COMPOSING FOR THE WORLD’S COOLEST VIDEO GAMES
SHOULD YOU PULL YOUR MUSIC FROM SPOTIFY?
DEC. ‘14 FREE
THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
INTERVIEWS TIGERMAN WOAH! DAVID BRONSON WAMPIRE XERXES TEAM*
a Guitar Design Revolution
Harnessing YouTube to Crowdsource
Hey Marseilles. Nectar Lounge. Seattle, WA. 09.17.2014
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by Lauren Moquin
by Mark Cowles
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOL.24, ISSUE 10
by Heidi Schmitt
by Benjamin Ricci Learn how an enterprising Englishman used his YouTube fame to revolutionize guitar manufacturing and collaborative design. 4.
Letter From the Editor
40. Scoring Epic Music For Epic Games
Quick Picks: The Best in New Music
42. My Favorite Axe: Catherine
Vinyl of the Month: The
43. Recording: Modulation FX pt. 2
Live Reviews: CMJ; ACL; St. Paul &
44. Studio Diary: David Bronson
46. G ear Reviews: Yamaha; BeatBuddy;
38. Taylor Swift, Spotify and the Musical Food Chain Myth
by Maria Pulcinella Murray
48. Flashback: Sony C800G Mic
by Alex Lane
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all! No, you’re not drunk, this month’s cover is indeed sideways. It’s all rock n roll over here, and sometimes you just gotta do something different to keep the creative juices flowin’, ya know? Anyway, sideways aside, this issue’s got some meat on its bones. The centerpiece, in case you couldn’t guess (hey, maybe you are drunk after all) is our interview with guitarist and entrepreneur Rob Chapman (aka Chappers to his YouTube followers). Here we have a man who dared to ask the simple question, “Hey, what features do you want in a guitar?” Simple, huh? Yeah...until you realize Fender, Gibson and the like aren’t exactly beating down their customers’ doors to get feedback (those changes in the 2015 models are...um, interesting, Gibson).
Now granted, those are mega-huge companies who can’t please everyone, but the fact remains that before Chapman Guitars was launched, it seemed as though (to guitarists anyway) that manufacturers couldn’t be bothered at all with their customers’ input. So Chapman rallied his YouTube troops to collaboratively design and vote on what would go into his production models. And using topflight talent from the same Korean factory where PRS makes his SE line, Chapman Guitars was born. You can get more on the story and our review of the Chapman ML1 (spoiler: it’s fantastic) in the pages ahead. Until then: courage.
Volume 24, Issue 10 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT
Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER
William House Phone: 617-627-9200 firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR
Benjamin Ricci email@example.com DESIGN AND ART DIRECTION
Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
-Benjamin Ricci editor
Bob Dobalina firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Alex Lane, Benjamin Hanson, Benjamin Ricci, Brent Godin, Candace McDuffie, Chris Devine, Christopher Petro, Don Miggs, Doria Roberts, Heidi Schmitt, Jaclyn Wing, Jason Ashcraft, Justin Korn, Lauren Moquin, Lesley Daunt, Maria Pulcinella Murray, Mark Cowles, Matt Ingersoll, Matt Lambert, Michael St. James, Shawn M Haney, Taylor Haag, Taylor Northern, Zac Cataldo CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Aimee Ortiz, Dan Watkins, Kelly Davidson, Mary Burks, Matt Lambert, Pat Schumacher, Ralph Aversen ADVERTISING SALES
Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about.
Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact email@example.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.”
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4 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will... ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to email@example.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?”
Kathleen Mackay firstname.lastname@example.org Deborah Rice email@example.com © 2014 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.
...ARRIVING 2015 #PodOutWithYourRodOut
BLAKE MILLS Heigh Ho Los Angeles, CA (Verve)
BLISSES B Sea Level Astronomy San Francisco, CA (Self-released)
BUFFALO KILLERS Fireball of Sulk Cincinnati, OH (Alive Naturalsound Records)
Blake Mills wrangles out bittersweet ballads from dissonance on his latest home-brewed moonshine sound with Heigh Ho, his second son, record-wise. Mills’ whiskey-soaked vocals make him a singersongwriter anti-hero of sorts. He grieves over failed relationships, the ones he’ll take the blame for torching; Fiona Apple harmonizes on one such track, “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me.” The sounds corralled from Mills’ amp build blissfully from a lone schizoid acoustic guitar, yearning to mirror Mills’ wistful cadence. Yet, while Mills isn’t afraid to modernize the singer-songwriter genre, he still maintains its heart-wrenching integrity. Crests of unexpected orchestral phrasings cast off dissonance and align a folky blues musician’s musings into an eerie, but welcomed resolve. With more LPs like this, Mills will quickly become one of his generation’s finest guitarists. Follow on Twitter @BreakMirrors Justin Korn
It’s been three years since Blisses B put out a fulllength record, but by the almighty power of a Kickstarter campaign, their new album is here! Sea Level Astronomy is ten tracks of gloriously balanced lyrical elements and body-rockin’ rhythms blessed by the rock gods…Their sound? Imagine Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and The Naked and Famous had a love child. In “Weapons Grade,” the mandolin is making love to your ears and the bass is making your heart flutter. “Side Hug” perfectly blends the drums, guitar, bass and vocals together resulting in one masterful rock anthem. Vocals center on the theme of considering multiple perspectives and the profound, and the song titles accurately depict the mood of each song. Sea Level Astronomy is definitely an album to play on repeat. Follow on Twitter @BlissesB Jaclyn Wing
Garage rockers Buffalo Killers have been around for nearly a decade, so they certainly know a thing or two about straight-up, edgy rock and roll. On their new EP, they push the limits even further with psychedelic shades of Soundgarden and The Black Crowes… Fireball of Sulk packs a punch with guitar hooks on every track, reminiscent of The Black Keys (Dan Auerbach has produced some of their previous releases). “Marshmallow Mouth” is an epic six-minute rocker that ends with a long, fadeout guitar solo, followed by “Don’t Cry to Me,” a fast track less than half its predecessor’s length…If you like or listen to any of the aforementioned bands, it’s safe to say you will enjoy Buffalo Killers. They possess the unique ability to put a classic-style edge on their music in this modern era, something that more bands frankly ought to follow. Follow on Twitter @Buffalo_Killers Matt Ingersoll
Here you’ll find the best new music our writers have been digging this past month. For full reviews and to stream tracks and videos from the artists featured on these pages, please head to performermag.com. Enjoy! DELTA SPIRIT Into the Wide Brooklyn, NY (Dualtone Music Group)
LABRYYYNTH Labryyynth Philadelphia, PA (People In A Position To Know/Burger Records)
MAX GARCIA CONOVER Ellery Portland, MN (Self-released)
Into the Wide provides an intimate look at growing older, the restlessness of city life, and a longing for escape. Though a little darker than the band’s previous recordings, it ultimately emerges as Delta Spirit’s most gloriously heavy album so far… “From Now On” is the quintessential indie-rock song that has “single” written all over it. With driving guitars and an unbelievable catchy chorus, this is a standout track. Frontman Matthew Vasquez’s voice has tones of Karl Wallinger (World Party) at times, which adds even more depth to songs like “Live On.” Finding strength in the hours of darkness is a running theme on songs like “Take Shelter,” “Language of the Dead” and “Hold My End Up.” Though Into the Wide is Delta Spirit at their heaviest and moodiest, it is above all else, still Delta Spirit...a band that performs from the heart and the soul, taking the listener on a personal journey of the world as they see it through their own eyes. Follow on Twitter @DeltaSpirit Lesley Daunt
Fuzzy bedroom indie pop…Dr. Dog’s multi-instrumentalist Dimitri Manos and his bandmates from Golden Boots, have formed a new project called Labryyynth. Their self-titled debut album features plenty of Moog synth and deconstructed drumbeats. Dr. Dog’s side project is a modern-day soundtrack as you and Alice swirl down the rabbit hole to Wonderland…“Traveling Strange” makes your head twirl, and the swirling, dreamy vocals in “Sunlight” give off a psychedelic vibe, leading you into a labyrinth - but don’t fret! The harmonies on “Beezneez” reassure that you’ll find your way through the intricate structure and arrangement of the album. Labryyynth creates paths that lead inward and leave you wondering if you ever need to come back out. Follow on Twitter @labryyynth Jaclyn Wing
Stirring melodies, lush fingerpicking, a folk artist of stellar abilities…Two years have come and gone since Max Garcia Conover graced Maine’s local music scene as 2012’s best new act. His new LP Ellery paints a picture in the folk lover’s heart like a brilliant blue ocean…Max’s vocals are stirring and haunting. His storytelling is dark, moving, breathless and immediate. He is a sheer delight to listen to…You’ll hear about silos and summer storms that rock you to sleep. You’ll hear verses of persistent winds, dark winters, birds, county fairs, holding hands, dogwoods in bloom, and young lovers…Engaging, breathtaking, each work on this folk masterpiece is chilling. Max Garcia Conover is a composer of great talent; his songs are unmistakably appealing. Follow on Twitter @mgarciaconover Shawn M. Haney
6 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
MODERN SUITS Every Light Philadelphia, PA (Sleep Retreat Records)
POMPEII Loom Austin, TX (Red Eye Transit)
A haunting, soul-stirring Tennessee folk trio, with gorgeous vocals and instrumental delights… Rooted in the Bone is potent and zesty with glorious vocals and charming production. In their full-length debut, the Dawls weave together a gorgeous blend of harmony vocals and beautifully lush instruments, making this album a booming success for their fans…“Shadow in the Room” shows more Middle Eastern flavors, featuring colorful strings and dark, rich vocals. Their ability to compose powerfully immediate lyrics and moving vocal harmonies is so fervently apparent throughout this appealing album, as in “Ride Alone” (dazzling pianos) and “Where’d You Go My Love” (merry, swinging upbeat bass and mandolin)… Memphis Dawls succeed at serenading the masses with choruses and stories relevant to today. Mesmerizing and captivating, this is nearly-flawless folk for the ages. Follow on Twitter @memphisdawls Shawn M. Haney
Modern Suits is a new alternative rock band out of Philadelphia. Their latest EP, Every Light, shows the full range of their musicianship in only a handful of songs. In general, their sound features big drums and guitar – what more could you want? Despite this, the vocals sound quite intimate and often feature welcomed harmonies. “The Road” kicks off the record with a driving guitar riff and pounding, pulsating drums. “Waiting” is more poppy and has quite a catchy chorus. “Home” is a ballad about what the feeling of being at home truly means. Simply put, this is a strong EP from an exciting new band and every bit of it points to a great full-length album in the future. Follow on Twitter @ModernSuits Benjamin Hanson
Pompeii specializes in melodic ambient rock evocative of post-rock greats such as Mogwai and Sigur Ros. In 2006, Pompeii received national acclaim after songs from their album Assembly were featured in car commercials, MTV series, and Apple endorsements – fast forward eight years and Loom is a surefire pleaser for fans of Death Cab for Cutie and Silversun Pickups…Loom starts off with a slow, somnolent intro that makes the listener feel as if they’re floating down a scorched desert highway haunted by dreary apparitions and lost souls. The entire album is a rousing cinematic experience, however Pompeii’s (sometimes) lack of lyrical storytelling and readily identifiable hooks is the sole detraction of Loom…In general, it’s is a solid indie/ shoegaze record; I can only hope that Pompeii is trying to tap into the same spiritual vein that their predecessors were plugged into and for that I am grateful. Follow on Twitter @Pompeii Taylor Northern
ROCKET 3 Burn Portland, OR (Self-released)
SCARS ON 45 Safety in Numbers Bradford, United Kingdom (Nettwerk Music Group)
SUNBEARS! Future Sounds Jacksonville, FL (New Granada)
Straight-ahead power pop with atmospheric vocals, chirping guitars and ’90s college rock in its veins, Rocket 3 conjures the alternative grungy Pacific Northwest specter with their guitar-fronted hooks and carefree, charmingly imperfect songwriting. Burn recalls ’90s alt staples Belly, Beat Happening and the Breeders. Singer/guitarist Ramune Nagisetty’s vapor-like voice rises above the mix, flanked by crashing torrential percussion (“Jealous Girl” offers a typical cadence) delivering with peculiar lo-fidelity thinness and sparkling bass rabble… The simple lyrics and gauzy vocal delivery sharply cuts above the submerging sonic wall, so thick it’s a wonder there are only three musicians at work. The trio’s implacable frenzy spurs a reminder for the indie rock holy trinity, that bass, guitar and drums are all that’s necessary to establish a sonic revolution; Burn charms with fearless attitude and historic reflection. Follow on Twitter @RamuneTunes Christopher Petro
For Fans of Coldplay, Ryan Adams and Death Cab for Cutie, Scars on 45 return with their hookedfilled sophomore…Piano and guitar are contagious on tracks like “Golden” and “This is Not Your Love Song.” And the duet the band has going on with vocalists Danny Bemrose and Aimee Driver is a match made in heaven, singing together on nearly every track. But Driver takes the mic solo on “My Eyes Are Still Bright,” a powerful ballad near the end of the album in which she sings of a failed relationship and puts her emotions into perspective… Safety in Numbers is a balanced mix of sentiments that are both happy and sad, upbeat and somber. But one thing’s for certain: all 11 tracks are derived from experiences in the band members’ personal lives, and in turn are cathartic for the lives of their listeners as well. Follow on Twitter @scarson45 Matt Ingersoll
Though the tender appeal remains the same, Jacksonville’s psych-pop outfit SUNBEARS! second full-length release is somewhat of a shift from the joyful, uplifting songs of their previous recordings…The psychedelicly synthesized “He’s A Lie! He’s Not Real!” carries remnants of Matthew Sweet while “I’m Feelin’ Low,” one of the more toned-down, honest songs, is sung with the emoting textures reminiscent of Michael Stipe. The whole album is a plethora of shimmering psych-pop sounds, with well thought out arrangements, especially in songs like “A Sad Case of Hypersomnia.” Future Sounds proves itself a strong sophomore release with its uplifting music, heartrending lyrics, and perfect cohesiveness from start to finish. Follow on Twitter @Sunbears Lesley Daunt
MEMPHIS DAWLS Rooted in the Bone Memphis, TN (Madjack Records)
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 7
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Introducing rock-solid high-fidelity digital wireless for performing musicians. Operating in the 2.4 GHz range far from TV interference, Audio-Technica’s new System 10 offers advanced 24-bit operation, three levels of diversity assurance and amazingly clear sound. Wherever your passion for music takes you, listen for more. audio-technica.com FEATURES
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REVIEWS The new 7-inch from Bethlehem, PA natives The Transmission Now is a full-steam-ahead throwback to those amazing mid-’90s Epitaph label samplers. Fervent drums, woody bass lines and bombastic guitars rule the day and won’t take shit from anyone. Lead-off track “Time Bomb” builds to a frenzied, sing-along climax that segues perfectly into the EP’s title track, a nice mixture of pop-oriented NOFX-like punk with the more abrasive textures of their hardcore forefathers.
The Transmission Now White Night 7-Inch EP
All in all, White Night is a perfect addition to any melodic punk fan’s ever-growing vinyl collection. The disc itself is pressed in a retina-burning shade of pink, and the black and white artwork comes courtesy of renowned pop artist Peter Stanick. Highly recommended.
Recorded & Mixed at Beercan Studios, Bethlehem, PA Mastered by Barry Johnston at Watershed Studios Size: 7-inch Speed: 45 rpm Color: Pink Vinyl
Bethlehem, PA (Setting Records)
“Frenzied punk from the Lehigh Valley…”
Follow on Twitter: @TheTransnow
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 9
Recorded & Mixed by Justin Pizzoferrato Mastered by Ian Kennedy at New Alliance East (Somerville, MA) Produced by Matt Lorenz & Justin Pizzoferrato
If croons could kill, this one-man band would be a bounty hunter. Armed with a unique, selfsufficient approach to raw instrumentation, The Suitcase Junket is an artisan of song, bending, forging and sharpening each piece into an emotional tool. A dichotomous dozen of acoustic chic and bluesy shriek, Make Time keenly wields both styles, even blurring the lines in several tracks to pave a fresh air of shambling indie endearment and gritty saloon blues. Forthcoming and humble lyrics supply reason as uplifting folk progressions and encouraging melodies elevate touches of indie despair. Sonically, the album turns over and again from acoustic sentimentality to distorted dirge that laments in a blown-out death roll before resurrecting the lighter pleasantries in the following track. With story songs of young love, alluding ambitions and riddled ideas of home, nostalgia functions as the albumâ€™s buttress with the title serving as a well-learned mantra of life.
The Suitcase JUNKET
Follow on Twitter: @suitcasejunket 10 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Amherst, MA (Whistlepig Records)
Follow on Twitter: @StP_BrokenBones
St. Paul & The Broken Bones Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA October 21, 2014 Rocking, horn-infused funk with touches of Sam Cooke.
aul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones embodies the idiom “never judge a book by its cover.” Because simply looking at the front man of the 7-piece band, one would doubt he has the vocal prowess he does. His rich, soulful voice mixed flawlessly with the horn-infused funk-rock band that had most of the crowd moving this October night. Throughout the performance Janeway successfully channeled the likes of greats such as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.
Highlights of the night included a cover of “Shake” by Cooke, as well as songs from the band’s debut album Half the City. Playing a full hour and 45-minute set that included songs like “Grass is Green” and “Call Me,” wearing an Alabama button on his lapel, Janeway acted like the band conductor as he waved his arms during a great rendition of a classic “Try a Little Tenderness.” The Birmingham-based group has been touring nonstop for almost a year, which saw them in Boston twice, headlining and selling out a 240-capacity venue seven months prior to October, to selling out a room that’s nearly twice the size today. While the music isn’t new, it’s refreshing for a young group of musicians to be playing retro soul music. Paul Janeway could probably sing the phone book and it would sound incredible. Hailing from Detroit, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas opened up the night with an upbeat yet dark set of her own brand of soul music. One fan described it as “[the] best show in a long time.” PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 11
Follow on Twitter: @aclfestival
Austin City Limits Festival 2014 Austin, TX October 3-5 & 10-12, 2014 Perennial Fest Draws Big Crowds & Big Stars, Deep in the Heart of Texas. 12 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
he stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” So it goes according to the age-old song lyric, once written by June Hershey back in the 1940s. As for weekend two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the saying was more figurative, than literal, as overcast clouds and rain hindered the view of the big Texan sky, keeping most of the focus on the stars that graced one of eight stages at the sold out, mud-haven, mammoth-sized music festival that drew roughly 75,000 people each day. Stars or no stars, not even Outkast’s Big Boi could resist the urge of getting their large crowd from chanting Hershey’s old time sing-a-long during a mid-set break. He started it, and the audience finished it with true Texan pride. Of course, just about anything a musician chants through a microphone - requiring some sort of audience response - is met with thunderous applause and raucous reception. Kind of like when Eminem, during his own set, un-shockingly asked his endless sea of fans, “How many of you out there are fucked up?” Followed by: “How many of you out there are fucked in the head?” Followed by: “How many of you are both fucked up and fucked in the head?” Would you believe that literally everyone in
attendance responded louder and louder as the questioning progressed? Of course. This is Eminem we’re talking about. Nonetheless, give Slim Shady the credit for drawing the biggest crowd and giving the biggest, most aweinspiring performance of anyone at the festival, hands-down. Pearl Jam was easily a not-so-distant second in terms of performance and crowd size, with frontman Eddie Vedder also regularly dialoguing with his audience in somewhat of a more rational and humbled demeanor, but still, nonetheless, glorifying and encouraging the festival-goers choice intoxicant. His own being a bottle of wine. Outkast, Pearl Jam and Eminem, all with careers stemming from the ’90s, and having an arsenal of songs to draw from, raced through extensive hit-laden set lists that were nearly two hours each. Beck, Jimmy Cliff, The Replacements and Lorde all, too, had blazing sets worth recognizing. Although ACL seems to be known for its plethora of sounds and styles from artists of varying levels of clout and success, it is, from the perspective of this first-timer’s virgin eye, a festival that caters to the big stars. Deep in the heart of Texas. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 13
his year’s annual CMJ Music Marathon was one of epic proportions. Over the course of five days in October in New York City, music makers and enthusiasts alike gathered at the campuses of New York University to partake in various panels, discussions, and film screenings. Highlights included sessions on the revival of emo, a Q&A with the members of shoegaze legends Slowdive, and an intimate interview with MTV veteran reporter John Norris and singer Zola Jesus. Many of the streets in the city turned into a playground for festival goers who were craving evening fun. Australian facet Fishing decimated their set during Pianos’ Southern Exposure showcase while Beach Slang was the band of the hour when they played Brooklyn Vegan’s official gig at Baby’s All Right. For those who missed out all that CMJ had to offer, check out some of the photos we caught while in town!
Follow on Twitter: @CMJ
14 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
CMJ Music Marathon 2014 New York City, NY October 21-25, 2014 Annual gathering informs with panels, industry discussions and phenomenal indie showcases. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 15
TEA 16 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
On The Importance of a Local Foothold, Founding Their Own Label and a Lifelong Commitment to Learning
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 17
SPOTLIGHT hether you spell their name with an asterisk or not, TEAM’s second EP, Good Morning Bad Day, has been drawn out of the urgency to deliver the best quality possible. Percussionist Rico Andradi can be found next to a drum set at almost any time of day, on tour and at home in Dallas, with a sincere urgency to be the best he can be. When Andradi and guitarist/vocalist Caleb Turman asked long time friend Will Pugh of Cartel to produce their record, he jumped on it, and together they’ve created a poppy dream. Andradi had the chance to speak with us about releasing the EP on his new label, Field Day Records and raising a band from its roots.
hooks; we just think it’s awesome that it worked out that way because we really didn’t know.
You guys managed to write quite a few hooks on your new EP. When you are writing, do you begin with the vocals or instrumentals? Most of the time, Caleb will have an idea after strumming on the guitar in his room and find a melody that he likes. Usually, we just run with it, bring it into a room, and put our own thumbprint to it. The melodies are really Caleb’s department, but whenever one of us comes up with something that we’re excited about, we’ll stop and break it down into sections. For now, I think we’re just kind of surprised when we put something out and people say there’s a lot of
The tour at first was kind of hilarious because we didn’t even own a van. I literally bought a van on Craigslist three days before the tour, but the tour was amazing. They responded so positively to our record and they thought it would be a good fit for them. The response from the tour really helped us out a lot. I think the best part about it was being with a pretty established band that’s been around for a while and has generally older fans. It was kind of cool to see how our music resonated with that older crowd. We were getting crowds ranging from 12-year-old kids who came with their parents to people in their 50s, so it was cool to see that. We weren’t pigeon-holed.
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How was the reception on tour with Third Eye Blind? Honestly, it was great! We’ve been friends with those guys for about four years now. Whenever we found out that they were doing a headlining tour, we just joked about it like, ‘Hey maybe we should tour together!’ and they said, ‘Ya ya, send us your EP and we’ll check it out!’ Honestly, we didn’t think anything of it. It’s one of those things that you joke about, but never think that will happen… but they had a meeting, and heard our EP, and they really liked it and were very supportive of it.
On touring: “When we’re out there, we’re very committed and it is very much a job to us, it isn’t a vacation.” Have you had previous plans of creating a label or did the idea come to be after the formation of TEAM? I’ve always worked in music and I’ve always worked under the name, Field Day Records, but whenever TEAM started going it urged me to take it a little more seriously, so I ended up getting an attorney and doing everything legit and all that stuff. I started the label, holding myself accountable. It’s always been a passion of mine to start a label and self-release records. Now that I’ve released our new EP and have plans of re-releasing our first self-titled EP, I’m also going to be working with other bands.
SPOTLIGHT It’s just a passion. When I get older and I can’t tour anymore, I still want to be in music and this is my excuse to still be able to do that. How have you grown as a touring musician? You learn a lot about yourself on tour and a lot about the other people you tour with. The best way that I can explain it is, when you join the army and you’re in a foxhole, your life is in someone else’s hands. You start to look around you
start touring it’s very new and it’s exciting, but after one two, three, four, five, six, seven years of touring as a musician it’s more serious; we’re thinking longevity. Now, I take it very seriously. When we’re out there, we’re very committed and it is very much a job to us, it isn’t a vacation. Just taking my musicianship seriously has helped me adapt greatly. I’m always practicing on and off tour, all day every day, to the point where I started as a drum instructor and get called in whenever I’m off tour. I do this just so that I’m always around my instrument. It’s not that I do it for financial reasons, it’s more to make me better because I’m thrown into a situation that I wouldn’t normally be in. It helps me progress. If you’re not getting better, what are you doing and why are you doing it? What advice do you have for bands that aren’t based out of major hubs like New York or Los Angeles? You have to get back to the basics, write all the
On starting their own label: “It’s just a passion. When I get older and I can’t tour anymore, I still want to be in music and this is my excuse to still be able to do that.” and think, ‘Who would I want to be in a foxhole with?’ How I’ve adapted is learning the do’s and don’ts through a lot of trial and error. When you first
time, practice all the time, and make demos all the time. Just always try to get better! Writing songs and recording them, even if it’s just on your laptop, helps you grow to a point where you can move on and come back later. Obviously,
there’s social media, where you should try and connect with touring bands coming through and get on those bills, but no matter what, you have to connect with your hometown. When we started, we knew that we couldn’t forget our roots in Dallas. Once you get the support from your community, surrounding cities pick up on that. Establish yourself where you’re at regardless of whether you’re in a major city or not.
Follow on Twitter: @WeAreCalledTEAM
TEAM* GOOD MORNING BAD DAY STANDOUT TRACK: “I LIKE IT”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 19
Reflect on a Career Fueled by Their Satanic Majesty’s Requests
ACHE 20 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
ERON PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 21
o other band keeps the unholy spirit of Satanic death metal alive in quite the sacrilegious light that Acheron does. Their latest album Kult Des Hasses, with its delightfully blasphemous and powerfully dominating sound, is sure to bring great joy to fans of black metal, death metal and occult-influenced music alike. Shrouded in the darkness of its sound - delivering crushing melodies, symphonic atmosphere and ferocious riffs combined with fiercely confrontational vocals, it is a perfect example of keeping the devil’s music true to its nostalgic roots as well as letting it evolve with innovation and maintaining its intriguing obscurity. The band’s current line-up consists of founding member Vincent Crowley on bass and lead vocals, Art Taylor on guitar, Brandon Howe on drums and Shaun Cothron on guitar. I was able to get in touch with Crowley to get some of the insights and ideologies behind the relentless fury that is Kult Des Hasses. What can you tell me about how the sound was established on the new album? There’s so many bands that try to get that new sound, you know that metalcore bullshit and stuff and I said I want to be true to the art, I want to get something that sounds like something that came out in the early ’90s, late ’80s. This has been happening for years where people have this stick up their ass where they have to have the fastest fucking blast beats and sometimes you put on a CD and it’s like jacking off the whole time to the same speed. We didn’t want that. Every song has a little something different but it’s all pieces of a puzzle as well, you know? Art’s main influences are a lot of my main influences. He loves Mercyful Fate, Candlemass, Black Sabbath and stuff like that. With all of his doom influences, Art kind of did some bluesy, eerie stuff on there and it all just worked out fucking good, man One thing about Acheron is if you really listen to the structure of our songs, heavy metal is our roots, you know what I mean? We just play it more aggressively. I think this album is like a mixture of the best stuff on all our past albums stuck in a fucking pot, and that’s how we plan the next fucking album to be: the same fucking way. So we can expect a new Acheron album in the near future? 2015 we’re going to start touring for this album again because we didn’t really give it a push at all. We haven’t played since December of last year (laughs), so we’re going to resolve that problem by doing a bunch of shit next year and hopefully we’ll be in the studio [then], as well. What were some of your biggest influences growing up? When I was a teenager I discovered Venom,
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I’m not trying to promote Satanism to become a sensationalized religion or whatever because I think it’s just a strong philosophy. In the long run, no, it’s not a religion, we’re not bowing down to any fictional deity so all of the Satanists who fight for a crusade to make it a legitimate religion, eh, have fun because I’m not going to have anything to do with it (laughs). It’s just become a big fucking joke, really. I still believe in the same shit and I still practice the same shit I always did, and I still practice the occult and black magic but that’s all personal. I don’t need some motherfucker to pay a membership fee to find out about it.
“Being Satanic simply means being true to yourself and just letting it flow out of you no matter the consequences.”
- Vincent Crowley
Bathory, Celtic Frost, Sodom and Slayer and that just put me on a whole other path I never got off of. One of my biggest influences is without a doubt King Diamond. Mercyful Fate to me is just so iconic for music based around the occult because I like Venom and I appreciate it but Venom, despite being a huge influence, kind of had that ‘comic book’ attitude when they did interviews; but when I saw a King Diamond interview it was always so poignant and intelligent. I always wanted to be in a band like Mercyful Fate, a band that really inspired me and still does in a profound way. How would you describe your time in the studio recording Kult Des Hasses? I can say honestly it was the worst experience recording I’ve ever had in my whole career. I think my vocals captured the anger quite accurately, which was good. It captured my favorite vocals so far [though], so I guess I’ve got to get pissed off more often (laughs). What is your definition of true Satanism? I was a member of the Church of Satan for over ten years. At one point I was fighting for Satanism to be a religion and to this day I wish I had never done that because anything that calls itself a religion is toxic. That’s why I’m no longer a member of any organization even using the word Satanist. I always say I’m a heathen who lives a Satanic life.
I think religion is going to be the one thing that is going to bring fucking society down. What does a typical day in the life of an underground musician consist of? Playing this type of music, people always seem to think anybody who has released albums don’t have day jobs and they live off of royalties and shit like that. Well I’m sorry to fucking say that’s not the case. I know a lot of motherfuckers out there that are doing the SAME FUCKING THING AS ME (laughs). We bust our ass on our regular job, we bust our ass in our fucking band, when we go on tour we’re usually just taking our fucking vacation time to go do stuff and it’s like people say, ‘They act like rock stars.’ We are about the furthest fucking thing from a fucking rock star that there can be. We are working-class metal; we do it because we love the fucking music. We don’t fucking do it because there’s any money it but because we fucking support and enjoy it. Overall it’s been very rewarding being a working-class musician. Metal saved my life man, because I’ll tell you, I couldn’t imagine the magnitude of my hostility if it weren’t for a release like that and I’ll always be grateful for this kind of music and being a part of it is a very natural thing for my persona. What does Acheron stand for to you? When I originally put this together it was supposed to be more than just a metal band, it was supposed to be an extreme form of art that was intended to put Satanism in motion. It was derived from Satanic thoughts and experiences so the subject matter of what I wrote about was intended to give people that feeling that what they were receiving was the real deal, you know? People think being in a Satanic band consists of nothing but screaming Hail Satan all the fucking time and it’s not. Being Satanic simply means being true to yourself and just letting it flow out of you no matter the consequences. When I did the song “Fuck The Ways Of Christ” I never would’ve thought that would be the song people would be fucking yelling for us to play live. “Ave Satanas,” that’s a song people responded to. People say the lyrics have personal meaning to them like
“Overall, it’s been very rewarding being a working-class musician. Metal saved my life.” - Vincent Crowley an anthem. It’s like some of these songs, they go beyond just something to listen to while they’re driving their car, they think of it as the soundtrack to their fucking life and that’s awesome! It’s pretty fucking special when someone takes what you’ve written and uses it for something like that. I just think that Acheron is basically a Satanic entity that produces real music and no one tells us what to do, no one tells us how to act no one tells us what to put on our albums. Everything is 100% Acheron. I don’t care if someone said here’s a million dollar contract, you guys have to focus on other lyrical content, you have to change your logo and modify your sound and your image, I’d tell them to fuck off. Sure it’d be nice to have a million bucks, but your integrity means more and that’s what this band stands for to me personally.
Follow on Twitter: @ACHERONband
ACHERON KULT DES HASSES STANDOUT TRACK: “SATAN HOLDS DOMINION”
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b o R
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ure, Rob Chapman is an excellent guitar player. If you have even a passing interest in the instrument, you’ve likely seen him (along with “Captain” Lee Anderton of Anderton’s Music Company in the UK) review countless products through their thoroughly entertaining and honest YouTube videos. And yes, Rob fronts a pretty excellent prog/rock/ metal outfit called Dorje (new album in the works, he assures us). If the story stopped there, that would probably be enough, right? Great chops, cool band, likeable bloke, tons of YouTube followers watching you demo awesome products from the world’s best manufacturers. What more could you want? Well, that wasn’t enough for Chappers, and luckily we as guitarists can reap all the benefits. Enter Chapman Guitars: the first (to our knowledge, anyhow) collaboratively designed production line of guitars in the world. Not content to merely have his own signature guitar model, Chapman enlisted the aid of his massive (200,000 followers and growing) YouTube army to co-design an entire range of instruments, and vote on which features they wanted most in what would ultimately become the first Chapman guitars. Cut to: several years later, several model numbers in (plus a newly announced bass) and you’ve got, in our opinion, the best value on the market today. Retailing for a scant $499 USD, the Chapman ML1 (see our review in this very issue) is a stunning axe all around: fit, finish, playability, tone, looks – you name it, at $499 this beast rivals guitars 3-4 times the price.
How an Enterprising Englishman Rallied His YouTube Army to Change The Way Guitars Are Designed…FOREVER!
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It begs the question, “Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this before?” We had an opportunity to ask this and more of Chappers himself as he was gearing up to do a clinic tour in his native England. Here’s where we pick things up… For our American readers who might not be familiar, can you give us a quick rundown of your background? I first started playing when I was 16, so I was quite late to the guitar. My father was a flamenco guitar player, so the last thing I wanted to do was play just because he did. My uncle, though, he played Sabbath, U2, and other things that I really liked. So when I got my first guitar at 16, the second I hit a big D Major chord, I realized this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The break really came for me when I started doing session work for Universal here in the UK. The drummer in my then-band went from being a pizza delivery guy to director of marketing for Universal Records. That’s a big jump! Yeah, took him a while [laughs]. So anything guitarrelated, he threw to me. The first project I got was to transcribe Yngwie Malmsteen Live in Leningrad. It was horrendous. I love Malmsteen, but that carved me a new set of ears. It’s ridiculously fast to begin with, but on that live stuff he just really lets go. So that was the first session I did, it was on a DVD and was quite a big deal at the time. I cut my teeth, professionally, in the session world. Gave up my day job, taught guitar, worked worked worked. And I made a video for MySpace, and someone said it was really good… MySpace, that takes me back! Did that lead to your YouTube work? Yeah, I started making videos, and I really enjoyed it. I kinda got addicted to it, I think.
On collaborative guitar design: “How can you lose? If you ask people what they want, and they tell you, and you make it, they’re gonna buy it.” 26 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Most people know you from your product videos with Lee Anderton. Did you know him before you started demonstrating gear for his store’s YouTube channel? No, I was making demonstration videos for a different store entirely. Lee had seen these videos, and they were looking for someone to do videos for [Anderton’s]. He literally called me up and said, ‘I’d like to hire you, how much do you charge?’ [laughs] At the time, I was really enjoying making the videos for this other store, it was very high-end stuff. But I went down and met with Lee and immediately it was pretty obvious that he and I were going to be the best of mates. We both have the same stupid sense of humor, and neither of us took ourselves particularly seriously, but we always took the gear seriously. Did you dub him “The Captain”? We launched with ‘Greetings, I’m Rob Chappers’ and ‘I’m Lee.’ And I said, ‘Stop! Cut! You can’t just be Lee, man. You’ve gotta be CAPTAIN LEE.’ A couple of months later, came to me and he said, ‘I
Part of your popularity is definitely due to your rapport with one another and your honesty when it comes to the products. It’s a really difficult line to tread…I’ve been in situations with some companies where they’ve sent an emissary to literally stand next to me to give me the ‘clear’ or ‘not clear’ on things that I could say. It’s not a comfortable feeling. I’ve only done that once or twice when I felt the product needed the exposure for one reason or another. But if I don’t like the product, I tell Lee I don’t like a product, and I don’t review it. I have done videos before where I’ve had to say the products were bad, and now as a product owner myself, I’d be like, ‘God, I’d like the chance to reply…’ But sometimes a company will bring out a product and you’ll think, ‘Why does this even exist?’ I’ve got enough followers now that I owe it to them, because they’re saving up their hard-earned pocket money to buy gear. I’d be doing a giant disservice if I just made up some rubbish and said a product was good. We want things to be fair; there needs to be good karma throughout the whole process. Absolutely. And did Chapman Guitars come out of your YouTube series? It was just one of those random, strange things that happens. So you didn’t set out to start a guitar company? No, I mean who ever thinks that they’ll end up owning a guitar company with their name on it?! That’s just one of those things that doesn’t happen. I was just a session-playing teacher who had a band that toured, and got offered a signature guitar from a company here in the UK. It completely blew my mind. So I ran back to YouTube saying, ‘Wow, I’ve been offered a signature guitar. And we’re gonna make, like, 50 of them!’ [laughs] ‘But you guys are the ones who are gonna buy it, so let me know what we should make.’ So you sort of stumbled into collaborative design, then? It was like second nature to me, to talk to people on YouTube. Overnight it was a huge deal. Everyone was excited and wanted to be involved. And we ended up making 500, not 50, and they all sold out. I have to take my hat off to Barnes and Mullins – the distribution company that owned a little guitar company that they were going to launch my signature guitar through. When they saw the response, they said, ‘We think you should release this through your own brand.’ They thought I should call it Chapman Guitars, it should be its own thing, and I thought for a few days about what that meant. Essentially, they had just given me a guitar company [laughs]. It blew my mind, that doesn’t happen to anybody.
Initially, the ML1 model was designed to be a platform for people to modify, right? No one made a guitar before and said the pickups were intentionally the cheapest we could find so that you can swap them out and put aftermarket pickups in, which is what people were going to do anyway… It’s funny, because I literally have an ML1 in my hands right now, and there’s not a thing I’d mod or upgrade on it. Well, the new ML1s that are made in Korea come with pickups I spec’d out, and they’re really good. When I spec a pickup, it’s as simple as this: the factory has a manual as thick as my wrist with every pickup you could ever conceive of with all the variables, and you say, ‘I want this and that,’ and that’s what we did with Chapman. We ended up with the HSS set in the ML1…that don’t cost us a great deal but are really high quality. So with the new ML1’s, you don’t need to mod anything, unless you want to. It’s already great out of the box. Yeah, they sound really great. Do you actually play these live? Absolutely. I’m off on a clinic tour now, and I’ll take with me a couple of guitars. One will be my signature guitar with Seymour Duncans, and one will be one of the new ML3 Moderns, which comes stock with ceramic Chapman pickups that I love. Is the Chapman line made in the same Korean factory as the PRS SE line? I notice a lot of aesthetic similarities, like the quality of the flame maple veneers and the natural wood binding around the edges. That factory is known in the industry as pretty much the best, as far as Asian manufacturing goes. We’re very proud of that. In fact we were very lucky to be accepted by the factory. Judging by the YouTube comments, you’d think that anyone can just contact a factory and start a guitar line, but it isn’t like that. These factories have an incredibly high work ethic and are passionate about what they do. They don’t want their name damaged by bad brands, so for us to even be considered was a huge deal. We probably are their smallest brand, and we are definitely the smallest brand to be able to use Seymour Duncan pickups, as well. Well it shows. I believe you just sold your 5,000th guitar, is that correct? Yeah, that’s a weird thing, you know? I just couldn’t believe it. We only have something like nine retailers around the world, including three in America. [editor’s note: after the interview, Chapman disclosed that they landed a deal with Thomann, a HUGE win for them in the European market]. Who do you have in The States? So far there’s Riff City in Minnesota, RNA in Texas and Flipside in Denver. They’re all really small, but they’re all guys I really liked. It was very important to me to work with people I liked. Growing very fast
is a risk for us, so the retailers that we took on had to have the right, energetic vibe. And they’re all like that. There was no consideration on whether or not their stores we the size of my flat. Didn’t matter. Did they give good customer service? Were they enthusiastic about the product? That was the thing. I’m a little bit against massive corporate companies that are swallowing up the world; I like small, independent retailers who give great service and really care, which is why I chose to take on the [ones] I did.
understand what you’re doing. This is branding.’
As far as the future goes, do you still plan on utilizing collaborative design, or will there come a point where you start to design the models and put them out based on your own ideas of what features should go in them? Collaborative design is really the central focus of Chapman. How can you lose? If you ask people what they want, and they tell you, and you make it, they’re gonna buy it. It would be foolhardy of me to just come out with a guitar that I designed and wanted to make and tell everyone to buy it. That’s what everyone else does. [editor’s note: at this point Rob declines to comment, in good fun of course, on my objections to the new 2015 Gibson Les Pauls.] Basically, I kinda like being the guy who owns a guitar company and doesn’t know what he’s gonna put out. It’s sort of nice, actually [laughs]. There’s a magic in having 200,000 people come together to say, ‘This is what we want.’ Why do you think other manufacturers haven’t done anything like this before? It’s a really scary thing. People could ask for things that are really expensive to manufacture. Generally, they could come up with things that I wouldn’t necessarily like in a guitar. Well, that’s my problem to deal with. But as a businessman, clearly if they want to buy it I should make it. Editor’s note: at this point in the conversation, Rob and I lapse into a discussion on Marshall JCM800s, touring in our 30s and what you should look for when buying a guitar (hint, find a guitar that inspires you to play, don’t worry about the spec sheet so much). It’s clear to see why Rob’s work has been met with such success; he’s a likeable guy, he’s incredibly passionate about what he does, and he genuinely wants to innovate in a sector that we feel has remained stagnant for far too long. Special thanks to Matt Hornby at Chapman Guitars and the guys at Riff City Guitar for loaning us an ML1.
Follow on Twitter: @chapmanguitars
Follow on YouTube: @RobChappers
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 27
SPOTLIGHT 28 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
n Folk-Punk in a i h c a l a p p A g n i d r o Rec d Sheds e t r e v n o C & s m o o r d Spare Be
don’t read or write music. So when I write songs, I’m ‘woahing’ them out in my head during the day at work. I scrawl them down during lunch sometimes. So the melody part, it’s always just like ‘woah’ until I figure it out.” This is how Adam Kaz, who provides lead vocals and banjo-ukulele instrumentation to Tigerman WOAH!, describes both his songwriting process and the inspiration for the band’s exclamatory surname [editor’s note: with or without the exclamation point, it’s all good]. Along with guitarist Jon Feinberg, the two formed the band in Lynn, Massachusetts, reunited as adults after meeting in high school in Atlanta. The two would both find themselves in the Boston area years later for different reasons. Neither had many connections in the city, and they “just started playing together, drinking and talking about politics and stuff,” Kaz says. “It was our hobby for a year or two until we met a couple of people who helped us make a band.” Feinberg echoes the band’s genesis, noting that the two went to “two open mics in that two-year period. And it was awful, and we were both really uncomfortable.” But the two met the band’s original drummer, Jon Morse, at one of those open mics. Morse eventually left the band, but not before he introduced them to Kevin Landry, who plays upright bass and Adam Lentine, the group’s current drummer. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 29
SPOTLIGHT Kaz says he plays the banjo-ukulele instead of the banjo because “the banjo‘s hard. And I’m dumb.” But he has customized his uke to add an SM57 microphone attached with Velcro to the back “which is cool because then I can sing into what (on another instrument) would be a pick up.” Feinberg has been playing the same Gibson SG since
he was 13 years old. According to Feinberg, the group is “rock and roll with a taste of punk,” but they display a variety of influences, including blues, hip-hop and Appalachian folk music. “It’s all just mashing together the entire history of American music into something you can play,” says Feinberg.
“We think that music is inherently human, it’s something that we all share, and it should be something that has no barriers of entry and nothing to keep you from doing it or participating in it.”
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History has had a great impact on their music, starting with the Civil War. Kaz says that “the South has an extremely important history and a huge impact on this country that people don’t talk about a lot. And that’s that there was a war over slavery – a war in this country – and this has a huge way of how we look at this country.” This has influenced a variety of music, he says, from rock and roll to blues, and “it’s all connected to a very similar source.” Feinberg agrees, noting that “rock and roll in particular is made up of this history of American music, a lot of it based in struggle, a lot of it based in hardship.” The band writes a lot of songs about struggle and hardship, as Feinberg states that their music is “really about fighting against the capitalist class that controls so much of everything that happens in this world, be it as a cultural enterprise or business enterprise.” Continuing, he says “at a very basic level, we think that music is inherently human, it’s something that we all share, and it should be something that has no barriers of entry and nothing to keep you from doing it or participating in it.” The barriers as Feinberg describes them are due largely to the current mainstream recording structure. “Part of the problem is that music is seen as a commodity. And that means that there’s money being put into it, and money that’s coming out of it. And that’s not being distributed very equitably. When you look at the record company system, you have a very few people at the very top making a ton of money while some of the artists struggle.” The men from Tigerman WOAH! understand the artist’s struggle, as Feinberg says, “None of us can afford to [quit our day jobs]. It’s very far from possible right now. It’s a dream. I don’t think any of
us have a delusion that that’s something that’s going to happen in the immediate future. If it’s something that does happen, that’s luck, and that’s a beautiful thing, and we gotta jump on it.” Despite the relative lack of remuneration, the band enjoys making music and sharing it with people through their own unique ways. They have released two EPs – Up South Vol. I and Up South Vol. II, the first recorded in a friend’s spare bedroom converted to a studio, and the second recorded when he “upgraded to a shed in a new house he moved into.” The third and final installment in the Up South series will hopefully be released next year, according to Feinberg, and then they plan on recording a full-length album. The group also hopes to eventually do a vinyl pressing for their work. “I think vinyl has a lot more to offer than a CD does, or going and downloading it online,” Feinberg says. Feinberg goes on to say that part of the band’s popularity has been due to the fact that they did not start off playing gigs in bigger cities. “We live in Lynn, so if we just started off playing in Boston, there’s so much musical competition that it would have been significantly harder to get noticed.” But they did eventually get noticed and from word of mouth, their fan base has grown. Feinberg also credits the Internet with the band’s dissemination of music. “You can look for things that are recorded halfway around the world – the whole way around the world – without having to go there, without having to ship things from there.” The group will continue their grassroots efforts to grow a fan base and expand their touring. But regardless of their monetary success, the band enjoys engaging in their passion and sharing it with others. In the end, Feinberg says, “If you really want to [make music], you can
find a way to do it. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to quit your day job to do it.”
Follow on Twitter: @TigermanWOAH
TIGERMAN WOAH! UP SOUTH VOL. II STANDOUT TRACK: “COLUMBUS STOCKADE” PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 31
e r i p m a W Records Direct-to-Tape & Goes Meta with Spooky Surf-Pop
photo courtesy of WE GET PRESS 32 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
The band is currently wrapping up a tour playing alongside English indie-psych rockers Temples. Immediately afterward, they have their North American tour to focus on. As the boys make the 14-hour drive from Phoenix to Boulder, Phipps assures me that everyone is in good health and raring to go — they have a Red Bull hookup. Touring essentials aside, Phipps credits the luxury of having their own sound guy in tow as a major upgrade. “It usually doesn’t work [otherwise],” he says. “We’ll show up at the next stop and there’s a new sound guy who we’ll have to explain everything to in maybe, five minutes?” This common frustration for independent musicians is one offset by conquering the beast of producing a sophomore album. The group, a duo turned five-piece, got a significant boost with the addition of Thomas Hoganson to the songwriting and recording process. To supplant his contributions on piano and drums, Hoganson doles out the wildly underrated smooth sax, making Bazaar Wampire’s most gratifying set of songs yet.
Sporadically, Phipps comes to the warehouse to play the song back. Records a new layer. Erases another. Sits back. Wait. Don’t touch anything. Leave and don’t do anymore. The next day he takes a listen. It’s hard for him to think of where “it” came from but to him it doesn’t matter.
Recorded direct-to-tape at Brooklyn’s The Museum, with Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait behind-the-scenes, Bazaar reaps the benefit of a still blissed-out yet ripened version of Wampire’s earlier self. The same hazy, blearyeyed tendencies are there, but discipline exists in places where Curiosity fell short. The band stirs introverted, fun house vibes with the album’s opening track (“The Amazing Heart Attack”), while “Wizard Staff” pulls in the sort of funky overtones that make Wampire excel.
“It’s not worth it to not work this hard,” he tells me over the phone. Looking back on the experience, Phipps understands that he works well off the mania. “You either have to do it or you don’t,” he says. “I was just going to no matter what, even though that meant going to hyper mode and act[ing] like I had a year left to live.” For Phipps, the creation process unearthed in him what he describes as a “Kafka-esque insomniac musical novelist.” Whatever metamorphic frenzy Phipps found himself in was lucrative as far as songwriting goes (considering Wampire’s fantastic debut, which was a five-yearlong undertaking). The metaphysical backdrop against which Bazaar is set is something Phipps and his bandmates can stand behind, and the harrowing soft and gothic noir that emerges is quality. Now, with the LP out and tour dates in queue, the group feels confident getting their tour legs on. Their specific brand of off-kilter synth-pop, laced with fantastical elements and hints of paranoia, has gained a diverse following since its debut LP Curiosity dropped in 2013. Before highly refined tracks like “Wizard Staff” graced the Internet, Wampire made itself known as a staple in Portland’s house scene with dreamy surfpop melodies and makeshift iPod backing track tactics (along with habitual performances in their skivvies, but Phipps and Tinder try not to revert to darker times).
Any misgivings on the cross-genre workings of Bazaar are unmatched by the boys themselves. The unassuming fans that materialize as a result may be the more striking component to Wampire’s success. Phipps recalls a superfan from L.A. who stands out in his mind: “There was this one crazy guy with a lip piercing, looking straight out of a ’90s hardcore video. And he’s holding this sign where half of it says ‘WAM’ and the other half says ‘PIRE,’ and he wanted to bring it to us.” The sign is pretty impressive. An 8x3 inch cardboard sign with blood red letters detailed with white drop shadow and, well, vampire-y typeface. “It was so sweet and so bizarre that this guy is into our music,” Phipps says. He can’t exactly gauge where the fandom stems from, but never sounds ungrateful. Even for the kind-of drunk influx of rock-and-roll dads who may not necessarily know which band they’re seeing. “Just last night we were selling a record to this guy… he walks off and he’s like, ‘Oh thank you guys, thank you.’ And then he comes back and he’s like, ‘Actually, uh, I wanted a Temples record, um, so… can you just take this back?’” Phipps and his bandmates share a laugh. “‘Dude. Dad’s night out,
you know? You gotta watch how much you drink man, like, go home — take care of the kids.’” But they’re good sports. And when the crowd is good, they know it. When I ask Phipps about his most memorable shows thus far, he’s not thinking about a sonically flawless set. “Not necessarily perfect,” he says. “The notes are all there, but there’s a singular sort of vibe to the show. You have the right energy, we’re stamping around — we feel natural. That’s the thing that make me happy.” That, he says, and when slapdash comments are yelled from the audience. Like bros yelling “STEVE HOLT” mid-show.
t Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack, a food cart in southeast Portland, Eric Phipps is running on E. As he cooks up boneless fried chicken breast, among other gravy-laden delicacies, the frontman behind Portland’s own Wampire is thinking through the details that make up his album-in-progress. He’s renting a tiny room in a friend’s warehouse that he’ll run to around midday from Cackalack’s to size up what he wrote the night before. The stop is brief but builds enough momentum, if only out of frustration, to keep him going through his second job at Double Dragon, a Vietnamese banh mi bar and restaurant two miles down the road. For his standards, he’s behind. The ideas are there, but they aren’t turning into anything as far as songs are concerned. The five-piece behind Wampire, an ’80s synth-pop group that was born out of Phipps’ longtime friendship with co-founder Rocky Tinder, is leaving for New York soon to record, and Phipps has nothing to show for it. The next day, he does it all over again.
As the group heads closer to Boulder, where they almost certainly will have no fun (the surreal psych-pop jam “Too Stoned,” again, being no indication), the mood is pleasant. Phipps is bummed to end their run with Temples, but ready to “relax” in Colorado and, despite having just started the tour, get back into the studio. “I don’t get bored,” he says. “It’s never, ‘Oh god I have to write another song, it’s going to sound like that other song.’ It’s exciting to go back into recording because I never know what’s going to come out.” Phipps changes his mind. “We’re actually almost out of Red Bull. We’ll have to find a new kick.”
Follow on Twitter: @wampiremusic
WAMPIRE BAZAAR STANDOUT TRACK: “LIFE OF LUXURY”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 33
XERXE Getting Back on the Horse to Regroup After Lineup Changes and a Lost Year of Productivity
34 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 35
alking to Calvin Philley on a Sunday afternoon in early October was a little bit like a therapy session between perfect strangers. I’ve never met Philley. But the 22-years-old, who lives in Louisville and makes ends meet by bartending each night, sounds familiar. He works so he can play, and his ideas and sentiments are shared between millions of Millennials around the globe. But Philley is also unique. He is the front man for the popular post-punk quartet, Xerxes, which has had a few incarnations since its genesis in 2009. Starting in high school among friends, Xerxes grew in local popularity pretty quickly. Before long the group found themselves touring semiregularly and producing solid tracks. When most of the guys were in their freshman year in college, they traveled to South by Southwest (SXSW) where they caught the attention of No Sleep Records. No Sleep signed the guys about two years ago and put out their first record with the label. From there, Philley says, they toured nonstop. “We all pretty much dropped out of college,” said Philley. “That tour didn’t go especially well 36 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
after that first record. Some of our guitar players dropped out, and our drummer quit. So we pretty much had to start over again, and that took some time, as far as member change ups – to the point where we were kind of off the map of music at all, just sitting in a basement writing songs. There was about a year of lost time with that, which is quite regrettable, honestly.” Which pretty much brings us up to the present, where Xerxes has been re-founded with their current lineup - Philley on vocals, Will Allard on guitar, Joseph Goode on bass and Ben
After a trying to produce the record on their own for a time, and not getting the results they wanted, the guys didn’t know what to do to get the sound they knew was possible. “I was in Chicago, visiting a girl. Because I’m a sucker. And I had some time away from her – much to my chagrin – so I was visiting with Evan Weiss [Into It. Over It.], who is an old friend of ours. We were just hanging out having some drinks, eating some dinner, and I was telling him about the how the new record was coming, and he told me he wanted to produce it.”
“I wanted it to be kind of uncomfortable to listen to. It’s an extremely anxious record.” -Calvin Philley Sears on drums – an incarnation that is going to stick. After that year away, the guys got together in March of this year to start putting together their sophomore release. This latest record, Collision Blonde, came out at the end of October. But it was not created or produced in the same way as their first EP, which Philley says is a good thing because it ended up exactly how they wanted it to sound.
So they holed up in Allard’s Louisville basement for a few weeks, and worked track-bytrack on a new album. This approach, Philley says, was much more organic and beneficial for each of them as artists. Weiss pushed them all to create the vision they had in their minds for this album, and the guys couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The creative process hasn’t changed much from the first EP, but the sound certainly has. This latest release was tracked with the instrumentals
SPOTLIGHT first. Then, Philley would come in and set vocals and lyrics to the melody, which he says was a challenge because he had ideas of what the songs would be about, but getting the inflection and intonations just right was difficult. But Weiss helped a lot with getting the exact lyrical sound that was necessary to fit the vibe of this latest generation of Xerxes. The vibe, the sound and the emotion on this album is based on panic. “What I told our booking agent, while we were finishing up the record, was that I wanted it to be kind of uncomfortable to listen to,” said Philley. “It’s an extremely anxious record. For me its catharsis, but for other people it might be a projection of what they’re feeling – or what they aren’t recognizing in themselves. Which is just panic. There is a ton of panic on that record. So for me, 22-years-old feeling like my life is about to end – that’s ridiculous. But the way it comes out on the record, I hope it’s explained properly.” It’s a feeling that is shared by much of his generation, and comes across perfectly in each track on Collision Blonde. According to their label, “Collision Blonde is a lyrical wreck that’s driven by love, drugs, depression and waking up in a cold sweat wondering ‘What’s next for me?’ on a consistent basis.”
While his music is meant to resonate and be reflective of the sentiments of his peers, and he is still a 20-something living in a world of insecurities, Philley knows his life is really not average. He’s been in a recognized band since high school - which he left for a year to pursue music. He dropped out of college because he got signed to a label, and now he works so he can afford to tour.
Follow on Twitter: @xerxesband
He understands that in order to do what he loves and be a part of Xerxes, he has to work in what he calls ‘the real world’ to make it happen. Because what it comes down to, Philley says, is funds. And while creativity shouldn’t rely entirely on the amount of money you have, it is hard to be creative if you don’t have the time, space and platform that finances can allow. “It’s an interesting balance, but what I’ve been thinking lately is that there is no balance,” he says. “It’s walking a tightrope. Your don’t get to balance, really; you just have to try to not fall off. If you fall off you fail, and you starve while you’re at it.” For Philley, he knows that he won’t be trying not to starve on the road forever. But he also knows he won’t be playing music as intensively as he is now for his whole life. So for now, he and the guys are just trying to soak up as much of this life as they can, and make music that will capture this chapter of their lives forever.
XERXES COLLISION BLONDE STANDOUT TRACK: “CHESTNUT STREET”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 37
Indies, Should You Pull Your Music From Spotify? or: Taylor Swift, Spotify and the Musical Food Chain Myth I AM INDIE I cannot tell you how happy I am that the conversation about Taylor Swift and Spotify is happening. Maybe people will start listening to what independent artists like me and my peers have been saying for years now. A little background for those who don’t know me: I’ve been an indie musician by choice for 22 years. In 1999, I was chosen to perform at Lilith Fair and quit my day job the following Monday. I attracted several major labels, but ultimately, I walked away because I felt the industry was not going to be supportive of me; the business model was almost laughable for a new artist with little leverage and an insidious law called the Work For Hire Copyright Law had been passed that year, which prevented copyright ownership from reverting back to 38 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
artists and remained with record labels in perpetuity. Like, that means forever. Luckily, Sheryl Crow and Don Henley went to Capitol Hill and had it repealed, but, by then, I was determined not to be become a cog and had committed to my full time life as an artist.
And, you know, I had good run of it…
Fast forward to 2008 when everything was crashing. I don’t think people think of artists being affected in a failing economy, but we were. Gas prices were sky high as were flights, so expenses went up and venues started paying less because fewer were able to come out to the shows (because they were broke, too). And, for the first time in all my touring history, my American dollars lost value going
into Canada. It was sobering to say the least. In the years preceding this, I saw a slow but very deliberate decline in my music sales, which was more than just supplemental income; it was nearly half of my income. So, I stopped touring full-time to assess the situation and come up with solutions. The only solution I found that allowed me to stay true to who I am an artist was to stay put: which brings me to today. THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS Like clockwork, once or twice a week since I stopped touring full time in 2008, I get asked when I’m coming back to XYZ. And, like a broken record once or twice a week, I’ve had to say I can’t afford it. I’ve had to explain that
Swift and her supposed “greed.” If you’re saying it, you’re probably saying it because Swift is already incredibly wealthy. But, what about artists who aren’t? If you or your friends are indeed one of those people, I challenge you and them to go to work for a year, bust your butt, do a good job (maybe even a great job) and then accept half of a year’s pay (or less) from your boss. I further challenge you to pay your bills and keep your other financial commitments from that pay all while keeping your enthusiasm for your job - which is kind of essential for you to even do your job. Go on. I’ll wait... As indie artists, for all intents and purposes, our fans control our careers, the ebb and flow, trajectory and course. For example, if I hadn’t raised enough via Kickstarter to do my last project, a tribute CD to folk legend Odetta, there wouldn’t have been a new CD at all. Period. No new CD in eight years even though I was able to release six projects on my own before that and have enough music for several full-length albums right now. WHAT TO DO IN LIEU OF TOURING Another example: I haven’t been back on the road since 2012 because I assume my fans don’t want to see me or can’t afford to see me in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Buffalo, and Charlotte. Because of that, I can’t take a financial chance on Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and the like. And, just forget Canada, France, Sweden, Japan or Australia altogether. I’ve remedied this by doing online shows on a platform called StageIt and this has allowed fans as far away as Vancouver, Taiwan, Germany and Boise, ID to see me play. It works, but it isn’t ideal. I’VE GOT A JOB, THANK YOU VERY MUCH The point is, we haven’t just “given up”. It’s not that we don’t “want to” do it anymore. It is, painfully and honestly, simple math that mostly prevents me and others like me from doing what we do. And, before we get flooded with snarky retorts like “get a job,” I will say this: First, I have a job, one that I’m fairly good at and one that I’ve had for 22 years (or over half my life). And, second, what if Bob Marley or Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain or Joni Mitchell or Mozart, Frank Zappa, Joan Jett, Diana Ross, Prince or Aretha Franklin had actually listened when someone (undoubtedly and repeatedly) said to them, “Get a job.”? What would your life look like? What happens to the first dance at your wedding to that special song, the one that made you realize you loved her? Or, the song you hum to your baby because it’s the only one that makes him less fussy? What
would you be distracted by in an elevator ride with your creepy co-worker? And, how, pray tell, would you know when Jaws or Jason or Darth Vader is coming so you can yell your futile warnings at the screen? Okay, granted, those last few examples sound frivolous but they’re serious considerations to make when you consider how music plays an integral and inseparable role in your life, from the mundane to the momentous. That’s something to protect. That’s something to respect.
not only have physical CD sales been down, but also the digital money I used to get from legal downloads all but disappeared. Instead of getting weekly payments ranging between $200-$750 from my distributor, I started getting an average $11.36, once a month from all streaming services combined. Yes, $11.36/month is what I get from all of them. That is not a sustainable business model for a truly independent artist. While carefully building and maintaining a social media connection with my fan base and doing mostly one-offs in some of my bigger markets, I decided to do a full regional tour in 2012. And, while I am grateful to the people who came, I had miserable turnouts at most of the shows. In Buffalo, where the temp dropped to 30 degrees that night, I cleared $14 once the door was split with the venue. In Philadelphia, where I started my career, I lost upwards of $1,5002,000 on one show because only 12 people showed up. It was the night of the Presidential debates, something I couldn’t have known when I booked the show months before. But, I still had to pay the venue, their door person and sound person, pay my band, pay for their hotel room and mine for three nights so we wouldn’t have to stay in NYC, paid for their flights (along with baggage handling fees for my cellist’s cello), my rental car, gas and food for myself and the band (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Same with D.C., where the venue wouldn’t even allow me to officially charge a door fee and where some people (my fans included) opted not to pay one even as a requested donation. This is my reality and the reality of the many artists you care about. I’m sorry if you think so, but music is NOT FREE. It costs money to make and it costs money to support via touring. It’s a “life cycle.” This “life cycle” is how I used to get my CDs out and how I used to see my fans two to three times a year in some places. It worked like this: fans would come to my shows, they and their friends would buy my CDs and then I made another CD and went on a another tour and so forth and so on. Simple. All the money I made went to bills, touring, promotion and creating new music - so I had to keep my overhead low. No new cars (I had and still have my ‘78 Volvo that I bought for $600 in 1996), no new shoes or clothes and I lived in a small 425 sq ft apartment for 12 years. 12 years. That’s how I did it. It’s not a sob story. It’s not a mystery or a marketing ploy. I am a working-class artist. There is no rich-unclewizard-behind-the-curtain type situation here. This is how it goes when you make tough decisions to be true to your life and your life’s work. I have no regrets. SO, WHERE DOES TAYLOR SWIFT FIT IN? I’m seeing a lot of chatter about Taylor
HOW CONSUMERS CAN HELP As a consumer and a fan, you are at the top of this food chain, not the bottom. You are not subject to the whims of popular culture; you are the arbiter of it. If you want to see less “fluff” in the music industry, if you want to see your artists remain authentic, creative and prolific beings and, if you want them to come back to your hometowns: 1. Start buying our music again. Digital, hard copy, doesn’t matter, just pay for it. If you can pay $4 for a coffee, you can pay $9.99 for something meaningful that you’ll enjoy forever. 2. Stop using streaming services that only pay us $.0006 per listen if you don’t already own our music either via a legal download or a hard copy. Educate yourself. If you think the profits that oil companies make are obscene, I urge you to do some digging about what some of these streaming companies are really about. [Editor’s note: Spotify claims to have paid Taylor Swift over $2 million dollars in streaming royalties. Her label says that’s not even close to the truth.] 3. And, this is important: Set your DVRs on your favorite show nights and go to our concerts. If I had a dime for every time a person told me they weren’t able to make my show because it was the finals of DWTS or The Voice, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d be sitting in a bungalow in Costa Rica sipping something fruity and delicious. Simple solutions sometimes require difficult choices. Oh, and this goes for independent movies, books, indie/feminist bookstores, small venues and small businesses, too. Just know this: you have the power to change the cultural landscape around you. Use that power wisely. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Doria Roberts has been a full time independent musician since 1993. She also runs, owns and bakes sweet things for a bodega + deli in her adopted hometown of Atlanta. Her Odetta tribute, Blackeyed Susans, is scheduled for re-release in August. Follow her on Twitter @doriaroberts.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 39
Go Inside The World of Composing For The Hottest Film Trailers & Video Games T
here’s a fairly new genre of music that you need to know about. It’s called “Epic,” and it is primarily being used in movie trailers, identity stingers, and video game soundtracks. If you’re a gamer, you may already be well into kicking ass on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The soundtrack was done by audiomachine, specifically Paul Dinletir. It’s a lot like the trailer to Titanfall. Guess what? Audiomachine did that, too. Carol Sovinski, and her partner composer Paul Dinletir launched audiomachine in 2005. Their mission has always been focused on creating the best original music and sound design for film trailers, television, video game soundtracks and advertising. Performer Magazine: Such a pleasure to meet you both. How was this partnership formed, and how does it still work? Paul Dinletir: Well, I’m the composer, so that’s what I do. Carol Sovinski: And I guess you could say I’m the “brains” (laughs). Seriously, this is our 10th year of partnership, and our 20th of friendship, so we work very well together. I don’t write, and he doesn’t want to set meetings. The music business is a whole lot of paperwork and phone calls. While there may be some people who can write and record music, as well as take calls, send emails, field briefs, etc., for us, it works better if I can focus 100% on where the music is going, and Paul can focus 100% on what music is going there. PM: You’re known for trailers, but a whole game soundtrack is a big move. How’d it happen? PD: They just called Carol and invited me up for a meeting. The process was great. They would send clips of 20 minutes or so, and I would write around that, being inspired by the stages or the levels of the game play. It’s [COD:AW] going to be a great game; I think the music adds to that. PM: Obviously, audiomachine isn’t a band and doesn’t tour, but you are racking up CD sales, YouTube views, etc. How are you accomplishing this? 40 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
An interview with audiomachine’s Paul Dinletir
Titanfall CS: We are seeing that there are fans of this “Epic” music genre, so we wanted to get it to them. We’re distributed primarily through CD Baby. They do a great job with collection, calculation, and streaming with Spotify, Pandora, etc. Then we’re registered with SoundExchange and publishing on ASCAP and BMI - all of those companies play a part in our digital royalty plans. We also do direct master/ syncs and upfront library payments. We are really making a push within YouTube, too. But, I have to say, CD Baby makes it very easy. Can’t say enough about them, we’ve been with them for three years, and are very happy. PM: What advice do you have for becoming a better composer and breaking in? CS: All of the rules are the same. It’s still a pennies game. You have to network with pros, and you must learn metadata and digital distribution strategies. Don’t pitch until you are ready; you may only have one chance. PD: Also, never write a piece of music unless there is a video. The picture moves you to different places. Otherwise it’s the same old chords. PM: You are known for pushing the envelope by recording in some of the most historic studios in the world. Is that still the case? PD: Oh yes, we’ve used every single one of them. I just returned from AIR Studios, Lyndhurst Hall, in London. It’s unfortunate to not be able to use the amazing talent here in LA. The unions don’t have trailer contracts for buyout and the industry doesn’t have a reuse fee. Bulgaria and
Australia are popping up; it’s just a higher level and a little more money. With “Source Connect” remote, it’s just an amazing experience. PM: What tools do you use in your process, Paul? PD: After 15 years of Logic, I just switched to Cubase. I have a monster PC, linked with seven other computers, so I can use all of these voicings and sounds without being slowed down. That’s big for me. I do use Pro Tools when I record, but it is just not set up to compose. PM: Most of us cannot use world-class orchestras. How often are you coming straight out of a digital environment? PD: A lot, in the past two years it’s gotten pretty amazing. The quality is so good now that most industry people cannot tell the difference. But, as fantastic as digital can be, there’s just a difference to the live orchestra recordings; it’s just a higher level of work. Just compose the best music filled with emotion, because the technology (and the sound recordings from it) perform incredibly now. Check out the new album of 18 remixed audiomachine classics, featuring RAC, Cole Plante, Matt Lange, and others at cdbaby.com/ Artist/Audiomachine and for more info visit audiomachine.com. 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.
RADIO PROMOTION (terrestrial, satellite, internet)
Dresden Dolls Bad Plus Girls Guns & Glory String Cheese Incident Esperanza Spalding Medeski Martin & Wood Steve Winwood Gov't Mule 311 Janis Ian Jim's Big Ego Stanley Clarke Umphrey's McGee Gretchen Parlato Miss Tess Mike Stern Soulive Maceo Parker PUBLICITY AND TOUR SUPPORT (print press and viral)
call: 800-356-1155 www: powderfingerpromo.com
MY FAVORITE AXE
Catherine is an award-winning, genrebending guitarist, composer and instructor who tours internationally. Her style is a hybrid of majestic psychedelia, surf, gypsy, rock, Middle Eastern and Parisian swing. Her compositions are featured on TV and in indie films. MAKE & MODEL
1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
One of my long time friends, this guitar has traveled the world with me and feels like home when I play it. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
It sings. It’s deep, raw and earthy. Sounds like Diamanda Galas, Maria Callas or a Stradivarius (OK, it’s not a Stradivarius but I can make it sound like a violin with an EBow) SPECIAL FEATURES
Body is maple and mahogany (pancakestyle from the Norlin era). CUSTOM MODS
Sadly, I ripped out the mini humbuckers and wired it like a Standard. This guitar is tuned down a whole step and is usually in drop-C. CAN BE HEARD ON
The songs “Acid Django” and “Harem 66” from the Axemunkee album SideWalk Mary and “Flaming Skin” and “Protektor” from Vortex.
Follow on Twitter: @axemunkee
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
42 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
part 2 of 2
Performer’s ultimate Guide to Modulation FX [Editor’s note – read last month’s issue or head to performermag.com to catch up on part one, in which we discuss tremolo, vibrato, chorus, flange and more.] PHASING Often confused with the previous chorus and flange, this can be attributed to the way these effects are created, but the differences are noticeable when you know what to listen for. A phaser splits the signal in two, sending one part through an all-pass filter, then into an LFO and finally recombines it with the original sound. An all-pass filter passes all frequencies through without attenuation, but inverts the phase of various frequencies. All of this gadgetry creates a sweeping movement to the recorded track it’s applied to. We love the use of this effect on the guitars in the Tame Impala song ìSolitude is Bliss.î Phasers are great for when you want you guitar tracks to have an ethereal quality like that track. RING MODULATION Now we’re getting into the really crazy stuff! There is certainly no confusing a ring modulation effect. If you want to take a track you just recorded and make it sound like the most terrifying nightmare you could image, ring modulation is the tool for you. To get technical, ring modulation mixes the frequencies of two waveforms and outputs the sum and difference of the frequencies present in each waveform. What is created from this is a variety of sounds, ranging from screeching shrill tones to ominous bell-like sounds. Because of this effect’s unorthodox sound, it is not as commonly used in popular music but one of the best examples of this effect being used on a guitar track would Tony Iommi’s solo in the quintessential Black Sabbath song ìParanoid.î If you listen closely with headphones, you can hear in one ear the unaffected guitar signal and in the other ear you can hear the distorted ring-modulated version of the solo. By using this effect, the guitar solo is given an extra crunch and heaviness that is really effective. ROTARY EFFECTS How could we forget the classic Leslie speaker sound that is recreated by the rotary effect? The Leslie speaker is a combined amplifier and loudspeaker that modifies the sound of an instrument as well as amplifying it, by rotating the sound waves. As the sound source is rotated around a specific pivot point, it
produces both a tremolo effect and a variation in pitch (so in a certain sense we are combining the tremolo and vibrato effects). The Leslie was made originally in a single speed but was later upgraded to dual speed. There are now a number of effect pedals and software plug-ins we can use to achieve this sound without having an actual Leslie set up. This effect has been used to great effect in a number of classic songs, including George Harrison’s rhythm guitar track in the chorus of ìLucy in the Sky with Diamondsî and the haunting guitar arpeggios in the verses of Soundgarden’s ìBlack Hole Sun.î The rotary effect works great when you are going for a more psychedelic ìswirlyî sound, as you could probably gather from the examples above. WAH WAH EFFECTS I think we all know a lead guitarist who loves to bust out his Cry Baby pedal and shred ‘til the cows come home (whether or not your song needs the solo). Though wah wah may not completely fit into the modulation effect category, it works in some similar ways and we feel it’s worth a mention. The wah wah effect alters the tone of the guitar signal to create a distinctive effect, mimicking the human voice. As you move the pedal up and down, the signal emphasizes a particular frequency, which creates that classic sound. This effect has been used by many lead guitarists, but probably the most iconic would be the one and only Jimi Hendrix. This effect is demonstrated in the classic opening riff of ìVoodoo Child (Slight Return).î IN SUMMATION There are quite a few modulation effects at your disposal, all of which are pretty easy to
access as most recording software comes with built in plug-ins that recreate these effects. As with most things in the studio, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to adding effects in the mix. We tend to feel that ìless is moreî in most instances, but feel free to experiment with different sounds and modulations if your budget (and time) permits. Now that you know the differences between these different effects, listen for them in your favorite artists’ songs. Identify how they use them and make note of the times when you really like the way an effect is being used. I know that here at Night Train Studios, we love it when a band or solo artist can come in and give us a reference track and point out a specific guitar tone/modulation effect that they want us to emulate. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of the mixing and tracking processes. Plus, having a general knowledge of modulation effects will make it much easier to communicate what you are looking for to your engineer/ producer if you do not have a specific reference song or to be able to recreate these sweet sounds in your own home studios. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Zac Cataldo is a musician and owner/ producer at Night Train Studios, a recording studio in Westford, MA. He is also co-owner of Black Cloud Productions, a music publishing company. Reach him at email@example.com. Brent Godin is a bassist/guitarist and engineer/producer at Night Train Studios. He is also a talent scout at Black Cloud Productions. Reach him at brent@blackcloudproductions. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 43
David Bronson Embracing Collaboration in the Studio to Craft a Warm, Soul-Infused Rock Album PRE-PRODUCTION What was your pre-production like on this project? Godfrey Diamond: We basically did miniature demos first, which I strongly, strongly believe in. Guitar and vocal and click. It’s always good to lay down the record once before you lay down the record, know what I mean? So I feed them to the band (Robbie “Seahag” Mangano on bass, Lautaro Burgos on drums), in advance of the rehearsal, and let them all learn the changes. And then we go in there and work out the parts and get a good feel, bring it up to a place where everybody looks at each other and goes, “Yeah, we’re ready to go in, let’s hit this.” How did you choose the studio? David Bronson: Godfrey has a handful of drum rooms he likes to use around town, so we knew we’d do basics at one of those. He’s a drum master, so I just left that decision to him, and we ended up at Mission, which was great. And there was no question we’d be doing all the vocals, overdubs, and mixing at his room, Perfect Mixes. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth. 44 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
PRODUCTION What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it? David Bronson: I can’t really be more specific than to say I wanted the most beautiful sounding, soulinfused, warm and full rock record possible. The way I achieved it was to make sure I was working
How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process? David Bronson: I would say it’s a much more evolved record on all levels. The content, of course, is extremely different, being separated by a decade from the last one in terms of writing. Stylistically, it’s much cleaner I think. The
“Pre-production is one of the most important and often overlooked steps of making a record. If you blow it there, it’s gonna be a long road.” alongside a master producer/engineer, who only uses the greatest musicians, approaches, recording techniques, and gear. And I knew early on the background vocals were going to be a major element in shaping the sound, so when it all came together with The Alomars (Carlos Alomar, Robin Clark, Lea-Lórien Alomar) and Gordon Grody, it was pretty unbelievable.
large emotion that I think has always been there in my writing is still there. I also seem to always hear a certain largeness of sound. There’s definitely nothing “lo-fi” about this record. As far as the creative process goes, the writing process was basically the same (me and a guitar, for the most part). The huge difference came in the collaborations and the ways everybody’s
that you’re not able to do live? David Bronson: Actually, nothing on this one. We basically went for a very “live” type of overall sound, which includes all the arrangements. Most of them, at their largest, are acoustic, one or two electrics, drums, bass, keys, and backing vocals. So with a healthy-sized band I could (in theory) reproduce the arrangements pretty easily live. Not that I have any real interest in reproduction, per se.
Artist: David Bronson Album: Questions Recording Studios: Perfect Mixes, Brooklyn, NY / Mission Sound, Brooklyn, NY Record Label: Big Arc Records Release Date: January 13, 2015 Produced by: Godfrey Diamond & David Bronson Basics Engineered by: Godfrey Diamond and Myles Turney at Mission Sound Background Arrangements by: Carlos Alomar, Robin Clark, Gordon Grody, LeaLórien Alomar Asst. Engineer: Cody Marksohn Mastered by: Joe Gastwirt
individual talents and abilities came together to produce what you hear. Did you use any special gear or recording techniques on this one? Godfrey Diamond: Everything on the record is special. Fantastic gear, tube gear, beautiful V72s that the Beatles used back in the day, and a lovely Neve board and all this great stuff, the best gear you can get, but you know what? It’s all secondary. What you gotta do is get that performance. That’s the most important thing. Get that performance. What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking? Godfrey Diamond: I pretty much insist on doing drums and bass together, at minimum. You can’t beat a full band going in and cutting their stuff together, everybody feeling it together. But these days it’s kind of hard for a variety of reasons. On this record we did a combination of the two things. We rehearsed drums, bass, and guitar together. And Robbie and Lautaro got very familiar with Dave’s tracks. And he actually played live, too. So we got those three at the same time. We went for the old school approach, and everybody was well rehearsed. And I think it shows on the record.
What were the toughest challenges you faced? David Bronson: The most difficult step was figuring out who was going to sing the backgrounds, as we knew it was going to be such a crucial element. But then I said “Young Americans” to Godfrey, and he said, “I’ll call Gordon Grody. We’ll get the real thing.” And that was it. The minute The Alomars and Gordon entered the picture, it was done. Made in Heaven. POST PRODUCTION How did you handle final mixing and mastering? David Bronson: The record was mixed by Godfrey, as we knew it would be from the start. It’s a thing of magic to watch his process: old school, and second nature from his decades of living behind the board. But he’s always excited to try new things, as well, which resulted in a few really beautiful sonic surprises throughout the album. And the gear. From the Neve to the Beatle Pre’s to the Manleys to the 1176 to the original Pultec and on and on. Every single track gets its own special, beautiful little chain, and each one just sounds amazing. I always get a little sad whenever I think about the fact that no one ever gets to hear these gorgeous sounds isolated. And it was mastered by Joe Gastwirt (Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty). Like on the last record, he ran the whole thing through analog tape. He just had a feeling it would really lend itself to it. And it just came out beautifully. I can’t thank him enough. What are your release plans? David Bronson: We’ll be doing a special show at Rockwood’s Stage 2 here in New York, where I’ll be previewing the material from the new album for my NY people. And there’ll be a tour around release time in January/February. Any special packaging? David Bronson: I use Oasis Green packaging, because, at this point, it really just shocks me that anyone - indie, major, anyone - uses plastic or non-recyclable stuff. It just seems like a blatant nobrainer. And I put in a pretty nice fold out poster/ lyric sheet, mainly because I’ve always been a sucker for liner notes. One of the most heartbreaking things to me about the shift to digital has been the loss of liner notes. And I like looking at nice things, so I figure everyone else should, too.
KEY RECORDING GEAR
Vintage Neve 80 Series consoles Telefunken V72 Mic Preamps from Abbey Road UA, Avalon, Manley Preamps & Compressors SSL Stereo Bus Compressor Pultec Vintage EQ & HLF Vintage Neumann U87 Neumann TLM 102 Breedlove MJ/E Master Class Acoustic Taylor 714 Acoustic Gibson SG 62 Reissue 1972 Black American Standard Strat Gibson ES-335 Brian Moore Custom Synthesizer Guitar Mid ’60s Silvertone 1454 Italia Baritone Electric 1961 Fender Princeton Tremolo Brownface Music Man RD-112 Amp Fender Twin Reverb ‘65 Ampeg B-15 Boss DD7 Delay MI Audio Crunch Box Small Stone Phaser SOVTEK/ Electro-Harmonix Vox Wah Maxon Compressor Keeley Seafoam Chorus Guitar Systems Fuzz Tool DigiTech RP1000 Multi Effects Pedal DOD Analog Delay Vintage Electro-Harmonix Memory Man
Follow on Twitter: @bronsondavid
What did you try to accomplish in the studio PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 45
YAMAHA DBR12 800-Watt Active PA Speakers $499/each
BEAT BUDDY Guitar Pedal/Drum Machine Hybrid - $349
he new DBR loudspeakers from Yamaha are quite a sweet surprise. Out of the box, they’re incredibly lightweight, yet powerfully-voiced with no compromise to sound Great sound, flexible applications, quality. If your back aches after a few weeks on tour acting as your own roadie, these might be lightweight, a welcome addition to your stage rig. Likewise, affordable. as a sound solution in a venue, the ability to pole mount these or use them as wedge floor moniCONS tors gives you flexibility depending on your stage setup needs. None. To switch between PA use and floor monitor usage, just activate the built-in D-Contour switch and the unit optimizes itself for the right application. Nice. We tested them out both as PA mains and as stage monitors, and were equally impressed with the sound clarity, overall volume capabilities, and lack of “bass boom” inherent in some of the more compact units we’ve used. In fact, bass signals were tight and punchy without adding mud to the low end of the mix – crucial for musicians who’ll depend on these in a live setting. Overall, the build quality, sound quality, available ins and outs as well as the switchable high-pass filter (useful when adding a sub to the package) add up to an incredible value for what you get. Highly recommended for touring artists or small venue proprietors. Benjamin Ricci PROS
Flexible, great sounds, simple-to-use.
Editing software is only available (at this time) for Windows.
FIR-X tuning delivers excellent sound quality with high resolution D-Contour optimizes the DBR12 for main speaker or floor monitor use.
Onboard mixer lets you select either a direct output or a mixed output.
Comprehensive inputs for mixer, musical instrument, or media players. Amplifier and power supply design provides powerful output from a compact speaker. DSP-controlled protection functionality promotes optimum reliability.
46 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
and a smooth frequency response.
rum machines have always served a purpose in a studio, but were limiting for live use; the Beat Buddy takes the consistent performance of the machine and adds the ability to manipulate things on the fly. It’s not much bigger than a standard Boss fx pedal and features stereo inputs and outputs as well as a headphone out with volume control. Volume, drum set, and tempo controls sit under a color LCD display, 4-way menu selector, and a Tap Tempo. An SD card slot, USB port, MIDI outputs, and an extension footswitch output round things out. Out of the box, it’s simple to use. Plug it in, select a drum kit and beat pattern, and it’s ready to go. Press the pedal, and an intro fill starts (essentially a “4” count) and the pattern starts, Press the pedal again, and it scrolls to the next one. If the pedal is held, it creates a transition beat; release it, and it goes to the next part. Depending upon the part, the LCD display changes color, letting you know which part the pedal is playing from a visual point. There are 200 tracks loaded on the SD card, with 10 variations of drum kits and percussion. The sounds are great, and they’re not synthetically generated. Actual samples of real drums take any “mechanical” stigma away. Programming is easy, too. Download their software and beats can be edited, and controlled; digging in here this really gives this unit a lot of extra flexibility. The only downside is the software (at press time) is only available for Windows. The external footswitch isn’t included, but it’s recommended to really unlock the potential of the unit. For any artist who’d like to enhance their performance with drums and percussion that can be tailored on-the-fly, this is perfect. At a street price of about $350, it’s slightly more expensive than a drum machine, but you’ve got the ability to tailor beats, and work with them in real time. If you can’t get a drummer, get a Beat Buddy. Chris Devine
1/4” Stereo Input/Output Mini USB SD Card Storage Use With ANY Instrument
et’s get this out of the way: the Chapman ML1 is quite simply the best value in the guitar market today. At a ludicrously low $499 USD, you get the equivalent of a professional-grade instrument that we’d easily pay 3-4x the price for. It’s just that good. Collaboratively designed between British guitarist Rob Chapman (um, did you notice this month’s cover story?) and his YouTube army, the ML1 is a production line guitar that comes from the same Korean factory that makes the SE line for PRS. So we knew going in that this was going to be a quality axe; we just weren’t prepared for quite HOW much we’d fall in love. Starting at the top, you’ve got a badass reverse-Tele style headstock with quality Grover tuners and a perfectly-slotted TUSQ nut. At $499, we were prepared to have to do a little nut work, but there was no need. It was perfect out of the box. The neck is a very comfortable C-profile,
maple with a dark ebony fretboard. The sole “infinity” inlay at the 12th fret takes a minute to get used to if you like to find your position by standard fret markers, but the typical side dots ease the transition. The jumbo frets are super comfy to play, and the flatter fretboard radius makes upper-end shredded a breeze (the contoured neck joint doesn’t hurt, either). The body itself is thin, solid mahogany, finished with a lovely flame maple veneer. If you’ve played a late-model PRS SE Custom, the veneer’s quality and the added touch of natural wood binding will be familiar, classy touches. The tummy cut and teardrop top contour are well done, too. OK, so it looks killer, it’s incredibly well made, fit and finish are top-notch. How does it sound? In a word: fantastic. The coil-split option available in the push-pull knob adds in double the tonal variety of a standard HSS superstrat. Put up against a modern Suhr and Fender HSS
Solid Mahogany Body
Strat, the Chapman ML1 surprisingly held its own. The stock “Guitarnivore” pickups (spec’d out by Chapman himself) are clear as a bell when you want the axe to sing cleanly, but dirty up real nice when you roll up the volume knob and push your amp’s tubes. Coming from a jazz background myself, I’m always a bit leery of stock neck pickups, as they’re seemingly an afterthought in most guitars like this, but in single-coil only mode, the neck pickup was actually our favorite position. Sweet and clear, it delivers smooth single note jazz runs and funk licks, as well as mellow chordal jazz passages with ease and fullness. Of course, ripping it up in full-humbucker mode in the bridge position is the where the real fun starts. From country chicken-pickin’ to classic rock crunch and metal, this can cover it all. Our only complaints, if we have to nitpick, are two-fold. One, there are no numbers or dots on the volume/tone knobs to indicate where you’ve set your levels. Yeah, I know, that can be remedied with a $2 knob replacement from the bin of any guitar retailer. The second issue that some might have is the trem system. Now, tuning stability is totally fine (in fact it’s a nice Wilkinson unit), but ours arrived as dive-only. Now, a little set-up and you might be able to float it a little, but the extreme dive-bomb crowd and squealy up-benders will likely want a Floyd or something comparable. We could go on all day, but what’s the point? The ML1 sounds amazing, looks killer, feels fantastic and is perfectly constructed. It’s ridiculously priced for what you get and even comes with a deluxe padded gig bag, Allen key and an extra spring for your trem. Special thanks to Riff City Guitars for loaning us the instrument to review. Benjamin Ricci
Sounds amazing, tons of tonal options, impeccable fit and finish.
CHAPMAN GUITARS ML1 Guitar - $499
brought to you by
25.5” Scale Length Maple Neck/Ebony Fingerboard Recessed Bolt-on Neck Construction 13.8” Fretboard Radius
22 Extra Jumbo Frets Grover Machine Heads 42mm TUSQ Nut Wilkinson WVPCR Tremolo 1 x Chapman Guitars Guitarnivore Humbucker (Alnico Passive, High Output) 2 x Chapman Guitars Extreme Victory Single Coils Gig Bag; Tools; Tremolo Arm + Extra Spring Master Volume + Coil Split PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2014 47
Sony C800G Tube Condenser Microphone One of History’s Sweetest Vocal Mics WHY IT’S POPULAR It delivers the sound of the artist’s voice as true as can be. Most mics color the voice somehow but this just amplifies what you’ve got, so it’s meant for singers with a unique style. The mic is extremely popular among pop and hip-hop artists. INTERESTING FEATURES Note the huge diaphragm off the back. Cumbersome and strange, but an effective piece of gear to own. MODERN EQUIVALENT The 800G is still in production, rare for a “vintage” well-respected mic. The closest “knockoff” is the Korby KAT, but it isn’t quite like having the real thing. LESSONS LEARNED You will get out of it what the voice has. It’s interesting how poorly it sounds with some voices but how great it does with others. Do not get this mic as your only choice for vocals. OTHER NOTES One of the more expensive mics you will buy, the 800G isn’t for everyone or the definitive mic “musthave,” but mentioning you have it won’t hurt your studio’s credibility! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Don Miggs is a singer/songwriter/producer and fronts the band miggs (Elm City/Capitol Records). His love affair with vintage instruments and gear only presents a problem when he’s awake. Find out more at miggsmusic.com, @miggsmusic, thelalamansion.com or on his radio show, @thefringeAM820 (Saturdays 5-7pm EST).
48 DECEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Everything You Need For Your Very Best Live Acoustic Performances.
Just Add You.
The new Acoustic A1000 is an incredible all-in-one amplification solution for your acoustic gigs. You get 100 watts of raw power (2 x 50W) in true stereo via a pair of neodymium co-axial speakers. Two independent channels for instruments or vocal mics (or both at once) and two independent digital signal processors for effects and feedback elimination. Even Bluetooth connectivity so you can play backing tracks using any mobile device. And you get it all for much less than you’d think.
• 100 watt (2x50) Class D power • Two 8” full-range neodymium co-axial speakers • True stereo performance • Two discreet channels, 4 total inputs • Each channel has two combo XLR-1/4” inputs • 3-band EQ with sweepable mid-range on each channel • Dual digital effects with user editing • Bluetooth connectivity for instant backing tracks • Automatic feedback elimination • Effects loop • Full-feature direct output with ground lift, pre-post EQ and level for each channel
Available exclusively at: ©2014 Acoustic
L502 5-Channel Mixer
L802 8-Channel Mixer
FRONT AND CENTER
headroom and they’re loaded with features you need, like assignable AUX IN routing, 5-segment LED meters and more. The L1202FX even features top quality built-in effects. Now you can focus on your music… not your gear. Check out the Harbinger LvL Series, available in 12, 8 and 5-channel configurations, at your Harbinger dealer today. Available At These Preferred Retailers
From the stage to the studio, from podcasts to rehearsals, your performance should always be the central focus…and with Harbinger LvL Series mixers, that’s exactly where you land. These rugged, versatile, no-nonsense mixers offer an affordable solution for a variety of applications. All of them offer premium mic preamps with plenty of