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TABLE OF CONTENTS

VOLUME 29, ISSUE 4

TABLE OF

CONTENTS

cover story

18

MANILA KILLA by Michael Grandinetti

DEPARTMENTS 4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 6. FESTIVAL REVIEW: Boston Calling 2019 10. How to Protect Your Brand 12. Gain Traction with Create Music Group 14. Pro Playlist Tips 16. How Much Insurance Does Your Band Need? 36. How to Build a Pedalboard

TYCHO by Dana Forsythe

22

KRISTEN AGEE ON GUIDING YOUR CAREER

26

38. GEAR REVIEWS: Yamaha, KRK Warm Audio and more…

SPECIAL REPORT TAYLOR GUITARS EBONY PROJECT

30

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

LETTER

from the editor

Howdy, y’all.

Volume 29, Issue 4 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com EDITOR Benjamin Ricci ben@performermag.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu

As we head to the printer, we’ve just received the heart-breaking news of David Berman’s passing. Berman was not just the Silver Jews leader, he had also just returned to music after several years away with the Purple Mountains project, released just last month by Drag City.

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina editorial@performermag.com

Drag City has put out an official statement on Berman’s death, which we have decided to reprint parts of below:

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Austin Champion, Benjamin Ricci, Chris Devine, Dana Forsythe, Kristen Agee, Matt Lambert, Michael Grandinetti, Michael St. James

“We have to keep reminding ourselves that it is real. Then we’re reminded that is real. Then we wish it wasn’t real. It’s like a trapeze act, and we are the worst acrobats, fumbling these truths from swing to swing. Day after day… Everybody says these things after a suicide – and this week, we know very specifically why they do. For instance: five minutes ago, we were in tears. Five minutes before that, hope. Before that, rage. And now, nothing.

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Matt Lambert, Scott Hansen, Preston Thalilndroma ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com

We hope that everyone who feels the same way, who has thoughts like the kind that led David to this, please stop what you’re doing and take them very seriously. Talk to someone about them. Stay with us. We count ourselves among those on both the speaking and listening ends of these conversations, and these feelings are not foreign to us.

© 2019 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.

It can be okay. Very likely it WILL be okay. It was okay so many times before. Call the 1-800-273-8255. That’s the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.”

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.

The statement continues:

Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.

“It feels like there’s little more to say about David’s place in the world right now that he hasn’t already said himself. Some of his incredible turns of phrase seem to have been written for this awful moment. But know that they weren’t. They were written in lieu of this moment, to replace this moment, showing the world (and himself) that maybe he didn’t truly know what was going to happen next… Our love, thoughts and prayers are with his wife, family and friends at this time. And with you.”

Benjamin Ricci ABOUT US / 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. 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 editorial@performermag.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” 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 editorial@performermag.com 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?”

PERFORMERMAG.COM 4 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

PERFORMERMAGAZINE

PERFORMERMAG


get

published

WRITE FOR PERFORMER MAGAZINE contact editorial@performermag.com


LIVE REVIEW

Imogen Heap

BOSTON CALLIN

6 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


N NG 2019

LIVE REVIEW

Dessa

Matt Lambert

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 7


LIVE REVIEW

Greta Van Fleet Anderson .Paak

Snail Mail

Brandi Carlile

8 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


LIVE REVIEW

T

he annual Boston Calling Music Festival keeps getting bigger as each year passes. What started off as a smaller festival twice a year, has now grown into one big mega-fest that holds its own compared to other notable festivals around the country. This past Memorial Day Weekend celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Boston Calling.

Say what you will about their music, but Greta Van Fleet dazzled the audience with pure, good old fashioned rock and roll. They are a young group and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for them. They certainly entertained the tough-to-win-over Boston Calling crowd. To end the spectacle of the first night, Twenty One Pilots came on to do their thing, also a repeat appearance but a completely unique set -tighter than the first. They proved they could be headliners.

Friday afternoons are typically the shortest day of the festival due to it being on a weekday but that doesn’t mean the lineup isn’t top notch. The late afternoon started with the EDM producer/ DJ Mura Masa who was, as one may imagine, visually kind of boring until Bonzai came out to perform with him.

Day two of Boston Calling had another packed lineup in store. One of the most unique performances of the day was from Imogen Heap. She’s the creative director for Mi-Mu gloves, which are wearable instruments. She did a demonstration and performed one of her hit songs “Hide and Seek” using the gloves. Think of them as a Nintendo Power Glove for music creation and manipulation. They’re available to pre-order for expected release this month.

2017 NPR Tiny Desk Concert champions, Tank and the Bangas, put on a very fun set full of dance and party music. Their set featured tight musicianship, great dancing and all the best colors of the weekend. France’s mighty pop outfit Christine and the Queens put on one of the best sets on Friday. You may remember them from back when Boston Calling was at City Hall Plaza; they returned with a tremendous stage show and fantastic music. Back on the scene with their 2018 release Chris, they are one of Boston Calling’s most memorable acts and I was certainly glad to catch them a second time.

Other highlights of the second day were new-comer King Princess who put on a great set of rock. Berklee graduate Betty Who also had a fun set of “believing in yourself” themed pop. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals presented the crowd with a huge stage performance and his talent behind the mic and drum kit was overwhelming. On the arena stage, Doomtree’s Dessa showcased her solo ability with cat-like prowess. Over on the Delta Blue stage, Hozier had

a powerful set as well. His powerful voice filled the field with intensity. The night two headliners were Australia’s psych-rock group Tame Impala. The third and final day consisted of more music of course, but also comedy. SNL’s Melissa Villasenor and Michael Che headlined the arena stage. Villasenor showcased her impressions in more detail with bits of SNL sketches she’s done as well as family stories. Che, grateful to be in a city he has said in the past was the most racist city ever, had a fun conversation-like set, talking to a fan who wasn’t a plant, but almost acted like one. As far as the music goes the highlights were 20-year-old indie rocker Lindsey Jordan professionally known as Snail Mail. Her performance was compelling and at times a little quirky, but it worked for her. As her sunglasses slid off her face mid-song she kept her composure and worked through it.  Boston folk-rock veterans Guster also put on a solid set in the afternoon sun. Sunday night the last headlining stage performance belonged to Travis Scott who had a gigantic stage production and a crowd that literally shook the Harvard Atheltic Complex field with fevered movement. All in all, another huge weekend of some big names in the current pop and indie-music world, and we can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring! For more info, visit bostoncalling.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 9


MUSIC BUSINESS

THE BUSINESS OF YOUR BRAND I

f you truly want to make a living in this industry, you need to ask yourself, “what am I selling?” Here’s a hint: it’s not music.

Music is not your product. It can’t be. Consumers simply won’t pay for it—at least not like they used to. They want to stream it online. For free. And while they may listen to some advertisements along the way, the economics of music streaming services do not translate into 10 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

By Austin Champion, Harper Bates & Champion LLP

big bucks for artists. Smart musicians know that music provides artists with a platform to develop a relationship with an audience—more commonly known as a brand. What is a Brand? From a legal perspective, a “brand” is a combination of trademark rights and, for most

musicians, the right of likeness or celebrity. And just like copyrights in music, these rights can be built, leveraged, sold, or licensed to others. Trademark Rights A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods of one party from those of others. Service marks are similar, but they distinguish the source of services instead of goods. For


MUSIC BUSINESS

confusingly similar to the mark of another. Right of Publicity The right of publicity (sometimes called a right of likeness) protects a person’s right to control or even profit from the commercial use of their name, likeness, and persona. The right of publicity allows a musician to prevent companies and individuals from using their identity to promote a product or service without compensation. In other words, your right of publicity allows you to stop a company from promoting a product using your name or likeness without your permission. There is currently no uniform, federal law regarding your right of publicity. Each state has its own laws, and those laws differ from state to state. Some states may only protect celebrities, while other states protect any individual’s identity from commercial exploitation.

that you assign away your right of publicity so that it, too, may be commercialized. If you are inclined to do this, consider who will control your persona—and for how long. Be very careful of any deal that would purport to give control of your persona to a third party in perpetuity.

In some states, the right of publicity survives death. The duration of protection after death also varies from state to state.

Capitalizing on Your Brand As you set out to build your brand, focus first on developing a core mark that can operate as a brand keystone. This can be a symbol (like the Grateful Dead Lightning Skull logo), a slogan, or a phrase. A good mark serves as the foundation for a larger brand strategy. Each additional mark that you develop should complement your core mark and allow you to build a cohesive brand.

Building a Brand Strategy A strong brand begins with a strong identity. What is your personality? What are your values? How do you speak, and what do you say? All of these things influence your audience, your connection with your audience, and ultimately, your brand.

purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer to both types of marks as “trademarks.” GUNS N’ ROSES and BRUNO MARS are both examples of registered trademarks. The trademark laws would make it very difficult for someone else to create music—or other products and services—using the same marks. Trademarks rights are created simply by using a mark. These are called common law rights. But you receive a myriad of legal benefits if you register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Unlike copyrights, trademarks last forever— as long as you use them. Band names, stage names, album names, certain slogans, and logos—among other things— can all be protectable as trademarks. However, before choosing a mark, it is very important that you conduct a trademark search to “clear” the mark. You cannot use a trademark that is

Once you find your voice, you should consider the legal structure for your brand enterprise. Who or what will ultimately own the brand? If you have a band, will everyone in the band own and control the brand? What happens if someone leaves the band? Can the brand continue without them? A good lawyer can help you answer these questions and more. Smart artists will use a holding company to own and manage their intellectual property rights. When it comes time to make merchandise or license the brand for other commercial purposes, it’s a lot easier and cleaner to structure the deal. But more importantly, when it comes time to negotiate with publishers, agents, managers, and record labels, you will have a clear picture of what you have already created and brought to the table, and you will be better positioned to negotiate your deal. If you assign intellectual property to a separate entity, make sure you understand exactly who controls that property and how (or whether) that control can change over time. Many great entertainers have lost control of their brands because they didn’t understand the deal when they signed it. A word of caution: be very careful with your right of publicity. Some solo artists are the brand. Record labels or business partners may insist

Use social media to speak with your audience and grow your brand and persona. Place your brand in front of your audience whenever you can. Branded merchandise provides great marketing. A good brand is familiar. It reminds someone of you, your band, or your message. In time, you may find opportunities to leverage your audience through sponsored social media activity. And as your brand grows, you may find opportunities to license it in connection with products and services that speak to your audience. As you leverage your brand in connection with goods and services, remember to register the relevant marks in connection with those goods or services. A mark registered in connection with music does not necessarily cover t-shirts or hats. You should also consider seeking trademark protection internationally. American pop culture plays well in other countries. Without appropriate trademark protection in those countries, it may prove very difficult to shut down unlicensed retailers of counterfeit products. Conclusion Commercial success in the music industry is now largely driven by the actions you take off stage. It takes time and energy to build a strong, recognizable brand. But the hard work can pay off. Strong brands are the envy of every commercial enterprise, and businesses will pay handsomely for the privilege of speaking to your audience. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 11


MUSIC BUSINESS

WITH CREATE MUS DATA IS THE NAME

Y

ou can gain traction — even some success — all by yourself as an independent artist. We’ve seen many examples of this, whether it’s the perfect playlist add that results in thousands of new followers/ listeners and millions of streams, or even the right placement on a show or ad coupled with a Shazam campaign. Those are good. But to go big, truly big, you have to hit tens of millions of overall streams, gain hundreds of thousands of overall subscribers, and that is nearly impossible to do alone. You would think all of those numbers would result in money too, actual cash, duckets. Nope. The fact is, even with that kind of viral pop or surprise hit, if you don’t have everything setup correctly, you will leave hundreds of thousands of dollars to blow in the wind (or sit in a black box). These are things like mechanical collection through HFA, audio-fingerprints and Content ID monetization claims, Soundexchange, PRO registrations. If none of that makes sense to you, that’s why you need a team. These teams are partnerships with the companies that deal with claims on videos and monetize them, that register every single ISRC to the various spreadsheets as it’s uploaded, that have playlist editors and marketing staffs of the major streamers on speed-dial, that collect those digital mechanicals you can’t, or aren’t. 

Gamers would use these EDM tracks on walkthroughs, people would use them on dance videos, etc. So, we’d go in and claim and track. Now that we have that data, let’s take this to Spotify or Apple Music and try to get them playlisted. Then we thought we could do direct DSP deals or we could go back to Label Engine and acquire them. So, that’s what we did. We had a platform, and that was able to convert those free songs into paid tracks. Then we went over to the hip-hop market. We focused on mixtapes, most of the content we found—60-70% of it—was original. But a lot of those artists were signed to majors which said they didn’t want to release it. So, the artists would put out a mixtape around the labels. Labels kind of looked the other way because they weren’t part of their release schedule. 

I had a chance to chat with CMG’s co-founder and COO, Alexandre Williams to discuss the company’s role in today’s musical landscape.

So, now we went to the management side and said we can collect this for you, the labels aren’t touching it. So, we ended up getting big catalogs, like Quality Control, Migos, Lil Yachty. We were paying out five figures a month. With our platform, we were able to identify 3rd party content through Content ID and our special sauce in knowing where to look. Working with our partners, we demonstrated how we could improve their collections. Overall, we represent 70% of music on YouTube. It made sense to also do the distribution for some clients. And then, publishing follows that.    Do you consider CMG a publishing company, a distribution company, a digital rights collection agency? Well, we’re a hybrid. We’re not just rights management company, but also publishing company, and also a distribution company starting to get into artist development like a label. Our growth has been explosive. We feel like we’re just getting started. 

CMG started in EDM, then a lot of hip-hop and even pop, and now you collect for two of the three major labels; how’d that come about? In 2015, our first agenda was to go after EDM artists, let them know they’re missing millions. We kind of cornered the market, no one else was paying attention to it. We did $14 million in revenue in 3-4 months in and realized this is a huge problem and opportunity.

What are some of the pain points you see when scouting independents or ingesting a new artist? When it comes to new artists, the biggest problem we see is that a lot of people don’t understand the publishing side of it. Digital royalties, how they’re paid, what partners you have to upload information to, etc. If you don’t understand it, you’re going to miss a lot of money. And it might not be that you’re getting screwed over, it’s just

One of the hottest companies to do this, and do it well, is Create Music Group. You know some of the artists they work with: Marshmello, Future, Migos, Porter Robinson, and more.

12 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

that you don’t understand all of the avenues you have to cover. Even the ones that do go to music school don’t seem to understand that. If you don’t get it, you need to partner with someone who does. Where do you stand on strategy in a digital ecosystem? Do you think more frequent releases is best, or should artists focus all efforts on a single release?  There is really no reason to do an album first now. Release singles to figure out what your groove is. Does your audience love your sad songs, happy songs, funny songs, aggressive songs? Data is your weapon. Now you can get so much data. You’d be stupid not to look at the data. That is your business. Too many aren’t willing to change, to adapt. If you see that something is working, you go toward that and push further. If you still want to do a double album on vinyl of obscure jazz tunes, fine, just do it after you know what your fans want on a daily basis. How is data informing what CMG does? Data is the game, period. A lot of DSPs have data portals like Spotify Artist, etc., Kobalt does one too. We decided to do our artist portal with live, actionable info. The big thing we noticed with our portal is when artists or management can see exactly what they are making every day, and where those numbers are coming from, they get really invested daily in what’s going on…It’s really easy to see what’s working and where you should put your future efforts when you see it in realtime. Do you see video as the primary driver of success across streaming? Is YouTube worth it? Tik-Tok, IG? Yes, yes, and yes. 85% of views coming from mobile phones.  We have artists spending $4-5k on a mastering job that goes to fans listening to it through a phone speaker or earbuds. Phones are the future. As the rest of the world catches up, not everyone can afford a computer, but you can get an entire family phones for free! The economics of it, globally, are a big thing! Tailored content visually to the smartphone performs very well. Spotify does the little 8 second mini clips. Vertical videos


MUSIC BUSINESS

USIC GROUP, ME OF THE GAME Alexandre Williams

photo by Adrien-Ordorica

are becoming more popular. It’s important to understand that video doesn’t necessarily mean music video. Today’s audiences consume tons of video and almost all of it has music, but it can be something totally entertaining. I’ve seen cute dog videos get more hits than a #1 artist. The trick is to learn how to shoot video and edit it for multiple platforms. Start with YouTube, output to IG, Tik-Tok, FB, Snap, etc.  As a YouTube expert, what can indie artists learn from what CMG is doing? First, there is so much more that can be done for your music career on YouTube than any other platform. The biggest platform for video (and music) in the world is YouTube. You need to be there, there is more money there overall and it’s growing globally. But, you have to put the work in. If you don’t have a channel doing things, with no content or activity, YouTube has zero reason to push traffic your way. When I say YouTube, what I really mean is the algorithm. Algorithms rule all of these platforms to get you to the viewer or listener. So, understand what that means:

frequency of content, quality, how your channel or pages are curated and tailored, keywords, metadata etc. That may sound complicated, but it’s not really.   Good news is that it’s absolutely free to do.  For instance, Marshmello is a DJ we’ve been working with. He has a really active channel with growing subscribers and it’s not all his music. He does “How To” videos on dances in Fortnite. He does gaming videos. He launched a cooking show. It’s an influencer and entertainer era. The simple thing is to release an audio song with a regular video, or even a collab. Now go further, call them over and do a video, or many videos. And do things that are not just about your music career but have your music in them.  Enforce that you are a brand, create friendships and partnerships with other creators and help them out. No one does this alone.  What’s next for CMG, any exciting new things? Big things coming up. We launched the Splits

app which you covered (thank you). We continue to improve our artist portal providing real-time data. We are currently beta testing a music licensing platform for video makers. In our dealings with any YouTuber, the biggest thing I’ve seen is that they don’t want crappy stock music, they want great music. If you’re gonna use music, use good music. Music is probably the most important factor of whether a video succeeds long-term or not. We see this statistic across all of YouTube. If you don’t get them without 6 seconds, we see a massive drop off – up to 35% immediately. Best counter is really good music to keep them into those videos. To find out if you are the right match for Create Music Group’s services, go to createmusicgroup.com and click “Find out what you’re missing.”  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 2019 13


MUSIC BUSINESS

Playlist Freedom w

Playlists are the thing. Playlists are the most important tool of the recorded music business today. That is undeniable. No amount of web advertising, email blasts, radio ads, or even social campaigns, can come close to the network effect that comes from getting on the right playlist. If you suddenly get traction as an unknown artist, it’s probably because of a playlist. There are agents and label reps whose only job is to attain placements on that coveted music supe’s “Songs of Summer” playlist, or get the influencer of the day to agree to an inclusion, or (the Holy Grail of them all!) getting on the actual platform editor’s playlist! Pure gold. Playlists are also important to listeners (which is why you need to be on many). Think about it, in a world where every service basically has the same songs for basically the same price, 14 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

how can they keep you from trying other ones, taking a break, or quitting altogether? Playlists. Personalized, genre tuned, and stuffed with data. I know many of you have created playlists that include your music alongside artists like you, bands that have regional pull, even bands and artists you want to help cross-promote. That’s the way to do it. Help others help you. But it also is true that regular ol’ curation is still a magnet. Just think about how you meticulously created that playlist for those summer patio jam parties, and it always works. Think about those various inspirational playlists you have spent hours fine-tuning for the gym. How about that cool retro one, or the perfect Christmas one you have that doesn’t include those tired songs you hate! So, let’s say you’ve heard a lot about Deezer and their hi-res catalog and simple UI, how can

you possibly leave Apple Music after all the time you put in on your playlists? Or let’s say you are songwriter (like me) who has used Spotify for a decade and have put in hundreds of hours on playlists only to find out that the company is actively suing to stop you (and other songwriters at the heart of what Spotify is selling) to be paid less -- how can you jump to Apple Music? Maybe you’re sick of the horror stories with Amazon warehouse workers and in good conscious want to leave Amazon Music for Tidal? Perhaps you are YouTube creator who is sick of takedown notices and wants to shut down their channel, but have hundreds of playlists? Plus, wouldn’t it be cool if you could move those playlists from YouTube to listen to on Spotify? Maybe you’re just sick of all these subscriptions and want to go with a free account, or perhaps you got a new phone plan that includes 6 months free of (insert streamer here).


But you feel locked in, because of the playlists. If there was just a way to keep all of that work, all that awesome music you’ve found, those killer playlists of perfect tunes. Hell, what would be really cool is to take any playlist and be able to enjoy it on any service! Well, I’ve found it. It’s called TuneMyMusic (tunemymusic.com). It’s a straightforward and simple way to transfer all of your playlists between services. You can download your playlists as .csv or text, or can sign into both services, say Spotify and Apple Music, and convert them from one to the other. And...it’s free! First, don’t quit your current service yet, because you’ll want to login to that one and the new one before you try this. Let’s go!

• • • • •

Go to Tunemymusic.com -- no login necessary. Click “Let’s Get Started.” Then “Select The Source” music platform where your current playlists are stored. Select the Playlists you want to move. Convert and start moving.

Currently, TuneMyMusic supports many music services including: Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, SoundCloud, Deezer, Tidal, Apple Music, Napster, Google Play Music, Amazon Music, and more. Now, it’s not perfect, there are some limitations on how many playlists some services will allow (YouTube only allows 10 per day). Also, because it’s a library match system, sometimes tracks with “Various Artists” don’t really port over, duplicate song

MUSIC BUSINESS

with TuneMyMusic

titles happen, and some albums might be missing. DAMN YOU, NON-CENTRALIZED METADATA! For the most part though, it works like a charm. Pro Tip: make sure to download your playlists to .csv or plain text anyway. This way you can upload them without logins. If you’re really hustling, you can also send them to fans to build on your playlist on whatever platform they are on. Boom! Now, you have no reason to stay with a music service you aren’t happy with. 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 2019 15


MUSIC BUSINESS

HOW MUCH LIABILI DOES MY BAND NE

W

e’ve spoken at length about liability insurance for live bands, especially touring bands and those performing at large outdoor events like festivals, fairs and the like. A while back we discussed, specifically, how much liability insurance a policy would typically cover when it came to the realm of entertainer insurance. A lot of our readers were surprised by the dollar amounts we were throwing around. After all, if I’m just in a local band who performs at reasonable-sized venues, how much damage could I really cause in a given night? Well, that’s the rub. Probably a lot more than you might realize, especially when you factor in that liability insurance for bands and other live performers doesn’t just cover physical property damage or destruction your act might be found liable for. It may also cover bodily injury, harm and, as unthinkable as it may seem, even death resulting from actions, inactions, negligence and other circumstances surrounding a live event or performance. For damage to property and equipment resulting from your actions, you could be talking anywhere from a few hundred dollars to make the affected party whole again, to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity of the event and damage. But when it comes to another human being’s health and safety, expect those numbers to grow exponentially if you’re found at fault for injuries. HOW MUCH LIABILITY INSURANCE ARE WE TALKING, HERE? This is precisely what sparked so many questions in one of our previous articles. In that piece, we said the following: “The policy ‘limit’ is the dollar amount of protection you purchase to cover future claims. For example, you may choose to buy a policy that offers a $2 million occurrence limit with a $5 million aggregate limit. This means that your limit for an individual incident is $2 million with a total limit of $5 million for all incidents occurring while the policy is in effect.” 16 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Is it outside the realm of possibilities to be responsible for $2 for a single incident? Consider someone injured at your concert, and a claim is filed against you for damages – or worse, a lawsuit ensues. That action or actions could not just point the blame in your direction, but also indicate the types of costs associated with bodily harm, including ambulance fees, hospital fees, medications, after-care costs, therapy, and long-term effects even after the inciting event has taken place. It should come as no surprise that health care and prescription costs are unmanageable for many people in this country even in the best of times, so throwing an unexpected hospital visit in the mix, along with all that goes along with it, can add up quickly. Wrongful death suits in this country have been settled for millions of dollars, and pain and suffering figures have been known to reach those amounts, as well. According to Business Insider, hospital stays cost US citizens nearly $385 billion per year, and the average stay can cost well over $10,000 and up. Now, keep in mind, that’s just the hospital stay, and if you are indeed found liable for the injury or injuries in question, it doesn’t necessarily stop there. You could be on the hook for other things you’ve never even considered before, including lost wages due to the injury, and in the above scenario you might only be figuring in one affected party. What if there are multiple injured parties? Now, that’s where the expenses (and headaches) can REALLY add up quickly. All of the sudden, six-figure-and-up policies don’t seem so far-fetched, do they? Now, of course we’re talking about the most extreme cases here, and the hope is you’ll never have to find yourself in one of these situations. But wouldn’t you rest easier knowing your insurance policy had you covered in case the unthinkable WERE to occur? EVENT OR VENUE REQUIREMENTS The other thing to keep in mind, aside from the peace of mind you’ll have securing a policy with limits that’ll cover most conceivable scenarios, is that some events or venues may flat-out require their acts to carry their own

liability insurance. In those instances, even though you may have considered a certain amount of coverage sufficient, you could be held to the requirements of the promoter in order to perform. And promoters, at least the good ones, are


Benjamin Ricci

MUSIC BUSINESS

LITY INSURANCE NEED? photo by Yoppy

likely going to be over-cautious when it comes to cover their you-know-whats. So, seeing a large policy limit in a performance contract should no longer come as a shock. It should come as a relief when you obtain the policy, knowing that if the worst-case scenario were to play out, you would have the necessary coverage (even if it were sort

of forced upon you). CONCLUSION You’ve heard us repeat it a million times, but to be sure, always check over your policy and ask your provider to answer any questions you may have. They have the answers, trust us. The best

policy (no pun intended) is consult a professional whenever you’re in doubt. Stay safe out there and look for more tips in the months ahead. And in the meantime, check out www. kandkinsurance.com – you may qualify to get a quote or even purchase insurance online. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 17


SPOTLIGHT

Manila Killa Michael Grandinetti

Talks Tour Rehearsal and Soaking Up International Inspiration

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t HARMAN’s Experience Center, Chris Gavino—better known as his stage name Manila Killa— and his lighting designer, Anthony Napolitano, rehearse for their upcoming tour. In a dark sound stage, the glow off a drop-down projection screen that displays Napolitano’s digital lighting renderings provides the only light in the room. Gavino cues a smooth melody and the two proceed to meticulously break down the show’s arrangement. As preparation continues, the renderings brighten, further illuminating the sound stage and symbolizing Gavino’s musical journey and success. 20 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


SPOTLIGHT day music was a huge melting pot for me,” Gavino says. Along with influence from his peers, Gavino credited listening to the radio and the rise of the Internet for discovering a love for pop music and underground EDM, respectively. These interests quickly manifested into a new hobby, as he taught himself how to use Ableton and started producing remixes. Over the years, Gavino’s projects gained traction and he began performing consistently. Ultimately, with support from his friends and an encounter with one of EDM’s most successful DJs and producers, Gavino transformed his hobby into a career.

Earlier in his life, Gavino thought a career in music wasn’t realistic. Before his newly released album 1993 and major festival billings, the producer took an unlikely path to the stage and recording studio. He was born in the United States, but raised around the world, as his father worked for the U.S. government to provide aid for third world countries. Frequently adapting to new surroundings and meeting new people, Gavino’s life experiences in places such as the Philippines and Indonesia emerged as fundamental components to his musical interests and creative inspiration. “I was kind of a sponge in the sense that every time I moved to a new school, which happened every two years, I had a new set of friends who had different tastes in music. So, at the end of the

“I personally didn’t really see music as a viable career, but apparently a lot of other people did,” Gavino says with a laugh. “It was mostly my friends who were encouraging me. Skrillex took interest in one of my friends and I got sucked into that circle. . . . We weren’t too close, but Skrillex definitely introduced me to a lot of people who I still talk to. Indirectly, he helped my career that way.” Fast forward from 2014—when Gavino decided to pursue music full-time—to now, the producer has earned tens of millions of streams online and performed at Firefly, Hangout Fest, HARD Summer and other prominent festivals. As his career progresses, he faces his next challenge: producing his first cross-country tour that features his original music while creating an ideal experience for his audience. “I was doing a lot of DJing the past few years, which is solely based on choosing songs and going off the flow of the crowd. But for this tour it’s a little different,” Gavino explains. “I just released my first body of work, so now I’m trying

to curate an experience that’s made up of mostly my own music and my own tastes. On this tour, I’m involved in literally every single detail—from what’s being played on the screens, to how I’m playing music and what the stage is going to look like.” Throughout their preparation in HARMAN’s Experience Center, Gavino and Napolitano left no stone unturned. They discussed the size of the stage, deployment of lights—including an array of Martin MAC Quantum Wash moving heads, Atomic 3000 LED strobes and VDO Sceptron linear fixtures—spacing between each light and everything in between. As Gavino’s tunes pumped through the JBL speakers, he acknowledged the benefit of practicing in an ideal rehearsal space. “The equipment is everything we would need for the tour,” Gavino says. “The JBL PRX speakers are incredible. The quality is amazing and it’s almost like having my own headphones. That’s been very helpful in curating and working on my set. The JBL 308P MkII studio monitors are really sick too,” he says in regards to his first and only pair of studio monitors. Gavino is now in the midst of his tour, continuing his unlikely musical journey and illuminating possibilities along the way.

Follow on Twitter: @manilakilla PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 21


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SPOTLIGHT

TYCHO Opens Up About New Home Studio & Creative Evolution on New LP

Scott Hansen

Dana Forsythe

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ore than 15 years into his musical career leading the quasisolo project Tycho, Scott Hansen is ready for another change. After completing the “trilogy” of records including 2011’s Dive, 2014’s Awake and 2016’s Grammy-nominated Epoch, Hansen parted ways with Ghostly International and signed with Mom and Pop Records this year. With the newest album Weather just released a few weeks back, Hansen has also overseen a complete overhaul of the band’s sound, teaming up with Hannah Cottrell aka Saint Sinner on vocals. Historically, Tycho’s music has leaned on lush, ambient electronic synths, muted guitar lines and driving drums and bass. While Tycho got its first taste of vocals when the band teamed up with fellow Ghostly labelmates Beacon in 2017, vocals on Tycho tracks have been sparse. On Weather, Hansen tells Performer that he and Cottrell worked together on five of the eight new songs. Weather feels like the culmination of Hansen’s past experiences -- and the blissful sunset melodies of Dive, the crisp beats of Awake and the crystalline sounds of Epoch are all there. It makes sense because, according to Hansen, he’s been wanting to add vocals to the project’s music since the first record in 2004. “This is something I’d wanted to do for a long time,” Hansen explains. “Past in

When it came time to return after the success of Epoch, Hansen says took those production skills, and decided to go forward with a new vision for how Weather could open up and be different. “I felt like I had chased down those sounds for the better part of 15 years by that time,” he says. “So, I felt like this was the moment where I should capitalize on it (by adding vocals). I haven’t really had that opportunity, that open space, to explore something different.” In addition to thinking about new sounds and techniques, Hansen spent part of 2018 renovating his old San Francisco home studio. Serving as the homebase for Tycho’s formation, Hansen says he made use of his time off to turn the space into a proper studio with new equipment. “Before I would have to go to my engineer’s studio and bring my computer and all of my equipment, “ Hansen says. “I don’t like to stem stuff out. I usually work directly on my computer then save stuff in Reaper. Now it’s great, I don’t have to travel anywhere to record.” The renovation also made the process of creating Weather that much smoother, he adds. When it came time to think about the songs on Weather, Hansen says he thought back to the early days of Tycho. During the early 2000’s, when he was writing songs for the first record, bands like Zero 7, Massive Attack and Cinematic Orchestra were constantly a major inspiration. “Naturally some of those influences came back and found their way into some of the songs,” he says. “’For How Long’ feels very rooted in that time for me.” Additionally, Hansen says the production on Weather is the culmination

On his new home studio setup: “ ‘‘I USUALLY WORK DIRECTLY ON MY COMPUTER THEN

SAVE STUFF IN REAPER. NOW IT’S GREAT, I DON’T HAVE TO TRAVEL ANYWHERE TO RECORD.’’ Prologue [2004] actually started off as a vocal project. I recorded all these tracks with a vocalist and it never clicked. I don’t think I had a clear vision for what I wanted that to be at the time, so I used the vocals as samples and filed it away as something I wanted to approach eventually.”

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of everything he’s learned over the years and he wanted to revisit some of the sounds and techniques that he had used earlier in his career. “Dive, specifically, but revisiting them from a new perspective with a new set of skills and resources,” he says. “Back then I was kind of

stumbling around in the dark. If it sounded cool I went with it. This time I wanted to be much more intentional…but also have that grain and texture kind of vibe the old stuff had.” A great example is the new track “Japan,” a song Hansen wrote upon returning from some personal time in Hakone, Japan. “This was right around the time I was starting on this album and I was thinking a lot about the kinds of instruments and methods I had been using when I first started making music in the late ’90s,” he shared on Facebook. “With ‘Japan,’ I was trying to recapture a part of that sound and combine it with the imagery and experiences from my time in the green forests of Hakone. Once I felt comfortable with the instrumental I sent the song to Hannah Cottrell [Saint Sinner] with nothing more than the title of ‘Japan’ and she wrote all of the lyrics.” According to Hansen, he’s not exactly “a lyrically or vocally oriented” person. So, when it came time to collaborate with Cottrell he wanted to take a hands-off approach. “I kept thinking that if it was something I interfered with too much it might [be detrimental],” he says. “I just wanted to let Hannah do what she does and express herself. There’s some beauty in writing the lyrics and


SPOTLIGHT expressing some of your own voice. There’s something special there that I wanted to capture for the track. Hannah wrote all the lyrics and even wrote a lot of the melodies.” Hansen and his crew are just starting to ramp up production for the upcoming Weather tour and whereas the writing of the record provided a chance to revamp the music, the new tour has provided a chance to rethink the live show. “We’re rebuilding from the ground up on the tech and sonic level,” he said. “It’s been nice to have this big window, so we’re able to provide new foundation, new tech and new music, and vocals are a big part of that now.” If you’ve ever been to a Tycho show, you know that visuals are an enormous part of the live performance as Hansen was [and still is] a professional designer prior to taking up music. Creating a live show with coordinated visuals is a job in itself. Luckily, Tycho’s studio engineer travels with the band on the road. “He takes whatever signal change I use to record the records,” he says. “As far as plug-ins goes, or hardware, we try to emulate. If there’s a piece of hardware we can bring, we do, but I try not to bring too much because it’s a liability. We emulate most of the analog front-end stuff with software/hardware integration program

and then whatever plug-ins we do use, I try to use stripped-down, smaller versions of them [on tour].” While Weather will have already been released by the time this article comes out, Hansen says an instrumental version of the record is already finished and set for release in the fall.

Follow on Twitter: @ISO50

“My work typically reaches its final form through an iterative process and with this record I wanted to further explore the multiple forks in that process. With the music I approached each song with the intention of making both vocal and instrumental versions,” he says. “The instrumentals aren’t simply versions with the vocals removed, they are totally new arrangements with different melodies and instrumentation.” As for the reception of the record, Hansen said he’s hopeful that fans will enjoy the return to some of the sounds that got them interested in Tycho in the first place. “This record was about reconnecting with the positivity and beauty in my early music,” he says. “Epoch was kind of a dark, alien record, so I wanted to return to more of the warm, familiar, beautiful sounds I was shaping with the records before that.”

TYCHO WEATHER STANDOUT TRACK: “PINK & BLUE”

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SPOTLIGHT

HOW TO BOOST YOUR ODDS OF GETTING SYNC PLACEMENTS Pro Tips from 411 Music Group CEO Kristen Agee

Preston Thalilndroma

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ync licensing has become a significant source of revenue in the music industry…and there are certain ‘tastemakers’ and reps who put your music into the right hands to be heard. But what if you’re not a touring artist represented by a label or publisher? What if you’re in a band but are sick of touring or an aspiring bedroom composer who wants to write full-time? Here is my story and a basic guide on how to get started in the sync world. As a kid, violin was the only thing that kept me sane. I grew up in Oklahoma playing classical violin, bluegrass and Irish “fiddle,” guitar, a bit of piano, drums and eventually bass. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18 and went to the Los Angeles Recording School to learn how to record as a tool for writing and producing music. I learned about tape machines, soldered cables, ran Pro Tools and learned how to mix and master tracks with outboard gear and plug-ins. After school, I recorded punk bands in my first studio

in Silverlake and played violin and bass in various projects. I reached a turning point in 2010 when I met the bass legend, Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Sting, Madonna, to name a few), at an Ampeg seminar at Sam Ash Music in West LA. With some luck and assertiveness and, by luck, I mean, I waited in line for an hour to talk to him after the seminar, Darryl ended up teaching me bass lessons for two years. When I started my lessons, I thought I was going to be the next bassist for The Smashing Pumpkin…because that makes sense. TSP was my first concert when I was 11, and as sweet and poetic as it would have been, playing bass as a hired gun in a rock band I’ve loved since the 3rd grade didn’t quite pan out. Music has always been my life, but I never wanted to be a full-time engineer, and after going on the road with bands for a couple of years, I realized I didn’t want to tour either. So, how was I to continue as an independent music professional without taking the traditional artist route? Internal Dialogue: “I know! I’ll write full-time and eventually start a music company!” Right....easier

said than done. But, nevertheless, I left my bands and started writing songs for synchronization work. I literally cold emailed music catalogs and submitted songs to production music libraries. I think at the time the music we were writing was vastly better than standard production music, so people responded right away. Eventually, we were called to write custom music and score to brief for ads, themes for TV shows and sonic branding. Eventually, I found myself curating writing sessions, co-writes and composing teams. After a couple of years of doing this, I started 411 Music Group and launched a small indie catalog of onestop artists in January 2014. From there, we built underscore, sound design, and trailer music catalogs. We started co- and sub-publishing US and international catalogs and later built a traditional publishing arm to sign writers to publishing deals and act as a sync agent for larger catalogs. Easy, right? Nope, not at all, not for a second. I thought breaking into the music catalog and publishing world was going to be easy. After all, our music was better than everyone else’s and we were already getting called to write for specific opportunities. After cold emailing, PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 27


SPOTLIGHT calling and annoying music supervisors for a solid year, I realized this was going to be difficult. Did that stop me? Of course not. I’ve always been irritatingly persistent, which is honestly why we are still around today. That and great writers. I currently oversee creative business development at 411, secure global partnerships and head up our custom music division where we score

With all of this being said, there are a few things you can do to boost your chances of consistently working as a composer:

know the writers who can turn a track around in an hour, and they are the ones we call in a pinch.

1. Know your strengths and fill in the gaps. If you are a great singer/songwriter but can’t produce or record, pair with someone who can. Find partnerships that balance your business/

3. Deliver on-time with tight deadlines. We know amazing producers who can’t deliver. Some are too slow, some lose sessions, don’t want to print stems, make revisions or take notes. The easier you make other people’s jobs, the more you will work. With that being said, it’s important to know your value. If you are doing a $5,000 job and sitting on version 65 with 5 more rounds of notes to go, you’ll quickly realize it’s important to set parameters of expectations during the contract stage before you start a project. For custom music, I tend to negotiate a predetermined amount of cues or mintage with a set amount of revisions. If it goes over, an additional budget kicks in. You wouldn’t expect a camera operator to work overtime for free, would you? Build these types of overages into the agreement.

“Find partnerships that balance your business/creative processes and expand your reach for creating.” promos, trailers, video games, ads and on average about 8-10 TV shows per year. One of the biggest challenges in transitioning from artist to composer is the concept of writing for someone else. As a composer, you are required to deliver music based on a defined set of parameters, and you need to do it on-time, under tight deadlines and with no guarantee of acceptance. You are required to make revisions, interpret notes from producers who don’t necessarily have a background in music and somehow turn what they say into a palpable composition which conveys the proper emotion, pacing and arc of a scene. 28 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

creative processes and expand your reach for creating. If that means splitting your writer’s share with a producer who is recording you or signing with a publisher who will push your career forward, make an informed decision and take the risk. You can’t do it all. It’s good to do a bit of soul-searching to discover how you want to spend your time. If the answer is writing, then focus on being a creative and find the right team to take care of the other stuff. 2. Be able to record, mix and master your music. If you can’t record, learn. Most of our composers are self-sufficient and can deliver a piece of music to us single-handedly. We

4. Create templates in Pro Tools to save time and speed up the writing process. Whether you have mix settings for your drums, synths, guitars, orchestral or rock sessions, having templates built before you start a project can streamline the creative process. This creates consistency in workflow and allows you to get your ideas on paper, so to speak, instead of spending half your night searching for the right synth plugin for your next pop song or EQ setting for your strings.


SPOTLIGHT

5. Try Sound Design. People don’t necessarily think of sound design as a creative outlet. Well, let me tell you, it is. The process of sound design creation can launch you into exploratory soundscape heaven, creating new textures, sounds and elements you can use in your writing and license out for trailers and promos. Not only that, sound design can bring in the bucks. One carefully crafted sub hit could potentially pay your rent for a month. This is a learned skill set and isn’t as simple as picking a plug-in preset and hitting a key on a MIDI keyboard. Do some research on how trailer music and sound design is built, and then take a microphone with you when you leave the house in case you find inspiration in the sound of a train passing by. And now for the process of scoring a TV show. When we start a new project, I typically meet with the producers, editors, directors or music supervisors to go through the initial creative. This usually starts with a rundown of the show, concepts for sound, whether we’re going to score to picture or deliver cue packages, what genre we’ll be writing, and then I’ll make suggestions based on the scope. Every show is different. For example, on “24 Hours to Hell and Back,” we refer to the different genres as “Gordon Rock,” “Gordon Tension,” “Gordon Emotional,” which is different from the “Undercover Boss” sound. Gordon Ramsay shows tend to have more tense action drama, whereas in UCB you may cry. In season one of “24 Hours,” we used pots and pans instead of drums on the percussion parts for all of the kitchen sequence cues. And, because the entire show is based on a 24hour time period, we wrote cues at 60 and 120 BPM to align with the timing and concept of the ticking clock. “Chrisley Knows Best” has a particular “Orchestral Dramedy” cue formula which works for the family. Sting outs and edit points are particularly important on this show to punctuate the comedy. In the end, just get your music out there. Send it to publishers, sync agents, music supervisors, wherever you can, but do your research first. Don’t send hip-hop to a music sup who is working on a period piece which only uses archival music. It takes a massive vessel to steer music into the right direction for media content and to monetize this music so everyone can earn a living. Writing is a muscle. The more you practice, the better you will get. It’s not an exact science. Keep creating, and if all else fails, write a bunch of Noise Rock. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kristen Agee is a classically trained violinist and currently the CEO of 411 Music Group, which she founded in 2012. She has been a featured speaker, and spoken on panels at the ASCAP Expo, Canadian Music Week, SXSW, AEMCON, LACM and MIDEM. Learn more at http:// www.411musicgroup.com

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 29


SPOTLIGHT

EXPLORING TAYLOR GUITARS’ EBONY PROJECT, SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS AND THE DRIVE TO BUILD MORE EARTH-CONSCIOUS INSTRUMENTS courtesy of Taylor Guitars

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Benjamin Ricci


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ecently, I had the chance to speak with Taylor Guitar’s Director of Natural Resource Sustainability, Scott Paul. Paul is a renowned environmentalist with over two decades experience in the field, including time with Greenpeace, and a clear vision for how to make the instrument-building business a more sustainable operation, one that not just delivers great guitars to the music world, but one that also does so in a way that uses our Earth’s resources in the most manner possible. More to the point, we spoke at length about the Ebony Project the company is undertaking in Cameroon, sometimes-confusing CITES regulations, and how the general industry of woodworking and lumber is impacting the environment on a global scale, and efforts being taken to counteract the negative impact humankind has had on its surroundings. Let’s start in a more general sense. I think there are a lot of misconception about what exactly is going on with woods these days. There’s a lot of chatter about CITES, and certain woods becoming unavailable in certain regions for import. I think it might be helpful to address some of the messageboard talk before we delve into specifics with what Taylor is doing. Sure, let’s set the context for this particular point in history. Stepping way back, musical instrument manufacturers have sourced wood the same way for hundreds of years – by sourcing what was locally available. Either trees that grew locally or wood that was brought in by larger industries like Mahogany and Rosewood. That’s just the way it had always been. But in the past 15 or 20 years, things have really started to change in terms of the global forest trade and regulation. Where it had always been sort of a frontier mentality, you didn’t have to really think where you were sourcing the wood beyond some middleman wood broker. But that’s all changing, and guitar manufacturers are in many ways the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ who’ll see first differences in quality, price and availability – and we’re seeing that. We’re also seeing, as in 2018, where the United States passed the first laws about amending the Lacey Act, making it illegal to bring in forest products if a crime was committed relating to it in another country. And now CITES is beginning to look more closely at forest products and plants in a more serious way. And one of the things they’re starting to look at is trees, commercially traded trees. And of course, many of those are used to make musical instruments. So, the point of all that backstory

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SPOTLIGHT is to say that it was always kind of the same until not that long ago, and for a number of reasons, the government reaction to the health of forests has changed. And all these changes are setting up Taylor Guitars, and Bob Taylor specifically, where he’s beginning to spend his personal time and resources doing restoration on various species that he’s relied on for the past 40 years. I have to imagine these regulations put in place to protect the environment and specifically the forests where these woods are harvested from. And I think where Taylor is leading the way is in that sustainability push especially with its Ebony Project – that’s where the industry should be headed and I know you were personally in Cameroon about a month ago, is that correct? Yeah, I’m in Cameroon a couple times a year. The reason I was most recently there is that April was the first rainy season so if you’re going to plant a couple thousand plants, that’s when you’re going to do it. So, one aspect of the Ebony Project is preparing for seasonal planting, and that comes with the rains. Before we jump into that though, it’s important to note that for all of the other species [of wood] besides koa and ebony (where worldwide demand for them outside of the instrument

manufacturing industry is just not that strong) like spruce, maple, mahogany, etc., the music industry probably only uses less than 1/10th of 1% of the global trade in any given species. So, in the grand scheme of things, we might seem super insignificant, but of course that doesn’t alleviate our legal, ethical and moral responsibilities. The guitar is so visible in our culture, that people must think our industry is responsible for so much destruction… We’re not the main driver, but maybe because the guitar is so universally beloved, we can be part of a movement to stabilize and restore some of the resources that we’ve long depended on. Who is the biggest user of forest resources, then – which industry? It’s undisputed that the primary driver of forest lost, in particular tropical forest lost, is actually agricultural conversion. It’s palm oil, soybeans, cattle, coffee…The other primary industries for the actual wood usage are furniture manufacturing, home construction, flooring – those continue to be the main consumers of the actual wood produced. I’d love to talk about ebony more in particular. I have ebony fingerboards on

a number of my personal guitars, but my own ignorance about the wood is alarming. I don’t know much about where it typically comes from, how it’s harvested, how it’s exported, and what initiatives are underway to alleviate the environmental losses due to its harvesting. Ebony has been traded as far back as the Egyptians. It’s got a unique black coloring that has always made it stand out – and it’s uniquely suitable for things like a fingerboard because it’s so hard that if dried properly, it’s not going to crack, and it’s going to hold your frets at the exact same height over time, perfectly. On the other hand, it’s an absolutely horrible wood to work with [laughs]. There’s a reason why you’ve never seen ebony furniture, for example. The only time you ever see it is small pieces like billiard cues or knife handles, because you can’t manufacture with it easily. So, there’s not a huge market demand for it like rosewood. Taylor purchased Crelicam in 2011 [ed note – Crelicam is a Cameroon-based supplier of ebony] in part because it was a reaction to the US passing new amendments to the Lacey Act, and since the mill was for sale, there was an opportunity for us to take direct responsibility for a wood that we like to use, from a part of the world where it’s not always easy to get transparent information from. So, if we got in trouble, it would be our own damn fault. PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 33


SPOTLIGHT So, you were now in charge of the supply chain. Exactly. That was the dream behind the purchase, that we would do it right, and that we’d do it legally, morally, and ethically. And in 2014, because we were doing a good job, we won the State Department’s Ace Award for corporate excellence overseas. So fast forward to 2016 - we started asking questions like how much ebony is out there? How does it reproduce? The research told us that the world knew shockingly little about African Ebony. There was just not a lot of information out there. Some other traditional places where people got ebony were Madagascar, which supplied it for a long time, and now you can’t get it from there anymore. There are a lot of problems there, it’s just a tough place for anything. They’ve overexploited their natural resources. So, Bob Taylor was the very first guy who said, ‘OK, I will fund a project at the Congo Basin 34 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Institute, and it’s going to do a few things. For starters, we’re going to study the basic ecology of ebony.’ Up until a year ago, nobody even knew which insects pollinated the ebony flower – things as basic as that. It’s all a testament to Bob’s personal interest in this space. The project works at a village level, by teaching people how to populate the plants and have the highest success rates producing plants by a number of different means. So, Taylor is really laying the groundwork now that other guitar companies can follow to responsibly source and harvest their own woods around the world, too? That’s right. And we still occasionally get people on message boards saying that we shouldn’t be using tropical woods at all. And on the one hand, Taylor is doing some great stuff looking at alternative species including urban woods and other supply sources. But I think, in 2019, it’s kind of naïve to be saying you should have [blanket] tropical wood boycotts. We have to make a choice – we are going to collectively value standing forests and the products they can supply, if

managed correctly, or we can turn our backs and walk away. But I’ll tell you – the soybean, and palm oil, and larger agricultural interests [will come in] -- it’s not like that land is going to be abandoned, that land is going to be used for something. Now, we’re either going to manage it as forests, or it’s going to be converted to something else. I know the response to this argument is that our track record [as a society] over the past few hundred years is nothing to be proud of. Not so hot…but OK. So, we screwed up until this point as a culture, but we’re smarter, more global now, and we should certainly be sorry about the past. But right now, what are our choices? We can let it be converted to other uses, or attempt to get our act together and manage these forests more responsibly. And that’s what Taylor is trying to do. And globally speaking, we’re just a drop in the bucket. But we’re a bloody guitar company – everybody loves the guitar. And that cultural totem, which is often held up as an example of forest loss, can just as easily be turned around to


SPOTLIGHT be held up as an example to show people just what had to come together to make that guitar. And this transcends politics – people are responding to the fact that we’re taking our corporate ethics and corporate license seriously. And you’ve got this situation in Cameroon where we’re not only planting ebony trees, but also fruit and medicine trees at a village level, and look at what we’re doing in Hawaii planting koa. So far we’ve only discussed the ebony project in Cameroon, but soon we’re going to be talking more about koa, later down the road we’ll be talking about more [species]. We’re not just a one-trick pony. I think people look to the top, to see where their industry is headed. Taylor, as one of those leaders, will have other companies looking to you as a guidepost to see what they should be doing in their own business practices. All we can do is be an example. And we welcome any other manufacturer – Fender, for example, is doing some pretty cool stuff in this area. We’re

not big enough to change the world, but our bully pulpit can allow us to be an example to say, ‘If this little guitar company can do this, so can you.’ For what you’re doing in Cameroon, specifically - is that exclusively for Taylor, or do you supply some of the wood you produce to other manufacturers? For ebony, the Crelicam mill supplies others, sure. And our partner [Madinter] sells ebony to other people. Regarding the re-forestation, though, just keep this in mind. You, me, everyone we know is going to be dead by the time these trees are big enough to be used. We’re talking about hardwoods that can take between 80 and 100-plus years before they become harvestable. It’s important to understand that what we’ve got going on in Hawaii and Cameroon, we hope to plant thousands and thousands of trees – and we’ll never live to see them cut. We’re not doing it so we can make guitars; we’re doing it so our grandkids can still make guitars. For more information, please visit www.taylorguitars.com/ebonyproject

On reforestation efforts in Cameroon: “We’re not doing it so we can make guitars; we’re doing it so our grandkids can still make guitars.” PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 35


GEAR REVIEWS

GET UP OFFA

W

hen it comes to equipment, g uita rists have the w o r s t case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) of any musicians. They accumulate instruments, accessories, and most of all, fx pedals! Heck, a lot of guitarists are even building their own pedals, they love them so much. So, you’d think that the majority of axeslingers out there would invest in some sort of pedalboard solution, or pedal management system, instead of snaking a thousand cables and jumbling their pedals out on the floor willy-nilly for gigs and rehearsals. Luckily, we live in the age of convenience, and you can buy pedalboards online with ease, even customizing the board to your specs and needs. So, why do you need a pedalboard in the 36 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

first place? For starters, it’s a huge help when it comes to organizing your signal flow and keeping it consistent no matter where you’re playing. If you’re just tossing pedals in a milk crate and hoping you’ll remember the order they’re supposed to go in when you get to the gig, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Most experts agree that pedals should typically go in an order that looks something like this:

chain are altering the sounds they are supposed to. For example, you’d likely want to put delay last in order so the entire signal is delayed. Placing a delay front and center can muddy up your sound if you’re adding gain, boosts, modulation and other effects post-delay. You may also want to try experimenting with placing modulation and time-based fx in the dedicated fx loop of your amp, if one is provided.

• • •

What does this have to do with a pedalboard? Well organized pedalboards afford you a number of conveniences that can help you put your stompboxes in order, ensure they stay there permanently or at least semi-permanently, and provide power to everything so you’re not constantly fishing for 9v batteries from the back of the van, or running a ton of wall warts all over the places just to get your pedal chain up and running.

• • •

Tuner Compression or dynamics Flangers/chorus/phase and other modulation effects Distortion/drive/gain and fuzz boxes Reverb Delay

Now, of course, there are no hard and fast rules in rock and roll, but keeping a routing flow like this will (in most normal situations) provide the clearest signal and will ensure that effects that come before or after other effects in your

Some pedalboards offer great, Velcro-free alternatives for securing your pedals to their platforms, while still making it easy to swap boxes


GEAR REVIEWS

A THAT THING!

Or: Why You Need a Pedalboard

in and out quickly if you’re in the mood to test our new fx, or simply spice up your sound. Many pedalboard systems also offer incredibly handy cable management and power management options built right in. So, you can hide unsightly cables underneath the chassis for a neater look, to avoid tripping over a spaghetti mess on stage, and to keep everything organized where it should be. You can also tuck away power supply bricks underneath most pedalboard platforms so you can power your entire rig without sacrificing valuable board space. There are a lot of different pedalboard companies out there, and one we recommend is Aclam Guitars. Their custom pedalboards are super user-friendly and totally customizable to your needs. They also feature killer cable management, are rock solid and should outlast even the most rigorous touring conditions. For more information, head to www.aclamguitars.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 37


GEAR REVIEWS

ELECTRO-VOICE RE520 Handheld Condenser Microphone

T

here are certain singers who just get handed a microphone, and that’s it. While instrumentalists pour over every facet of their gear, many vocalists kind of just get a mic, and go with the flow. EV has a new way to think about vocal mics with their RE520. It’s a condenser mic with a super cardioid pattern -- it has the typical configuration, capsule under a grille on top, and XLR connection on the bottom. It’s got a robust all-metal design, so durability is never going to be an issue. The only option is a high-pass filter, which attenuates frequencies below 150Hz. The capsule is also mounted in an internal shock mount, which means less vibration, and less noise from handling. Frequency response is 40Hz-20kHz, and a maximum SPL of 150dB. Like most condensers this mic will require phantom power. Putting this mic up on a stand, immediately the clarity was mind blowing. No odd coloring or anything strange. The purity of the signal was quite refreshing overall. There was no need for a “get on it” type of vocal approach, and no fighting anything to get desired results. There is plenty of high-end articulation that doesn’t get grainy, and the mids have plenty of punch and overall presence. The low frequencies don’t flub out either, and the high-pass filter helps keep performers that might like to push those frequencies, but not have to deal with bottoming out. The capsule’s design also rejects off-axis (indirect) noise and bleed over from other sources like amps and wedges. So, performers who like to work a mic a bit dynamically won’t have to worry about that possible feedback blast when pulling the mic back. Singer/songwriters who might be performing in small spaces will really appreciate the focus this has. It’s one of those mics that work with the singer, not against them. The street price is $299, and might be a bit more expensive when comparing it to a lot of the “industry standard” live microphone choices, but if you’re not even considering one of these, well…I guess “standard” is OK for you, then. It’s not a big price, for a big sound. Overall, this is a serious live mic, and for any performer who’s put substantial investment into their PA/live rig this is a piece that shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to choosing touring mics. Singers, this is the mic you’ve been looking for.  Chris Devine

38 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

PROS

Great sound, plenty of clarity and depth. Selectable hi-pass filter. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$299


GEAR REVIEWS

IK MULTIMEDIA UNO Drum Machine

B

ack when we tested the original UNO Synth, we immediately started jonesing for a drum machine to complement it. And to our surprise, IK delivered the news to us that the UNO Drum was on the way. So, naturally we had them send us a unit to test out, and let’s get right to it: it’s as easy to use as the UNO synth, it sounds great, and it’s priced stupidly low. Plus, it plays nice with the UNO Synth over MIDI – so you can keep sequences in time with your beats. Head to our YouTube channel for a full video demo featuring our friend and New Orleans musician Nick Ray, but here’s the skinny. UNO Dum is EASY to program. Even if you’ve never touched an 808 before, getting up and running with the front-panel knobs and membrane pads and buttons is a breeze. We didn’t even have to crack the manual to begin making beats straight away. You’ve got a grid of clearly laid out drum sounds on pads, sitting just about the step sequencer. The sounds, at this price, are pretty impressive. You get a halfdozen rich analog sounds, and dozens more sample-based elements to choose from. The overall sonics are pretty wide-ranging, and cover everything from traditional electronica, techno, house, to modern EDM, trap, hiphop, you name it. You’ve even got 100 slots of memory to store all your beat patches, and 64-steps with which to work.

There are some built-in effects, as well. And while they might not totally replace your external stompboxes, they are pretty usable out-of-thebox. The compression is nice to even things out, and to really create those traditional kicks, and the drive was fairly useable, as well. Overall construction was pretty solid, especially given the price. One of our biggest gripes in the $100300 market is wobbly knobs, and cheap plasticky feeling toys. The Korg MS-20 is a prime offender when it comes to questionable build-quality that may or may not stand the test of time. But the UNO Drum (like the UNO Synth) offered up no such issues. We can see this going out on tour, or being a permanent part of a studio rig year after year. The fact is, this thing is so feature-packed (and mobile, to boot) at such a bargain-basement price, that our biggest fear is musicians not taking it as seriously as they should. We had the same issue with the recent Yamaha Reface series, where they were offering a lot of value in a small package, and ran the risk of going overlooked. But we don’t think that’ll happen here; there’s already too much buzz building, and with the success of the UNO Synth last year, the new drum machine is sure to build on that momentum to become the next “must-have” kit for veteran producers, beatmakers and first-timers alike.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Easy to use, great sounds, super affordable

None

$249

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 39


GEAR REVIEWS

KRK Rokit 5 G4

W

e already have a set of Rokit 5’s from the 3rd generation of the famed yellow-woofer company’s lineup, so when they asked us to check out the new G4 line, it was a no-brainer. Luckily, we had a monitor switching unit on hand for our DAW already, so we hooked up our existing Rokit 5 G3’s via balanced XLR cables to compare to the brandnew G4 versions. Moment of truth: should you upgrade? Well, at this price point, we’d definitely say yes. If your budget allows, and you’re looking for an incremental improvement in your monitoring setup. And for new users building a home studio for the first time, or looking for another pair of monitors to test mixes with, the new G4 lineup is an excellent choice. We ran a number of tough bass tests through the monitors, including Moog Sub Phatty examples with square-wave sub-oscillators, some 808 kicks de-tuned on a Roland Boutique series TR08 module, as well as some pre-recorded EDM and techno tracks in PreSonus Studio One. The new line fared incredibly well, with low frequencies bottoming out at just over 40Hz. Compared to the G3 monitors we had hooked up at the same time, our A/B tests revealed a slightly more focused bass response. Now, that’s not to say the G3’s were boomy or woofy, but there 40 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

was a definite, notable tightening up with the G4 models. Especially on tacks from our studio sessions as well as from the Beastie Boys’ first LP. The G3’s specs list frequency response down to 45Hz, but we’re not super huge fans of spec sheets. We’d rather let our ears do the deciding. And whatever the KRK engineers did, they did it even better this time around. The other big addition to the new line, and the reason the slight bump in price is worth it, is the addition of brand new DSP and a new rear-mounted screen that allows you to tune the monitors to your room, adjust EQ curves and eliminate problems with acoustics based upon your space. The LCD screen is easy to use and navigate, and there’s even a super-helpful calibration app that will enable you to even better position and adjust your speakers to your setup. A very welcome addition, and kudos for adding such a necessary feature without a ton of added expense. Overall, the new Rokit 5’s will likely become the new standard in home studio setups, so don’t be surprised if your Insta-feed is soon flooded with yellow speakers and unboxing videos. The matching Kevlar drivers sound great across the spectrum – so we highly recommend checking them out.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Great sound, and actual reasons to upgrade

None

$179 each [5-INCH MODEL]


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GEAR REVIEWS

LACE Electric Cigar Box Guitar

Y

ou often hear stories of old timey blues players where they made guitars out of whatever they had (watch the first 5 minutes of “It Might Get Loud” for reference, if need be) – spare radio parts were pretty common, as well as wooden cigar boxes for the body. Lace has brought that part of the past into the 21st Century, with some added twists.

doesn’t dabble in open tunings, this is kind of an odd duck to tackle. Perhaps if we got the 4-string version it might make more sense overall, but ultimately we just don’t bond with it. Maybe a player with a background in banjos or diddley bows would appreciate the concept a lot better. With a street price of $349, it makes us scratch our heads even more.

First off, this is a fairly odd instrument, especially if you’re a player who usually only plays a standard 6-string guitar in standard tuning. We received the three-string version for review and it came to us strung G - D - G, note that there is also a 4-string version available. The maple neck is a 24.75 scale, with a square-ish profile and 20 frets. Yep, no vintage C or V shapes, just square. It has no truss rod to speak of, either. Body wise, it’s a mahogany plywood box, with a cigar box look, with full-color graphics and metal edging details.

Going past it being a conversation piece, it must have to get into the hands of an instrumentalist who is gifted enough to get past all the quirks and make it a productive instrument. John Lennon once said, “I’m an artist, you give me a f***ing tuba, I’ll get something out of it.” If you’re that kind of neo-hipster instrumentalist who likes unique instruments and challenges, and doesn’t want a ukulele, this is up your alley. If you’re not, it might just perplex you as much as it did us.  Chris Devine

It does have a pickup, which is called the Matchbook, which is based off of their Alumitone design. The volume control is located on the upper side. It’s a push pull too, for added tonal options. Plugging it in, sound wise, is kind of cool. It can be twangy enough, and with a bit of overdrive, it can get greasy and dirty. Organic is probably the best way to describe its overall tone. Our test version, though, suffered from a bad setup; it rattled, buzzed and clanged a lot, and needed a real serious setup to address action and intonation. Since there’s no relief adjustment, it just feels odd. We hate to say it, but it kind of felt like a toy. So, who’s this for? It is unique, but why? It does have cool, twangy-meets-earthy and dirty tone, but finding some way of making it practical could be difficult to justify. For the player who 42 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

PROS

Unique, great sounding pickup. CONS

Odd, might not appeal to every guitarist, poor setup. STREET PRICE

$349


S

o, getting a modern single cut electric opens up some choices; go “authentic” and have the same version as everyone else, or go boutique, and empty out the wallet completely. But Prestige gives a new option -- a single cut, with excellent features and build quality, that’s familiar where it’s wanted, and modern where’s it’s needed, at a price that’s beyond reasonable. Under a super stealthy, rat rod flat black finish, is a 3/4” carved Canadian maple top with a mahogany body. The neck is also mahogany, with an ebony fingerboard that sports offset dot fret markers, and a fantastic binding, that also wraps around the body and headstock. The headstock has a tasteful Fleur-de-lisstyle inlay on it and closed back tuners. It’s a nice design overall. Normally pairing a familiar body shape with a different headstock profile can look odd, but this sits nicely together, design wise. The C shape neck has a 14” radius, with a 24.75” scale. A wraparound Tone Pros tailpiece with adjustable saddles rounds out the hardware configuration. Let’s cover the electronics, as a lone Seymour Duncan Pegasus zebra-coil pickup is directly mounted into the body, and the axe features just a single volume and tone control. So why do you need an upper bout toggle switch? Well, in this case, it’s a kill switch. Wanna do those stutter effects that a traditional dual humbucker guitar can pull off with dual volume controls? You’re covered. To make it a bit more tonally versatile, the volume control is also a push pull, and splits the humbucker into a single coil mode. The overall fit and finish is excellent, and the style of the flat black finish really sits well with the chrome hardware and zebra coil pickup. It’s really got the look and feel of a small craft boutique build, and is well executed. Picking it up and plugging it in is where the rubber hits the road. The neck feel is super

GEAR REVIEWS

PRESTIGE Troubadour RS Guitar comfortable overall, up and down the fretboard. No dead spots, and no feeling that you’re fighting it to get control. While the electronics are quite simple, the single pickup hits hard, with plenty of aggressive attack in high-gain modes, and when dialing an amp’s gain back, it opens up and gets punchy and snappy. In single coil mode, it gets kind of Tele-ish in its crispness. There’s no loss of output, it just cleans up really well, and gets slinky and jangly. The kill switch might seem odd at first, and some players might find themselves at first trying to figure out why their guitar isn’t making any sound (is my volume turned up?) but it only takes a second to get used to. The only qualm is the volume pot, and it’s a minor one. Rolling the volume back slightly, and it gets dark, very quickly. Now as it’s a single pickup guitar, this can kind do some of the same job as switching to a neck pickup, but ideally a tad more roll off before the darkness sets in would be a bit more useful, especially as this guitar has a tone knob that could easily be rolled back to thicken things up. Adding a treble bleed mod could solve this easily for players who might want a touch more clarity at lower volume settings. Here’s the kicker though: street price is just $999. Yeah, it’s a lot of guitar for the money, considering the build quality, and overall design. It’s a no-nonsense, great feeling guitar with plenty of the tones modern players actually want.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Great look, simple electronics, wonderful tones. Fantastic neck, excellent price.

Volume knob can be a bit dark when rolled off.

$999

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 43


GEAR REVIEWS

TC ELECTRONIC June-60 Chorus Pedal

I

f you’re an old fart like me and grew up with the sounds of the Roland Juno line (Juno 6, 60 and 106), then those glorious yellow/ orange buttons on the far end of the front panel occupy a magical place in your memory. Yes, the famous (some would say infamous) Chorus I and Chorus II buttons on Juno synths would instantly transform a boring old waveform into a lush, rich ocean of beautiful sounds, ready for pad work, bass sequences or lead solos. Guitar players have had their own chorus fun over the years, but TC Electronic has meticulously recreated the famed Juno Chorus in their new June-60 guitar pedal. Even recreating the same analog bucket brigade circuitry of vintage units. So, let’s dive in. Soundwise, you’re given two (well, really three) options. You’ve got Chorus I, which is pretty lush as-is, and can instantly add some slight movement and modulation to a clean Strat part, for example. You’ve got Chorus II, which is a bit more extreme, and really dials in the warble the Junos were known for, especially on arpeggios and clean chord work. Then you’ve got 44 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

the most fun of all, engaging both buttons at once for full-on swirling textures. And yes, before you ask, this thing does bring the authentic noisiness of the original Juno synths. One of the nice touches here is the ability to use the pedal in stereo mode, so you can take full advantage of the chorus effect in both left and right channels of a mix, making for a much wider and expansive guitar part than ever before. The only real downside here, is that while the chorus effects are good, there are no control parameters. It’s either all or nothing. Now, this was true of the original Juno synths, of course. You could either turn the effect on or off, but it might have been nice to include even a small rate or depth control knob. But, alas, it’s hard to gripe about a pedal that was designed to do something very specific, that does it well, and comes in around $50. I mean, can we really complain? Well, maybe. The dang battery compartment was a chore to find – you’ve got to remove the wood end panels completely to take the thing apart. At first, we were convinced the unit didn’t even take a 9v battery, until we found the answer

online. Then we felt suitably dumb for not figuring it out. You’ll thank us for that tidbit when you’re trying to figure it out, too. Kudos to TC Electronic for putting these iconic sounds in the hands of today’s guitarists at a ridiculously low price. Highly recommended.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

Fantastic and iconic chorus sounds, super cheap CONS

Not very versatile STREET PRICE

$50


GEAR REVIEWS

YAMAHA CP73 Stage Piano

W

hen the original Reface line was introduced a few years back, we had some reservations. Not about the quality of the keyboards, in fact we were stunned at how good they sounded, and how well they played for having such tiny keys. We still have a few here in the office that we use regularly, in fact (CP and CS). What concerned us was that the toy-like aesthetic might not translate to pro users taking the things seriously. We don’t have insight into Yamaha’s sales, of course, so we can’t know if that gut reaction was grounded in reality or not, but with the new CP series of stage pianos, Yamaha has finally taken the sound engines they perfected over the years, and stuffed a lot of them into a more professional looking, feeling, and sounding unit. So, for all complaining about the lack of a “Reface Pro” line, listen up. To start, you’ve got a number of sound sets here that Reface users might be familiar with, namely electric pianos (reed, tine, etc), acoustic and CP piano sounds, as well as tonewheel organs, clavinets, DX-style FM pianos, synth pads, and pretty much anything else an accompanist would need access to, including strings. If you were on the fence about the Reface CP, YC or DX because of the mini-keys and form factors, you should definitely check out the new CP73. The action is spot-on, as the new balanced hammer keyboard (which goes E to E like guitars), just feels right. Mini-keys be gone – we’ve finally got a professional keybed! This simply feels and plays amazingly well,

and the sensitive nature of the keybed allows for nuanced parts just like you’d want on a traditional acoustic or mechanical instrument. The prime example of this comes into play when dialing in an electric piano sound. Rhodes and Wurlis respond exceptionally well to dynamic playing styles, ranging from quiet bell-like tones to fullon, driven sounds when you really start to dig in and hammer the keys. Thankfully, that dynamic range and velocity reaction is great here – you can easily emulate those sounds the way they were originally heard and meant to be played. If you’ve toyed around with something like the Crumar Mojo 61 in the past, you’ll appreciate the effort Yamaha’s put in here. The real draw, for many, of course will be the concert grand sounds built-in. And again, Yamaha knocks it out of the park. There’s a reason that virtuosos like Tori Amos play Bösendorfer pianos, and the on-board acoustic sounds are incredibly detailed recreations of Yamaha’s signature tones. Of course, there are other extras, like access to the Soundmondo library, which again is another familiar sight for Reface users, 128-voice polyphony (like the Reface CP), delays, reverbs, EQs and other on-board fx, as well as USB and MIDI DIN connectors. As with the Reface line, I really enjoyed the one-to-one knob-per-function approach, as opposed to the endless menu-diving of more complex synths like the MODX, for example. The

CP73 is dead-simple to program, which will come as a relief to those unfamiliar with synthesis and endless parameter-tweaking. Overall, the CP73 is a phenomenal instrument that any pro keyboard player should consider for their arsenal; you can simply pick it up and start playing immediately. And it’s that immediacy you’ll love. You might even find it replaces a half-dozen keyboards you’ve already got lying around, as well as your master MIDI controller in the studio. Highly recommended.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

Fantastic sound engine, great keybed, easy to program CONS

Should have come out sooner STREET PRICE

$1995 PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 45


GEAR REVIEWS

AKAI MPK Road 88

W

e’re used to playing synth-action keys a lot around the office, so it’s nice to remind ourselves every now and again of the feel of real, weighted keybeds. The new Akai MPK Road 88 MIDI Controller is designed for those who want a professionallevel MIDI controller with a full 88-key spread, and the feel of a traditional acoustic piano. They’ve also designed it, as the name suggests, for touring artists. One of the first things you’ll notice when you open it up is that it comes encased in its own suitcase-style road case, reminiscent of old Rhodes electric pianos from the ’70s. We happen to have an upright baby grand on-hand here in the office studio, a Young Chang model, to be precise, so we were able to go back and forth to test out the feel of the Akai keybed compared to the real thing. The Akai passes every test with flying colors. We were told they spent nearly two years developing this keyboard, and the quality is simply on-point. We use a variety of soft-synths in our DAW, including some from IK Multimedia and Arturia, and were able to perform incredibly easily with the Road 88, and were equally impressed by its apparent durability and rugged design. Kudos for making the unit bus-powered, as well, so you can avoid more cable disasters when setting up for live gigs. No issues with the wheels, either – just super fluid motion 46 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

that you’d expect for pitch bend and modulation flourishes. The real draw here is the true hammer action, velocity-sensitive and aftertouch-ready feel and playability. Akai has also bundled in their VIP software, which quite frankly didn’t do a whole lot for us. But think of it as an added bonus. On the rear you’ll find your standard I/O, including sustain pedal input (we tested it with a few units with no issues, including a Yamaha pedal which is notoriously incompatible and finicky with everything we’ve ever played), DIN-based MIDI ins and outs, and of course USB. We also thought the implementation of the split function was a nice bonus, enabling artists to easily have bass in the left hand and pads or leads in the right. The bummer is that after we received, tested and shipped the unit back, we were made aware of a recall from Akai. Apparently a certain lubricant used in the keybed was faulty for some users. So, for more info on that, head to https:// www.akaipro.com/recall. Full disclosure, we only had the unit a few weeks, so we can’t speak to how the lubricant in original units will or will not work over time. But we experienced no notable issues to speak of. So, your best bet is to wait for a v2 unit to hit the market or an original that’s been updated by the factory.  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

Amazing feel for a pro weighted MIDI controller CONS

Currently a recall on this product, its future is TBA STREET PRICE

$899


GEAR REVIEWS

ERICA SYNTHS Double Black Bass

W

e’re big into synthesis, so when new modules come out in the Eurorack community, we can’t help but wipe the drool from our computer keyboards. The good folks over at Eric Synths in Latvia recently sent us their Double Black Bass Module to test out. So, we racked it up in our Eurorack case, plugged the module in, and began integrating it into our modular setup. The heart of the modular synth we have in-house is typically a Behringer Model D, as well as the Moog Mother 32, but these swap in and out as we test various modules. PROS

Interesting sound capabilities, relatively inexpensive CONS

Requires Eurorack case and power STREET PRICE

125 Euros

For the Double Black Bass, all we have to say is whoah. They weren’t kidding with that name. It’s a good thing we were also testing the new KRK Rokit line of studio monitors, which can handle such low end rumble. This small-form module contains two sub oscillations, one and two octaves down, respectively, for earth-shattering EDM lines and THX-demo-style lows. You can feed the module an oscillator of your choice, then blend and mix the two subs and also control the wet/dry signal for overall balance. There aren’t a lot of front-panel knobs to figure out, so overall operation is quite simple, and just a few minutes spent feeling things out and listening to what each knob does will tell you all you need to know. The “Color” knob seems to be acting like a low-pass filter, so you can kill even more high-end if you wish to truly annoy the neighbors. Patching is easy, and you can control additional parameters with an LFO, which is nice. As with most modules featuring such rich patch bays, you can control a lot of the front panel either manually or with analog CV. One of the nice touches that Erica included is a built-in limiter. That was one of the first things we were concerned about, with all that bass and potential (purposeful) distortion, was that you’d run into clipping issues pretty much out of the gate. But overall, that wasn’t too big of a hurdle to overcome, and adding this deep sub to a sequenced pattern or arpeggiator was pretty cool. If your current setup is a bit thin or not as aggressive as you might have hoped for, this little unit might be right up your alley.  Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 47


GEAR REVIEWS

WARM AUDIO WA273-EQ Microphone Preamp & EQ

S

ometimes in recording, tech trumps tone when it comes to accessibility. DAW recording is efficient, but getting the sounds that are classic and yet still current means a lot of tweaking. Of course, a classic mic preamp will bring the tone, but at a cost that might be out of the realm of anyone who doesn’t have an audio engineering award. But hold the phone! Warm Audio has released a 1073 style preamp/EQ, and the price is as unbelievable as its tone. The front panel of the two-channel unit covers the usual XLR inputs, and a three button bank that covers phantom power, phase polarity, and a tone switch. When not engaged, the overall sound is natural, uncolored and organic. Kicking it in, things get quite aggressive, with a lot more attack and overall thickness. Warm suggests using condensers and dynamic mics in the disengaged mode, and dynamic and ribbon mics when it’s engaged. Now there are 1/4” instrument inputs on the front of the unit, and can be selected to be the input signal, disengaging the XLR input. The large red input knob adjusts the level input source, and the adjacent hi-pass knob is selectable between 50, 80, 160 and 300Hz, with an 18Db octave slope. The EQ is selectable, and contains Low, Mid and High controls; each has a center selector that can adjust the EQ curve as needed in correspondence of its relative control. The back side offers up the XLR and TRS outputs, as well as sends and returns, which, circuit-wise, sit after the input stage. Have a 48 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

compressor, or additional EQ? Here’s a great place for it. Line level inputs and XLR inputs reside here, as well. Warm starts with premium components, such as Carnhill transformers that are custom spec’d out to be the sought after versions found in vintage 1073’s. The original obsession continues with polystyrene and tantalum capacitors, as well as an output transformer that gets smoother in higher gain modes. Each knob, switch and button has a super robust positive feel when making adjustments. Each unit is hand made, and popping open the chassis to peek under the hood, the overall build quality and attention to detail was very impressive for a unit in this price range. OK, so it’s got great components, it’s well made, and features plenty of control options -here’s where the rubber meets the road. Using it with a variety of microphones, from tried and true SM57s to Warm’s own 251 Tube Mic, we found nothing but excellent results across the board. We used it during a drum tracking session on our snare track, and it made a drastic and dramatic improvement, even with a flat EQ to start, and with minimal tweaking it sat in the mix perfectly, right where it needed to be. It’s hard to get a piece of gear that just works so musically with a few simple tweaks. It makes you wonder why other EQs and preamps take so much more work, when the Warm WA273 just gets it done out of the box. Our testing session also included using it on guitar tracks, and again it just nailed it. Even recording using a cab sim added just the right texture needed. The EQ is

flexible enough to cut through where needed, without getting unmusical or grainy, and of course kicking in that Tone switch really brings a whole new avenue of articulated attack, that’s offset with the thickness that in most cases would take hours of patching in a dozen other items, and yet still wouldn’t give you the same results. While don’t have a real 1073 on-hand to compare to, our experience with Warm’s WA273 is quite amazing. If analog sounds this good, and does it this easy, why mess with anything else? Oh, and here’s the big deal; it comes in at a $1499 street price. A serious studio should have at least one of these, and for anyone doing recording where a classic analog style is required, this should be your big investment.  Chris Devine

PROS

Great 1073 tones, ultraflexible and easy to use EQ. CONS

None STREET PRICE

$1499


Everything you need from A to V.

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Profile for Performer Magazine

Performer Magazine: August/September 2019  

Featuring a cover story on TYCHO, industry tips from Kristen Agee, insight on Taylor Guitars ebony project, and much more...

Performer Magazine: August/September 2019  

Featuring a cover story on TYCHO, industry tips from Kristen Agee, insight on Taylor Guitars ebony project, and much more...