket that’s meant for cables storage. Depending upon how tightly you coil your cables, as well as cable length, might be a factor in the practical use of this. Our 18’ monster cable had a tough time finding a home in here, but our 10’ cables fit in nicely with spare room for a couple of packs of spare strings. With multiple D rings on the exterior, clipping on the well-padded matching strap gives the option of wearing it like a messenger bag, or on the shoulder. Gruv Gear offers extra straps, and with a second strap, it could easily be worn as a backpack, too. Overall, it’s a well-made, well thought out gig bag that certainly has thought of the player on the go. The only complaint is very nit-picky; since it’s so thin, the spine and front pockets aren’t deep enough for large accessories. But cramming a stomp box into a gig bag is an opportunity for an “in bag collision” anyway. The street price is $150, and considering the construction, design, lightweight nature, and features, it can easily be your next “go to” gig bag that’s still reasonably priced. The cost of a well-made case is always cheaper than a trip to the repair shop. Chris Devine
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Great sound, deep rich bass, handy room optimization options. CONS
MACKIE XR824 Powered Studio Monitors
he new XR Series of powered studio monitors from Mackie offers up a pro-level monitoring setup for under a grand. If you’re looking to outfit a new home studio with a great sounding control room on a budget, or even if you’re looking for a second set of reference monitors for your commercial space, the 8” XR824’s deliver. The 8” Kevlar woofer is the centerpiece of the new XR824, which we found to have an incredibly accurate response across all frequencies, especially in the low-end bass. Our go-to mix tests typically include some ultra-low frequency Moog Sub Phatty sequences, and the new XR series passed our critical listening test with flying colors. Bass was ultra-tight, not boomy, and the crossover into the tweeter provided detailed clarity without coloration. Perfect when you need unaltered, flat studio sound as a springboard for your creative tracking/mixing sessions. Other features we enjoyed were the onboard room optimization controls. There came in really handy, and allowed us to tailor
the response of the monitors to our particular space. On the rear of the speakers, you have flip switches that you can cycle between three “Acoustic Space filters,” one each for different space settings. As an added bonus, you’ve also got very usable hi- and lo-filters that allow you to further tweak your sound, and how the monitors interact with your particular space and setup. For home studios, and especially bedroom studios, without perfect isolation or wellthought-out room treatments, these on-board options are going to be crucial to getting the right sound in your space. The fact that the monitors sound amazing and afford this level of control at this price point, is to be commended. Standard TRS and XLR connections round out the rear panel, and the monitors themselves come in a handsome black finish. It was hard to find any faults with the new XR series, so go check them out if you’re in the market for a serious monitoring solution. Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 41
TRACE ELLIOT Elf Micro Bass Head
ass amps typically require a lot of power to move air in those low frequencies, and that usually means big components, which in turn means the amp is going to be big. Trace Elliot’s micro-head, the Elf, has turned things on its head. The new Elf is a teeny-tiny bass amp, with more than enough power to run your rig (yeah, we didn’t believe it either, at first).
Size wise, it’s about 7” wide by 4” deep. That’s smaller than an iPad. And with just enough thickness for input jacks and knobs it’s under a 1.5” thick. There are sandwiches at a cheap deli that aren’t this thick!
Small, powerful, works well with any cabinet, great EQ.
The front panel has a 1/4” input jack, as well as a 1/4” headphone connection for private practicing. Gain, EQ, and volume controls sit here as well. The back is just as simple: an XLR output for DI, as well as a single 1/4” speaker output.
The gain knob acts as the main input control of the amp. It also has an onboard compressor that interacts with the input signal. An LED input indicator lights up from green to red, indicating how hot the signal is. At higher settings it, it warms up the sound with a bit of overdrive that still maintains clarity. The EQ section is active; at noon things sit with a flat response, and to the left they attenuate the frequencies, cutting them. Going to the right, they enhance them. Even at extreme settings there’s no hissy or flubby loss, it’s just more or less, without any compromise. Just as it should be. The volume control affects the overall output, and balancing this with the gain
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control can make things go from hyper clean to warm and organic. A limiter kicks in at higher settings, preventing unwanted distortion from the amp’s output. Pairing it with a variety of bass cabinets, the Elf delivers. With a 4-ohm cabinet, it clocks in at 200watts, and at 8 Ohms, 130Watts. That’s more than enough for just about any gig. The EQ is adjustable enough to get clarity out of an 18” speaker, and get plenty of low end out of a 4x10. Basses with active and passive electronics responded equally as well in our tests. The amp feels transparent, in a sense, as it’s not overriding the instrument, just bringing more of it into the fold. With the active EQ, it’s easy to carve out a sonic space that is great for low-end thump, as well as upper register chordal or finger work (for all the Jacos in the crowd), making this great for any playing style. Acoustic/electric basses have plenty of cut and clarity, while not being tinny or weak. Regardless of the bass, it just gives more of what’s already in the instrument’s sonic signature. It comes in at $299, which isn’t a lot considering it’s a small bass amp that isn’t just a novelty “look how small we can get things” approach that usually skimps on volume and tone. Regardless of the gig -- from coffee house to large stages, there’s more than enough flexibility to be found in the little Elf. Bands on the road can save a ton of space in their van, considering this amp could easily fit in the glove box. The small “lunchbox” amp phase may be over, and the Elf could be the forerunner of the “glove box amp” movement that is sure to begin. Chris Devine
Great form and format drum machine and synth, cool for live applications and recording.
Lock tab functionality is a little sketchy.
TEENAGE ENGINEERING Pocket Operator PO-32 Tonic
e were first introduced to Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator series of mini synths at last year’s NAMM show. Now they’re packing in more functionality and adaptability into the small form, with the PO-32 Tonic. Like the other Pocket Operators, the Tonic looks like a homemade calculator made by Kraftwerk, with a monochrome LCD display, and only two simple function knobs, that act as parameter controls for the 16-step sequencer driving the 16 preset sounds/patterns embedded in this tiny device. Keeping with the 16 idea, there are 16 fx versions that can be applied as well - distortions, reverse, among others. It’s driven by a pair of AAA batteries, and can be synced up to another Pocket Operator (such as the PO-28 Robot) via a 1/8” cable. There are Techno, Hip-Hop, and Disco versions of the beat patterns that can easily be altered, or used as the basis for beat creation. It’s not hard to figure out the basic functions and build on things relatively easily. There is the ability to modify patterns and accents on the fly, as well. The big difference here between from the other units in the lineup, is the ability to take the beats and sequences out of its own world into your computer. This can be done with either the built-in speaker (which is much louder than previous versions) or a wired connection into Sonic Charge’s Microtonic plug-in for further editing. This allows a more contemporary editing format to be applied here, and then exported for playback or live use. This feature makes this a more expandable unit. The built in mini microphone allows data to be swapped between Tonic units; it sounds like a dial-up modem in the process, but even more retro is the Lock tab, which echoes back to cassette tapes. Breaking it off locks out editing, however there’s not a lot of info as to if it can be “taped over,” like an old tape for allowing editing later on. It’s nice how Teenage Engineering breaks out the various “flavors” into their models. The principles are the same for programming and beat creation. It keeps things from getting overwhelming to choose from, and gets the user to create, not sift through sounds and on-screen menus. In fact, you can just pick this little unit up for the first time, start tweaking and come up with some creative beats without really understanding how it works. And that’s totally part of its charm and appeal. Now they have a unit that can extend well outside of its little self. At just $89, it’s a no brainer for those looking for a neat little gadget to inspire some creative, interesting rhythmic patterns and sounds. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 43
NEUNABER Iconoclast Speaker Emulator
oing direct and getting a realistic speaker sound used to mean either using a plug-in that ate up CPU power and used banks of parameters, or a DI box-like feature that would still need a ton of processing. Neunaber has combined the idea of the box, with the adjustability of a plug-in in their new Iconoclast. It’s the size of an average stompbox, with two 1/4” TRS inputs and outputs, giving the option of stereo operation. The usual low, mid and high EQ controls sit next to a noise gate knob. A 1/8” headphone output is also available with its own volume control. The 9v power connection uses the standard negative center pin connection, so it works with pretty much every power supply on the market. Simply plug in a pedal (or complete pedalboard) or preamp into the input, (oddly enough, mono in is the RIGHT side input) and connect the output to a mixer or DAW. Here’s where things get interesting, though. The EQ controls do function in those sound frequency ranges, but with a different intent -- more in the essence of what part of an amp and speaker really affect their sounds. The low control acts like a speaker cabinet selector; the lower setting is like a 1x12 open back cabinet, while at maximum, it gives the response of a closed back 4x12. The mid control acts like the “sag” a power amp has and how it responds to the speakers; it’s like a dampening effect in those mid frequencies. The high knob controls the drop-off response that a guitar speaker naturally has. At the higher settings, it gets a little sizzly and bright, but on some darker sounding guitars it’s not as prominent. The noise gate does just that; with one simple 44 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
control, extraneous noise can be nailed down, even with super high-gain preamps. Now here’s where things can really get interesting; there’s a USB connection as well. Download and install Neunaber’s editing software to open up an expanded world of options, such as the response of the noise gate, and a very extensive parametric adjustment palette. There’s also a graphical representation of the EQ that works in real time, from the pedal or via the software. What’s really cool is the Stereo Enabling mode; it turns the outputs into stereo, but it doesn’t feel like a modulation or any excessive processing. Just a nice and simple stereo image that works well for guitars. Plugging in several different preamps and pedals during our tests, the Iconoclast gave an excellent response all around. It just brings out whatever’s in the pedal or preamp that’s being used, which makes this a hyper-versatile tool. On its own, just out the box, it’s amazing and even if it’s never connected to its editing software, there’s plenty of tweakability on its own. There are a few ways it can be used. Simply plug it into the output of a pedalboard, and then into a DAW or mixer for recording. Substitute a PA system for the DAW, and it’s an excellent way to make a pedalboard your entire fly rig. Connecting it to an amp’s line out or FX send is an excellent option, as well. Want to just practice without disturbing anyone? Plug in a set of headphones for silent rehearsal. The only downside is the extensiveness of the editing software; experts that know their way around a parametric EQ should be able to navigate and really tweak things, but it might
be a bit overwhelming and feel like crawling in the dark to less experienced users. There is the ability to save presets, and if a few presets were available to show some examples of the various settings, that would have been a nice touch. Even better would be some presets designed to work with certain pedals or pedal types. With a street price of $249, it’s quite reasonably priced, and far more flexible than a plug-in. A player who relies on their pedalboard for their tones, will really appreciate the way it can be used live, as well as in the studio. It can really make getting a direct sound a way of getting “their” sound without an amp, easy. Chris Devine
Easy to use, EQ is versatile, works well with a variety of gain pedals/ preamps. CONS
Editing software might be a little overwhelming. PRICE
TRACE ELLIOT Transit A Acoustic Preamp
sually most multi-effects pedals are meant for electric guitars, meaning acoustic guitarists tend to get left out in the cold. But Trace Elliot has unveiled their new Transit A that brings the world of practical effects and utilities to acoustic guitarists.
Simple to use, welltuned effects for acoustic guitar. CONS
At just over 12” long there’s still five wellplaced footswitches that handle reverb, tap tempo, delay, chorus and boost. Each footswitch is lighted when engaged, and the control knobs for each effect glow brightly. When the tuner is engaged, the centrally located notch filter EQ control becomes the visual cue for the on-board tuner function. Connectivity is covered by a 1/4” input, as well as dry signal out, and XLR outputs for DI purposes, pre- and post-signal (as well as 1/4” left and right outputs). For personal monitoring a 1/8” headphone jack is available. Simply plugging in an acoustic guitar to this opens up a new level of ambience and tone shaping. The controls don’t get overwhelming; for example, the reverb and chorus effects are just one knob each and both (thankfully) musical in their simplicity. A 3-band EQ is quite flexible, as well, and the pre-shape control engages a preset EQ that Trace Elliot has used in their older amps. A notch filter and phase reversal controls can eliminate any odd tonal issues that may arise from your acoustic, and the piezo switch
increases the input signal impedance for added clarity. Overall, each of the effects are tuned especially for acoustics, meaning that they don’t go into unmusical areas, and add dimension and ambience. The EQ, gain, and boost functions can make the signal powerful enough but maintain the guitar’s character (exactly what we had hoped for during our tests). For those times an acoustic needs a boost, such as a breakdown section of a song, it just adds “more,” no woofyness or any feedback prone elements to hamper an otherwise flawless performance. Acoustic players tend to like things simple, and this is one of those simple units that falls under the “set it and forget it” umbrella, all without a fuss. For live use, it’s perfect -- a DI, EQ and effects unit under the complete control of the player. It’s small enough to fit in most gig bags, but TE includes a nylon bag just in case. Nice touch. The street price is $299, and considering the cost of separate EQ, DI and effects units, the cost is more than sensible, and it’s an all-in-one, simple unit that’s well-lit for stage and won’t be overwhelming to figure out. Plus, it sounds great and doesn’t cause unwanted feedback, so there’s really nothing to hold us back from giving it our strongest “buy it now” recommendation. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 45
DIGIGRID D Cube Desktop Interface
lot of DAW hardware can be physically intimidating, especially units with over-the-top “if you’re not an engineer, stay away” appearances. DiGiGrid has released an expandable interface that is super easy to understand. It looks like a simplified mixer, with each input labeled with the universal symbols for microphones or instruments; it features (2) XLR inputs and (2) ” TRS inputs, as well as (4) outputs; Monitor and Line out. A headphone output tops out the connections. Connection to the computer is via an Ethernet (Cat 5) cable. This enables the unit to be networked with other DiGiGrid units, such as one of their cube interfaces through their DiGiGrid S unit. All of the control surfaces have bright LED level metering, and the knobs and controls feel robust, with durable rubber finishes. It’s an added touch that not only does the headphone output have its own large knob, but also a separate one for monitoring. It’s a simple and functional layout that is easy to work with. Its design lends itself to portability, and not being tied down to a fixed location. We’ve even seen artists take these out on the road for use in a live setting – an added bonus and feature we’d like to see in more hardware units (being fit for stage and studio).
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Setup is relatively easy, however to truly get all the benefits and connectivity, downloading and installing their SoundGrid software is a must. This is a little more involved getting this configured, but yields maximum benefits overall. Once set up, it interfaces with any recording software imaginable, and works well on Mac or PC. Sound quality is excellent, and the overall functionality is fantastic. The street price is just under $700, and while there are interfaces that have more inputs, the ability to have their remote cubes in various locations makes it a great expandable system. While we didn’t have any of their cubes to test, the idea of having one in a far off area, such as using a bathroom as a vocal booth, makes this a great “add as you go” idea. Remote devices can be placed about 250 feet away, and since CAT5 cable is pretty easy to come by in long runs, the benefits become clear almost immediately. With 4 remotes the inputs get maxed out at 8, which is plenty for most home studios. For a studio’s “B” room it’s well suited for voiceovers or overdubs, without taking up a lot of crucial desktop space. For the home studio that wants to become more, this is a sure way to go. Chris Devine
Expandable, well designed, easy to understand hardware. CONS
Maximum 8 channels (with remotes), initial startup of software is a bit involved. PRICE
The Wild Now is an Austin, TX based duo consisting of Taylor Baker and Drew Walker. The two met in 2013 at a Local Natives show at the city’s annual SXSW Music Festival. Combining Taylor’s dreamy, yet powerful vocals with Drew’s intricate guitar work, the duo solidified their breezy indie pop sound. Influencers such as Local Natives, Chet Faker, and Glass Animals shine through on all of their tracks. The band recently released two new singles, “Run for Your Life” and “Afterglow” (produced by Max Frost), and will be setting off on their first tour at the end of May.
James Atx (Music Felon)
MY FAVORITE AXE
MAKE & MODEL
2016 Moniker Guitar - Anastasia body style. WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
This guitar will always be near and dear to my heart because this is my first custom instrument. Moniker endorsed me and I had the opportunity to work with them on creating the perfect guitar for me.
MY FAVORITE AXE
WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
WALKER of The Wild Now
Slurping spaghetti noodles with a creamy, clean, unique tone. SPECIAL FEATURES
We put in the f-hole to make it a semi-hollow body build, added in P-90 pickups for a fat tone, and of course, the beautiful seafoam green paint. The whole guitar was picked out partby-part by me and the Moniker team. MORE ABOUT MONIKER GUITARS
I highly recommend stopping by the Moniker Guitar shop on South Congress in Austin. Just being in the shop is a really cool experience because you get to see them actually pick out the wood, paint, parts, and build the guitar. You can’t get that experience by going to Guitar Center and looking at guitars that are factory made. Plus everyone who works there is super friendly and they are happy to help answer any questions you have. CAN BE HEARD ON
“Run for Your Life” Listen now at www.thewildnow.com
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at email@example.com
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2017 47
1973 GIBSON L5S In this issue we are going to take a look at the Gibson L-5S. The example shown here is a 1973 model owned by Richard Gonzmart of the famed Columbia Restaurant Group in Tampa, FL. FIT AND FINISH
Now most of you are probably familiar with the L-5 (no “s”), the archtop hollow body jazz box, and are wondering what the relationship is between these two guitars. Well, I don’t know either. The only similarity I have found is in the neck. The necks on the two guitars feel pretty much the same. That said, the L-5S is one beautiful guitar with its deluxe seven-ply binding wrapped around a curly maple body, a flamed top finished in a beautiful cherry burst, and its three-ply bound ebony fretboard with mother of pearl block inlays atop a curly maple neck (also finished in cherry burst). FEATURES
The Les Paul-inspired body shape is much thinner than an LP and contoured for a more comfortable ride. The guitar features two low impedance pickups which deliver a unique sound that falls somewhere between a traditional Gibson humbucker and a Fender single coil. To round out the package, the hardware is plated in a gold tone finish which gives it a warm, rich look. The L-5S was also available in ebony and natural finishes. Over the years, there were various changes made, such as replacing the low impedance pickups with standard humbuckers and some hardware changes, as well. Although it was considered a top of the line guitar, it never gained the popularity Gibson would have liked and the line was dropped entirely in 1983. NOTABLE PLAYERS INCLUDE
Jazz great Pat Martino Paul Simon Keith Richards Ron Wood In 2015 The Gibson Custom Shop, in conjunction with Ron Wood, released a limited edition (300 pieces-the first 50 signed by Ron Wood) Ron Wood L-5S. FINAL THOUGHTS
All in all, I think this is a great playing, great sounding guitar and should be a standard feature in any recording studio and coveted by all serious collectors. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
From Soho Guitar in Tampa, FL, I’m Rob Meigel. Visit us online at www. sohoguitar.com. 48 MAY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
BEAUTY... more than skin deep The beauty of the new Mitchell 120 Series acoustic guitars is definitely more than meets the eye. With seven different models featuring scalloped bracing for enhanced resonance, ultra-thin finishes for improved volume and slim-tapered necks for superior playability, these guitars are unsurpassed in their class. Select 120 Series guitars feature solid Engelmann spruce tops, convenient cutaways and built-in electronics, resulting in superior stage-ready instruments that are within reach of anyoneâ€™s budget. Welcome to the new Mitchell 120 Series â€“ beauty to the eyes and ears.
XS Wireless 1
Raise Your Voice. XS Wireless 1 is an easy-to-use, all-in-one wireless series that allows singers, presenters and instrumentalists to operate up to 10 systems simultaneously. Designed with ease of use in mind, this analog UHF series features a sleek receiver with built-in antennas and streamlined interface that includes one-button scanning and synchronization functions. sennheiser.com/xs-wireless-1
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