Performer Magazine: August/September 2020

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THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE

AUG/SEPT ‘20 FREE

& The TxLips Band How Atlanta’s Ace Shredder Juggles Practicing Law, Empowering Artists and Surviving a Global Pandemic

Multi-Track Recording on Your Phone

The Toxic Implosion of Burger Records

Prepare for the Return of Live Music

The Delay Between Streaming and Radio Spins


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

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COVER STORY

PROFILE: TELOS TAPES CASSETTE-ONLY LABEL

GUITAR GABBY & THE TXLIPS

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by Benjamin Ricci

HIGHNOON

by Elisabeth Wilson

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VOLUME 30, ISSUE 4


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEPARTMENTS

4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. Record Reviews 8. The Toxic Downfall of Burger Records 10. Insurance Tips for Musicians 12. Spotify Killed the Radio Star?

MALIK

by Wilhelmina Hayward

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14. Should You Quit Music (Spoiler Alert: No!) 16. Get to Know Audiobridge 38. MEET YOUR MAKER: Luna Guitars 40. GEAR REVIEWS: PreSonus, JBL, Novation, Warm Audio and more… Jawan Scott

DIRTY STREETS

contents Cover

by Benjamin Ricci

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

LETTER

from the editor

W

ell, the world is still here… for now. Hopefully you are all doing well, or as well as can be expected.

While I’m usually first in line to offer doom and gloom, I have been feeling hopeful as of late. It’s been great to see artists pivot from their (now derailed) live touring plans to other creative (and hopefully lucrative) projects. I’m not just talking about livestreaming, which is still cool, but all the innovative video projects, EP releases and more that indie artists have been working on to keep the creative juices flowing. On the last episode of our podcast (cheap plug: go subscribe to ‘Performer: On Record’ now), I drew the parallels between artists pivoting in the face of career hurdles and another love of mine, the world of skateboarding. Skating in the mid-80s saw a sea change not unlike what we’re seeing in the world of music, where skaters who were previously on top of the world were now being relegated to passé status as their disciplines were losing favor with the public.

The chief example I gave was of Rodney Mullen, perhaps the greatest skater of all time, who essentially invented every modern-day trick you’ve ever seen. The problem was he did it in freestyle skating, which by the mid-80s was pretty much over and done with, in favor of vert and street styles. But Mullen persevered, and transitioned his flatground style into street, and along with innovators like Natas Kaupas, Mark Gonzales and Tommy Guerrero, changes the landscape of street skating forever, which would ultimately overtake even vert for popularity (and remain so to this day). Mullen has never stopped innovating, even in the face of major adversity. He’s started companies that have changed the industry, he’s invented maneuvers that have elevated street skating to new heights, and he’s done it with a humble mystique that makes him the coolest guy on the planet. So yeah, I’m not sure how this month’s letter from the editor ended up being a love-letter to Rodney Mullen, but there you go. Special skate issue, anyone?

Benjamin Ricci PS – not kidding about that special issue, btw. There are a lot of skaters who also play music, so let us know if you’d be interested in a cool one-off issue featuring skater/musicians. PPS – miss you, Grosso. Yours were the only letters worth caring about…

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?”

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Volume 30, 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

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Bob Dobalina editorial@performermag.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Bob Bayne, Carolyn Grady, Jawan Scott, Anaje Brinkley, Jordan Curry, Julia Leiby, Morganne Boulden CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Solomon Khoury, Josh Goleman, Andrew Boullianne ADVERTISING SALES

William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com © 2020 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.


REVIEWS

RECORD REVIEW Vincent Scarpa

Kris Delmhorst

Long Day in the Milky Way Northampton, MA (CEN/The Orchard)

Delmhorst shines her light from and toward the darkness

K

ris Delmhorst’s latest record seems to find her struggling with something like an existential conundrum: to function within the space the world has made, or go about undoing it, even if at one’s own peril. “How we gonna carry all the things that we know/A pound of feathers or a pound of stones/that shit gets heavier further you go/Can you leave it lying by the side of the road” she asks on “Flower of Forgiveness,” and it seems a fitting encapsulation of the question Long Day in the Milky Way is asking. Luckily for her listeners, this seems somehow

to be Delmhorst’s comfort zone: magnifying both the apertures through which we construct and are constructed by the world and the complexities of our behavior — what we do to one another, what we do to ourselves, and what we do with what we are given. The songs on this record attest to the darkness that’s to be found, but Delmhorst writes with such prodigious insight and earnest seeking that her songs always allow for the maximum passage of light. These songs hold lived experience without nullifying the sanctity of it, without running roughshod over the specificity of it.

They capture with such precision the ways in which we are fraught and fragile in the face of the anxiety lurking beneath daily life, yet we are not closed off from the possibility of something like grace. Delmhorst is here, as ever, at the top of her game, peerless. Produced by Kris Delmhorst // Mixed by Sam Kassirer // Mastered by Alex McCollough For more info, visit www.krisdelmhorst.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 5


MUSIC REVIEWS

RECORD REVIEW Vincent Scarpa

Lori McKenna The Balladeer

Stoughton, MA (CN Records and Thirty Tigers)

A career high for one of our most necessary troubadours

C

onsidering the nature of her primary themes — namely, the love and tumult with which both marriage and parenthood are freighted — what continues to amaze about Lori McKenna is how elegantly she circumnavigates the obvious potential pitfalls of writing songs which circulate in that realm. Which is to say that on The Balladeer, as with every record in her stellar discography, what you won’t hear is McKenna sing a false or mawkish note. She has honed a power, seemingly unique to her, to strike at the heart of the sentimental 6 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

and mine songs built with genuine ardor and a sincere, idiosyncratic integrity of spirit. This is especially apparent on The Balladeer, which it’s tempting to characterize as McKenna’s most personal record to date. Whether she’s inhabiting the titular performer on the title track (“They’re never gonna play her on the radio/So she hangs in the darkest bars with downtrodden bleeding hearts”), recounting the influence of her older sister (“Marie”), providing a peek into her own marriage of 30-plus years (“Good Fight”), or singing directly to her growing children on the

album’s most stunning track, “When You’re My Age,” McKenna’s vulnerability twined with her true gift and grit for honest, unadorned songwriting is impossible not to be moved by. Produced by Dave Cobb // Mixed by Dave Cobb and Toby Hulbert // Mastered by Pete Lyman For more info, visit www.lorimckenna.com



MUSIC BUSINESS

THE TOXIC IMPLOSION OF BURGER RECORDS It’s an unfortunate situation for artists on the label, who now have to find new homes for their albums and streaming rights, but it was a necessary step to remove Burger completely from the scene. As of this writing, the label’s website and social media channels have been deleted. Here are both letters, unedited as they were presented to us.

To Our Burger Family, As many of you know, a good deal of accusations came out over the weekend directed at Burger artists, the Burger label and the Burger culture itself. Many of you have experienced a great deal of blowback for your affiliation with us, and we are sorry. Some of you have decided to discontinue your association with Burger, and we understand why.

Editor’s note – a few weeks back we received an alarming email from the folks at Burger Records, a quirky California label we’d come to know in passing, as they’d released a bunch of indie records over the years, including cassette versions of artists we’ve even featured on the cover of this very mag. The letter addressed some of the abuses that have been going on, often un- and under-reported, in the indie scene that directly stemmed from the label itself. At the end of the letter (which you can read in its entirety below), it seemed like a seismic shift was occurring in the company’s management. Then, the very next day, we received a follow up message from Jessa Zapor-Gray, who was seemingly slated to take over the reins at Burger, only to inform us that she was, in fact, not taking over and that the label was effectively shutting down immediately. You 8 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

can also read that letter below. Needless to say, this came to a surprise, but not a shock. Rumors and allegations of abuse and toxicity in the indie scene have been bubbling over for years, and this is one of the swiftest actions we’ve seen yet. A complete shutdown. Burger Records is no more. Our hope is that anyone who is a victim of abuse is able to find justice and support, but more importantly that abuse, in whatever form it takes, never happens again. Obviously shutting down a record label isn’t going to erase the pain it caused, but it does set a very real precedent -- that abuse will not be tolerated, and that swift action will be taken to remove toxicity from the music industry. Music should be a safe place for all, and we condemn any acts of abuse in all their forms.

Today we are releasing the below statement to press and the Burger community at large. We welcome your feedback on everything written below and the way forward from here, if there is a way. If you wish to leave the label, we will not stop you, but we hope you will give the label a chance to do right and hope you will remain a part of the new BRGR. Lee & Sean STATEMENT FROM BURGER RECORDS Dear Burger Community, We understand that we will never be able to comprehend the trauma that women have experienced while trying to find a place in the music scene. We are profoundly saddened and sickened by the pain suffered at the hands of a toxic male music culture that does not value women as equals. We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any experience that occurred in the Burger and indie/DIY music scene, the latter of which we take part. We are also deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity. We are sorry that we did not actively monitor this behavior well enough to make the


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Burger music scene safer for you. You should never feel you have to sacrifice your personal space to be able to enjoy music, for your career or in pursuit of your art; you shouldn’t feel you have to choose between music and your comfort. But words can only go so far in repairing any damage that has been created. It is the ability to put past behaviors under a microscope, and to fully listen to those who have suffered as a result of such behaviors, in order to be able to truly make meaningful changes so that not only do those behaviors no longer occur, but real positive change can be made to meet the moment. It is with this in mind that we have decided to make major structural changes to the label and create and implement active policy measures to address the culture that allowed such harm to occur. To begin, Burger Records co-founder Sean Bohrman will move into a transitional role with the label. Label co-founder Lee Rickard will immediately step down from his role as label president, and fully divest all interest in the label. Jessa Zapor-Gray will assume the role of interim label president. Jessa comes to Burger with extensive experience in the music industry and an extensive familiarity with the Burger catalog. We look forward to having her take the helm at the label. In the spirit of change, here are the other actions we will be taking moving forward: * To create a clear delineation between the old and the new Burger Records, the label will become BRGR RECS. Furthermore, we will be adding an all-woman imprint to the label, BRGRRRL, which will serve to give many more women artists a platform and support for growth as musicians. * BRGR will be instating a standard artist agreement, something we did not previously do. This will include clear statements regarding unlawful and predatory behavior. By doing so, we will create a clear path to restorative justice against predators in the future. * BRGR will also begin working with experts in trauma and sexual assault awareness and consent education. * BRGR will set up a counseling fund to help pay for counseling services for those who suffered such trauma while engaging in the Burger scene. * The Burger Records shop, which is not a part of Burger Records, will no longer have any affiliation to the label and will change its name. The shop will also no longer host in-store performances of any kind.

* BRGR sanctioned events will have a dedicated safe space for women to enjoy music without fear of invasion to their personal space. * An educated member of the community will be present at all BRGR sanctioned shows over 1000 attendees. * BRGR sanctioned all-ages shows will have a dedicated safe space for those under the age of 18. * BRGR will provide ongoing education and training to artists, management, and venues we work with on sensitivity and the effects of trauma. * BRGR will evaluate the whole of the existing label catalog and artists therein, discontinuing the distribution of artists according to our zerotolerance policy. * BRGR will work with women in the industry, artists, and fans to create further actionable goals for educating our bands and the music community on recognizing abusive or predatory behavior. We thank you for coming forward and for your courage to speak up, and want you to know that we are committed to doing real work to improve the culture of BRGR RECS and the indie music scene for all of us. We want to be leaders in the industry and a model for other labels to effect real, lasting change.

Here is Jessa Zapor-Gray’s follow up letter the next day:

In the last year and a half, I have worked with Burger and Burger artists on communications and partnerships on a contract basis. Over the weekend I was asked to assume the role of the label’s interim president with the hope I could reform the label into something better for the good of all of you, the artists. My plan was to quickly begin assessing and evaluating if anything about the label could perhaps be salvaged and made into something better, then eventually hand off a functioning label to a future administration unrelated to the label’s founders; or if I found that rebuilding was not possible, instead to organize and prepare the label for closure. When I was asked to take over in this capacity, I expected some blowback for my decision to accept but I believed that the opportunity to have a role in effecting real and lasting positive change within the Burger and indie music scenes was worth the risk. Upon further review, I have informed Burger Records that I no longer believe I will be able to achieve my intended goals in assuming the leadership role at Burger in the current climate. Therefore, I have decided to step away from the label entirely to focus on my other projects. Jessa

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 9


MUSIC BUSINESS

WHY BEING PREPARED ENTERTAINER INSURA

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“I

n these uncertain times…” Friends, I’m sure you’re growing as tired of hearing that phrase as I am. And yet, here we are. Uncertain times indeed. Had you told us a year ago that touring and live performances as we knew them would come to an immediate halt, and that an entire year’s worth of scheduled gigs and festivals would cease to be, we would have thought you were nuts.

And yet again, here we are. So, some might find it interesting why we’d be offering up a reminder on live entertainer’s insurance. Well, much like the very nature of insurance itself, we firmly believe it’s best practice to always be prepared for what tomorrow may bring (assuming there is a tomorrow; this is 2020, after all). With that in mind, we think it’s a good idea to start taking inventory of your career, and seeing what you are (and more importantly) are not prepared for if things swing back to some form of normality in the future. Did you get that wonky PA speaker working? Did you ever replace that vocal mic that kept crapping out on stage? Did you fix the transmission in the van after the last tour? Have you thought seriously about liability insurance for when you are able to perform live again? If not, now might be a good time to devote some time to it, while you have the downtime to devote. WHY YOU SHOULD PLAN NOW Things might seem grim at the moment as far as touring and live gigs are concerned, but even the most cynically among us (OK, me) think that live gigs will return. It’s not a matter of if, but when. When we flatten the curve, when there’s a viable vaccine, when people start observing basic public safety regulations - who knows? But live touring WILL bounce back at some point. It has to. And when it does, you don’t want to be caught flatfooted, especially as there will be more competition than ever to secure stage slots. Why? Because everything that’s cancelled now is hanging precariously in a state of limbo, meaning that all the tours and gigs that were on tap are now in a holding

pattern. And when the world is operational again, all those dates (or at least a healthy percentage of them) go right back on the books as soon as possible. All those empty calendars aren’t really as empty as they might appear. Where does that leave your band? Well, without a slot at Coachella 2021, for a start. But in more practical terms, fighting for every other band for limited stage time that may already be booked out a year ahead of time. So, in these unprecedented days where next year’s schedule is ALREADY secured at a lot of venues and festivals, how can you stay one step ahead? Make yourself as attractive for the slots that are available as possible. And that might mean being prepared to show proof of liability insurance. If someone booking an outdoor gig is evaluating who to book, and you’ve got your ducks in a row, you’re that much more appealing as a candidate. Our recommendation is to evaluate your live performer insurance options NOW, before booking opens up again, so you’re not scrambling to get on top of things when the time comes. Even if you don’t solidify a policy now, it can’t hurt to talk to an agent about your future needs so you know exactly what type of policy or policies will make sense for you when the time’s right to pull the trigger. HOW TO OBTAIN INSURANCE Luckily, this is the easy part. You can even apply for information, and many cases even a policy, online. In fact, our friends at K&K Insurance allow you to get quotes, check your eligibility and start the policy purchase all on their website: www.kandkinsurance.com So, without even talking to a rep, you can get a good sense of whether you fit the criteria to obtain a policy, what coverage options you might want to look into, and get the ball rolling on an application. Of course, there’s no substitution for human interaction (and we all could use more of that these days), so we do urge you to consider talking to a rep to discuss your unique needs before committing to any policy. Luckily, that’s easy, as well, and you can reach most insurance providers pretty much any time you have questions.

THE BENEFITS OF HAVING AN INSURANCE POLICY

MUSIC BUSINESS

ED IS THE KEY TO LIVE RANCE OK, so you understand that you’ve got to be one step ahead to gain booking advantages for the limited number of slots that’ll be available in the future (as if this weren’t ALREADY a cutthroat game, yikes) and you know how easy it is to get the info you need, and even start applying for insurance online or through a dedicated agent over email. That’s all well and good, but what do you actually get for your policy? Good question! For live performers, specifically, you’re obtaining liability coverage. Put simply, according to the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI), liability insurance is “insurance paying or rendering service on behalf of an insured for loss arising out of legal liability to others.” And it differs from car insurance, renter’s insurance, flood insurance and other types of insurance you may already have. Liability insurance specifically provides coverage when loss or damage occurs due to your actions or negligence, and this can typically mean bodily injury as well as property damage. TL;DR: You did (or failed to do) something; you’re now liable or responsible for it. To learn more, we’ve put together a few helpful articles that’ll hopefully add a little clarity to the whole insurance thing. So be sure to visit performermag.com and search for “insurance” to bring up a list of super helpful tips. CONCLUSION You’ve heard us repeat it a million times, but to be sure, always check over your insurance 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. The world might be scarier right now, but being caught flat-footed is even scarier. 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 2020 11


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MUSIC BUSINESS

RADIO KILLED THE SPOTIFY STAR How long does it take for a popular song to reach radio stations?

Editor’s note – the findings below were compiled by Top Data and illustrate the disparity between radio performance and streaming popularity. We’re also presenting a chart they’ve put together to more clearly illustrate their findings. Depending on your age, you probably remember when Video Killed the Radio Star. Now, in the age of online streaming, is history repeating itself ? You might think that the most popular songs on the radio match the most popular songs streamed on Spotify. Alas, between July 16 and July 17, not a single tune appeared in the Top 10 of both. Moreover, just 13 of the Top 50 songs streamed on Spotify July 17 made the

radio’s Top 50 list on July 16. Key Findings On average, the songs that appear on the radio’s top 50 list have been on Spotify’s top 50 list for 156 days. None of the top 10 songs on Spotify were on the top 10 songs played on the radio. 13 of the top 50 songs streamed on Spotify were on the top 50 songs played on the radio. For more info, visit https://topagency. com/report/spotify-v-radio PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 13


MUSIC BUSINESS

Should You Quit

L

et’s just be brutally honest about the situation that musicians, songwriters, and others in the music industry face right now; it’s more dire than at any time in modern history. That’s just the truth.

If you work in the live sector (musicians, mix engineers, managers, bookers, techs), the touring industry has been eviscerated, with many venues and clubs having already closed down for

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good in most major cities. The ones that haven’t are trying their best to hold on with makeshift low capacity shows that pay the bands less and barely support turning the lights on in the midst of a pandemic that is not slowing, with sky-high leases and property taxes. There are efforts to save them, but a major bailout is needed now. The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) Save our Stages and RESTART Act are both being considered in Congress and these would absolutely make a massive difference if passed and funded. But,

let’s be realistic, this congress just let pandemic unemployment insurance lapse for tens of millions of hurting Americans (musicians among them), has no plans to stem evictions (some of which would be club owners and venues), and doesn’t really seem to care about even those without health insurance tied to their nowgone jobs. I’m sorry if I am not hopeful that they would do anything meaningful to help the music industry. But, maybe. If you are a songwriter or composer, you don’t get paid on TikTok or AM/FM radio, Spotify is


(Spoiler Alert: There’s More To It Than That!) suing you to pay you 1/3rd less than the CRB rate determined and passed into law. Royalties from public performances will crater in Q1 of next year because venues are not open and as each closes that is less money for the PROs to collect and distribute. Add to that, a shutdown in TV and film has slashed the post-production industry affecting everyone from soundtrack composers and sound designers to music licensing groups. Music publishers are frozen in place right now. Holding catalogs of unreleased songs, trying to see who is recording to get cuts (no one), speaking to their sync counterparts in TV and film about licensing opportunities (they are frozen, too), talking to ad agencies for commercial spot placements (they’re still doing piano-driven “We’re all in this together” ads), and seeing royalty payments plummet. All of this as audio is exploding, led by podcasts and audiobooks (which have cut out music rights holders) taking a further bite out of digital revenues. Labels are holding back their cash hoping for a semblance of normalcy that isn’t coming anytime soon, and the clock is ticking on the young artists they’ve signed. Sure, they can pump a single on Spotify, but that’s not how the majors work. The new style of a massive effort to break artists with brand partnerships (many of whom have slashed their advertising budgets), video and touring, is just not there right now. The fragile state of classical and jazz music, which make less in the streaming era and have to fight for more and more of the dwindling live performance dollar, are also gasping for air. If there are no big productions, there are no orchestra pits. No Broadway, no large movie soundtrack union gigs, no basement jazz clubs, festivals and on and on. If you are a recording artist, you need a powerful ecosystem in place to gain mass appeal. Sure, Taylor Swift can release a surprise album and be fine. But livestreaming isn’t a replacement for touring a latest release to build a fanbase and career. Shooting a music video could be a health hazard right now, even if you could get extras and a director to get the permits. Same problem with music licensing placements. If there isn’t a slate of new movies coming out or TV shows in production, it’s hard to get that coveted sync that can propel a career like the Fray got with Grey’s Anatomy.

Studios have it rough, too. If an indie band can’t make money playing live, they can’t drop $5k at your studio. Besides, even if they did, what would they do with the record after it was recorded? No tours, no fans, no streams, no recoup. Don’t forget about support professionals, too. Lighting and effects pros, merch companies, roadies, management -- hell, the bartenders, security, and waitstaff at your favorite venue as well - they all depend on fully booked, sold out shows to make their dollars. This pandemic is affecting everyone. So, should you quit? Maybe. Can you hold out for another year (or two)? That’s probably what it’s going to take. Honestly, our industry is going to be changed for a few years, with tours being booked out to 2022 (no joke), an influx of venues closing, new restrictions on touring insurance, and overall fewer opportunities at first in all sectors, even when we do reopen after a treatment or vaccine.

handle this time better than others, and trust me, everyone will remember how you responded.

MUSIC BUSINESS

it Music? Maybe Call your elected officials and demand they pass the Save Our Stages and RESTART Act. Get involved with your local music community and see where you can help with providing food or even a place to live for musicians who will no doubt be hardest hit by this crisis. Get involved in your local music professional scene to help save as many jobs, venues, and opportunities as you can. Find a Patreon creator to support. Stay healthy, stay safe, ignore the haters, play the long game. If you are one of the lucky ones who music has chosen to embrace, now is the time to do everything in your power to preserve its place in all of our lives for the future. 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.

The daughter of the President is telling you to “find something new.” Really? Most of us have dedicated our lives and souls to this -- just find something new, huh? Funny how they don’t tell that to airline pilots, car manufacturers, or hedge fund managers (or politicians). But, for some of you, maybe this is the best course. If you want to live a safe life, woo boy, the music biz probably wasn’t for you in the first place. If that last paragraph pissed you off, good. You’re one of us. You can’t quit. It’s not an option. So, what do we do? For everyone, make sure to keep up your contacts, keep checking in on the people you know in the industry, personal connections will be more important than ever as a reopening will happen fast and chaotically. If you are a songwriter, you write songs, now maybe you need to write some children’s songs or comedy songs, too. If you’re a band, it might be time to really woodshed that double album and get ready to release it as singles. If you play live, you’d better get practicing, maybe add a cover band to your portfolio because the safest music to book will be the first to come back. If you are a professional musician, same thing, it might be time to think out of the box and offer your viola services outside of the symphony scene. Above all, don’t be a dick. Some people will PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 15


MUSIC BUSINESS

audiobridge: A Sim Music Studio For Y W

hen you have an idea for a song–a lyric, maybe a little melody–what do you do next?

You could open up your DAW but it’s just a few lines; that seems like overkill until you at least have it fleshed out a bit. Additionally, those ideas usually come when you’re not around your desktop. You could write it down on a notebook, but you really want to capture that melody and you have some ideas for harmonies, too. I love the tactile nature of writing lyrics in notebooks, but then I know I am eventually going to have to digitize it. The choice usually comes down to what you have at your disposal nearly all the time, your smartphone. Most of you, like me, probably open up Voice Memos, drop the melody in there, maybe voice some of the beat and change the name of the file. And there it sits. Just waiting for you to come back to it. One of the main problems with this is you can’t add multiple tracks, you can only record over it. What if you’re co-writing? What if, like so many of us are during this semi-quarantine, are co-writing over vast distances? Zoom doesn’t cut it. With those other apps there really is no way to share and collaborate musically. It’s just a static audio note. Enter audiobridge - a simple, mobile, multitrack recording studio in your pocket. The app is available on iOS and claims to have “the power of Pro Tools and the simplicity of a voice memo.” I messed around with the app and literally within 10 minutes composed an audio jingle with 14 tracks of vocals, and some guitar using iRig. I was stuck by how simple the interface is. Very clean. If you are used to working in DAWs some of the things you are used to are missing right now (like a click track intro), but for the most part, all the technical stuff is handled for you. That’s the idea. You can import an audio file to work from, or start a whole new session. Add 16 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

a contact to your session for co-writing. There’s a section for Notes where you can place lyrics or production cue notes. Messaging is a cool section to share impressions and comments with anyone invited to the session by texting. And just released, Experimental Settings, where you can allow open editing and Audio Effects, such as EQ, Reverb, Delay, etc. I had a chance to chat with Matt Miller, Founder and CEO of audiobridge. I really like his

do, it started with a problem I was personally having. Originally, I was co-writing remotely and realized what a nightmare it was. Different tech, different DAWs, different abilities. I was creating with a co-writer in Dublin. I’d record a track in Virginia and send it over... She was a bit of a luddite. So, she would literally send me voicemails, and I would be parsing tracks, and resending notes back. There was nothing to help us easily swap back and forth and communicate.

“We want to take the complication out of creation.” vision of getting rid of the perfection roadblocks that keep songwriters from finishing creations. Remove the friction and get to the writing. I like to start out with a little background about you - are you a songwriter/musician? What’s your music background? My dream as a kid in front of the mirror with a guitar was to be a successful musician. I’ve been playing guitar for 26 years now. I put my time in as a session guitarist, co-writer, artist, performer, and producer. I did the creative side of music and got burned out by the LA scene. So, I came up to the Bay Area to stay with a friend who was working in tech. I always had a passion for coding, writing scripts and building things like geocities sites. I started taking clients to do some coding, and that fire was reignited. It was just a natural combo of passion for music and tech. I could identify a problem, but also build a solution. So, how did this lead to audiobridge? I’d been thinking for a while about how to really simplify my own writing and recording process and looking for a solution. As all of these things

So, I built audiobridge to solve that problem and realized that probably everyone was having the same issues. What’s the audiobridge elevator pitch? We strive to be as simple as Voice Memos but more powerful than Pro Tools. Who is your audience - is this for notetaking songwriting or do you expect it to be a part of professional workflow? Right now, it’s for the semi-pro to pro musician. It’s meant to work out the ideas and get to a usable track quickly and simply. If they can understand it and use it, then we know they have the power to go further. Anybody in the world who wants to create music can do it with their phone. We have a belief that super simple is more powerful than complicated and powerful. Automation is also something we are working hard on. Most people just want to record music that sounds great, they don’t necessarily need to know how it got that way. Example: if you’re a singer in a recording studio and you’re off pitch,


MUSIC BUSINESS

imple But Serious Your Smartphone the engineer is going to fix or redo the track. Why not automate that? Same goes for quantization and other processes that are part of every session now. We want to take the complication out of creation. Is audiobridge meant to be a social music app where anyone can collaborate on public sessions? Not really; that’s not what we’re focused on. There are other platforms doing that. We are driven by the idea of simplifying the creation process of songwriters and producers, and of course, collaboration with your personal contacts for co-writing. How has it been managing growth through a pandemic? Well, we are building slowly. We spent something like a year and half to see if this thing was viable. Especially during this global pandemic, we are more encouraged than ever about people all over the world creating songs wherever they are, with what they have, a smartphone. I think a lot of people are searching for something to focus on positively, and what’s better than writing songs during this time? I believe in releasing features that work but don’t get in the way of the simple creation approach. One of the statistics we are proud to share is the audiobridge community creates 600700 hours of music every month. Any upcoming features you’d like to share? Yes, we are adding some simple Audio Effects this summer. Just make sure to turn the slider on. Download audiobridge on iOS from the App Store for free and go create some magic on your phone today. 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.

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SPOTLIGHT

Get to Know Telos Tapes: The Cassette-Only Indie Label Editor’s note – when we have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on a really cool label, we jump at the chance. Telos Tapes recently got on our radar for their cassette-only release strategy. No Spotify, no Shazaming, all physical. We asked the label to provide some background on their story, and this is what they sent. Enjoy, and check out more at https://telostapes. bigcartel.com

Drew Danburry was on tour with J.W. Teller when he told him about a crazy idea he’d recently had. “What if we started a label where we only released music on cassette?” To his surprise, J.W. seemed to like the idea. He even seemed excited about it. And the more they talked about it, the more they liked it.

“There was once a time when you had to actually physically search for a song.” 18 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Sure, we’re living in a world where everything is online and most everyone interacts and consumes media through their devices, but there was once a time when you had to actually physically search for a song. A time when it wasn’t always easy to find a song you heard on a commercial, or on the radio, or on a skateboarding video and when you did finally get it, it had value. Because you had worked for it. Reading about bands before hearing them is a novelty today and having to wait to listen to them is outlandish. Actually purchasing an album before actually hearing it? Seems crazy. But when we asked ourselves, “How can anyone value anything in a landfill like the Internet?” We knew the answer. (you can’t) And perhaps maybe even more important: “If everything is catered to our convenience how do we as people avoid ending up self-involved, unappreciative and egocentric?” Again, the answer: you can’t.


Or maybe that’s a red herring. Maybe we’re tired of putting out quality music for it to be ignored because our social media game can’t compete with all the butts on Instagram. Maybe we’re a bunch of seasoned (not salty) musicians who’ve put in our time and haven’t been able to eat for a couple decades...and maybe we don’t want to play the game according to the so-called “rules.” On a personal note, if you couldn’t find a song with Shazam would you want to solve the mystery? Or would you just forget about it and move on? (we don’t know the answer to this, this is a question specifically for you)

The second project is the mysterious punk EP from “No One Knows Who Did This” and though the lead singer of the project is currently seven years old, they are adamant that “no one know who did this”. As responsible adults, we feel obligated to respect their right to privacy. Honestly, we’ve already said too much. NO ONE KNOWS WHO DID THIS.

SPOTLIGHT

“It’s not for everyone. But maybe it’s just for you.”

as he climbed out of a crippling near-suicidal depression (the keywords are “climbed out of” kind of like Christian Bale in the Dark Knight Rises). Drew would like to point out that the album gets less sad as it goes along.

Regardless, there’s something ritualistic about putting a cassette into a tape deck and hitting play. An act of commitment. And what if the only way you could experience an album was through a physical medium (like, for example, an audio cassette tape)? What if you just missed out on the whole experience if you didn’t have a tape deck? As a team we intend to release art on our terms. By establishing boundaries as humans, we maintain our self-respect. By establishing boundaries as artists, we do the same. This is art. This is special. This is our soul. It’s not for everyone. But maybe it’s just for you.

Later in the middle of a haircut, Drew was telling his friend Harman about the cassette-only label idea and Harman suggested the Greek word “Telos” which means “an ultimate object or aim” or in short, a purpose. It felt appropriate. (Also, Drew Danburry likes alliterations and Telos Tapes had a nice ring to it.) So, after such a positive response from J.W. and Harman, Drew talked to some more friends. The response was nearly unanimous. People were interested, if not excited. Fellow struggling musicians didn’t really see a difference between “no one listening to them on the internet” versus “no one listening to them on cassette.” J.R. Boyce and Eric Edvalson were brought on to do art and design. Jimmi Bayer of Infintesmal Records was brought in for consulting and Ever Kipp was brought in from Tiny Human for help with publicity. Drew does the day to day operations and J.W. helps with quality control. Regardless, the cassette tape only label idea? We decided to put the idea to the test. Welcome to Telos Tapes. The first release is a new project from Drew that has developed into a newly formed band called “Icarus Phoenix.” Inspired by shoegaze bands and cyclical failure the album was written PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 19


SPOTLIGHT

Highnoon Philly’s DIY Dream Pop Band Finds Its Way Through the Largely Straight/White Indie Scene Elisabeth Wilson Jordan Curry, Anaje Brinkley, Julia Leiby

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hilly-based indie-rock band Highnoon began as the solo project of 22-yearold songwriter, Kennedy Freeman. It has since evolved into a four-piece effort joined by Justin Roth, Nathan Avila, and

Brendan Simpson. Freeman spoke with me over video chat from where they’re sequestered in New Jersey to talk about Philly’s DIY scene, their new cassette, and being black and queer in indie rock. What’s your background? When did you start playing music? I originally started taking piano lessons as a kid. Our neighbor taught piano lessons out of her house, so I started doing that around 6 or 7, on and off. (I’m a bit of a quitter.) Then when I went to college at Temple University in Philadelphia, I was exposed to the DIY scene and got an acoustic guitar, and just started teaching myself from there. And then my sophomore year I took an intro level guitar course to get some technique, and I’ve just been figuring it out from there. Which instrument do you prefer to play? It depends. I know more technical stuff and theory on the piano, so I’ll start to write a song on guitar and realize I don’t know what I’m doing so 22 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

I’ll go pluck at the piano and figure out where I’m at. I like writing songs on both, but usually they’ll be different genres. They do different things for me. I have a low-key side project that I have not recorded that is synth pop stuff. I use a Yamaha from Guitar Center [laughs]. It’s very entry-level. But lo-fi is in right now so I get away with using the pre-sets. It gets the job done. Did you come from a musical family? Yeah, definitely. My mom’s family was very Christian and her and her sisters had their own gospel group. They almost made it big! But my mom was a choir director after that and taught

Who are some of people who inspire you to be creative? It changes a lot. But I’m really into Imogene Heap, Grouper, Cocteau Twins…a lot of dreamier, poppier music. I also really like Suzanne Vega right now. She’s sick. Tell me about recording your album, Semi Sweet. It was recorded between semesters and on weekends from September of 2018 to January 2019 in a huge rented warehouse space in Southwest Philadelphia. It

“THE GATE KEEPERS TEND TO NOT HAVE ANY BLACK FRIENDS OR LISTEN TO MUSIC MADE BY BLACK PEOPLE. SO THAT MAKES IT TOUGHER TO BREAK INTO THE SCENE.” me how to listen to music and how to find harmonies. Some of it was inherited I think, but she did put a lot of work in to give me some sort of “ear,” musically.

was just me and Justin splitting up the instruments, recording one instrument at a time. And then we did the vocals in my bedroom.


Recorded and mixed with Reaper just using Reaper’s native plug-ins Tell me about your tour last fall. Where did you go? We didn’t have a lot of connects close together, so we ended up doing a lot of driving. We went to Central PA, Virginia, Atlanta, Nashville, Iowa, Ohio, and Chicago. We’re from the Northeast and we just assumed everything is a lot closer together than it really is. [laughs]

What are the biggest hurdles for you as a queer, black musician? In a city like Philly, the only real obstacles are the ones you can’t really see—which mostly have to do with social capital. A lot of the time if you don’t know the white guys who are running the show houses, they’re not going to book you. People started trying to diversity their bills and they would make stupid Facebook posts that were like, “We need one black, queer person for the bill on Friday. Know anyone?” And that’s how I got a lot of shows, which, you know, it’s weird but you kind of have to take advantage of it at the same time. The Gate Keepers tend to not have any black friends or listen to music made by black people. And so that makes it tougher to break into the scene. But I think I’ve benefited from it being trendy to be inclusive. I think people are trying in some way to not just have a bunch of white guys up there anymore, which I appreciate. I try not to think about it too much because it’s either this or not play any shows at all. Are there any experiences that stand out? It’s just this kind of air of being more knowledgeable and trying to show that off to you. Telling me “you sound his guy,” and I’m like “I don’t know who that is.” But in my experience, from going to house shows, a lot of them sound exactly the same. And that’s kind of when I thought, “I can do that.” And that’s when I started writing. What does the future look like? Have any projects planned? I had just finished writing the second record in February, so pretty much right before everything collapsed. We’re hoping if things get better, we’ll be able to practice again and record and get that out relatively soon. But we’re not trying to rush it. Do you have a dream collaboration? I would have to say Choir Boy or Covet. I’ve been really into their newest albums and admire their respective guitar playing styles. Big songwriting and production inspirations for me as well. Also: Cranberries and Cocteau Twins. To celebrate the album’s 1 Year Anniversary, Semi Sweet was released onto limited edition cassettes via Oof Records on July 31, 2020 with two exclusive bonus tracks not available on digital album. The initial 50 tapes have sold out, but you can listen here: https://highnoon.bandcamp. com/releases

SPOTLIGHT

What gear did you use on the record? Drums: A pair of Blue Hummingbirds were used for overheads, Shure SM57 on snare, Shure Beta 52A on the kick drum Bass: Shure Beta 52A, MXL 990, Ampeg BA210V2 amp Guitar: Shure SM57, AKG C214, Fender Blues Deluxe and Fender Vaporizer amps Pedals: Tube Screamer, EHX Small Clone, and TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb Vocals: MXL 990 Behringer UMC404HD USB interface for everything.

“In a city like Philly, the only real obstacles are the ones you can’t really see—which mostly have to do with social capital.”

Follow on Instagram: @highnoonphl

HIGHNOON SEMI SWEET STANDOUT TRACK: “LENS”

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SPOTLIGHT Jawan Scott

Benjamin Ricci

ATL Shredder on Getting a Law Degree, Empowering Black Female Artists and Surviving a Global Pandemic

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“We’re not as present as I believe we should be, so I wanted to create a platform for Black women to be able to participate in music, whenever they wanted, however they wanted.”


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uitar Gabby is a fierce axe-wielder, an Atlanta native who’s been busy getting a law degree, and a driving force in empowering Black female artists in the music industry. In what little downtime she has, she graciously sat down with us to discuss her career, her guitar influences, her band and her general bad-assery. For the complete interview, give a listen to our new podcast, Performer: On Record Episode 2… Where did Guitar Gabby come from? I grew up between Atlanta and Washington, DC. My mom is from DC, she moved down here to go to Spelman College, which I would later attend. And then my dad is from Atlanta, and he did over 35 years in law enforcement here, as did my grandfather with the city of Atlanta… in a family of very educated people, not just in the arts and education but with the law and law enforcement. When I started playing music, I was about 13 years old, well I was playing music before

then. My mom started me on piano and a couple of other instruments -- I played the clarinet but guitar is what really spoke to me. My mom bought me my first guitar when I was 13, and I taught myself how to play. I took my first real steps into the music industry my first year of college, which was 2010. And I started my own band, it was called Bye Bye Love [after the Cars song]. I started learning the industry from there. Prior to that, [my parents] were very keen on making sure my sisters and I were educated and understood what we wanted to get into, understood the industry and business behind that. So, my dad had me read a lot of copyright things and learn how to copyright my music from a very young age. And then I eventually went to Spelman College, got a lot of knowledge about the law, not only in environmental science, but also music.

A little bit of both. A lot of people look at law and lawyers in this one-dimensional [framework]… and say that if you are a lawyer that you are a practicing attorney in the courtroom every day arguing with people. But that’s not how it is, and my passion, which is what fueled me to go to law school, was to educate people. I realized from my experience that a lot of artists were not aware of things like copyright, trademark or any arena of intellectual property. And knowing how to apply that to yourself. A couple of areas where a lot of artists struggle are understanding the business behind their art and the talent that they have. I knew that it wasn’t enough to be talented in the industry, you have to understand the business if you want longevity. That really is the key…and being involved in it in any capacity.

Shortly after that, I went to Vermont Law School, and graduated in 2018, and I am where I am now.

I do a lot of courses now where I teach people self-management and simple things in regards to taxes and contracting, not just for adults but for [younger artists] as well.

Was the goal of going to law school to practice law, or for you to have a better foothold on managing the careers of the artists you worked with? Or both?

So, let’s take it back. I want to know what 13-year-old Gabby is playing when she gets her first guitar. And what kind of guitar was it? PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 27


SPOTLIGHT

do, it’s a very special skill set – not everybody has it. I started my management journey there, and then simultaneously started the TxLips. We were really busy almost every night of the week either in rehearsals or doing shows, just to get the name out there. The reason I started it, outside of Diamond needing a band, was because I realized that there’s a very large gap in the music industry that needs to be filled by Black women’s voices and our images being involved in marketing, being on panels, being on the business side, the legal side. We’re not as present as I believe we should be, so I wanted to create a platform for Black women to be able to participate in music, whenever they wanted, however they wanted. The band is a collective; there is no set four people. I subcontract musicians from around the world to play with me whenever I tour. So, I have musicians in Canada, London, all throughout the Southeast region, the West Coast, the Midwest, there are musicians everywhere. And the joy of it is they all bring a different style to the table, a different background, and when we get on stage together and I hear how they express the music I’ve written…it’s really a beautiful thing. I think what’s unique about your playing style is that there’s a really great melodic aspect, especially in your leads. Where did that come from?

Oooh, it was a really old Johnson Stratocastertype guitar. It was a really crappy guitar (laughs). I am the biggest Nirvana fan, I listened to a lot of Nirvana and a punk bands, like TAT is one of my favorite bands -- they’re a London punk band. But I used to just listen to a lot of random punk and grunge and replicate what I was hearing.

Were you writing at that time? I was always writing music…I think that’s why my parents got me into piano. They thought it would help me play the music I was hearing in my head.

Did you take traditional lessons or were you more self-taught?

Fast-forward to today, and you’ve got the band together, the TxLips. That started in 2016, right?

I was mostly self-taught for the first three years. When I got to my fourth year, I started training classically with a teacher that used to work in my church. I studied classical with him for two or three years, and that’s really where the world of music theory made sense to me. If I can understand the “why” behind the “what” it’s easier for me to apply to how I do it.

Right. I used to play for Diamond, who was a rapper from Atlanta, and I did a couple music videos [with her]. And I realized that she needed a backing band in Atlanta, because she had one in LA. So, I started the band and managed [them] because I quickly realized people who aren’t musicians don’t know how to manage musicians. And if you

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Some of my biggest influences I didn’t really learn about until I got to college and learned the history of Black people creating rock n roll and many other genres. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of my biggest influences, not just her style of playing but her courage that I can relate to as a Black woman. We’re usually at the bottom of the totem pole in a lot of different industries, especially in music. What I’ve experienced, when I walk into a room, you’re placed in one of a few limiting categories…so I knew it had to have been hard for her to walk in [to a room] with as much confidence as I see in her videos. It empowers me; she’s one of my biggest influences for those reasons. I also really love Steve Vai, Joe Satriani…I really love Jimi Hendrix and Orianthi… I’ve seen you play a number of really cool ESP/LTD guitars. Are you an official endorser at this point? Yeah, I’ve been with them for about three and a half years or so. It’s great, they’re really good people. It ties in a little with what I was


SPOTLIGHT

saying earlier, with regards to Black women being represented in music…not just on a performance level. Something I’ve been working with them on is diversity and inclusion from a marketing perspective. Because I don’t see Black people on their marketing as much, but that’s a conversation we’ve been having, and they’re good people. And I wouldn’t want to endorse anyone else. With all that’s going on in the world now, are you doing OK? Where do you see yourself headed if touring opens up again? Honestly, I was on a panel and this was a part of a conversation we were having - the return of live music – if at all, what is that going to look like? One of the things I was saying was…I don’t necessarily feel comfortable entrusting my health and my band’s health to a venue who hasn’t taken necessary precautions to test people or keep people socially distanced. Plus, it’s really difficult to control humans and to keep them distanced, especially when half of the people in this country think it’s a hoax, but I think that it’s gonna be interesting… For me, I see myself and my band doing what we’re doing now, existing in a virtual capacity, and just being available for people from an educational aspect and also from a performance aspect.

Follow on Instagram: @guitargabby

GUITAR GABBY & THE TXLIPS BAND PRISON OF LIFE STANDOUT TRACK: “PRISON OF LIFE”

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SPOTLIGHT Finding a Voice Through the Power of Music and Self-Identity Wilhelmina Hayward

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ou’re driving home just as the sun is setting and you feel compelled to pull over because the sun is creating the most magnificent sky, filled with the entire spectrum of colors. Something as simple as paying attention became the inspiration for MALIK’s latest endeavor: a seven-single series called Spectrum. MALIK is a rising vocalist and producer and is Grammy-accredited for his work on Ariana Grande’s “Better Off.” We got to catch up with MALIK to discuss his latest work and his personal journey finding his expression through music. What were some of the first inspirations that got you into music and producing? My family and parents. They were always playing music around the house and that was my first introduction to music, but I didn’t really get into [it] until I was nine or ten. I’m walking around Walmart with my mom during Christmas and I see a guitar and I’m like, ‘Oh, that looks cool, I want a guitar for Christmas.’ My mom got me the guitar along with lessons, and from then on, I realized I can create, I can make things, I can write songs, I can express myself. That made me fall in love with the idea of songwriting. And from there, one day my dad came home with a video game called Funkmaster Flex’s Digital Hitz Factory and it was this game from PlayStation 2 where you can make beats. That was mind-blowing to me that you could do that, which was what got me into production and was basically the foundation for everything. It eventually got to a point where I built up enough skills and put so much time into it that I finally got to a point of expressing myself the way I want to. What was it that drew you so early on to a love of creating and finding a form of expression? Both my parents are creatives themselves…

rat because I used to collect shiny little things and try to make little inventions, I would call them. But I’ve always had this love to create and I think when I got my hands on a guitar… it was just a great entry point for me to create something close to what I love. You know, the gap between drawing the shoe and wearing the shoe, especially at that age is a pretty big gap, but that I can literally sit here and make sounds and write songs that felt close to the things I was hearing my parents play, was really inspiring.

“I can create, I can make things, I can write songs, I can express myself.” I’ve always just loved to create. I used to draw pictures of shoes and outfits and things I would someday make; my mom used to call me a pack 32 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

You mentioned how the slow grind for you was all the hours you’ve spent alone honing your production skills and creating

music. Taking a look at your journey holistically, how did you find your voice and arrive at the point where you felt confident about expressing yourself in this medium? I think the cool thing for me was, I got into music and started writing songs purely as a form of dealing with emotions and expressing myself. So, while of course, I definitely wanted people to hear my songs and like them, it was still, for me like, ‘Man, I’m at school, kids are making fun of me, this girl doesn’t like me back, how am I going to process this?’ And I would go home and write poetry and write songs and it would just help me feel better. It never felt like I’m putting all this work in to make music or build up this skill. For me, it was really my safe space, to feel fully me. And then the more you learn about yourself, the more that influences your art, and your art becomes more of you, and more of your voice…Of course, you’re going to pick things up and have influences, but you find your way of expressing your full unique expression. Let’s talk about you getting to this point in your career: signing to the ARTium label, how your professional relationship with No


I like how you mentioned, “after you have your own self-identity.” Do you think that’s important for you to develop before delving into the collaborative process? Absolutely, because I think… there are so many things accessible to us today that it’s very easy to sway wherever the wind blows, but once you have your nucleus set, then you can start bringing in the right things. Because you may not know what you need yet, you’re still exploring, and you don’t want to lose yourself in the world... I.D. developed, and diving into the music industry -- how has it shaped you as an artist?

Let’s talk about your album Spectrum and what your inspiration was for the color motif.

Oh, man, for sure, I met No I.D. through this production company I used to be signed to, they managed J.I.D. and Earthgang. But basically, J.I.D. had a session with No I.D. and I was working and producing for his project, so I was in the studio. There was a little break in the session, and I was playing some music for No I.D. and was really enjoying the music. So, from there we started loosely working on stuff, you know, maybe he would send me little ideas and I’d finish them kind of thing. Then we reconnected at the Dreamville Sessions and we got a chance to work in the same room, live setting situation and that’s when he said we should work together.

I had just finished a project, the whole album kind of deal, and I was really, really…tired. I put together this whole cohesive album, I did all the album artwork, I did all the marketing and promotion myself, and I was just really exhausted. So, I wanted to do something without the pressure of needing to make something completely cohesive, thinking about the transitions, and things like that. Then I was driving home from work one day in the evening and I look at the sky and the sun was just setting, and you could see the whole color spectrum across the sky, and it was just beautiful. So, I took a picture, wrote down the word ‘spectrum’ and thought, ‘One day that’s going to be something.’

So, from there he flew me to LA and I worked out of the studio for several months straight. And that’s when we really built a relationship. Just the conversations we have about life, or business, or spirituality, or things I never experienced in the music industry, it really felt like I found someone I want as a part of my life, even if I didn’t do music. He’s truly, truly a mentor in every sense of the word.

uncomfortable sometimes. And kind of sitting in those thoughts of, ‘You know, I’m not where I want to be’ or ‘kind of going through something right now,’ but to be okay with that process and not check out. Because that’s what’s building your strength and your resolve to endure those low moments. Kind of, holding on to what you believed in from the beginning, and although you may not see the light at the end tunnel this very second, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

to

What do you take away

want from

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me learning from everyone I’ve worked with and trying to pull things that I can apply to my own art.

your fans Spectrum?

I want people to learn how to love themselves completely and to accept every gift that they have and every flaw that they have, so that they can recognize that as a starting point to grow, and refine, and to move forward. I love that. So, what are you currently working on that we can look forward to? I’m in the beginning stages of kind of working on a little spin-off of Spectrum. I don’t have a title I’m ready to announce just yet, but I want to open up the world to collaboration. So, it’s kind of like a little spin-off universe where other people are a part of it.

Follow on Instagram: @malikonthenet

Several months go by and I felt it was time for me to work on something, music without the pressure of anything. For me, every color in Spectrum is a different emotion that I’m exploring and learning how to process in a healthy way. I want to feel everything and then allow it to pass through me without holding on to anything, but also without the fear of feeling it first.

So, what was it like to jump from learning and creating music by yourself to collaborating with other amazing musicians?

I like that you didn’t give yourself any pressure in your exploration with this album, so what do you feel you’ve learned as an artist from this project?

It’s honestly been amazing. I think it’s a skill that I’m refining because ultimately, I know all the art that I hold in the highest regard has a lot of people involved. As far as the art of collaboration, it is probably the most important thing I would say after you have your own self-identity. Just seeing other people’s processes and people having a different perspective than you, is really really dope. And it really takes a lot of the pressure off of doing everything yourself. It’s honestly just been

Timing. Patience. I think that has probably been the toughest thing for me to learn because I want to do so many things, and I want to do so many things right now. But if the timing isn’t right, it isn’t going to be what you want it to be, or it isn’t going to reach its full potential if you’re impatient and start rushing things. I’m really thankful that the timing was right for this project.

MALIK ORANGE [SINGLE]

And also, being comfortable with being PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 33


SPOTLIGHT 34 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


SPOTLIGHT

DIRTY STREETS Rough and Tumble Memphis Trio Takes Live Approach on New LP Bob Bayne

Benjamin Ricci

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 35


SPOTLIGHT

D

irty Streets are a down n dirty (no pun intended) 3-piece rock outfit from Memphis. What can we say? These guys totally rip, and we loved them so much we featured them as our Elixir Strings artist of the month recently -- so if you haven’t checked out our YouTube channel in a minute, head there now to see some killer clips of the band, and visit performermag. com for the exclusive premiere of their new single “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” taken from their latest LP, our now on Alive Naturalsound. We recently caught up with guitarist/vocalist Justin Toland to learn more about the band, the recording of the new album, and the laziest way to find new drummers imaginable. For the complete interview, give a listen to our new podcast, Performer: On Record Episode 2. What can you let us know about the new record? It was postponed a little bit due to everything 36 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

that’s going on, but I’m happy it’s coming out. It’s got a lot of songs on it that we had recorded previously but in more of a studio setting. This was recorded in a totally different way -- it was recorded live…in Memphis. And it has two covers on it, as well, which is something we don’t usually do. We premiered one of those, what was the other cover? The other cover was called “Tell The Truth,”

Maybe you can take us back and tell us how the band got started, and what led you up to the new record. We started originally back in 2008, with the original lineup. Previous to that, Thomas the bass player and I, had met each other at a party at my house sometime around 2007. And I remember Thomas had said, ‘Hey, I’m looking to start a band with someone looking to do something a little blues/rock oriented.’ And at the time, I was

On recording live: “It was finally just the raw version of us playing, and it was all feeling.” by Otis Redding. It was actually written by Joe South, too. They were both written by Joe South – I did a deep dive on [him] and got really into his stuff.

really trying to find someone to do that, but it was proving impossible. I had all these demos I was working on,


And Drew came down the stairs…and we got lucky -- he wasn’t in a band yet because he just moved here. That’s one way to get a drummer. You just walk around town and keep your ears open, I guess… Yeah, just knock on doors and hope they can play (laughs). He’s been in the band ever since. How long did it take for you to get signed and do the first record? It took another year and a half or so to even find our sound, you know? And build a chemistry enough to make a record. That [first] record was released around the end of 2009, which we did independently. This will be record number…six, I think? The one that’s coming out [now]. And you guys are on Alive Naturalsound, which is a really great label. They put out a lot of rootsy rock n roll, I know Buffalo Killers are on the label, and Radio Moscow. Can you tell us how you got on there? I’ve been a fan of the label for years, when we first started the band, we had both mutually found the label around the same time. There were bands like Radio Moscow and Buffalo Killers, Black Keys put out their first record on Alive, so we were just blown away by the quality of the music on the roster. and I hadn’t showed them to anybody, so I said, ‘Maybe you should listen to them.’ We listened to the demos, and that just started the friendship between me and Thomas, and the concept of the band. Really, we had nothing going on, we didn’t have a drummer. It’s kind of impossible without a drummer (laughs). So, we spent the next year or so playing with different drummers…we played with maybe five drummers total in the span of a year. We were just at the end of our ropes because the last drummer we had ended up getting arrested…and had a bunch of legal trouble. And we were like, ‘What are we gonna do?’ And [Thomas] said, ‘There’s this guy down the street who I hear playing drums every day when I’m at my mom’s house…He sounds like he’s really good.’ And in my mind, I’m like, ‘What are the chances this guy a) actually being a good drummer, and b) interested in the music?’ I thought it was a longshot, but…it kept happening. We’d go by and hear him playing drums out the window. So finally, Thomas got up enough courage to knock on the door and say, ‘Hey, I hear drums coming out the window, can you tell me

It was all just American blues/rock or American rock n roll music. I loved it, I thought it felt real and sincere to me. That seemed to be the undercurrent of the label: sincerity. So, years went by and around 2011/12, we had played with Lee Bains and the Glory Fires and the second time, he said ‘You should really talk to [Alive] about being on the label.’

It’s a real band effort…the biggest thing is getting the feel to it, you might have the parts there, but it takes all three of us to get in there and get the feel on it, which is something we’ve always had as a band. But for this new one, you recorded live.

SPOTLIGHT

who’s playing?’

It’s kind of funny, it was sort of opportunistic. We were going in to do a live video concert, and once we did it, they start the recording, they start the cameras, and you go from beginning to end. You do your set. And once we recorded it, I heard it back, and it was just great. It was finally just the raw version of us playing, and it was all feeling. Nothing to sort of mask what it is, there’s no sheen on it…it was just a mix, and it’s done. Hence the name Rough & Tumble. I liked the raw element of it. So, we just decided maybe we should put this out. I went to Alive, and they really dug it, which was great. All in all, we just happened to get really lucky, we captured a magical moment in time, you know?

Follow on Instagram: @thedirtystreets

That was just a passing conversation, but about a year later we toured with Radio Moscow and after that tour I got a call from Patrick at the label. We struck up a conversation and it was really striking to me how deep the tastes of the label went and how much he cared about it music. It’s been a great relationship from there on out, this’ll be the third record we’ve done with them. Let’s talk about the band’s creative process, and how you approached the studio differently this time. Usually, it’s been the same. I have demos, and I share them, and that’s usually the beginning of the song, me coming up with ideas and putting them down in a super raw form. As a band, we digest whatever I have and turn it into a song.

DIRTY STREETS ROUGH & TUMBLE STANDOUT TRACK: “WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 37


MEET YOUR MAKER

GEAR PROFILE 38 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


How long has Luna been in business? Luna celebrates 15 years this year! How did Luna Guitars get started? In 2005, Luna Guitars was launched by my father, Elliott Rubinson, as a primarily acoustic-oriented guitar brand, with a stainedglass influence embodied within its aesthetic. Throughout the early years, Luna models featured artwork from well-known graphic and tattoo artists, heavily inspired by nature scenes and Henna designs, among other patterns. All of this came with a goal in mind to place a unique touch on an already mainstream instrument. Luna Guitars were built with slimmer necks and lighter bodies, keeping the female guitar-player, traveling guitar player, and acoustic aficionado in mind by offering a comfortable alternative to other guitars in the marketplace. As time has progressed, we have expanded the line to include a multitude of product offerings including ukuleles, bluegrass and percussion, which has helped diversify our audience and demographic. What are your most popular models? Many will recognize the Luna brand with the Tattoo Concert Mahogany ukulele, which features a laser-etched tattoo design on top of a concert body. Another popular ukulele is the High Tide Koa Concert, which takes its inspiration from the full moon, which begins at the first fret

with a pearl dot and causes the abalone wave fret markers below it to “rise” as they make their way up the fretboard towards the moon’s pull. On the guitar side, the Vista Deer model is our most popular acoustic from the Vista Series, which features a portrait of animals in their natural landscapes, depicted by using a variety of tropical woods across the body of the guitar. What sets you apart from other brands? From pioneering the use of laser-etching to form designs, to creative artwork made of abalone, and utilizing different tropical woods to create landscapes, the goal was to encourage uniqueness and excel in our craft. It was this type of creative thinking that landed many of our instruments in recording studios, on stages and in the stores of many trusted retailers across the globe. What are some of your coolest features? To understand the thought-process behind Luna instruments is to understand and appreciate world culture, nature and art. This is most evidently displayed in the delicate, abalone inlay work of the High Tide series, the tropical wood selection which creates a palpable scenery within the Vista Series, as well as the unique renderings of tattoo artists, stained-glass artists, and Henna laser-etched artist designs. Our highend offerings come complete with Fishman

GEAR PROFILE

With Evan Rubinson of Luna Guitars electronics, and all Safari travel guitars, as well as most ukulele offerings, include a road-worthy gig bag. Have you learned any lessons from your time with Luna? The biggest lesson learned – by far – from building instruments and running a business is that growth can be challenging, but perseverance and precision will always reign king. Ed Macauley said it best: “When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him, he will win.” That’s the motto my team and I like to live by when building instruments. What do you want musicians to think of when they think of Luna? As a lifestyle brand, Luna promotes happiness through adventure, learning new things and channeling your inner creativity. The idea is to choose an instrument that inspires you to think above and beyond and perform like no one is watching. We offer instruments that meet the needs of our beginner players, experienced musicians and support singer-songwriters along their tough but rewarding journey. We’re designed by artists for artists. Learn more at www.LunaGuitars.com and follow on Instagram @LunaGuitar

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 39


GEAR REVIEWS

PRESONUS ioSTATION 24c Audio Interface Controller

W

ith the new ioSTATION, PreSonus combines a truly functional control device with their already wellknown DAW interface to make your workflow a lot easier, from the beginner to the seasoned studio vet. Starting with the interface side of things, it sports two combo XLR/1/4” inputs, which run into PreSonus’ awesome XMAX Preamps. They’re well known for having great headroom responsiveness, and low noise, with definition and clarity, and they certainly live up to their reputation! Plugging in a guitar direct for plug-in amp sim use sounded great and running a variety of mics for acoustic and electric guitars got fantastic sounding results overall. Headphone output covers personal monitoring, along with two 1/4” connections for monitors. It comes with a standard USB connection as well as USB-C for more modern machines. As it’s a PreSonus product, it pairs nicely with their Studio One recording software, but can work with pretty much any DAW, and their included universal control app is key in getting everything to play nice with each other. On the controller side of things, going through every button and functionality point would be something akin to the actual owner’s manual, but the big thing you notice is the motorized (yes!) 100m long throw fader. Select a channel, and the fader snaps to that level, likewise, moves the fader on the device, and the corresponding fader moves on the DAW. The large blue scroll button allows the user to skip across the channels, along with the soft touch previous and next buttons. The rest of the controls are basically physical versions of what is in the DAW, with channel strip

40 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

functions like solo, mute, and arm. The session navigation section covers what the user will need to move around the session, using the scroll wheel to move in whatever function, such as panning, or raising the master. The bottom section is the transport area, with play, record, stop, and loop engage functionality. Everything is intuitively laid out, and works perfectly with your DAW – excellent for those who want to work in the box, but miss the tactile control of a console. The footswitch function requires an external (not included) footswitch for total hands free functionality; this is great for those users that want to go hands free for punch-ins, but even just having the transport functions at our fingertips made doing repetitive takes (no one but us does those, right?) far less frustrating than having to set up pre roll, hit the mouse, grab a pick, and then get prepped to do a take, and then do it again, until you have it right! So, for musicians this is a great way to make a DAW work like a mini “one channel at a time” console strip. But, for say podcasters, it’s equally powerful, with simple controls and setup, there’s no having to lean into software to control a session. For Windows users, loopback recording, such as recording with other items like live streaming from say Facebook or YouTube is easy, however for Mac users, you’ll have to find a 3rd party software for that. Overall if you want easy, hands-on functionality with an excellent sounding interface, this is a one of those no brainer device combos we wish we had thought of sooner, and if you’re working by yourself, it’s going to be your new BFF in the studio. Chris Devine

PROS

Great sounding preamps, excellent ergonomic functionality CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$299


GEAR REVIEWS

S

CODA MUSIC TECHNOLOGIES STOMP Bluetooth 4.0 Page Turner Pedal

TOMP offers up hands-free control of a tablet’s page-turning functionality, wirelessly, with super easy connectivity and functionality. It’s quite small, about the same size as a dual function guitar stomp box, with a rugged metal case, durable metal footswitches and recessed push buttons. The rear panel has a standard negative center pin 9v power supply, meaning it will work with most standard pedal board power supplies found on most boards. For those who haven’t gone down the pedalboard rabbit hole, a 9v power supply is included, and the unit can also run off of a standard 9v battery, with over 150 hours of use. A USB port on the back can act as a charger for a tablet or smart phone. The little nub on the back? That’s the Bluetooth antenna. So, connecting it to a device it acts as a keyboard, well maybe a footboard is a better term. Open an app like OnSong with it connected, and it allows easy maneuvering through pages with selectable modes, such as arrow controls like up, down, left and right, as well as page up and down. The right footswitch scrolls/moves up/ forward, and the left scrolls back. It’s very helpful

in long songs, rather than having to scroll with your fingers through the sheet music, especially if you’re an instrumentalist -- having to free up a hand live, and having an instrument drop out, is such a bummer. Need to scroll to the next song? It’s just as easy, and keeps your hands where they should be, on your instrument, not fiddling with devices. The infinity switch acts like a continuous control. With it activated, just press down the right switch, and it will keep scrolling until it’s released, no need to keep stomping to scroll. Very nice touch. We’ve seen a lot of page turner devices that deliver similar functionality, but their practical use wasn’t all that great, with construction that barely lives up to local gigs. The Stomp is well thought out for real gigging with robust footswitches, bright LED displays, recessed and well-lit buttons, and an all-metal construction. This is the real deal, it isn’t that much more price-wise than the more plasitic-y ones, and at least you know this one will survive anything that could be thrown at it on the road.

PROS

Rugged, plenty of functionality, pedalboard friendly. CONS

Perhaps slightly pricey. STREET PRICE

$129

Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 41


GEAR REVIEWS

JBL IRX 112-BT

T

he new IRX series from JBL is basically a culmination of everything JBL knows how to do, in a super-simple to use package, at their most affordable price point. The rugged enclosure is sure to withstand any road battles it may encounter, and setup couldn’t be simpler. The top-molded handles make moving and installation a breeze, and the rear panel is so simply laid out, even a first-time singer-songwriter can get up and running in seconds, no problem. What’s nice is that you’ve two on-board inputs, meaning you can plug your vocal mic and guitar in directly without the need for an external compact mixer, another plus for the singer-songwriter crowd looking to save some cash. And you’ve got some builtin EQ presets that actually work quite well. If you’re doing spoken word performances, speeches or playing music, each selection is a button press away and takes the guesswork out of good sound done quick. Again, no need for an external mixer to fiddle around with 42 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

tri-band EQ’s in order to get a decent sound in seconds. Rounding out the feature set are ducking options, bass boost and Bluetooth pairing. We tested the ducking with vocals and a backing track, and it seemed to work just fine, as promised. So again, we’re thinking this would be perfect for singer-songwriters, house concert hosts, spoken word poetry slams, and things of that nature. Bluetooth pairing is easy, as expected, and for those without and live sound background, JBL has included a dbx feedback suppressor to avoid any nasty squeals. So, if you’re cranking the gain on inputs 1, 2 or both at the same time, you can be reasonably assured you’re not going to encounter nasty feedback the second a hot mic gets a signal. All in all, there’s not much more to say about the new IRX line. They’re simple, built to last, sound great, have a small, but incredibly useful feature set, and they come in at an affordable price point. We recommend them. Ben Ricci

PROS

Rugged, excellent options, great sound quality. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$379


GEAR REVIEWS

NOVATION Launchkey 49

N

ovation has been crushing it lately in the MIDI and synth space. We were lucky enough to test out their Summit and Peak synths in action, both for review in the mag and at a few tradeshows in the past year. We’ve learned hands-on that Novation is serious when it comes to today’s modern synthesists, producers and keyboardists.

electro-bass grooves in no time both with hardware synths and software plug-ins, and the mappable pads and knobs made custom integration fun and easy with any setup we threw at it. This can be your studio’s new go-to one-stop shop for all things synth-related if you just take a minute to set it up to your liking and preferences.

The new Launchkey 49 is no exception to that rule. While the controller is designed to be Ableton Live’s killer app, it also integrates perfectly with any other DAW or MIDI hardware, no problem. In fact, while we did some quick testing in Ableton, we also used it primarily to control soft synths in Studio One, as well as a hardware drum machine, a Moog Sub Phatty that lacks an arpeggiator, and one of the new digital Mellotrons. Success all around.

You’ve also got some on board transposition options and chord triggering pads, which means you can quickly and easily shuffle things around to new keys and modes when you’re writing. Everything feels super solid, and we didn’t even really need an instruction manual to figure out most of the features off the bat. Even the small LCD screen, usually something we hate diving into, was bright and easy to navigate. A bonus for us menu haters!

OK, so it works perfectly as a MIDI controller, as you’d expect. But you could go out and get any cheap keyboard with MIDI outputs to do that. What Launchkey brings to the table are some awesome features, and if Novation doesn’t mind me swiping one of their buzzwords, some inspirational functionally that many controllers in this price range don’t offer. Our favorite (and the most fun) was the arpeggiator. We were bouncing 80’s style

If that weren’t enough, there’s a ton of included software (including Ableton Live Lite) to get you started in your musical creations, especially if you’re primarily hardware-based.

PROS

Easy to use, decent keybed, lots of great features. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$219

There’s nothing bad to say about the Launchkey 49 – it does what you’d expect from a MIDI controller, and so much more. Recommended, for sure. Ben Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 43


GEAR REVIEWS

W

arm Audio is one of our absolute faves when it comes to awesome studio gear on a budget. One of the things we’ve been bugging them about for a few years is a stereo bus compressor, and now that we’ve got our hands on the new BUS-COMP, it’s just what we’ve asked for.

WARM AUDIO Stereo Bus Compressor

We have a modest recording rig here at the mag that we use for testing, but as of late we’ve been doing compression only in the box with a few stock plug-ins. While the sound was fine for demo’ing and testing out products, we knew that for really great sound, we’d want to look into an insertable hardware unit at the end of our master chain. The new BUS-COMP delivers on everything we wanted, including price. For just under $700, you’ve got a two channel VCA bus compressor that just adds that little extra glue to the end of a mixing session. It’s hard to stress just what a compressor can add to your mix, but A/B testing some scratch sessions with and without the bus

44 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


GEAR REVIEWS compressor confirms that the dynamic gel you hear on radio-ready singles is just the thing this puppy can bring to your rig. One of the cool things is you can run your mix through this and just use it for slight tone coloration on its own, with no compression settings applied. But of course the magic really kicks in when you start running your stereo sources through it (of course it can be used on single-channel sources, as well). And, it should go without saying, but you don’t just have to use it on your stereo master, you can sweeten background vocals, rhythm section mixes, drum mixes, etc, too from your stems. Getting into the settings, it comes equipped with exactly what you’d expect and want on the front panel, including knobs for threshold, attack, ratio, release, a high-pass filter and make-up to adjust the gain back you may have lost in previous settings. The HPF has settings for 30, 60, 105, 125 and

185 Hz and you can do what we did and quickly A/B your sound with and without compression with a button on the front panel. While built to meet a certain price point, for sure, Warm didn’t skimp on quality, which we appreciate. They used Made in the USA CineMag transformers and fully discrete op-amps inside, and the internal guts of neatly wired and. Laid out for easy servicing in the future. There’s also some room inside the chassis for the modders in the crowd. Turning around to the rear panel, and I/O is dead-simple. Left inputs and outputs and a sidechain input are all that’s needed, and all that’s here. That makes integration into your rig simple and eliminates confusion for newbies. Overall, the new bus compressor from Warm Audio is an awesome and affordable way to finish off your stereo mixes, or even stereo stems, and we heartily recommend it for any home or pro studio. Ben Ricci

PROS

great sound, easy to install and use. CONS

none. STREET PRICE

$699

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 45


GEAR REVIEWS

ULTIMATE EARS PRO LIVE in-ear stage monitors

O

K, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, these stage in-ears cost over two grand. There, I said it. They’ve hella expensive and probably are out of reach for most touring bands (hey, remember touring?) That said, there’s definitely an audience for the new flagship LIVE in-ears, otherwise UE Pro wouldn’t have bothered with all that R&D, right? So, let’s dive in. Who are these things for, anyway? Really, these are best suited for bigger touring bands who want the absolute best of the best. But that doesn’t mean you’ve gotta be U2 playing mega stadiums to get the most of these IEM’s. In fact, a lot of bands we cover, even those on smaller labels, make a healthy living during the summer festival season (hey, remember festivals?). So, for stages like those, these would be ideal because you’re typically dealing with much larger and more involved sound systems that are ideal for IEM use and complex wireless systems. And if you’re going to be making the festival rounds in 2021, and have got the money to invest, you might be an ideal candidate yourself for these bad boys. One of the nice things about Ultimate Ears’ ecosystem is that since I’m already a user, they’ve already got my custom ear mold on file from a previous scan they did, so getting these custom molded and fitted to my unique ear canal shape required no additional setup. And 46 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

once they arrived, they delivered as promised. Sound clarity is exceptional (it damn well better be for two grand) and built quality is astounding. Taking a close look under a loupe, and it’s an engineering marvel how they are able to pack so much into a tiny little package. LIVE features a 5-way crossover, multiple drivers, a 6mm sub (yep, you read that right) and a subsonic filter all neatly wired and suspended in the 3D printed mold. The custom mold itself is great, but even better for festival performers is the fact the cables are sweatproof and waterproof, meaning you won’t have to worry about cable damage from long sets or the rain. Even if you do run into cable issues, the IPX connector system makes swaps dead-simple. They pop off and on in seconds, making even on-stage changes undetectable. The hard earpieces during long-term use could prove a bit uncomfortable, but your mileage may vary depending on the length of your typical set. At the end of the day, we’ve tried a lot of IEM’s and Ultimate Ears never fails to exceed our expectations. It would be easy to recommend these, if money were no object. But we’re also realists, and we know that it is for a lot of acts, especially now. So, if you think you’ll be doing full-time touring again in 2021, check these out – they’re the best in class. Ben Ricci

PROS

excellent sound, amazing engineering, wonderful detailing. CONS

incredibly expensive, some may not find them comfortable for ultra-long sets. STREET PRICE

$2199


S

ource Audio has brought together the best of their Ventris Dual Reverb and Nemesis Delay pedals into one compact unit and didn’t leave anything out in the process. Let’s go over the connections; it’s stereo in and out and has in and thru for MIDI. On the rear, connection for expression pedal, or external switch options, the usual 9v power jack, and control for connecting the pedal to Source Audio’s Dual Expression Pedal, Neuro Hub, and Hot Hand Motion Controller devices. A USB connection for updates and connecting to a smartphone, tablet or computer for deeper editing and manipulation via their Neuro App. There are seven different reverb types; room, hall, true spring, plate, shimmer, e-dome and swell. Add in the five delay types; digital, analog, tape, reverse and oil

can, and it pretty much covers everything you’d need. Now these two effects share the same control knobs, which change different parameters depending upon not only the delay or reverb, but the particular type of delay or reverb selected. Going over the specifics of each would be a lot to consume, but they did include a cheat sheet for first time users. A mini toggle switch selects which effect the controls work with, either the delay or reverb. Don’t you hate having to mark pedals with tape or a paint marker to your fave settings, because the knobs move around in the gig bag or get changed accidentally? It won’t happen when this lil switch is in the center “lock” mode. The other mini toggle covers the beat subdivision of the delays, with quarter, dotted eighths, and triplets. There is also a preset function, allowing the player to save

GEAR REVIEWS

SOURCE AUDIO Collider Stereo Delay and Reverb Pedal four presets of delay and reverb, however, if it’s connected via MIDI, 128 presets can be stored and recalled. With two separate footswitches, the player can control turning on or off the individual reverb or delay effects. Now these can be set to true bypass, buffered bypass, or soft bypass with delay trails. Tap tempo is also available, via footswitch, and to keep things further separated each effect is driven by its own DSP, which is why this pedal can do so much! With each function and switch doing so much, you would think it’s tough to dial in sounds quickly, but we started with a simple goal to begin with; an amp like spring reverb, with an analog delay. Within a couple of minutes, we had it dialed in 90%. After referencing the “cheat sheet” we nailed the last 10%. Done. Quickly saving it, we moved on to a big rock solo, choosing the E-Dome and the Tape delay modes. Again, with some minor tweaking, it’s just THERE! Now the overall sound quality is fantastic, and the replication of the sonic inconsistencies of the tape and analog modes really blew our minds. Going to some extra extreme, the Shimmer and Reverse modes gave us a super big synth like pad that was amazing. Want to dive deeper? With the Neuro editor app, all the parameters are laid out, so no having to toggle back and forth, and the ability to save more sounds is great. There’s also a community aspect to it, allowing users to share presets with others. Let’s say you found THAT Pink Floyd sound for guitars, or someone else has the perfect “Joshua Tree” delay, sharing these presets is easy to do. Overall, for the player who wants to easily access every delay and reverb function possible, with minimal technical hassles, this has it covered. Players who just want to turn a few knobs and not have restrictions, there’s no problem there either. It’s reminiscent of the old studio rack units with way better sound quality, way more flexibility, and a much smaller footprint. Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

hyper flexible, excellent sound quality, options and functionality galore!

none.

$349

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 47


GEAR REVIEWS

CASIOTONE CT-S300

F

or those of us of a certain age, the name Casiotone evokes either one of two emotions: fevered nostalgia or…well, perhaps a slight chuckle. I get it, but for me, the nostalgia wins out. A Casio keyboard, for good or bad, was one of the first instruments I ever used to pluck out a few notes. It was magic, in a time where no such magic existed for me. Being older now, I’m fortunate enough to own a Moog, and ARP, even a Mellotron in my personal keyboard arsenal (not bad for a guitar player). But those old Casio keyboards hold a certain place in my heart. Which is why, when we met with the folks from Casio at NAMM this past year, and they showed us around their new Casiotone models (in addition to some of their higher-end digital pianos), a little part of me started to warm up inside. Cut to a few months later, and the Casiotone CT-S300 showed up at the office. So, let’s dig in. For starters, those chuckles I spoke about earlier are largely due to Casio’s supposed placed in the cheese-tastic hall of fame of 80’s synth sounds. And sure, to some degree, that’s one way to look at it. For affordable keyboards back in the day, you were obviously going to be limited in the on-board sounds, waveforms and polyphony options. And to that end, having played a few vintage Casio keyboards recently, I must say they do actually hold up fairly well, all things considered. Sure, they’re no Prophet or Minimoog or (gasp) DX-7, but they were never designed to be. And those looking to add an authentic vintage sound to their more modern synth lineups might just want to check one out, if only to add some 80’s fun to the mix. But we’re straying from the matter at hand… If you go in with the right expectations, you might be very pleasantly surprised with the new Casiotone lineup. We certainly were with the 48 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

CT-S300 that we got ahold of. For starters, the keybed is very playable. It’s the standard plastic key action you’ll find on a lot of synths and MIDI controllers in this price range, so no surprises there. Although we do appreciate non-teeny-tiny miniature keys for once. One surprise we weren’t prepared for, however, was the pitch wheel – a very nice addition that makes note performance much more expressive than Casiotones from days of yore. Even more impressive is that you’ve got a few options for touch sensitivity, meaning you could use this as a MIDI controller with velocity, in addition to the included sound sets. Speaking of which, there are a TON of onboard sounds to play around with. Thankfully, navigation is pretty simple, even for menu-diving haters like us. A big, giant wheel sits in the middle of the panel and allows super-easy access to all the sounds and parameters. The small LCD screen is easy to read, even if it is limited in the number of character and rows it can display. In fact, everything about navigating this keyboard is easy, just like the old days, because you’ve only got a few buttons and controls to fiddle about with. In some ways, this is actually refreshing coming off a deep-dive with some of KORG’s more recent offerings. The sounds are where the new Casiotone lineup really shines. In addition to some surprisingly usable synth sounds, you get access to a whole host of great piano sounds, pads and other instruments that you’re not gonna find on a lot of comparable digital synths. If you want to add some basic electric piano to your mix, you’d normally have to find some DAW plug. Which is fine, except sometimes you just want an instrument to handle the job, and the Yamaha Reface CP is about twice the price with way fewer sounds, smaller keys and no wheel. The Casiotone also provides an impressive 48-note polyphony and a 5-octave keybed, two more octaves than the Reface line and most other synths you might be considering.

You’ve got two adequate built-in speakers, which can of course be bypassed with an audio output to your mixer, powered speakers or audio interface, as well as MIDI control over USB. Would we have preferred to have real 5-pin MIDI ins and outs? Sure, but at this price, we’re not gonna nitpick. Especially considering you can power it with batteries and the entire unit weighs next to nothing, so you can take it practically anywhere with no hassle. So, what’s our verdict? For $150, it’s almost silly not to pick one up for fun. Snobby synthheads may snicker at the Casio name, but I think this retro-flavored initiative is one way the modern-day Casio is addressing some of the inaccurate views the public maybe still hold on the quality of their older products. If there is an image problem with Casio keyboards, this is one giant step in the right direction to squelch some of that past snobbery. Benjamin Ricci

PROS

inexpensive, good selection of sounds, portable, decent keybed CONS

no traditional MIDI I/O STREET PRICE

$149


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