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JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Kicks his past to the curb and takes a fresh approach to the studio
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6
Justin Townes Earle by Heidi Schmitt
4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Evil Dead 2 Soundtrack
Trevor Sensor by Zach Schwaller
6. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Fallow Land
7. Live from Boston Calling 8. Sex, Music, and APIs 10. Royalty Exchange Info for Today’s Musician
30. How to Hot-Rod Your Strat For Under $20 34. STUDIO TEST: Audio-Technica
by Wilhelmina Heyward
36. GEAR REVIEWS: Sennheiser, Ampeg, Samson, Taylor Guitars and more…
47. MY FAVORITE AXE: Dick Rubin of MINKA
48. FLASHBACK: Vintage Sony C-37A Microphone
Waxwork Records by Benjamin Ricci
Joshua Black Wilkins
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Ciao, y’all! If you know me at all, you know I get on little kicks from time to time. As in, I’ll totally stumble headfirst into the void of a certain topic that mildly piques my interest, and lose myself for about three months obsessing over said topic, doing nothing but falling down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole to immerse myself in everything even remotely related to the subject. My latest black hole of self-discovery? I have become obsessed with Italian prog rock from the ’70s. I suppose it all began after digging out a few of my old Goblin soundtracks from a handful of Dario Argento films, and then things snowballed from there. It worries me, this level of obsession. Do I have all the original PFM albums? Who has the better Minimoog sound, Banco or Le Orme? Do I prefer those PFM records in their original Italian, or the re-recorded English versions? I lose sleep over this shit, just ask my wife. I guess what I’m driving at is that I’m glad that music still has the power to drive this much passion in me, as unhealthy and misguided as it may be sometimes. In reality, my brain knows no one needs to lose sleep
over where Osanna ranks in the pantheon of prog’s forefathers. But my gut tells me this shit matters; this shit is important to every fiber of my being. So, when I interview bands and they relay the same degree of mania when it comes to their own music, not only do I share a knowing wink to my fellow obsessives, but it usually tells me that their music has layers of meaning that deserve to be peeled, as Donkey so eloquently put it, like an onion. One such artist, though I didn’t interview him personally, whose music is generously laced with layers and meaning, is our cover star Justin Townes Earle (nice ham-fisted segue, eh?). Fresh off a new album, the songwriter has weathered many personal storms to come out on the other side. And we’re better off for it. We chat with him this month about the new record, and how his past has played a part in his new life, his art and the sense of peace he’s made with the world. Enjoy. Or should I say, “divertiti!” Benjamin Ricci, editor
Volume 27, Issue 6 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 EDITOR
Benjamin Ricci email@example.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION
Bob Dobalina firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Andrew Boullianne, Benjamin Ricci, Brian Strean, Andrew Kesler, Angelo Merendino, Chris Devine, Heidi Schmitt, Matt Lambert, Michael St. James, Rob Tavaglione, Wilhelmina Heyward, Zach Schwaller CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Matt Lambert, Jaclyn Campanaro, Joshua Black Wilkins, Ben Rouse, Solomon Thomas ADVERTISING SALES
PS – for the record, Banco has a better Minimoog sound, and a better back catalog in general. In particular, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of their album Io sono nato libero for a top-tier example of what those wacky Italians were up to in the fabled “Me” decade. And since I can’t help myself, grab a copy of Per Un Amico by PFM while you’re at it. And Roller by Goblin. And Zarathustra by Museo Rosenbach. Damnit, what time is it? Looks like I’ve lost track of the hour, I should really get some sleep…
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com © 2017 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.
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?”
REVIEWS EVIL DEAD II Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Waxwork Records)
actually got a vinyl release back in the day (albeit it a limited run), but was stoked to put this on the turntable and cue up the opening suite, “Behemoth.” In stark contrast to the synthesizerheavy horror soundtracks dominating the low-budget landscape of the post-slasher era, composer Joseph LoDuca eschews the “go-to” polysynth staples of the day, instead opting for a fully realized orchestral score – one that happens to sound downright fantastic (and never dated) on this new issue.
Their latest treasure is a re-issue of the Evil Dead 2 soundtrack, now celebrating its 30th Anniversary. I was a bit surprised to learn this
Pressed on heavy blood-n-mud colored vinyl (also available in Oldsmobile yellow), the sonic quality of this Waxwork release is stunning at times. The full body of the orchestra hits you in the chest, and quiet passages (the middle half of Side A, for example, with light piano movements, strings and vocal hushes) aren’t hindered with surface noise or pops, making for crystal clear, full-fidelity listening with an impressive dynamic
a x w o r k Records has made a name for themselves in two separate, yet equally obsessive realms: the vinyl community and the horror community. As a card-carrying member of both myself, the label is the stuff dreams are made of. Lovingly restoring long-lost horror soundtracks from the original vault tapes, transferring them to vinyl and presenting their releases in elaborate, fanapproved deluxe new vinyl editions – I mean, what more could you want?
range and soundstage. As if the audiophile-approved quality of the release wasn’t enough to sell you, the fantastic packaging should put you over the edge. A classic, hard-card gatefold cover with newly commissioned artwork rounds out the package, along with a 12”x12” color lithograph of Ash fighting of some of the undead. Classic, and highly recommended. You’re a complete Deadite if you don’t cop this one before it goes out of print.
LEARN MORE at waxworkrecords.com
Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 5
RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
With Fallow Land
WHIT FINEBERG'S PICKS Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003) One of the first records I listened to that I still enjoy today. I remember hearing “A Wolf at the Door” for the first time while watching my brother play Warcraft III. In my opinion, Radiohead is the most influential band since the Beatles.
Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003) This was my first foray into emo, though I didn’t realize it at the time. This record is the perfect marriage between good songwriting and quality production. It opened my mind up to listening to earlier, ’90s emo, which has greatly influenced my music.
American Football – s/t (1999) This was the first album on the iPod that my brother gave me. I remember listening to “Never Meant” on a plane ride to my grandmother’s house and being blown away by the interweaving melodies and Steve Lamos’ drumming, which was my first taste of mixed meter.
EVAN VEASEY'S PICKS Beck – Sea Change (2002) I got into this record around my freshman year of high school and it hit me like a ton of bricks. These were some of the most desolate, beautifully heartbreaking songs I had ever heard. This record taught me that you can wear your heart on your sleeve and still make music that isn’t cheesy, but is in fact really powerful.
Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966) I got into this record really late, just a little over a year ago, but hearing it completely changed the way I approach arrangement and composition. Before I heard this record, I thought the Beach Boys were just a dated pop band that wrote 6 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Tori Essex Whit Fineberg: “With the help of my older brother, I wrote my first song when I was five. Starting in middle school I played in various bands - my first serious band was Bad Television. I played with them for several years, before we temporarily disbanded right before the creation of Fallow Land. Fallow Land has been a great opportunity to experiment. The ability level of the musicians involved allows me to write more complex music. Our debut EP, Pinscher, came out in June.”
Follow the band on Twitter @fallow_land about surfing and cars, but now I think of them as one of the most important groups of the 20th Century. This record is unbelievable.
guitar player, Nels Cline. I think this record taught me that it’s possible to be virtuosic and tasteful at the same time.
The Stooges –Fun House (1970)
Pavement - Wowee Zowee (1995)
My dad actually got me into this one. This is some of the dirtiest, toughest, and angriest music out there, especially for its time period. When I was twelve and I first heard this record, it made me feel dangerous. Looking back, I was just a privileged suburban white kid, listening to a 40-year-old record my dad used to listen to…but at least it got me into punk music and showed me the value of a little swagger.
This is the one that means the most to me out. It taught me that music doesn’t have to be any one thing. This record is goofy at times, angry at others, and also wistful and sad. This record has the some of best lyrics ever written, and the mystery of these songs still fascinates and perplexes me even years after I first heard them.
Wilco - A Ghost is Born (2004) This is another one from that 12-14 age range. This record continues to teach me about improvisation, production, and songwriting. Not to mention, it exposed me to my all-time favorite
Evan Veasey: “I started playing when I was 9 years old…music was basically all that I did. When other kids were outside playing football, I was in my room practicing or listening to records. Being a more introverted kid, music helped me find a way to relate to the world around me and connect with other people.”
Cage The Elephant
Boston Calling 2017
Harvard Athletic Complex / May 26-28, 2017
he first Boston Calling festival held at its new location sprawled across 16 acres of the Harvard Athletic Complex and more or less successfully transformed two stages around Boston’s City Hall Plaza into three stages. The first band we caught was indie rock outfit Car Seat Headrest, led by the straight mod style of Will Toledo, who performed a solid set on the festival’s Blue Stage. North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso played shortly after across the field. It provided a late afternoon Friday dance party for all in attendance. As the sun went down, Bon Iver powered through a somber, electronic-tinged set. The only rain of the night was as Icelandic postrockers Sigur Rós graced the stage with their presence. They had one of the most elaborate stage set ups, a star-studded backdrop that shone over a fence, which shielded them from the crowd during the first song. The rain added a majestic element to the trio and their galactic-like stage. Ending the night after the rain was Chance the Rapper.
First band up on Saturday was Boston-born rapper Cousin Stizz. He created a buzz earlier in 2016 around town when he sold out the 933 capacity Paradise Rock Club. Tegan and Sara played an energetic and fun set around blow up figures of T & S, helping to identify which twin was on each side of the stage. Mac Demarco played a laid back, chill sort of set while still keeping an upbeat tempo. He even made some fans’ lives by inviting them on stage with him. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats were the certified cool cats of the weekend with their matching Night Sweat jackets. The XX filled the Red Stage with their mix of rock and electronica and The 1975 headlined the Blue Stage with a purple set that could have passed as a tribute to the late Prince. Sunday brought Massachusetts pop-punk band The Hotelier, followed by Hiss Golden Messenger across the complex. NYC’s Mitski was next, leading her band with a heavier twist on a singer-songwriter style of performance. The heaviest set of the day, though, came via
Boston’s own Converge, who primed the crowd up for their pals and fellow Bostonians Piebald. In between, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit impressed the audience with their brand of authentic rock and roll. Following them was the colorful Wolf Parade, who took more of a slight pop approach to their setlist. Major Lazer brought the dance party, pyrotechnics and human hamster ball that Diplo climbed in over the crowd, to close out the Red Stage. The ground was shaking during their set. Capping off the weekend was the grand finale set from Tool. Their tremendous stage presence highlighted the entire festival experience. Maynard James Keenan, decked out in riot gear, swayed toward the back of the stage by the drum kit but he was heard throughout the whole festival grounds. It certainly was a lot of back and forth to catch all the action, but Boston Calling 2017 was worth all the extra walking. For more, visit www.bostoncalling.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 7
SEX, MUSIC, A THE NEW ROC
had to include the word “Sex” in the title or you’d never read this terrific article about APIs and music tech, and that’s a problem. Why? Well, music tech is the music industry now, and just like you learned to email your fans, or how to post a concert event, or even why stage volume is important, you must learn more about music tech to survive going forward. Don’t worry, I’m not going to unpack everything about music tech here, my editor would kill me (YAWN!). But I am going to breakdown what may be the most important and widely used tool, and why you should care.
API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface. It’s a software or script that communicates by delivering requests 8 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
, AND APIs – OCKSTAR to another system and then returning results automatically based on rules and protocols. The reason for this is that humans couldn’t possibly take every request as a ticket item, search the database, and then email back the information requested. I can see your eyes glazing over.
Here’s a dead simple example of an API. At a restaurant (software developer), you have a limited menu offering (rules). You and your table guests (clients) order burgers, some with extra cheese, some without onions (options), and the waiter goes to the kitchen (database server) and then delivers that burger to you, as ordered. The waiter, who took your order, wrote it in a way the kitchen can understand, delivered those directives, and then returned it back to you, is the API. Got it yet? Another: If you are viewing this on the web, you will see “Like this? Share this!” under the article and the option to share on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Each one of those buttons are based on an API by each one of those developers, making it easy for you to indirectly access their service. When you click that button, the API automatically fills in the post box based on structure and rules, connects to those services, checks to see that you are logged in, then allows the system to post on your behalf, conforming to the rules of the platform you are sending to. That’s pretty freakin’ Rockstar to me. So, let’s go further. When you upload your song or album to DistroKid or CD Baby, they do not forward an email with your songs attached to Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and the countless other services. No, they use an enterprise-level API to connect and populate using rules and specifications for things such as artwork, file format, names, titles, metadata, and more. In fact, DistroKid uses many external APIs to automate much of the process. In this way, a service like Spotify or Apple Music can “interact” with many clients at once, while keeping a streamlined structure. The same API also reports back information such as number of plays or purchases. This is how parties know who owns a song, who gets paid what, and how your songs are tracked in a billionplays-a-minute world.
Here’s a deep example: Loudr is a company that licenses cover songs and provides payment and tracking for mechanical royalties. It matches sound recordings and metadata, and is used by distributors as way to track royalties and manage other information. How? By API, of course. They have just updated their API and it is the company’s latest step in advancing the “once quiet music business niche of mechanical licensing.” For a long time, compulsory licensing of mechanicals relied on hugely inefficient Notice of Intents (NOIs) being sent to possible rights holders. This version adds features that make it easier to find, manage, and link musical compositions and their owners. It even calculates royalties for clients based on their specific parameters, automatically. Loudr is also making an impressive move into machine learning by pulling together the disparate pieces of music ownership data and tuning a system to intelligently parse, categorize, and organize that data so that it can be returned as usable metadata to clients who then share it with you in your CD Baby or DistroKid dashboard. If you’re confused, don’t worry, I’m going to simplify it further for you.
APIs = Money. APIs save you time, money, and streamline your music career. APIs mean money (royalty and sales payments) to you, your publisher, PROs, and your co-writers. APIs are how you know you got 1,000,000 plays, which songs got more, and from what countries. APIs enable you to quickly and legally cover a song, and distribute it to the world in the same week. APIs are the Rockstars doing the hard work for you and those who are repping your music; they are on the frontlines counting, collecting, reporting, and sharing. Which leaves you more time for music…and sex, of course. 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/SEPTEMBER 2017 9
ROYALTY EXCHANG INCOME OPPS FOR S
Royalty Exchange’s CFO Jeff Schneider, Chief of Staff Gary Young and CEO Matt Smith (left to right).
s a songwriting musician who has earned income from composing, custom songs, jingles and scoring ... I haven’t felt the love too much lately. Despite groundbreaking changes in seemingly every aspect of the music business, I often feel like the monetizingcreator’s-works aspect is growing worse, with piracy, declining wages and seemingly endless competition. So, it comes as a pleasant surprise when modern advances in technology actually begin to earn musicians more income and control of their futures ... case in point, Royalty Exchange. Formed in 2013, but hitting full stride in 2016, Royalty Exchange aims to connect 10 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
musical creators with investors, who compete via auction to win whatever portion of royaltyearning rights the artist has for sale up on the block. Says RE’s Director of Communications Antony Bruno, “While many of the offers in our marketplace are for the songwriter’s share of performance royalties, it’s not limited to just that. We’ve done full publishing catalogs, sound recording royalties, sync royalties, neighboring rights, and so on. We can work with any type of music royalty.” Investors purchase portions of these song’s rights in perpetuity ... A-list artist or not, many of these songs are truly and deeply popular, have been that way for a long time and are going to stay
that way ... the royalties generated by these gems may not seem like “big money” at first glance, but they remain steady performers year in and year out, through thick and thin ... so (believe it or not) music can actually make for quite a predictable, steady and “sure thing” investment! The word is out and investors are snatching up musical opportunity at some pretty healthy rates. We measure this by comparing last year’s royalty earnings to the final selling price, finding “the multiple.” “Over the last year, the average multiple for commercial music was 6x, but in the last few months that average has gotten closer to 8x.
We’ve seen some auctions close for over 10x,” continues Bruno. Sounds like fertile ground for both investors and musicians to me. Battle-worn musicians may naturally bring a little skepticism to the table, but the terms seem more than reasonable and non-exploitive. There are no upfront fees, fees aren’t due until payments have cleared, rates are predetermined prior to auction and the investors are indeed “silent partners” (there are no artistic ties or hidden influences). It appears that any genre whatsoever is viable and any artist earning about $2500 per year or higher from their work has enough juice to get in the game, but obviously longer (and particularly
stable) track records will earn top dollar. RE, in addition to having a post-modern concept, with the transparency and ease of involvement that modern consumers demand, is also enabling investments with rare value ... a cool factor. Say you had some extra funds to work with; do you want to buy into boring pork bellies, some sleazy Wells Fargo stock, or half the performance royalties from your alltime-favorite rock anthem! Considering that the epic song may be more likely to survive the next downturn than some market-dependent financial instrument and you can see why this is an idea whose time has come. David Bowie may have pioneered the concept with his
NGE PROVIDES NEW R SONGWRITERS
bonds, but RE seems to have the egalitarian, everyman’s response to the ever-inventive and innovative Bowie. If you’re curious, go to royaltyexchange.com and check out the action. It’s interesting to see which artists have current auctions, what their rights are going for and what price past auctions finished at. Interesting no doubt, but it doesn’t have to be a spectator sport ... if you’ve got winners in your catalog and need some cash, then this is an opportunity to earn exactly (and learn exactly) what the value of your material is on the open market, with no strings attached and you calling the shots. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 11
Capturing the Gritty, Sonic Roots of the Midwest
TREVOR SENSOR Zach Schwaller
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SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 13
I do think art’s job is to motivate the culture in a certain direction.
revor Sensor just dropped his debut album, Andy Warhol’s Dream on Jagjaguwar, a Midwestern-mishmash of dust-bowl anthems, acoustic ruminations and Melloncamp-inspired chutzpah. We sat down with the young artist to get inside his head, and explore his creative process. Is there any line between your life and your art? Oh, sure - I mean, the art is influenced by things that happen in my life or things that I observe. But, the thing that’s really important is: there has to be a separation. People shouldn’t really give a shit about who I am as a person. Or try to read into my life or anything like that when they’re listening to the songs - because there’s a separation factor. Unfortunately, today we live in a culture that is celebrity obsessed. If for some God-forsaken reason my stuff ever took off, y’know, I fear people would be more obsessed with what I’m doing than my work. And the thing is - is it’s the work that matters. I think Sufjan Stevens just did an interview where he put it so perfectly: “The work ultimately outlives the vessel of the work” and that’s the truth of it. 14 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Even Hillary Clinton didn’t talk about legislation. She just mud-slang Trump. I mean, [she] called him every name in the book and he still won. There’s a danger right now you know, we’re kind of in a cultural stupor. I do think art’s job is to motivate the culture in a certain direction. People, for example, don’t want to watch films that challenge them or think too hard they wanna see... ‘Well, I know Ghostbusters - so I’m gonna go watch the Ghostbusters reboot’ or ‘I know Spider-Man so I’ll watch the 7th Spider-Man movie.’ And it’s the art industry’s job to get their mind off of profits and start to think: what’s my responsibility to society? My responsibility to society is, yes I have to run a business, yes I have to make money - but I don’t think they understand clearly enough that they control what people like. If tomorrow all the mainstream media outlets said that ‘Sufjan Stevens is the greatest songwriter of the generation - everybody should go buy his records’ I guarantee you the record sales would go up. But even then, it’s like, I don’t know if it saves America or not -- I don’t know what saves America or the cultural west or anything like that. It just seems like now we’re living in a very hedonistic entertainmentdrenched culture and people are frankly more so obsessed with beautiful people (and vicariously
living through them) than we are about becoming individuals and having our own thoughts and critically thinking about things. I just know it seems like from history artists like Andy Warhol or William S. Burroughs or other people have influenced the culture (at least of recent history) and things changed because of that. And I think everybody’s stuck up in dogmatic crap right now between mainstream pop and the indie world...I’m breaking away from all this. Setting forth a new way that’s willing to really impact the culture - not just play to my little compartmentalized indie culture or the mainstream pop culture. Does that make sense? That was a bit rambly. You have this backlog of 70 songs. I’m curious you have a song written, do you have multiple musical versions of individual songs? And then, within that, how do you choose the right one, or how do you take this abstract idea of these words and this sound and then have this final record realized? That’s a great question. How my writing process goes is - I have all these demos - they aren’t professionally recorded, and it’s just me and one instrument and some experimental crap I’ll throw in Garage Band or something - but they all have an essence to them. I never sit down and say ‘I’m gonna write songs,’ the song just comes to me, and has this essence to it, I just know it has a certain vibe to it, and my job is to properly form that to fit the essence of that song. If I were to try and make “High Beams” into a reggae song - that would just not be correct. It would not fit the essence of that song. When you get in the studio though, and you start forming an album - there’s a basic idea that you should go into it like, ‘What do I want to do here?’ I have it all in my head - but like any piece of art, what’s in my head, and what’s put out in the world is going to change. Because
If you get in a good room with some good people, usually some magic can happen.
whatever’s in my head isn’t going to be duplicated out in the tangible world for people to hear, so my best job is to try and mimic that (what’s in my head) when I’m in the studio, actually recording it. As for selecting songs, I just pick songs that go together as if they were a film, or a novel. I mean, this album has songs from different eras of songwriting on it. It’s not like I just wrote a bulk of work and said, ‘There’s the record.’ I went through my catalog and said, ‘These are the songs that fit together for a type of thematic thing that I’m trying to go for.’ Not to say this record is concept record, at all, but there are themes that are there that fit together properly, and sonically they have to flow properly to make it a good album.
Can music save America? Ha! Well.. so, a lot of people are in this battleground of politics right now, right? You go on your Twitter feed or anywhere, I mean we have ... leftists basically all over the place trying to take down the right because the right-wingers hold all the power right now. But I think there are things that run so much deeper than politics - I think politics are kind of an insight into what the deeper issues are - y’know, like this last election was more about entertainment and mudslinging, than it was about ideology or legislation.
Sometimes in the process of execution, things change; if you get in a good room with some good people, usually some magic can happen. And if you keep mixing the different types of people that you’re with - you’ll get different results every time. So that’s basically how I go about it - all these songs have core essences to them and the whole song is playing out in my head in all parts like an orchestra or something, and then I try and bring it out in the world the best I can to fit to my idea and these essences that I want. It sounds a little abstract when I put it like that. It’s never like I have five different ways to make a song; I usually know the direction the song wants to be recorded and performed.
Follow on Twitter: @trevorsensor
TREVOR SENSOR ANDY WARHOL’S DREAM STANDOUT TRACK: “HIGH BEAMS”
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On Channeling Emotional Freedom Into His Musical Landscape
DAVE DEPPER Jaclyn Campanaro
hile staving off a sore throat with some tea, Death Cab for Cutie’s Dave Depper talks about his journey as a musician in various bands to writing his own music, with the release of his new album, Emotional Freedom Technique on Portland’s Tender Loving Empire. Why now, are you starting to write your own music? I guess my origin story is that all of this happened kind of by accident. I never really intended to be a musician or touring musician, or anything like that, but one thing lead to another. Basically, I moved to Portland in 2003, and I always loved music, I’ve always played music, but I didn’t really do anything with it. And, just randomly I bought an organ off this guy and it turns out he ran a record label, that was Hush. He asked if I played bass and I said yes, even though I didn’t, and I joined his band. We recorded an album at a recording studio and the engineer liked my bass playing and asked if I would join his band and that band took me on my first tours and I kept meeting people…anyway, so you get the idea.
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It kind of just snowballed into stuff and then, you know, like all freelance kind of things, it’s who you know and word of mouth and one thing led to another, which all accumulated to getting asked to join Death Cab for Cutie. That was the single most surprising thing to happen to me, and here I am. The whole time I was touring, I was really interested in creating my own music, but it’s like, nothing felt authentically mine. Every time I would sit down to write a song I just felt like, why does this song need to exist, I have nothing to say. About five years ago, some friends and I decided to play the twenty-song game, where you and a few friends commit to writing twenty songs in twelve hours and you get together and you listen to each other’s songs and critique them. It’s this insane thing where you’re put into this totally frenetic head space of like, no ideas can be thrown out because you have so little time to work on any of these songs. You just have to go, “first thought, best thought.” So, I did the game and I got to seventeen songs, and most of them were terrible. But a couple synth pop songs sort of appeared and when we were all
listening, everyone’s heads kind of cocked and we’re all like, “Whoa, what’s that? I didn’t expect that from you, you’re a guitar player,” and all of a sudden, I realized this is the music I was meant to make. I love listening to synth pop, I love the Pet Shop Boys, I love Air, I love Caribou, and I decided to pick up that thread. And I’ve been on the road for most of the time over the past four or five years, but I kind of worked on it on and off, alternately abandoning and hating it, starting over and that kind of thing. But eventually about a year ago, I finally managed to finish it. Let’s talk about what’s next, your new album. What you are trying to convey on Emotional Freedom Technique, as a solo artist? Hmm, I guess, lyrically it’s a bit of a concept record about this period in my life that hopefully has come to a bit of a close. But it began with the demise of this very big relationship in my life and right around then, I started touring a bunch and instead of maybe properly recovering or healing from that, I went into this very strange world of being in a different city all the time and meeting different women in different cities, and dating long distance and all this stuff. Really losing sight of what I wanted out of love or relationships.
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‘‘I had never had free reign to translate what I was hearing in my head to something on a record.’’
So, the album is sort of a self-indulgent meditation on some specific experiences I had with some people or kind of general feelings I have about the whole thing. I mean, the first song kind of lays it out. I had been dating someone and we were breaking up and she was just kind of exasperated and said, “Do you even want love?” and I just said, “I don’t even know what that means anymore.” And it was just a part of this long kind of break up discussion. But thinking back on it, I was just like wow, that’s a really intense thing to think. It sort of just became the thesis statement of the whole record, I guess, which is why it’s the first song on it. So, lyrically that’s where it’s at. Musically, it’s kind of a weird hybrid of “dude learning how to make a record all by himself in his bedroom” and “the joy of discovering how to translate the songs in my head to actual sounds on a record” - combined with wanting to make my dream electronic dance pop record, and not quite getting there but getting to something else that I really like in the process. It sounded like a lot of the songwriting happened on the road, is that right? What was your songwriting process for this record? Well, I’d say the songs didn’t get written on the road, they got written in between being on the road. I can’t write at all on the road. My brain goes into this really primordial, primitive state where all I can think about is what meal is next, or when I’m going to the gym, or whatever. It’s weird, and a lot of touring musicians I talk to feel the same way. It sort of lobotomizes you while you’re out there. I don’t know why, but I just can’t write on the road. So, I kind of wrote the music in the fleeting moments I was home. The process was PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 19
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interesting, it kind of evolved in stages. So, when I first played that twenty-song game, I was really excited by the sonic possibilities. I had never had free reign to translate what I was hearing in my head to something on a record, so I just carried away making all these songs without lyrics. And then when it came time to write lyrics, I found that I still didn’t know what I wanted to say. I would listen back on them and just kind of be unconvinced. I played them for other people and get those polite responses, when you can tell you’re not quite getting there. Yeah, the album kind of existed like that for the first couple years and one day, I wrote... I just sat down and the last song on the record just kind of poured out of me. And the reaction that I got for that from friends that I respect was totally different. I realized right then, this is what I need to be doing. This is what’s going to make me feel better. I mean, because I immediately felt this almost therapeutic joy and relief in having made that song. And I thought the whole record should be that way. So, I made this rule that every song would be an honest snapshot of my feelings regarding this scenario that I
told you about. And I wouldn’t say that the rest of the songs came easily, but once I came up with that as sort of the concept for the record, and using that song as a signpost, the rest filled itself in. Sure, it became sort of a cathartic experience for you? Totally, and that’s part of why the album is called Emotional Freedom Technique. I didn’t come up with that phrase, but when I heard it, and I was trying to come up with the name of the record, I was like, “that’s it” because making this record was my emotional freedom technique. As cheesy as that sounds, I’m in a different place in my life now, having made this record, than I was before. And I’m grateful for that part of the process. So, when can we expect to see you play the album live? What I have on the books right now are a Portland show and a Seattle show after the album releases. And I just got added to Bumbershoot in Seattle, which I’m stoked about. So, I’m just waiting to see how people are wanting to hear the album live and where they want to hear it... I’m excited to start playing these songs [on the road].
DAVE DEPPER EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE STANDOUT TRACK: “COMMUNICATION” PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 21
How a Pair of Vinyl Junkies Decided to Breathe New Life into Long-Lost Horror Soundtracks
RESURRECT THE UNDEA WAXWORK
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CTING EAD WITH K RECORDS
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e recently caught up with Waxwork Records founder Kevin Bergeron, to chat about how his love for vinyl and ’80s horror led to a never-ending quest to unearth lost gems for modern audiences. Along with his co-founder and partner in crime, Suzy Soto, the team scours the globe for the best tape sources and vault materials, sometimes digging up scores that have either never been commercially released, or haven’t been heard in their entirety in decades. One such treasure is the new 30th Anniversary deluxe vinyl re-issue of the Evil Dead 2 score, which you can read more about out as our “vinyl of the month” selection back on page 5. So, without further ado, ghouls and boys, let’s get into it… How did Waxwork Records get started? We launched in 2013 – there was a good six months of preparation and planning that went into our first record, which was Re-Animator. Basically, it all started in Christmas of 2012, when Suzy bought me a stack of records. In that stack was a lot of soundtracks, both old and modern releases. And we were going through them, and we decided it would be cool if we could try our hand in starting a record label 24 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
that specializes in releasing film scores on vinyl. To differentiate us from other labels that were doing it at that time, we decided ti release the most deluxe soundtracks available on vinyl. That means sourcing the original master tapes, really just playing detective to find them, transfer them, getting liner notes from people who were directly involved in the movie, like the composer or director…and getting [newly-commissioned] artwork from current artists. Did you have a background in releasing music? Or was this just a passion project? I played in various bands over the years, so I’ve already had experience with releasing vinyl. And I had just come off a band break up – we were working hard for five years straight, touring, recording, releasing vinyl…So, it was kind of this nice segue going from a band to starting a record label. I was building off the steam from my last band, and we just launched one project after another, and it’s been great. Can you walk me through the process of how you choose what to release and how you track down the original master tapes? And perhaps what the rights process looks like
for some of the more obscure stuff? It’s always a mixed bag. No two projects are the same. So, when finding the music and licensing it, it’s like I said earlier – it’s kind of like playing detective. We have to track down where these masters are located; it’s a lot of phone calls and emails, and reaching out to family members of the composer if he’s passed away. It’s one of these things where in the beginning, it took a little bit of extra effort because we were trying to get ourselves established. We had to put ourselves out there – we didn’t have a track record or anything. It wasn’t until we started releasing stuff with major studios, like Paramount, where we found the master tapes to Rosemary’s Baby in Australia. It was already on the table to do a re-issue of the soundtrack, as it was in 1968. But that’s not our style. You know, those digital files are already available, but we wanted to release the actual score. We wanted to find the original tapes, do it deluxe, and really going for it. Like for Creepshow and Day of the Dead, we found those tapes stuffed in an attic in Pittsburgh, of all places. They had just been sitting there for 30 years. In terms of licensing, a lot of it is a matter of finding where the rights holders are now, because
SPOTLIGHT a lot of times the rights aren’t with the composer or the studio anymore, or the [original company] has gone out of business. Sometimes, it’s maybe someone who co-produced the film or even a family member. So, it’s a lot of research…probably more than any sane person would normally do [laughs]. What was the most difficult project you’ve worked on? Honestly, it’s funny because you’d think it would be a really old title. But it was Trick ’R Treat (2007), our sixth release ever. That one took a long time even though it’s a modern movie and everyone [involved] is still working, still kicking around Hollywood. That one took a long time in particular because we don’t do anything the easy way [laughs]. We found the tapes and decided it would be cool to include a spooky soundtrack record. The movie is already tied into Halloween, and we had all this extra material because we were working form the master tapes. So, we had effects, and audio stems, and wanted to create an additional LP of sound effects, which took a lot of work but it ended up being a killer release. Do you find you often have to do a lot of restoration work when you find the tapes? What sort of condition are they in –
especially some of the older ones? Well, every one of our releases is remastered. No matter if it’s a modern release or something older, we give the master tapes a lot of love. Sometimes there needs to be new mixing, but definitely every release is remastered specifically for vinyl. And sometimes they’re in various states of disrepair, and we have to go to work and basically do surgery on them. We’re working on a few releases right now, and these two titles were never intended to be released commercially. So, the masters were just thrown around for the past 35 years, kept in attics and basements, but we located them and we were able to restore them. We baked them and transferred them very delicately, because these things can fall apart. Some of the soundtracks you’ve done seem to be first time releases. Is that one of your missions, to release work that hasn’t seen the light of day before? We love releasing stuff for the very first time – a lot of our work, like the complete, full soundtrack to Day of the Dead or Creepshow, these had never been released. They’ve just been sitting there for years. So, we love that; although we do re-issues, as well. Like Evil Dead 2, there actually was a 1987 release. If you can find an original pressing, it’s really
expensive, though. Which brings me to another point – if we do re-issue something, we make sure it’s worth it to the fans. For example, if you can find an original pressing of Tourist Trap on vinyl, it’ll be like $100 or more. What we try to do is offer something even better than that, better than the original to make it worthwhile and more cost-effective for the true fans. So, our deluxe version has not only been remastered with new artwork, but it can be had for like 25 bucks. What would be your dream project to work on? There are some passion projects we’re working on right now, but Taxi Driver was definitely the one for me. The second disc of that is the film score, which had never been released on vinyl. We found the master tapes, and we worked with the studio closely on that one. They allowed us to re-release the original soundtrack from 1976, but because I’m a pain in the butt, I asked about the actual film score, too. And we were able to transfer the tapes, and release that, as well. That was like the holy grail; it was Bernard Herrmann’s last score before he died, and it’s just one of my favorite movies. Everything now is just icing on the cake. For more info, visit waxworkrecords.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 25
Justin Townes Earle
A Kinder, Gentler (But Still Tough and Innovative) Joshua Black Wilkins
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e sings Billie Holiday songs to his wife when she has trouble sleeping, and he plans on writing his soon-to-be-born baby daughter Etta hear own lullaby. Could this possibly be the same man that has been known to say that when he hears “Walking on Sunshine,” he gets “fighting fucking mad” because it’s such a happy song? The same man that, at 35, has suffered and battled a severe drug addiction which he finally kicked after numerous trips to rehab? It is. Justin Townes Earle, former addict but now happily married and expecting his first child this summer, has just released the best album of 2017, Kids In The Street. His new life, while it carries more bliss and less pessimism than his past, is still
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turbulent. “Nobody says that just because you’re happily married that everything is going to go right after that.” But he has a different perspective on life now, which is reflected in his new album. “[I have] a more positive outlook on things – not as gloomy of an outlook, and [I look] more outward.” The new LP reflects that Earle “can relate a little more to humanity than [he] ever did.” The album shows his maturity as both a person and as a songwriter. “We have to advance songwriting in some way. And over the years, we learn to get better at this thing called life,” he says with a self-deprecating laugh. “I definitely couldn’t have made this album five years ago. It was just the right time to do this kind of record, and it’s a record I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but I think I just knew better to do it, till I could do it right.”
Even his voice on Twitter has changed in reflection of impending fatherhood. “I’m like my dad [rock and country legend Steve Earle] – I’m a fucking loudmouth. But if you want to hear something stupid my dad said, you gotta dig through print. And some of it didn’t even survive!” He compares this to the ability of technology to capture and record our real-time thoughts on the internet. “I’ve already got enough things that my daughter is going to read and be like ‘Dad. What the fuck?’ when she gets older. So, the idea of that just chilled me out on Twitter,” he laughs. “No more going ‘Whatever douchebag’ to somebody that says something I don’t like.” Make no mistake, Earle is still ornery and shows a jaded streak that lies deep within him. Happy songs still make him angry. “I don’t think songs should feel better than we do.”
Surprisingly – or refreshingly, depending on how one looks at it – Earle doesn’t regret his involvement in that scene. “You learn a side of life that most people have no idea of the truth of. And you get this unique perspective on life,” he says. To his credit, Earle cops to being a bad actor himself, and holds himself responsible. “I did some very bad things . . . But if you want to do some gangster shit, don’t be surprised when some gangster shit happens to you.” However, Earle has no concerns that his songwriting ability will suffer as a result of his new life choices. “I’ve spent longer of my life either addicted to drugs or in a bad mental state – a bad state of heart – so there’s plenty of backlog,” he laughs. “I’m just now getting to ‘kids in the street,’ so I’m still clearly dealing with childhood.” The album is the first Earle has done outside of Nashville and the first he did with an “outside” producer, Mike Mogis. He says it took some convincing to get him to work with someone other than “his people,” noting that people “who grew up in Nashville consider ourselves right [about music]. We are surrounded by the best musicians in the world. That’s where the biggest concentration of them are. So, you get this idea – if you want to gamble, and you want a hooker, you go to Vegas. You don’t fly them in or go anywhere else!” But ultimately, he’s glad he relented to the label’s pressures to work with an outside producer and notes that he learned a lot about instrumentation and production by working with Mogis. While his new music, including the album’s first single “Maybe a Moment,” conveys a bit more hope than some of his past work, he still says, “I wouldn’t call my songs ‘feel-good.’ I’d just call them…realistic.” This realism is conveyed in the song “Same Old Stagolee,” which Earle wrote in terms of “the all-too-common conflicts that take place in our inner-city neighborhoods.” Ever a musical historian, Earle notes that the legend of Stagolee “was advanced throughout the years and changed,” with versions appearing from as early as 1910 through the 1970s. He resurrected the song, because he believed “this was a song that could be directly related to this day and age . . . I felt the whole thing could be completely relatable to a neighborhood rivalry stirred by crack dealing, basically.”
“We have to advance songwriting in some way. And over the years, we learn to get better at this thing called life.”
As a former addict, Earle is no stranger to the harder side of life. “I got into hard drugs from very early on, and I got as involved and as deep as I could into the shit.” He ruminates: “You know, you hang around in the barbershop long enough, you’re gonna get a haircut.” He notes that while his upbringing was “rough” but “not that bad of a situation,” he put himself into harm’s way with his use of drugs.
Follow on Twitter: @JustinTEarle
“Getting out of Nashville, [I realized] there are other ways to approach it, there are other ways to do things.” For example, while he says the album’s inclusion of the clarinet was his idea, Mogis taught him “that there’s a lot of instruments that can be involved in what I do that I didn’t necessarily think of,” including the glockenspiel, the Mellotron and the bajo sexto. But, even when allowing for new approaches and influences in the production of the album, he took his normal approach of making the record: with his first focus being songwriting. “I always go in with the songs ready to go . . . I’m not willing to show up and let somebody help work on my songs, as far as my melodies and things like that are concerned,” he says. Ever one to stick firmly to his guns, Earle says matter-of-factly, “And so people gotta be prepared for that – you’re not picking my songs.”
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE KIDS IN THE STREET STANDOUT TRACK: “CHAMPAGNE COROLLA”
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THE ST CHRON (or how I modified my Strat for $12.50 a week)
PART ONE My mission was to take my Strat and modify it, so there’s no 60-cycle hum, as well as beefing up the sound a bit, all while maintaining the standard Strat appearance. I budgeted myself just $12.50 a week. It’s been an adventure, and a long one at that, so I decided to chronicle my experiences, and share them to show how a little money over a long time, and staying focused, can yield substantial results. Hopefully I can share some of my experiences with you, and maybe offer some advice or things to consider when taking on a task like this. PART TWO The first thing I wanted to do was to beef up the sound of my Strat without preamps or any other onboard gizmos. So, I ordered a new pickguard with a Hendrix-style reverse angle on the bridge 30 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
pickup. Jimi used to take a right-handed Strat, flip it over, re-string it and play. The pickup angle is reversed, the pickup pole pieces are backwards, and now the low “E” string is a lot longer from the reversed headstock, and the high “E” string is shorter. This created a unique configuration that a right-handed Strat player just couldn’t copy unless they got a lefty Strat, and strung it up right-hand style. All of these things together made it sound a bit different from a normal Strat, in fact Hendrix preferred right handed Strats vs. left handed ones. I’m not looking to emulate Hendrix, but I’ve been around enough to know that this change might make a slight difference in sound, which also wouldn’t be permanent, since a pickguard is super easy to swap in or out.
this new angle. I’m not a purist, and this isn’t a rare guitar, plus the new cavity would be covered by a pickguard. Thankfully I had Jon Mouradian at Mouradian Guitar Co. on my side. He did the cut, and it came out wonderfully.
One problem: my ’50s reissue has vintage style routings for a normal angled pickup, so I needed to get the slot under the pickguard carved out for
Funny thing is, a few months after I did this modification, Fender came out with a righthanded Strat with the Hendrix configurations I
Does it sound different? Yes. Slightly less top-end chime on the higher strings, a bit tighter low-end response on the bass strings, and the mids seem to feel a bit chunkier. To clarify, I did this mod on its own, so this was done with the existing Sheptone pickups, which are true single coils, so I still had that humming issue. Did it sound Hendrix like? No. But it did help achieve a few things that I was trying to do sound-wise, basically making the bridge position a bit fuller.
TRAT NICLES Chris Devine mentioned earlier. I knew I was on the right track if I was a step ahead of Fender! PART THREE The 60-cycle hum. I could have put a noise gate on a pedalboard; I used one in the past, and didn’t like what it did to my tone. So, hum cancelling single coils were the way to go. Here’s a hum cancelling single coil primer, as told to me years ago from a Seymour Duncan tech: The stacked single coils will generally sound more like a single coil pickup, as the magnetic fields are on top of each other. The bladed kinds will sound more like a humbucker, as their magnetic fields are side by side, like a traditional humbucker, just in single coil dimensions. Now the problem is nailing down the tone you want. I had some DiMarzio HS3 hum cancelling stacked pickups in the past in another guitar, so I was sold on that configuration. I wanted to keep the Strat looking stock, with the usual 6 pole piece look. These days there are hundreds of pickup manufactures so it’s easy to get overwhelmed with decisions. Thankfully in the age of YouTube, there are plenty of demos of various pickups. Some videos are professionally done by manufacturers or magazines, some homemade. The sound quality varies, as well as the method of miking up an amp, and of course the player, so a huge grain of salt must be taken when using these as a basis for pickup selection. Forums are also a good resource, but one man’s trash is another’s treasure, so again a grain of salt is required. It wasn’t easy to land on my final choices, but the process was interesting and overwhelming at the same time, and was probably the toughest part of the whole project. All the while I was doing my research, I was squirrelling money into that separate savings account. It wasn’t easy to land on my choices, but when I finally did, there was a sense of relief. Now
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STRAT UPGRADE all I needed was for the money to catch up with my decision. For the record, I decided upon Seymour Duncan’s; the Custom Hot Stack for the bridge, a Classic Strat Plus for the middle and the Vintage Hot Stack for the neck. PART FOUR My Strat kept staring at me, saying “fix me, play me, and use me” but my guitar fund was still a bit shy of getting all three pickups at the same time. I was 12 weeks (6 paychecks) into saving up for my new pickups, but still $75 shy of getting all three at the same time, so I rationalized it all out; I never really use the middle pickup on its own. So, I opted to make this install a multi stage operation. I could buy the neck and Bridge pickup, wait to 32 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
buy the middle one, and in the meantime, I would be able to play my Strat. I would be noise and hum free, at least in the neck and bridge positions. It’s tough; support a local store at the cost of convenience, or go to the internet and get what you want with no problem. I defaulted to Amazon. I still try to give a local shop my money, if they have what I’m looking for in stock. At this stage in my game, a lot of shops don’t stock what I want/need, and in a sense, I’m not that important, because at this point I have pretty much everything I want/need, gear-wise, and really don’t buy more than strings on a regular basis now, maybe some cables every other year, etc. So to a store, I’m not a regular customer, and since I don’t buy “off the rack,” I’m probably more of a problem to a store than I’m worth.
So, while I couldn’t find a local retailer for the pickups, I did have a local repair guy to do the install. For the past 6 years I’ve been going to Mouradian for all my repairs and setups. He did notice that the new bridge pickup was slightly bigger, and needed some more carving in the pickup routing area. After making sure the pickups were in phase, meaning no thin-ness or volume drop in positions 2 & 4, I was set. Mouradian’s shop is super busy, so I opted to have them just do the pickup install, no setup or restringing, which I was fine with. I went home and re-strung it (with the only pack of strings I had in the house), only to realize I forgot to install a new item I purchased: a cavity electronics shield. Emerson Electronics makes a shield that fits
PART FIVE So, with a new neck and bridge pickup installed, I was happy. The neck pickup reminds me of the Texas Specials with plenty of creaminess and bigness, with no noise. The bridge pickup feels tighter, but that may be because of the new pickguard’s reverse angle. It has plenty of cut and overall depth for what I like. I may have to compare it against a normal angle pickguard in the future. It cut through my singer’s humbucking rhythm guitar sound, which is pretty beefy on its own, all the while making its own space in the mix. Then a problem occurred; the volume pot died. No one to blame here; parts wear out, in this case it physically was jammed up, and now cutting out. So, after that was fixed, I put on a set of D’Addario NYXL 10’s. Since I started playing at age 14, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve tried other strings; D’Addario’s have never let me down. These are a new design of strings, and I have to say I really like them. They’re about twice the price of normal XLs, but I think they may be my new standard string!
over the control knobs, and 5-way switch, acting as an additional ground to eliminate hum. I was bummed I forgot to install it, as I’d have to remove the strings to install it properly. I figured I’d play it for a bit, then install the shielding plate in a week or so. Even better, I’d find out if the shielding plate actually does what they say it’s supposed to, or if the pickups’ own noise cancelling goodness was doing all the work. Changing one variable at a time to really see what each change actually makes really opened my eyes, even if it added a step to the now multi-step install process I was knee-deep in.
a. Position 1-neck pickup only b. Position 2-neck and middle pickups c. Position 3-neck and bridge pickups (like a Telecaster) d. Position 4-middle and bridge pickup e. Position 5-bridge pickup only 4. New control knob configuration: a. volume knob (master) b. tone knob (neck) c. tone knob (bridge pickup) The switching choice was a little odd. I never use the middle pickup alone. I know there are a lot of people that really think that’s the main clean Strat sound, but I’ve had that position available for me since my first Strat, and I can say I’ve only used it once in any recent memory. The idea of using the middle switch position to run the middle and neck pickups came from Telecasters. Each pickup that would be used in the middle position gets a tone knob. Eric Johnson has his Strats set up with a tone knob on the bridge pickup. In the past, I had a Strat with this mod, and afterwards always wondered why Fender never did it. I know in the ’50s (when the Strat was designed) amps tended to be bass-heavy, so a bridge tone knob would seem to not make sense, but in later years when guitar amps got more efficient, EQ-wise, it would have made sense to me. After all this work and money, how does it sound? Well, fantastic. As I mentioned before, the neck pickup tone was great, but now getting the switching done made the final difference. The 2nd position still has some quack to it, so does the 4th, a bit more trebly, perfect for those Dire Straits tones.
With a fixed pot, Emerson shielding plate, and new strings, I was back in business. The verdict? The Emerson plate does cut down the hum on a noticeable amount, so for $10 it’s worth it! Positions 2 and 4 aren’t as noisy, and position 3 is the noisiest one, as it’s a pure single coil, but it does make a difference, and for any Strat player, I’d suggest this!
The middle position, which now does the neck and bridge together, is amazing! It keeps plenty of drive, but doesn’t sacrifice fullness or get too bass-y. With clean tones, it’s great - nice and full, and with overdrive/grit, it is super full. This option alone makes it all worthwhile! It’s not like a Tele, but it seems to get the best of each pickup, without overpowering the other one.
The next step is the middle pickup, and modifying the switching. PART SIX While I was able to get the neck & bridge pickups done quickly, I knew that by the time I had the cash to finish off the Strat it would need a real setup, so I made this final phase of this project one that had to be really planned out, as I was making some rather un-Strat like mods. Here’s the rundown for the final phase:
The bridge tone option is neat, but unfortunately, it seems to go from everything to nothing between 2-3 on the knob. I’m going to have to see if I can get the pot to have a lot more range on it, possibly changing to a linear pot, and/or modifying/ removing/replacing the capacitor on it. Overall, it does what I wanted it to do from the beginning and I’d suggest these mods to any player looking to modify a Strat, keeping the look stock, getting some new switching options and get rid of that annoying hum.
1. Install middle pickup. 2. New 5-way switch (Mega Switch) 3. New switching configuration:
PART SEVEN Overall, this little experiment was pricey: Seymour Duncan pickups $76 x 3 = $228
New Warmoth Pickguard = $25 Emerson Strat shielding plate = $10 New volume pot (fix) and install=$50 New 5-Way Super Switch = $20 Setup & Strings= $150 The grand total was $483, taking 39 weeks (at $12.50 a week) and with the actual cost of the guitar (in 1996) being $325, I think I made out pretty well overall. Could I have bought another Strat for this money? Yes, if I sold this Strat for $400, and then added the cost of the work I had done I would have had a budget of $883. Which isn’t that bad of a budget to have in buying a Strat, new or used. But it wouldn’t have these modifications or components. Now, I could have bought a pre-wired Seymour Duncan Pickguard with the same pickups for about $300 or so, with their Liberator quick change pot (that is a pretty good option). I’d still have to swap out the 5-way switch to get the switching options I wanted, the pickguard would have to be replaced for the reverse angled pickup and install the shielding plate. I would have really saved around $100, on the labor costs (I would have been even better off if the volume pot didn’t die). I was afraid I’d lose focus, get distracted and end up blowing the money by buying a pedal (which almost happened, but that’s another story) or some other item instead of getting this Strat functional. In my opinion, it’s cheaper to modify (especially if the changes are non-invasive/reversible, or it’s not a rare/vintage instrument) an existing guitar than go out and buy a new one, especially if the source instrument is one you like already. It’s also eco-friendly; in this case I didn’t end up buying a new guitar, causing a tree to be killed just for my tone quest. Overall, I learned a lot, and I achieved what I set out to do for this project. I do have some other mods in mind for the coming year. But for now, I have a nice, noise-free Strat with the tones I like, and I can just grab it and go for pretty much any gig! PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 33
PERFORMER’S PRODUCT TESTERS HIT THE STUDI STREETS) WITH AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-M50X HE
e recently put out a call to action for our readers to test out some Audio-Technica ATHM50x studio monitor headphones. After all the entries were screened, we chose three studio testers to put these cans through their paces – one dedicated musician who’s a master of vocal arrangements, one professional photographer who’s entrenched in a/v production for his clients, and a gamer/
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streamer who lives online, where premium sound reproduction is a necessity to make it. Here are their stories… ANDREW KESLER I’m no stranger to Audio-Technica, and over the years have added a number of their microphones to my treasure trove as I find their products pro-quality, versatile and at a price point that’s hard to resist. I was thrilled to receive two pairs of the ATH-M50x’s, as
I’ve noticed them popping up in recording sessions and studio videos online. I work in music and audio production both as a musician/arranger and an engineer, so to aptly jump between roles I need my gear to be both detailed and clinical, but also musical and inspiring. I find these headphones do quite a good job at covering both spectrums. Editing and mixing, I have the clarity and intelligibility that I need to make subtle, detailed moves. Tracking is surprisingly
It’s safe to say these headphones are going to see a LOT of use, thank you Audio-Technica and Performer Magazine! For more, visit andrewkesler.com. ANGELO MERENDINO As the saying goes, “The best laid plans…” Upon first glance of my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones I vowed that these cans would only be used for editing video and nothing else. This plan lasted for a few days, and then I wore them while listening to Avalon by Roxy Music and my plans went out the door. The ATH-M50x headphones effortlessly fold into themselves, allowing for a nice fit in the included travel pouch that offers easy storage and convenient travel. AudioTechnica includes three cables and an 1/8” to 1/4” adaptor, which leads to one of my favorite features of this product: the detachable cable. I’ve lost many sets of headphones over the years due to frayed connections. This is a thoughtful addition to an already solid set of headphones.
UDIO (AND THE X HEADPHONES pleasing and motivating, where previously I had been fighting with sterile-sounding cans I can now turn off my analytical left-brain and focus on the creative side. Aided by the fact that these headphones are very comfortable, I can wear these puppies for hours without much fatigue. Click bleed is a minimal issue, scoring another point in their favor. Sonically they are slightly “colored” with a boost in the high harmonics and a bump in the
The M50x’s are comfortable, too. In the past, I’ve felt tension headaches due to poor headphone design. The ear pads are soft and after hours of editing video or listening to music for my own enjoyment, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to take off the headphones and not feel like they are still on my head. I work in a shared studio space, and while the M50x’s do not completely block out the surrounding sound, they do block out enough extraneous noise to keep me focused while I edit. The f lat frequency response offers a great starting point for mixing and even at loud volumes the sound is clean with minimal distortion. After listening to audio on different sets of speakers, the mix was consistent across the board. So, back to the saying…what I initially
assumed would be a valuable tool that would live only at my studio, my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones have quickly earned a place in my bag and on my ears for both work and enjoyment. For more, visit www.angelomerendino.com.
bass, but once I got used to this I had no trouble translating mixes from my studio monitors, to my headphones and to my car. I’m a firm believer that you can make a good mix on anything providing you know it well enough, and so far, I’ve found these headphones complement my Dynaudio BM6A’s quite nicely. I’m working on different genres of music every day and I’ve found that these headphones suit a wide range of styles. They come with a nice little bag and some extra accessories which makes them easy to travel with, and being able to separate the cable from the headphones is a really nice design feature.
BRIAN STREAN I’ve really enjoyed my experience with the ATH-M50x headphones over the last few weeks. It’s easy to see (or hear) why these are the most critically acclaimed model in the M-Series line. I was initially greeted with classy and professional packaging, which was a pleasant surprise and certainly a good start. Included with the headphones are three interchangeable locking audio cables: 1 coiled “studio” cable which goes from 1.2 meters to 3 meters, a straight 3-meter cable, and a more portable 1.2-meter straight cable. I’ve found myself using the coiled cable in my studio and the short straight cable when I’m out and about listening to music on my phone. Also included is a nice protective carrying pouch and the standard quarter-inch audio adapter as a bonus. The build quality is exceptional; they don’t feel like cheap plastic. As I twist and swivel the earcups around 90 degrees to adjust for one ear listening, they’re perfectly sturdy and ready for abuse. Did I mention they’re foldable? One of the most important things I’m looking for in a nice pair of headphones is clarity and definition, and that’s a category where the M50x’s really shine. This is achieved by the extended frequency range of 15 Hz to 28,000 Hz and deep, accurate bass response which I find to be punchy without sounding too “boomy.” I also appreciate the flexibility of being able to use them as studio headphones while I’m mixing and editing, pwning some n00bs while capping B flag, or lying in bed watching a movie trying not to wake up my other half. I can’t stress the importance of sound isolation enough for that last one! If I have anything critical to say about these headphones it would be that I would love to swap out the standard earcup pads for velour instead for an even softer, comfier feel. Overall, these are solid cans to add to your setup, regardless of the project you’re working on, or just for listening to your music collection. For more, visit www.youtube.com/ user/BreachOfPeace And for more information about Audio-Technica headphones, visit www.audio-technica.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 35
SENNHEISER MK4 Digital Microphone
great sounding, easy to use, Apogee app is fantastic, Mac/PC/iOS compatible.
here are tons of microphones available for iOS devices (we’ve even reviewed a handful), but in most cases, they’re watered down versions of more robust mics, and aimed more at a hobbyist, rather than a serious professional. Sennheiser has adapted their MK4 Condenser Microphone for the digital world, and we must say, the results are phenomenal. It’s very similar to their standard MK4; in lieu of a XLR connection, there is a connector that works with the included cables, one cable that has a Lightning connector for mobile iOS applications, while the other cable has a standard USB connector for Mac/PC connectivity. With a 1” gold plated diaphragm, and the ability to handle high volume applications along with a frequency response range of 20 Hz to 20 KHz, the new MK4 Digital version is on par with industry standard studio condenser mics. The difference is you don’t need an audio interface to start recording right away, a nice touch for those who might want a prolevel mic, but may be intimated at the start with lots of gear options. Connecting it to an iPad, and running it on standard recording apps is a no brainer. It has excellent proximity effect; bringing the mic closer to a sound source brings in more signal, with no extra coloring. As only one mic can be connected to an iOS device, this is great for vocals and guitars tracking on recording apps. It’s also an excellent (and efficient) way to capture a live band in a room for demos or recording rehearsals. Included is Apogee’s Meta Recorder app, which is amazing, and four iOS devices can be linked to it, making it an easy way to share recordings. Apogee makes excellent preamp and D/A conversion software, so this is an excellent pairing. With the USB cable, it can connect to a computer and shakes hands perfectly with all the recording software we tried to use it with. In this format it’s great for audio for YouTube videos, or podcasts. And of course, a perfect option for mobile music studios and home production facilities. For a songwriter looking for a simple digital mic solution that won’t require extras like mic pre’s or external input devices, it’s great to have that professional level sound in a simple format. One of these makes it incredibly easy to have a remote recording rig that fits into a laptop bag, without using a dumbed down device that might rely on software to fill in any gaps. The only downside is that it’s not available for use on Android Devices. Hopefully that’s something coming down the line, but for now, PC/Mac/ iOS users are covered. The street price is $399, which some might see as a tad pricey, but for the ease-of-use, the sound quality and the rugged nature of the construction, we’d say it’s well worth the investment. Chris Devine 36 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
ibbon mics have been around for about a century, and thanks to modern manufacturing techniques, as well as better materials, these once fragile devices are just as robust as you’d need and can be used on pretty much anything. AEA’s R84 is a great way to enter the ribbon realm. Partnered with their RPQ2 2-Channel Mic Preamp, they make a potent pair for recording, mixing and mastering.
but don’t get overwhelming while trying to dial in any tones. With “transparent” being a big buzzword in audio circles, this still has a bit of color, but it’s meant more to complement and compensate for the slight darkness the R84 (as well as ribbon mics in general) have. It adds a bit of air and depth, while the low frequency cut works really well in tightening up the bottom frequencies, without affecting the top end.
Starting with the R84 -- its well-built, classic style hides a Cinemag transformer, as well as a 2.35” aluminum ribbon element. The bigger ribbon means a lower resonant frequency, and this enables the mic to handle high volume applications without issues. Meaning it can be used on kicks, snares, guitar cabs with no problems. It’s slightly dark sounding, but it does have a nice snappy attack that maintains enough punch for percussion. There’s no loose or flabby feel, regardless of placement.
It’s not just the usual mic preamp, with its input and output configuration, it can easily be used as an external EQ, bringing that excellent tone shaping to items that may not have been tracked with it. It would easily make for an excellent tool for use in a mastering suite in this configuration as well. With a 1/4” TRS High Z input, it can also lend its excellent tone shaping as a DI input, excellent for electric bass or direct guitar applications, with plenty of punch and articulation that still stays musical.
Acoustic guitars were nice and rich. Placement is always key, and starting with AEA’s suggested placement, it was very pleasing overall. But we found that it was a bit dark here as well, though backing the mic off about a foot or so brought back some of those highs that were missing, as well as adding some extra air to the track. Vocals are well suited for this as well; getting right on it brings a bit more warmth overall, and it can certainly handle even the screamiest of vocalists.
Overall this combined setup is just over $2500; the R84 could be considered “my first ribbon mic” without any issue. A studio with just one of these can greatly add to their arsenal; a pair of these as stereo overheads still won’t break the bank, when considering the tone. The RPQ2 is an excellent companion, and a studio would greatly benefit from this in all aspects for nearly any musical project, from tracking to final mastering. -Chris Devine
Using it as a room mic during drum tracking, it can capture a nice additional dimension for ambience. During the session, we toggled its channel in a mix on and off for comparison, and it gave a nice extra depth even for a heavy rock drum kit. It goes beyond a nuance level improvement for a mix, even with other close mic’d items. AEA has a great companion for their R84 with the RPQ2, their new mic pre. The construction is top notch, with each click of the machined knobs, a tight positive feel is there; the controls are fairly simple for each channel -- Mic Gain, Output, Low Frequency Cut, Curve Frequency, and Curve Gain. It’s based around a Solid State JFET design and can handle high headroom applications. The frequency curve controls are really interactive with each other,
plenty of applications, tight articulate sound.
well built, great sound as a preamp or external EQ.
AEA R84 Ribbon Mic and RPQ2 2-Channel Mic Preamp
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AMPEG Classic Analog Bass Preamp Pedal
hen it comes to classic rock bass guitar tones, Ampeg always comes to mind. Now they’ve figured out how to get those great tones in a pedal. The controls are quite simple; a three band EQ and volume knobs do exactly what’s expected of them, but the ultra-low, and ultrahi really add an extra depth in the low and high ends, respectively. Bassists are a lot simpler to compare to guitarists, especially when pedals and external gear are concerned, so it’s not hard to dial in great tones with just a few knobs, and a couple of buttons. Plugging into the front end of an amp brings that warmth and punch that Ampeg’s known for. The EQ section works incredibly well, with both active and passive basses. When engaging the ultra hi and lo functions, some additional tailoring of the EQ might be needed, as they do make a noticeable jump tonally, so feel free to tweak away. It’s flexible enough to make things pop, but stays in the right range for bass guitar. Live, it brings those classic sounds to players who may not want to commit to a
vintage style rig. Plugging one of these into the front end of any amp makes it hyper easy to warm up even the most sterile solid-state amp rig. And for $99, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a vintage rig.
great format and price for classic bass tones.
Using one of these in a recording setting, instead of a plug-in, can make a recording session a lot easier, saving processing power on the DAW, and getting a great warm bass tone that won’t get forgotten at the start – something that’ll make a mixing engineer happier. For players who may already have an Ampeg amp, but the hassle of bringing their rig to recording sessions is a burden, this pedal may be the easiest way to deliver that tone without having to load up the van. This new pedal from Ampeg totally falls in that “great bang for the buck” category. For recording it’s a slam dunk, and for live use it offers up that classic natural bass tone, without space issues. Any bass player looking to expand their tone in an easy-to-use format should consider this as a solution that doesn’t compromise. Chris Devine
AMPEG Scrambler Bass Overdrive Pedal
he drive control on the new Ampeg Scrambler deliver the perfect amount of grit, and the blend is like a mix control, balancing between the overdriven and unaffected tone. At lower settings, the drive control is still very present; it’s thick and meaty. At this point it sounds like an SVT already at saturation point. Going further, it gets dirtier and raspier. Using the blend control helps to maintain clarity, and the treble control brings in some additional high end to keep things from getting too compressed, where bass tones could get lost in the mix. Even passive single coil basses can get into that Motörhead area without maxing the settings out. In a live setting as a DI, or in front of an amp, it can really mark out a bass player’s sonic territory in the mix. We loved it. It’s not just meant to be plugged into an amp; using it as a DI in front of a DAW interface brings that warm and heavy tone, without having to crank up a tube bass head. So, for a bassist looking to thicken things up a bit, this 38 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
will certainly fit the bill, from nice and tubeish, to massive over-the-top thick fuzz, while still being able to control and contour the overall feel. At $99 it won’t break the bank, and while bassists might not like the idea of going down the pedalboard rabbit hole, this is well worth considering. Chris Devine
excellent musical overdriven tones.
extreme settings might be a bit much.
CHASE BLISS AUDIO Brothers Analog Gainstage Pedal
here are pedals that could be called “tweaker’s delights,” and then there’s the Chase Bliss Audio Brothers pedal.
every tonal section option available, great selection of tones. CONS
slightly pricey. PRICE
With 2 channels (A & B) that can be set for boost, drive or fuzz, it can handle those tones easily but the circuits are done a bit differently, with channel A being JFET based, and Channel B using an IC type design. These are two of the most popular pedal circuit designs, and gives each one a nice, different tonal response. There is a neat mix control, engaging both A and B channels, and setting the center toggle to PARA, enables the blending of the two, via the mix control. There is also the option to select which channel comes first in the chain; if you like your boost before a fuzz, or a boost after the drive, as well as any variation, it’s covered here! Routing becomes a fun game of “which option sounds better to me?” With pretty much every tonal switching and control option covered in a thoughtful manner, how does it sound? Simply put, it’s fantastic. The fuzz on both JFET and IC sides are well done, with enough brightness to cut through, and react well to volume changes on the fly. Pairing them with the boost functions really allow things to keep from getting stuck in the mix. The drive sides have plenty of sparkle and bite at lower
settings, and short of dark metal, should have enough usable gain for leads that are tight and responsive, as well as rich chunky rhythm parts that still have definition. The bank of DIP switches on the back really opens up even more functionality -- such as a momentary function; step on a footswitch, and hold it, and it’s on. Step off it, and it disengages. For a player who might want a quick lick to throw in between the vocals, without making it sound like switching channels, this is your unit. Connect an expression pedal, and pretty much every variable control can be controlled by it. True bypass or buffered? Yep, it’s player’s choice. Going even further, settings can be saved for each channel, by pressing and holding the footswitch, and for those players who really want to go there, it can be connected to a MIDI switcher, as well. At a street price of $349, it’s not cheap, but it goes far beyond the usual 2-button “drive/ boost” pedals, and with pretty much every tonal option and routing variation you could imagine. Of course, it sounds amazing, and this could save a lot of space on a pedalboard, all while gaining buckets more functionality and options. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 39
IK MULTIMEDIA iLoud Micro Monitors
good sound, tiny footprint, ultralightweight and portable. CONS
non-standard cable may be hard to replace if lost/ damaged. PRICE
onitors can take up a lot of space, especially in a small home studio situation. Finding good sounding speakers that won’t clutter a desk is pretty much impossible. IK’s iLoud Micro Monitors deliver a great sound, in a small footprint, and have some nice extra features. In fact, these may be the lightest reference monitors we’ve ever tested. The casing seems to be a durable plastic, and has a 3/4” tweeter and a 3” woofer, along with a front facing bass port. Positioning is flexible with a rubber rear pad, and a folding kick stand like leg that angles the speakers up just enough for proper imaging. With a threaded insert in the bottom, they could be mounted on a mic stand as well. Connectivity is by either a 1/4”, RCA or by Bluetooth, and the EQ can be optimized for 40 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
desktop use, or a flat frequency response. There are two options for the EQ response from flat to -3dB on the high and low-end frequencies. It’s all controlled by a 56-bit processor, and brings a nice simple on/off functionality to adjusting the overall reaction to the music source. First off, these have plenty of power, and throughout the volume range, there’s plenty of dynamics and fullness without clipping. The EQ adjustment switches do make a difference, albeit slight. It would be just enough to show the difference in a mixing format. So, who are these meant for? With the street price of $299, a musician looking to make the next step from a pair of computer speakers or cheap headphones, might want to give these a listen before they embark on their next project. They’ll work great for tracking and mixing, as well as recreational use. The ability
to toggle between flat and desktop modes will help inexperienced users start to dial in their ears. For users tracking with computers with limited audio connections, such as an iPad, the Bluetooth is excellent. For a professional studio, a pair of these for a B room won’t break the bank either. IK does offer a travel bag, and yes these would be a great set of speakers for a small mobile recording platform. The only down downside is the cable that links the left and right speakers is an odd mini 4-pin type, so if this gets lost, you’re out of luck. Consider these the first step into pro speakers meant for mobile or small-studio home production, and you likely be as impressed as we were at their sonic capabilities and space-saving qualities. Chris Devine
edals used to be a way to boost or drive a guitar signal into an amp. Now it’s not uncommon to find pedals that emulate amps themselves. Mad Professor’s Big Tweedy covers that big American tweed tone, without a lot of fuss.
great tones, big sound. CONS
a bit expensive. PRICE
It’s quite simple control-wise; the Volume, Tone and Drive controls work in the usual fashion, while the Presence control responds like the presence control on an amp, adding a bit more subtle top end that can add some needed sparkle. As it’s designed to capture the essence of a classic tweed amp, the drive isn’t over the top. At lower settings, it can change a simple amp like a Hot Rod Deluxe into a really responsive tone machine. To get some of those not quite crunch, not quite clean tones, where the guitar’s volume control and picking attack can really be the controlling factor, this pedal is worth it. It brings that top end chime in that sits in classic and contemporary blues, country, and rock settings.
MAD PROFESSOR Big Tweedy Pedal With the drive maxed out, it can get crunchy, yet not over the top; it seems to tap into that essence of a tweed amp’s power amp section. It should be considered a low drive pedal, but the tone is a lot sweeter, one that brings a bigness, but not the buzziness of say, a fuzz unit. It feels like those lower wattage classics were just poured into the overall tone. For a power rhythm sound, it does so much, and responds equally well with single coils or humbuckers. Pair it with a boost pedal, and a guitarist who covers leads and rhythms will have all their bases covered. A lot of players looking for this type of crunchy-ish tone, might mistakenly turn to a Tube Screamer style pedal, but this brings that actual, authentic tweed sound, and doesn’t over color things, while at the same time giving an amp-like feel and response. The street price is $195 and players who can’t swing bringing a vintage tweed amp on the road should seriously consider this for their pedalboard. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 41
GEAR REVIEWS PROS
simple design, plenty of headroom, good price.
nowing what you’re performing in a recording setting is key. However, when there are multiple performers, they’ll also need to hear themselves, as well as the others on the track. Samson’s QH4 is a simple and easyto-use headphone amplifier that can give up to four performers a great monitor mix in the studio. With four stereo 1/4” TRS outputs, each with their own level control, it’s quite simple to use; jack in, and turn up the volume as needed. There is a master level that controls the overall signal that goes to the individual channels. The left and right inputs are 1/4” TRS, and
SAMSON QH4 Headphone Amp
there are aux in and aux out connections with a 1/8” TRS. This can enable multiple QH4 units to be linked together – a nice touch for possible expansion. With a street price of $69 for one unit, a pair that would allow for 8 outputs is still a heck of a deal. Overall sound quality is great, with plenty of headroom. It can do individual sub-mixes like when the drummer doesn’t want to hear the guitar, just the bass, and it’s more than just overall level control of a static mix. But it’s not just for live tracking, the mono switch takes the stereo signal, and you guessed
it, makes it mono. For checking out how a mix will sound in mono, it’s a nice touch. For podcasting it certainly solves the monitoring situation in a simple way, and doesn’t take up a lot of desk space. While it certainly works well, the only qualm is the plastic casing, which in a cramped or mobile recording situation, might not stand up to getting knocked around like a metal casing might. But the price offsets that feature easily. On a desktop for podcasting or a less aggressive recording studio environment, it’s a no brainer. Hell, you might as well get two for this price. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 43
MAD PROFESSOR Twimble Pedal
umble Amps are less common than unicorns, and even the clones and copies of these mythical beasts can get expensive. Mad Professor captures the essence of this articulate and toneful rarity in its new Twimble pedal. It’s a blending of two of their existing pedals, the Dumble amp flavored Simble overdrive, and the Predriver pedal. First off, we didn’t have a $60,000 dollar Dumble to compare this pedal to. But here’s the breakdown. The first section is the Predrive which is a boost, in essence, but with just a hot or cool selector, it’s not super adjustable. It’s not lacking in any way, though, with a subtle enough volume and EQ bump that is noticeable. The cool setting brings in +6dB, and the hot brings it up to 10dB. On the other side sits some more unusual controls for an overdrive pedal. The sensitivity is a dual overdrive that also brings in some sweet compression. The accent control brings in or softens up pick attack, while contour adjusts the overall output brightness. It gets darker to the left, and brightens up to the right. The overdrive range is nice, but not super
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excessive. For most blues and rock sounds it works well, with both single coil and humbuckers. There’s a nice articulation there, with no fizzyness or flubbing low end. With a tight and responsive attack, it could easily fit in most modern rock settings. It responds more like an amp than additional gain stage, to be honest. Pulling in the Predrive really enhances the overall depth. In most cases, leaving the Predrive on will add a lot of evenness to a clean tone, and just kicking in the overdrive is a great way to go. The accent control interacts well with the predrive, but it works more as topend definition. For rhythm parts it really does the trick, and leads have plenty of sustain for most settings; it’s not over saturated, it sits a bit higher than most overdrives, gain wise, but just under the distortion ranges. With the attack, contour and predrive, adding or subtracting brings in more, without extra unwanted sonic junk. Players may think, “Oh, this is one of those guitar nerdy pedals, that really only works in that sweet, smooth clipping that modern bluesy players love.” Well, yes. It does deliver on that blues-tinged highly articulate sound, but using
it in any setting where a highly articulate yet overdriven tone is needed will be well worth the investment. The street price is $229, and considering separately the Simble comes in at $189, and the Pre-driver is $169, it’s a pretty good value (not cheap, per se, but a good value none-the-less). With a Dumble now at astronomical prices, it’s a no brainer for tight and well defined overdriven and distortion tones. Chris Devine
articulate, tight. CONS
boost function is at set levels.
SOUNDCRAFT Ui24R Digital Mixer
rying to find a PA mixer/rig that works in a live setting and as a recording interface is a tough proposition. In most cases, with a unit like this, there are compromises in both worlds. Soundcraft seems to have turned a great interface into a live rig, or is it the other way around?
great for live or studio use, powerful and impressive, innovative feature set.
Name a connection, and it’s here. It all starts off with 24 channels, with 10 combo XLR and 1/4” connections, and 10 regular XLR connections. There’s an HDMI connection for video, as well as Ethernet, and dedicated USB connections for recording and playback.
Since there’s no physical faders and controls, this is all done via software connected via Wi-Fi. It acts as a router; just connect any device, and open a browser, and boom, it’s there. No software to install – and it’s incredibly quick and responsive on tablets, smartphones or laptops over Wi-Fi. Regardless of the OS, or device type, it’s all controlled from a browser, making this hyper flexible and platform-independent, which we appreciate.
side buttons and connections might be tough to reach, depending upon how it’s rack mounted. PRICE
Using it in a live setting means the FOH mix can be tuned in a portable sense with a tablet, simply by walking around the venue, adjusting and dialing in the overall sound as needed, and as observed from multiple points in the room. Awesome. Artists can adjust their monitor mixes via a smart phone or tablet individually, as well. It can handle nine individual mixes, as well as one for the FOH. The powerful nature of the machine impressed us, as did the speed at which controls
respond through the browser-based interface. Without checking the price tag, we estimated the unit at about $2499. Not even close; this checks in under a grand. With all of the connections, it can easily be integrated as DAW interface, in a live setting, as well as a studio. Included is a copy of Ableton Live, but it has no issues with other software. Soundcraft has several sister companies through Harman, and loaded inside is DBX’s compression, noise gate, feedback eliminator, and feedback suppressor. Reverb and delays are handled by Lexicon, and there’s guitar amp modeling and processing by DigiTech. If all that seems too modern, the input preamps are by Studer, and have a nice and organic response. For a band who goes on the road regularly, and wants total control of their individual and FOH mixes, this can make life a lot easier. When it comes time to record, there’s no need to use a whole other set of gear to tackle that. The street price is $999, and considering the number of channels on other manufacturers’ devices, this is about half the cost to get twice as much. The only real negative is that the sides have a few of the connections, one of the Wi-Fi antennas, as well as the power button. Depending on how it’s mounted in a rack system, access to these connections might be a bit problematic. Bummer. But overall it brings a lot of high-end features and ultra-modern functionality to the working band, both live and as a recording interface. Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 45
TAYLOR Academy Series Acoustics
aylor Guitars are known for making welldesigned, and well-built instruments with premium materials. All of this usually comes with a premium price tag. With Taylor’s Academy Series, all of that acoustic goodness is now available in a reasonable price range. We received the Academy 10e and 12e models, with the 10e following the shape of a traditional Dreadnought, and the 12e a Grand Concert. The basic materials, features, and costs are the same though; Sitka spruce top, layered sapele sides and back, ebony fingerboards with a 24.87” scale and Taylor’s EB-Pickup and tuner electronics package. A great feature that’s here in the design is the lower bout, where a player’s picking arm usually rests on the edge of the guitar body, a nicely beveled edge is introduced to reduce stress on the picking hand’s forearm. This really helps relieve any undue stress, especially during long sessions, regardless of standing or sitting positions. As with their higher-end guitars, the overall fit, finish, and feel is amazingly consistent. Both guitars are also presented in a nice satin finish. A lot of players who’d normally prefer a cutaway guitar for higher fret access might skip over these, thinking it’s not meant for soloing or lead parts, and perhaps would be better suited for songwriter/strummer/non-lead players. However, the neck joint is quite smooth, and access to most of the upper-register frets is quite easy with little adjustment required. After using these for a live gig, re-working some lead/solo parts to accommodate the non-cutaway design wasn’t that difficult, and playing more in the lower registers brought an added fullness to the arrangements. The byproduct is not sounding like an electric guitarist taking the same approach to an acoustic. The neck has a modern feel, like a lot of Taylors, with a slim profile and matching satin finish. Both have plenty of depth in their own individual ways. There is excellent top end and punch as well. Each one does it in their own style – so, the big differences? The Dreadnought is a bit deeper, and more traditional sounding, while the Grand Concert is a bit tighter and has a bit more projection. There’s plenty of crossover between the two in a sense, but it will come down to individual tastes, sound-wise. That said, the consistent feel and nice blend of warmth and projection will make this a tough decision to make. It might come down to which feels more comfortable against your body and in your
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hands, because acoustically, both are beautifulsounding. The electronics are Taylor’s own system, which also sports an on-board tuner, with the endpin doubling as a 1/4” input jack. While only having a volume and tone control, it’s still quite flexible, and simple enough to keep things from getting boomy or brittle through a PA system. The only downside, and it’s quite small, is the battery situation; it uses two small watch batteries to power the pickup and tuner. It makes for a small and neat package, but imagining a touring situation, and having to find a pair of these batteries at a local 7-11 in an unfamiliar town might be more problematic, than say finding a more common battery like a 9-volt. Thankfully both guitars come with Taylor gig bags, and stocking up on a few of these small, disk-like batteries won’t take up too much space in the front pocket. Chris Devine
well built, well designed, excellent price, sound and feel.
slightly uncommon battery situation for the electronics.
$599 (10e) and $649 (12e)
I came from the void, and one day I shall return to it. In the meantime, I intend to make weird sounds. Some of them you might even call “music.” MAKE & MODEL
1987 Yamaha VSS-30 WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
Moments before I entered this world, my mother received a package from an anonymous donor. In it, she found this sampling keyboard. I’ve played it every day since. The VSS-30 set me on my path to greatness, but the identity of our benefactor remains a mystery...
MY FAVORITE AXE
WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
The VSS-30 sounds like heaven, downsampled to 8 bits. With the overwrite feature, you can layer samples on top of each other; it’s like building a house, but instead of bricks, you use samples. Whoa. CUSTOM MODS
I’ve added a strap that allows me to dance while wearing the keyboard (not pictured). CAN BE HEARD ON
The sweet sounds of the VSS-30 are all over our new EP, Born in the Viper Room. LISTEN NOW at www.weareminka.com
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at email@example.com
PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 47
1950s SONY C-37a BACKGROUND
Sony engineers created this microphone in the early 1950s. At first, it was used to record symphonies and quickly became a sought after vocal mic. Neumann’s studio microphones reportedly inspired the C-37a. HOW IT WAS USED
The C-37a is a multi-pattern tube condenser microphone, first released in the U.S. in 1958. It was and still is used in many applications. Vocals were number one, but it sounds excellent on upright bass, horns, and strings. Some people even like to use it on banjo. INTERESTING FEATURES
One very interesting characteristic about this mic is its power supply. The early version of the C-37 boasted a CP-2 power supply. On the unit were three different settings: M1, M2, and V. M1 is a flat response, M2 is a roll off of 3dB at 85Hz, and V is a roll off of 3 dB at 220Hz. This can be very useful when tracking certain instruments. PROMINENT RECORDINGS
The Sony C-37a was used on many Frank Sinatra recordings. It was used for his vocals and for the string accompaniment. It was also used on James Bay’s vocals for the album Chaos And The Calm. LESSONS LEARNED
Today’s engineers can learn a lot about how to utilize tube microphones on modern-day recordings and also the use of different polar patterns. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Boullianne is a studio manager and a fulltime engineer. Check out Andrew’s Instagram @drewboull10
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SUBstantial Give yourself more configuration and sound options with a VâRi Powered Loudspeaker System. Start with either the 12” V2212, ideal for parties and medium sized stages, or step up to the 15” V2215, perfect for moving dance floors. Then add a hefty 1500 watts of bass with the NEW V2218S Powered Subwoofer for even more subsonic impact. VâRi V2212 12” 2-WAY POWERED LOUDSPEAKER
THE NEW VâRi 2212/V2215 POWERED LOUDSPEAKERS • 600 watts, Class-D Amplification • Choose from 15” or 12” 2-way speaker • 3-input mixer with 2-band EQ • Optical limiter with new front-mounted clip indicator • Ideal for use as upright speaker or wedge
THE NEW VâRi V2218S POWERED SUBWOOFER • 1500 watts, Class-D amplification • 18” woofer with 3” voice coil • Optical limiter with new front-mounted clip indicator
VâRi V2215 15” 2-WAY POWERED LOUDSPEAKER
XS Wireless 1
Raise Your Voice. XS Wireless 1 is an easy-to-use, all-in-one wireless series that allows singers, presenters and instrumentalists to operate up to 10 systems simultaneously. Designed with ease of use in mind, this analog UHF series features a sleek receiver with built-in antennas and streamlined interface that includes one-button scanning and synchronization functions. sennheiser.com/xs-wireless-1