THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
FEB./MAR. ‘22 FREE
Goodbye Genres, Hello TikTok Capitalize on Catalogs to Drive Streaming Royalties How AI Will Change The Way You Write, Record & Sample Get the Proper Order for Your Pedalboard
interviews Dan Rodriguez * Spaceface
J E V E R S O N On the move from Grenada to Nashville: “It’s buzzing with inspiration. Music is everywhere.”
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TABLE OF CONTENTS KT Wolf
2 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
by Michael St. James
5. Book Review: Synth Gems
RONNIE BAKER BROOKS
by Taylor Northern
by Benjamin Ricci
6. How Old Music Can Save New Music
TABLE OF CONTENTS
4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
8. Goodbye Genres, Hello TikTok 32. MEET YOUR MAKER: Singular Sound
34. How to Order Your Pedalboard (feat. Maestro Pedals) 38. How AI Will Change Your Entire Creative Process 40. GEAR REVIEWS: EHX, RODE, Casio, Shure and more…
by Gus Rocha
48. MY FAVORITE AXE: Fortune’s Folly
VOLUME 32, ISSUE 1 PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
from the editor
2022, here we come! If you’re filled with a similar amount of forced enthusiasm for the year ahead, then you’re not alone, Constant Reader! Yes, things are getting back to normal(ish) around these parts, at least. Seeing fans fill up LaLiga stadiums again fills me with optimism. I think the real litmus test is when spectators are allowed back in the Bundesliga, then a true sense of normality will fill my heart. Venues here (at least) are cancelling fewer dates, fewer tours seem to be canned on the same afternoon as they’re announced (Fugees notwithstanding), and more importantly guitars are starting to show up on retailers’ walls and websites again. For a while, the words “out of stock” were seemingly imprinted on my retinas. Anyway, I hope you are staying safe and well wherever you may be located. And I hope you’re treating yourself to that guitar or synth you’ve had your eye on. It’s been a long few years, you deserve it. If you missed it during the holiday festivities, we
just put out a mixtape (yes, an actual cassette!) featuring awesome young artists playing awesome new gear from some very generous sponsors. Learn more at performermag.com – just search ‘mixtape’ to pull up all the relevant info and to give it a listen. And while you’re at it, head to our YouTube channel for some exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the artists recording their exclusive tracks with all the gear we sent out. As if that weren’t enough, we’re pressing (at least) two new vinyl records this year! One with the good folks at KRK and the other with the equally good folks at Mackie. Good folks all around, says I. So, keep an eye out for more details on those two projects, as well. We might just be needing some reader participation (hint hint). As always, be good to each other, keep writing, recording and performing, and don’t stop sending that GOOTS meme to our Instagram page.
PS – For those of you keeping score at home, Tottenham just lost to Wolves. WOLVES?!?! I’m not a superstitious man, but it was the first time I ever saw Antonio Conte wearing a baseball hat on the touch line. Coincidence?? Who gave this dapper Italian such a vulgar affront to fashion? I want answers!! I want heads to roll! ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to firstname.lastname@example.org. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to 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?”
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Volume 32, Issue 1 850 Post Rd Suite 8385 Warwick, RI 02888 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR Benjamin Ricci email@example.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Benjamin Ricci, Chris Devine, Gus Rocha, Matthew Wade, Michael St. James, Moises Linares, Taylor Northern CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Rob Morgan, Jake Dixon, KT Wolf, Paul Natkin, Suzanne Foschino, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Erika Mugglin, Bradley Cook ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com © 2022 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.
he optimistically titled Synth Gems 1 (indicating a volume 2 is on the horizon) is a gem indeed, especially for any synthobsessed nerd who can tell you the minute differences between a sawtooth and sharktooth wave form (is there a difference, really?). The book is more visual feast than historical tome, which suits me just fine. That said, there is enough fascinating information on each instrument provided that will give even the most ardent synth historians some new factoids to chew on.
past. While it does cover most of the major players, as a reviewer I’d lose my cred if I didn’t mention the notable omissions: namely the JUNOs and ARP Odysseys of the world. One can only assume they’re saving some of the good stuff for the previously-mentioned second volume.
Like a bowl of chicken soup, it’s just plain soothing for the soul to gaze upon impeccably photographed vintage synthesizers from years
The photography really does take center stage here – if you’re like me and you’re tired of using fuzzy JPEGs on the internet to satisfy your
Which is all well and good – if there’s more of THIS on the way, sign me up now. Where’s that Futurama “take my money” meme when you need it?
curiosity about how vintage analog synths looked and operated from every conceivable angle, this is exactly the book you’ve been looking for, and maybe didn’t even know it! Kuods to the BJOOKS, yet AGAIN, for producing such an engaging, enlightening, and downright beautiful-to-look-at coffee table book. One that’s bumped a few other classic hardbacks off my own personal table. Highly recommended. FOR MORE INFO, https://bjooks.com
PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 5
How Old Music Can Save New Music
f you follow the music industry discussion at all, I’m sure you saw the article by Ted Gioia “Is Old Music Killing New Music?,” or at least the discussion about it. If you are putting new music out on streamers, this is an important topic for you to understand not just to stay informed about the industry, but to help you make decisions for your personal career. First, let’s define what we’re talking about. Old music is normally called “Catalog,” and this refers to a song or album put out 18 months ago or older. New music, sometimes referred to as “New Release” or “Frontline,” is music released within the last 18 months. You can already see the problem. If I say catalog music is outperforming new music, am I talking about a song from 2 years ago, 10 years ago, or like, The Beatles from 50 years ago, and then some? The thrust of the argument and article is based on data from MRC Data—formerly Nielsen SoundScan—which shows that old music (catalog) represents 70% of the current music market in terms of streaming and consumption. Basically, only 30% of all streams are of new releases less than 18 months old. That looks bad, right? Well, not so fast. Again, when you see “catalog,” your mind may go to OLD PEOPLE music, and not just music that is nearly 2 years old, the data certainly does not break that out. For instance. I am listening to “Trouble’s Coming” from Royal Blood as I write this. This is off the album they are touring right now in 2022. It’s not old. It’s their newest release. But technically, this song came out in September 2020. So, it’s catalog! Also, a quick look at Spotify’s Top 20 most streamed songs will show you that minus 2 songs from Ed Sheeran in 2014, every other song has only been out for 5 years or less. In fact, in the whole list of 100 most streamed songs of all time, the vast majority have been released since 2015, and only one song was released more than 10 or 11 years ago. That song is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from 1975. That’s right, no Beatles, or Floyd, or Zeppelin, or Stones. So, the assumption that younger people are 6 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
just listening to “old” music is kind of misleading. Older music? Yes. But not OLD music. Why? Because we have known those artists and songs for longer, because they’ve been seeded to multiple playlists, because we love those songs, because the production still sounds great. The other point the article makes is equating drastically falling Grammy viewership with less interest in new music. Listen, I’m a Grammy voter, and even I know that’s bullshit. It’s because the show sucks. It’s because it’s become less inclusive, and the process is deemed unfair. I actually think the Grammys have less importance because there is so much independent music on the rise not controlled by major labels or subs. Also, if you’re not “in” the industry, there is no way you sit through Geico ads on CBS on a Sunday night to see a bunch of Country artists, then alt-rock, and then Latin artists, when all you care about is hip-hop, or vice versa. But I digress. Here’s where we get to you, dear artist. What should you do? Well, when was your last release? I bet you are technically catalog now, too! This particular debate aside, regardless of what the actual numbers are, the fact is that people do listen to older music because it’s familiar, and they know it works for the mood they want to get in. The grander fact is that algorithms will serve fans music with higher stream counts that also “sound” like—and are grouped with–other popular music. Put that together with how SEO and search works, and you can see why your brand-new song might get lost in the shuffle of the 60,000 new tracks put out a day -- coupled with all of the older music people are listening to right now. So, does new music matter? Yes. Does older music matter more? Kinda. But any song you put out right now, this week, will eventually become older music - and quicker than you think. Hell, most of my label’s new artist campaigns take six months for the lead single. So, you have to play the game. The biggest part of that game is using techniques to drive new listeners and potential fans of what you do to your profiles to even have a shot at them taking a chance on your new release. Sure, some of those techniques are ads, or paying for playlists, guerilla marketing,
but what if it was organically through you just doing what you love to do? Here’s what you really need to know: doing covers is cool again. Seriously. There is zero downside to your doing covers as a way to get people into your new or older music. It showcases your talent, your style, and your taste. So, get over the mental block and make a plan. There are many musicians/artists using this as their only strategy. Rain Paris is a great example - I’m a fan. Check out her YouTube. She covers newly released pop hits as rock/metal versions in her own style and consistently runs 200k views in the first week. Many of her videos on YouTube and stream counts on Spotify are well into the millions. Millions. How many of your original tracks have millions? You can do this exact thing with video or not, and you absolutely should. Because of compulsory mechanical licenses, you can basically cover any song that has ever been released and put it out as your own version. As long as you don’t add new words or change it drastically, you can do so without any permission. You don’t make anything on the publishing side of the song in terms of royalties, but you do make all of the master side, which is basically where all the money is in streams. So, take advantage of bands that your fans already like and cover them. No need to just cover every new single by the latest mumble rapper. Set out to release one cover a month. Record them in batches. Mix it up, sometimes do a full production, maybe take a metal song and just do piano and vocals, take an emo song and make it an ‘80s version. Get creative but make it in your style so that fans who come across it will naturally want to check out what you’ve written. It’s not that daunting if you break it up. You can do interpretations of your favorites from decades back. You should aim to do mostly hits, but absolutely do some deep cuts too. If you feel comfortable doing the licensing yourself, use Harry Fox Agency/Songfile and do the licensing yourself for about .091 cents a copy if you do a physical release like vinyl, CD, or (hey now!) cassette. If you just do digital streams, put in 100 streams. You will still have to pay a $16 fee to HFA.
MUSIC BUSINESS However, if you use Distrokid, they do all the licensing for you once you enter in the artist and writer’s names and they pay everyone for just $12 per year per song. (here’s my discount code: http://distrokid.com/vip/stjames) Now, your cover will go to every single streamer under your artist profile. If you do 12 covers a year, that’s $120 and you only need about 3,000 streams per song to break even. But the listeners and fans you’ll gain is well worth the money.
subscribers. It also means that your cover will be available to use on TikTok as a sound. You don’t need to do anything to put it on YouTube (in most cases). But I suggest releasing through Distrokid and then uploading to YouTube to make sure Content ID picks it up correctly. No need for some killer shot video (although, that sells you as a personality and artist), you can do an album cover or lyric video, or use a graphic from Unsplash for free. Just get it out there.
When fans search that song of their favorite artist, they just may click your version. Plus, there are tons of playlists dedicated to covers. This will increase your monthly listeners and
Here’s another bonus of this strategy: as a music supervisor, we often have to fulfill cover song requests because some older artists/labels are so expensive to clear on
the master side even though the publishing is cleared. So, this is why you will hear haunting covers used in trailers or TV often - it’s flatout cheaper. Now, you can play in that sync game too just by having another cover version out there. So, is old music killing new music? No. In fact, if done right, it just might save it. ABOUT THE AUTHOR -Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 7
Goodbye Genres, Hello TikTok (and Other Trends to Watch) Viberate’s music industry report examines 2021 and lays out expectations for 2022.
id you know that the top 1% of artists rule the social media and music channels?
That’s just one of the findings in Viberate’s annual “State of Music” address. The music research and analytics platform analysed massive amounts of data (more than a trillion data points, thousands of artists and playlists, millions of tracks and videos, and hundreds of festivals) gathered from key social media and music channels, including Spotify, TikTok, Instagram, Beatport and radio. As mentioned, the data shows that of all the analysed artists, only 1% rule the engagement numbers on social media and music channels. This pushes the artists in the long tail of streaming and social media
into inventing solid promotional strategies if they wish to break through.
Here’s a short rundown of each trend (for the full list, see the link at the end of the article):
Another interesting finding is that Hip Hop and K-Pop artists are smashing it in streaming but are snubbed on the radio. While online engagement numbers crown Hip Hop and K-Pop as two of the most popular genres, radio is all about Pop and Rock. Multilingual (non-English) tracks thrive online but seem to have trouble getting through radio gatekeepers. Trends suggest this may yet change in 2022.
Multilingual music will go more mainstream. South Korean sensation BTS made it onto Viberate’s top 5 list on almost every channel, while YouTube saw a huge rise in the popularity of Asian Pop and Latin genres (especially Reggaeton). Unlike radio or TV, online music channels have little to no gatekeepers, thus pushing non-English music into the mainstream.
According to the data, some of the trends that will define the music business in 2022 are: (1) multilingual music going more mainstream, (2) personalization at the forefront, (3) TikTok acting as a career launchpad, (4) short videos gaining power, and (5) further blending of genres.
“Personalized everything” This will drive artistic success. This means that labels, artists and other professionals will benefit from fan-first approaches to their promotion, merch and distribution. Personalized experiences also go hand-in-hand with securing digital revenue such as tipping, NFTs or paid subscriptions. TikTok will act as a career launchpad. Not only was TikTok the most visited website in 2021, but it also helped artists like Tokischa, Will Paquin and Crawlers break through and boost their streaming numbers. In a way, Spotify “seals the deal” – the artists who transform a TikTok hit into solid streams are the ones with real potential. We can therefore expect more talent discovery and promotional efforts to focus on TikTok and social media. Short videos will rule. Easily digestible formats such as TikTok videos will be the most useful promotional format for artists to stand out and get discovered. As audiences celebrate the DIY approach, content will be more important than production value. Genre lines will blur further. Rising and breakthrough acts such as PinkPantheress prove genre bending and blending is more popular than ever. Artists and their audiences prefer moods to traditional genre labels, with the trend extending to popular streaming playlists for specific occasions (driving, studying, relaxing, etc.). For example, Spotify’s “Songs to Sing in the Shower” playlist has a hefty 6.4M followers. See the “State of Music” address at https:// report.viberate.com for the full list of trends, best-performing artists and music tastes of 2021.
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MUSIC BUSINESS PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 9
Ronnie Baker Brooks Blues Master Traces Family Legacy and Staying Current in a Modern Age Taylor Northern
Editor’s note – what you’re about to read is a truncated version of a much more in-depth interview that our writer Taylor Northern conducted with the great Ronnie Baker Brooks. While space limitations precluded us from re-printing the entire piece in these pages, the full, uncut interview will be available at performermag.com – and will include much more from Ronnie including a first-hand Prince story (and much more). Without further ado, however, let’s get into it… Let’s talk about your beginnings as a guitar player. Your father is the late Lonnie Brooks, a famous Chicago bluesman who started performing in Chicago in 1960. Your younger brother is Wayne Baker Brooks, also a touring guitar player and solo artist. Did your father ever teach you and your brother any guitar licks? Oh yeah man, there was always music and an instrument around the house (laughs). From my early beginnings of walking around the house, I remember seeing guitars or some kind of instrument around the house or record player, 10 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
some kind of radio. Once my father saw that I was interested, he immediately started teaching me and he inspired me and Wayne to write material. Like if you write a song, I’ll give you a dollar. I remember one particular day; I was asking dad for a dollar to go buy some candy and he said write me a song. I went in there and wrote a song and he gave me the dollar. Who were some of your other early influences? Of course, my dad. We would imitate dad with a broom, walking around the house or jumping on the bed like we were in a stadium…trying to be like [him]. He was our main influence and still is to this day. It’s like I look at my dad the way some people look at Elvis Presley or Jay-Z. He’s my superhero and matter of fact I wrote a song entitled “Hero” for him. He would be my first major influence and the one person that started a fire and then Mr. Albert Collins threw gas on it. Albert Collins was really good friends with my dad and Albert was
like an uncle to me. I had the pleasure of going to shows with him and pick his brain, he would instill confidence in me at a very crucial time in my development. To have someone of that stature tell you something positive or give you advice, that was priceless. I would say Albert Collins was a huge influence, also Koko Taylor. These are people I was hanging around cause my father and of course I got to meet Bernard Allison, son of Luther Allison. You mentioned to me before that you knew Willie Dixon and B.B King. Did Willie Dixon ever tell you any memorable stories about Chess Records? Or did B.B tell you any stories? Oh yeah, I’ve heard many stories from both of them. The one that sticks with me from Willie I’ll never forget - I sent you a picture of Willie Dixon, my dad, Robert Cray and myself. It was kind of like generations in order – around that time I had started to sing a little bit and I was very young.
SPOTLIGHT photo by Bengt Nyman PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 11
My dad asked Willie to give me some pointers on singing and Willie said “Well ya know if you wanna be a singer, you gotta learn how to deliver the song.” Then he picked up a piece of paper and start tapping on it and he started singing and said, “You gotta deliver the song and stay in the pocket. Howlin Wolf wasn’t what you call a great singer, but he had a style. He had his own style and he knew how to deliver the song, you’ve got to learn how to deliver the song.”
“My whole thing is I love seeing people happy and if I can make people happy playing music, that’s double the pleasure.”
You do a really good job of engaging the crowd when you perform live. You start clapping your hands and getting the audience involved. Where did you develop your stage presence? Playing with Lonnie Brooks (laughs). I learned from the best and because I was with him every night…So, I learned a lot from playing with
dad and being around him and his friends – we did a lot of shows with Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, B.B King, we did a lot of shows with many of the greats…Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, played with lots of those guys and I saw what worked. I’ll never forget B.B King pulled me to the side in Miami and said, “Man, I watch you watch me every night and I wish we had something like this when I was your age. Learn all you can from us and apply it to your thing. Just know your dad is just as good as I am or better, we just have different styles. “ That resonated with me man, I’d watch them pull out their magic every night, every night they’d pull the rabbit out of the hat. What are your favorite songs to perform? Whatever the people like (laughs). My whole thing is I love seeing people happy and if I can make people happy playing music, that’s double the pleasure. Are there any other hobbies or activities outside of music that help you hone your game onstage? Like doing yoga/meditation or playing sports?
photo credits: above: Suzanne Foschno main: Paul Natkin
I used to play a lot of sports when I was younger, of course my knees aren’t as young as they used to be (laughs). We love playing games, that’s my life now. I used to be out in the streets, playing basketball or some physical activity. Of course, I always try to meditate and [I’m] trying to stay healthy now cause I’m older and I’m trying to change my life a little bit.
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Let’s talk about your blues playing techniques for a minute – you use a good amount of tremolo picking and open string phrasing similar to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Did you get a lot of your technique from listening to him? Who else did you get your technique from? I heard all of the stuff at home and then I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and was like oh yeah! Cause Stevie was much younger than my dad and we were crazy about Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was so crazy about Stevie, my dad had to check me. He said you go and find where Stevie got it from. He was like don’t just copy him, dig deeper. This is just my personal opinion, but I feel Albert King smoked Stevie on a lot of those solos. And I know Stevie was holding back, but on that “I’m Going to Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “Matchbox Blues,” man I got into Albert King from watching that video In Session and I had purchased that DVD to see Stevie Ray Vaughan. Ain’t that something. I was into Stevie so big though because he brought another energy into
the blues that I could relate to -- he was younger, he brought some kind of youth to it where it was current for me. Man, my dad played that tape for me, it was like 2am and I was in a dead sleep and I saw this white guy playing Albert King licks with flash. I said who is this dude?! My dad said that’s my friend Stevie Ray Vaughan and I was absorbed after that moment. The open string stuff I had heard my dad do, cause my dad is from Texas. Stevie invited me and my dad to one of his shows and I told Stevie he was one of my heroes and he told me my father was one of his heroes. My dad was telling me about how Stevie was asking him about his album on Capitol Records “Broke & Hungry,” Stevie was asking him how he got his tone, what kind of strings he was using, this was years before he became famous. So, you can hear that Texas influence from Stevie and that was how I connected the dots from my dad because my dad was playing a lot of that open string stuff like Freddie King and lot of those guys from Texas. I was watching some older footage of you from your European tour in 2010-11. You were using a Stratocaster with what looked like Lace Sensor pickups. Now it looks like you’re using mainly semi-hollowbody guitars, is that correct? I was fortunate to have that guitar made by Gibson for me, it’s one of one. A friend of mine actually had it made for me and it’s hard to put down. When you’re playing the blues, I love playing Strats. What’s your current pedalboard and amp setup? When I’m not using rental gear, I use two Deluxe Reverbs and on my pedalboard I use two Tube Screamers, I got a Vox wah wah, a chorus pedal, I got an OCD pedal when I want some more gas and a Univibe when I play “See You Hurt No More” and that’s it. Let’s talk about your new record. You’ve worked with some amazing producers in the past – Jellybean Johnson (produced Janet Jackson and Alexander O’Neal), Steve Jordan, he’s drummed for John Mayer and the Rolling Stones. Who produced your most recent album? The one that’s not released is me and Todd, Todd from Big Head Todd and the Monsters. I flew up to Denver and he told me don’t bring no guitars, just you. In the middle of a pandemic, I wrapped up every hole in my body, covered up everything and stayed at his house and they’ve got the home studio at Jeremy, the keyboard player’s house. We locked ourselves in there, the three of us socially distanced, and we cut the record, man.
Let me tell you, that was so healing for me. My wife pushed me during that whole time because I was worried about how are going to pay the bills and she was like you know what, you should just play live on Facebook. I started doing the Facebook Live thing and that generated some ideas for songs and old songs that I had that were never released.
Follow on Instagram: @ronnie_baker_brooks
Then she hit me again, I said I should do a record like this and she said you know what talk to Todd and I immediately Facetimed Todd. He was like Ronnie, yes, whatever you want let’s do it! Just get here safely. It was awesome, it was a healing thing for me. I hadn’t been around people other than my family and someone musical like Todd, the ideas just started flowing and I’m very proud of that moment. It hasn’t been released yet, but I’m very proud of it. “Hero” is one of my favorite tracks off the new album. I wrote the song mainly about my dad, but it’s saying we need a hero now. We’re going through all these problems right now and we need a hero to save us. All through my life, prior to my father passing, he was my hero. But with something like the pandemic going on or anything tragic, he was my go-to person and gave me that sense of security. There’s another track called “From the Root to the fruit” which is a little more updated, kind of a hip-hop vibe, but it’s like a bridge between the blues and hip-hop. There’s some songs on there that are kind of like a bridge. I got another on there called “Troubling Times” and a lot of that stuff was inspired during the pandemic [too]. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 13
Rod 14 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
odriguez On Letting Go Over Emotions Through Songwriting & Overcoming Writer’s Block Benjamin Ricci
Jake Dixon and Rob Morgan
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e first met Dan Rodriguez when we selected him to be our recent Elixir Strings artist of the month. We had been keeping tabs on him via his Instagram profile for a few months, and he sincerely impressed us with his authenticity, the honesty that his music conveyed, and most obviously: his sheer talent both as a guitarist and a powerhouse vocalist. So, we decided to learn more about the man behind the beard, and thus it begins… Let’s talk about how you got started – what’s your earliest memory of picking up an instrument or sparking the creative interest? I played music my whole life; I grew up in a very musical household. For the most part, we were homeschooled and part of that was my folks said all the kids had to be in music lessons. So, I started on the violin and my brother was proficient on piano at a very young age. They used words like “prodigy” a lot around the house, you know? [laughs] He is, to this day, the best musician I’ve ever worked with. Do you still play with him? Oh yeah, he’s in my band and we’ve done a million projects together. He runs a music school, as well. I wasn’t nearly as good at piano as my brother. I remember being like, “I’ll never be like that, so why even try?” [laughs] I picked up a pair of drumsticks at age 11, I started taking lessons and playing drums in church. I thought I was going to be a drummer, I wanted to be Travis Barker so bad. I practiced all the time and bought a drum kit for $50, and I was on cloud nine. My folks let me have it in the house, so I played in the basement all the time. Then, my brother got a guitar when I was 15. And every time he left the house, I’d sneak in his room, unclasp the case, play it, polish it up when I was done and put it away – he had no clue! That’s when I knew I wanted to get my own. I was weeding gardens in the neighborhood to buy that [first] guitar. What did you get? It was a Guild Starfire special. [at this point, Dan pulls out the guitar on our Zoom call and proceeds to show it off and play it a bit]. It’s a beautiful guitar and sounds great. So many people were like, ‘get a Strat, get a Tele,’ but I’m always one of those people who kinda likes to go
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I had that punk mentality, well at least a little bit. As much as you can being a suburban, mostlywhite kid… [laughs] As punk as you can, I suppose.
against the grain.
Yeah, totally. ‘I’m gonna be super punk and get a hollowbody!’ I wanted something different – little did I know that single coil pickup was going to be something I dug and that set me apart. So, you play drums, you sneak in to play guitar and then get your own. Do drums fall to the wayside? No, I still play drums. I played drums in bands and things in Minneapolis. There was a band with the most recognition called Four on the Floor, everyone had kick drums and every song was literally four-on-the-floor. When does songwriting enter the picture for you? That really comes in when I’m about 15, when I’m stealing my brother’s guitar. Just to get real deep real fast, we had a little brother that passed away. I was tinkering with the guitar and I wrote my first song processing my emotions while I was dealing with that. What ended up happening was…it left me. Those emotions came out, and I was able to release it into the song and put it out into the world. In figuring out, at that young an age, a way of therapy for myself… that was huge. And discovering that was the beginning of me going, ‘I can take all the things in my heart, put them in a song, and not only that, but I can say it better in a song. It hits heavier and it means more.’ When you’re on stage and there’s 300 people in the room – you’ve got 301 interpretations of that song happening at one time. Every single listener who’s tuned in and engaged, hearing me tell my story. But they’re sitting there in the crowd, connecting their story to it and figuring out how my story connects to theirs. They’re interpreting it differently, and it means something different to each person. So, you could have one song that means something to me, but when I play it for those 300 people, it means hundreds of other things I couldn’t have imagined and there’s something really special about that. That’s when we start tapping into doing something bigger than ourselves. The songs that make you dance and tap your feet, that don’t lyrically mean anything? They have a purpose. Those songs matter so much, too – but that’s a different type of release. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 17
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the hard stuff. I failed music theory. [laughs hard] Even today, I lean on my brother when we’re in recording sessions or rehearsals, like ‘That’s a 13th, right?’
And you never know who’s out there amongst those 300 people. Someone could have just lost a job, broke up with their girlfriend, or lost a loved one that week…
I had to go back and re-learn things I was taught and didn’t absorb. But I had every desire to do music full time and to do whatever it took to make that happen.
Exactly. A great example is I have a song called ‘Until The End,’ which is an open letter to my kids. I sang that song so much, and I’ve had people come up to me after shows to say, ‘I just lost my dad and hearing that song and knowing they’re watching over me means so much.’ But I wrote that song from the perspective of the parent. You know? And they’re processing it and hearing it from the perspective of the child [that’s being sung to].
So, I did music in church as a worship leader. Which sounds like a nightmare to me right now… but for me, I look at it and go, ‘That’s not my dream.’ But I did do it to have income. So, I did the barista and church music thing for a while [to make ends meet].
“For me, I don’t believe writer’s block exists. I believe laziness exists.” It’s really interesting how that happens, and it means so much to know people take the time to put their own meaning on a thing you wrote and put your heart into. You never know how people will attribute meaning to what you’ve written. That’s just how art works. You had mentioned earlier you actually went to school for music, but it didn’t really pan out for you. Do you think if you had gone to a bigger program, like Berklee, things would have turned out differently? If I were going to school today, I’d put the time in and value it. I was so insecure and arrogant back then, but in the end, I was unwilling to put in the work. I was young and dumb and not putting the work in. I was willing to put in the work when I got the reward right away, and for things I was excited about. But I wasn’t willing to put in the [effort] for
But the ‘heart songs’ that really connect with people. Those are the ones where I feel like I’m living in my purpose. I see how I’m connecting with other people.
And I got a job working at a non-profit where we’d go into schools and talk to kids about how to treat each other better. And they needed musicians, so I’d write songs and it would be me and a microphone in front of a few hundred kids and we wrangled this whole crowd for hours. That program was amazing, and one thing I learned was how to get comfortable in front of, and wrangle people. So, you were working on your future stage presence without even knowing it? I got so comfortable on a microphone. If you can get kids eating out of the palm of your hand… for 10 years I was in front of a m microphone with these kids. And I learned adults are just boring kids. And so, that side of my show is, I think, something that stemmed from 10 years learning how to be comfortable in front of people. And even when I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was losing [the kids], learning how to [push] ahead was invaluable. I learned so much from those people [at the non-profit] that I carry with me to this day.
Follow on Instagram: @danrodriguezmusic
Let’s talk about your writing process, what’s your creative headspace look like? I used to say that if I wasn’t writing songs, I had writer’s block. And all these other excuses. And that may really happen to folks. But to me personally, that’s all BS. And that’s just for me. I don’t think writer’s block exists. I think laziness exists for me. So, if I go, ‘I’ve got writer’s block,’ it’s usually because it didn’t come easy. Or I didn’t put in the work. Songwriting is like a muscle, and just like any muscle in your body, the more you work it out the stronger it’s gonna get. The more you try to push it without stretching and [build] a slow progression of growth, you’re gonna hurt yourself or give up. For me, realizing that was the biggest challenge. You’ve just got to put the work in. But it’s work you enjoy.
DAN RODRIGUEZ SINGLE: “THE LESS I KNOW”
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On Making the Jump From Flaming Lips Roadies to National Headliners Erika Mugglin
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used to having to wear many different hats. Raised in the musically rich city of Memphis, it’s there that he met fellow music enthusiasts Matt Strong and Eric Martin when the three of them were still a bunch of moon-eyed and ambitious high schoolers.
as the payoff involves capturing the listener’s undivided attention. An obsessive multi-tasker, through the course of his career, he’s become
they separately joined and founded several Memphis-area bands cutting their teeth at local venues. Over time, their musical paths eventually
ake Ingalls is the Millennial textbook definition of a working musician: pragmatic and business-minded yet driven by a sense of romantic optimism. Naturally voluble and easy-going, Ingalls is the kind of person who’s unafraid of making himself the butt of a joke, so long
Influenced by the alternative, EMO, and punk movements of the early-to-mid aughts,
“We just wanted to make a record that you can unabashedly put on at a bar and play from beginning to end.” 22 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
crossed again. After landing a gig touring as a roadie and backup guitarist for veteran altrockers The Flaming Lips, Ingalls joined forces with Strong and Martin in what, at the time, was supposed to be a temporary side project. Fastforward a decade, two EPs, one full-length album, appearances at major music festivals like SXSW and Desert Daze, and a few personnel changes later, and the trio’s brainchild, Spaceface, seems far from calling it quits. Following the departure of founding member Matt Strong and the addition of Katie Pierce, the group, which consists of Ingalls, Martin, and Daniel Quinlan, is set to release their second record, Anemoia, via Montreal-based record label Mothland. A fun and quirky homage to both ’70s funk and the neo-psychedelic movement, Anemoia aptly fuses luscious and painterly soundscapes teeming with an abundance of fuzz, phasers, and reverb with sultry and danceable grooves inspired by the likes of such soul pioneers as The Dramatics. On a cold and sunny January afternoon, I caught up with Ingalls to discuss Spaceface’s
How did Spaceface come about as a project? Matt (Strong) and I started playing guitar together back around the time that School of Rock came out. And I believe that’s when Eric started playing guitar too. Matt and I knew each other from school, and I knew Eric from playing hockey. After high school, we all sort of lost touch, and then at the University of Memphis, I ran into Eric and after hanging out for a while, we started jamming again. It was really amazing because not only was he really good, but he could also sing really well. He’s got a beautiful voice. So, we just started jamming. In the interim, I started roading for the (Flaming) Lips, and after doing that for a while, Wayne (Coyne, of the Lips) comes up to me and suggests hiring “one of those dorks from Spaceface” to play guitar in the band, which is when he got Eric in there for a bit.
constantly shifting identity, their new record, and his views on what the future holds for the group.
You guys recorded your self-titled debut EP at Ardent Studios in Memphis back in 2014. Do you remember what that process was like? We like to jam. We’ve never been the type of band to say “hey, let’s get together and play and write stuff.” That’s a nightmare to me. We’ve always sort of approached each other with chords and such and just jammed on that until we feel like we reach that point where we’re like “wait, stop right there, that’s a part,” and then we try to get whatever the next part would be going. In some ways, that EP seems to carry parts of the band’s musical DNA in it. But in other ways, it sounds rawer and more akin to indie and lo-fi than the psych and funk of your later albums. Why do you think that is? I’d say it was rawer because at the time we wanted to be psych-punk. There’s a big punk scene in Memphis and I think that’s just where we just saw ourselves fitting in. We wanted to be fast and raucous. And at the time I was also trying to play guitar in more of a percussive style and was influenced heavily by bands like Bloc Party. We also insisted that we record live, so when you have guitars just blasting in the room and into the drum mic you just can’t mix or edit around that, and you get a bigger rawer sound. Which bands would you cite as an influence, both then and now? Personally, I’ve always loved Bloc Party. I love how their guitars just play off each other. At that time, Eric was also really getting into Deerhunter and that was really big for us. Because Deerhunter is the first band that I’ve ever heard where they’re PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 23
“We also insisted that we record live, so when you have guitars just blasting in the room and into the drum mic you just can’t mix or edit around that, and you get a bigger rawer sound.” experimental and crazy but also just a garage band. There is a three-year period between your EP and your first LP, Sun Kids. How did you spend that time? Did you concentrate on songwriting and working on your sound, or did you opt to hit the road and start touring? We definitely did tons of touring between those two records. At that time, I was also on the road with the Lips, so I didn’t have much time to record stuff. On the one hand, I feel fortunate that we got to build a solid fan base across the U.S. because we toured so much. But on the other,
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sometimes I wish that we’d just kept recording, especially because we were already playing most of the songs from Sun Kids. At a certain point, you kinda think “maybe we should record these so people know all these songs.” By the time we get to Sun Kids, the sound seems to be more polished and refined. I feel like this is where you guys dive headfirst into a spacier, more psychedelic, and folkier phase. What prompted that stylistic change? I think it was unsustainable to keep playing the kind of fast-and-heavy stuff we had on the first EP. We wanted to make Sun Kids feel
fuller and more complete. We wanted some songs that you could groove and dance to and others that you could just vibe to. We wanted to slow down and also showcase what it’s like when we’re home sitting on the porch and just playing acoustically. We tried to emulate what it felt like to be with us, at home, in Memphis. I also think that there’s a more relaxed and natural side to the psychedelic experience that happens when you’re outside that’s full of cinematic moments. Whenever we would talk about the record we’d say, “this is the part where you get in the car and turn on the stereo and start the day.” So, in a way, our approach was also more cinematic.
Where and when was this album recorded? We actually started the record pre-Covid, it was actually pretty much done in 2019. The reason “Panoramic View” came out so early was because we had an opening slot with White Denim and had learned over the years that we should probably be promoting something when playing live. So, we put that out thinking that we could get the record out in 2020 but then the pandemic happened, and we ended up just sitting with it. Parts of it were recorded in Memphis with Calvin Lauber who’s done stuff with Juliene Baker. But most of it really was truly recorded from scratch at Blackwatch Studios in Norman, Oklahoma. I think that there are a couple of things we recorded with my friend Taylor Johnson in Oklahoma City, and maybe a thing or two recorded out here in L.A. But the bulk of it really was done in Norman. You guys seemingly have a knack for making pretty eye-catching music videos. “Long Time,” “Happens All The Time,” and “Rain Passing Through” all feature vivid colors and lean heavily into psychedelic themes and absurdist narratives. How do the ideas for these usually come about?
On your newest album, Anemoia, the musical shift seems to be towards funkier pastures while retaining some of the early psychedelic vibes. How did you decide to fuse both of those styles? We just wanted to make a record that you can unabashedly put on at a bar and play from beginning to end. This was also made at a time when we lost members of the band and I’d just moved out to L.A. and decided to book studio time just to keep the ball rolling. My producer Jarod came up and told me to write down a list of stuff that I liked or was into at that moment. So, I put together a bunch of old funk like The
For “Long Time,” I bought the LED mask on Etsy, and I knew that I wanted a robot character in it. Our current bass player does a lot of VHS stuff, so we had her shoot me playing a bunch of different characters with the robot mask in front of a green screen. That eventually evolved into getting two of our friends to come dance for it. Usually, I just come up with a couple of things and reach out to anyone I know that might be the best person to work on it with. For “Rain Passing Through,” my friend Connor had shot the stuff in the shower and then suggested I look up royaltyfree stock-footage sites for images that might match the color palette. I did, and then sent that over to my friend Mack Hanson who’s an expert editor, and he just turned it into a story. So yeah, I usually just like to work with people that I know and that I like, and that I feel comfortable collaborating with. I just set the template and then just give them free rein and it works. Once the new record comes out, are you guys hitting the road? What does this year look like? Because we’re older and most of us have jobs and whatnot, we’re doing what I’m referring to as Little Battles rather than waging a Full War. We have a tour with Reptaliens, we’re co-headlining with them. That starts [this month] in San Diego
going up the West Coast. We’re actually going to be playing The Echo (in L.A.), which I’m really stoked about because I grew up watching videos of awesome bands that I love playing that venue so I’m really excited. So, we have a West Coast run followed by a month off. Then we have a run going out East around March and April to play Norman Music Festival on the way to Nashville, Atlanta, and New York all the way up to Montreal. And finally, around July and August, we’ll do a Midwest run through Chicago and down to Texas later in the year. So, it’s a bunch of touring but broken up into smaller tours a few weeks at a time. And I’m sure we’ll also end up doing a New Year’s show.
Dramatics and South African funk and such. And I remember Jarod asking me why the music I made didn’t really sound like the music I liked.
Any artists that you would like to collaborate with in the future? I’d love to work with Teebs. I’ve actually reached out to his people about working together, I just love his cerebral stuff. Melody’s Echo Chamber, I’ve actually talked to her a little bit on the internet, but it hasn’t quite panned out yet. And then I was talking to someone in Superorganism and traded tracks with them. I have to hit them up because I would love to do something with them. And then, I was supposed to have Eric Slick play on some tracks. It didn’t happen but still would love that. And yeah, probably James or any of the guys from White Denim.
Follow on Instagram: @spacefacemusic
SPACEFACE ANEMOIA STANDOUT TRACK: “CLASSIC STYLE”
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From Granada to Nashville: Journeyman Artist Makes Waves in the States Michael St. James KT Wolf
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iscovering a new artist is nothing short of magical. Hearing a new voice with something to say with a style that is fresh, yet reminiscent of the great classic music that we all share, is even better. Let me turn you on to JEVERSON.
Hailing from Grenada and now making his home in Nashville, JEVERSON is set to take over 2022 with a soulful, funky sound sprinkled with feel-good Caribbean vibes. Building off of the success of two of his singles from 2021, “Move” and “Stupid Mad Love”— cowritten and produced by Exit Daze (Nick Lotto), JEVERSON is readying a new EP to drop this Spring. Those two tracks alone have both been racking up tens of thousands of streams and views, and rightfully so. You wanna feel what it’s like to fall in love? That funny butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling? Just put on “Stupid Mad Love.” It feels fresh, but as timeless as any upbeat tune blasting out the window from the ’60s with horns and a driving piano line. Are you a fan of Bruno and Anderson .Paak, that Silk Sonic smooth stuff ? Well, then stop what you’re doing and crank up “Move.” Seriously, I am obsessed with this track. It’s so damn good, they should invite JEVERSON to open in Vegas. Also, as a sync agent: Psst! Hey Apple, here’s your new AirPods placement. His most recent single, “Somethin’ in the Water,” is smooth as hell. It’s got an island vibe, easy going and chill. It fits in on any sunny beach Summer playlist, but it would also feel right blaring out of the firepit of a classy lounge with a stiff drink at midnight. I got a sneak listen to the EP and it does not disappoint. Soulful, funky, shades of Motown, but it’s got some Caribbean flair all over it too. “Count on Me” is another standout track that can
sit right alongside any Silk Sonic cut. Also, “Let Me Know” will get the dancefloor going with that classic Stax/Motown vibe.
JEVERSON’s music is going to get him far, no doubt. But after chatting with him, it’s clear he’s got “it.” He’s kind, humble, self-assured, cool,
On the move to Nashville: “I like it, it’s buzzing with inspiration. Music is everywhere.” PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 29
“I will never forget how someone believing in me made me feel.”
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Performer Mag: First, how are you feeling, and getting through this damn Covid thing? JEVERSON: Trying to stay positive and strong. I’m one of those who was able to duck Covid for 2 years, man, and then as soon as I got to the States, I got it. But it has not been bad. I’m feeling great and excited for the year. PM: You’re down in Nashville, how are you finding the town? J: I like it, it’s buzzing with inspiration. Music is everywhere. Not enjoying the cold right now (laughs). That’s an adjustment. PM: Why Nashville, and not New York or LA? J: I moved here because I met some people who were visiting Grenada and I was literally performing on a beach back home called Grand Anse Beach. Some of those people have really influenced my life in a big way. Working with Exit Daze (Nick Lotto) from New York, he gave me the chance to hang out and to teach me a little about the business and to write some songs together, like “Somethin’ in the Water” and more. PM: How long have you been living in America? How are you finding it compared to Grenada? J: I came for a week, then moved to Nashville, and have been here for six months. I’ve been back and forth to New York and my sister lives in Tampa, so I’ve had some experience, but Nashville is totally different. You know, like most people, finding the food I love has been very [difficult]. But I found this local spot which serves Caribbean food. Shout out to Island Vibes. Oh bro, it is so good. Game changer. PM: You’ve developed a cool style, but it’s varied right? Some neo-soul, some killer Motown stuff, some very unique sounds that feel familiar. Are you working with one producer or multiple ones per song? J: I am very fortunate to be working with many producers on different stuff. I started writing in Grenada and then met [Nick Lotti] from New York. I’ve met with producers and cowriters out here [in Nashville], like Johnny Black and Mike Shimshack. We’re all just trying to find that sweet spot. It’s cool, we’re taking all of the influences and music I grew up with and putting into a little ball inside this 5’6” man to mix with a good vibe. PM: What’s your songwriting process; are you an instrumentalist or do you write to grooves or beats, voice notes?
J: I’ve realized that songs will be what they want to be, sometimes as lyrics or just melodies to develop and work on the rest. For the most part, I hum a lot of stuff in Voice Notes, take those into sessions and then develop them. Then we just vibe out and see what we can create. It’s a balance of both, but it’s usually the music or melody first.
coming this year that CAA is putting together. So, I’m just dying to get it to as many people as I can, and we’ll see what happens.
I’m spending a lot of time diggin on lyrics. I’ll say or hear something cool, and it has to be strong enough, then I’ll make a note and then go grind on the lyrics.
J: Oh, definitely playing MSG, totally. Coachella, absolutely. I’d love to go perform in the UK too. You know, as a kid in Grenada I dreamed of this kind of thing. There’s only 112,000 people on the island. Lots of people doubted me, I even stopped singing at one point. I was still young and green. But I kept at it, singing at home and believing. When I was 13, someone heard me singing and I got invited into the school choir, which then led to some lessons, and that led to me performing on stage with my band. I will never forget how someone believing in me made me feel. Everything I prayed for two years ago to the source, or the universe, or God or whatever, is coming true. I’m so grateful. Somebody said, “When you sing, you pray twice.” I like to think that’s what I’m doing.
PM: How are you finding navigating the music business side of things? I heard you used Berklee Online to learn some of the business? J: Yes. During the whole Covid thing in 2020, Grenada was in hardcore lockdown. Like you’d only go out one day for your food. So, I spent some time learning everything I could about the business from Berklee. It was great. It’s so fun and interesting to me. I’ve got a long way to go. PM: Do you have a band together? J: Yeah, I did a show with a band in New York last year and I’ve done a couple here in Nashville. We have the City Winery coming up. I’m opening up for Yola in Atlanta and I’m excited about that. I played in a band back home for 6 or 7 years and we were hot. We were known for being versatile: Jazz, Soca, Reggae, Pop, a little of everything within that 2-hour set, but it was a lot of covers. So, it’s a challenge finding people that work with this new musical journey of performing my music, focused on my stuff and performing what I want to say as an artist.
PM: Let’s do some manifesting. What are some of the dream goals you have, like playing Wembley or MSG, certain festivals?
and ready to put in the work. Jump on now.
Follow on Instagram: @jeversonofficial
PM: Something I ask a lot of artists who are up-and-coming is how are you finding the challenge of having to do social media stuff vs. just grinding on music all day? Is it fun, is it work? J: It’s both; it’s fun and challenging. Like, I go in at 8 in the morning until night. But this [doing interviews and posting] is also part of it. You have to let people see you and what you are about. I’m always about making new friends and trying to be entertaining. Luckily, I have found some people to help with that, my “team” who have made my life easier. It’s just finding that balance, understanding what’s needed, but pushing myself to do the work on the music. PM: What’s the plan for this year’s release; are you going for labels, radio, staying independent? J: We’ll see how it shakes out with the EP dropping. We are going to do some radio stuff. Michael St. James The music is cool and tight, and the new stuff I’m working on is even better. Lots of cool gigs are
JEVERSON SINGLE: “SOMETHIN’ IN THE WATER” courtesy of the artist
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Singular Sound at Summer NAMM
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With Moises Linares (Media Manager) Of Singular Sound
How Long Have You Been in Business? Ten years. What launched Singular Sound? Singular Sound is a Miami-based music company specializing in next-generation equipment for guitarists, bassists and more. Their flagship product, the BeatBuddy, arrived in 2014, after attaining recordsetting support from Indiegogo investors. The BeatBuddy offers professionally recorded drum loops for live performance and studio settings, with premier usability and customization. The company has carried that momentum and passion into a full line of products. It now offers the Aeros Loop Studio: a looper pedal with DAW capabilities, the MIDI Maestro: a MIDI foot controller with built-in presets and streamlined functionality, and the Cabli: a device for easily wrapping and organizing any audio cable. Singular Sound works with performers and artists across the globe to develop updates for their products and grow the global community of musicians creating with BeatBuddy, Aeros and more.
[Editor’s note – here’s a short excerpt from our recent Aeros review:
today’s artists, the ease of use, and the way it fits the modern workflow. Highly recommended.”]
“For experienced loop fanatics, this is a big leap into a user-friendly system with the large display and overall features and looping range. For novices or intermediate users who like the idea of looping but have a hard time figuring out where they are, this could be your gateway to a better experience (and more creative sessions).
Which are your most popular products? The Aeros Loop Studio & BeatBuddy
A great application would be to load in individual tracks and parts from an actual DAW session and use the Aeros as a playback device. For EDM users this could easily be THE playback game changer, for solo artists, importing their own backing tracks from their latest EP could mean touring without a full band, or rhythm section but maintaining a true-to-form performance, and the ability to swap parts around on the fly for unique arrangements or extending parts for solos and the like really opens things up beyond a canned backing track. It’s a serious piece of kit, for the serious looper, but it’s not something to have to rearrange your life to figure out how to incorporate into a live setting. We love the creativity it affords
What sets you apart from companies in the field? Portability and audio quality.
What is an especially innovative piece of the Singular Sound story? Creating innovative audio gear using MIDI files to record and perform music. What’s the one thing you want musicians to think of when Singular Sound comes to mind? Easy to use and intuitive interfaces. What’s the average price per product? Between $349-$699 Where can people learn more? You can visit our website at www. SingularSound.com and follow us on Instagram at @singularsound PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 33
What Order S Guitar Pedal
ith the recent re-launch of the Maestro brand from Gibson, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the entire lineup of pedals, evaluate each one, and review them. So, we’re doing that…just not in this issue. But it got us thinking – Maestro’s got a new fuzz, drive, distortion, chorus and delay coming out, so which order should we put them in on our pedalboard? Does it matter? Should we throw caution to the wind, be true renegades and put modulation stompboxes *gasp* in front
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of the amp and not the dedicated fx loop on the rear? These questions and more will be answered… now. What’s an FX Loop, Anyway? Good question, and the first we plan on answering! If you have a decent amp, you may have noticed some jacks on the back collecting dust. Those, dear readers, are likely your fx loops, looking sad and unused. That’s because most of us neanderthal guitar plays just slap everything in front of the amp in whatever random order
chaos theory has dictated, crank everything to 10, and then go on internet forums seven to ten minutes later to complain that we’re not getting the “tonez.” So, the FX loop was meant to take time-based effects, like the killer new Discoverer Delay and Comet Chorus from Maestro (we’re obsessed with this chorus, btw) and put them where they belong. Out of sight! No, that’s not true. Out from in front of the amp, away from those nasty, nasty drives, distortions, fuzzes and otherwise messysounding units that gunk up your modulation effects. And who wants that?
Should My als Go In? Benjamin Ricci
Well, we do…sometimes. You see, kids, rules are meant to be broken. And in the world of rock and roll, both ways of doing things – the “right way” or otherwise – are perfectly valid. Try it yourself; we will say we oftentimes *prefer* putting modulation pedals in front of the amp because sometimes FX loops do funny things with volume dips, and sometimes the way a gnarly distortion box affects a wobbly chorus effect is KILLER. And sometimes not, in which case you put that pesky chorus or reverb right back where it belongs! Loop! Loop! Loop!
That said, do show your underappreciated fx loop some love, and give it a go. If you like a touch of delay or reverb, throw ‘em in the loop and you might just clean up the “tonez” that those forum-dwellers couldn’t help you with. BACK to the FRONT! OK, so we’ve touched upon the oft-neglected and unloved loop situation. Now, the good stuff. The front of the amp is where your drive, fuzzes, and distortion pedals should live. They just sound better that way, trust us. Go ahead…waste 5
minutes putting them in the fx loop just to prove us wrong…we’ll wait. You’re back? It wasn’t what you hoped for, was it? Ahem, as we were saying, the front of the amp is where the majority of your stompboxes will plug into. Hitting a drive pedal hard going into the front of a classic amp is just pure bliss, so why mess with success? Oh yeah, we said something earlier about breaking rules and whatnot. Well, sometimes rules are there for a reason! Moving on… PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 35
What’s That Order, Again? So, let’s look at the order that usually works the best when it comes to your pedalboard, going straight into the front of the amp. We recommend something like this, but your mileage may vary (hey, it’s a free article, what do you expect?) Volume, Expression and Dynamics Typically, taming volume and dynamics just sounds best front and center, ESPECIALLY compressors. When you’re adding compression to a guitar signal, you’re balancing out the highs and lows in the volume range, which can even out the signal. You hear this a lot in country music, sure, but it’s super useful even in indie rock (some of you really should take more advantage of compressors, trust us). This type of effect should be applied near the beginning of the signal, and while you’re at it, we recommend throwing your volume or expression pedals here, as well. Volume pedals, we feel, work best here because you can utilize it as a way to clean up or roll off a harsh signal before it hits your other fx and gets too muddy or blown-out. It’s just one way of doing it, of course, you could always experiment with it at the end, which some companies recommend so that you can control the entire signal, affected or not, before smashing into your time-based effects (hey, remember those!) Turn The Gain Down a Tad, Skid Row That’s an old joke from a comedy bit we barely remember, but it leads us nicely (or not, if you’re gonna be critical about our segues) into the next batch-o’-fx that should get wired into your pedalboard. We’re talking the Metal Zone, and ONLY the Metal Zone! Mwuah haha! No, seriously, your drives and distortions should probably go here. Anything but the Metal Zone – something, perhaps, like the brandspanking new re-imagining of the classic Maestro Fuzz, the FZ-M? If you haven’t been living under a rock like us, you’ll no doubt recognize the legendary, original Maestro Fuzz pedal from such classics as “Satisfaction” and about a million other tracks that brought fuzz to the mainstream. So, if you, like us, want to get your fuzz on, pop it in the chain here. Or, for more saturated lead sounds without the wooliness, try slotting in an overdrive like the Maestro Ranger, or even take an extended holiday to Saturation Village with the Maestro Invader Distortion pedal. Levity aside, we have been playing with these new Maestro stompboxes for a few weeks, and they’ve all been awesome additions to our pedalboard arsenal. We also dig the fact that they’re not coming in at boutique prices, either.
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Anyway, back to the matter at hand. You’ve got your foot rocking the volume pedal, your other foot smashing the drive on full blast, and your third foot ready to engage the… the what? Time Has Come Today…
Have you seen what Klons and Klon Klones are fetching on Reverb these days?
Yes, your old friends the Time Bandits! You remember, the collection of time-based effects we previously tossed into the void that is the fx loop: chorus, delay, phasers, oh my! Gain it up first, then time-squelch it later, I always say. And that formula seems to work well. Keeps things clean -- it’s easy to remember, and you’ll hardly every go wrong. If you have a wah, and you’re not named Saul or Kirk, this might be the best way to wrap-up your pedalboard’s layout. For some reason that smarter people than us can explain, wahs work at their best while sweeping through frequencies (basically acting like a big filter knob on an analog synth) AFTER all your other pedals are doing their business. This is especially true if you’re throwing gain in front of the wah, which is how we like it, and you likely will, too. There are many more types of effects out there, some incredibly esoteric and expensive, that we won’t be covering here. But these are the main players, the heavy hitters, the stalwarts of the fx ecosystem that you’ll generally be encountering on your tone journey. With a little forethought, some Velcro and a power supply, you too can whip just about any unwieldly pedalboard into ship-shape in no time. And with that, we must bid you adieu. Until next time, friends, keep smiling, keep stomping, knowing you can always count on us…to not take these things *too* seriously. Guitar pedals should be fun, so for crying out loud, have fun with it. And send us what you come up with, we want to feature independent artists like YOU in each and every issue. Who knows, one day your weirdo pedalboard and it’s super-odd ordering of stomboxes could grace these pages and prove us, and the industry, wronger than wrong! Before you go, though, do check out the new lineup of Maestro pedals and learn a little about their history, while you’re at it, all at https:// www.maestroelectronics.com And stay tuned for the next issue, where we (much more seriously) review each of the new excellent Maestro pedals. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 37
How AI Will Change The Way You Write, Record and Sample Benjamin Ricci We’ve seen numerous AI implementations come and go over the years, all promising amazing results, and ultimately yielding what can only be described as mild disappointments to moderate successes at best. Which is why when we first learned of the newly unveiled vocal remover and instrumental tracks remover, LALAL.AI, we approached with caution. What we’ve seen, though, in terms of results, have made us change our tune when it comes to how we as songwriters and recording artists can interact in meaningful ways with AI. WHO IS IT FOR? So, let’s start with the basics. Why would you want to remove instrumental tracks or vocals in the first place? There are a few key examples that make sense in the world of music. Learning song parts – by extracting 38 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
instrumental parts from a mix, you can really hear an acoustic guitar, for example, in isolation, which makes picking out chords, arpeggios and solo lines much easier than having to deal with it buried in a mix, competing with vocals, pianos, etc. Sampling – here’s a biggie. Let’s say you’ve come across a killer groove, vocal or horn part, but there’s just a few other things keeping the snippet that’s caught your attention from being perfectly clean and usable. With LALAL.AI’s artificial intelligence technology, you can extract just the parts you want to use on your track. Maybe it’s a quick vocal hit, a percussive snap or a synth groove. Practicing with backing tracks – how many of us learned to solo on guitar with cheesy prerecorded backing tapes? We’re talking preYouTube here, so us dinosaurs will remember the hideous cassettes that we begrudgingly used in order to improve our chops. Let’s say you’re auditioning for a new band, you can take one of their tracks, strip out vocals and other parts, and practice your solo over the rhythm section to
impress them at the audition. Or you can practice your vocals over the vocal-less instrumentals if you’re aiming to be their next lead singer. These are just a few practical examples where you’d want to remove vocals from an audio file or hear an instrumental part more clearly. We’re sure you can think of other examples that connect with your own unique situation. HOW DOES IT WORK? Luckily, our experience with LALAL.AI was pretty easy. Once you sign up, you just drag and drop any audio filetype you can think of onto the webpage, and it’ll do its magic behind-the-scenes. Processing is surprisingly quick, and then you’re taken to a new page with all your stems in a matter of moments. From there, you can preview any of the extracted audio and start playing the isolated parts however you see fit. The online player is intuitive (if you’ve ever played tacks on
TECH APPS SoundCloud or similar services, you’ll be right at home), and shows you track progress through a simple-to-understand visual indicator. Of course, once it splits the track, you can download any or all stems to play around with offline, which is where some of the above scenarios will come into play – sampling, learning parts, rehearsing and practicing your own leads, etc. Once the AI’s work is done, it’s up to you to use the newly created stems however you see fit. YEAH, BUT DOES IT WORK? Like we said at the top of the article, we’ve seen promises of AI platforms come and go over the years, but we think LALAL.AI is truly on to something here. One of the main selling points is that there’s no great quality loss in the separation, and for the most part that’s actually true (shock!). We
processed acoustic singer/songwriter tracks as well as some more heavily arranged funk tracks and overall, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the ability for the AI to extract parts and separate audio with genuine clarity. One example was a recent track from Kevin Daniel that we actually worked on as part of a bigger project with Elixir Strings. He recorded a track for us (and did some behind the scenes videos in his studio) that featured solo acoustic guitar and vocals. The track, called “Weep and Cry,” is dynamic and features hearty strumming and heartfelt vocals. Processing using LALAL.AI, we were able to remove a calean, clear vocal track and a clean, clear acoustic guitar track, perfectly separate from each other -- which was quite amazing. I know other platforms have hit the market claiming to do something similar, but usually (at least from our experiences), they tended to be full of digital artifacts, audio ghosting
and other anomalies that audibly reminded you of the other parts of the songs (doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?). Either the AI wasn’t developed enough, or the tech has simply gotten better, but these ‘leaks’ are much less evident here. Kudos to the LALAL.AI engineering team. Quality loss, at least in our experience, wasn’t an issue. FINAL THOUGHTS With some initial skepticism out of the way, we thoroughly enjoyed testing out the LALAL.AI platform, and can see how this would be a useful tool across genres, for a multitude of reasons and use cases. LALAL.AI has informed us they are now offering a free pack for splitting 3 songs, for everyone to try and test before buying. So, if you head on over to https://www.lalal.ai you’ll see all the currently available options, and be able to demo it for yourself. Let us know what you think in the comments below. PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 39
ELECTRO-HARMONIX Ripped Speaker Fuzz Pedal
f there’s a golden age of Fuzz, this might be it; every version and variant is available to the player, and Electro-Harmonix has more fuzz flavors than you can shake a stick at -- from classic to modern, with their new Ripped Speaker Fuzz putting an interesting twist on things. It’s the usual standard size, single button enclosure, with Volume, Tone, Fuzz and Rip. The Volume and Fuzz do what you’d expect on a pedal of this sort, but the Tone control has a trick up its sleeve. Instead of the standard “rolling off highs” function, it’s an active circuit; at the center position the EQ response is flat -- go counterclockwise, and the lows become more present. Crank it clockwise, and the highs really cut through. The Rip control adjusts the amount of clipping at the top or bottom for the fuzz waveform. At the center position, it’s pretty neutral, counterclockwise it really chokes and gates the low frequencies, and for making the highs crackle, fade and fart out, the clockwise position really adds in some interesting textures. The footswitch is true bypass to prevent any tone suck and any placement issues or need for buffers in a normal pedalboard setup. Starting with all the controls at noon, the fuzz is quite present even at this point, with just one chord, it really goes right up the middle, in a great way. Tweaking from here on in really offers up a lot of variety. The Tone control makes a
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huge difference, with usable low-end response for great fat rhythm and sweet lead parts at the 9 O’clock position. Pushing the control to 3 O’clock, things really start to sizzle. Players using a LP with dual volume and tone controls can really make this position sing on a wide open neck pickup, while maintaining thickness on a treble pickup with the tone rolled down a bit.
some unique options that really aren’t available on other pedals. The small size is pedalboard friendly, and this is one for the fuzz aficionado who’s not looking to break the bank on a boutique one-trick-pony. Chris Devine
The fuzz control range is really quite nice; it does compress a bit as it’s increased, but not so streamlined that it’ll get lost in the bass guitar or kick drum. The extreme comes from the Rip control, which really warps and mangles the signal from a traditional fuzz. Going clockwise it starts to choke and gate the signal in a similar way a dying battery has on a fuzz. Feeling 8-bit, lo-fi? This is the way. The low-end really gets squashed in a similar way when going from noon to counter clockwise. It sounds more like a signal being degraded, but still pokes through. It’s quite interactive with the Fuzz control, and running a bass guitar through this really makes things gritty and gnarly, blurring the line between an analog synth and a fuzz bass. With the active EQ, and the Rip set to noon, it’s a really versatile fuzz that behaves nicely while still delivering what you’d expect from fuzz, when you want it. For players who want to push the limits, the Rip control really offers up
Active EQ, plenty of great fuzz, Rip control is unique. CONS
None. STREET PRICE
hat really made DAWs break out is the ability to have pretty much any effect available in software form. Having the equivalent hardware options on reverb effects would be impractical for most home studios, however NUGEN’s Paragon ST Reverb provides a palette of great options in the box. This isn’t your typical reverb plugin; it’s a convolution version, meaning the input signal gets processed through a virtual space. But the trick here is the virtual space is captured by an Impulse Response (or IR). The interaction of the IR to the reverb and the signal makes for some unique but very natural results. After installing our version via iLok and cracking open a session in Studio One and applying it, the “A Big Room” preset was engaged, and it was certainly prevalent. The interface is pretty easy to navigate and was simple to tame down this very vast sounding preset. In actuality, this expansive version was a perfect primer to work through the parameters, to see not only how they interacted with the signal, but also with each other. Usually, finding a preset and tweaking it saves time, but still feels like hunting in the dark for the
desired result. With presets that are “tagged” for certain applications, finding the right version went very quickly. There is also plenty of adaptability, with the option to alter the IR’s frequency, amplitude, and decay. Samples of test sounds are also available, from musical applications to sound effects used in overdubbing in audio production, like foley/sound effect work. With so much tweak-ability, the potential for option paralysis is always a concern. The good thing is the presets are very easy to apply, and in many cases we found the desired ones within one or two versions, and were able to adjust them for vocals, guitars as well as drums. The big thing is always finding the “subtle” versions of reverb that adds space, without washing things out and losing the punch of the original sound. Thankfully the Paragon ST has those issues really worked out well. Users looking to be able to access reverb-laden heaven-like spaces, such as churches and tunnels, have no fear, the deep ambient textures still sound natural overall without feeling like a digital effect has been slapped on. For sound designers in video production needing to be able to take a voice over or ADR performance and make it sound like it was captured on set or a
soundstage, there are plenty of options such as car interiors for ease of editing in an overdub session. Overall, it’s a packed plugin that makes sense in a musical sense for the usual recording settings in a studio environment, with the flexibility of adjusting the IR’s and even doing double duty for post-pro on a film production. Despite the plethora of options and adjustability, there’s no convoluted-ness (yay new words!) in getting natural reverb effects for any user. Chris Devine
great natural Perhaps a reverbs, bit pricey for plenty of some adjustability
NUGEN AUDIO Paragon ST Reverb Plug-in
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RODE SmartLav+, Lavalier Go & Lavalier II Microphone
ooking and sounding professional usually meant spending professional level money. Rode has a selection of Lavalier microphones that prove that quality doesn’t have to be expensive. Starting off, the Smartlav+; this is TINY, the mic itself is smaller than a standard size guitar pick, with a 2.5mm diaphragm the omnidirectional unit is even dwarfed by the included lapel clip. The frequency response covers 20Hz to 20kHz with a max SPL of 110dB. With an included pop filter, it’s quite minimal, visually speaking, on camera. The only downside is the cable length, at 44” inches, the user has a pretty short tether. Depending upon what kind of video that’s being desired, the user may be dominating the frame. Rode’s Lavalier GO has the same physical design of the SmartLav +, however it has a longer, Kevlar reinforced cable. It could be used with a smartphone, or other audio devices. However, it was meant as a companion to Rode’s Wireless GO II Wireless Microphone System that we reviewed in September 2021. Like the Smartlav+, the frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz with a max SPL of 110dB. Using it with their wireless system makes sense and gives a lot more control in mic placement, as the GO system now acts like a typical wireless transmitter and can be tucked away, letting the lavalier do the heavy lifting. Finally, the Lavalier II comes in, with a different and flatter omnidirectional capsule that helps eliminate proximity effects. With a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and a max 42 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPL of 106dB, it has a flatter EQ profile which means it works great, regardless of the voice timbre. The kit included a foam pop filter, a mini furry version for recording outdoors in high-wind conditions, a set of colored identification clips for keeping track in multi-mic setups, and a case for keeping everything in one place. Connecting each to a smartphone, you get an “on-the-go” mobile reporting unit, featuring quality audio without all the hassles. The typical iOS apps worked great and function well with Rode’s Rec app. They can also work on Android platforms as well. Sound wise, these deliver what Rode’s known for: clear audio. Background noise was minimal across the board and to keep things straight we had Rode’s mic drop weighted end to keep the tangles, and those associated noise issues at bay. A user with a selfie stick or some kind of handheld mount for a smartphone can add high level audio to their videos with no issues at all, however the Smartlav+’s shorter cable could be problematic, as it will be a lot closer to the user, compared to the other versions. With these three options, which is the best one for the budget? Well, the SmartLav+ is well priced, but with the shorter, Kevlar cable, it might make sense to just jump to the Lavalier GO. Between the Lavalier GO and the Lavalier 2, the latter came across a bit better for more broadcast fidelity, and did feel a bit more “even” in some noisier environments. Rode has items that fit each budget and application, the one thing that does not vary is the overall quality sound. Chris Devine
All great sounding, small format, easy to use CONS
cable is kind of short on SmartLav+ STREET PRICE
$60 (SmartLav+) $79 (Lavalier Go) $99 (Lavalier 2)
usicians or content creators on-the-go certainly have their choices for gear but finding practical items can be a crap shoot; either too expensive or it falls short on quality or function. Rode’s AI-Micro can provide connectivity for two audio channels while fitting in your pocket. The interface itself is just big enough to have two 1/8” inputs and a single 1/8” headphone out. TRS or TRRS microphones can be used, as the unit automatically senses what’s being connected. With 3 USB cable options the AI-Micro can be connected to a smartphone or tablet, as well as a computer. It’s supported on iOS and Android, as well as Windows or Mac computers. It pairs nicely with Rode’s lavalier microphones, and the audio quality was great, with no noticeable latency. Stock iPhone apps for video and audio recording had no issues pairing up with this micro wonder. Rode has software of its own that does work great as well; RODE Connect for podcasting/streaming, their Reporter app, which works a lot like Apple’s Voice memo, And RODE Central, which acts as a control software for the unit, allowing adjustment of mic gains, headphone
RODE AI-Micro Interface level, a high pass filter, as well as stereo, split or merged channel modes. It’s hard to think of preamps in such a small device, but they’re strong enough to capture 24-bit audio resolution. Using Rode’s lavalier mics, it functioned nicely, and makes sense for a videographer needing two mic channels for a smartphone. For a podcaster on the go, it’s a nobrainer to use it with an iPad. With the correct adapters other items could easily be pumped into the mic inputs, such as an output from a multi effects device like a Line 6 Helix, and now guitar teachers can record parts and audio for video lessons. The only downside might be the single headphone connection, but in a lot of applications where mobility is key, the user running the recording device is probably going to be the only one doing any headphone monitoring. Overall, for the content creator who needs more than one mic input, without a lot of cables or options, this is a pretty neat device. Even if it’s just a backup to a full-size interface, it’s worth it to have this on hand (or in your go bag), and won’t be lacking any audio quality when it’s called to duty in the field. Chris Devine
Great size, simple to use, multiplatform compatibility CONS
None STREET PRICE
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CASIO CT-S1 (in fancy red!)
’ve got to say, Casio’s been quietly killing it lately. Like, a little too quietly. So, we decided to say something with two writeups in this issue. Here we’re looking at a $200 keyboard called the CT-S1 (yeah, the name’s not great and we’ve had to keep looking it up to make sure we were getting it right during our review period). Naming conventions aside, what does it do? Well, one thing it doesn’t do is god-awful mini keys, thankfully. You get a nice 5-octave keybed, and a slew of classic sounds via the AiX Sound Source tech. If you dig the classic sound of old Casio keyboards, you’ve got them on-board here. It’s actually quite a trip to go back in time and recreate some of these tones from childhood. Better still, you’ve got pretty decent built-in speakers to hear them all on. We’ve been bummed out in the past with some keyboard speakers (the only recent ones we even half-way enjoyed were on the Yamaha reface lineup) so this was a pleasant change-up. If old Casio synth beeps and boops aren’t your thing, there are some pretty faithful piano, electric pianos and more on tap, as well. So, for the price, you get a nice big keyboard, a range of useable sounds, a dead-simple UI to play around with (buttons, REAL buttons and no menudiving, hooray!), a snazzy colored case, built in
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metronome, MIDI recording so you can playback your compositions and FULL POLYPHONY! My portable reface CS can only do 8 voices, jeez. Do you see why we’ve been saying folks are sleeping on Casio? Don’t let the name fool you, this is a cool keyboard, and since it won’t break the bank, it definitely makes sense as a first instrument, or just to have handy in the rehearsal space or home studio. For this price, it’s almost silly not to. There’s even built-in fx, for crying out loud. Come to think of it, we may have spent more money on a less convincing Rhodes plug-in a while back, when we could have just waited and bought this instead. We dig it. A lot. You will too.
nice large keybed, decent sound engine, portable CONS
somewhat cheap feeling STREET PRICE
CASIO Casiotone CT-S1000V
K, Casio. We gotta talk. Like we said in our other review this month, you’ve been quietly killing it. But if we can be honest, and provide some constructive feedback? These products deserve better names. That’s all we’re saying.
something new! Like, actually new! CONS
nah. STREET PRICE
You’ve got a brand-new way to approach vocal synthesis, you drop it on the world for under $500 and I’ve got to look up the letter-number combination that makes up the model name every time I want to tell someone about it. How about: the “Casio Voice”? Simple, no? Names aside, where do we stat? How about with something you haven’t seen or heard before? Nah, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. It’s a standard black keyboard chassis, it’s got 5 octaves, it has built-in speakers, a pitch wheel, and some knobs. You know the drill. Now, the good stuff. The vocal magic. Talk or type your lyric sheet into the app, connect it to the [insert model number that I’m too lazy to look up again here] and start playing the keys to see what it comes up with. You can customcraft the vocal style to match your song, and it’s wild. Like, seriously wild stuff. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and as much as I usually hate companion apps, this one was worth the installation. I’m a big vocoder fan,
so I was already half-way sold before this even arrived, truth be told. You can tell it how to play the notes back, either rhythmically, syllable by syllable or by phrase, and you’re off with vocoders, talk boxes, convincing choirs and more. At first, we sort of thought it would be a bit gimmicky, but once you start playing around, it just kicks the creative juices into high gear. Now, will this replace your lead singer? No, of course not. Will it add some cool tricks to your backing tracks? You bet. Have we ignored just about every other feature of this keyboard because we spent most of our time fooling around with the vocal app stuff ? Of course. Will we continue asking and answering our own questions? That remains to be seen. What doesn’t remain to be seen, though, is just how cool and FUN this is. We’ve been diving headfirst into all the synths we can get our hands on lately, and a lot of them have been leaving us cold: chiefly because it’s a lot of the same. So, when something refreshing comes along, we take notice. You should too. Check this one out, it’s a trip. Ben Ricci
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GEAR REVIEWS GEAR REVIEWS
NEAT MICROPHONES Worker Bee II Microphone
ll-in-one mics tend to usually be USB versions, and are surprisingly flexible, with practical applications from music production to podcasting/broadcasting/live streaming. XLR microphones on the other hand, tend to be vocal, instrument or application specific. Neat microphones and their Worker Bee II brings all-in-one to the XLR world. It’s a unique shape for sure, with a flowerpot like base, and the microphone element blooming above. With a 1” diaphragm condenser capsule, this cardioid pattern mic is unique, with an internal shock mount. It does require 48v of phantom power and has a max SPL of 145dB and a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. A mic adapter to fit this unique form is also included. Starting off doing some voice overs and tracking some vocals we noticed it’s quite focused, and didn’t pick up a lot of extra room noise, the overall coloring could be described as even and full, and after working with it a bit, users who might be looking to step out of the USB mic zone will certainly appreciate the ease-ofuse in this setting. Using a pop stopper of some sort helps users from overloading the track at the least, and keeps the singer far enough to project. Moving on to some acoustic guitar and placing the business end at the fingerboard around the 12th fret, there was a nice balanced presence overall. Trying to get a bit more highend out of the strumming, we placed it near the soundhole and captured a nice and natural top-
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end response that didn’t overpower the feel. For $99, we can’t complain about that! Putting it on a guitar cabinet yielded some great results, as well. Some players might still want to blend in a 57 or another “tried and true” mic on their amps, just for a little extra bite, but there were no issues on getting great sounds with just the Worker Bee II on its own. Again, we’re taking under $100 here. Pulling the mic a few inches away from the speaker still gave us that space and air, but no extra coloration from our room, or need to have any blankets to kill reflections. In many cases when a mic can be focused on an instrument, and not have to fight the room, it’s usually with an expensive model, meaning getting a second one and going stereo for overheads is pretty impractical for anyone short of a commercial or professional studio. But a pair of these could easily make capturing that extra space of the actual instrument easy and affordable; the off-axis response can really be a factor in making a great track and having a mic that focuses on the item it’s aimed at is certainly very forgiving, regardless of the room. It’s certainly got a USB cost and flexibility, with XLR audio quality minus any hassles. There’s not a lot of “all in ones” that go to the next level, but this one yields surprisingly excellent results across the board – all at a budget-friendly price. Recommended. Chris Devine
Great sounding, very adaptable, super affordable CONS
None STREET PRICE
SHURE AONIC 40 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones
hure’s latest entry into the crowded field of noise-cancelling headphones is a homerun. Right out of the box, the experience is premium, without an extra premium added to the price tag. Yes, at $249 they’re not “cheap,” but they hold their own, price-wise, against heavy hitters from Bose and the like. Now, how do they feel? The ear cups themselves are generously sized, and in this instance more comfortable than our old Bose noise-cancelling cans. So, kudos there. They fold and store nicely into the included case, and as the name suggests, can be used with a standard wired connection or over Bluetooth (thankfully, they’re up to date on the 5.0 spec). We tested via various Bluetooth transmission sources and everything worked as expected. AAC and even lossless files streamed well (yes, we know all about Bluetooth compression when it comes to lossless files, but we still let our ears do the judging). Now, onto the main event: how do they compare when it comes to isolation and true noise-cancelation? Well, pretty damn good. We dig the “environment” mode which allows you to go back and forth between the music and the real world, and there are a handful of presets to deal with noise cancelling, so you’re sure to find at least one setting that works best for your needs.
Best of all, they’re not super-heavy like our go-to Audeze’s, which makes wearing them for extended periods a dream. Like everything nowadays, there is an app to deal with, and while we typically despise apps for things that never required apps in the past (like headphones), the ShurePlus PLAY app is fine, and allows you to navigate presets and store custom EQs to the headphones themselves. At least it’s easy to navigate and doesn’t crash our phone, like some other apps we’ve been forced to use lately. [note to MI brands – for real, please hire real app developers] Since they’re billed as “studio quality,” that’s where we tested them: both for pure listening and for mixing/tracking purposes. They do sound great, we’ll have to give them that. We even tested out some immersive audio with great results, even if we’re not entirely sold on the whole immersive thing quite yet.
great fit, good battery life, superb sound and noisecancelling CONS
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But at this price point, you can’t go wrong. They sound fantastic, they do provide adjustable levels of workable noise-cancellation, the battery life was surprisingly decent even on a quick charge, and they’re comfy. Recommended. Ben Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 47
MY FAVORITE AXE
Founding member and guitarist of Fortune’s Folly, alternative rock band out of Eugene Oregon since 2015. Been playing guitar for 26 years, have played in many bands and genres going back to my teenage years outside of Baltimore, Maryland. This is a custom-made guitar based on Stratocaster specs built in 2016. Her name is “Om.” It’s got a Stratocaster body type with warmer woods used: Swamp ash twopiece body, bookmatched and a maple neck/ ebony fingerboard combo custom made in a fatter, more D-cut neck shape. Makes it easier to play and gives my hand a full grip around it. I love purple! As you can see, it’s a purple-colored guitar with gold accents and a purple amethyst stone on the top of the guitar and tuning pegs area to channel those majestic tones. I use almost strictly a P-90 pickup in the neck position to get a fat, funky and rocking tone. This is an extremely expressive and beautiful guitar. “Om” can be heard on the most recent Fortune’s Folly “Green” LP, available on all major streaming platforms. Two great representative songs that it is played on would be: Summer Nights & Freak Flag.
MY FAVORITE AXE
For additional songs and information please follow us on Instagram @fortunes_folly
IRA MAZIE of Fortune’s Folly
48 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Artist: Chris Buck
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