THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
DEC. ‘16 FREE
Top 6 Podcasts For Musicians The Best Solid State Amps Under $500 Condenser vs. Dynamic Mics on Tour interviews
NATHAN EAST “I have this one responsibility – to be the foundation for whatever musical situation I’m in.”
ROB CHAPMAN SLEIGH BELLS PURLING HISS
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 26, ISSUE 10
Nathan East cover story by Alex Lane
4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Cowtown
Sleigh Bells by Sarah Brooks
6. BE YOUR OWN CEO: The Frank Ocean Release Strategy and You
8. Keys to Successful Crowdfunding 10. Top Podcasts For Musicians 12. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE:
with Avi Wisnia
32. TOUR TEST: Audio-Technica AT2010 Mics with Zebrahead and Munk Duane
Rob Chapman of Dorje by Benjamin Ricci
34. MEET YOUR MAKER: Phred Instruments 36. RECORDING: Why Should You Release a Full-Length?
38. GEAR GUIDE: The Best Solid State Amps Under $500
43. GEAR REVIEWS: Auralex, Focusrite, IK Multimedia
47. MY FAVORITE AXE: Tyler Quist
by Anthony Cammalleri
48. FLASHBACK: Vintage Gibson Acoustics Cover
by Kharen Hill
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
We found out shortly before press time that legendary singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away at age 82.
Volume 26, Issue 10 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143
His son, Andy, penned a short tribute to his father, which we would like to share below.
CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930
“My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked. As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work.
PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com EDITOR Benjamin Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina email@example.com
“There’s so much I wish I could thank him for, just one last time. I’d thank him for the comfort he always provided, for the wisdom he dispensed, for the marathon conversations, for his dazzling wit and humor. I’d thank him for giving me, and teaching me to love Montreal and Greece. And I’d thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music, and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him. Thank you for your kind messages, for the outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father.”
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Alex Lane, Anthony Cammalleri, Benjamin Ricci, Avi Wisnia, Chris Devine, Colin Smith, Freddy Rose, Jordan Tishler, Owen Hardman, Munk Duane, Robert Meigel, Theresa Jeane, Michael St. James, Tim Mandelbaum, Tyler Quist CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Casey Moore, Jon King, Jeremy Saffer, Thomas Hitchcock, Doyle Dowdell, Kharen Hill, Constance Mensh, Kathryn Lipman, Pooneh Ghana, Rob Meigel ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time… Benjamin Ricci, editor
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.”
MUSIC SUBMISSIONS We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to firstname.lastname@example.org. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine Attn: Reviews PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143
4 DECEMBER 2016 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?”
© 2016 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.
owtown’s latest LP, Paranormal Romance, originally came out on pink vinyl, but as we’re constantly late to the party (isn’t that always the case?) we got our grubby little paws on the regular ol’ black wax. Fret not, through! Encased in these grooves are post-punk spikes of aggression tangled up in utterly massive riffage by the ton (or kilo if you’re on the metric system) that’ll leave your speakers begging for mercy. It’s as if Brian Setzer and Franz Ferdinand listened to nothing but Dinosaur Jr. for a month and half, and decided to record an album together on a borrowed reel-to-reel. That’s a compliment, by the way. Look, Paranormal Romance flat-out rules. It’s catchy as hell, it’s loud enough to piss off even the most “with it” suburban parents, and it even throws in subtle nods to The Bangles halfway through “Tweak” (we’ll pogo like Egyptians, I suppose, as walking to Cowtown is simply for squares).
Paranormal Romance Leeds, United Kingdom (HHBTM Records)
Follow on Twitter: @wearecowtown Listen now at cowtown.bandcamp.com
Get it on vinyl before it sells out for good. Trust us.
Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 5
How 21st Century Musicians Are Becoming the CEOs of Their Own Careers Or, How to Be Your Own Frank Ocean When historians look back at this era in the music industry, they will characterize it as a Great Awakening — a time when artists discovered that their options were unlimited. Sure, it’s also the Dawn of the Digital Age, and much ink has, and surely will be spilled in chronicling the chaotic and tumultuous transition from selling music in a physical form to putting tunes on the net and in the cloud. But I want to focus on the upside of this chaos we’re living through. As the music industry has evolved into a much less record-label-centric ecosystem and distribution platforms have multiplied, we have seen artists and musicians begin to experiment with new, freeform business models. No longer tied to a single game plan for building a successful career, artists are now discovering that there are limitless options for how they release their music and monetize their craft. It’s not easy. It never will be. You still need focus and drive and creativity. Oh, and genius. Don’t forget about the genius. But the difference today is that you can now be the CEO of your own business. And that is because the barriers to entry have all but disappeared. Music is undergoing a radical transformation, much like the film industry a few decades ago when it abandoned the studio system of Old Hollywood, in which a handful of major studios strictly controlled the production and distribution of all films, leaving the artists — actors, writers, designers and directors 6 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
— sometimes feeling like indentured servants. Major record labels had similarly vast powers over the lives and careers of the musicians they signed, until recently when we experienced the great paradigm shift in the industry. No longer is “selling records” the primary component and singular yardstick of success for a singer, band or musician. No longer are concerts essentially a vehicle for selling records.
said, the industry is shifting to provide curation in other aspects of the foodchain — think Pandora, streaming services, playlists, hyper-segmented channels on SiriusXM, etc. Still, there’s reason to be optimistic. Nearly every day brings news of creative new ways of doing business and new players entering the arena with business strategies that can feel like gamechangers.
That model has been turned on its head. Now many artists — from garage bands to Grammy winners — see the release of their recordings as a way of marketing their concerts (and augmenting ancillary revenue streams).
For artists, this is an exhilarating time. More than ever before, musicians have the potential to captain their own ships and look at the business side of the art as a blank canvas just waiting for an individual mark to be put on it.
Of course, the major record labels continue to be important, but their primary relevance is in the area of mainstream commercial radio – e.g., “Top 40” – where their promotion dollars and clout still hold great sway in building careers. For artists not playing this sandbox, the role of labels generally has changed. They’re outside the ecosystem now and anybody can self-release their music in today’s market, the non-major label options are virtually limitless and fascinating.
And there’s money to be made. Monetizing music has never included so many possibilities, from video games, YouTube, TV and commercials to ring tones and myriad licensing opportunities. And streaming — the prevalent form of consumption in 2016 — continues to grow at encouraging levels, and the hope for critical mass to be achieved remains high.
Knocking down the barriers of entry sparked an explosion of talent. But at the same time, it opened the floodgates to a glut of mediocre product as well, calling to mind the classic Bruce Springsteen song “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” And the diminution in the role in the major label has, while opening that floodgate, at the same time taken away a sometimes valuable “filler” that fans and consumers could appreciate. That
Although some of the “old dogs” we have known for years are dying hard, it is thrilling, in this Great Awakening, to see artists beginning to recognize that a career path is nearly always an uncharted concept. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tim Mandelbaum is an entertainment lawyer and a partner in the New York office of Fox Rothschild LLP, a national firm with 750 attorneys in 22 offices coast to coast.
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ENSURING CROW SUCCESS AS AN IN
The Nearly Deads - photo by Jon King he Internet is the single greatest thing to ever happen to the music industry - but also the worst. On one hand, we are able to connect with people all over the world. On the other, it has created an overly saturated marketplace in which it has become practically impossible for a band to stand out. Without aging myself too much, I’m going to tell you that I remember a time in which the Internet did not exist. The only music you were exposed to was what was on the radio. Being in a band wasn’t something everyone could do. Enter Pro Tools, Auto-Tune, and the basic crumbling of the record industry as we knew it. But I’m writing about our experiences with crowd-funding. I would love to tell you that it’s easy, but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to ask for money. You have to MARKET YOURSELF. Yuck. It seems so self-involved, so selfish, and 8 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
at times can feel desperate. What if you don’t make your goal and feel like a huge failure? Believe me, I struggle with all of these thoughts. However, there’s a solid reason that my band The Nearly Deads, and most bands these days, need to crowd-fund, and that reason is the everevolving music industry. In the ’90s and early 2000s, Alternative Rock dominated the radio and there were plenty of labels lapping up young rock acts. Today? Not so much. Fast forward to our first nationwide tour, which started soon after our zombie-themed video for “Never Look Back” went viral. It had swelled over 3 million views and to date has close to 8 million. We had poured our hearts, souls, and personal money into the creation of our debut EP, and even bought an RV for the tour. So here we are on the road...not realizing
And How to Sustain Your Career Without a Label how much it actually costs to fill the gas tank on an RV...and we needed money. Fast. We were hesitant. Crowd-funding wasn’t as commonplace as it is now (in fact the term crowd-funding hadn’t even been coined yet) and we had no idea if anyone would even give
we had it up and running that evening. We doubled our goal, proving that there were people out there who cared, and wanted to support us! That campaign led to true friendships with our fans, business relationships, and showed us that it was possible to sustain ourselves through this new thing called crowd-funding.
WDFUNDING INDIE MUSICIAN
across the world would listen to my music, let alone donate money so I could keep making it. It was, and is, incredibly humbling. Now, we were on the map and getting better opportunities. However, the market was (and is) still incredibly competitive, and we were still finding ourselves passed up. So we said: let’s stop trying to impress the industry. Let’s outdo ourselves. Let’s impress our FANS. If we’ve learned anything by being DIY it’s that we may not have a major label budget, or major label connections, but we do have a great team, and more importantly - we have FANS who believe in us and want us to succeed. Yay Internet!
THE SUCCESS OF A CAMPAIGN ISN’T RELIANT ON WHAT PLATFORM YOU USE AT ALL, IT’S RELIANT ON THE DEDICATION OF YOUR FANS...
us any money! We reminded ourselves of all the fans we had online, tweeting us from Russia, the UK, Australia, and all the millions who had seen our video and were keeping up with us on Facebook. We weighed our options and choose Indiegogo. It was incredibly easy to set up and
We could connect with more fans, and make more money - without a label. We knew our fans wanted a full-length record, and we funded it using Kickstarter, due to the publicity it was currently receiving. We were successful once again, raising over $10,000. I never thought that someone halfway
We turned to them again, and this time we choose PledgeMusic because they specifically work with musicians and bands. They give you tools to succeed and don’t just provide the crowd- funding platform, they help you make the most out of it. We’re able to give the fans real-time exclusives, and keep them updated as we create the record that they are funding. The success of a campaign isn’t reliant on what platform you use at all, it’s reliant on the dedication of your fans. There are so many great sites to choose from, and it’s all about finding the right fit for your needs at the right stage of your career. Many bands miss that main point. We have maintained our career because we have literally spent years building our own ‘crowd’ of incredible zombies! When we kicked off our current campaign, the same few super-fans who donated to that first Indiegogo were some of the FIRST people to contribute. They are the key to our continued success, and I can’t wait to see how we keep growing together! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Theresa Jeane is the lead vocalist for Alternative Rock Band, The Nearly Deads. Follow on Twitter @TheNearlyDeads PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 9
ecause being a musician consists of a lot more skills other than just playing your instrument, here are a few podcasts to get you to the next level or at least out of writer’s block. SONG EXPLODER This podcast has captivated musicians and nonmusicians alike. Host Hrishikesh Hirway brings on an artist to deconstruct a song and to talk about his or her process, techniques, and those moments when the proverbial lightbulb goes off. From Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo sharing his
spreadsheet of partial lyrics (separated by syllables, of course) to Peter Bjorn and John writing, and rewriting, the hit song “Young Folks,” each episode feels like the music equivalent of watching a master chef cook after selecting the key ingredients to concocting a delectable dish. Recommended episode: With over 80 episodes and counting, it’s difficult to choose a single episode to recommend. But when Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson recounts writing “Multi-Love” by tweaking a broken synthesizer and walking around the room for hours as he repeatedly sang the same few lines
like a maniac, this episode will inspire you to think outside the box. THE TALKHOUSE Critics talk about other people’s work and artists often talk about their own work. But rarely do artists talk about someone else’s work. The Talkhouse podcast brings multiple artists, usually in a one-on-one conversational setting, to talk about each other’s music. The podcast is a branch of the Talkhouse website, edited by the long-time music journalist Michael Azerrad. Hearing two musicians talk about songwriting,
THE BEST PODC FUEL YOUR MUS
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Recommended episode: In a very Chicagocentric episode, Jeff Tweedy’s son, Spencer, chats with Julian Ehrlich and Max Kakacek of Whitney. They talk about doing music in Chicago’s rock scene, Jeff Tweedy’s studio, and even about the possibility of collaborating. NO EFFECTS In these largely unedited long-form interviews, Jesse Cohen of the band Tan Lines brings on different guests, usually but not always of the musical ilk. Through open-ended dialogue, these artists often speak of their stories, their initial struggles or challenges, and just about everything else. Cohen has interviewed Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and NPR’s Microphone Check about how “music is news” and Peggy Wang about playing in the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and later quitting the band to serve as one of BuzzFeed’s first editors. While these conversations may cover a lot of topics, the interviews tend to revolve around the artist’s story of first starting out and how those early experiences ultimately shape them. Recommended episode: Though there many a lot of episodes featuring accomplished musicians, like Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes or Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, MNDR’s interview is especially fascinating. She recounts growing up on a farm in North Dakota, auditioning to play bass for Hole, and writing psychedelic music in an Oakland warehouse. CD BABY’S DIY MUSICIAN PODCAST Listening to an artist’s story about facing challenges in the early days of recording or touring can be inspiring. But, in addition to the creative tasks, musicians also need to know how the music industry is changing. The DIY Podcast takes on everything from legally selling a cover song, tips for a building a better website, to dealing with negative press or reviews. The podcast’s hosts bring on experts for each topic, whether it’s an artist, a promoter,
a publisher, or a lawyer. The show’s essential to beefing up the business and marketing side of your musical endeavors. Recommended episode: The roundtable discussion on “how to craft your story” reinforces the idea that an artist’s narrative leads a listener to a place. Music publicist Dmitri Vietze joins the show to help musicians discover their stories and then how to tell it. KNOBS When Knobs launched in 2015, they started with a bang. In the first few episodes, the hosts interviewed Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, and Dan Deacon, just to name a few. As its name implies, Knobs is about sound. It’s about finding and honing a sound through equipment and technique. Ranaldo talked about his pedal setup and hanging his guitar from a tree. Jason Lytle of Grandaddy brought the hosts into his home studio to discuss production techniques. In short, the series is for gear nuts.
across racial lines as a black-owned business. There is an entire world of music podcasts out there, from a more traditional radio approach, like NPR’s All Sounds Considered or WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, to the shows people have recorded in their closets and garages, like The Pitch or Turned Out a Punk. But these will get you help you get inspired as you learn more about the artists you admire, or help you learn more about music business or gear.
touring, and other moments is a cool way to learn about your favorite artists.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Colin Smith is a guitarist/vocalist in the band King Median. He is also the Head Editor at Roots of Success and an auditor for the Chicago alt-weekly Newcity. He writes about the arts, literature, and music for Third Coast Review, OffKilter Magazine, Buried Muse, and Performer Magazine. Find him on Twitter @colinsaburo
Recommended episode: The one where Nels Cline talked about his work in Wilco, his recent solo album Lovers, and his extensive guitar collection. SOCK MONKEY SOUND Like many of the artists they’ve interviewed, Sock Monkey Sound started in a basement. This podcast, based in Rockford, Illinois covers topics of a wider scope than the specifics of guitar pedals, recounting self-booked tours, or listing the ins-and-outs of licensing songs on Spotify. Instead, they go broad by looking at the culture at large. Lately, they’ve been breaking down genres, from Prog Rock to K-Pop. While they bring on guests, their conversations often center on concepts, like the idea of guilty pleasures and whether musicals are soundtracks or not. Recommended episode: In a recent episode, Sock Monkey Sound explored the history of Motown and the label’s importance in reaching
DCASTS TO USICAL BRAIN
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 11
photo by Doyle Dowdell
João Gilberto and Stan Getz Getz/Gilberto (1964)
’m a singer/songwriter from Philadelphia, finding inspiration in Brazilian bossa nova, acoustic American folk, 1950’s west-coast jazz, and contemporary pop. I started playing piano when I was 5, but began composing on the keyboard earlier than that, before I even knew what I was doing. I now tour regularly with my debut album, Something New, performing in venues around the world – from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City to The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to concerts in Warsaw, Poland and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My latest single “Sky Blue Sky” was recorded via satellite between Philadelphia and Brazil.
With Avi Wisnia
This classic bossa nova album exemplifies the power of subtlety, how to say a lot without making a lot of noise. The melodies, rhythms, and chord changes fit together seamlessly - each one an important piece of the puzzle. It was different from anything else I had heard growing up, and yet it resonated deeply. I knew that I would not look at music the same way afterwards.
12 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
REVIEWS Ben Folds Five Whatever & Ever Amen (1997)
Chet Baker My Funny Valentine (1953)
Indigo Girls 1200 Curfews (1995)
This album proved thatÂ serious musicians could take the music seriously without taking themselves too seriously, and that pop music could be accessible and fun and intelligent all at once. It also opened my eyes to just how much piano-pop could rock.
Chet Baker makes everything sound effortless. As a male vocalist, he is the opposite of macho - he is understated and vulnerable, and heartbreakingly beautiful. As a trumpet player, he is a virtuoso without showing off. This album covers some of the most popular standards, but finds the artist performing in his own unique voice.
I discovered my love of harmony by singing Indigo Girls songs at jam sessions, camp fires, sleepovers and during long drives in the car. There is something transcendent about blending voices, whether 2 or 2,000. Find people you love making music with, and just do that as much as possible.
For more info about Avi Wisnia, follow him on Twitter @aviwisnia Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
S THAT D MY LIFE
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 13
How Blowing Up Their Creative Process Led to Their Most Adventurous Album To Date
BELLS 14 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 15
leigh Bells have always embodied something that many artists don’t consistently possess. Eschewing conventions, molding genres, and continuing to be bold, the Brooklynbased duo is back with their latest album, Jessica Rabbit, which took them three years of deliberate, necessary work to craft. During this creative phase, bandmates Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller sat with their songs, meditated on them, and learned what needed to be changed and what could remain. What they’ve created is their most cohesive work yet, full of the
effortlessly in sync with a firm creative process. Sometimes Miller would send Krauss an instrumental track with full lyrics, or sometimes it’d be a sketch of an idea. Krauss would then study it and bring the track to life. “I like to send over demos to him that are arranged with a rough treatment, whether it’s gonna be reverb or distortion or a chorus effect, and I add harmony parts and everything, and I send that to him and anxiously await his response. And then from there sometimes we go with it as is or we then have a conversation about what the strengths are, what the weaknesses are, and kind of tinker with everything until we think that we have it
“We explored more options as far as the creative process went…than we ever had in the past.”
thrashing rock riffs and genre-defying prowess we know and love, yet laden with songs that sweetly dip into a place of melancholy and utmost vulnerability. “I think it’s like anything in life; you try it, and if it doesn’t work, then you can always go back to the way things were. It seems so obvious, but a lot of times it’s easy to just get scared or insecure or kind of caught up in the way you’re doing things, but that was really one of the major lessons that we learned on this album. Just to push ourselves, to not get too comfortable doing one thing,” Krauss states definitively. Songwriting between Krauss and Miller has been shaped over time to a point where they’re 16 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
right,” Krauss says. It’s this perfectionism that has caused Sleigh Bells’ work to be so groundbreaking; the way in which they craft their music offers an unparalleled sonic experience. For three years, Krauss and Miller worked in various studios with renowned producers, including their second time working with the ever talented Andrew Dawson [Kanye West, The Rolling Stones, etc.]. When
Krauss and Miller explored their musicianship together in ways they hadn’t before, and sometimes it was nerve-wracking, but that’s what openness is, after all, and that’s what makes things great. “It was a more vulnerable, open process outside of Derek and my private world, which was initially a little scary because there’s something about writing in front of another person. We explored more options as far as the creative process went for Jessica Rabbit than we ever had in the past,” Krauss states. This process included cutting nearly 30 songs, though she hasn’t taken a detailed tally. It’s this thoughtfulness and ability to consciously criticize and analyze their own work that has allowed for new sonic revelations on their newest album. Krauss listened to a variety of music during this time period, from soul compilations by the Numero Group to Loretta Lynn to Etta James. “I’m always attracted to vocalists that are able to make you feel really triumphant and hopeful but also really devastated at the same time,” she explains. Krauss understands why the three-year process was arduous: “Giving yourself time can be a curse as well because then it’s hard to stop tinkering; it’s hard to stop hearing the flaws. But I think ultimately at the end we were able to strike a nice balance.” With Jessica Rabbit, listeners can expect the unexpected. The album boasts personal revelations and reflects the chaos of the times. “There are a lot of personal tumults in this album. A lot of personal, very, very intimate songs that really confront the innermost thoughts and feelings and demons. And then there are definitely moments that represent the anxiety and distress that are pretty pervasive right now. I think that kind of crept in, from the lyrics to the mania of the instrumentation and the vocal delivery, which at times sounds like it’s on the brink of collapse,” Krauss explains, introducing us to her musical world. Their new album preserves the old, but smoothly introduces us to the new. “I think my favorite new part of us is probably adventuring into the territory of ‘less is more’ and having these very poignant, sad, lonely sounding moments on the album, like ‘Loyal For’ and ‘I Know Not To Count On You.’ I think we were a little scared to try going in that direction because we didn’t know if we could pull it off…people expect us to be this cacophonous, over-the-top sounding band,” she states.
It’s this quality of consistently pushing the envelope that allows Sleigh Bells to experiment with how their sound is represented, not only in music, but via videos, too. Their newest music video for “I Can Only Stare” featured guidance from Alex Ross Perry. Shot on Super 16mm film, the video took just two days to shoot on the vibrant streets of New York City. It captured the energy of an urban setting as well as its hauntingly beautiful qualities. Krauss notes, “It’s essentially a video that documents the demise of three different women, three different characters that I play, and then there’s also footage of Derek and I more as ourselves, as Sleigh Bells. It’s definitely the most narrative video we’ve ever worked on.”
working with him, they listen in until they all get it right, explains Krauss. “It’s one of those things where you don’t really know how good it can sound, so you can’t really articulate what you want because you don’t know that that option exists until he does something.”
It seems that with Jessica Rabbit, Sleigh Bells have come into their own. After subverting countless genres and breaking the mold, they’re finally settling into their truth with a raw, visceral quality. With this new material, Sleigh Bells are confident and at ease, welcoming us into the new sonic landscape they’ve created. Where will they be in 20 years? Time will tell, but Alexis Krauss has her own ideas. “I would be much more interested in people remembering us less for one specific thing, or specific sound and more for the fact that we’re a band that took chances and was more interested in writing completely uninhibited brave music than we were in conforming to any type of formulaic expectations of what we could and should be.”
Follow on Twitter: @sleighbells
SLEIGH BELLS JESSICA RABBIT STANDOUT TRACK: “IT’S JUST US NOW”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 17
SPOTLIGHT 18 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
DORJE Frontman Rob Chapman Finds His Voice, Builds a YouTube Empire and Inspires a Generation to Revolutionize the Future of Guitar Design
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 19
hen we last caught up with Rob Chapman [see December 2014 cover story], the guitarist was in the midst of signing a major European distribution deal with Thomann for his line of Chapman Guitars, and had basically revolutionized the way we thought about guitar design. By tapping into the collaborative nature of the Internet, Chapman was able to unite an army of guitarists to help inspire the various models of Chapman Guitars on the market today. We’ve reviewed both the ML1 and the Ghost Fret models in the past, and had a good cry in the office when said guitars had to be returned. For most of us, those would be enough accomplishments to fill a lifetime. But Chapman, 20 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
or Chappers, as he’s affectionately known on YouTube, is not one to rest on his laurels. Since our last encounter, the musician has pushed full-steam ahead with his own original music in the UK-based band, Dorje. The group’s video for “Catalyst” has seen over one million spins on YouTube, and the band has just dropped its latest, and most bone-crushing collection of music, in the form of an EP titled Centred and One. With it, we find Rob’s vocals the strongest of his career, and the band at its tightest, most cohesive and downright brutal (try replicating that final scream in “Flower of Life” without blowing your vocal cords). We chatted with Rob once again to talk about Chapman Guitars, his work in Dorje and the hectic life of an entrepreneur.
Rob, since the last time we spoke, there’s been significant growth with Chapman Guitars. Can you talk about that? It’s mind blowing, to be honest with you. I think, though I can’t verify this, but we might be the biggest guitar company in the UK right now. It’s hard to think of other British guitar companies competing at that level right now… There are some really amazing luthiers and small companies, but really very few companies that manufacture OEM, overseas, and get them into stores all over the world [like we do]. I know Brian May has a company, and he makes the Red Special, and there are a couple of really cool smaller bands. But aside from a brand called
[At this point we have a rather candid discussion about Brexit, leek soup and various non-guitar related things that would interest no one but us. To recap a rather convoluted serious of tangents, Rob confirms that pedals are in the planning stages for Chapman Guitars, although amplifiers may prove to be too difficult and risky, and that the company is exploring options to make Chapman-branded acoustics in Europe. Moving on…]
What I mean is it costs a bit more because we have a minimum order - they have to order from our factory and arrange the shipping, they need to have a brick and mortar store, and they need to have a tech who can set up guitars. Because normally with distribution, that’s done for you. So there’s a lot more pressure on the retailer to do the work, but once they’re in they can order as few as they like and things become much easier for American [retailers].
When you went to Korea to visit the factory that makes Chapman Guitars, were you surprised to see how much hand-work was involved in the finishing process? I was aware of how much they needed to do. What I wasn’t aware of were the conditions you’d find in Korea. What you tend to hear is how awful it is in other countries. Some of the places where they manufacture guitars are in third-world countries. So when I went to Korea, I was just amazed. It was regular dudes like you and me with iPhones, chilling out, making guitars and enjoying it. I’m not sure if many of the staff play guitar, but really it was a lot like Japan [in terms of good working conditions].
You’ve also brought on board a number of new endorsing artists. Is that a way for you to reach more Americans and more serious players? That’s a very interesting question. Traditionally you’d get artists on board to reach more people. However, with us, it’s always been the case that the biggest artist on board is me [laughs]. I always found that a little bit difficult to deal with. And the truth is, if I make friends with a guy and I think they’re really cool, and I respect them as a musician, as a musician myself, I just want to help them. I genuinely mean this, I just love saying to a guy, ‘Hey man, let’s make something really cool.’ Like with [Chapman endorser] Rob Scallon – it was a really exciting experience.
Vintage, I don’t know of anybody else who does what we do. We might be a rarity. We’ve hit a few milestones, and it’s been a helluva ride. It’s really just been us working from our living rooms – we don’t have a headquarters or anything. All of us do what we need to do when we can. What other markets have you expanded into outside of Europe? Oh, man. Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore…I don’t like to get complacent, I like to tell myself we’re doing really badly and get surprised when we’re not [laughs]. So, for example, we’re in Columbia, we’re in Israel, all over Australia, New Zealand, and then loads in Europe. Places like Budapest and Poland and those sorts of places.
It’s why you’ll notice that some of our artists, they don’t have a huge following. They’re not famous guys, no one else is gonna sign them up. But I will, because I recognize in them the spark that I had as a young artist, kicking ass on YouTube and taking names. And I know that they need that push and they’re going places. Mostly it’s YouTube guys because that’s the world I live in, and the people I mix with. I hang out with them, have beers with them. What you’re really looking at is my social group, who happen to be great guitar players. What about future growth for Chapman Guitars? Let me say this, we’re actually in no rush to grow Chapman Guitars [laughs]. We just don’t have the staff to do it. What we want is for the most natural, organic growth possible. If we were to start approaching [big] bands and retaining them, A) it would seem artificial because I’d want the artist to be genuinely interested in the Chapman brand. And B) we just couldn’t cope with the growth. I much prefer the method of finding people who you know will benefit, who will really work hard, who are dedicated musicians who love the art and are doing it for the right reasons.
[The Unites States] has been a bit harder. There’s a lot of dominance by some of the bigger brands. We really wanted to get a network of mom and pop stores, and so far, we have nine retailers in America. Not many, but like I said it’s probably because they don’t have a lot of cash to play with, and Chapman Guitars is a very different kind of company. So it takes a little more for a retailer to come on board, but the rewards are a bit higher.
Is there a bias in the UK, like there is in the States, about country of origin when it comes to guitars? I call it industry racism. To be honest, I used to feel that way. When I learned to play guitar, everyone said American-made guitars were the best. The more I’ve learned about manufacturing guitars, the more I realized it has less to do with the country, and more to do with the factory. And it’s less to do with the factory and more to do with the budget you give them. And it’s less to do with the budget you give them, and more to do with the information you give them. Because they’ll literally do exactly what you tell them. ‘Well, you didn’t tell us you wanted the tuner holes in a straight line.’ [laughs] If you give a factory of skilled laborers every bit of information they need, and the budget to build it, then you get great quality instruments. Can we talk about Dorje? What’s your writing process with the band? The way it’s kind of settled into, gradually, is that I’ll generate a riff, or Rabea [Massaad, guitar] will write a riff, and we’ll jam and get a song structure. With that in mind, Rabea will make a demo, which I’ll then cut vocals to. But often, I’ll get lyrics in the studio while we’re working. Very rarely will I sit down to write. Generally, I’ll sit down with a coffee in the evening to play, and that’s when I’ll get an idea. It is mostly Rabea and I bringing the ideas and then we [as a band] hash that out in a room. And more recently, Rabea’s written things on his own, and demo’d them for us to listen to. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 21
You get a vibe for what’s what, since Rabea and I write in different styles. Dorje is basically when Rabea backs off on his craziness, and I back off on my blues and country-ness, and we get a little bit of magic [in the middle]. We instantly know when it’s a Dorje tune. I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, so I apologize in advance. But your vocals on the new release are a big step up for you.
from Brett Manning, and I spent months and months working really, really hard [on my vocals]. If you want to get technical, I learned to sing in an upper mix. So what I was doing previously, was all this lower operatic voice that I was using heat on. And what I learned was to use a mix, blending my head and my chest voice to get a much higher range, much easier using less breath, applying heat in a more natural way. It gave me double the range. It was ridiculous; it’s also much easier to
since it’s just seven days and medium-sized venues. I love the Kemper, but it’s still new to me. So for the ease of use [this time around] I’ll take the Red Dwarf out with a 2x12 cab. Rabea is able to take over my amplifier on stage. So when I’m just singing or not playing guitar, he takes over my rig so it’s always coming out both sides of the stage. Do you travel with a stripped-down pedal board with Dorje? Yeah…I don’t really like having anything on the stage in front of me. It gets in the way – if you’re trying to sing and be a frontman, it’s hard enough. Trying to deal with pedals, it’s a pain in the ass. It’s not easy. So I generally take out a delay, a boost, a gain pedal, tuner, maybe a wah and that’s it, really. My guitar playing, live, is really in a supportive role, or I’m playing lead. I love it, actually. [Editor’s note - Rob and I break here after a quick discussion about the upcoming NAMM show, at which point Rob shares some awesome news that he’ll be making public shortly. And with that, we make a promise to grab a beer in the future. A future, which, if Chapman’s vision stays on course, will continue to remain bright.]
There seems to be a confidence level with your vocals that now seems to match the confidence in your guitar playing. Can you speak to what’s changed for you as a singer on this release? I’ll tell you exactly what it is. I got a vocal lesson
On recording guitar parts in the studio: “If it’s nuts-on
exactly, sometimes it sounds false. Like it’s just a doubler. So you have to be tight, but not too tight.”
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steer a mixed voice than what I had been doing. Now, I really enjoy singing. With Dorje, I could take or leave the guitar, really. I could play or not, it’s whatever works for the tune. Finally, I feel I’m comfortable grabbing a mic and singing live.
Follow on Twitter: @robchapmanmusic
When it comes to guitars in the studio, what’s your preferred method of recording parts? Are you still miking cabs, or are you working with modeling amps and software? Miking cabs, all the time. We really enjoy the process [of using amps]. We would expect to spend at least a day, two days, miking up and getting tones. So many amps[laughs] and we had three different cabs for the guitar work, loads of mics, and everything is triple tracked – desaturated clean tones, left and right, crunch and hi-gain. It’s tracked mega-tight, so it takes us hours [to get it right]. The trick is to be really nuts-on, but not. If it’s nuts-on exactly, sometimes it sounds false. Like it’s just a doubler. So you have to be tight, but not too tight. When you tour, do you take a full rig? I know you’ve tested the Kemper recently on YouTube… For this tour I’ll be taking a Victory Red Dwarf,
DORJE CENTRED AND ONE STANDOUT TRACK: “FLOWER OF LIFE”
steve has new music tetherball pheromone food
SPOTLIGHT 24 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT Kharen Hill
NATHAN EAST Bass Legend Takes Us Behind-The-Scenes of His Latest LP, Reverence
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reak out your pen and paper. Write down the names of five bass players. You know what? Let’s make it challenging - see if you can do 10. 15, even.
Done? Okay. Is Nathan East on your list?
Chances are, unless you’re in the biz, or spend your days watching endless YouTube videos of Grammy Awards recordings and Hall of Fame inductions, you might have no idea who I’m talking about. Well, it’s time for a little music history because Nathan East is secretly one of your favorite artists.
“I stil believe in making a record songbased, and not an academic [study] of what can be done on the instrument.”
East has made a career of being the industry’s go-to bassist, and over the past 40 years, he’s worked with icons like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Anita Baker. He has been part the touring band for performers like Barry White, Kenny Loggins, Al Jarreau and Quincy Jones. For the last 35 years, he’s been a part of Eric Clapton’s band, and travelled the world with Phil Collins. He’s a genre-crossing, musical chameleon with a resume that runs about a mile long. “When I first started I realized, if I really wanted a career, I would have to focus on longevity,” he says. “I studied a bunch of different genres and styles so I wouldn’t get pigeonholed into one area.” Today, East is the bearer of a number of awards, including an Ivor Novello Award for co-writing “Easy Lover,” and his own Congressional Record from the United States Congress for his contribution to the community of music around the world. He was recently featured on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (2013), Andrea Bocelli’s Passione (2013) and Barbra Streisand’s 35th studio album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway (2016). Needless to say, he has avoided the pigeonhole. Now, 40 years, hundreds of collaborations, thousands of gigs, and millions of notes struck around the globe later, East is gearing up to release his sophomore solo album, Reverence, in January of 2017. The record will feature collaborations with other artists, including gospel singer Yolanda Adams, and Nathan’s own son, Noah East on piano. The songs on the track list should be familiar to listeners, as some are covers of popular songs like Earth Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire”, Randy Newman’s “Feels like Home” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”while a few will be East originals.
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In comparison to his debut, self-titled release, “the new record - there’s definitely a bit more featured lead bass,” East explains. “But I still believe in making a record song-based, and not an academic [study] of what can be done on the instrument.” It’s what East has always been drawn to himself: “I find that when I hear a player that I’m so impressed with, whether it’s speed or notes, that I don’t do as many repeated listenings. I do continued listening, however, of music that touches my soul. Song-based music,” he explains. It’s the one thing that hasn’t changed over the course of his career. Personnel, venues and recording techniques have certainly evolved, but somehow, East has managed to adapt. The latter being the one thing he tries to keep “old school.” “When I first started recording there were only analog tape machines. 24-tracks were all you had to work with, no Pro Tools, no Auto-Tune. Artists were really trying to capture the moment. There was no, ‘Okay, we can fix this later,’” he explains. “That’s why singers like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson were making records that were really connecting with people. It was a different ball game.” He’s not wrong. Way-back-when, recording an album meant everyone in the studio together, working, re-working and recording song after song for days or weeks on end. With today’s tools, it can be a lot easier and less time-consuming to record a full-length record. But it’s also easier to sound sterile or inauthentic. With his solo work, that’s exactly what East works tirelessly to avoid. The band and the team behind him scheduled around tours and prior commitments to work together in real time. “We didn’t really want it to be a ‘send your tracks around, and phone your part in’ kind of record. We believe in having all the musicians in the same space,” East says. “There’s a magic that happens when artists are in a room together, experiencing the chemistry and musical dialogue that is taking place between them.” In recording Reverence, East and his engineer, Moogie Canazio, worked in three studios across the country - United Recording Studios in Hollywood, NRG in the Los Angeles valley, and Yamaha Entertainment Group Studios in Franklin, TN - to achieve the juxtaposed sound of gorgeous and polished, but gritty and loose. To get his optimal sound, East uses a TC Electronic Blacksmith Amp with two 4x10 cabinets. His signal path is a Firefly direct box by Radial Engineering, and they mic the speakers
using two microphones, a Sennheiser 421 and a U47. East explains that they use one channel for the direct sound and two channels for the mic sounds - this adds to the variation in the sound you can get on record. The other technical element that he relies on is his trusty Yamaha bass guitar. East has been playing Yamaha basses since the ’80s; it’s a tried and true relationship that has paid off in spades. He now has his own signature bass design - the Yamaha BBNE2 - and is signed to Yamaha’s in-house record label, Yamaha Entertainment Group. East’s success in the music world doesn’t feel like it’s calculated. He’s worked tirelessly for all that he has, for sure. But he has the temperament and dedication of your classic bassist – content in the shadows, and happy as the number two. He’s a quintessential right-hand-man, supporting cast or consigliere (for you Van Zandt fans out there) to his front man. But he knows his role, and the importance of the part he plays.
East has spent the better part of his career as a staple on other people’s greatest hits, but he understands better than anyone how his role impacts the big picture. Modestly, he’s happy to have played his part - and played it well. In reality, he’s shaped music as we know it today, and he has no plans of stopping. Whether it’s writing, recording, or performing, East is a lifer, and he’s just trying to leave his mark.
Follow on Twitter: @NathanEast
There was a study done by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario that showed how our brains are better at comprehending and deciphering a song’s rhythm if it occurs at a low tone. In other words, it proved that the bass is literally the base for the melody. Without it, we wouldn’t understand our favorite songs. East elaborates, “If you were to look at the foundation of a house…you find the mixed concrete that becomes the support for this beautiful home. I have this one responsibility – to be the foundation for whatever musical situation I’m in…and with the bass, it’s such a magical instrument where you can be the sideman and then you can be the leader. You’re the foundation, and then you are the house!”
NATHAN EAST REVERENCE STANDOUT TRACK: “FEELS LIKE HOME”
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SPOTLIGHT 28 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
PURLINGHISS Constance Mensh
Mike Polizze and the Present, Past, and Future of Guitar Music
PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 29
lectric guitar, once an essential and irreplaceable aspect of rock and roll, has undoubtedly faded a bit from the limelight in the modern, alternative world of popular rock music. Despite the fact that many modern rock bands have replaced electric guitar with vocals and synths as the nucleus of their tracks, some groups continue to stay true to the traditional and guitar-focused sound of early rock and roll, while adding their own unique twist to the genre. Such a faction of modern-day guitar enthusiasts holds Mike Polizze, guitarist and songwriter from alternative rock band Purling Hiss. When he first began playing, Polizze maintained a somewhat simple style, sticking to freestyle noise guitar which would be recorded on his four-track tape recorder from the late ’90s, a sound which eventually integrated itself into Purling Hiss. Although the band’s new record, High Bias, is more musically structured than their earlier albums, Polizze made sure that he was still staying true to his freestyle guitar roots. “It (High Bias) is a mix, because it will have song structure, but then will transform into more of a free-form thing. The last song (“Everybody in The USA”), has a long jam in the end that I kind of wanted to bring to it,” he says. While his love for noise guitar has remained constant throughout his musical career, Polizze’s commitment to Stratocasters has been just as steady: “I have kind of been using the same stuff more or less over the last twenty years. As far as guitars, I’ve always played a Strat. Now I play a ’90s reissued Mexican Strat with a humbucker in it,” he says. Polizze’s taste in amplifiers and equipment is much more diverse: “I play an Ampeg VT -22 head, the version where people often take the head out of the combo amp and use it as an independent head [...] I bought a Fender Twin tube amp, and I’ve been messing with that, but I still think the Ampeg is even stronger and louder, that’s really my baby. I play through a half-stack with a 4x12 cab, and use an Electro-Harmonix turbo boost pedal. I also have a Big Muff pedal that our friend modified. Currently, I have been using an MXR Carbon Copy delay and an MXR chorus pedal on some of this songs on this album,” he explains. One of the most influential musicians in Polizze’s life was Jimi Hendrix, who sparked his fascination with guitar-based music, as well as heavily distorted playing. He states, “With Hendrix, I remember my favorite performance was this sloppy Woodstock recording where they were all out of tune. It was just so raw and so cathartic…I loved how noisy he was. I knew there was more to it,” he says.
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In the process of recording High Bias, Polizze first tracked the drums and bass live at the Uniform Recording studio in Philadelphia, PA with sound engineer Jeff Zeigler, and then later added a guitar track to the mix using Zeigler’s
guitar players live, even though we don’t have two guitar players live,” he says.
there who has played slower than anybody. It’s been done before,” he says.
Unlike past records, Polizze is pleased by the fact that High Bias can be almost perfectly replicated by Purling Hiss in concert - “I had that problem where I thought, ‘This sounds great on the recording, but how do I translate this live?’ With this new album, we worked it out as a band, and we can play all nine tracks live, and it will sound the way it sounds on the album. We’re really proud of that. It’s a real big band album.”
Polizze believes that in order to further evolve a form of music, one must take hints from the past, and use them in a way that they have never before been used. Instead of trying to push the boundaries of one genre, he argues that it is necessary for modern guitarists to create from what has already been created.
Polizze advises aspiring guitarists not to fear the lack of popularity in guitar-based rock and roll, and instead continue to play one’s own musical genre or medium despite its ability or inability to fit into the modern scene. “I notice that people talk about guitar music’s popularity, or lack thereof, but I think it’s still
“WHAT I REALLY FEEL GOOD ABOUT NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME, IS THAT THE TRANSITION IS COMPLETELY SMOOTH FOR US FROM STUDIO TO LIVE.” Ampeg Reverberocket, which he would later overdub with a track he recorded using his Ampeg VT-22. “I recorded through his [Zeigler’s] Ampeg Reverberocket, which is a great ’60s amp. It’s got a straightforward, very simple sound. The more you push the volume, the more it distorts. It’s very natural and unadulterated - no effects required. I did the whole album with that amp, and then I got my amp and I overdubbed. I just doubled it, and did the same thing to produce an interesting [texture] next to it. They’re similar [the two guitar tracks], but I wanted to add a bit more dimension to the mix,” says Polizze. While converting the artistry of High Bias’ studio production to a live performance, Polizze has found the translation to be smoother than in the past, partly due to the fact that there were no extra instruments piled onto the album as there were on earlier albums. “Well, what’s great about this album, and what I really feel good about now for the first time, is that the transition is completely smooth for us from studio to live. There have been times in the past where I have recorded multi-instruments, or just certain songs that were better if they had two
there, and I think people have always wanted it to be there. I don’t think that people should be dissuaded from playing it if they have creative endeavors and if it’s what they like to do. I think rock and roll is a timeless form of music and expression at this point. I don’t think it can get old or dated. There’s something about electric guitar that’s cathartic and just pretty amazing,” says Polizze.
Many of the riffs featured on High Bias were pre-written by Polizze before the album was conceived. While recording them; however, Polizze added a substantial amount of overdrive, and a simple setup in order to add a classic rock style to his compositions. He strove for a classic, yet energetic sound while creating the album, saying “Some of the riffs on this album that I’d been writing for Purling Hiss are old. For Example, ‘3000 AD’ is heavy on the chorus pedal. I actually wrote that riff a really long time ago, and then I just brought it back. I like to rely on the power trio style [...] I like the classic sound, and electric guitar has always been one of my favorite things,” says Polizze.
“You can find a good balance, and then experiment with all the genres that have already been created and try to put them all together, put them through your own filter. I think that the future involves bringing the past into light, too. Recognizing all the histories that interest current artists, and using them to create a new style by recognizing what has been created even in these last 20 or 30 years. It’s just this narrative that keeps on moving forward; there’s always going to be these different documents of music, and you have to try to keep on bringing them forward,” he says. Bearing influences of power trio, guitarcentered classic rock, mixed with the modern art of double tracking and creatively selecting effect pedals, Mike Polizze is not only an active part of guitar music’s evolution, but indeed, fits into his own definition of rock and roll’s future.
Follow on Twitter: @PurlingHiss
Regarding the future of rock and roll, Polizze does not believe that innovation lies in the progression of musical technology, or the ability to introduce an extremity of tempo or volume, but rather to further evolve the style of rock music by adding various influences from other genres. “I just think that we’re at the point where technology isn’t really a factor anymore. Also, the experiment of extremes is something that’s almost been exhausted. Some people get bummed out thinking that something cannot be done if it’s already been done before, and I think that you have to recognize the limits to which people have stretched out up to this point. With electric guitar, there have been extreme genres in metal, for example, where bands have done the lowest metal with the most tuned-down guitars. There’s someone out
PURLING HISS HIGH BIAS STANDOUT TRACK: “FEVER”
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TOUR TEST: SENDING TH AT2010 CONDENSER MI
Zebrahead live on-stage in Europe with Audio-Technica AT2010 microphones [Editor’s note – back in July we put out a call for product testers to win and demo the new AudioTechnica AT2010 condenser mics on tour. After all the entries were collected, we chose Boston-based singer/songwriter Munk Duane and California punks Zebrahead. Their final reviews appear below.] MUNK DUANE on the AT2010 I have been a big fan of Audio-Technica for many years. The AT4033 is a centerpiece for vocals and acoustic guitar in my studio and has appeared on five of my albums and countless tracks I’ve composed for network TV and film. I perform over 150 shows a year, in a very wide variety of settings, from super-quiet acoustic venues, to large package casino stages to full volume, turbo-charged, knockdown, drag-out pub stages. Needless to say, upon receiving the AT2010, I was in a good position to put it through the paces.
Munk Duane in the studio 32 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Audio-Technica describes the AT2010 as follows: “The AT2010 is designed to bring the studio-quality
articulation and intelligibility of Audio-Technica’s renowned 20 Series to the stage, for crystal-clear vocal performances. The AT2010 excels wherever articulate vocals are needed…” “Articulate vocals” and “natural sonic characteristics” are descriptors of the Holy Grail of live performance microphones, a bold claim by Audio-Technica. From the first moment I felt the solid construction in my hand, to the first performance in which I auditioned the mic, I was impressed. Gig number one was a solo acoustic show in a very intimate environment. The crystal clarity I was hearing from my lighter attacks and falsetto actually coaxed a better vocal performance out of me. Gig number two took place in a louder pub environment [where I’d normally use a dynamic mic], in a duo setting, where I pushed my vocals a bit harder. The condenser mic held its own, continuing to allow me more dynamic control in my approach. Gigs three through seven, similar set-ups, same results.
THE AUDIO-TECHNICA MICS ON THE ROAD Gig number eight gave the AT2010 its first real challenge…a pub so loud that the ambient sound of the room, with no music playing, averaged 95 dB (peaking at a whopping 100 dB). I had to push my two QSC K12s and KSub much, much harder than the previous shows and feedback from the mic was a tad difficult to mitigate. By the mid-point of the second set, I was forced to relent and break out my Audix OM-5, which is a king at handling high SPLs and resisting feedback. A/B’d with the AT2010, the quality of the OM-5 didn’t sound nearly as good to my ears, but the feedback problem was handled. For low-to-mid volume gigs, the AT2010 is a total home run. I’ve now performed 20 shows since the mic came into my possession and it has become a vital tool and a mainstay in my live performance set-up. You really can’t go wrong with this mic. New facets of nuance will begin to float effortlessly from your instrument. I am indebted to Performer and Audio-Technica for the gift of this quality tool, and can now see how condenser mics stack up on the road vs. the dynamic mics I’ve been used to. They make me sing better. OWEN HARDMAN (FOH engineer for Zebrahead) on the AT2010 After winning a package of new AT2010s, I hit the road with my usual gig running front-of-house for the band Zebrahead overseas. I’ve been with those guys nearly a decade now and I’ve been through quite a few mics in that time, but I’m never one to turn down the challenge of something new – so I threw the new AT2010’s in my case and headed out for a run of mainland Europe, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Now, the mics I’m used to and the ones I’m happiest with to date are the Audio Technica Artist Elite series - namely the 6100/4100s. I’ve been using these things with great results for years and have only ever had to replace one stolen mic; they are bomb proof. They’re a real solid build and they ‘feel good,’ ergonomically speaking, in your hand. I’ve always been able to cut through the mix with these mics and they are great at feedback rejection; you can really get a lot of level through those wedges before they set off. The hyper-cardioid pattern is tight on axis and that helps a bunch. So, on pulling the 2010 out of the packaging I was pleased to see that the mic had the same appeal in form factor and handling, but also immediately noticed how much lighter than the 6100 it is. I’ve never thought to use condensers on vocals with Zebrahead, partly because I’ve always been happy
with the AE stuff, but also because historically the band are pretty damn loud on stage and I’m a little apprehensive to put a condenser in the middle of all that. It’s going to be difficult to do a direct comparison between these two mics as they are truly different animals with their respective applications. That said, I must comment on the sound of the AT2010 straight away; the folks at Audio Technica will sell you this mic with the promise of bringing studio quality sound to the stage. The AT2010 does this incredibly well, as I believe much of the same tech has been tweaked from their 20 series studio mics and bundled into this live offering. It really does not disappoint and one of the things you’ll notice immediately is the improved clarity to be expected from a condenser over a dynamic. The articulation you get from this microphone is superb, and you really start to hear previously hidden dynamics within the vocals (even during loud gigs). They give you plenty of level and where the 6100 makes its point on the harsh side the 2010 brings an added element of warmth to the mix whilst still finding its way through the backline. I must admit I have been spoilt on this last tour with the spaces I’ve been able to use the 2010s
in. All the environments have either been larger club sized venues or outdoor festivals, so I’ve had the space and the headroom to open them up. In addition, I’ve also finally convinced Zebrahead to get IEMs, so I have not had that age old problem of battling wedges. I know for a fact that I can rely on the AE dynamic mics in loud spaces to give me what I need; I’ll reserve full judgment on the 2010 until I’ve really put it through its paces on some smaller noisy club shows...watch this space for that. I know we won these, but I also know how much they retail for ($99 USD) and for the price you are getting a lot of microphone. I would urge any vocalist (or group with multiple vocalists) looking for a great sounding live mic to go and get themselves one (or more) of these. So I will definitely be using these mics again on our upcoming tour with Skindred – hopefully I’ll be able to push them that little bit harder and see what results we get on some different stages. I’ll have to get back to you on that, but nothing but praise from me up to this point. For more, visit zebrahead.com, munkduane. com and audio-technica.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 33
MEET YOUR MAKER
MEET YOUR MAKER I With Freddy Rose of PHRED Instruments, LLC
had been modding off-the-shelf electric guitars for personal use, and years before PHRED Instruments, I had asked a local luthier to work with me on designing a custom
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guitar from the ground up. That guitar ended up being very costly, but watching a guitar take shape from blocks of wood was truly a magical experience. With continued fascination, it was still years after that I
started searching for another custom guitar builder, this time overseas. Thatâ€™s how PHRED Instruments got started in 2011, and interest in the guitars themselves began to spread.
What Sets Your Gear Apart From Other Builders: A PHRED guitar combines three very important aspects of an electric guitar: affordability, playability, and features. What I’ve noticed is there are affordable guitars that play well, but lack features. There are guitars that have lots of features and great playability, yet are not so affordable. And there are affordable guitars with lots of features, but perhaps not so playable. Our goal with each guitar is to make sure that affordability, playability, and features are built into the instrument’s design and construction.
MEET YOUR MAKER
Most Popular Models: Our most popular model is the Ernesto VH3 model. It is a routed-out hollow body guitar with set neck construction, 24 frets, 25.5” scale length, and two humbucker pickups with a built-in pre-amp and an on-board effects loop (OBEL). It’s geared toward the jam musician because of its tonal diversity and characteristics.
What Are Some Cool Features of Your Products: Many of our guitars feature three humbucker pickups with discrete split-coil mini-toggles. All PHRED guitars feature a full 2-octave fretboard (24 frets), providing better access to the upper frets for soloing. Most of our guitars include a built-in pre-amp (unity gain buffer) and effects loop. The pre-amp helps maintain the quality of the output from the pickups across long guitar cables, especially when going through multiple effects pedals. The on-board effects loop is an added bonus feature that essentially works like a send/ return on an amp, except that it’s on the guitar, allowing for post-effect volume adjustments from the guitar. Lessons Learned: I’ve learned that guitar players have an incredible amount of patience and appreciation for what we do, especially when it comes to custom work and small-batch guitar runs. What’s The One Thing You Want Musicians to Think of When They Think of Your Brand: I want musicians to think they’ve discovered something special when they think of PHRED Instruments. Average Price Per Instrument: $600 For more, visit online www.PHREDinstruments.com and Twitter @Phredinstrument
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WHY WOULD YOU A FULL-LENGTH A
ctually, the answer to this one is really easy! Yet, almost no one will get it right, because the answer is all about your marketing plan, almost no one does that right. Let’s see how your answer stacks up.
money. For some people, the goals are not financial. They just want to make a work of art. That’s cool.
You release a full-length album when you have so many fans literally lined-up to give you $10 for the record that the whole thing is paid for before you even start. Ta-da! There you have it! No other answer will do.
So which camp are you in? Vanity project or Commercial success? Those are the only two. The answer I gave before assumed you were in the commercial success group. On the other hand, almost everyone says they’re in that group, so maybe a long look at your motives would be good about now.
YOU’RE SO VAIN (OR NOT…) Unless, of course, the record is a vanity project. Despite the derogatory name, there’s really nothing wrong with a vanity project. It’s really just any project that isn’t intended to make
But all snark aside, long form records are really expensive to make (at least if you try to make a good one). So you have to have enough customers (yes, customers) to make it worth doing. If you don’t know that you will break even before you
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start, then you’re going to lose your shirt. HEY, ARE YOU SINGLE? Most bands don’t have that many paying fans, which is why I’m here to say to those bands: don’t do it. It’s a recipe for heartache and ruin. You, my friends, are in a different category. You are not in “sales mode” so much as in “fan-acquisition mode.” This doesn’t mean you don’t sell anything, but rather that your focus is on making new fans. At that point, my young economist, you realized that you gotta give it way, give it away, give it away, now! And that means make the record for a cost that won’t leave you hesitant to give it to people freely. On the other hand, you’re not going to win friends and influence people with shoddy
I hope you stick around to listen. Have a great time!”
for them to listen to, and you with something new to crow about.
By the way, EPs are so much cooler than LPs for most young bands. The reason is just the same. With 4-5 tracks on them, they’re so much less expensive to make (and with fewer songs they encourage many repeat listens). Meaning that you need a whole lot fewer screaming fans waving ten-spots at you to make the finances work. Which means your fans get something they’ll love, sooner than they would if you waited to make a full-length, and you’ll get to not lose your shirt. Win-win-, well, win!
Again, it’s not one or the other, necessarily. Having a demo to give away alongside your EP is perfect: something to hook the newbies and something to sell the fans. If you’re really creative you can work out bundles, perhaps with some merch included, to upsell potential fans into buying more.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Another thing to consider is that in our digital economy you only get noticed if you’re creating buzz. It used to be that if you dropped a great album and toured behind it, that created buzz. Not so much anymore. Now buzz is short-lived. You get the same amount whether you drop a massive album or a great single. So releasing many great singles in a row over the course of a year, for example, gets you a pop each time you put one out. The album is one and done. Do singles and you keep showing up on fans’ radar and making your mark. Pretty soon they’re converts (and that leads to tenner-waving for the EP!) Similarly, in the world of streaming audio, having a constant barrage of new singles will keep you on your fans’ minds, providing something new
OU EVER RELEASE H ALBUM? So, at the end of the day, there aren’t a lot of commercially good reasons to do a full-length album anymore. We can commiserate about the demise of the album as an art form, and I’ll be first onboard that train. However, in today’s reality, you gotta work what you’ve got. Brilliant shortform to give away, and equally brilliant mediumform to sell to the whole bucket of new fans you just made. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award winning mix engineer and producer Jordan Tishler runs Digital Bear Entertainment in Boston MA. The SSL console and racks upon racks of analogue outboard gear, tape machine, and gazillions of instruments helps Tishler meet the expectations of artists including B Spears, JLo, Iggy A, MOTi, Justin Prime, SIA, and London Grammar. Contact me about producing your next record, or mixing the one you’re working on now! Learn more at www.digitalbear.com.
workmanship. The product must be undeniable! So, if you can’t cheap out on the quality, then you cheap out on the number of songs you do. Plain and simple. Singles are great, 2-song demos are also great. You can just give them away! Boy, does that hurt less than giving away an album. You don’t want it to hurt to the point where you hesitate to give them away. Otherwise that hurts your business model, aka fan-acquisition. STICK TO THE SCRIPT Here’s a script for you: “Hey, nice to meet you! You have ears, please have a copy of our music. I hope you love it. We’re playing tonight at 9:00. PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 37
TOP 5 SOLID ST AMPS UNDER $
on’t let bedroom hobbyists and Internet forum loudmouths convince you that solid state is a dirty word. In fact, there’s a very strong case for solid state amps. Sure, tube amps are great and all, and they do break up nicely when driven, but let’s face it, they also come with some very real hassles. They’re expensive. They’re heavy. They require routine maintenance, and depending on where you’re plugging in, they may even sound different. Yep, it wasn’t uncommon for me to experience actual sound differences at different venues depending on what sort of power they had flowing through the walls. Total bummer when the amp didn’t act the way I knew it was supposed to.
Solid state amps have a number of benefits to them, chiefly the price. Solid state guitar amps are gonna be a helluva lot cheaper than tube amps (not only to buy, but to maintain). So if you’re on a budget, it’s almost a no brainer. Solid state amps are also far lighter than their tube counterparts, and almost never require any maintenance. And lastly, don’t get caught in the echo chamber of Internet forums: solid state amps can sound GREAT, and their sound will likely be extremely consistent no matter where you set it up. So with that said, let’s take a look at our top 5 solid state guitar amps (under $500) currently in production. -Benjamin Ricci
FENDER CHAMPION 100 Ah, the Champion. We know, you’ve been told (and maybe even formed the opinion yourself ) that the Frontman 212 was absolute shite. So you’ll NEVER give a Fender solid-state amp a second chance, right? Hey dummy, stop being so closed-minded. The new (well, new-ish) Champion 100 is a 2x12 combo that’s totally ready for the stage and studio. Close your eyes, ignore the fact that there are no valves, and truly listen to the clean tones this amp spits out. We ran a Strat, Tele and our Warmoth Jazzmaster through it and were delighted with not only how sparkly clean the cleans were, but how responsive the amp was to dynamics. Yeah, the drive isn’t all that amazing, but we were stoked with how well the Champion 100 took to pedals. Basically, you can make this amp sound like your rig in a snap with the right stompboxes in front of it. Who it’s for: You wanted the cleans, you GOT the cleans! Pros: Fantastic cleans (did we mention that?), takes pedals really well. Cons: Drive isn’t anything to write home about, but again it responds super-well to pedals. Price: $349
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STATE GUITAR R $500 BOSS KATANA 100
The Boss Katana 100 is a newcomer to the game, and from our first few days hands-on, it sounds HUUUUGE. Look for our complete review in next month’s issue, but suffice it say that Boss has brought its Waza sound to a much more affordable price point. Great for acoustics, too, the Katana 100 allows you to load up your favorite Boss effects, which is awesome, and even lets you go direct out, so you can record easily or hook directly into a venue’s PA to reduce stage volume. PLUS, you’ve got a power attenuator on top that lets you turn down the power for maximum gain at lower volumes. Who it’s for: Guitarists who switch between acoustic-electric and electric, and who want lots of control over their tone-shaping capabilities. Pros: Sounds phenomenal, LOTS of tone options, great for customization. Cons: Must connect via USB to load Tone Studio software. No Bluetooth like on some Marshalls. Price: $329
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OK, you’re thinking, “This has been around a while, right? And doesn’t it suck?” Well, the MG series has been around the block a few times, but the newer series deserves a second look. Just like the oft-maligned first-gen Line 6 Spider, the new Marshall MGs have a reputation to overcome, but let’s get it out of the way: when we played the MG50CFX, we were actually forced to eat some crow. Again, don’t let loudmouth forum trolls convince you that these small Marshall combos can’t abso-freakin’-lutely RULE. Even the onboard fx, which we never really cared for on older SS Marshalls, are fairly usable here. No, they’re not gonna replace your pedalboard, but for smaller gigs where it’s not practical to bring a full rig, these’ll do quite nicely. And then there’s the gain. That glorious Marshall gain. Is it gonna replace your JCM 800? Again, no. But that’s not what it’s designed to do. It’s designed to give you a reasonably close Marshall tone in a small package, at a decent price. And it delivers. We tracked a few guitars through our DAW and were incredibly impressed with how well the MG50CFX sounds on record. Give it a second look (and listen). Who it’s for: Axe-slingers who want that Marshall sound without breaking the bank. Pros: They’ve finally gotten the Marshall sound right in one of their solid-state combos. Cons: Your old Marshall solid-state amps are now worthless. Price: $399
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ORANGE CRUSH 35RT
Orange has been (no pun intended) crushing it lately. We’re huge fans of their lunchbox heads, and this 1x10 combo amp is a killer value. With 2-channels and a 4-stage preamp, the crunch tones you’re looking for are ridiculously easy to dial in. We were thoroughly impressed with the saturation we were able to achieve with relatively little effort. Trust us, the Orange 35RT responds incredibly well to dynamics, and will even emulate a 4x12 cab through the headphone out. We love this little amp, and it sounds massive on record when double-tracked. Who it’s for: Guitarists who want an old-school crunch on a tiny budget. Pros: Sounds great, on-board reverb, drive and tuner work amazingly well. Cons: Might need to be miked for some club gigs. Price: $259
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OK, before you start writing in, yes we cheated a little bit. This one runs a bit over our $500 threshold, but if you find a decent GC coupon or a used model, you can probably sneak one in under $500, all right? Anyway, the JC-40 is a modern take on the ultraclassic JC-120 Jazz Chorus, one of the only “acceptable” solid state amps that forum trolls begrudgingly acknowledge as a worthy piece of gear. This one is built for stereo, with stereo ins, outs and fx loop. So you can dial in super-lush stereo chorus sounds for Police-like tracks, and even run keyboards through it with your fave stereo patches. Squeaky clean, the JC-40 bests the Fender Champion slightly in that regard, while adding in (what we feel, anyway) is a much smoother distortion. If you can stretch your budget just a tad, the JC-40 will likely be your best new studio/stage buddy. Who it’s for: Clean rhythms and solos, keyboards and light gain players. Pros: One of the best solid state amps we’ve ever played. Cons: Just a tad more expensive than other SS amps in its class, but totally worth it. Price: $599 (yeah, we cheated a bit, so sue us).
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GEAR GEARROUNDUP REVIEWS
ith today’s smartphones, making videos is pretty easy. But getting quality angles and camera movements that don’t have that shaky Blair Witch effect can be tough. IK Multimedia’s new iKlip A/V is a smartphone mount designed to keep a steady feel, but adds in a great attention to audio quality, as well. A metal rectangular tube is the base of this design, with a screw in, spring-loaded smartphone clip that can handle any phone (and its case) securely. At the end, a 1/8” jack connects to the headphone jack of the phone, via the included cable. The other end sports a hand grip that also contains an XLR jack connection for an external mic source. The grip also houses (2) AA batteries for amplification/ gain control as well as phantom power for condenser mics. All the related controls are also mounted here, and can easily be switched with one hand. A headphone jack is also handy for easy monitoring. On the underside is a threaded insert, allowing the iKlip A/V to be mounted on a mic stand or tripod. Just forward of the grip is a mounting point for a wireless microphone receiver. Clip it on, connect a wireless mic, and it’s good to go.
IK MULTIMEDIA iKlip A/V Smartphone Mount Just using it on its own can make for super stable camera angles and shots, the grip is far enough out that no stray hands or fingers will make it into the shot. It’s like a mini Steadicam for band videos, behind-the-scenes footage for your fans and even gear demos for YouTube. With a wireless mic, it’s an awesome accessory for mobile video/interviewing. Connecting it to a regular microphone like a condenser that’s great for capturing room sounds, and recording/livestreaming a show just became a snap. Connect it to a mixer’s output (some extra cables and adapters will more than likely be needed) and getting a great live sound for video is within reach. With so many bands going on the road, and communicating with their fans via video, this can really up their game, and add a smoother, more professional feel to vlog posts. For interviewers, it’s a super easy way to get great audio and video in one package. At $179 it’s not super cheap, but considering that even just professional grade smartphone-friendly gimbals and mounts can run double that, and offer up no comparable audio options, the bang-for-the-buck is pretty easy to justify. Chris Devine
Well designed, excellent sound options. CONS
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AURALEX MudGuard v2
etting sound into a microphone sounds easy, but the devil is in the details. There are all sorts of diffusers and shields on the market, that vary in both materials and complexity. Auralex has worked out a very simple and neatly designed solution, its MudGuard v2, that is easy to mount, and can cancel out unwanted off-axis noise on your vocal tracks. With simple hardware, it easily mounts to an existing mic stand. It’s lightweight, so there’s not a lot of adjustment to keep things balanced. It features a nice soft “v” shaped area that’s shaped like a convex valley, covered with Auralex’s Studiofoam on all sides. It dampens and absorbs off-axis noise, as well as limiting the “color” of a room’s acoustic character. Overall it gives a stronger vocal take, with much less excess noise, regardless of the microphone being used. We even tested it outside of the studio setting and were impressed with the reduction of noise in 44 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
less-than-ideal settings like bedroom studios and the like. Using it during vocal overdubs in the studio is a no brainer, but it’s design lends itself to being used during a session with other musicians or instruments in the room, allowing the feel of a live setting, while still maintaining isolation of the vocal track. Another excellent application is using it on acoustic instruments, for getting a superb “on point” sound without any excess reflections or coloring. It may take a bit of positioning, but we found the results to be very rewarding. With a street price of $149, it won’t break the bank, and the fact that it’s designed by a company that’s made its mark with acoustic treatment for rooms, shows in the overall concept and great application. We highly recommend this for both commercial and home studio spaces alike. Chris Devine
Great design, plenty of applications that go beyond vocals. CONS
FOCUSRITE Scarlett 18i20 & Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interfaces
here are a lot of options when it comes to audio interfaces for your DAW, both in features and in price. Focusrite recently launched their next-gen Scarlett line, and we got our hands on the 2-in, 2-out 2i2 model as well as the more robust 18i20. In short, each brings a lot of bang for the buck, without overwhelming the user. We appreciated the simplicity with which one could get up and running, a hurdle that we’ve had to jump over in other similarly priced interfaces in the past. The 18i20 is the top tier of the Scarlett range, with (8) TRS/XLR inputs. Phantom power is available, but can be switched on or off in groups; 1-4 and 5-8. Channels 1 & 2 are on the front panel, and have selections for line or instrument levels, as well as the ability to engage a 10dB pad for things like super-hot guitars. Speaking of which, the new instrument inputs handle hotter pickups much better than the previous generation (and FAR better than something like the Steinberg UR22 we tested earlier this year). The individual gain controls and Digital VU meter also reside on the front panel. Monitor and headphone control and outputs also reside here, handy when you can’t reach around back in a darkened control room. On the backside are the remaining (6) TRS/XLR inputs, SPDIF & MIDI connections, digital clock, and optical connections. There are TRS monitor outs, as well as additional analog outputs. A fantastic touch is the use of a IEC power connection, meaning no wall/ cable warts or specialized power cables. All of these audio options, routing and connections are handled via Focusrite’s Control app. It also can control the monitoring and audio latency response. We were impressed with Focusrite’s interface software when we checked out the Clarett 8Pre, and our feelings remain unchanged with the Scarlett line. Yes, the Scarlett interfaces will work perfectly with your DAW,
but we love the Control program’s ability to let you delve into the hardware settings and routing options in an intuitive GUI. The 2i2 is the entry-level unit of the Scarlett range, and one we wholly recommend for singer/songwriters or artists looking for a super-easy, cost-effective way to record scratch demos and acoustic tracks with ease. With (2) combo TRS/XLR jacks for inputs, as well as selectors for line or instrument level input, as well as phantom power, it brings a lot to the table in a rather handsome enclosure. For personal monitoring there is a 1/4” headphone output and control. The large monitor knob controls the output of the (2) monitor outs on the rear. As with the 18i20 there is ultra-low latency that’s taken care by the interface, this time via a direct monitoring switch. Power is provided by the USB connection, meaning no external power supplies. So in essence, this can be the heart of a truly mobile rig, perfect for capturing ideas on the road. All the proper controls are on the front, meaning there’s no fiddling around the backside. On a desktop for podcasters, or a home recorder, it really delivers. Now while the preamps are quite as great as the ones in the Clarett range, at $149 it’s hard to argue with how good vocals and acoustic instruments come through when tracking with the Scarlett 2i2. As stated, the preamps and audio quality on both the 18i20 & 2i2 are quite impressive; Focusrite made their name doing high end audio preamps, and while these are priced reasonably, they easily outclass others in their price range. It’s also important to note that these were super easy to get up and running; opening the box will be the hardest task. The low latency interface really makes a difference, and it’s nice to see it’s available even in their entry level 2i2. Again, other 2-channel USB interfaces in this price range we’ve tested in the past lost points for small, yet noticeable,
delays when tracking. As with all audio interfaces, they throw in a ton of software; both units offer up Focusrite’s Red 2 & 3 plug-in suite, Softube reverb, delay, distortion and mastering plug-ins, a Focusrite Pro Tools | First creative pack, 2 GB of audio loops, and a copy of Ableton Live Lite. But, as mentioned, the entire range will work just as well with pretty much any other DAW you wish to install. As the centerpiece of a new home recording rig, the 18i20 is worth every penny of its $499 street price. And the 2i2 is super portable, and with its $149 price tag, it brings the term “entry level” to a whole new level. Chris Devine PROS
Excellent form factor, easy to use, affordable, worked seamlessly with every DAW we tried. CONS
$149 (2i2) and $499 (18i20), respectively PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 45
IK MULTIMEDIA iRig HD 2 Guitar Interface
K Multimedia’s iRig HD 2 guitar interface is a great way to turn a smartphone or tablet into a fantastic practice and recording tool. Taking things to the next level, the iRig HD 2 brings more features that are great in both recording and live situations. The small soft rubber enclosure has 1/4” TRS inputs for guitar or bass, 1/4” out to an amp, a 1/8” headphone jack, and a USB connection. There are Apple & Android cables, as well as USB cable for every possible connection. With the iRig HD 2 comes IK’s AmpliTube amp modeling app and software not only for the mobile device, but for Mac or Windows. There are a few ways to use this neat little device. Connect the iRig to a smartphone/tablet, plug in headphones, plug in a guitar, and open up the AmpliTube app. Band- you’ve got a great rig simulation for practice, rehearsals or personal playing. It also works well with GarageBand and other similar apps. There is a switch on the side marked Thru FX, and by connecting the iRig HD 2 to a guitar amp, or PA, all those great AmpliTube tones can now get routed to the amp. Switching the Thru FX switch to the other position, it can now be used as an inline tuner. Connect the iRig HD 2 to a computer, and now it’s a USB guitar interface for pretty much any 46 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
DAW you’re running. With digital to analog conversion at 24bit, sound quality is excellent across the board. There’s even a free update that brings the sample rate from 48kHz to 96kHz. The AmpliTube app must be singled out, with all of its amazing emulations of great amps, cabinets, stompboxes and effects that are super easy to set up, tweak and save. This isn’t just for guitar players either, there are killer bass rigs that can be easily honed, as well. As a personal practice/playing device, it’s great to work out parts using the recording function on the AmpliTube app, and be able to take all those sounds crafted there and use them live. The only downside is that there is a small plastic clip that snaps into the casing, that’s meant to be velcroed to a guitar cable. It’s a neat idea, but feels flimsy, and if the Velcro gets loose, it slides down the cable. A design that could clip on a guitar strap would be better. Overall for a street price under $100, it’s a great little tool (it’s about half the width of an iPhone) that is perfectly suited for personal practice, can be used live with an amp, or as a recording interface to lay down your parts. It’s a “win, win, win” situation! Chris Devine
Great price, AmpliTube app is fantastic, can be used with smartphone/ tablet or computer. CONS
Cable clip is kind of flimsy. PRICE
MY FAVORITE AXE
I’ve been playing keys for 25 years in lots of different styles, but really focused on soul/ hip-hop. I started working with synthesizers 11 years ago and developed an affinity for them, as they provide a wide variety of sounds, and have specific controls to alter different aspects of the sound with precision. MAKE & MODEL
1984 Roland Juno-106 WHAT IT MEANS TO ME
It’s such a versatile board; it has the ability to sound like so many different things. Of course you cannot truly replicate a Rhodes, piano or organ, but that’s not all it’s about with the Juno. In my eyes it was made for discovery and exploration, to seek new sounds and apply it in new ways. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
Everything! You can sound like a string section, a flute, or a steel drum. You can make bird sounds, water bubble sounds, or a chainsaw. I like to use it for drum sounds sometimes; you can make it sound like an 808 if you want to. SPECIAL FEATURES
It has polyphonic portamento, which is rare and pretty neat, and it has 128 memory slots so you can save your sounds. It also has MIDI which was rare for a 6-voice polysynth at the time. I haven’t done any mods, but I do fix them myself - like repairing slider potentiometers and vco/vcf chips and other things that can go wrong with 30-year-old equipment… USED BY
Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, A-ha, and countless other synth-pop artists of the 1980s. LISTEN NOW at jawgems.bandcamp.com and follow on Twitter @jawgems
of JAW GEMS
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PERFORMER MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016 47
GIBSON J-45 VS. J-50 ACOUSTICS MAKE, MODEL, YEAR
This J-45 is a 1954 and the J-50 is from 1949. BACKGROUND
The Gibson J-45 was first introduced in 1942. It was only offered in a sunburst finish because tone woods were not so easy to come by at that time (smack in the middle of WWII), so the visual quality was often lessthan-perfect. Gibson used the paint to hide blemishes and other visual imperfections in the wood. After the war, higher quality wood became easier to obtain. Rather than just offer the J-45 in a natural finish, the folks at Gibson decided to introduce a new model to the “J” line and so, in 1947 the J-50 was born. Oddly enough they didn’t change the design of the guitar, only the appearance. The new J-50 was offered in a natural finish with a 3-ply front binding and a different shaped bridge - but other than a few cosmetic changes, the J-45 and the J-50 are the same guitar. WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE
Both the J-45 and the J-50 are known for the beautiful bass tones and wonderful projection. The two guitars shown here are in their original state with no electronics added. They each play and sound incredible and each have appeared on numerous recordings at the LaLa Mansion Studio, where they currently reside. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
From SOHO GUITAR in Tampa, Florida, I’m Rob Meigel. Learn more at sohoguitar.com.
48 DECEMBER 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
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