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THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE

JUNE/JULY ‘17 FREE

THE KILLER APP TO FUEL YOUR NEXT TOUR

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TIPS TO BREAK YOUR SONGWRITING BLOCK HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MIDI CONTROLLER interviews

FLEET FOXES JAY SOM BEACH FOSSILS

AYRONJONES “When I write music, I rely on the beat because it’s the seed of life.”


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5

Ayron Jones cover story by Alexandra Lane

Beach Fossils

by Wilhelmina Heyward

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4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Cheech 6.  RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Lightning Pill

8. Four Tips to Cure Songwriter’s Block 10. Hitting the Road with the Master Tour App by Eventric

Jay Som

by Sarah Brooks

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31. How to Choose the Right MIDI Controller 34. MEET YOUR MAKER: Source Audio 36. GEAR REVIEWS: Ultimate Ears, Focusrite, Peavey and more…

47. MY FAVORITE AXE: Lizard McGee 48. FLASHBACK: Vintage Hofner Model 127 Cover

Fleet Foxes

by Chris Davidson

Ken Lapworth

20 PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Volume 27, Issue 5

Howdy, y’all.

PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143

Glad you could join us for another exciting issue of Performer. As we hit the mid-summer stride, we want to encourage you to not only read the latest issue in print, but also to head on over to performermag.com for web-exclusive content related to summer touring, live gear recommendations and insurance tips for hitting the road. We’ve also got tons of exclusive content from our super-special touring issue that’s easy to find simply by searching for the term “touring issue” on our homepage. Summer touring season is a great time to get out there, but also a great time to review your stage rig and your band’s plan to protect yourselves against avoidable insurance claims when performing live. So be sure to look out for our informative special series on entertainment insurance, copresented by K&K Insurance.

We’ve got some great tips in this issue for the go-to app for tour season, plus some advice on choosing the right MIDI controller for your music (whether it’s for live gigs or studio work once the tour ends). We also chat with the folks at Source Audio about their culture of innovation and give you songwriters some ideas for breaking through that writer’s block. As if that weren’t enough, we catch up with newcomer Jay Som, indie vets Beach Fossils and join Fleet Foxes as they return with their first LP in over six years. Dig in and enjoy! Benjamin Ricci, editor

CONTACT

Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER

William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com EDITOR

Benjamin Ricci ben@performermag.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION

Cristian Iancu

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Bob Dobalina editorial@performermag.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Alexandra Lane, Benjamin Ricci, Chris Davidson, Chris Devine, Christopher Bynes, Lizard McGee, Michael St. James, Rob Tavaglione, Robert Meigel, Sarah Brooks, Wilhelmina Heyward CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Aren Mason-Blair, Ken Lapworth, Rebekah Campbell, Kohei Kawashima, Evan Tetreault, Shawn Brackbill, Cara Robbins ADVERTISING SALES

William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com

performermag.com

performermagazine

performermag © 2017 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.

ABOUT US

CORRECTIONS

Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about.

Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.”

MUSIC SUBMISSIONS We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to editorial@performermag.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine Attn: Reviews PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143

4 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will... ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to editorial@performermag.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”


REVIEWS

H

ardcore is alive and well and living in the outer fringes of Boston’s city limits. There was a time (who are we kidding, it’s still true) when anything that wasn’t branded “Authentic NYC Hardcore” was shat upon in most serious circles. But fuck that noise, because CHEECH has been kicking ass and taking names in the Hub of New England for 20 years, and their latest 7-inch, Old Friends, packs more of a punch in under 10 minutes than most of the “ANYHC” releases we’ve been privy to in the past 5 or 6 years. Bonus points for being on a really nice (and wellpressed) slab of clear vinyl.

titled “Old Friends Die Hard,” a fitting tribute to CHEECH’s lost comrades, and the genre as a whole.

Old Friends isn’t just a 4-track collection of songs for the sake of pissing off your parents (although, if that’s your objective, you’ll find that this 7-inch fits the bill quite nicely) -- the front cover’s bulldog is a sly nod to the band’s friends, the upstate NY band Bulldog Courage, who sadly lost both their lead singer and guitar player within weeks of each other in 2014. The final cut on Side B is a (surprisingly touching) cover of Bulldog Courage’s aptly-

Benjamin Ricci

If you have even a passing interest in contemporary hardcore, we heartily recommend copping the new CHEECH EP. If you’re so inclined, you can also pick up a few bonus tracks with the digital edition on Bandcamp. But we all know the only true way to listen to releases like this is on vinyl. And this piece of wax deserves a spot on your turntable.

CHEECH

Old Friends EP Boston, GA (WTF Records)

Listen now at cheech.bandcamp.com

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 5


REVIEWS

RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE Billy Bragg Mr. Love & Justice (2008) The story may seem incredibly cliché, but Billy Bragg came to me at a fairly uncomfortable point in my college career. I went through a breakup, and I was just picturing lyrics aplenty. I listened to a few Billy Bragg tunes after hearing he was a “punk rock treasure” of sorts. The electric guitar strums and his raw, British vocals without even a band behind him somehow inspired me to want to take up the guitar and write my own songs. Hearing him own whatever imperfection there was in his voice inspired me to try and sing myself.

I’m Lightning Pill, a 28-year old keyboardist/singer-songwriter from Boston, MA. The genre I take on is primarily bedroom psyche-pop music. These albums influenced not only me to make music, but also my tastes and the music I make now.

Boards of Canada The Campfire Headphase (2005) Other than making mostly acoustic music, I also played around with making electronic “symphonies.” This album is one of three that came out to influence how I arrange electronic music. The songs on this album are as dreamy as they are droning, and any time I produce an instrumental (I make beats, too!), I would never ever do it without matching the spacy-ness or the emotional heights of at least one of the tracks on this record.

LISTEN NOW at blueskye.bandcamp.com and follow on Twitter @LightningPill

Busdriver RoadkillOvercoat (2007)

Eels Meet the Eels (2008)

Like Boards of Canada, this album influenced my way of producing instrumentals. While everyone constantly does trap music, some of Busdriver’s choices in beats range from indie pop to hip-hop. He manages not only to meet it all, but he also shows that he can rap and sing at the same time. Not to mention, nowadays, he also makes beats! :-D

Eels was the band that not only showed that writing your own songs was fine, but there is a vulnerability, an honesty in being a singer-songwriter, with or without a band. I own every eels album up to Tomorrow Morning, and it gave me the courage to pick up either a guitar or keyboard and start writing songs with feeling again. Trust, there was a time where I was really afraid to do that.

Grandaddy The Sophtware Slump (2000) I always liked to say that with this record, Grandaddy invented a genre: space folk. This album came to me when I was slowly having a falling out with my guitar, guitars in general and, really, with rock music. I literally can’t listen to your average indie rock album anymore. But it inspired me to take as many adventures as my keyboard will allow me to take.

Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email ben@performermag.com for more info. 6 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


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MUSIC BUSINESS

4 TECHNIQUES TO B YOUR SONGWRITING

I

t happens to every writer, the dreaded “writer’s block.” Writer’s block is that horrible feeling that paralyzes you while staring at a blank word doc or notebook to the point of being incapable of knowing where the hell to start, much less what to actually write. It happens to authors, columnists, bloggers, and yes, songwriters, too. Unlike other writers, songwriters have the honor (or curse) of not only having to come up with the words on the page, but also rhyming patterns, the melody, a memorable chorus, a bridge, oh, and tell a universal story differently than every other songwriter has, all in under four minutes. Not to mention the music stuff, major or minor? What style? What tempo? What key? Argggh! 8 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Each one of these points can block you from finishing your song. When you actually think about it, it’s a miracle any song gets written and finished. But there is hope. Having to balance all of these creative choices provides songwriters with extra tools that those who only write words do not have. So, I want to share with you a sampling of some of the techniques I teach to my songwriter groups and personally use to ‘break the block.’ First, the point of breaking a writer’s block is not to produce amazing work immediately. That’s most likely not going happen. The goal of this is to trick your brain and creative synapses to open up and flow freely again so that you can get back to creating great work. These techniques work

for any level of musician/writer, so give them a try and find which ones work best for your style of writing. FINISH A CRAPPY SONG Even Prince wrote shitty songs. Not every song you write is going to be a masterpiece, so get used to it. Too often we waste our time and energy trying to force an incredible song when it just isn’t there. So, what to do? Finish a crappy one. Seriously, finish it as quick as you can. Do not think about how this song would play live, or how you could record it, because it’s not going to be. Do not pause on a lyric line, simply find a rhyming word for the end and write into it. Do not suffer over the transition of the chorus into the second verse, simply write a three-word chorus and repeat it four times. Those three words are also your title. Finish the song. You can always


come back and rip yourself off later if there are good bits in it. WRITE A NON-WORD CHORUS Take the words out of the problem. Don’t think at all about the “what” of the song, but focus on the vibe of the notes and chords you already have. Say you have a cool chorus written, but the words are just not fitting right, play that pattern and start singing to it using only vowels. By using soft consonants like “d” and “b” and add vowels. Start with “Doo, Doo,” and then use “Bah, Bah.” You can try to use “Oohs” or “Ahs,” but I have found that you need the consonants in order to establish syllabic rhythm. Humming is fine, but it won’t get you finishing quicker. Using these types of “nonwords,” you will start to feel the rhythm of the melody and perhaps, where there are too many (or not enough) notes.

RIP-OFF ANOTHER SONG Is this professional publisher and licensor telling me to rip-off songs? Yep. Seriously, take a song you love or even hate, and try to write your own version of it. Pick a song, any song. Remember, the point of these exercises is not to write a great song; it is to simply break the block. I do this with commercial jingles and show themes. For instance, I took the theme from Golden Girls and made it into “Spank You for Wearing Depends.” But it doesn’t have to be a parody song. Fire up Spotify and pick one of the Top 5 streamed songs, and write your own version. Again, this is not going to be recorded or released. It will get your creative juices flowing and you just might expand your writing style. CHANGE INSTRUMENTS If you write on piano or synth, pick up that

MUSIC BUSINESS

BREAK THROUGH NG BLOCK

old guitar and strum a while. Conversely, if you always write on acoustic guitar, try writing a chorus on a bass, or even just the low E guitar string. If you have a synth, try writing a song using only a horn sample. By changing the tonality of the instrument you are writing on, you will find new areas to spark your imagination. Look, the struggle is real. But, it’s only temporary. You have tons of great songs to write, and I can’t wait to hear them.

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 JUNE/JULY 2017 9


MUSIC BUSINESS

Get to Know Master App For Your Band’s

I

f you’ve ever been on tour, no matter the size, you know that the hardest part is everything but the few hours you play. It’s the arrangements: travel itineraries, tickets, merch stock, scheduling, interviews, lodging, guest passes, and so many more details. Emails and texts are ineffective when things get complicated.

called Master Tour from Eventric, and it was an amazing experience; I wouldn’t tour without it now. I mean if it’s good enough for Queen Bey and Maroon 5 (plus hundreds of others), it’ll work for your tour. It’s an app that brings all of those nasty details into one place, affordably, distributed to everyone, without any special software, instantly.

usually the tour/band manager - inputs the tour information into the web portal. Then, every member of your tour - from the drummer to the dancers to guitar techs and promo team – uses the free mobile app, which has all the information and communication built in. You get the schedules, setlists, call time, hotels, interview times, all of it.

I was involved with a tour that used an app

Here’s how it works. An administrator –

Look, I’m not going to tell you this is an easy app/software to use, it isn’t. But, then again, neither is touring. It’s not meant to simple, it’s meant to be powerful, and it is. The app has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and is adding new features all the time. So, I spoke to CEO and co-founder, Paul Bradley, to get the inside scoop. I love Paul. He loves the business and is constantly thinking about how to streamline life for musicians and touring crews. Our interview ran about two hours and could’ve gone longer. So, this is edited for brevity.

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The story of Master Tour starts with Paul finishing college in Des Moines, joining an independent label, becoming a booker, then tour manager, then road drummer for The Drovers in the ’90s – all before texts, email, and social. He and his partner, Ian Kuhn (sound for Smashing Pumpkins), developed custom databases in Filemaker (remember that?) and adapted the software for what the road demanded: venue lists, hotels, interviews, etc., and Ian took it with him when he joined Dave Matthews Band on tour. By association with DMB, Paul met many other bands, like Beastie Boys and Barenaked Ladies; those early adopter bands used it, and gave feedback for improvements. As time went on, Filemaker was crashing and shipping discs to hundreds of bands made no sense. By 20052006, technology had improved and it was time to develop proprietary software to bring efficiencies for tour management, stadium level to small clubs. After some early investment, it took about four years to develop, and that’s really where Master Tour began. Performer Mag: What problems is Master Tour meant to solve? Paul Bradley: Efficiency and communication. That’s the core of what we’ve always tried to do. Now, everything is on a mobile phone; day sheet, interview times, guest lists, etc. The problem is that info is often spread out everywhere. A manager may be sending PDFs over email, sharing spreadsheets, and using multiple calendar apps. So, for tour managers, Master Tour is a place for all of this information in one app, with shared technology.

MUSIC BUSINESS

er Tour: The Killer d’s NEXT TOUR PM: How many users do you have now? PB: 100,000+ on the mobile side. PM: Let’s get into Tags. PB: It’s basically Yelp for touring people, by touring people. So, say you need to know the best coffeehouse in Seattle for post-gigs, or you found an awesome wine bar or museum for a day off in Chicago, or the perfect guitar tech in Biloxi. Open the Master Tour app and you can tag it, or you can see where other touring artists have tagged and commented. This may get more social as we go along, but it’s getting a lot of great reviews and being used a lot. PM: Explain the two levels of Master Tour for our readers. PB: Yes, we call it Professional and Mobile. Pro is the web portal accessed by the management team and they input the information on Master Tour desktop – that’s $49.99/mo. Mobile is the free app. So, the band, audio guys, techs etc. use that for free. It’s read-only mostly, but the team can do guest list requests, and also use Tags, if they’re anywhere in the world; they can privately or publicly tag a location - guitar shops, rental shops, videographers, coffee shops [and so forth]. PM: Any other new things we should know about? PB: Yes, we continue to add more products and services for the touring universe; that is our focus. Live Access is a separate product that handles blocks of tickets and discounts and guest lists. But for Master Tour, we are adding on Master Venue, which is streamlining the venue side, from stage plots to dressing rooms,

where the van or bus parking is, and much more. Also, Live Marketplace for connecting services. To learn more or sign-up for a 30-day free trial, head to eventric.com ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 11


SPOTLIGHT

Open Up About the Creative Freedoms of Starting Your Own DIY Label Wilhelmina Heyward

12 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Evan Tetreault


SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 13


SPOTLIGHT

Kohei Kawashima

B

each Fossils are releasing their new album Somersault on Bayonet Records, a label frontman Dustin Payseur and his wife recently launched together. Before they gear up for touring season, we had a conversation

about your origin story with Beach Fossils and what has the journey been like from your last album to Somersault? We’ve been through a lot of different changes over the years. In the beginning, it just started as a solo project, not necessarily by choice. I had moved

“I feel like I don’t have any control over the creativity. I don’t work well with deadlines, hence it’s taken four years to make this new record.” about the band’s unique songwriting process and finding the bandmates that make collaborating a fluid experience. Let’s just dive right in. Can you talk a bit 14 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

to New York and I didn’t know anyone, so I was like, “Well I might as well start making music, I’ll just do it by myself.” I had kind of always recorded by myself anyway -- recording on 4-tracks and teaching myself all the instruments and playing

the parts myself, so I was already kind of used to it. Over the years, different members have come and gone. We finally got to this line-up that we have now. We would just get together and mess around with music a lot, and it sort of organically worked out that we were writing together; it wasn’t really on purpose. I had intended to just do this record the same way as all my other ones, to just do it by myself, but these little pieces of songs started coming out and I was loving how it was working out and I thought we should just make an album together. Can you talk about your songwriting process as a solo project, and what it was like collaborating with your current lineup? Doing it solo, it’s really nice because it’s always different and I don’t really have to think about it. It’s just really natural. I usually start with a bass line.... until something sounds right, or feels like it can be a good foundation for something. It’s almost like, a lot of the times I feel like I don’t even really have a choice in what I write, it’s like I just start hearing everything, you know? I hear the guitar parts, I hear the vocal melodies, I hear all this stuff and I just have to start recording it before I forget it. Talk about how you found each other -- it sounds like you have to be operating on the


Let’s go back to the creative process. You described it as “almost like channeling” something - how does that process work for you? It definitely comes in waves. It’s unpredictable, too. I feel like I don’t have any control over the creativity. I don’t work well with deadlines, hence it’s taken four years to make this new record. It’s kind of like, I can only do it when I’m feeling it, like when you feel hungry or feel thirsty, you don’t choose to feel that way, it’s just there. I don’t try to press the creativity if it’s not there. I feel like the only time that works for me is with lyrics, but it doesn’t work very well with music. There are huge parts of time where I’ll be going to the studio and I’ll be recording for 17 hours and nothing can take me away from it, I’m just in there, I’m working and I’m hardly sleeping. And then after I finish up a couple songs, I just don’t have anything for a little while, I just go totally blank. Speaking of lyrics, do you write completely on your own, or is that a collaborative process? I do, yeah, that’s one thing that... I definitely want to always keep that one my own. I feel like they’re always insanely personal…that’s something that has to be done alone. So, it sounds like there was a deadline, at least for the lyric writing process… Right, yeah, I always think of lyrics as an afterthought. I listen to a lot of instrumental music, I listen to a lot of jazz and a lot of house music where it’s more about the way it makes you feel than what it’s saying. And so, when we’re working on a song, I feel like the music already says everything I need to say because I’m purposefully channeling a lot of emotion into the music and into how it sounds and feels. I kind of

wish I could just put it out like that sometimes. But it does make a big difference when the vocals go on top of it finally, so I just try to ask myself what I was saying instrumentally here in this part; how do I translate this into a message? What are you trying to convey to your listeners on this album? I guess it’s just about being open and honest. You know, sometimes being alive is really hard, so I’m just going to write stuff that makes me feel better and can help other people. I was worried that if I put lyrics that were a little too heavy, I’d be bumming people out or something. But then I got to a point where I felt you just need to write what you know, so if I’m depressed I need to just use it as a tool for creativity instead of letting it hold me down. Is performing live a cathartic experience, or can it really difficult at times? It’s like a therapy session. I don’t think there’s ever a show where I’m not really thinking about the lyrics, and I’m not transported to the moment I was writing the lyrics. It always still feels like a raw nerve…and I like that. And also to have people come up to me after shows and be like, “I love this song and the lyrics” or “I totally know what you mean with this.” I’m just happy to be able to share that, it’s beautiful.

When and why did you start Bayonet Records? That’s been a huge goal of mine, ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to have a label. When I had a 4-track recorder, I’d just be recording songs in my bedroom on cassette, and as soon as I finished a few songs, I would…draw a cover and put a fake record label name. But I always really loved the idea of having my own label and I when I got older and started learning more about independent labels. There always just seemed to be a sense of community and a real DIY power behind it, that you could just feel it, like you just knew that there’s a community there, that these people are doing it because they believe in it, because they love it. Everything just kind of came to together at this one point. I had finished my contract and I was working on a new record, I finally found some artists that I really liked and I was talking to my wife about it; we just decided to start a label on our own. There’s no way that Bayonet Records would exist without her, she’s unbelievable at how hard she works and how much she knows about the music industry. I couldn’t think of a better person to run a label with. Is there a big difference when recording for your own label? Does it give you more freedom, or does it alter your creative process in any way?

Yeah, I think the biggest difference is for one thing, I don’t have the deadline looming over me...I mean, at the end of the day, a record label is still business, so if you have someone putting money into what you’re doing, they expect you to do it on a timeline. And I freeze up when I get deadlines, that’s hard for me.

SPOTLIGHT

same frequency to be able to write songs in that manner. We were all in different bands on Captured Tracks. The label is almost like a creative community, a little family that just kind of brought everyone together. Everyone on the label knew each other. Jack was playing in a band called the Craft Spells and we took them on tour, opening for us in 2011. We would just be jamming together every night because we shared a van together and I just remember thinking that every time we were playing, there was a really good chemistry between [us]. Then we had some lineup changes and I asked him to play with Beach Fossils immediately. And Tommy, he was playing in a band called Hoop Dreams. They came up to New York, and I remember watching him play guitar and he had this really weird style, I really like the way he plays. He’s one of those people who talks before they think, and he treats an instrument the same way. I think we all have really different playing styles that complement each other.

What does life on the road look like for you guys now, and are you touring soon? We just got new members in the band and so we’re in Los Angeles right now practicing with them [as we speak]. You know, we’re like a bicoastal band now, I guess. We’re announcing the tour pretty soon, I think they’re still being finalized, but we’re pretty much touring from the summer through the end of the year. And I think next year’s going to be crazy; we’re just going to be on the road all year. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s one of those “grass is always greener” things. When we’re in the studio we want to be on the road, and when we’re on the road we just want to be in the studio.

Follow on Twitter: @beachfossils

BEACH FOSSILS SOMERSAULT STANDOUT TRACK: “THIS YEAR”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 15


SPOTLIGHT

JAY SOM INTRODUCES US TO HER SONIC LANDSCAPE Sarah Brooks

O

PM: In your songwriting process, did you draw from your own personal experiences for stories, or how did that work? MD: I think it’s a mixture. I tend to write about what is very private in my life, and it usually takes personal anecdotes and small experiences that happen to me daily.

Performer Magazine: So, I want to talk about your new album, which is really great. I’ve listened a few times now, and the main theme is this period of young adulthood, and growing up, and how it’s not easy. What would you want to convey personally about this period of time? Melina Duterte: I think more or less for a sense of direction, this album focused on general themes about self-reflection, and being in touch with your emotions, and being vulnerable. I think it’s just more of a traditional approach for a record than anything I’ve ever done before, so I didn’t want to overthink it.

PM: I know your new album was recorded in just three weeks, which is crazy for how great it sounds—I feel like you got everything right. What was this process like with such a quick turnaround, and what different instruments and production techniques did you use? MD: It was the first time I ever had a deadline for anything, so I took it seriously as a body of art and work. I think I gave myself way too much time or not enough time, so I would be very, very stressed out and I’d be drinking coffee to get over my sleepiness, and I was kind of making myself crazy, and I think it was all positive stress, in a sense. It’s weird to explain because it all happened so fast—three weeks is crazy. I had demos done back in the spring of last year, and I kind of sat with those for a couple months, and the three weeks is when I really got down to it and fleshed it out.

akland-based musician and songwriter Melina Duterte— otherwise known as Jay Som— has taken her songs from her social media pages to audiences all around the world, each listener awaiting her fresh take in today’s booming musical world. With hazy backdrops, fresh production, and lyrics that linger long after you’ve heard them, Jay Som’s music is something to be celebrated. And so is her debut album, Everybody Works, following a series of demos. We recently spoke with Duterte to learn more about the visionary artist behind the songs.

16 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Cara Robbins


SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 17


SPOTLIGHT

PM: I read that you’ve been making music for 10 years and you’re only 22. How did you know this is what you wanted to do and how did you start making your own music? MD: I just started doing that because I didn’t know anyone at all who was doing that, and I thought it was really cool because I wanted to emulate my favorite artists that I was listening to at the time, like Death Cab for Cutie, the Microphones, and I think it was just natural curiosity. I got obsessed with it for a really long

or recommendations. I’ve stopped searching for music myself because there’s too much music now. I try to listen to as many other artists as possible. I like to watch movies too and get inspired by those. PM: Obviously not everything about a musician’s life is glamorous or easy; what is the hardest thing about being in this industry for you? MD: I think the hardest thing is trying to keep your head up high. Trying to be assertive and

“Meeting other independent women in music…has been my favorite thing. The number of women in music is way too low, so meeting anyone like that is refreshing because it makes you realize that music is no longer white male-dominated—and it shouldn’t be.” -Jay Som time. I started uploading music to Myspace and kept building from that. PM: From this album and the past album, what do you think is the biggest difference, and how did you approach the new one differently from a creative standpoint? MD: Maybe my attitude with it [was different]. It is a little more polished because the first record -I don’t really consider that an album; it’s literally a collection of demos, finished and unfinished songs. I put a little more thought into [the new record], trying to make every track cohesive and thinking about the art and how it translates with the music. I think it was just the thought I put into it. PM: I really like that you have the concept of an album being a piece of art, because not all artists do this and it’s very important. What do you do to get inspired when you’re making music? Do you listen to other music, or do something else? What is your creative outlet? MD: I always try to listen to other music— music that is being put out by my own friends, 18 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

confident with yourself and this career that is looked at as ‘not a career.’ I think that people tend to forget that you’re a human. That’s probably the hardest thing.

shouldn’t be. PM: I was scrolling through your Instagram feed earlier to see what your day-to-day life was on the road, and I saw one post that was very intriguing. You had a pad on top of a drum—have you done anything to make your sound exactly right in that same vein? MD: I think that’s my whole life in recording—using shitty equipment but trying to make it sound right by using other shitty things. [laughs] One day I tried it as a joke, and I was like, man I don’t like how the towels sound on these drums, let me try this pad, and it was like, lying down next to me, and then I put two of them there, and it sounded great! And people have been stealing my technique ever since. I also duct tape my microphone to my microphone stand so, not super luxurious, but it works. PM: I can’t get over “I Think You’re Alright.” It’s such an intimate track—so beautiful and heartbreaking. What inspired the song, and how did you set it up to be this dreamy landscape? MD: I wrote that song when I was 15 actually, so it was an older song. In the similar vein of not caring what people think, the topic was being present in my life and giving my all to someone. It hurts a lot, it hurt to write it, it was very cathartic. I wanted to write a song that people could relate to. It’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written and it’s our ending song every night for these live shows.

Follow on Twitter: @jaysomband

PM: Have you encountered a lot of backlash? MD: I think so -- people say, ‘Yeah well, you should treat it as a job, people would love to be in your spot!’ You know, dumb stuff like that when they’ve never experienced it before. I think that people think it’s very glamorous to be a musician when it really isn’t. We’re not rich—that’s a common misconception. PM: Conversely, what’s your favorite thing about the music industry? MD: I think having the opportunity to work with a lot of people that I don’t think I’d be able to work with in a normal life, like musicians and booking agents and managers, and different kinds of people. Meeting other independent women in music, too, has been my favorite thing. The number of women in music is way too low, so meeting anyone like that is refreshing because it makes you realize that music is no longer white male-dominated—and it

JAY SOM EVERYBODY WORKS STANDOUT TRACK: “THE BUS SONG”


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SPOTLIGHT

FLEET FOXES

On Releasing Music into the Newly-Evolved Streaming Culture After a Six Year Hiatus

Shawn Brackbill

20 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Chris Davidson


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SPOTLIGHT

T

he Seattle-bred Fleet Foxes captured the ears of listeners in 2008 with the double attack of “Mykonos” off the Sun Giant EP and the in-the-round, rustic harmonies of “White Winter Hymnal” culled from their debut self-titled LP (both releases were put out by Sub Pop and produced by Phil Ek). After a few years of touring heavily, playing festivals such as All Tomorrow’s Parties and Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit and making television appearances on shows such as Saturday Night Live, the band’s second album, Helplessness Blues, received universal critical acclaim, peaked at number four on the Billboard charts and garnered the group a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album.

The band soon went on hiatus after drummer Josh Tillman left to form Father John Misty and singer/songwriter Robin Pecknold moved to New York to attend Columbia University. After six long years of receiving occasional clues via Pecknold’s Instagram account, fans finally received new Fleet Foxes music with the release of the song, “Third of May/Ōdaigahara” this past March. Soon after, the group announced that their third record, Crack-Up, would be released on June 16, 2017 on Nonesuch Records. Performer Magazine: Around the time the “indie folk phenomenon” of the early 2010s was exploding, the band more or less disappeared from the spotlight. Do you ever have any regrets about taking a break during that time? Robin Pecknold: No. I didn’t have any regrets. 22 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

After that whole period, there was a bit of a cultural folk fatigue. Instead of participating and going down with that ship, I think we decided just to do other things for a while and concentrate on making a record we were proud of, regardless of whatever cultural context was happening. Performer Magazine: You attended Columbia University during this off period. What made you choose that school specifically and how do you think it shaped and challenged you as an artist, thinker and overall human? RP: They have this really great program for older students that was set up more for those on the GI Bill. Of all the schools that I could have applied to as a 26-year-old, it’s the one that had the best infrastructure for something like that. They also had a lot of amazing professors, and I’ve always wanted to live in New York, but never had a good reason to live there. I took a few music theory classes, which I had never studied before, and that helped communicating with session players and with my own writing. I also did a lot of reading and worked to try and broaden the scope of the music. PM: What were some of your favorite classes? RP: I think my favorite was a Walt Whitman class and a Jackson Pollock New York School painter’s class. Whitman has the most expansive soul and I loved it. PM: You also worked on a music for a theatre production a few years ago. What was that like? RP: That was really cool. It was for my cousin, who’s a playwright. He lives in New York, and we

would get coffee sometimes. It was cool to get into different musical mindsets. I would work on that and then I also work with my brother, who directs short films. Those experiences put me into the idea of music accompanying an individual or evoking an individual, so I definitely brought that into the new record. I have all of these visual associations with each song and each section of the music, either trying to paint a visual picture with sound or a movie without footage. PM: What were some of the songs or compositions that helped kick start the process for the new album? RP: The first song I wrote for the new album was a song called “I Should See Memphis.” I started writing it in 2013 when I was trying to make a new album. The stars weren’t quite realigned yet, but I did write that song. But I didn’t really see a place for it until pretty late into making the record. Most of the songs were written while I was in school, so I’d come home from school and work on music for a couple of hours, but they all started out as just little sections of songs. They weren’t complete songs, but they were all happening simultaneously. PM: The previous Fleet Foxes album, Helplessness Blues, was released back in 2011 before Spotify and Apple Music took over our music listening habits. What is like now releasing a new record into the streaming culture after being away from it for so long? RP: It’s a different world now, very playlistbased. I think it’s cool. I think labels are a little less nervous about Spotify now because there are


PM: What was the inspiration behind the title of

PM: Adam Duritz of Counting Crows always refers to his band’s albums as photographs or snapshots of the time in which they were recorded. Then once the album comes out, he’s moved out of that state of mind. RP: It’s funny. You write songs from a certain state whether it’s joy or sorrow or whatever, but within the making of the album, you become your own editor. You’re brought in to make sense of all the stuff you’ve written. You’re trying to make it a

“I think artists should be compensated for the work they do and the money they spend on recording, but I also think that music should be accessible.”

the new album, Crack-Up? You’ve mentioned that it was partially inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay called “The Crack-Up.” RP: It was a Fitzgerald essay that I really like that I read a few years before I went back to school. I thought the word “crack-up” was an evocative phrase and it gives you somewhere to go. The first song on the record [“I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar”] is impressionistic and “cracked” like it’s been disassembled and reassembled incorrectly. Then with the last song [“Crack-Up”], everything is brought back together. It also didn’t feel like Fleet Foxes, so I liked that. CU is also the initials of Columbia, so that was the only reference to that experience on the album.

little more clear-headed in that phase.

PM: Did that album title represent your or the band’s state of mind during the process of writing and recording? RP: Totally. When I read the essay back in 2013, that was part of the resonance, but I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s more like a document of a time, but it’s not present.

PM: You’ve used Instagram to help maintain the band’s mystique because you’ll use the platform to tease images of possible recording sessions. What do you think are some of the pros and cons of social media for musicians? RP: It’s a cool form for communication. You have this opportunity to share things you’re

working on or share things you think are cool like paintings or things you see on the street. I use Instagram because it’s visual. I’m not big on Twitter or Facebook. The benefit of things like Instagram is being able to build a page to expose people to things. You can also talk to people, which can be fun sometimes. The cons are the somewhat addictive nature of [social media] and at times it can feel a bit too manicured. Right now, I see it more as something fun and a good way to let people know what you’re doing.

SPOTLIGHT

so many people listening that it’s evening out. I think artists should be compensated for the work they do and the money they spend on recording, but I also think that music should be accessible. The more accessible music is, the better music is made and the richer everyone’s musical life can be. If there’s now a legal context where this can happen, it feels like a win-win to me.

PM: A few years ago, you had talked about the possibility of a solo album. Is that still going to happen at some point? RP: I think the band is the main vessel for ideas and for growth. I have a collection of songs now that I could record in a couple of days and put out pretty low-key. I wouldn’t attempt to put out an album as a way to build a “solo career.’. I like how the band is right now. PM: You moved to Nonesuch for this latest release. Why the change from Sub Pop? RP: I was living in New York, and we weren’t on a label for a really long time. Once the album was almost done, we were trying to figure out what to do with it. We checked back in with Sub Pop, but no one that we used to work with was really with the label anymore. We just didn’t have as much of a connection anymore because it had been such a long time. We were in New York and Nonesuch is such a classic New York label. The music they release was influential to the album because it’s an amalgamation of Americana and jazz and new classical and international music. It’s just this very utopian label, and it’s not a punk label or anything like that. It just felt like the album would fit there gracefully.

PM: What was the recording process like this time around? RP: The recording process was great. We went to Sear Sound in New York City for basic tracking over a few days’ time. Then we went to upstate New York to record at friend’s house. Then, we went to Seattle to record with the whole band for about three weeks. After Seattle, we back to Sear Sound in New York to record horns and strings. To finish the album, we went to Electric Lady Studio for about two months. It was just me and my band mate Skyler [Skjelset]. We were basically just sequestered in a small studio there and went a little crazy.

FLEET FOXES CRACK-UP STANDOUT TRACK: “THIRD OF MAY / ODAIGAHARA”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 23


SPOTLIGHT

Tapping into the Rhythm of the Universe to Translate Life into Song

AYRON JONES Ken Lapworth

24 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Alexandra Lane


SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 25


SPOTLIGHT “IT’S THAT BEAT, THAT HEARTBEAT, THAT RHYTHM THAT CREATES LIFE.”

here’s a hum to everyday life. It’s the clicking of heels on concrete. It’s the slow grind of the subway trains along the tracks during rush hour. It’s the way you feel your heart in your ears when you see someone you love. Every day has its own white noise soundtrack, and every person has their own unique beat. At least, that’s what Ayron Jones, the Seattlebased front man for Ayron Jones and The Way, believes.

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What got you into music? Well, I was adopted when I was four by my aunt. And she was a very religious person - to this day she’s still a very religious person. But it was really being around church and soul music and gospel that got me into to wanting to be involved in music. From there, I taught myself to play piano, and I taught myself to play guitar. Guitar was my vessel. By the time I turned 19 I was ready to hit the bars. What can you tell us about your creative process? How do the songs come together? I’ve always been obsessed with the beat. You know when you listen to hip-hop -- especially like ’90s East Coast or West Coast hip-hop - it’s just that beat that makes your head nod. It’s insatiable. It’s like a virus. For me, that’s where it starts. It’s that beat, that heartbeat, that rhythm that creates life. You know? For anything. And I’m using that term - not just to say that we’re bringing something to life - life is heartbeat, life is rhythm.

It’s human nature. Repetition is everything. Like, how many times have you taken a step? Countless. But when you were a baby and tried to take that first step you didn’t know what you were doing. But you took that first step and it was hard. And that second step was hard, too. The third step was a little easier, and the fourth was a little easier than that. You get where I’m going. The point is, walking has become a rhythm. That rhythm becomes a frequency, and it just becomes part of your life. When I write music, I rely on the beat because it’s the seed of life. This new record [Audio Paint Job] seems autobiographical. Can you talk a little bit about that? It’s a cohesive story, and each song IS its own story. If you listen to the first three songs on the album – “Take Me Away” is the introduction to my story, right? When I was four years old, my mom abandoned me…That story has shaped me because it was a turning point where I was taken and thrown into a situation with another family where I had to adapt and learn. I grew up with my aunt who was wonderful to me. But it gave me this independent perspective on life. At the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to make you a part of their family, you know? No matter how hard they try, there’s still something

genetically that’s different about you. You’re looking at it from a different perspective. Your mom and dad tell you who you are. They tell you where you came from. This whole album from top to finish is my story from that. From that moment that I was abandoned – “Take Me Away” - that shaped my relationships – “Emily” - then I closed that chapter, and I become the rock star. And now I’ve got two kids, because I was trying to wild out and I thought I was something I wasn’t.

SPOTLIGHT

In talking to Jones, it becomes clear relatively quickly that he’s more than just a guitar-slinging, wordsmithing, musician. He’s a thinker, a believer, and full of faith. We got to catch up with Ayron and talk about everything from music, to kids, to the universe. Get to know him the way we did - in his own words:

How have those experiences changed you as a person, and a performer? I have this message, and it doesn’t even come from me - you could say I’m channeling it from somewhere else - but the message is supposed to help us realize that there’s so much more to our existence than we give ourselves credit for. It’s so important for us to push out the things we want to see in the world and if it’s truly peace and truly coexistence and true love that we want to see in the world, then I’d like to see people push that out. Because even silence dictates our reality. It’s just our thoughts and our minds. If we can start thinking about our reality that way we can change the universe, you know? Our universe.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 27


SPOTLIGHT

That all sounds very...almost religious. In a big way, music helps you connect to something bigger than yourself, and when music translates that feeling into a crowd, or into your headphones, that’s powerful stuff. This album – is it your way of expressing all of that? This album is more of a beacon. This album is to get my foot in the door so I can draw people to things like this - interviews and whatnot - so that, these philosophies, I can express through words. There’s only so much I can say in a song. And even then, there’s only so much I can say in a song that’s going to sell. Music is not really about the music itself, but the people that create the music - that’s the obsession, right? So, if I can channel something higher than myself, and put it on the album, and draw people into the physical expression that is me, and then when the spotlight’s on I have something to say, then maybe I can actually affect mass consciousness. And help us evolve consciousness. How will you feel like you’ve been successful? I think I will have been successful when I see people begin to think from a higher place on a mass scale. Not even that, I’ll feel successful when 17% of the world can think this way. You know why? That’s when you hit critical mass. I believe it’s 17%. There’s a point where you hit critical mass and it affects consciousness...I want that to be the heartbeat. You’ve landed a spot in the lineup at Upstream - what does a live show look like? Does it translate to the album? This era of live music - I won’t call it dull - but what happened to just fucking smashing guitars? What happened to just being fucking crazy? I’m not trying to bring it back, I’m just trying to remind people that it’s still here. The energy never dies, you just have to remind people. It sounds like it’s not just the music that’s evolved since the first album, but it’s you, too. Is that accurate? I definitely do feel like I’m a different person. 100%. When I was in my 20s, I jumped into this marriage real quick - that’s how my daughter Phoenix was born. I jumped into the marriage really fast. I was like 24, going on 25. I was in this unstable thing with this woman, and pretty soon we got married. I’m settled down now. There’s not the urge to be as out there as I used to be. There’s a maturity that I have now. I also feel like I’ve found my voice, my message, and what I want to talk about, who I want to be. Your other passion - other than music - is your kids. Can you talk about how being a

28 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

dad has changed you? It’s hard because I look at my child and I go, ‘Man, you are the love of my life. I cannot imagine my life without this person here, with me.’ I just love her to death. I just want to show her the world. For me, everything is energy. That’s how I look at everything. This situation [with my son], he’s more me than my daughter is. He’s got a stable home, he has two parents in this stable home. But, you’re your parents’ child. Those memories haven’t gone anywhere. So much so, that you look like them, you act like them. You are your “Parents 2.0.” You’re living their life, it’s just your version of their life. But that’s what I’ve realized - it’s more important to be a rock star now more than ever. Because someday he’s going to grow up and be like, ‘Who is my dad?’ - and I want to be able to say, ‘Your dad is a great man. A wonderful artist - one of the best artists, maybe. He was a great man. He lived with the intention of doing good things for the world.’ Music and my kids are one and the same to me. I want to stand up and be something for them. I had such a painful upbringing. It’s hard for me to talk to them about it right now. I have to rewrite the story. I’m Ayron Jones, I’m the kid. I’m the child of the child. I have to change the story. I’m learning the laws of the universe to change my story. Your story is tough, though. And you’ve learned from it. So, how are you using it? If I looked at it from the perspective of this lifetime alone, right? I’m 30, and at 4 years old, what did I do to deserve that? I’m only taking responsibility for the being that I am now, not the being that I was before. Energy works - it doesn’t know time like that, right? If I’ve lived many lifetimes, there’s a lifetime in there somewhere where I deserved that. That was my fault. Maybe I’m not conscious of that, but...accept it. Love it, love yourself and put out what you want to see. That’s your karma, that’s your energy, that’s what created you. That’s your lesson to learn...

“THIS ERA OF LIVE MUSIC - I WON’T CALL IT DULL - BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO JUST FUCKING SMASHING GUITARS? Follow on Twitter: AJandTheWay206

Everything comes around. But here’s the best part. If the world is just a reflection of your thoughts, and you make your thoughts, who’s the creator? You are the creator. You can choose whatever thoughts you want to think. And you think it starts with the music, yeah? Music is everything, right? It’s the thing that ties us together; it’s the thing that drives us apart. And I’m going to put this into perspective, and then I’ll let you go. You are the physical manifestation of your heartbeat. That’s who you are. That is your song. You are the walking physical manifestation of your song. Right? That’s the universe. The physical manifestation of the song.

AYRON JONES AUDIO PAINT JOB STANDOUT TRACK: “LOVE IS THE ANSWER”


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MIDI TIPS

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MIDI CONTROLLER FOR YOUR DAW

Benjamin Ricci

WHAT IS MIDI? In simple terms, MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) was developed to allow musical instruments and computers to talk the same language. By having one standard, or protocol, the music industry can produce instruments, hardware and software that all communicate with each other seamlessly, without trying to adhere to a number of competing proprietary systems. What this means is that MIDI is a standard, and your MIDI devices will integrate nicely with your DAW so that you can control virtual instruments, trigger sounds and fx, or even samples as part of your recording process or stage show. Traditionally, MIDI devices started out looking like standard keyboards, but have morphed over the years to include MIDI guitars, synth pads, beat-making machines and samplers, and even triggers for stage lighting.

The main thing to keep in mind is that MIDI controllers don’t actually produce sound (even though they make look like instruments you’re familiar with). Rather, they send and receive digital information about the music or actions being performed. Pitch, note length, pitch bend and vibrato, velocity (how hard you strike a key) and many other factors can be captured via MIDI and played back (and more importantly, edited) by MIDI-capable products like your DAW or a synthesizer, for example. HOW DOES MIDI WORK WITH YOUR DAW? Whatever MIDI device you use will have a MIDI Output that will connect to your DAW (or other MIDI device), either via a MIDI Input on your audio interface, a dedicated MIDI interface (which is really becoming obsolete), or through MIDI-over-USB, allowing you to hook up a MIDI

controller directly to your computer without the need for adapters, interfaces or even MIDI cables. Many modern MIDI controllers allow for MIDI data to be transferred over USB, and since most modern desktops, laptops and tablets have built-in USB support, this is typically one of the easiest ways to get your MIDI hardware to gel with your DAW. TYPES OF MIDI CONTROLLERS For our purposes, we’ll assume you want to use a MIDI controller for music production. In that case, you’ll first want to decide which type of MIDI controller will work best for you. If you come from the keyboard world, it probably makes sense to look at keyboard controllers, or even synthesizers and workstations that feature MIDI. Be careful though, as some synths like the ARP Odyssey re-issue feature very limited MIDI PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 31


MIDI TIPS

support (transmitting only note on/note off info to your DAW, which is not very helpful if you’re doing serious production/editing work later on). On the other hand, something like the Moog Sub Phatty is not only an amazing analog synthesizer, but it also one of our favorite MIDI controllers, as it has a great weighted keybed and all of its front panel knobs and buttons can transmit MIDI data to your DAW, allowing you to not only capture a performance via MIDI, but also map and tweak parameters in, say, a synth emulator or other virtual instruments you’ve got working in your DAW. Other types of MIDI controllers include MIDI guitars, like the modestly priced Jamstik or come in the form of the GK-3 pickup from Roland, which can turn your existing electric guitar into a sophisticated MIDI controller. Guitar controllers may have strings and simulated frets to mimic the feel of a traditional guitar, but again, remember that you won’t be using this to make sound. You’ll be using it as a controller – a way to 32 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


MIDI TIPS capture data about a performance that you can use and manipulate. Just because your controller feels like a guitar, doesn’t mean you can’t use it to create interesting organ parts using virtual instruments in your DAW. The controller is just a way to send/receive data. What you do with that data is part of the magic of MIDI. And lastly, you may wish to invest in a MIDI controller that doesn’t look like a traditional instrument at all. In the world of electronic music and beat creation, products like the Novation Launch Pad or Circuit are indispensable tools that feature soft pads instead of traditional keys or strings, to manipulate a performance or even trigger samples and synth effects within your DAW. For music creators who don’t come from a traditional instrument background, these types of controllers may prove an easier entry into the world of MIDI as you don’t already have to have familiarity with a keyboard or guitar to jump in. THE INS AND OUTS As mentioned earlier, traditionally MIDI

controllers used to require MIDI cables with 5 pin DIN plugs. And while many MIDI devices still retain this I/O standard, you’ll find an increasing number of hardware manufactures offering MIDI-over-USB. Any standard mini or micro USB cable (depending on your controller) will be able to communicate MIDI data with your devices and software, negating the need to carry around old-fashioned MIDI cables and adapters. PRICING AND FEATURES OK, so you’ve figured out which type of controller you want to invest in. The last step is to work within your budget. And we have a few tips on that, as well. For starters, keep in mind that your DAW will allow you to edit MIDI data, typically with very powerful tools, so don’t worry too much about things like octave range on a keyboard controller, for example, if you’ll primarily be working on synth pads and bass lines. You won’t need a full 88-key controller for that sort of work, and most MIDI controllers

and DAWs allow for quick transposing up and down octaves with the push of a button. The Moog Sub Phatty, which we mentioned earlier, only has a two-octave range, but features octave + and – buttons for quick movements into other octaves without the need for more physical keys. Your DAW will allow you to transpose MIDI data, as well. In short, you can save money with MIDI controllers that may seem, at first, to be more limiting. And lastly, as far as pricing goes, keep in mind that many traditional synthesizers (both analog and digital) these days also double as great MIDI controllers. So, if you think you’ll want both a MIDI controller to help control virtual instruments and drum patterns in your DAW, as well as a synthesizer for live performance or studio sessions, it might make more financial sense to invest in a good synth that also features MIDI, as opposed to a separate MIDI controller and a separate synthesizer. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 33


MEET YOUR MAKER

MEET YOUR M

Roger Smith (Source Audio President) BACKGROUND ON SOURCE AUDIO Jesse (Remignanti) and I worked together creating audio chips at Analog Devices, a semiconductor maker based here in Woburn, MA. ADI’s Sigma DSP is an exceptional audio processing chip that I always knew would work beautifully as the brains of a guitar effects pedal. Jesse - who was one of the brighter young ADI engineers at the time - had also been thinking about using accelerometer technology to create a wireless, motion sensing expression controller. The two of us had struck a friendship based on our mutual love of music (and an encyclopedic knowledge of the movie This is Spinal Tap - ha, ha).

Nemesis pedal

34 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

We eventually started talking about how we might combine those two ideas to start an effects pedal company and voila, Source Audio was born about 12 years ago. The only missing piece was somebody to write the algorithms and create the actual sounds that come out of the boxes – this is how Bob Chidlaw came into the picture. Bob is an MIT grad and was the Chief Scientist at Kurtzweil Music back in the ’80s and ’90s. Bob

was working as a consultant at ADI in the early 2000s and that’s where we approached him. Bob has an unbelievable ear for tone, a vast knowledge of music gear (particularly effects pedals), and is extremely skilled at writing audio algorithms for DSP. Together we created the first Source Audio pedal, the Hot Hand Motion Controlled Wah Filters. This pedal was essentially a filter pedal whose filter modulation was controlled by the Hot Hand motion-sensing ring – kind of like a Crybaby Wah that you control with hand gestures. MOST POPULAR MODELS Our most popular pedal is without a doubt the Nemesis Delay. We invested years in the research and development of that pedal. A substantial portion of that time was spent acquiring a deep understanding of iconic analog and tape delays like the Echoplex, the Roland Space Echo, and the Deluxe Memory Man. I really think we nailed those tones. On top of the vintage sounds the Nemesis offers highly advanced effects like the pitch shifting and reverse delays, plus deep customization possibilities via the Neuro Mobile


With Roger Smith from Source Audio LLC Bob Chidlaw (Chief Scientist)

App and Neuro Desktop Editor. I love how the Nemesis turned out.

effects and burn them directly into their pedal or publish them to be downloaded by other One Series owners. The Neuro preset library is growing every day as musicians create and publish more and more presets.

And of course, we have high hopes for our upcoming Ventris Reverb. It’s a dual processor reverb pedal that sounds amazing – basically it’s like two high-powered reverb pedals in a single box. That should be released later this summer. WHAT SETS YOUR GEAR APART FROM OTHER BUILDERS? We start with a deep library of award-winning effects. We put those effects into classically elegant space-saving housings and enhance the experience with full connectivity to other pedals, editing software, and more. WHAT ARE SOME COOL FEATURES OF YOUR PRODUCTS? The big idea behind the One Series line of pedals

(the Nemesis Delay, Kingmaker Fuzz, Aftershock Bass Distortion, Lunar Phaser, and more) was to provide excellent tone with a dead-simple control interface. Out of the box, each pedal sounds great and has the feel of a vintage stompbox, but there is far more than meets the eye. Using the deep editing functionality of the Neuro Mobile App or our Neuro Desktop Editor, users can create highly customized presets. They can then take those customized

MEET YOUR MAKER

MAKER Q&A LESSONS LEARNED FROM WORKING AT SOURCE AUDIO? It’s much harder than it looks. It took a long time to fully understand what musicians want and need from their pedals and what it takes to fulfill those wants and needs. It also takes a long time to establish a brand that resonates with both players and retailers. AVERAGE PRICE PER MODEL? About $180 For more, visit www.sourceaudio.net and follow on Twitter @SourceAudioFX

Jesse Remignanti (Chief Technical Officer) PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 35


GEAR REVIEWS

ULTIMATE EARS Pro Reference Remastered In-Ear Studio Monitors

W

hen we were first approached to review the Pro Reference Remastered in-ear studio monitors (man, what a mouthful) from Ultimate Ears, we were a bit skeptical. Seems like we were going to have to “swallow the Kool-Aid,” as UE fans are almost a cult-like group who swear by their Ultimate Ears products with zealous passion. Anything with that type of devotion can be scary, but the bottom line is this: after taking the journey with these in-ear monitors in our project studio for a few weeks, I’m sold. I mean, not literally, these things are pricey, but you know what I mean. So, what do you get for a thousand bucks? Well, you’ve got to start at the beginning. I had to take a trip to a local specialist, trained by UE, to get a complete ear scan before I even got started with the review. These are, after all, custom fit monitors, so they’re crafted especially for you and the shape of your ear canal. The specialist cleans and scans your ears with a digital device, and the 3-D images (see photos) are then instantly delivered to UE engineers, in the cloud, to begin work. The whole session lasted about 20 minutes and was completely painless, as nothing physical actually goes in the ear.

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GEAR REVIEWS

Once the scan is complete, a mold is made back at the UE factory, custom fitted to your ears, and the drivers are installed. All in all, from scan to final delivery, I had my in-ear monitors in just a few days. But again, for the price you pay, you’d expect swift service. Upon arrival, it’s pretty apparent that these aren’t some off-the-rack, run-of-the-mill set of studio monitors. They’re (almost lovingly) presented in a sturdy display box (complete with magnetic closure), with a cushy lining and smaller, metal protective case inside that houses the actual in-ears. I happened to choose a red faceplate for mine, and I must admit, the way that all these custom drivers are housed in such a tiny enclosure is a pretty impressive feat of engineering. It’s also just plain cool to be able to see the inner workings of these bad-boys through the translucent housing. If we were awarding points on presentation, UE would get a 10. The earphones themselves are attached to high-quality cabling, some of the best we’ve encountered, with a thin-yet-rugged, braided stereo cable that from one tug, you can tell won’t tangle or fray after hours of tracking in the studio. This terminates in a 1/8” stereo plug, but thankfully a 1/4” adapter is included (as most audio interfaces require 1/4”). We also appreciated the little cleaning tool and clear instruction booklet that round out the package. So far, very impressive. But, we don’t give kudos just for beauty. Again, these in-ears will run you a thousand bucks, so they better sound friggin’ great. So, how do they sound? Well, pretty friggin’ great, to be honest. But I kept having this nagging feeling that a $400 pair of Audio-Technica ATH-E70’s were almost as good when we tested them out a few months back. And those will only set you back about $400. True, they are not custom fitted to your ears, and the packaging is simpler. But are the UE Pro Reference Remastered in-ears worth almost 3x the price? It’s hard to say. For most musicians and engineers, my gut tells me you’d get along just fine with the top-of-the-line Audio-Technicas (or even the $400 UE 4 Pro from Ultimate Ears), if that’s the top end of your budget. The Ultimate Ears we tested do sound fantastic, and for tracking, delivered a flat response that was well appreciated. The proprietary “True Tone Drivers” in the UE’s excel at frequency separation perhaps a bit better than the AudioTechnicas. What I mean by that is every range, from deep, round bass to high strings and synth sounds, were well defined, well separated and existed in a slightly better soundstage than other flagship IEM’s we’ve tested. Again, hate to harp on it, but for $1000, they damn well better. Bass was the biggest differentiator here – the

UE’s tech specs list them as having a frequency response of 5 Hz – 25 kHz, which explains the tight, rich bass that you can almost feel, and the “only dogs can hear this” highs that you can’t on the other end of the spectrum. So, in the end, what’s our verdict? If you’ve got the cash, and you want the best, you’ve come to the right place. The sound quality and construction are indeed mightily impressive, and the custom fit obviously can’t be beat. For that alone, if you’re serious about investing in (likely) the last pair of in-ears you’ll ever need, and this is your profession, then by all means we wholeheartedly recommend the Pro Reference Remastered In-Ear Studio Monitors from Ultimate Ears. You will, in no way, be disappointed. We love ours and will be using them all the time whenever we evaluate new gear in the office. That said, as someone who’s typically priceconscious myself, that nagging feeling keeps creeping in that most artists and engineers might be served just fine with a lower-cost alternative. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from exploring what Ultimate Ears has to offer; luxury products exist for a reason and these are certainly luxury goods. And damn nice ones, at that. I guess it’s akin to the difference between a Chevy sedan and a Cadillac. And these UE’s, we can say without a doubt, are the Cadillacs of the IEM world. Both the Chevy and Cadillac will get you from point A to point B, but it’s all the little touches and appointments that add up and just put a big smile on your face.

soaring synth tracks in our DAW through our UE Pro Reference Remastered in-ears. What does that tell you?  Benjamin Ricci

PROS

amazingly well-crafted; great design; customdesigned comfort; flat-response for studio sessions; durable. CONS

expensive; no re-sale value. PRICE

$999

OK, no more waffling. Is it worth the price? Well, we’re smiling as we write this, listening to PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 37


GEAR REVIEWS

COPPERSOUND Telegraph Stutter Pedal PROS

inexpensive; interesting expressive option for guitars, bass & keyboard; passive. CONS

might take some thinking to find a spot to keep it “handy” during live use. PRICE

$79 (w/toggle switch)

T

here are A LOT of small batch pedal builders out there, some making very complicated and over-the-top devices. It takes a lot to be unique, and simple at the same time. The new Coppersound Telegraph Stutter pedal is one of those items. Technically, it’s not a pedal – it’s more of an outboard, manual kill switch. Yes, it uses the standard format of a pedal, and 1/4” connections. But sitting on top of a standard pedal enclosure is an old-timey telegraph switch, like you see in old war movies where transmissions were done by Morse code. The plastic finger plate doesn’t look like it could take the abuse, and Coppersound warns against using it with a foot. It’s meant to be used with a hand. Place it in a signal chain between an instrument and an amp, and pressing down on it kills the signal. There is a neat reversal switch that kills the signal, and pressing it engages the signal. It’s completely passive, meaning no power is needed. There are also a couple of adjustable set screws to control the travel of 38 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

the finger plate, as well as its springiness. It’s like a manual tremolo, just play along, and with a free hand, tap away! It’s kind of like how Les Paul players have done the stutter effect with their toggle switch, only there’s no chance of damaging the guitar’s switch. With a lot of gain, a fretting hand can easily press hard enough to get a note or chord to ring out, while the picking hand can operate the telegraph. The best placement is just before an amplifier, and after a pedalboard, killing the entire signal when depressed, however placing it before a delay unit can really make it do some wild things, like having a delay trail off, while killing the source signal. In the studio, cutting and slicing guitar parts like this could be tedious, but the ability to sync the pattern with a drummer, or against a rhythm can really open up some interesting sounds. Noise-rock bands that use echoes and feedback might like this as a way of carving up their signal. It opens up some interesting

options for keyboard players too, giving synths the ability to get manually choppy and glitchy, without having to adjust tempos or any parameters in a DAW. Now yes, there are some pedals already out there with footswitches that do the same thing, so why get a device that is kind of a pedal, but one you shouldn’t stomp on? Well, a non-fretting hand can often be more tied in rhythmically with the fretted hand, as opposed to a foot. It’s really an expressive tool that, while only having two modes of operation, can yield a variety of creative approaches. The only downside is where to place this physically in a live rig; on top of an amp is best, but depending on where the amp is on stage, this might not be optimal, in relation to a pedalboard, or a microphone stand. A good option might be one of those trays that clamp on a mic stand, or even a smartphone/tablet clip holder.  Chris Devine


GEAR REVIEWS

DIGITECH CabDryVR Speaker Simulator

D

igiTech’s CabDryVR (cab driver, get it?) is one of those neat devices that makes you think, “Why hasn’t this been around before?”

It’s the standard pedal format, with stereo in and out, but can be used in mono mode as well. Each channel has 7 cabinets to choose from. They range from a smallish 1x8 (think Fender Champ-like) 2x12 and 4x12 cabinets, with plenty of variations of American, British, vintage and modern flavors. Simply place it at the end of a pedalboard. The only other real control is the size knob, stacked with the output level control. It affects the resonant response of the cabinet emulated, enabling it to be tuned for a better response. In some cases, bringing this level down with some of the beefier 4x12 models, opens things up for a lot more breathing room. Once connected to a pedalboard, sending the outputs to a DAW for recording or a mixer for live use is a no brainer. It just brings in the sound of a guitar cab miked up. The emulations are spot-on, and still have a slight bit of tunability. There’s really no gap of tonal selections. The street price is around $135, and for players who use their pedalboards for fly dates, this is an easy way to bring a big cabinet sound without shipping an amp or big bulky cabs. Run a splitter ahead of it, and use the CabDryVR as a second feed for the front of house mix in a live setting. Want to record with a pedalboard, but not have to deal with the volume of an amp, and the variables of miking an amp? Here’s a super simple solution. Using a DAW’s amp sim plug-ins can really tax a processor, and using this external device means more tracks, while using less CPU power. Running it in stereo mode really opens things up; run one channel with a Vintage American 2x12 and the other with a British straight 4x12, and it provides a huge, lush tonal spectrum. Being able to blend the two signals in a mix, really adds a lot of choices in the overall mix, one sound covering another’s shortcomings, or even enhancing the good points. It does work equally as well with basses as it does electric guitars. In bass mode, the cabinets are completely different, covering sizes from 10” to 18” speakers, with plenty of variations. Again, the applications for live and studio are impressive.

PROS

CONS

PRICE

great section of cabinets; stereo.

better labeling of the settings would be nice.

$187 (MSRP)

The downside is having to remember which cabs are which; meaning in guitar mode Cab1=Vintage American 2x12. If DigiTech went without the vintage checker cab graphic and went with a more utilitarian graphic layout, it might be easier to navigate and select cabinets. DigiTech does include a neat little rubber knob guard that prevents any inadvertent adjustments, called the stomp lock, and a die cut piece of Velcro for pedalboard mounting. Nice touch. Overall, it’s well worth looking into, as more and more players are trying to tour and record with stripped down, no-nonsense rigs that still sound great without breaking the bank.  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 39


GEAR REVIEWS

O

DIGITECH FreqOut Pedal

ther than having an expensive sustainer system installed in a guitar, or an EBow, there’s really never been an easy, out-of-the-box way to generate controlled sustain at any volume. In most cases it requires a loud, overdriven amp close to a guitar’s pickups, but controlling it is problematic at best. DigiTech has solved this issue, and has literally made a “take my money” pedal in the new FreqOut Feedback Creation Pedal. Amazingly, it’s quite simple -- a stacked gain and onset knob that controls the level of the signal, and how fast the feedback signal comes into play. The straight dry signal can be eliminated via the dry switch, so it’s only the feedback note coming in. The foot switch can be the standard on/off or a momentary press and hold function. There are several modes of feedback to choose from, Sub, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, natural low, and natural high. In momentary mode, it’s like a sustain pedal on a piano. Hit a note or chord, press the switch, and it’s to infinity and beyond (well maybe not beyond, but you get the idea). The LED display shows the level of the feedback signal. Even better, play it like a wah wah, pressing and sustaining notes as needed. In standard mode, it’s smart enough to not sustain everything, but can hold notes and chords in the empty spaces between them. For players in a 3-piece band, this can really fill in the sound. Oh yeah, and it can be done at ANY volume; meaning no ringing in the ears level volume needed to generate natural sounding feedback. Clean guitars can benefit as well as bass guitars. In the past, trying to fill in the space with chorus, reverb and delays meant the sound expanded, but at the cost of tone and definition. The FreqOut can make a dry, minimally effected guitar really fill out the mix. Tweaking it a bit deeper, and it can get really interesting -- knowing the harmonic, and altering the notes, means you can play the feedback notes, for example such as setting it to a 3rd, and playing an A note, can give you a C feedback note. This can open up so many options that will really give you a ton of new creative ideas for both rhythm and solo work.

PROS

CONS

PRICE

simple; works on guitars and bass; expressive and natural sounding.

none.

$179

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In the studio, this is a great idea for hitting that last note or chord of a song, and letting it ring out as long as needed, as it’s much easier to do it live, rather than manipulate the track with software. The street price is $179, and for players who often say, “I don’t mess with effects, they’re too complicated and mess with your tone,” this is one that’s simple, and brings a lot to the table for any player.  Chris Devine


GEAR REVIEWS

G

ELECTRO-HARMONIX Synth 9 Pedal

uitar synths have been around for decades, but were not something easily integrated into a traditional guitar rig. A few years back Electro-Harmonix figured out that making individual pedals that captured specific keyboard flavors was the way to go. Now as a complement to their C9, B9, and Mel9, the Synth 9 captures classic synth sounds in a pedal. PROS

plenty of functional classic synths; excellent tracking. CONS

none. PRICE

$221

Nine of the most classic ’70s and ’80s synths are emulated here; ARP, OBX, Prophet, Moog, Korg, as well as Electro-Harmonix’s Mini Synth. Output-wise, there is a synth out, as well as a dry out. This gives the options to send the synth to a PA system, and the dry signal to a regular guitar amp. Each output has its own volume control, as well. The only other options are two control knobs that have various functions that respond differently, depending upon the synth being modeled. Sound-wise, it certainly delivers plenty of functional synth emulations, and tracking is not an issue for even extremely fast players. Any fan of progressive rock music and any of its sub genres can find useful sounds easily with this unit. Start with the OBX mode, and hit an F# chord in 7/8 and you can start thinking of adding Rush’s “subdivisions” to your set list (if your drummer can handle it, that is). For guitar players who want to put synth sounds down, but don’t want to go with

a traditional, more expensive, as well as cumbersome, guitar synth rig, this can be an easy solution. Simply for not having to call a keyboard player to come in and play on a demo, the street price of about $220 is well worth it. For players in a band with two guitarists, this gives the ability to expand the sound without having to add another band member. It can easily make the rhythm player a lot more expansive tonally, and take a band out of their usual sonic (comfort) territory. Even just being able to put a simple layer of synths down in the background for some texture, without any hassle of a keyboard player wanting their sound further up in the mix. While it won’t make a keyboard player obsolete, it does make a guitar player’s tonal palette a lot more colorful. The big thing to consider when using a pedal such as this, is the approach to chords and their voicings. Depending on the mode, and controls, certain fingerings may or may not work. Sometimes simpler is better, and some lower strings might get a bit flubby. It’s a “your mileage may vary” situation, depending upon the desired effect. Melody lines should be thought of as musical passages, not as patterns on a neck. The physical differences and approaches of guitars and keyboards can be very noticeable, so a lot of its authenticity depends on the player’s ability to translate those types of parts to the fretboard.  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 41


GEAR REVIEWS

FOCUSRITE iTrack One Preamp

I

f you’re going to do any recording, Focusrite will cross your path at every price point and feature set, such as track and input capacity as well as from home recording to professional studio levels. Now there’s a way to bring that Focusrite sound quality to iOS devices with the tiny and affordable iTrack One preamp. The size is amazing, at 2.25” square it still has space for a combo XLR / 1/4” TRS input. Connect the iTrack One to an iOS device with the supplied cable, and it’s ready to go. Since it’s so small, there could be a tendency to have a cable’s movement drag it all over the place, but there is a sticky pad that acts like a suction cup, attaching it to a hard surface. Once connected to an iOS device, it acts as an input for any recording platform, such as GarageBand, or any other recording app. Sound quality is excellent overall, and since the only control is a gain knob, it’s super easy to get a suitable level and go. The knob is backlit, and goes from green to red, visually indicating any clipping that might be occurring. Quite literally plug and play. It can also run microphones that need phantom 42 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

power, but to make sure they are not draining your iOS device, there is a red indicator light. In which case, there is a USB cable that can attach to a power supply to provide power. Plug a guitar in, and call up any amp simulator app, and it’s a practicing and recording tool. While it’s not really being marketed to be used in this manner, it can also be connected to a Mac or PC as a single input interface, as well. The only downside is that it is only iOS compatible (sorry Android users), but it’s further complicated in that “simultaneous record and monitoring is not possible due to the iPhone 7 not having a 3.5mm headphone output,” according to Focusrite’s documentation. Bummer, since we’re all on iPhone 7’s here in the office, and we assume many of you are, as well. The listed price is $129, but in most cases, it may be lower, as at the time of this review, it’s so new that it’s not listed on most retail web sites. With so many new recording platforms on iOS devices, some of which use a browser as the recording engine, this makes recording on the go, as well as exchanging ideas remotely, amazingly easy. Recommended.  Chris Devine

PROS

small; simple; easy to use. CONS

not fully iPhone 7 compatible due to lack of 3.5mm out on new models. PRICE

$129


GEAR REVIEWS

I

n the “take no prisoners” world of open mics, songwriter rounds and blazing fast stage turnovers you’d best be prepared to hand the sound tech one single input that’s “good to go” (with a little signal processing beyond an instrument’s raw sound) if you expect to get a good mix going in your one song (or micro set). IK Multimedia’s update to their iRig Acoustic appears to be a really good way to achieve that processed sound and stay on a budget, too. $99 gets you a small device, about the size of a wireless transmitter, that likewise clips onto your strap. This iRAS belt pack houses an input from the iRAS mic, which easily clips onto your guitar (or ukulele, or bass …) at the soundhole, just under the strings. The belt pack also houses a 1/4” input that you feed with your instrument’s 1/4” output (no worries of your instrument is purely acoustic, this input is optional). There’s a blend control to mix/blend these two sources together and even a polarity switch to make sure both inputs are in-phase. There’s master volume, but more importantly there’s switchable voicing. There are selfexplanatory “natural,” “warm” and “bright” settings, along with settings for a nylon-string’ed classical-type guitar. These voicing offer lots of tonal flexibility and YES(!) the nylon settings are different and sonically appropriate. Further, I found you can place the mic under the high or the low strings to achieve your ideal balance. But there’s one last feature that seals the deal … a panic button, or should I say a feedback cancellation feature. This large button is easy to find, feel and push (even if attached to your strap, or clipped onto your pocket) when that hellish moment of squealing/howling is suddenly encountered.  All of the above make for a very useful livesound device, but there are studio-centric features as well … like the class-compliant (as in plug ’n play simplicity) USB connection for self-recording. There are even modeling apps available from IKM on-line that further the flexibility and creative voicings.  This is all fine and dandy and the iRAS is nearly ideal for live conveniences, but the system’s tone isn’t as balanced and smooth as nice condenser mic in the studio. That is until I realized, oddly enough, that the iRAS comes shipped calibrated ideally for nylon string guitar via the “Nylon” settings, but the other settings are calibrated for non-guitar instruments! But wait, there’s more … the calibration process is very easy (you play barre chords on various frets), it takes a mere minute to do and yields substantial results. Once calibrated, my Taylor dreadnaught sounded much fuller and smoother; a far better tone for live use and one I could now use in-studio. It gets even better … you can re-calibrate with different strum intensities

IK MULTIMEDIA iRig Acoustic Stage for different results AND the “Natural/Warm/ Bright” settings affect your custom calibration, too. The negatives are few in comparison … handling noise can be an issue and loud vocals get picked up by the mic a little. The case is plastic and will likely die a bitter death if stepped on. Maybe so, but at an affordable $99 you get a whole lot of useful technology that can seriously simplify acoustic amplification for studio or stage. This represents a ton of flexibility and personal customization and those very features make it easy to use … or easy to hand the sound tech and know that it’s a lot easier for them to get you sounding good as quickly as possible.

-Rob Tavaglione owns Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC and is a veteran freelance writer.

PROS

CONS

PRICE

easy to use; affordable; great feedback suppression; responsive calibration options.

plastic enclosure may not hold up over time; some loud vocal bleedthrough possible.

$99

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 43


GEAR REVIEWS

PAGEFLIP Firefly Bluetooth Page-Turning Pedal

T

ablets and smartphones have become important accessories for musicians – like using them with a variety of apps, for on stage notes. If it’s a simple chord or a full score all written out, it can be a real tool. However, finding a free hand to swipe and turn a page in a live setting can be stressful. The PageFlip Firefly gives any musician the option to be hands-free to scroll through sheet music and charts with ease. Size-wise, the footswitches are large enough so they’re impossible to miss when still looking at the page on-screen, lit with LED lights and arranged in a butterfly wing-like pattern. It can connect to a smartphone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth easily, as well as via USB for laptops or computers. Getting it up and running takes a few minutes, and power is provided by 2 AA batteries, or a separate power supply. It works across a variety of apps from OnSsong and Pages to something as simple as a multi-page PDF. Windows, Apple and Linux OS systems are also supported, which is nice. The footswitches can be selected to move a cursor, left or right, up, down, work as left or right mouse buttons, page up or page down, as well as act like spacebar or return keys. So, 44 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

there’s tons of flexibility here. There are ports to add additional foot switches, giving even more extended flexibility. Basically, there’s no option that hasn’t been anticipated with its functionality. But simply connecting it to a tablet with chord charts in PDF, and the having ability to scroll through sheets with no issues is amazing. The footprint is small enough it could easily sit next to or on a pedalboard. If it doesn’t get used for over 30 minutes, it goes into a sleep mode, saving battery life. Overall it works great, and makes replacing notebooks and sheet music with a tablet one of those “how did I function without this before?” thoughts. There are a few things to note; the plastic footswitches feel a bit soft, as in there’s no hard or positive “click” to feel. Combined with the neoprene pad on the bottom, this really enhances the soft feel. Combine that with using it on a surface that has a rug or carpet, and it really starts to feel a bit spongy. The street price is around a hundred dollars (give or take) and for the simplicity of function, app f lexibility as well as the expandability it’s well worth it, and can easily make a integrating a tablet part of your rig and notation situation.  Chris Devine

PROS

simple; flexible options; works across platforms and apps. CONS

slightly spongy feel. PRICE

$109


GEAR REVIEWS

PEAVEY MiniMEGA Bass Head

P

eavey started a lot of trends in amplification that are now standard features on most amplifiers. Their MiniMEGA Bass Head captures pretty much every usable feature in a bass amp, all in a small chassis.

PROS

Great sound, plenty of volume, excellent features CONS

Footswitch not included PRICE

$599

As the name states, this is a smallish bass head, but it cranks out 1000 watts continuous power into 4 Ohms. The front panel is loaded, with the usual gain, 4-band EQ and volume controls. Additionally, there is an optical compressor and a stacked KOSMOS Bass and psychoacoustic control. There are a series of buttons that relate to the control nobs above. The crunch, Q controls and bright functions really offer up some interesting tone sculpting, and the mute switch shuts things down, and routs the signal to the tuner output. The front panel and controls are backlit, and the colors can be changed to pretty much anything you desire. They can also cycle through the range or colors, if you like. It has nothing to do with any of the other features, but it is a cool touch for lighting the controls on a dark stage. Running it through a variety of cabs it sounded fantastic, and had more than enough power to run just about any rig – for real. The

output end also has XLR DI, and headphone outs. The EQ is flexible enough to work with active and passive basses, while still giving plenty of well-defined bottom end. Players that explore the higher ranges will appreciate the fullness that doesn’t get muffled. It’s easy to get a great sound, regardless of the volume, bass or cabinets paired with it. The real interesting option is the KOSMOS function, as it works like a subharmonic generator, along with the ability to make smaller speakers sound bigger -- 10” drivers can get a lot deeper with this engaged. It’s like adding a neat low-end spice; a little goes a long way. Even the manual warns against extreme settings on this, especially at higher volumes. There is an external footswitch that will allow turning on or off certain features -- it’s not included, which is a bit of a bummer considering it’s really needed to tap into certain functions in a practical sense. Come on, Peavey. Let’s include a footswitch next time, eh? Overall, if you need an ultra-compact bass head with modern features, plenty of power and great tone, this is certainly one to consider. With the street price being just $599, it shouldn’t be a hard sell.  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 45


GEAR REVIEWS

VERTEX EFFECTS Dynamic Distortion Pedal

T

here are a plethora of pedals out there based off of classics like Tube Screamers and Fuzz Faces, and it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole searching for one that differs just enough while maintaining the reasons they still endure. Vertex nailed it with their Dynamic Distortion. The standard distortion pedal control layout is here: Volume, Tone and Gain, along with a negative center 9v connection and 1/4” input and output. The Tone control is a bit different though, and acts like a hi-pass filter. Turning the control clockwise, increases the high end. Since this is kind of a TS-meets-Fuzz hybrid, the Gain control behaves as a boost at lower settings -- increasing it takes the gain from overdrive to distortion and then into fuzztone territory. For players who’ve waded through all the TS clones and mods out there, stop right now, this is what you have been looking for! That classic midrange bump is still there, but it feels a lot more refined, and as it enters distortion mode, it can get raspy, almost like a Rat pedal. But again, much more defined. Going further into the fuzz territory is glorious. It doesn’t get into hyper fuzz, but it’s rich and velvet-ish. It reacts equally well with humbuckers and single coil pickups. The tone control is flexible enough to keep Strats from getting shrill, while maintaining high-end clarity on humbuckers. In the heavy distortion and fuzz areas, there’s no woolly-ness that normally comes with pedals at extreme gain settings – players who employ fuzz units but find they need to run a boost afterwards to keep from getting lost in the mix will love this! Open chords ring out nicely, while still retaining top end chime, and chunky rhythms have body, while delivering thump. Lead parts are fantastic, with plenty of sustain and richness. Like those classic pedals, this also reacts well to a guitar’s volume control, so for players who like leaving a pedal dimed, and ride their volume, this one is for you. Other pedals play nicely with this as well, a boost placed afterwards didn’t yield any strange tonal sag. Total bonus. The street price is $199, and considering it covers gain stages from boost, overdrive, distortion and fuzz it’s perfectly reasonable. It nails great tones along that range, it could very easily retire one (or three) pedals on most player’s boards. Our highest recommendation.  Chris Devine

46 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

PROS

beyond excellent gain ranges; flexible tonal control. CONS

ABSOLUTLEY EFFIN’ NONE. PRICE

$199


MY FAVORITE AXE

BACKGROUND

I was born in the 23rd minute of the 23rd hour of the 23rd day. I write, sing and play guitar in the band Earwig. MAKE & MODEL

1986 Fender ’69 reissue Blue Flower Telecaster with Bigsby bridge and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails pick-ups. Bought new in 1986 with my paper route money. WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

I had seen Purple Rain and I wanted to be Prince, so I bought this guitar off the wall at the local music shop in Columbus, Ohio. It’s played basements, dingy clubs, concert halls and theaters. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE

I’m usually playing live through a Big Muff and a Twin Reverb for leads with a crunchy sting. I play heavy gauge strings and it carries a lot of tone and sustain. SPECIAL FEATURES

The Hot Rails pick-ups have ultra-high gain so this Tele always cuts through the mix on our recent album Pause For The Jets. When Earwig plays live, I always rock a locking strap because I tend to jump around a lot. CUSTOM MODS

My guitar tech (Erick Coleman in Athens, Ohio) added the Bigsby for me in 2005 and I’ve since developed a tremolo-heavy solo style. I love it. Plus it looks rad. OTHER NOTES

I’ve had this guitar since I was a kid and every bit of music that I’ve released has been filtered through it. It’s been lovingly abused and has the scars to show it with a clean sound that is instantly recognizable. CAN BE HEARD ON

Hear this Tele on the track “High Wasps,” a surf rock instrumental at earwig.bandcamp.com. For more, visit www.lizardmcgee.com and www.lizardfamily.com

with

Lizard

MCGEE

Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at editorial@performermag.com

Allan Foster

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2017 47


FLASHBACK

1956 HOFNER MODEL127

I

n this installment, we’ll take a look at a 1956 Hofner Model 127, also known as the Model Club 50. Back in the early days of rock n roll, particularly in the U.K., young guitarists didn’t have a lot of affordable guitar options. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, David Gilmour, Riche Blackmore and Justin Hayward are just a few of the guitar heroes that owned Hofner guitars back in the day.

Although Höfner was established in 1887 by Karl Höfner in Germany, in 1957 a company called Selmer began distributing the Club models in England and, well, as they say, “the rest was history.” The guitar shown here is a player’s dream. Its semi-acoustic body is constructed of a carved spruce top and f lat one-piece maple back and sides. The neck is constructed of three pieces wood: maple / beech / maple with the headstock being capped with a beautiful tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl faceplate. A 3-ply (white / black / white) nut is set behind the zero fret of the 22-fret rosewood fingerboard. Two single coil pickups, which have rosewood sides and Bakelite faces are controlled by four (two volume, two tone) Hofner tea cup control knobs and two toggle-type selector switches. The f loating rosewood bridge has adjustable saddles which are actually small pieces of fret wire. A trapeze tail with the “K.H.” insignia plate and a tortoise shell pickguard edged in white round out the appointments of this beautiful piece of seventy-year-old workmanship. As you may have expected, this guitar plays and sounds amazing! As caretaker of several local collections owned by some rather prominent collectors, I am fortunate enough to have many VERY COOL guitars cross my bench. For that I would like to say thank you to the collectors, such as Richard Gonzmart, who owns this guitar, and the others who allow me to share some of their passion with you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From Soho Guitar in Tampa, FL, I’m Rob Meigel. Visit us online at www.sohoguitar.com.

48 JUNE/JULY 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


D120SCE

D120S12SE

O120CESB

BEAUTY... more than skin deep The beauty of the new Mitchell 120 Series acoustic guitars is definitely more than meets the eye. With seven different models featuring scalloped bracing for enhanced resonance, ultra-thin finishes for improved volume and slim-tapered necks for superior playability, these guitars are unsurpassed in their class. Select 120 Series guitars feature solid Engelmann spruce tops, convenient cutaways and built-in electronics, resulting in superior stage-ready instruments that are within reach of anyone’s budget. Welcome to the new Mitchell 120 Series – beauty to the eyes and ears.

MitchellGuitars.com


XS Wireless 1

Raise Your Voice. XS Wireless 1 is an easy-to-use, all-in-one wireless series that allows singers, presenters and instrumentalists to operate up to 10 systems simultaneously. Designed with ease of use in mind, this analog UHF series features a sleek receiver with built-in antennas and streamlined interface that includes one-button scanning and synchronization functions. sennheiser.com/xs-wireless-1

Profile for Performer Magazine

Performer Magazine: June/July 2017  

Featuring Ayron Jones, Fleet Foxes, Jay Som, Beach Fossils and much more...

Performer Magazine: June/July 2017  

Featuring Ayron Jones, Fleet Foxes, Jay Som, Beach Fossils and much more...