THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
AUGUST ‘16 FREE
How to Save Money by Building Your Dream Guitar
Learn Which Songs Score Better Licensing Deals
Tips for Applying Effects to Your Mix
“Good Sh*t Needs to be Captured in the Performance. Not in Editing.”
INTERVIEWS Ages and Ages Diarrhea Planet Zig Zags
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Tobacco cover story by Taylor Northern
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 26, ISSUE 8
24 4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: 50 Foot Wave 6. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Arlie Carstens
8. Future Licensing Tip Sheet 10. How to Successfully Book Your Own Tour
Ages and Ages by Sarah Brooks
Diarrhea Planet by Candace McDuffie
12. Indie Labels Eye New Business Models in the Digital Era
30. RECORDING: How to Apply FX In The Mix
32. How to Build Your Dream Partscaster: Step-by-Step Guide & Lessons Learned
37. GEAR REVIEWS: Sterling Monitors; Yamaha Headphones; JHS Pedals; Ear Trumpet Mics and much moreâ€¦
47. MY FAVORITE AXE: Juliana Wilson
Chattanooga Hip-Hop: A Special Report by Tony Eubank
48. FLASHBACK: Vintage AKG Microphone
by Jaclyn Wing
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all! After a fully-loaded synth issue, you’d think the last thing I’d want to do was listen to any more electronic or synth-based music. But the new disc by Tobacco (aka Tom Fec) sucked me right back in. What’s different in Tobacco’s music, and that of Fec’s other project, Black Moth Super Rainbow, is that Tobacco is more concerned with capturing and deconstructing a live performance, oftentimes eschewing sequencing altogether in favor of getting live takes and chopping those together from analog tape.
In other news, we’ve got a pretty comprehensive look at building your own partscaster (hey, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it). The mag breaks it down step-by-step, but be sure to head to our site and YouTube channel for even more helpful video tips, covering a lot of things they don’t tell you about putting together your own guitar.
Volume 26, Issue 8 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT
Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 firstname.lastname@example.org
Until then: courage. Benjamin Ricci, editor
Benjamin Ricci email@example.com
So it’s with that spirit of experimentation (and musical badassery) that we elected to put the genre-bending musician on the cover. Fittingly enough, his identity is hidden in the image, much like his true identity is hidden between the lines of his music, be it Tobacco or BMSR. But look (and listen) close enough, and the truth emerges…
DESIGN & ART DIRECTION
Bob Dobalina firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
P.S. – unfortunately, due to timing issues, we were unable to properly recognize the passing of Keith Emerson in our Synth Issue. Sadly, after Emerson’s passing, the world also lost keyboard legend Bernie Worrell, who had just made an appearance at Moogfest the prior month. We featured a photo of Worrell at Moogfest in the issue, however we went to press before learning of his passing. If we had the news in time, we of course would have made mention of this in an appropriate fashion. We want to take a moment to honor both artists now, and encourage our readers to fully explore both of their respective discographies.
Aaron Cheney, Andrew Boullianne, Arlie Carstens, Benjamin Ricci, Candace McDuffie, Chris Devine, Jaclyn Wing, Jordan Tishler, Juliana Wilson, Kristen Ford, Lillie Lemon, Michael St. James, Raymond Honrath, Rob Tavaglione, Ryan Young, Sarah Brooks, Taylor Northern, Tim Mandelbaum, Tony Eubank CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Alicia J Rose, Allison Kendall, Darin Donohue, Emily Quirk, James Mincey, Jeff Howlett, Matthew Gawrych, Pooneh Ghana, Tony Eubank ADVERTISING SALES
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com
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.
Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.”
MUSIC SUBMISSIONS We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to email@example.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine Attn: Reviews PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143
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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?”
© 2016 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.
REVIEWS 50FootWave Bath White
Los Angeles, CA (HHBTM RECORDS)
0Foot Wave is Rob Ahlers, Bernard Georges and Kristin Hersh. They’re also the perfect contemporary embodiment of ’90s alternative… you know, back when MTV still spun quirky “college rock” videos (both in earnest and on Beavis & Butt-head) and Friends was as instrumental in breaking bands as Spotify and YouTube are today. Which all makes sense when you factor in that 50FootWave is really a project for music that didn’t fit into Bernard and Kristin’s other, more well-known band, Throwing Muses. It’s a little noisier, and a little more garage, but the heart of the EP beats steadily with the rhythm of pop melodies lurking underneath the surface of grungy guitars (and sometimes, equally grungy vocals).
Follow on Twitter: @kristinhersh Listen now at 50footwave.bandcamp.com
All in all, we can totally recommend this to anyone who experienced the bliss of the alternacraze first hand and wants to comp on some aural nostalgia, and for those who wish they’d lived through the cassette-strewn dorm days of decades passed. Bonus points for scoring a copy on purple vinyl – turn it up and enjoy! PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 5
Hüsker Dü Zen Arcade (1984)
Fugazi Entire Discography (1987—2003)
Introspective but loud and outward-facing, this opened up everything: Scratch Acid, Misfits, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring…it all just kinda made sense. Oh man, and Squirrel Bait. Without Hüsker Dü, I never would’ve heard Squirrel Bait, which crucially lead to Slint’s Tweez and Spiderland.
Fugazi’s hybrid style of punk-meets-dub-meetsexperimental noise showed a lot of kids that the efforts of self-taught musicians are enormously important to the progression of arts culture. To my ears, Fugazi is the sound of collective passion, experimentation and perseverance.
ge 11, my sister introduced me to classic rock and new wave. Through skateboarding I was turned on to post-punk, rap, noise, hardcore, new romantic, goth, krautrock, artpop.… But then in ’92, The Afghan Whigs introduced me to Jarrod Olman. He handed me Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, and said, “Listen to these, you’ll understand you don’t know anything.” He was right. Thereafter, I spent several years in Juno melding my love of post-punk with ambient and experimental music. We released recordings and made many tours of the U.S., Europe and Japan. Today, I write music as Atoms and Void with Eric Fisher. We’ve recently finished an album called And Nothing Else. It came out May 20 on Arctic Rodeo.
With Arlie Carstens of Atoms and Void
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REVIEWS Talk Talk Spirit of Eden + Laughing Stock (1988/1991, respectively) Everything I love about music just sort of bobs and weaves throughout these albums. Equally important, the music opened my ears to a wonderful array of experimental composers, blues, jazz, R&B, and electronic artists.
Eric B. & Rakim Let The Rhythm Hit ’Em (1990)
Billy Joel Piano Man (1973)
One of the most perfect musical expressions of Probably the first time I really heard piano used any genre, any generation, any time period in the in “rock” songs. It was, like, “Whoa, why would history of recorded music. This LP is everlasting. anyone do this?!” At the time, my little kid brain had a bit too much blind faith in guitars and electricity. Eventually I got it.
Follow online at atomsandvoid.com and on Instagram at @atomsandvoid & @arliejohncarstens Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email email@example.com for more info.
S THAT D MY LIFE
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 7
RECORD THE THIS SUMME Tip Sheet for The Season’s Most Lucrative Music Licensing Deals
rom time to time, I like to give you a view into the world of someone who licenses music so you can better understand what we do, and better prepare to get your songs licensed. As someone who also records music, I know it’s hard to know what tracks to produce next, how to plan for pitching to opportunities whether in an album cycle or not. SO, IF YOU’RE WONDERING, HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO RECORD NEXT. Many of us deal with what are called “callouts” or “briefs.” These are quick descriptions of what the client is looking for. They include parameters like Usage, Duration, BPM, Style, Sounds-like, Instrumentals Required. They also often include a reference track and some outline of the feel or type of the lyrics the song should have. You may have seen some this mirrored on some sites or networks you belong to. 8 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Here’s the thing, the licensing world has its own ebb and flow, just like popular music, where some types of songs seem to be needed over and over again - especially for national ad placements. For instance, a year or two ago, every damn brief said, “quirky, indie female voice, mandolin or ukulele instrumentation.” We’ve gone through periods where every reference track was Coldplay, and the always popular Black Keys “sound-alikes” requests. And then there was the dark period of the “stomp track,” think Mumford and every mid-range movie or Subaru ad. Last year it was all “Dubstep,” which transformed into all “EDM” -- “young dance tracks” is what they called them. Now, what if you don’t do that type of music? Have no fear. Record these types of songs this summer and you will have some tracks to pitch galore! 1. CHRISTMAS IN JULY (OR AUGUST) Every musician and writer should have
Christmas/Holiday songs in their catalog. Write and record them now. Do some originals if you can, and then also search the PDInfo site for a list of public domain songs that you can record in your own style. We need new versions. Holiday campaigns now start in mid-November, meaning the productions are usually wrapped in October, meaning they are looking for songs as early as September. Know that ad spends for the 4th Quarter of the years are the largest, so that means better licenses and more of them! 2. BACK TO SCHOOL Each August there are countless briefs for back to school ads. Tracks should always be “fun and upbeat.” That means, instrumentation like Xylophones, Tubas, and yes, Ukuleles. Keywords: First Day, New Start, Fresh, Look at Me Now, Anything with letters - i.e. “ABC, 123”
3. REPLACEMENT COVERS Cover songs are tough. If you’re a band that plays live primarily you want to pick songs that your fans will love, but that aren’t worn out, right? I’m looking at you, “Margaritaville!” As a rule in the licensing world, most usage of covers comes in the form of a quirky or fresh version. It may be taking a huge song and making it a tiny acoustic interpretation. It might be that you have a female singer covering a very popular male-sung song. Some easy targets: “Walking After Midnight Patsy Cline,” “Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix,” and “Sympathy for the Devil - Rolling Stones.” E Extra credit: If you have the production chops, a large-scale, big marching band version of “Hail to the Chief” is desperately needed in the licensing world.
4. PARTY SONGS Primarily for usage in films and TV, songs about partying are always needed in any style (Rock, Pop, Metal, Indie). Usually, they call for very fast up-tempo tracks, with an erratic section (this is when the kid falls down the stairs drunk and the record player scratch stops). Keywords: Party, Tonight, Friends, Best Night, Time of Our Lives, (drunk code words: lit, stupid, face, blackout).
the chain of master ownership is hard to track down, or the estate is just charging too much. If you’re trending toward the hip-hop end of things, there is a constant stream of requests for “fun, retro hip-hop, clean language.” The clean language caveat is big; basically think of positive hip-hop, with old school beats. Frequent styles: Run D.M.C., Tribe Called Quest, West Coast Rap, and Sugarhill Gang. Make sure to license those covers.
5. OLD-SCHOOL There is a massive effort to get new sounding masters of old sounding songs. There are two categories that are really in demand. The first is the ‘50s and ‘60s: think Elvis, Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, Roy Orbison, additionally - Cream, Hendrix, and trippy ‘60s sounding rock. This may be because the original masters aren’t as sonically friendly as a new one would be. And in some cases,
Get to cutting those lucrative licensing gems -- we can’t wait to hear them!
ESE 5 SONGS MER!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 9
HOW TO SUCCESSF EXECUTE YOUR OW photo by Darin Donohue
photo by Allison Kendall
STEP 1. PREPARING FOR BOOKING Get a handle on your social media presence. You’ll be sending venues links to your music online, so it’s important to have a consistent brand and look on each of these sites. Make sure your website has links to your social media. Be prepared with videos and be ready to provide images for fliers and more. Create a template for your booking emails. Avoid re-writing your pitch by having a concise booking email that can be used over and over again. This template should include your available dates, a brief description of your music, and pertinent links to social media and streamable tracks. NEVER make a venue download an attachment to listen to your music unless they request MP3s. Keep track of contact information for venues. Even if they can’t book you on this tour, they might be interested on your next goaround. Google Sheets is perfect for this. This spreadsheet should include the venue name, contact information, and any info you think you might find useful in the future. This information is also vital when you follow up with venues that don’t respond to your first contact. STEP 2. COMMUNICATING WITH VENUES Be professional at all times. Venues care about how you communicate with them, and they notice when you’re polite and professional. Treat your band like a business and the venue as a 10 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
client, and don’t be offended if you’re not the right fit for their space. Be gracious always. Give venues at least four months’ notice. If this is your first tour, you’ll learn rather quickly that many venues want six or more months of notice, especially if you’re touring the summer months, but you can probably get away with smaller venues and coffee shops if you’re a bit crunched for time. Get contact information for venues on Yelp, Facebook, and Indie on the Move (IOTM). IOTM is a site geared toward indie touring artists that has an extensive database of venue and booking contacts. IOTM is especially useful as you can sort venues by city, capacity, and genre so you don’t waste time sending emails to venues that aren’t the right fit. Keep a good calendar as you begin to fill dates. Google has a great (free) calendar app that allows you to create separate calendars and share them with multiple people. Make sure all of your bandmates are connected to your touring calendar and mark dates as they fill, providing details about sound, compensation, and other details. If you’re down to the wire, use IOTM’s Do It Together (DIT) to help fill dates. IOTM can help you fill dates by contacting venues you haven’t been in touch with yet, sending potentially hundreds of messages in a few hours
(a feat that might take you weeks). You get to field responses from venues and solidify booking information. IOTM charges for this assistance on an affordable per-market basis. STEP 3. PREPARING TO HIT THE ROAD Calculate the costs of your tour and plan accordingly. Make sure you’ve calculated the cost of gas, hotels, food, and drinks. Don’t rely on shows to cover these costs unless you have guaranties in place. With shows that compensate through ticket sales or bar sales, assume the worst and mark them as zero profit. It’s very easy to underestimate the costs of a longer tour, and planning for the unforeseeable - breakdowns, illness, and more - is vital if you’re going to survive the road and turn a profit. Unless you have a clear track record of selling merch and you have a big draw in the cities you’ll be visiting, never assume you’ll sell anything. Hire a designer to make professional tourrelated materials. Having a cohesive tour image will help draw people to shows and make it easier for venues to help promote you. Have a Facebook banner that matches the posters you’ll be sending. If you have the budget, make special stickers or t-shirts for your tour using the same imagery to give your audiences something special. Use Bands in Town to list your tour dates online. I prefer Bands in Town because they have a mobile app, they link to your Facebook
SFULLY BOOK AND OWN DIY TOUR photo by James Mincey
photo by James Mincey
page, and their widget can be easily added to your website. Promote the app you decide to use so your friends can follow your tour. The app should also be one that alerts your fans when you come to town.
you on social media, as well.
Have a budget to promote your tour. Hiring a PR person is expensive and we’re lucky to be able to afford it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t promote yourselves without one. Create a short press release that you can send to multiple press outlets, including hard copy papers and local event blogs. Promote on Facebook and target the location you’ll be playing. Follow up with venues to make sure they’ve listed your event on their various calendars and on their Facebook pages.
Collect emails and zip codes at each show you play. One of the biggest mistakes I made on my first tour was ignoring this advice. In a world of social media, it seemed counter-intuitive at the time, but I have since seen a noticeable difference in audience attendance when I send out emails to my fans vs. using only social media. As you build your audience in new locations, it’s important to have a mailing list to give venues a tangible idea of your draw. Facebook is great, but email targeting still has one of the best click-rates of any form of contact for my band, even with social media promotion. I use MailChimp for this, but there are lots of similar services out there.
Have your vehicle inspected before your tour begins. Our first tour was a wonderful disaster when it came to car trouble, and much of the strife our Ford Econoline put us through might have been avoided had we taken the van to a mechanic before we left. Have a full inspection of your vehicle done, and don’t wait to replace parts that might be in need of replacing.
Bring as much merchandise as possible. We found out very quickly that our initial stash of merchandise wasn’t enough. We are currently selling a lot of gear on the road, and we’ve had things shipped to UPS stores a few times to keep up with demand. Don’t underestimate your potential sales and make sure you have enough gear on hand for your new fans.
STEP 4. BRINGING IT WHILE ON TOUR Social media doesn’t stop while on the road. Make sure you’re taking a lot of pictures and video so that your fans back home can follow along on your adventures. Continue to push your upcoming events on your social media, and utilize Instagram and other apps to share your adventures. Encourage each audience to follow
Eat real food and don’t overdo it with drugs and alcohol. The quickest path to illness is junk food and booze. Bars often compensate with drinks, but don’t forget that hangovers suck. Instead of stopping at McDonald’s, find a grocery store and grab carrots, apples, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and other fresh foods that you can snack on. Bring a cooler so you can keep fruits
and veggies on hand. With a cooler, you can also carry pickles, which I’ve found are the perfect salty treat. Carry bottled water and avoid sodas. If you have to stop at a fast food restaurant, try a salad rather than a burger. Road snacks should include granola bars, nuts, and dried fruits. Keep multivitamins on hand. As an added bonus, grabbing groceries rather than burgers and fries will save you a lot of cash. ABOUT LILLIE LEMON Monterey, CA-based synthpop duo, Lillie Lemon, recently kicked off their expansive US tour for their latest EP, Aether. Bringing their music to the masses, the nine-month stretch of shows was plotted completely by the band. The band started as the solo recording project of Lille Lemon (songwriting/vocals) on the shores of Lake Michigan. While pursuing a degree in Creative Writing, Lemon relocated to the sunny bay of Monterey, CA. It was there, in 2011, that Lemon crossed paths with Erica Wobbles (keys/rhythm/ production), a classically trained instrumentalist with a self-taught understanding of synthesizers and electronic music. After seeing each other at several open mic nights, Lemon and Wobbles decided to collaborate and found they creatively complimented one another. Together, the two combine acoustic instrumentation with electropop production, crafting soundscapes in line with contemporary acts such as CHVRCHES and Passion Pit. Follow on Twitter @lillielemon PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 11
INDEPENDENT LABE BUSINESS MODELS IN
utting deals in the music industry used to be a straightforward affair. Like a cookie cutter, one deal usually looked just like the next and all of the key players — artists, managers, record labels, agents and distributors – knew their places. And for an independent label, that meant negotiating an agreement, often with one of the 5 or 6 companies with national reach, for the manufacturing and distribution of the label’s music to ALL outlets considered to be “normal retail channels.” Welcome to Digital Age, which feels like the Wild West, where file sharing has been surmounted by downloading, which has been surpassed by streaming, where subscription competes with freemium, and where the rules are being rewritten on the spot and news breaks almost daily about newfangled ways of doing business. For some, this is an exciting and potentially very lucrative time. Independent record labels are taking more control of their own fates. And 12 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
the recent tumultuous nature of the music industry is creating market forces that will only enhance this trend. IT STARTED AT THE TOP AND IT’S TRICKLING DOWN. Some marquis artists like Drake, Beyonce, Kanye and Taylor Swift have made headlines in recent months with announcements of marketing and distribution deals that are breaking the molds. By negotiating exclusivity rights — often for just the first few days or weeks while the music is still brand new — in deals cut directly with Apple, Tidal, Spotify or another major DSP (digital service provider), these artists are charting new courses for taking control of the revenue from digital streaming. For artists, it’s a matter of supply and demand: When you limit access to something, you’ve made it rarer and the market responds by treating the exclusive product as “hotter” than ordinary products. And the DSP’s are eager to have the “leg up” of the initial release of the latest
hot album. There’s also a built-in synergy whenever a major DSP, such as Spotify or Pandora, cuts an exclusive deal with an artist. The DSP can boast that it has exclusive content that may prompt some consumers to adopt that DSP for the first time and most likely remain a user into the future. The artist, too, can see exponential fan base growth by enjoying the status of bringing exclusive content to all of the DSPs users. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR INDIES? Individual artists with less clout probably cannot follow in these big footsteps — at least not yet. But some independent record labels are now beginning to take advantage of the myriad opportunities that digital distribution has created. Prior to digital, cutting out the middleman was simply not an option for independents labels.
When music was on vinyl, cassettes and later CDs, the only viable route for getting to market was to tap into the manufacturing and retail sales capabilities of one of the major distributors.
BELS EYE NEW IN THE DIGITAL ERA Still today, the distribution of music remains dominated by three major players due to the eroding but continuing power of terrestrial radio, now consolidated into a handful of huge players controlling the playlists of scores of stations throughout the country, and the clout that the major labels continue to hold in terms of their ability to spend huge amounts to promote their artists at the mainstream radio formats. But digital streaming is shaking the Etch-ASketch by reducing the significance of radio and the focus on singles in the minds of listeners, and as such, drastically lowering the costs associated with getting the product in the consumer’s hands — or ears — since there is no physical product involved in streaming, an ever-growing wedge of the music industry’s pie chart. However, not every independent label is ready to wander into the Wild West and demand a better deal. To do so, a label must be prepared to tackle some of the digitizing tasks in-house, such as adding metadata — the “hidden” data in computer files that “tags” a file with certain identifying information. For digital music, the metadata identifies the song title, performers, composers, title of the album, year released, track number, genre, the album art, lyrics and producer.
In my practice, the phenomenon of independent labels taking the reins and striking short-term exclusive deals directly with DSPs, or other creative approaches to configuring more favorable distribution contracts, appears to be a nascent trend. The reality, of course, is that for the next few years, most of these deals will stray only so far from the standard, boilerplate contracts we are all accustomed to. But the market forces are driving an inevitable and unavoidable sea change in how business is done and the benefits — and profits — to be gleaned from these new ways of doing deals could be truly significant. Independent record labels should be studying
this issue and working with counsel to develop a strategy for capitalizing on this trend when the time is right. Remember this: In the Wild West, the rules are being rewritten every day, but only the good rules will be followed. That’s why they call it wild. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tim Mandelbaum is an entertainment lawyer and a partner in the New York office of Fox Rothschild, with a practice centered on providing business guidance to talent and corporate clients in music, film, television, new media, literature and sports.
THE FINANCIAL ASPECT OF DEALING WITH A DSP For labels that have reached a certain critical mass, the option of selling music directly through DSPs, often through independent label digital trade associations like Merlin, rather than through a distributor, can be very profitable. For independent labels and their artists and for the DSPs, such deals can have an alchemical effect. The theory is fundamental economics: For the independent labels, not only must they share the sales revenue from streaming with their distributor, but they also get to micro-manage their relationship, i.e., the promotion of their important releases, with the DSP, ostensibly ensuring greater numbers of streams and hence, income. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 13
AGES AN Alicia J Rose
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ND AGES On Blending Harmony & Dissonance in Isaac Brockâ€™s Studio
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 15
ges and Ages emerge with an interesting dynamic. With a name that leads with religious connotations, yet an identity that emphasizes community and spirituality with secular lyrics, each of their movements in the music world have been carefully crafted in order to bring them to their latest album, Something to Ruin, set to be released on August 19. But it goes beyond technical skill and pristine production. I spoke with Tim Perry about the band’s dynamics, how they craft their intricate sound, and the deeper meaning of this thing called life. While the band’s most common description is choral pop, it’s not all-encompassing for Perry. Each melody allows the song to take shape and discover different themes, enveloped in darkness and light. “It’s funny because a lot of times, people, when they hear the term choral pop they overthink it. But I think it’s a pretty apt description. Mostly because I think each song tends to sort of represent an idea or a feeling or an approach, and sometimes that’s choral pop, and sometimes that’s something else,” Perry says. Ages and Ages was formed in Portland, a collective that Perry began with “men and women who could deliver multiple ranges and tones, and even vibes and personalities.” Though he mentions that six personalities sometimes bring six distinct and unwavering opinions, the communal aspect of the group gives the band an inimitable quality. The first album emerged with a hodge-podge of sounds. “What we really wanted for the first record was for it to go really fast, and we wanted to not overthink everything, just perform the songs, and have everything sort of bleed together,” Perry declares. On this album, the instruments were recorded first and then the vocals were added without using headphones. “We just pumped up the instruments through the monitors and sang through the microphone so that would pick up the original recording of the instrumentation. I think we just wanted to reflect the actual experience of playing this music, that it was a very raw, sort of in the moment thing. Music in a lot of ways is about a moment, or just, you had to be there, like a joke that isn’t funny unless you were there a lot of times.”
The second record, 2014’s Divisionary, applied more conventional studio tactics, yet spoke to Ages and Ages’ lyricism that propelled the group forward. “What we’re all about is presenting ideas that, even when they seem clear cut, like a song like ‘Divisionary (Do The Right Thing),’ that’s actually the easiest one to be misunderstood in a sense, because there’s this clear mantra of ‘do the right thing’ but I always want there to be this conflict or this question. 16 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Nothing is easy. Nothing is actually spelled out. What does do the right thing even mean?” Perry ponders. Perry embarked on a 10-day meditation retreat during the album’s creation, and today, the practice remains so ingrained in his very existence. The act of sitting in stillness allowed Perry to peel back the layers of his own sense of self and discover new truths. “I think that there is a certain sense of peace that comes when you recognize that there is no button you can push to make all the bad things go away, or all your faults and flaws, or the faults and flaws of others. So when you recognize that, then it becomes a process of, how do you cope with that? How do you cope with a world that is just sort of turning,” Perry muses. His revelations stem to the songwriting process itself: “I think that this music and writing is a catharsis. It’s my attempt at taking this bag of everything at once, the good, the bad, the confusing, the clear, the opinions that I have that I feel absolutely sure about, and the others that I’m just putting out there and allowing in the hopes that the true honesty will come out. Allowing the contradictions and the embarrassing.” It’s this kind of questioning and vulnerability that allows Ages and Ages to arc the focus of their music far beyond the surface. Their latest effort focused on a blend of distinct sonic schools of thought, yet also continued the path of utilizing unconventional instrumentation, such as garden hoes and smashing toms on the ground (both utilized for their brashness in sound). “For this one, we took a turn because of the subject matter we’re singing about. We really wanted to mix the synthetic with the earthy and create the dissonance and that dichotomy, which I think is so important in the lyrics.” On this album, you’ll hear keyboards, ambient melodies, and layer upon layer of sound. “We wanted to work harmoniously at times, and we wanted to sound jarring at other times, because I think both are real. Both happen.” During the creative process, Perry and bandmate Rob Oberdorfer traveled to Central America to explore ancient ruins. They found correlations between this area on the other side of the world and their hometown of Portland. Here, they pondered the future of humanity and the preservation of earth’s natural landmarks. This laid the foundation for their latest album, brimming with themes of despair, isolation, and ruin. While their sound may be described as choral pop, the end result is anything but. “It’s choral and harmonically poppy at times, but I think there’s also a lot of tension and edge that we try and provide. It’s not all about creating this buttery glossy pop song or something. I think that reflects a lot of the content that we try and sing about.” To create the dissonance Perry
speaks of, Ages and Ages brought in a variety of manipulated pedals for guitar lines as well as vintage and analogue keyboards. They recorded the album at Isaac Brock’s studio, known for his reign in Modest Mouse, in a warehouse space that allowed for sonic experimentation. While the group is secular as a whole, many of them experienced a religious upbringing. Perry clung to the communal aspect of a church and brought this into Ages and Ages. It’s in the group’s experiences, from travels, to meditation, that we learn how Ages and Ages music is infused with visceral, vulnerable experience. “I have a general feeling of, life is tough, and we’re all here living it, and none of us are really doing it totally alone. I feel like listening and playing music is a chance to reflect and celebrate and share whatever it is that song or record is doing, and I guess my biggest hope would be to experience that in its purest, most exciting sense, and just have that intimate connection with people.” With Ages and Ages’ latest release, we’re sure to discover more about not only their sound, but about how their lessons apply to our own lives.
Follow on Twitter: @AgesandAges
AGES AND AGES SOMETHING TO RUIN STANDOUT TRACK: “THEY WANT MORE”
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SPOTLIGHT Nashvilleâ€™s Four-Guitar Army Ups the Ante on Latest LP
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DiarrheaPlanet 18 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
iarrhea Planet’s third album, Turn To Gold, is their cleanest and most cohesive project to date. The Nashville rockers stay true to their taut, acid-flecked turbulence but still manage to dive into some serious rock depths. As guitarist (one of four in the band) Brent Toler reveals, their growth is merely par for the course. “It’s just one of those things where we wanted to improve on what we’ve already put out. We are a bit more mindful about songwriting and production. Every [band] aims to step up their game a bit.” And Turn to Gold, which was released in June, achieves this almost effortlessly; Diarrhea Planet simply bask in their own effervescence. While their debut album, Loose Jewels, displayed infinite promise in its simplicity, their follow-up effort I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams provided an endless arsenal of galloping riffs and high-octane drum pummel. Turn To Gold is a culmination of the band’s lowslung, fuzzed-out exuberance with clear-eyed, full on sophistication. It’s more than naturally anticipated musical maturity--it is Diarrhea Planet’s way of metaphorically etching their name in the sand. “Bob Dylan’s Grandma”
us...it’s never overwhelming. It’s definitely a lot of work but maybe it distracts us from other pressures, I suppose. But it’s really about keeping our nose to the grind.” The most refreshing facet of Diarrhea Planet is not only their stylistic flexibility, but their knack for being unpredictable. There is no token sound they adhere to, no guidelines they abide by.
“There is no specific genre that Diarrhea Planet is shooting for. I think it’s kind of annoying to be labeled as one thing.” flourishes in subversive pop highs while “Life Pass” is unapologetically crisp and lean. Toler explains that their approach to recording has drastically changed over the years. “I’m Rich was actually the first time we recorded together in the same studio. For the first album, we did our parts totally separate. It’s fun to experiment in the studio, but it’s completely different.” His elaboration on the subject reeks of poignant optimism. “Recording all the songs for this album...they were all fun. I lean toward songs that are a little more fleshed out, but everything in the studio went smoothly. We were all hyper focused on what we were playing and playing it perfectly.” Despite the success of Diarrhea Planet, Toler still knows the importance of being a band that was born and bred in Nashville. “The DIY scene in Nashville is really tight knit. We know bands that we’ve toured with or just played with years ago that are still touring. The city was such a crucial part of our success and still is.” Despite having a grueling work schedule, Toler is also introspective about having gratitude for doing what he loves. “Touring for
This has only worked in their favor. Rolling Stone labeled them as perfect outliers in the “muck rock cosmos,” NPR declared that they have a “propensity for chaos” that ultimately leads to catharsis, and Pitchfork is enamored with their ability to be a “memorable, messily great live band.” What is truly astounding about Turn To Gold is the impassioned earnestness that all of the members still possess. It also comes off as less like a graceful victory lap and more like a wistful foray into more exploratory dynamics. The record doesn’t have a single inflection or cadence--it has a plethora to choose from. Songs are executed in barrel-chested growls, then possess more restrain and agility. Diarrhea Planet are the perfect mixture of classic rock acolytes meets indie-rock sensibilities. They are a band who make music, well, for simply the sake of making music. Their genre-melting party, which primarily consists of dreamy guitar bliss and boisterous and blistery basslines, has allowed them to gain traction in an industry that mimics Teflon in the sense that everything that tries hard to stick usually has limited or no success.
Toler acknowledges the band’s fluidity and ultimately wants Diarrhea Planet to continue to produce music that is more mercurial than mundane. “There is no specific genre that Diarrhea Planet is shooting for. I think it’s kind of annoying to be labeled as one thing. I don’t like being labeled as only pop-punk but we do make high-energy pop music,” he states. “We like a lot of different types of music and would love it if all genres we like could be in there.” Toler becomes slightly agitated before throwing his hands up in defeat. “It’s kind of annoying, but I guess I see where people are coming from.”
Follow on Twitter: @DiarrheaPlanet
DIARRHEA PLANET TURN TO GOLD STANDOUT TRACK: “AIN’T A SIN TO WIN”
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A City in Flux: Exploring The Chattanooga Hip-Hop Scene Tony Eubank
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SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 21
hattanooga is a city in flux. The Scenic City turned Gig City has seen the arrival of think tanks, business incubators, tech start-ups, all spurred on by the arrival of a publicly owned and developed super high-speed internet infrastructure. This has created myriad new opportunities for young professionals, both local and imported. But itâ€™s also split the city in two. With new money comes new developments and gentrification. Pushing people and crime into smaller spaces and exacerbating the already longstanding gang combat. This is the new Chattanooga, a small, scenic city that provides two views. One scene is a picture of opportunity surrounded by natural beauty, with a bright new future full of industry, a growing local arts movement, fine eateries and shopping. The other, a map featuring carved-out gang territories, violence, drugs, and a void of opportunity. This city saw 100 some shootings last year and has already suffered 70 more in 2016, far too many for a city with a population of less than 175,000. This, multiplied by the fact that these shootings happen largely in two or three neighborhoods and that most of the victims are black and under 25 years old, makes the situation all the more stark. This is the environment that that gave birth to the collective of creatives known as the House. The House, as explained by producer Ktoven, began as a friendship/collaboration between himself and MC Tut that soon added members Michael Da Vinci and Isaiah Rashad, and now includes The Antydote, Danny Dee, and The House Band. 22 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
His production matches his personality. Pensive, alert, and clam all at once, Ktoven (born Calvin Lamar Tarvin) explains the how he began making music, “I was born and raised in Chattanooga. I’ve been here forever, haven’t moved yet. I was in eighth grade at Tyner, and one of my homies, Patrick, showed me FL Studio in math class. He was like, ‘Hey bro, there’s this program called Fruity Loops - you should download it.’ I’m thinking he’s talking about cereal and shit. So, I downloaded that shit and I was playing with it from that day on. It was crazy,” he recalls.
and works at the Highland Park residence, with people constantly in and out, just fellowshipping and creating. “We’re just a collective of brothers that do music.” He explains further that they also met the musicians would form The House Band, including Swayvo Sax, Taylor Freeman, singer Angel Mae, and several others: “That was the first time that I recorded live instruments. It was the first album that I did and it went big,” Ktoven adds, still sounding surprised at the record’s success. He then proceeds to explain the method he used to produce Preacher’s Son: “I start off with just a beat, then Tut will come rap on it. After that, we do some post-production, where I tell the guys to play it this way, or I come in and add or recreate a sample. But mostly it was me creating a beat and then getting guys to come play live stuff on it.”
We’re just a collective of brothers that do music.” -producer Ktoven Ktoven went on to explain how The House crew started, beginning in high school: “I met Tut in in math class. He came up to me and was like, ‘I heard you make beats and stuff ,man.’ Since then we’ve been homies. He came by my studio to drop raps and freestyle.” Ktoven continues, “I met Isaiah when he came to my house. We did like a 24-hour session because he couldn’t get one verse out. But that’s the first time I met him, and it’s been The House ever since,” he remembers fondly. Ktoven goes on, explaining that he’s been producing and mixing tracks for The House Crew from the beginning, but Preacher’s Son was his first major undertaking. “We dropped a lot of songs before we even thought about that album. We didn’t even know what it was going to be until we moved into this crib right here (in the Highland Park neighborhood) and recorded a lot the songs.” Ktoven laid out that pretty much everyone that’s a part of The House collective lives in
He goes on: “I used to be against sampling. But I kinda like it now, it’s cool how you can just take sounds and recreate and make new ideas. Most of the time, though, I’m combining live music with sampling.” He adds that his that his most used equipment while producing tracks are his Roland Fantom keyboard and the Lexicon reverb unit that he uses on vocals: “At least until I upgrade,” he clarifies. Ktoven lists his favorite producers as Pharrell, Organized Noise, J Dilla, Bryan Cox, and Timbaland, “But I would put J Dilla and Pharrell before anyone else.” Ktoven also discusses some his other musical influences, explaining that he prefers to listen to whatever random jazz he can get his hands on, “and Michael Jackson was always one of my favorite artists. I used to listen to a lot of Michael Jackson and jazz, that’s all I’d listen to. As I’ve gotten older and made new friends, I’ve started getting introduced to other types of music. Like,
I’ve started getting into orchestral music, Hans Zimmer and John Williams, who did the scores for Jurassic Park and Harry Potter.” Ktoven also talks a bit about his love of the outdoors, which being in the “Scenic City” provides him plenty of opportunities to enjoy. “When I’m not doing music, I’m building things, going out hiking to see some waterfalls and that type of stuff, just vibing off of nature until I get the feeling. Then I come back to create music.”
Tut’s Preacher’s Son, the second full-length project to come out of the House crew (the first being Isaiah Rashad’s TDE release Cilvia Demo), was produced entirely by founding member Ktoven. Ktoven’s jazzy/atmospheric/evocative tracks provide the perfect backdrop for Tut’s poignant, yet glib and aloof yarns.
Since Preacher’s Son was released to critical acclaim last year, Ktoven and The House Collective have been busy. “We’ve been super busy. I went to California and was hanging with Kendrick and Ali, Schoolboy, and mixing some of their stuff. It’s really changed the perspective from where I create beats. I can’t do them the same now,” he adds. While in California, Ktoven had the opportunity to meet with several producers, including 6th Sense, 7 Keys, and Jay Lewis. “My style has just changed a little bit, as I kept learning from those guys, just being around them in that atmosphere and listening to new music that I didn’t know. I’m still learning, though.” Ktoven speaks briefly on the violence that plagues the city: “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t really understand it. But we try to make music that speaks to the situation here in Chattanooga. We’re trying to make projects that will touch the people here and tell them that they don’t have do this. Follow your dreams instead of killing them. Like, why are you killing people?” Ktoven goes on to discuss what’s next for him and the crew, saying “Isaiah Rashad has a new project coming out and I did some mixing and production on that. Tut’s coming out with a project and then we’re coming out with a group project, too. I’ve been doing a lot of mixing [on that].” He concludes with some thoughts about the future of music in Chattanooga, stating “I’m trying to build a scene here. I’m trying to build a studio and get things going and maybe have a little festival here. We have all this in the works. Really we just want to make the city better, a place where you can come out and feel safe and just have fun.”
Follow on Twitter: @ktoven PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 23
SPOTLIGHT 24 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
O n a Q uest to K eep the H uman E lement in E lec tronic M usic Matthew Gawrych
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 25
obacco, the stage name for enigmatic, vocoder-obsessed musician Tom Fec, is back with its fourth studio LP, Sweatbox Dynasty. Ostensibly an electronic album, what makes this LP and those of Fec’s other musical project, Black Moth Super Rainbow, so unique is its ability to sound organic in a genre otherwise dominated by pre-programmed, computer-sequenced synths devoid of all human emotion and feeling. Forcing the human element to play a large role in his creative output, Tobacco’s music retains that sense of the organic, often composed of actual live performances cut to tape and edited into cohesive tracks later on. You feel like you’re listening to actual music being played when you put on a Tobacco or BMSR album, not a group of robots coldly regurgitating ones and zeros (sorry, Kraftwerk). We caught up with Tobacco on the eve of his latest release… Many people know you from Black Moth Super Rainbow, but you were actually producing music as Tobacco prior to the formation of the group. Thomas, how were you living in the pre-BMSR days? What inspired your music? The Tobacco thing didn’t really start until after BMSR, but I had a couple cheapo four track projects that no one ever heard. I got inspired by the idea of no one making exactly what I wanted to hear and figured out how to do it myself. So you’re from Pittsburgh – did you ever catch any Don Caballero or Kurt Vile shows? No, never saw those bands. I don’t really go to many shows, so I’m actually not very familiar with Pittsburgh acts. Let’s talk about your new album, Sweatbox Dynasty. What influenced the name, like what is a “sweatbox dynasty?” I guess the name felt right at this point. You can’t get away with having “dynasty” in your album title when you’re new, or can you? I get uncomfortable assigning meaning to anything, but what I usually tell people is the music sounds like the title and the title describes the music. The textures on this album are grainier and more distorted than the juicy, round melodies typically heard on Black Moth Super Rainbow releases. Why is the new Tobacco album so dark and moody? It sounds almost industrial in certain parts... It’s just me and what I like. I like to play with sound and like things that sound wrong. I especially like doing things that are considered wrong by people who went to school for recording and engineering. I can see how it comes off as dark and moody to most people,
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but that’s never the intention. To me, it’s the sound of playing around. Are you a fan of industrial artists such as NIN and Fear Factory? NIN is cool, yeah, but I don’t know much Fear Factory [material]. What’s your favorite track on the new record? “Let’s Get Worn Away” because it sounds like the way I hear ideas - unedited and unrefined. I’d love to make a whole record of that kind of song, but at some point I have to pump the brakes on the self-indulgence, at least with stuff I’m releasing. Can you describe the creative process behind the new album? My creative process with the Tobacco stuff has always been the same - play with whatever sound I’m playing with until it sounds like something I haven’t heard, then squish it into a song or something like a song. This one came together pretty quickly, a few months maybe. I’m gonna start overusing the word “unrefined,” but that’s what I was going for. What kind of gear did you use when recording? I don’t have a four track anymore, so everything gets recorded on a tape deck. Everyone thinks I’m a synth guy, but I have maybe three keyboards. I got a handful of bunk pedals (and a couple good ones) that I used, like Boss shit and that’s really fun because they are what they are. Lots of bass guitar that isn’t always obvious and an Akai MPC drum machine that I’ll probably always use for drums. Are digital audio workstations central to developing your songs or do you start out with a basic melody and rhythm on a piano and drum pad and elaborate from there? Stuff gets compiled and arranged in the computer, but I don’t use software as an instrument. It’s always the last step and I try to keep it as transparent as possible. All the development happens in the sampler or just playing along while the tape deck is running. I’ve always believed that the good shit needs to be captured in the performance, not afterwards in editing. The happy accident is the foundation of everything I do. Is musicianship important to you as an electronic musician? After all, you’re using electronic textures as opposed to an acoustic instrument. I may not always be using acoustic instruments, but everything gets played in real time. I’ve never sequenced anything and don’t sample other people. I like samples and sequences when other people do it, I just don’t like to
“I especially like doing things that are considered wrong by people who went to school for recording and engineering.”
make my stuff that way. It just depends on how you define musicianship, but I’m not trained in anything, so all I can do is what I’m feeling. I’ve never thought of myself as being good at any instrument, but I am determined to figure out how to get what I want out of them.
get my record on vinyl. I have a lot of friends who could use an extra hundo on the thousands of streams they receive, but these companies would rather keep the royalty rates low so they can get that deluxe chocolate fountain...you know, the one that’s got like three tiers. [laughs]
What is your opinion of guys like Squarepusher? Someone who is not only an electronic wizard, but also a musical virtuoso on bass. I haven’t heard enough Squarepusher to know about that, but he’s cool too. Virtuosity is usually something I would make fun of, so I don’t think of him that way. [laughs]
Sweatbox Dynasty is being released on Ghostly International. You’ve been with that label the past couple years. What do you like about it? They do it right. I don’t feel compelled to be as much of a control freak with them because I know they got it covered. Self-releasing your music is great, but it’s cool to take the pressure off sometimes and just create. This is something I’m finally learning.
Let’s talk a little bit about the music business – since the early 2000s, the real money has shifted from album sales to live performances, merch and music licensing. Recently, your music has been licensed for use in the HBO TV show Silicon Valley. Who set up this deal? Are you looking to capitalize on more opportunities like this in the future? My manager put that together with some cool Illuminati dudes. I got really lucky that in the world of things I could be licensed for, I’m with something I can be proud of and that’s rare. Every time I hear that intro, I’m still tripped out that it would even be considered for a TV show. I make music for myself and a lot of the things I do with it will turn off the majority. So the idea of something like this happening seems weird as it always did. Overall, how has streaming and digital distribution affected the electronic music scene since Napster in the late nineties? I really don’t know because I was just a kid, but since 2007, being in a place where people keep track of what I’m selling, I haven’t noticed a huge difference. I’ve heard stories and it sounds like it was an awesome time to be a band with any kind of following. I’m able to have the opportunities I have because of the Internet, pirating and shit so I can’t complain. The only issue I have is when companies make way more money off my stuff than I do. I’d rather you torrent my album than help pay for streaming-company X’s office party. Because I know if people like it, I’ll probably see them down the line at a show or maybe they’ll
“I got inspired by the idea of no one making exactly what I wanted to hear and figured out how to do it myself.”
Any last words for Performer readers? Black Moth Super Rainbow lives, motherfuckers!
Follow on Twitter: @maniacmeat
TOBACCO SWEATBOX DYNASTY STANDOUT TRACK: “LET’S GET WORN AWAY”
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he environment you find yourself in influences your interpretation of day-to-day activities, your general outlook on life and it molds your personality. Some combination of characteristics can make or break you. In their latest album, Running Out Of Red, Jed Maheu of Zig Zags has certainly embraced everything life has thrown his way. Growing up in a trailer park, surrounded by kids from Southeast Asia, Maheu developed an interest in music and skateboarding around age 8. By age 13, he started playing music. Because of the style of the people around him and the music they listened to, Maheu had an early introduction to heavy metal. “The teenagers that I saw on BMX bikes, the fighting, the cars they were driving, broken down muscle cars laying around and hanging out with the older kids who gave me cassette tapes when I was really young” all influenced his musical vision. But it was much more than the environment and the music that made Maheu drive an hour and half to buy his first guitar. Maheu notes, “When you’re a kid and you see an album cover, you make up stories. You make so many assumptions.” When he made the move to LA, the music scene was mostly indie folk and alt-country. He met all of those types of artists
and started playing music with different types of people because he wanted to be in a band. “I wanted to start the band I wanted to see when I was 13,” says Maheu. Hence, Zig Zags was born and Maheu plays face-melting guitar riffs with a punk rock attitude, perfectly fitting his personality. Growing up he really liked the sound of heavy metal music but when he started going to shows, he didn’t feel very connected with the scene. Looking back on things, he attributes it maybe with something having to do with the style and fashion; people at
Maheu is drawn to songs that have many layers and ones that have weird little extra notes thrown in here and there. In terms of his creation process, he deconstructs music and smashes it
“When I allowed myself to not be embarrassed by heavy metal, I learned better techniques and focused more on playing guitar.” the shows looked like heavy metal and he did not. He has an attraction to punk rock because of the sentiment. Punk rock lyrics talk about things that are real and not so far away. “I was frustrated between punk and hardcore because I didn’t
O n H eavy M etal Philosophy: Find ing Perf ec tion in the I mperf ec t 28 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
know where to take it; I had to find the balance. When I allowed myself to not be embarrassed by heavy metal, I learned better techniques and focused more on playing guitar,” says Maheu. Zig Zags is a punk rock band and Maheu asserts that he will always be a punk rocker first and foremost, but incorporates the fun of heavy metal and its high level of technique.
down to a minimalist sound. His strength is his youthful energy and simplicity; not overthinking things is key. Zig Zags’ songwriting process is deliberate. Maheu will record guitar riffs and then collaborates with drummer Dane Arnold until they have a structure of a song. It’s then
So many weird things happened in between Zig Zags albums but Maheu says they had to keep going, had to keep pushing. They went on tour, lost and gained members and cancelled a tour, so it was nothing short of drama. The theme of Running Out Of Red was structured panic. The album came out of a year of working, dissecting and a running list of songs and recording. Running Out Of Red is twelve tracks of pure face-melting, punk/metal anthems. They are layered with trippy chords, riffs and strong vocals. Despite Maheu saying that the creative process was deliberate, the songs come across with ease. Their punk rock attitude lets them throw themselves into their playing and leave it all out there and their heavy metal influences
come through in the technicality of it all. The rhythmic drumming complements the guitars’ fleshed out melodies. Maheu says that the goal was to strip everything down; they were able to find the balance between not showing off and totally showcasing how badass they are. As someone who didn’t feel welcome in the heavy metal scene, Zig Zags has created an environment where metal and punk fans can come together and head-bang in unison.
Follow on Twitter: @randysezz
shown to the bassist Caleb Miller and the band starts rehearing it. They evaluate and decide which parts they like and don’t like. They start peeling it back and only keep the necessary parts of the track. They take the length of the song into consideration, not wanting it to be too long which would risk making it boring and also risk showing off. Maheu wants the music to be “totally enjoyable until the end. I don’t want any filter. It’s a very deliberate process but I play loose. I’d rather hit bum notes than have the solo perfect.” Sometimes we find perfection in the imperfections.
Tour life also feels like structured panic, more or less. The rush of feeling like a kid again, sneaking out of your parents’ house, going out and knowing that anything can happen. That is to say, the punk and metal mentality comes into play on tour, too. “Well, I’m in this van and we have to go from one place to another, I have bills to play, shit going on, but oh well. I can’t do anything about it [because I’m in a van], so I relax and focus on having fun,” says Maheu. When you’re a kid, especially when Maheu was a kid, you feel pressure to conform and to do well; Maheu knew he had to get out of his small town to hit it big. He reflects, “I realize now that when I was a kid, I had to figure out how to have good grades and now I want to focus on what I want to do rather than what I need to do.” At this point, there is no security in anything, so you might as well do epic shit.
ZIG ZAGS RUNNING OUT OF RED STANDOUT TRACK: “THE SADIST”
ZAGS Jaclyn Wing
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5 TIPS FOR EFFECTS IN
i there, gang! We’ve been talking a lot lately about how to be prepared for a mixing session, how to back up or, more importantly, archive your work, and other topics that are fundamental to being a professional in music. Today, we’re going to go back to basics, because, well, you asked.
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Understanding why and how to use effects in a mix is both complex and personal. I’m going to give you an overview of the way I think about them that will help you develop how you’ll think about them. To break it down, I think of effects in two categories: sculptors and additives. 1. USING INSERTS AND SENDS Before we get into how to use these, we should review the way audio get routed. Most DAW programs mimic a mixing console. They
5 have Inserts [see Fig 1] on each audio channel that apply the effect to that audio; think of the audio passing into the plug-in and then back to the channel. The DAW also has Sends [see Fig 2] which split the audio and send a copy somewhere else (that you choose). Most often the Send is used to send audio from a few channels to a shared effect like reverb, so the send level control [see Fig 3] allows you to decide how much of each channel is sent. 2. SCULPTORS: BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE Sculptors are generally applied in-line, meaning on an Insert. This is important because with EQ or compression you would generally like all the signal to be processed the same way. [see Fig 4] Within this category of sculptors I
be used on an insert, on an insert. For example, a Vocoder might be a great effect directly on a track. Similarly, I often use a short delay directly on the snare track, in addition to everything else I might do to the snare as part of the whole kit. In these cases, if the effect has a wet-to -dry knob, it makes finding the right amount of the effect easier. Of course, if the effect has no “mix” knob (another word for wet-to-dry balance), you can simply treat it like an Additive effect for only one track. See below.
6 generally break it down further into Positives and Negatives. What I mean is that negatives are effects you use to fix problems, like an EQ with a small cut around 400 Hz to decrease recorded proximity effect, or a small cut around 3K to decrease an overly nasal tone. Others call these Surgical effects. On the Positives side, EQ can be used creatively to enhance chest warmth in a voice by gently boosting 400 Hz, or pick strike on an acoustic guitar at 5K. Compression can be used to tame playing that’s at times too loud and soft (too large a dynamic range) (Negative) or to change the timbre of a snare drum by shaping the ratio of initial transient to decaying shell resonance (Positive). Occasionally, we might like a Sculptor to be applied to a group of tracks, not just one. In this case we send the outputs of the channels we’re sub-grouping to an Aux [see Fig 5] channel (or whatever your DAW calls them) and then apply the Sculptor effect there. 3. APPLYING ADDITIVE FX Similarly, we might, on occasion, want to apply an Additive effect to a single track [see Fig 6], so we can put a plug-in that normally wouldn’t
Additives effects are usually applied to groups of tracks, or even, in varying degrees, to all the tracks. Examples would include reverbs and delays, or pitch shifters. In these cases, we’d want the effect to run in parallel with the unaffected tracks, so we’re “adding” to the mix a new element (not just tweaking an existing element). We’re putting all the players in a room, so to speak, even if the room isn’t something that could actually exist. To do this, we use the Sends, as mentioned above, to send a copy of the signal to an Aux [see Fig 7] on which we then place the Additive effect we’d like. Again, by adjusting the level of the Send, we can control how much relative effect is applied to each audio signal. 4. TASTE IS SUBJECTIVE (BUT WE ALL KNOW WHAT’S BAD) Now that we have the routing down, let’s talk about choices. Or taste. “But taste is so subjective,” you say. And indeed it is. However, we all know a bad mix when we hear it, even if we dicker about what makes a mix good. Generally, I find that inexperienced mixers (myself included once upon a time) use too much of a good thing, and also use only one idea of that good thing. While reverb is intended to create the illusion of space, it itself eats up a lot of space in the mix. Delay can fill things out nicely without taking up so much room. Neither should be heard, just felt, in most cases. Try this: add two delays and two reverbs to your session. Make one delay short (and rhythmically appropriate) and the other medium length. Choose two reverbs that are not only different sizes but also different tones. Now gently add them to your tracks, balancing them so they put each instrument into its proper place, and then abruptly turn all those reverbs and delays off. You should hear the mix collapse.
R APPLYING N THE MIX When you turn those elements back on you shouldn’t hear them, but now it should feel “like a record.” 5. AND FINALLY, DO WHAT’S BEST FOR THE TRACK Of course, there are times when you do want a big honking delay in your face, like during a pause in the vocals. These are special cases, and deserve their own delay and Aux routing. Use automation or a ducker (compressor keyed from the vocal track, in this case) to hold the delay in check until you want it to bloom. The short of this is that there are many many ways to do all of this and the only wrong way is the way that sounds bad. Or more positively, as I say to my interns, “If it sounds good, it is good!” Hopefully this gets your head around some of the basics and will let you experiment to see what your style is. Please feel free to email with questions and I’ll answer as many as I can. Have fun! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award winning mix engineer and producer Jordan Tishler runs Digital Bear Entertainment in Boston MA. Currently in the process of designing and building a new facility with renowned designer Fran Manzella, DBE will, once again, be the pre-eminent mix/overdub room. The SSL console and racks upon racks of analogue outboard gear, tape machine, and gazillions of instruments helps Tishler meet the expectations of artists including B Spears, JLo, Iggy A, MOTi, Justin Prime, SIA, and London Grammar. Contact Jordan about producing your next record, or mixing the one you’re working on now at www.digitalbear.com.
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HOW TO SAVE MONEY A MISTAKES IN YOUR PAR
f we had all the time in the world, we’d spend most of it drooling over custom-built guitars on the internet. It’s like cute cat videos for musicians. Alas, time and money are typically an object for most, which is why the custom guitar route is oftentimes out of reach for most musicians. Fear not! You CAN craft a unique, one-of-a-kind instrument to your exacting specs, and you can build it yourself for a lot less money than high-end luthiers will charge for their time, skill and expertise.
Now, to be clear here, we’re talking about partscasters, specifically guitars put together from aftermarket parts, typically meant to be assembled together in an F-style guitar or bass (think Strats, Teles, Jazzmasters, P and J-Basses, etc., although you can get bodies in a variety of standard and more exotic shapes). Bolt-on assembly is the name of the game here, and with the wide array of body and neck suppliers as well as a myriad of hardware, pickup and electronics options at your disposal through mail-order catalogs and the internet, building your dream guitar has never been easier or more affordable and accessible. We did it! [see figure 1] For our build, we wanted to go through the entire process, not so much to provide a step-by-step guide for how to assemble your partscaster, but rather to show you some of the things that they never tell you about assembling your guitar on those forums you might frequent, and also some of the mistakes we made so you can avoid them 1) to save yourself the time and hassle of going back to fix them like we did and 2) so you don’t have to waste money paying someone else to put your instrument together for you. You can do it, trust us. If we can do it (and we can barely swing a hammer), ANYONE CAN ASSEMBLE A PARTSCASTER. For starters, we recommend you assemble your partscaster in the following order: neck, body, electronics, final assembly. Trust us, after doing a build of our own, this order makes the most sense. And don’t forget to pop on over to our YouTube channel and performermag.com for some helpful video tips that explain some of the points below in a more visual way. Now, on to the build process!
1. CHOOSE YOUR PARTS Time to shop: The first part of the process is arguably the most fun. Here’s where you’re gonna spec out all of your parts, down to the nth degree, exactly how you want them. We chose to go with Warmoth for the majority of our build, including the body (a Jazzmaster, since offsets are proving pretty popular nowadays), [see figure 2] the neck (one of their cool Warhead designs) [see figure 3] and most of our hardware. We love Warmoth, we recommend Warmoth and we’d 100% go with Warmoth again. They’re simply good people who make incredible replacement bodies and necks here in the USA at a fair price. Their folks are excellent to work with and will provide guidance every step of the way during your project. They also have an incredibly robust online shopping mechanism that will guide you step-by-step through your ordering process, allowing you to customize each part for your tastes (neck radius, fret size, types of woods, body routing, pickguard sizing, etc.). We managed to snag a gorgeous koa top on a lightweight ash body. If weight is a concern for you, they have a showcase of pre-built bodies that list the weight – an awesome touch!
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What we learned: One thing we recommend is that no matter what type of
guitar you want to build for yourself, whether it’s a Strat or Tele style, Jazz Bass or something else entirely, try to match it up against another production model that is at least somewhat similar so you don’t forget to order any parts. We forgot some small stuff like the felt pads that go in between the body wood and the strap buttons [see figure 4], and simple things like pickguard screws the first time around. Luckily, Warmoth’s custom ordering process remembers (and suggests) a lot of this stuff for you based upon the body and neck you’re ordering, but things like string trees are easy to neglect if you’ve never done this before.
Y AND AVOID CRUCIAL ARTSCASTER BUILD 2. GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES AND TOOLS Get organized: Label everything when it arrives, regardless of which retailer you order parts from (and let’s face it, you may end up getting different pieces from different suppliers, who may or may not be good at labeling what they send). Things like small screws can easily get confusing if you don’t label and take photos right away. Create an inventory list in a spreadsheet program (we have a template at performermag.com you can use) will all of your parts, the quantity and price for each so you can budget properly, and a running total of items ordered, items yet to be ordered, items arrived and your total running cost. Here’s what we learned: You’re going to need some tools to put this all together, obviously. We’ll assume you have the basics like a Phillips-head screwdriver, a drill and a small hammer. You’ll also need some more specific gear like a soldering iron, so we recommend a 40-watt iron and 60/40 rosin-core solder (you only need one spool for a project this size). A 40-watter will provide enough heat for small parts like potentiometers but won’t fry your electronics. A smaller wattage iron is basically useless for guitar work. You’ll also want to invest in three deep sockets: a half inch, a 10mm and a 7/16”. These will make tightening parts like tuning keys, output jacks and nuts on your electronics MUCH easier. You’ll also want to invest in a drill bit kit that includes at least a 1/16” bit and a 5/64” bit, the two most common bits we used for drilling pilot holes. A sturdy ironing board makes a great makeshift work station if you don’t have a decent garage! 3. START WITH THE NECK Working on small parts one at a time is the way to go; we learned that the easy way. You may be tempted to start bolting your neck to your body right away, but trust us, one slip of the drill and you can easily ruin a bunch of your dream parts in one fell swoop. Order a neck with the shaft wood and fingerboard woods of your choice, the inlays and binding of your choosing already installed, frets (of your choosing) and a nut (also of your choosing) already installed as well. Unless you want to deal with that nonsense, there’s no need for the extra work. We’re assuming you want a kick-ass custom guitar, not an apprenticeship as a luthier. And luckily, Warmoth’s custom neck builder allowed us to do all of this in about 2 minutes. Your decal: First up, apply your logo or decal (duh). We personally think adding a Fender logo to a guitar Fender didn’t build is not only lame, but dishonest and really getting into counterfeit territory, even if it’s for your own personal use. Instead, we recommend you design your own logo [see figure 5], and either print out a vector version using waterslide decal paper at home, available on Amazon or at most hobby shops, or you can design one online and have it shipped to you. We used customluthiersupply.com to design and print our decal and it arrived with instructions in a few days. Easy.
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Here’s what we learned: We did the decal first for two reasons. First, it made the project feel real, to see that logo staring back at us, like it was a real guitar all of the sudden and not some generic blank. And second, because you’re going to need to seal your waterslide decal with a clear coat, and then either fine sand or wet sand and buff for a glossy look (if so desired). So, adding your tuners and string tree now is a waste of time, since you’ll just need to remove them right away to spray some clear and sand [see figure 6]. We recommend a polyurethane-based clear gloss (or satin, if you prefer). It sprays easily (do it in a well-ventilated area or outdoors), and it hardens fairly quickly, too. Allow you waterslide decal a full 24-hours to dry before spraying your clear coat, then apply 2-3 even coats in 2-hour intervals. Allow THAT to dry for another 24 hours then use a fine 000 or 0000 grade steel wool or wet sanding solution to smooth out your clear coat and headstock surface to taste. A word on pilot holes: Now that your decal is sealed and looking good, insert your tuners to mock up their final placement, use a fine-tipped Sharpie to mark where pilot holes should go, and then remove the tuners to drill your holes. [see figure 7] We recommend using the reverse setting on your drill with the proper sized pilot drill bit in (we have a chart for different wood screw sizes at perforemrmag.com for reference, don’t worry), and SLOWLY make a small divot in reverse mode on your Sharpie mark. Then put the drill in forward, and go straight down the depth of the hole you desire. We recommend using a bit of masking tape to mark a “cut-off” point directly on your bit so you know where to stop and don’t drill too deep. What they don’t tell you about tuners: Here’s the deal – you can use almost any tuners and be fine with tuning stability. Most tuning issues occur as a result of binding at the nut or something moving at the bridge. So, when ordering a neck, go with a reputable builder (cough Warmoth cough) and that way you’ll ensure your nut slot is cut properly and uses the material of your choosing (Warmoth offers a TUSQ XL option that is great, you could also go with bone or a synthetic, which is good, too). SAVE MONEY here by buying a good set of tuners, sure, but not necessarily the most top of the line if you have it in your head that they’ll help you stay in tune better. That’s not the case. A proper setup will keep you in tune. Almost any stock tuner will work just fine.
Sting trees: Mark off your string tree pilot hole in the same fashion. A string tree is common on most F-style guitars to compensate for a weak break angle over the nut on the high E and B strings. Usually it’s placed between those strings, at around the 4th or 5th tuner position. We eyeballed ours (I know, right!) because really all you’re looking for is an increase in downward pressure as those strings pass on to the tuners. If your neck is angled downward (like Gibson-style necks), then forget the string tree altogether; you don’t need it. [see figure 8] 4. WORK ON THE BODY Get the neck out of the way first, put it aside, and move on to the body. First, we recommend drilling pilot holes (again, consult your chart for the right drill bit to use) for the strap buttons, pickguard, pickup mounting, tailpiece and bridge. [see Figure 9] A word on bridge thimbles: Our Jazzmaster build uses bridge thimbles, which the bridge itself rests in. Strats and Teles don’t use these, but here’s a word of advice anyway. Bridge thimbles are supposed to be super snug in their slots. So you’re gonna try easing them in by hand, and that ain’t gonna work. Instead, position them directly over their post holes, take a small rubber mallet, or double up a hand towel over the end of a small hammer, and GENTLY start tapping (not pounding) them in place. A few soft, solid whacks’ll get them in there nice and tight, and you won’t feel like an idiot calling customer support telling them they didn’t fit. Allow us to be that idiot for you! At this point, with pilot holes drilled and strap buttons in place, your work on the body is pretty much done. Wait until your electronics are in before popping on your bridge and tailpiece.
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5. COMPLETE THE ELECTRONICS It’s time to cheat: OK, no one else will say it, so we will. Soldering sucks. It’s a pain in the ass, and anyone who says otherwise or claims to enjoy it is a dirty rotten liar. Which is why we totally cheated, and ordered a wiring harness off the internet. [see figure 10] Yes, you too can be a cheat, and we totally encourage it! Ordering a wiring harness is an easy (and surprisingly affordable) way to complete most of your soldering work, while at the same time not having to deal with confusing wiring charts and knowing which pots, switches and knobs to order. Now, if you WANT to do all your own soldering or pot-ordering (no, we don’t mean that), don’t let us intimidate you. A soldering iron’s only job (we’re simplifying here) is to heat up metal. That’s it. Don’t let it scare you. You heat up metal, let some solder flow over what you’re mating, and give it a second to join before removing the heat. Bingo bongo. There are tons of videos out there to help, if you so desire, although we still lean on the side of cheating. OK, you can’t totally cheat: So will you need to do any soldering? If you cheated like us, then unfortunately yes. But not much. We got a great set of pickups courtesy of the amazing Jason Lollar [see figure 11], and we needed to only consult out wiring chart (which you can totally grab for free from the Seymour Duncan website) to figure out where our leads and ground wires were supposed to go. We hooked up the bridge pickup lead to the right spot (making a solid mechanical connection before flowing the solder), and wired the ground to the back of the pot. We soldered the bridge pickup’s hot lead to the right lug, too, and grounded that to the back of a pot, and the simply added a ground wire from the back of a pot through the body to the underside of our tailpiece. See, not too bad, right?
Don’t waste time on things you don’t like doing: No one is going to take your street cred away if you don’t laboriously solder every point by hand. We don’t like soldering, so we took the easy route. There’s no right or wrong way to assemble YOUR guitar. Don’t let any internet forum jerk (even if it’s us) convince you otherwise. You don’t need to impress anybody. Seriously. Shielding counts: Single coil guitars (and even humbucker equipped guitars for that matter) can be noisy and subject to interference sometimes. Proper grounding and shielding can help alleviate some of that. Copper shielding tape is super easy to apply, and widely available online for cheap. It’s a step a lot of first timers overlook, and it’ll be something you’ll be glad you took care of now. 6. FINAL ASSEMBLY, YAY! What we learned about neck pockets: For those of you doing Tele and Strat-style builds, know that their respective necks and neck pockets are not always compatible. So check the specs first before you get it in your head to do something awesome like throw a replacement Tele neck on your Strat build.
What we learned from joining the neck and body: We’ll let you in on a tip NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU: once your electronics, pickups, neck and body are all in their final stages of completion, when it comes time to place the neck in its pocket, go TOP DOWN. Do not insert the neck from the side. Position it over its pocket and GENTLY start easing it downward, rocking it ever-so-slightly to lower it into place. Trust us, you don’t want to ram it in from the side. You can inadvertently chip some of the finish or worse, misshape the pocket so that your neck won’t fit snugly when assembled. Get a good, solid fit first, and then bolt it on. [see figure 12] To shim or not to shim? Shimming a neck, or adding a thin veneer of wood, plastic or other material in the neck pocket to achieve the desired neck angle IS NOT A SIGN THAT YOU FAILED! Heck, tons of guitars come off the line with neck shims from the factory. It’s simply a method of getting the proper angle of the neck to the body, so that when adjusted properly, the strings travel at the right angle from the bridge to the nut. On Jazzmasters in particular, that break angle is often hella weak, and even the best setup might require a shim to get the strings low enough on the neck to make the dang thing playable. Our Warmoth neck was perfectly straight, and the truss rod was super easy to adjust, so once our shim was in, we were golden.
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7. A NOTE ON FINISHING Unless you have your own spray booth or plan on doing a simple stain or Tru-Oil rubbed finish, screw it. It’s hazardous for starters, and you’re likely not gonna be skilled enough on your first attempt to do a showroom worthy paint job. Factor in all that time sanding and buffing, too, and you can see how our lazy butts decided to skip this one altogether. Let the pros handle it; we ordered our Warmoth body with a simple clear coat and for the cost of their in-house paint job and the ridiculously high quality they deliver, it’s just not worth your time. Normally, we’re all gung-ho on the DIY front, but this is one area we recommend skipping your first time out, unless you’ve had tons of practice finishing wood before. 8. FINAL SETUP It’s OK to fail: We decided to bring our final, assembled dream guitar in to the shop for a pro setup. While you can of course set up your own axe, and we totally recommend doing so from here on out, at least for its initial inspection, it’s always good to get a second pair of eyes on your project. We discovered a ground wire issue that was causing some noise. Something we didn’t catch, but a trained eye saw right away. You’re not a failure if you’re partscaster build didn’t come out perfectly the instant you finished drilling the final screw in place. Allow the completed guitar to sit for a day or two and let the parts become one, adjust to your climate, and let the neck and body become accustomed to having string tension on them. THEN do your set up. It’s OK to bring it to a pro; it’s not a sign you’re a total loser. Because if you’re a loser, then we’re losers, and honestly we can’t deal with that right now… 9. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Need more info? Check out performermag.com for some video tutorials to help with your build or simply email your questions to editorial@performermag. com. Otherwise, bookmark these links below. And most of all, have fun! Skip the crap you don’t like and focus on the things that are actually enjoyable. This shouldn’t be a chore -- it should be a blast! 1. Warmoth Custom Guitar Parts - www.warmoth.com Excellent source for replacement bodies, necks, hardware and electronics. We give them a lot of love for a reason. With over 30 years’ experience, they will deliver exactly what your project needs, and they’re amazing to deal with.
2. Stewart-MacDonald - www.stewmac.com StewMac has everything under the sun you need to complete a partscaster assembly, and advanced tools and accessories for luthiers to build stringed instruments from scratch. 3. ReRanch Guitar Refinishing - www.reranch.com If you plan on painting and applying a finish to your instrument yourself, ReRanch has all the supplies and tips you’ll need to do it right. Good luck. 4. AllParts - www.allparts.com Another reputable replacement body and neck supplier, as well as offering a slew of electronics, knobs, hardware, etc. 5. Guitarfetish - www.guitarfetish.com For the partscaster build on a micro budget, GFS has pickups, bodies, necks and hardware at ultra-low prices. Most pieces come from the Far East and quality vary, but if the name of the game is saving money, it’s a starting point. 6. OffsetGuitars.com Fantastic message board for all things offset. If you’re planning a first-time Jazzmaster, Jaguar or Mustang build, these fine guys and gals will be your lifelines. 7. The Gear Page – www.thegearpage.net Another well-trafficked forum that has tons of answers to even the most obscure questions about guitars and the build process.
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3 Common Mistakes to Avoid on Your Next Partscaster Build
ver the last 36 years, Warmoth has built a lot of guitar parts, and helped a lot of players create their dream guitar or bass. During that time, we’ve also observed many of the common missteps budding luthiers make. In the interest of helping to create a world with more great guitars in it, we have listed them below.
2. THE PILOT PROGRAM On an electric guitar, there are many components that are mounted with woodscrews, and all those screws need properly drilled pilotholes. Pilot-holes relieve the pressure the screw will exert as it wedges itself into place, and without them the wood is at risk of splitting.
1. CHECK THE NECK SPEC The question we are probably asked most frequently is “Will this neck fit this body?” The answer is always: 1) check the dimensions, then 2) check the shape.
There is a common misconception that pilotholes should be as small as possible. Untrue. Pilot-holes should be as large as they can possibly be, leaving just enough wood for a screw to bite into and hold securely. Even pilot-holes predrilled by the manufacturer should not be trusted, primarily because the manufacturer has no idea which woodscrews you intend to use. Also, the wood your body or neck is made of might have expanded or contracted as it adjusted to your local temperature and humidity, altering the size of the pilot-holes. For proper fit it is always necessary to measure.
In the world of “bolt-on” style replacement parts, Fender’s original guitar and bass heel specs are somewhat standard, and most parts manufacturers use them, including Warmoth. Unfortunately, they are not universal...even among Fender products. Careful measurement is the only way to be sure your parts are compatible. Check not just the width and length, but also the depth of the neck pocket, which is critical in achieving the correct playing action. Once you know the dimensions of the neck heel and neck pocket match, check their shapes. Most guitar bodies and necks employ the Stratocaster shape, which is rounded at the end. However, bodies and necks from the Telecaster family use a heel that is squared. It’s always best to match these shapes correctly. In a pinch, a Strat neck will fit and intonate in a Tele-shaped pocket, but the reverse is not true. A Tele-shaped neck heel will not fit in a Strat-shaped pocket, because its squared corners prevent it from fully inserting into the rounded end.
You should never assume pre-drilled holes for mounting hardware are a perfect fit either. Manufacturing tolerances on hardware vary, and pieces like bridge studs and tuner bushings should always be measured and compared to the actual size of the hole they are going in, and adjustments made if necessary. Simply forcing these parts into place invites splits and cracks. Taking the time to measure everything and drill proper pilot-holes may seem tedious, but the problems that could arise from ignoring this step are exponentially worse. 3. AN ALLEN WRENCH AND A DREAM All too often, aspiring guitar builders expect
an “Ikea experience.” While assembling a guitar from pre-made parts is well within the ability of the average do-it-yourselfer, it does require more patience and attention to detail than assembling a computer desk with an Allen wrench. Don’t assume your guitar will play like a dream the instant you finish tightening the last screw. It takes a while for all the parts to realize they are not different trees anymore, but a single guitar. Give them time to settle into the tension of the strings, vibrate together, and get to know each other. As they do, you can begin to make the fine adjustments required for optimum playability. The final set-up is key to a great playing instrument, and for this reason many amateur builders pay a pro luthier to do this work. Whoever does it should pay particular attention to the neck and frets. Most Warmoth necks are playable as they are received and do not require fret leveling. However, even the most well-constructed necks can move with changes in temperature, humidity, and string tension, and sometimes additional fretwork is necessary. There are many resources available online for learning to assemble and work on guitars, including Warmoth’s website and blog. To build a successful guitar or bass, educate yourself, be patient, and measure, measure, measure! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Aaron Cheney is the Director of Marketing at Warmoth Guitar Parts, Inc. He has been modifying, building, writing about, and performing on guitars for over 30 years. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 37
STUDIO TEST: THREE RE DEMO THE STERLING MX
ack in April, we put out a call for entries to win brand new pairs of the criminally-underrated Sterling MX5 studio monitors. We’ve been enjoying our own MX5’s and their smaller 3-inch brothers, the MX3’s in the office, and ultimately selected three different types of winners for some additional real-world testing: a Nashville home-studio run by a very talented singer/songwriter, a beats-production house and a commercial post-production facility in California. Below are some of the thoughts each studio tester had after spending a few weeks recording, mixing and mastering using their new MX5’s. KRISTEN FORD I was thrilled to try out the 5” MX5 studio monitors. These monitors struck me at first by how heavy they were, how sturdy the construction was and the design was pretty slick. The materials
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don’t feel cheap. When thinking about a 5” monitor, the Yamaha HS5 immediately comes to mind; I have heard them in many studios. Those are priced around $200 each, and the MX5 are priced about $50 less. The MX5 look downright sexy and outclass the outdated look of the Yamaha HS5. I was able to jump right into mixing and listening with the provided materials, stick-on footers, power cable and manual. Initially I used an 1/8” to RCA to try out the unbalanced input. The sound was okay, but overall with a Focusrite interface, TRS-cables-to-balanced-XLR-inputs, the volume was now much louder and the sound quality featured way more clarity. The MX5 monitors were responsive to changes in EQ, the treble when pushed was piercingly sibilant, the bass was quite powerful.
When listening at very low volume and the quality was still excellent. These puppies can go super loud, too. I had the volume on the back of each of the monitors at -0- right in the middle, and at one point got my interface volume about 2/3 the way up, so loud you couldn’t shout over them and I was worried I might blow the speakers or damage the cones if I went any louder, so I came back down. I am confident you can bump these monitors as you’re triumphing in the final mix, when you need to hear that tune loud and proud. These MX5s should also have no trouble supporting a keyboard, synth or electric bass should you be tracking directly. In the genre test, hip-hop sounded incredible the bass strong and present but not overpowering. Vocals for more folk and country-inspired tunes sounded great. I would say the weak spot for these monitors were genres such as classical or
progressive rock, when there were lots of layers, especially when played at high volume, the mids feel a little robotic, or square, they don’t have the depth of some other more high-end monitors I’ve heard. Overall, though, I would recommend these MX5 studio monitors hands down for tracking, mixing, and just pure listening; they look super sexy and cost far less than you’d expect for such quality. RAYMOND HONRATH (aka RayRayBeats) ARRIVAL: Once I cut away the dull exterior packaging of my new MX5’s, a beautifully designed product box was revealed. I experienced the nostalgia of beholding a childhood birthday present. Not just some bullshit pajamas your grandma bought you, but that new video game console you specifically asked for. “Thanks Dad!” Once I carefully dissected all clear packing tape on both boxes I found my new toys inside, carefully situated between Styrofoam caps fitted above and below the speakers. Sterling Audio took great care in packaging this product and both speakers arrived with no harm. MAKING MUSIC: My first priority was to go over some previous mixes with these new Sterling MX5s. Previously I had been mixing through my KRK Rokit 5’s and I was excited to see if there was a noticeable difference between the KRKs and the Sterlings. I was actually surprised to find that the bass tones were overwhelming my mixes when played through the MX5s! This was great news to me, because within my first five minutes of powering the Sterling monitors they had helped me identify a mixing issue and fix it! Bass is very important to a lot of my hip-hop mixes, so now I’ve defaulted to mixing primarily in the Sterling MX5s and referencing elsewhere. I’ve also found that the MX5 monitors have a uniquely wide frequency dispersion, so I can pace around the room contemplating my mix without it largely affecting how my ear perceives the signal. That’s really convenient for a serial pacer like me! FINAL THOUGHTS: These Sterling MX5 speakers LOOK classy with their front baffle’s monochromatic design and backlit Sterling badge. They function exceptionally well, too. As someone who has a decade of experience using entrylevel studio equipment, I can’t point out a single functionality issue with these monitors. Mixing isn’t a decibel contest (in fact, quite the opposite,) but these speakers are definitely louder than other I’ve owned in the same class. They’re an efficient
addition to my home studio and at $149.99 a piece, you absolutely get everything you pay for and then some. I would recommend this product to anyone in the market for studio monitors at this price point. RYAN D. YOUNG (ARCAY STUDIOS) I’m a professional music and post-production engineer by day and an amateur musician by night. Throughout this past month, I put these speakers through the wringer and tested them in various music and post-production environments. Immediately after unboxing the speakers, I noticed the size of the speakers. Using commonsense, I didn’t expect much low-end to come out of a 5” speaker. However, in my case, I found the size of the speaker to be an asset for my needs. The inputs on the back, the EQ switches, and the power of the built-in amplifier were all impressive and seemed to be good quality. The first bit of audio that I played through the speakers really blew me away! The volume knob was maybe at 10% of fullscale and they were LOUD! More importantly, the signal remained super clean the louder I went. I couldn’t hear any sort of distortion or clipping. The speakers had a great stereo field with no “blind spots” and no phasing if the speakers were placed far apart or close together. The compact size of the speakers brought some ideas to mind of how I’d test them out; here is what I did.
REAL-WORLD STUDIOS MX5 STUDIO MONITORS range of the human voice. Due to the small space of my studio where I recorded ADR, the size of the speaker helped out by fitting perfectly behind the podium and under the TV screen. Lastly, I tested the set of speakers as the “Alt” speaker setup for my post-production mix stage. My “Main” setup is a 5.1 JBL LSR4300p, and the MX5 acted as the “Alt” 2.1 setup using the JBL Sub-Woofer (this was the same setup used for my music mix). At the press of a button, I was able to seamlessly check my film mixes between a 5.1 cinema surround sound setup and a 2.1 “nearfield” home theater setup. Having this at my disposal made it easy to check how the average consumer would hear the mix versus how an audience would hear the same mix in a theatrical environment. Again, clarity was key! The MX5s handled everything I threw at them and helped me finesse my mix to please all audiences. Thank you, again, to Sterling and Performer Magazine. The Sterling MX5s will continue to be an essential tool in my post-production facility. There you have it. For more info, be sure to head to sterlingaudio.net and keep an eye on performermag.com and our social media channels for YOUR chance to win and demo great gear each month.
I started out with mixing some music tracks that I had recorded, mixed, and mastered some years back. I chose to start with these tracks because I know how every sample of audio was intended to sound. I used a subwoofer with bassmanagement and tuned the set with the EQ switches. Once I had my 2.1 setup ready to go, I found myself as deep in the mix as I was a few years ago. Again, the clarity of the mid-range was very impressive, allowing me to really perfect guitars and vocals. After spending some time with the vocals, I started to think of ways to use these speakers for post-production, specifically dialogue, ADR, and VO editing and ADR and VO recording. Luckily, I had an ADR session already scheduled. I used one of the speakers as a monitor for the actor, where I would preview the production dialogue and output ADR beeps to cue him in for the recording. This is where the MX5 excelled and was a PERFECT fit for my needs. The clarity and tone that is output by these speakers is exactly the PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 39
IK MULTIMEDIA iRig Blue Turn Bluetooth Page Turner
Works well, super easy to use, well-lit for stage use, iOS, Mac, and Android compatible. CONS
f you rely on sheet music at all, and have come to realize that it’s now the 21st Century, you’ve no doubt shifted at least part of your manuscript, fake book and sheet music collection to some digital format or another, right? Well, until now, it’s been kind of a pain in the butt to flip pages in a natural way using, say, an iPad on a stand or even your laptop on the desk in front of you. Ever fumbled with an instrument in one hand and a tablet in the other? Yeah, we have too. This makes practicing and even recitals more difficult than necessary. Luckily, IK has introduced the iRig Blue Turn, which works fantastically well as a Bluetooth-enabled page turning device. It’s so
simple: sync it to whatever app you use to store your sheet music or set lists (we tested it out with the great Newzik app for iOS) and you’re good to go. Pairing via Bluetooth takes about 5 seconds (you all know the default pairing code by now, I’m sure), and you’re done. Really. Load a piece of sheet music, tap one of the well-lit buttons with your toe, and watch the page turn. This hands-free method of flipping through your music and guitar tabs will make you wonder why you didn’t think of it first, and will likely make both the Blue Turn and Newzik your new favorite rehearsal accessories. The back-lit buttons are not only great for stage situations where ideal lighting is…
• Turn pages and scroll sheets wirelessly over Bluetooth LE
• 2 highly visible backlit silent footswitch buttons • Sends HID messages over Bluetooth LE • Compatible with iKlip Stage and a wide variety of apps and software • 3 different mode configurations – Arrow up/down, Page up/down or Arrow left/right • Durable road-ready enclosure • Runs on 2 standard AAA batteries 40 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
well, not ideal, but the buttons themselves are relatively silent. So for performances that demand attentive listening, and feature nuanced dynamics, you won’t be hearing an annoying click-click-click each time you turn the page of your score during those crucial quiet passages. There’s not much more to say – it’s easy to setup, it works flawlessly, it’s compact so you can toss it in the van when you go out on tour, and it’s cross-platform compatible so Android, Mac and iOS users are all welcome. If you rely on digital sheet music in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to pick up one of these Blue Turns. It’ll make your life way easier. Benjamin Ricci
YAMAHA HPH-MT7W Studio Monitor Headphones
Comfy, wellconstructed, great audio quality, decent isolation, affordable. CONS
e urge you to take a look at all the positives we listed in the “pros” column. Let that sink in, and then ask yourself, “Self, do I want studio headphones that are comfy even for long sessions, that are rugged enough to stand up to my abuse, sound fantastic and don’t color my mixes, and offer good isolation from outside noise and bleedthrough?” If you answered yes to all that, then it’s time to pony up for the latest offering from Yamaha, the HPH-MT7 studio monitor headphones. Our test pair came in a classy white finish, housed in an ultra-comfy enclosure that provided a good (albeit not amazing) sense of isolation during our tracking sessions. There was a tiny bit of outside noise that crept in, but much better than your standard pair of consumer cans, for sure. Sound quality, across the board, was excellent. These headphones take their inspiration and design cues from Yamaha’s ubiquitous NS-10M studio monitors, so you know you’re getting ultra-precise sound reproduction regardless of your application: tracking, mixing, or even pure audio enjoyment. In our tests, we were pleasantly surprised at the flat response and colorless reproduction
the HPH-MT7’s had to offer. Too often at this price point, some sort of coloration seeps in and can affect the way you hear your mixes, and ultimately alter the way your tracks sound (and not always in a positive way). Most of the time, we’ve found that adds up to an increased (and often unnecessary) bass boost. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and these new Yamaha studio headphones offered a “what you hear is what you get” type of vibe, exactly what you want in the studio. Bass was present and clear, without an over-emphasis on lowend frequencies. No mud, no fuss. At this price point, the Yamaha HPHMT7’s are competing directly with AudioTechnica’s ATH-M50x studio headphones. And if you’re trying to decide between the two, we’d ultimately give the slight edge to the A-T’s. Sound quality was just a touch better on the M50x’s, and we felt the isolation was also a bit better with a smidge less bleed. But really, you couldn’t go wrong with either one, especially if your monitoring budget is under $200. In fact, for a home studio set-up, the HPH-MT7’s would serve you incredibly well. We don’t hesitate at all to give these our full recommendation. Benjamin Ricci
• 40 mm custom drivers with CCAW voice • Closed-back, circumaural design for excellent isolation • Three-dimensional arm pivot construction and adjustable slider length • Moveable earcups allow single-ear monitoring • Thick ABS housing and rigid die-cast aluminum support-arms PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 41
veruse of a compressor can really turn a player off, too much and all that hard earned tone gets squished out of the signal. But in the right application it’s like an audio spice, adding just the right amount of kick. JHS unleashes the latest version of their Pulp ‘N’ Peel compressor, which isn’t just the average stomp box, and it’s not just for guitarists.
JHS PEDALS Pulp ‘N’ Peel V4 (Compressor / Preamp)
The controls are really simple: Volume, Compressor, EQ and Blend, which balances the level of effect vs an un-effected sound, while the Dirt switch engages a distortion/ overdrive circuit. Inside the pedal is a trim pot that can control the level of this effect. For the real pedal nerds, it can be set for either true bypass or buffered bypass. Standard 1/4” TRS inputs and outputs are there, but an XLR output is also available. A ground lift switch can eliminate any grounding hum and uses a standard 9V connector.
Great sounding, musical in every setting, works for guitars or bass. CONS
A bit pricey, cannot be powered by a battery. PRICE
Plugging it in, and starting with each control at “noon,” it is certainly present when engaged, but not overpowering. Even at extreme settings, there’s still plenty of toneful goodness coming through. It’s one of those pedals that doesn’t seem to get in the way of the music; the design isn’t based off of a program, rather the feel of what’s actually musical, and what a guitar player will want to use it for. A great application of this is really maxing out the compressor control, but dropping the level of effect, and giving it more volume. It can really make a guitar pop out of a mix, without getting goopy or overdone. Adding in the dirt switch, especially for solos, can really smooth things out, almost emulating the sag of a tube amp. This could possibly replace a boost pedal on a lot of pedalboards. With the XLR out and the ground lift, this is also great as a DI for acoustic guitars, live or in the studio. Plug in an acoustic pickup through this while mixing the sound hole, can really open up tonal opportunities in the studio, without the need for CPU-hogging plugins. Bassists usually don’t go for guitar based fx pedals, but this used as DI, with or without an amp, can really add some extra thump; engage the dirt switch, and it can really cover any vintage-style overdriven bass tones, without getting over saturated. Sound-wise, JHS hit it out of the park - it’s not over processed, and works best on its natural terms. Coming in with a $229 street price, it’s certainly not cheap. But considering it’s a classic sounding, musical compressor that can deliver for electric or acoustic guitars, as well as bass guitar, can be used as a DI or as a boost, in most situations, there is a plenty of value to be had. Chris Devine
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Flexible modern rock/ metal tones GALORE, plenty of tonal EQ options on the overdrive side.
BLACKSTAR HT Club 40 40-watt Tube Amplifier
Back panel is a pain to remove if any issues arise.
inding a decent all-tube combo amp that leans more towards modern tones that doesn’t break the bank isn’t easy. Blackstar’s HT Club 40 brings plenty of modern rock and metal tones, without scorching the wallet.
can really sculpt the tone overall, throughout the range of the gain offered. This is a serious hard rock/metal machine. Yes, you can get some vintage classic rock and bluesy stuff at lower gain settings, but that’s like putting training wheels on a Harley-Davidson.
While it is a 2-channel amp, the clean side is very minimal, with just a volume and a tone knob. The cleans are super sparkly; chords ring out with excellent punch. The single tone knob might seem limiting, but it’s voiced so there’s not a lot of hunting around for that perfect clean tone.
This amp really lives in the higher gain settings, places where a lot of combo amps can’t go without turning to buzzy mud. Rhythm tones are super tight, while the lead tones have loads of attack and sustain. To give even further flexibility, there is an ISP control; turn counter clockwise, and its flavor sits in the USA side of things, and clockwise, in more British sounding areas. The reverb is digital, which itself has a dark/bright switching option, and sounds as bright and snappy as a spring-driven unit. 40 watts may not seem like much, but there’s plenty of (clean) headroom to keep up with a band in a practice space or even a large club.
A separate voicing switch allows the clean channel to be overdriven to get that natural tube tone, or go totally modern, keeping clarity at higher volumes, with extra bass, and more highend response. The overdrive side has a lot more features, with Gain, Volume, and 3-Band EQ. The voicing switch works in a similar manner as the one on the clean channel, going for a slightly scooped presence, or a more classic hard rock sound: think of switching between a gold and tolex-styled amp, or a chrome diamond-plated one. The EQ
On the back panel, there is an effects loop, with the ability to select for line level (rack mounted) or instrument level (pedals). It’s a nice option to have; time-based effects like reverbs, delays and modulations sound better in an
effects loop, and as the trend of more complex pedalboards becomes more common, it’s a great way to get the most out of a rig. The usual speaker outputs of 8 and 16 ohms reside next to a Speaker Emulated output for recording or even live use. Even better is it can work silently; just disconnect the speaker, turn the master volume to 0, or set the amp to standby mode. Behind a removable panel on the back is the business end, a 1x12 Celestion 80 speaker, as well as (2) EL34 and (2) ECC83 (12AX7) tubes that give the amp this great crushing and dynamic tone. Considering the back panel is secured by 12 screws, any issues that arise at a gig or practice may require a lot of work to diagnose, which is a slight bummer. There aren’t a lot of amps we’ve seen at this level that go into this high gain area, without a lot of help from digital modeling or some other solid state technology. The only pedal that might be needed is a boost for pushing some solos over the top of the mix (depending on the musical situation). A player who relies on a high gain pedals to get those modern rock/metal tones may want to take a look at this to help clean up their signal path. Chris Devine
• 2xECC83 preamp tubes
• 2xEL34 power tubes • 2 footswitchable channels (footswitch included) • 12” Celestion speaker • Patent-Applied for Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) • Digital reverb with dark/bright switch • Speaker emulated output • Effects loop PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 43
EAR TRUMPET LABS Josephine Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
ar Trumpet Labs has been making great microphones with a steampunk aesthetic for years. Recently, they have re-designed their Josephine model, and while it’s not inexpensive (especially for a boutique product), it does deliver an excellent audio “picture” of whatever it’s paired with. All the external features are done in the natural finishes of the metals: brass, copper and steel. Inside, the components are high quality and handmade, making sure each part lives up to its specs. This is where a handmade item is really defined. All of this time matching and assembly does have a cost, and at $599, this is where that money goes.
Excellent for capturing natural vocals or instruments, live and studio friendly.
The large ring has a 26mm condenser capsule suspended in the center, and can handle a frequency response of 20-17Khz. Despite its seemingly delicate appearance, it’s meant for live use. It can capture a nice, natural sound that isn’t harsh while still retaining clarity and depth. For vocals, it is a bit bright, but amazingly wouldn’t feedback even when really getting on it. There is a built in pop filter as well, so there’s no need for a wind sock or any external dampening devices. For instruments, especially acoustics, it can really capture all that top end that usually has to be reined in with FOH EQ.
Mesh capsule could be a bit more robust. PRICE
Recording wise, it delivers the goods here as well. Some may think the large ring might be tough to get the capsule close to a sound source, but this mic can deliver a great sound at a distance other mikes start to lose focus. A lot of new microphones are designed with high tech sound modeling software, but the Josephine seems to capture natural sounds in a much more organic and simpler way. Condensers really excel at getting an excellent audio picture of an instrument and its environment, and this is probably the audio equivalent of a classic camera. Overall, it is a unique looking mic that has handmade quality written all over it. The only downside is the metal mesh enclosure of the capsule felt a bit thin and fragile. Ear Trumpet Labs does include an extremely nice padded metal case
to protect it during transport, but if it took a tumble against a hard stage it might not survive as well as industry standard dynamics you may be used to. A slightly stiffer mesh, like on their Edwina Microphone that we reviewed in January of 2013, might prevent such disasters. Considering it sounds so good, and its cost, a little extra protection would go a long way. Chris Devine
• Hand-made microphone with unique appearance • Capsule and electronics tuned for close vocal use on the loudest of stages with excellent feedback rejection • Internal shock dampers for minimal handling noise • Integral silk and mesh pop filter, for effective control of plosives without loss of clarity • Transformerless FET fully balanced electronics • Highest quality hand-wired electronic components, with component values tuned for the individual circuit. 44 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
etting a nice, warm sound with DAWs has always been an issue. Plug-ins don’t do it, and various preamps can help, but a tube mic can get you there, right from the start. Lauten’s LA-320 not only provides that warmth, but also isn’t in the multi thousand-dollar range. German microphones are the benchmark, in terms of design, construction and tone, and the Lauten LA-320 hits all three of these marks. The overall build quality is great, with an all metal construction. The two switches (High and Low Pass Filters) feel super solid, while providing 120Hz on the high, and 12kH on the low end. It’s a condenser with a cardioid pattern, with a max SPL of 130dB, so it can handle plenty of musical ranges, even at extreme settings.
Size-wise, it’s not ungainly, and placement on instruments like acoustic guitars is not an issue getting on the desired sound source. The 1” capsule captures all that Dual Triode goodness with a 12AX7 tube! Sound quality is amazing; the warmth and range of depth really brings out all sorts of great, musical, even order harmonics. Some may think warmth means soft, but there is still plenty of edge and attack, just none of the harshness. Any sound source loses those harsh, ear fatiguing harmonics, but still retains the punch and clarity with this mic. Compare this to a non-tube mic, and the difference is like night and day; there just seems to be “more” coming through the signal. The HPF and LPF can help tune the mic for the room, as well as the sound source, and for recording vocals this is a must (and a welcome bonus). Not having to rely on all sorts of external EQ options means more time creating and recording, and this mic can get it done right from the start.
LAUTEN AUDIO LA-320 Large-Diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone The street price is $499, and the package contains the mic, shock mount, cables, power supply, and carrying case. For singer/ songwriters looking to take demos to that “good enough for the album” sound quality, this is the simplest and most direct method. Studios should consider making room in their mic lockers, but in all reality it will probably spend more time in front of guitars, vocals, and drums than it will in its case! Chris Devine
Great price, well made, excellent sound. CONS
• 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response • Versatile cardioid pickup pattern • Independent, selectable 120Hz highpass and 12kHz lowpass filters • External power supply included PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 45
IK MULTIMEDIA T-RackS Saturator X Plug-in
he last frontier of plug-ins? Recreating the elusive subtleties of analog gear pushed to extremes and misbehaving. A perfect example is the new Saturator X, a simpleyet-multi-faceted plug-in that captures vintage vibes and adds enough modern convenience to invite frequent use. Bring in the models It all starts with IKM’s modeling of ten different types of analog circuits as found in classic gear. Which ten is anybody’s guess (as nary a hint is given), but that’s of little concern unless you’re an audio scholar. Such scholars will find Sat X covers the main categories nicely … two tape modes (one a little darker and dirtier), two mastering modes (specifically designed to pump up mixes with muscularity and heft), two tube modes (Push Pull for its crunch, Class A for its sweetness and euphony), two solid state modes (very much like the tube modes, but with more clarity and transient preservation) and finally two transformer modes (Iron and Steel, with differences in harmonic content). To kiss, or to crush? One might expect Saturator X to be an all-out signal mangler capable of extreme distortions, and that wouldn’t be wrong, per se. You can crank the input gain and get each model (except the transformer modes) to distort beyond rational needs, but that’s not Sat X’s forte … subtle saturation is. Take drums for example … all ten modules offer various degrees of density, warming and personality if used judiciously. Look at vocals too … you can easily dial in a little tube glow (IKM calls it “halo”), or emulate some sag/give only when the vocalist hits the peaks, or push input gain up until walkie talkies, elementary-school PA systems, vocals thru guitar amps and megaphones are all realistically conjured up. Too many circuits, too little time Possibly, but Sat X makes finding tones surprisingly easy. First off, there’s wisely only ten modes … the versatility lies in the use of the input gain and output level controls. They are slaved together (can be separated) to achieve a consistent volume level (as you raise gain, output level lowers in proportion) and an output Limiter prevents nasty digital “overs.” Advanced users will delight in a Mid-Side mode and Oversampling (affects clarity and grit). There are also facilities to store four of your own created presets and quickly jump between them for difficult decisions -- a time saving factor that is way more important than you might realize.
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In good company As a frequent user of competing products (both hard and software), I can say that Sat X does capture the non-linear behavior of hardware and provide a speedy workf low. That said, a few more features would take SatX into “best of market” territory … more metering than the Magic Eye provides, an adjustable low-pass-filter to smooth out treble response and a mix control to blend dry and saturated signals NY-style (aka parallel processing).
crunch, or beefing up your drum busses with transformer fullness, or adding gravitas to the whole mix with a mastering setting. At $79 direct, Sat X looks like an easy way to simulate a large rack full of analog gear and abuse it into pure artistry, all without fear of blown fuses, high maintenance costs or frying valuable collectibles.
Nonetheless, your band and/or clients will appreciate Sat X on some level, whether it’s modernizing a bass guitar DI track with tube
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Catalyst Recording in Charlotte, NC. Visit them at www. catalystrecording.com
Captures vintage vibes, simple to use, lots of sonic possibilities. CONS
Would be nice to have more metering and an adjustable low-pass filter. PRICE
Interested? Try out the unrestricted 14-day demo and get down-n’-dirty, or should I say saturated.
Pinned as “the next big thing” by Girls’ Life Magazine, 13-year-old Juliana Wilson holds an introspective command for knowledge beyond her years. With content unique as it is relatable, Juliana’s visual storytelling sets the scene for any listener by combining universal narratives with conceptual standpoints through every song. Unbridled by pre-conceived notions and in possession of an advanced instinct, the recently introduced Juliana Wilson is an artist whose voice will solely build the path.
MY FAVORITE AXE
MAKE & MODEL
2015 Custom Kanile’a K1 Tenor Ukulele WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
It’s pretty special because it’s one-of-a-kind. It’s not like my cello, acoustic guitar, or other ukes that I’ve purchased through stores. It still smells like fresh wood which makes me want to pick it up constantly...and smell it. I have a purple silk ribbon tied in a bow on the headstock; I saw Dodie Clark do something similar, and I thought it looked awesome. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
Silky and smooth like a tenor should be. I seem to gravitate towards the way it plays compared to a baritone or my sopranos. CAN BE HEARD ON
We have ukulele on two songs that I’ve recorded so far on my upcoming album. It can also be heard on my Instagram covers at @julianawilson__ Follow online at julianawilson.com on Facebook at facebook.com/julianawilsonmusic and on Twitter @julianawilson__
MY FAVORITE AXE
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
WILSON courtesy of 825 Records, Inc. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016 47
The AKG C-24 is a stereo condenser microphone. These microphones were manufactured in the 1950s and have been discontinued for many years. It incorporates two microphone systems that operate on separate outputs and was designed completely for studio use. It was used on many large-scale recordings, such as orchestral and choral work. The C-24 is known for its completely natural sound. HOW IT’S USED
If used correctly, this beauty can record almost anything. While it does a great job on large-scale recordings, it has many other applications. Use it on piano, acoustic guitar, and even vocals. Find the sweet spot in your room while recording drums and this microphone will blow you away. INTERESTING FEATURES
Can’t get much more interesting than this microphone. Not only does it offer omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8 patterns, the capsules can also be rotated 180 degrees from one another. PROMINENT SONGS
While this microphone was used on many famous records, a major song it was featured on was Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.” Though the C-24 is stereo, just the top capsule was used to record her vocal. MODERN EQUIVALENT
There really is no modern equivalent. AKG has developed a number of other stereo microphones throughout the years, but they’re just not the same. LESSONS LEARNED
1950 ‘s AKG C-24 STEREO CONDENSER MICROPHONE 48 AUGUST 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Engineering is an incredibly creative job. The modern recording engineer can learn how to be extra creative using the C-24. There are unlimited applications for this microphone. Experiment with its many patterns to discover its realistic and innovative qualities. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Boullianne is a studio manager and a full-time engineer. He loves long walks on the beach and creating music. Check out Andrew’s Instagram @drewboull10 and thelalamansion.com to see the studio that he works in.
get into your
The Element Series acoustic guitars are the most refined, well-appointed instruments Mitchell has ever created. Stunning flamed maple binding, shifted scalloped X-bracing and rubbed satin finishes provide a striking look and warm woody tone. Available with onboard Fishman® electronics, in dreadnought and auditorium style, there’s an Element guitar for every player.
ME1 • Dreadnought • Solid spruce top • Sapele back/sides
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AT2020 USBi CARDIOID CONDENSER USB MICROPHONE (24-bit/96 kHz) Expanding on its line of studio-quality USB microphones, Audio-Technica introduces the AT2020USBi, a digital output mic that delivers high-resolution (24-bit/96 kHz) audio reproduction along with the flexibility of both USB and Lightning connections. So now you can record professional-grade digital audio, with extended frequency response and exquisite articulation, on your choice of PC, Mac or iOS device. AT2020USBi cardioid condenser: state-of-the-art sound for the on-the-go lifestyle. audio-technica.com INCLUDES
Lightningâ„¢ Cable for Apple iOS
USB Cable for Mac and PC
Featuring Tobacco, Diarrhea Planet, Ages and Ages, Zig Zags and more...