THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
MAY ‘16 FREE
HOW TO MONETIZE YOUR MUSIC RIGHTS
THE TWO TENS
Don’t Just Put on a Show. BE THE SHOW.
BLOC PARTY · FILTER · KOOL STUFF KATIE
MAKE YOUR HOME STUDIO SOUND AMAZING
THE FIGHT TO STANDARDIZE FAIR TRADE MUSIC
Inspiring Every Moment
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The 22 TwoTens by Jaclyn Wing
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 26, ISSUE 5
4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Witching Waves
6. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Greg Newton (Save The Clocktower)
8. Blockchain and Fair Trade Music: Part 1 10. Interview: Live Streaming Pioneer Brad Serling
12. Songtradr: Monetize Your Music Rights 30. RECORDING: Treating The Room 32. GEAR REVIEWS: BAE, Eventide, JHS, Novation, Peavey & more…
47. MY FAVORITE AXE: Jesse Cook 48. FLASHBACK: Vintage UA 6176 Compressor/Preamp PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all! Last month we featured RJD2 on the cover, and barely scratched the surface of his analog synth obsession. Fear not! We will scratch that itch most thoroughly in July with our Synthesizer Extravaganza! Or simply, a special issue dedicated to the joys of synthdom. So, what does that mean? We’ll be oscillating and modulating our way through the ins-and-outs of vintage, modern, digital, analog and everything in-between. But we need your help on our synthtastic journey! From now until the first week of June, we want to hear from you! Who’s your favorite synth player? What’s the best synth solo of all time? What’s the most underrated analog synth (that’s still reasonably priced on eBay)? Your opinion counts, so keep an eye on our social media for opportunities to get your voice heard.
If you want a bigger voice in the issue, and let’s face it, keyboard players are usually loudmouths ( j/k), we would love for you to out pen to paper (or whatever the computer equivalent is) and contribute a guest column. We want to hear from our readers about their favorite synths or perhaps some tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas you might have for articles, or just to let me know you might be interested (we’ve got tons of potential topics you could choose from, as well).
Volume 26, Issue 5 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT
Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com EDITOR
Benjamin Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN & ART DIRECTION
In closing: live long and pulse wave. Benjamin Ricci, editor P.S. – Anyone got Rick Wakeman’s number?
Bob Dobalina email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Benjamin Ricci, Candace McDuffie, Chris Devine, Don Miggs, Jaclyn Wing, Jen Emmert, Jesse Cook, Jordan Tishler, Mark Cowles, Michael St. James CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Chris Barber, David Garcia, David Rubene, John Currier, Mary Newton, Myriam Santos, Oly Kaz, Rachael Wright ADVERTISING SALES
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 firstname.lastname@example.org © 2016 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.
Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about.
Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact email@example.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.”
MUSIC SUBMISSIONS We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to firstname.lastname@example.org.No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine Attn: Reviews PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143
4 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will... ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to email@example.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”
Follow on Twitter: @witchingwaves
ondon’s post-wave, melodic noise punk outfit Witching Waves drops their latest LP in the States on HHBTM Records, our fave indie label of the moment. Another in a long line of noisy-yet-accessible vinyl releases, Crystal Cafe opens with a fuzzed out shoegazenodder (“Twister”) that could pretty much be a lost Bangles track, if only Susanna Hoffs would trade her Rickenbacker for Fender and smoke a little more weed. Witching Waves is like the best parts of Sonic Youth albums – you know, when they let Kim Gordon let loose an ethereal wail and the guitars, although noisy as fuck, know exactly what they’re
doing melodically. And that’s the key here – it’s not just noisy and post-punky for the sake of being post-punky. Peel away the layers of fuzz and grunge and there are great songs and melodies here. And without great tunes to support the sonics, what’s the point then, eh?
Take the best of the Pixies, My Bloody Valentine and maybe Sub Pop-era Nirvana and you’ve got the gist of what Witching Waves is up to. We totally dig this record, and urge you to give it a spin. Well, of course we’d say that. We did choose it as our vinyl of the month, after all…
Witching Waves Crystal Cafe
London, England (HHBTM Records)
More like Bitching Waves, amirightfolks? PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 5
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Not the most original pick, but one of my first musical awakening moments was while riding in the car with my dad in downtown Chicago, looking up at the skyscrapers listening to John Lennon belt out the “Ahhs” over the orchestra in “A Day in the Life.” His voice still gives me chills.
y passion for music first started around the age of 5 or 6, driving around with my dad Sunday mornings listening to “Breakfast with the Beatles.” My love of music production started around the age of 18, when I moved to Boulder, CO for college. It was there that I was introduced to music production software, and began touring with my brother’s live electronica band, Motion for Alliance, performing light design for their live shows. About this time, I went through a 2-year period where I produced a new track just about every day. I made about 10 albums worth of pretty good beat music that is stuck on a computer I forgot the login for. Anyway, on to the records…
6 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
REVIEWS Radiohead Kid A (2000)
Beck Sea Change (2002)
Amon Tobin Out From Out Where (2002)
I used to hate Radiohead because the “Karma Police” video was so overplayed. One beautiful sunny day, my brother picked me up from the Denver airport and played Kid A for me. That was the start of really discovering one of my favorite and most influential bands.
One of the best sounding records ever, this hit at the perfect time for me. I was lonely and in a new place, and Beck’s record was like therapy for me. It got me out of my funk and inspired me to start producing my own music, ushering me into the most prolific period of my life.
Amon Tobin was one of the main inspirations for me to start dabbling in electronic music. This record is dark and nasty and isn’t always an easy listen. He used unconventional sounds but also mixed beautiful melodies. It really changed my perception of what electronic music could be.
Follow on Greg and Save The Clocktower on Twitter @clocktowermusic Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
S THAT D MY LIFE Greg Newton (Save The Clocktower)
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 7
FAIR TRAD AND DOTBLO Building the Future Music Industry PT 1
also show you exactly how it works, over the next few articles.
If you haven’t heard the term blockchain yet, go read about its genesis here: https:// m e d i u m .c o m /c u e p o i n t / b c - a - fa i r - t ra d e music-format-virtual-reality-the-blockchain76fc47699733#.1kpkswloi and how the idea has progressed into the DotBlockchain project here: https://medium.com/cuepoint/how-theblockchain-can-change-the-music-industrypart-2-c1fa3bdfa848#.tzsn1smoz
What is the DotBlockchain Music Format Project? An initiative to streamline licensing and capture lost revenue by creating a new file format called “.bc” which would be the new music file standard, distributed and maintained on the blockchain, much like Bitcoin.
ut on your thinking caps, we’re going to delve into this whole “blockchain” thing you’ve been hearing about in music industry news circles.
Conceived and spearheaded by Benji Rogers (founder of PledgeMusic - pictured left), the goal of this initiative is to radically shift power back to music rights holders while also addressing the licensing and revenue collection complexities of music distribution and usage. Obviously, this is very technical stuff and the details are still being ironed out right now, so I’m going to attempt to simplify it as best I can, and 8 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Here is an oversimplified crash course, as told to us by Rogers…
Why a file format? Think of .bc like a .zip file. It’s a wrapper folder that contains multiple files. This addresses the long-standing problem of making certain that information associated with a song is accurate and editable. For instance, “SONGNAME.bc” would include multiple song mixes and masters in .mp3, .wav, FLAC, stems, all ownership information (writers, performers, PRO, publisher, label, date recorded, etc.), and metadata (ISRC, UPC, lyrics, artwork, BPM, etc.).
What is meant by “fair-trade” music? By using the .bc format with Minimum Viable Data (MVD) attached, the industry agrees to a baseline of what information must be connected to every audio file in order to be deployed on a music platform such as YouTube, Spotify, etc. Any platform that would not choose to use .bc files as their standard would be signaling that they are purposefully not identifying or paying the correct parties and against being transparent in their reporting of plays, sales, and spins. What’s transpired since you launched the idea? Basically, I had to get organized by bringing other people into the fray, because the inbound pressure was too much. You know, it is amazing how ideas spread. Writing a blog post that gets that kind of attention and leads to speaking at dozens of copyright conferences, meetings with lawyers, PROs, tech people, publishers, and basically every digital service provider out there. I’m wonderfully surprised at so much positive feedback, but it just shows that the entire industry knows we have a problem and is looking for a solution, especially those who deal with recordings and licensing. Where is the initiative as we speak today, and what are the next steps? First of all, there is no outside investment involved; it’s important for musicians to know that we are not aligned with any given ISP or label, etc. This is meant to be a transparent project, so we are making sure the process of building it is, too.
initial code in open source with the goal of getting some live testing in 8-10 weeks. Here’s the thing - if nothing changes with the systems we have in place, by 2017 the casualties are going to start to mount. So, we’re determined to get this stable, and then up and running very quickly.
[Note: Officially, as of April 6th, Dominic Pandiscia took over day-to-day operations as CEO of PledgeMusic; Benji Rogers will stay on as Chief Strategy Officer.] Why do you think this is gaining so much attention? Ultimately, it’s become extremely painful now to so many of the stakeholders to take such a pittance of what’s above the table. It’s like holding a penny above the table and looking at a million dollars under the table. It hurts. We’re scaling the music business to untold heights - billions of people using it - and the money is going down? That’s not right and everyone knows it. And yet, the bullshit arguments about streaming vs. sales and higher royalty rates are just a distraction. The “middle class” of musicians is not going to get paid radically more to bartender less under the current model. Currently, I send my .mp3s here and .wavs there, and yet no one knows who or where exactly to pay, and it’s not transparent. The system is not built for the art that stands above it. We need better rails for the trains to run on. So, by having better usage of the raw materials of music, at the file level, organized in
“The system is not built for the art that stands above it. We need better rails for the trains to run on.” We have a solid initial team put together and we are setting up the public benefit corporation to house the idea. In the next few weeks to months we have two major priorities: 1. Deciding the MVD parameters, and 2. Starting to write the
a public and transparent database, we will begin to solve this for the future. Otherwise, this is just going to get worse. I cover music tech in this space often; how
ADE MUSIC LOCKCHAIN
can this project help drive innovation and address some of the barriers that exist today? Yes, one of the other ideas that I really want to get through is that this initiative would also encourage overall music industry growth. What if some gal is developing the “Facebook of Music” in her college dorm right now? In order for her to use music at all in the app to explore if the idea can work, she has to go license music from 7 Digital or another provider for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, and it’s just not affordable. In my opinion, because of these licensing complications, we are holding back opportunities for ourselves that we may not even know exist, or don’t exist yet. With .bc the power to determine how and for what price the music may be used is controlled by the rights holder. So, in this case, you could set a play threshold, such that any app or developer could use it for trial technologies. Say, 10 or 20,000 gratis plays, and then you would qualify for a licensing tier. With digital rights expression built in, you can set those permissions in a variety of ways. We hope to build a framework of the parameters we suggest each .bc should allow. Ultimately, the permissions will be controlled by the rights holders, and not the platforms. WHERE TO GO AND GET INVOLVED Here is the main page for the project, currently: http://dotblockchain.info Most importantly, in order to develop the initial code for testing and deployment, your input is needed in determining the industry standard parameters for minimum viable data (MVD). Please go here and fill in the quick survey with your thoughts and opinions.: https://dotbc. typeform.com/to/a8IqiK Next article, we will tackle VR, AI, music security, and talk to Benji about the latest updates on the project. Stay tuned… 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 MAY 2016 9
Why Instant Live R Important Building Bl
ive music fanatics have known of nugs.net for decades. In the early ’90s, live music tape trading was colliding with the new digital age, and there weren’t many people willing or able to assist in that transition. The kind of people who were traveling around the country following their favorite bands weren’t exactly the same ones who were into getting AOL email accounts, or developing websites. But Brad Serling saw a way to expand what had long been a one-to-one analog hobby into a service that could be shared worldwide. Serling started nugs.net out of love, way back in 1993, as a way to share the tapes he was making of Grateful Dead and Phish shows. With those artists’ blessing, nugs.net’s non-commercial live music download site mushroomed to 3 million free downloads a month by 2000. The Dead were so impressed by the potential of his idea that they brought Brad on as a consultant, which led to an introduction to Phish. By 2002, the project pivoted from a fan site to a paid downloads provider with the launch of the LivePhish.com. Growing to over 115 million downloads, thousands of artists, and hundreds of label partners, today nugs.net is the premiere platform for delivering live music directly to fans. And there is no bigger fan of live music recording than nugs. net founder, Brad Serling. We recently spoke with Serling about the new music industry model… It seems that recording (and downloading) technology is so much cheaper to harness now; what is the state of the live recordings industry in 2016? Is it growing? It’s certainly cheaper, smaller, faster than it was in 2002 when I recorded the first Phish show for immediate release at Madison Square Garden. Today the cost of making hi-res recordings has plummeted, and everything from the time to edit
and render the files and upload for distribution has dramatically shrunk. Technology has now caught up with nugs.net’s original intent: instant access to recordings of the concert you just saw or just missed. I do think the business of live recordings is growing, but not necessarily because the cost of technology is dropping. It’s growing because of artists’ need for new revenue streams. What can be done to grow it quicker? Awareness is key. The more artists that start releasing live recordings, the more awareness grows among the artist community. It’s also fandriven. Fans become accustomed to getting an official recording of the concert they attended and then they expect that same level of service from other artists. Walk me through some of the challenges in delivering these live shows? Once we leap the artistic hurdle, the challenges are primarily navigating the business issues. The artistic hurdle is the glass ceiling of perfection. For example, many artists simply will not release a warts-and-all recording even though 20,000 fans just experienced it live. I repeatedly tell artists big and small that we’re not making Frampton Comes
10 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Alive. This is a service we are providing for fans, not a product. Granted, we do productize it in the form of a CD or tour box set or multi-disc vinyl release, but even then it’s a way to super-serve the fans as opposed to a product on the shelves of Best Buy or Amazon warehouses. I imagine licensing and label interference and also challenges to overcome? The business hurdles include everything from origination fees at the venues, a label’s willingness or unwillingness to release recordings outside of their purview, and the business of artist compensation. Video licensing is still the “wild west.” It took three full months, for example, to license Widespread Panic’s recent Halloween show for VOD and physical release. We broadcast it live as a very successful pay-per-view on nugs.tv but had to fight for the rights to include the 22 covers they performed over two nights in the on demand and physical versions of the concert videos. The catalog seems constrained, maybe by design. Are you opening up the platform to many more artists? We’ve never set out to be Spotify or iTunes. We are laser-focused on artists who have a strong
An Exclusive Interview with Live Streaming Pioneer Brad Serling
Recordings Are an Block For Your Career live following and/or a deep catalog of quality live recordings. We’ve survived all these years by staying true to that focus and not getting distracted by the latest trend or getting entangled with other aspects of the music business. We are open to any artist from any genre as long as they are truly a great live performer and they can support the regular release of their concert recordings. It’s not as simple as it sounds and frankly some bands crumble under the pressure. But it’s also not rocket science. We do the heavy lifting once the artist commits to program. So, the idea is not so much exclusion, but more of a curation process? There is an element of curation. For years now nugs. net has been the trusted brand for live music, much like The Fillmore was in San Francisco in the late 1960s. Is nugs.net open to releasing independent labels or bands? To be clear, nugs.net’s platform is not a selfpublishing tool nor is it a black box. I suppose you’d call me the A&R guy in the classic sense of just having a gut feeling as to whether a certain artist will do well on nugs.net. As you said, it’s not so much an exclusionary tactic as a practical; we look at how many tickets a band sells and whether they can sustain this kind of live release business. It doesn’t matter whether they are indie, signed to a major label, playing clubs, or selling out stadiums. It’s about the music. Do they play a great show? Do fans want recordings of those shows? Does it fit their overall business model? How should artists approach preparing for the type of live recordings (audio, webcast or video) that please fans? An artist should absolutely not change a thing about their live show for purposes of recording or webcast. That would feel artificial. Fans flock to the real and can sniff out artifice from a mile away. Live recordings should be a document of what went down in the venue for those precious few hours with your fans.
additional engineer to do a live multi-track recording just for nugs.net. That’s the ideal scenario: a live mix separate from the front of house mix, just for live release. Those artists mix the show on-the-fly and upload to nugs.net nightly for distribution. For smaller tours, the live recording is typically the front of house mix (i.e., what you hear through the P.A. at the show) blended with a pair of microphones at the mix position and time-aligned. In some cases, FOH engineers will do a submix just for the live recording. You’d be amazed how great a good front of house mix can sound. Many nugs.net
artists playing theaters and clubs have this totally dialed in, like Widespread Panic, Railroad Earth, and The String Cheese Incident, to name a few. Visit the website: nugs.net Follow on Twitter: @nugsnet 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.
Any tips on how to best pull a recording off the board for artists looking to start their live strategy? Artists playing [larger venues] travel with an PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 11
SONGTRADR - STORE, P SELL ALL OF YOUR MU
aybe you’ve been storing your pitching tracks in Dropbox or Box, and want a better experience for prospective clients and co-writers - one that includes song lyrics, licensing information, and fast .wav playback. Or, perhaps you are looking to produce music consistently and utilize a partner to license it for you. You might even have a production music catalog you’re willing to part with entirely, and are looking for potential buyers, but don’t know where to start.
Yes, we want everyone’s music. You do not have to be a member of a PRO, but we highly recommend it; alternatively, you can elect us as your administrator.
Songtradr, “the marketplace for music rights a platform for music creators, owners and buyers,” is here to solve those problems. I spent some time chatting with Paul Wiltshire, an Australian songwriter, record producer, and mixer, as well as the company’s founder, about how Songtradr can be a valuable tool for independent musicians’ careers.
What costs and fees are involved with Songtradr? First, it is free to sign up and free to store an unlimited amount of files and music. Concerning fees, we receive 17.5% of the Master and Sync agreement. We feel in a world where that fee is often 50/50, it’s important that we are very motivated to perform. We wanted to be compatible with large catalog licensing, where margins are thin and give a great value to any rights holder, including independents.
What’s the Songtradr elevator pitch? It’s a free content management system (CMS) that’s plugged into a marketplace for monetizing music rights. Can anyone sign up, and what’s needed to get started?
We deal in quality for placements, so we prefer 24-bit/44.1k, 16-bit/44.1k at a minimum. For files, obviously full versions, but also instrumentals, additional files, alternative mixes, including stems. You can be published or not, and you can load songs that are co-owned on splits; we will take care of making sure they are notified.
Can I pitch the songs from my Songtradr catalog directly, like I do other storage sites? Yes; and we have a couple of cool things that
improve the experience. We’re really proud of our sophisticated player with super-quick audio playback, and embedded song info (C/P owners, PRO etc.) for display, depending on what you want to share. You can also create playlists of your own tracks and share that link with anyone, whether a member of Songtradr, or not.
Song storage is needed, but licensing opportunities seem hard to find. Does Songtradr actively pitch to license? We do, and we have an aggressive sales team that curates, pitches, and places music. Our team is made up of ad creatives, music supervisors, and other music professionals. A big part of what we’re doing is curation. Our team is constantly listening 12 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
to content on the platform and building playlists geared toward discovery, making it easier for potential buyers to find what they need, quickly. We both know that metadata is so important; how does Songtradr handle this? It’s built in. Each track uses tagging, keywords, genres, sub-genres, reference artists, and more. We also allow for multiple writers, publishers, and owners. Once you enter all of the ownership details, the system asks for a contact for the other parties, and we send them notification seeking consent. Once all of the rights holders have consented, the track will be in the available in the marketplace and future licenses will automatically pay out the splits. I love the variable pricing tool - what data is
being using to set market rates? We have direct numbers from clearance supervisors with recent market rates in many categories, all within a massive matrix. We’ve created an intuitive and quick way to set realistic pricing, by using a slider to set price ranges based on the kind of track, to match with the correct buyer instantly, or just set to “offers” only. It’s up to you. You can rename these presets and setup multiple catalogs - one set for premium, one set for sales, etc. Maybe you have a catalog of “B” songs, priced aggressively - you can set those transactions to happen automatically. Are Syncs still an area where independents can compete? Absolutely. There’s always going to be the competition of price. But the world is a very
, PITCH, LICENSE, AND MUSIC IN THE CLOUD
large place, and we are trying to solve “access” to those opportunities. Major shows or placements are always difficult. We’re exploring as many verticals as possible, with the goal of active, multiple income streams and possible blanket licenses. We want musicians to concentrate on producing more music. Songtradr is built to help musicians make a living from music, and we’re just getting started. For more info, visit www.songtradr.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 MAY 2016 13
Filter Richard Patrick on Channeling The Uncertainty of Modern Times into Modern Art
14 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Mark Cowles Myriam Santos
SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 15
‘‘I FELT COMPELLE DO THE OPPOSITE WHAT IS CONSIDER POPULAR RIGHT N
n this writer’s humble opinion, every album Richard Patrick has ever put out under the Filter banner has been honest, dark and distinctly unique with both its musical and lyrical approach. Filter’s new album Crazy Eyes is a masterpiece of nostalgic industrial, heaviness and catchy melodies. The combination of old-school influences and innovative textures on this record have had me hooked since I first had the privilege of hearing it. Notable stand-out tracks such as “Nothing In My Hands,” “Mother E,” “Tremors,” “The City of Blinding Riots,” “Pride Flag” and “Take Me to Heaven” will have every Filter fan screaming the lyrics and entranced by the music. I was able to touch base with Patrick to learn some of the background behind the latest LP. 16 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Thanks for speaking with me. What is the origin of the album title? A lot of people are curious about the origin of the album title. Well, if you look at someone like Adam Lanza - take a look into his eyes. There’s this bizarre familiarity with all these mass shooters...And I wanted to kind of understand that and avoid anything having to do with the same old pop stuff, you know what I mean? I felt compelled to do the opposite of what is considered popular right now. People really make me sick when they’re like, ‘Oh, we should write something happy.’ So really with this record I wanted to get back to, not necessarily the sound on my roots, but definitely the mentality of my roots. So I was
just like, ‘Give me some cash and I’m going to go run off to the studio and work with some old friends, and some new friends; but let me do what I want to do and let me produce it. And they were like, ‘You know what? Absolutely, go do your thing.’ So I ran around and got together with all kinds of people and had a great time in the studio. But ultimately the responsibility was mine and I was the final opinion. I think that’s what led up to the record that we have now. And I also think the reaction from people is exactly what we’ve been waiting for, you know? And I think that when you have the opportunity of being a musician or an artist, you kind of have to be honest and authentic to yourself.
And there were these things that happened, all these events, that I couldn’t explain. I wanted to understand it and make the album kind of reflect what was happening, you know? I’ve always heard that the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot” is about the televised suicide of R. Budd Dwyer. Is there any truth to this rumor? Yes, absolutely. “Hey Man, Nice Shot” was about that whole thing on the news, with the press conference where the guy committed suicide in front of all the cameras, and you can’t really understand it. I saw the footage and I just didn’t understand this guy. Why did you do it? You know, ‘I wish I would have met you, now it’s a little late, what you could’ve
So I decided to reacquaint myself with my roots and just write about the things that are strange and you know weird to me. And that’s how you end up with Crazy Eyes. Because I don’t understand Adam Lanza. I know he was sick, I know he was mentally ill, but I really just don’t fucking understand it. And most people don’t. I really do think that most people are good people who just want to get through their lives. And then there are these lunatics living on the fringes. Whether it’s ISIS, whether it’s Trump, whether it’s white supremacy, mass murderers... These extremists who just kind of push us around and do these fucked up things and kill us. And that fucking lunatic Adam Lanza, how did he get to be this way?! When you really peel back the mask, you start to see the reality of life. The older I get the more obligated I feel to be the spokesman for trying to really understand the insanity that we are surrounded by. I mean just look at it. And we all know that someone like Taylor Swift is not going to do it. She’s making tons of money, and it’s the same old shit as Donny Osmond, it’s the same old shit as all of that regurgitated crap. I’d rather be myself and make the music about reflections of where we are. And you know, my honesty has even inspired people on a profound level. Take my sobriety for instance. There were a lot of people who wrote to me and said, ‘Dude, your story about sobriety and your honest approach to it has inspired me to realize that I should get sober as well,’ and clearly the sobriety thing has been a huge part of my life. And of course things like the R. Budd Dwyer suicide, the craziness of our society, everything going on around us. Look at that euthanasia thing going on in Portland, Oregon where people are like, ‘I’m really sick, I don’t want to live in a hospital for the last two years of my life, I want to go out with some dignity.’ We all have to die sometime, and how do you make that decision? How are you strong enough to do that? That to me is more interesting, subject matter-wise, than something like, ‘I can’t find a boyfriend,’ or ‘I miss my girlfriend.’ It’s like just, ‘Get the fuck over it!’ We live in a very disturbing reality and people are whining about fucking bullshit. There’s all kinds of different shit to think about. When did you first realize that being a musician was your true calling in life? In 1974, my dad bought a big massive stereo but
my mother was like, ‘Bob, God dang it, I think it’s too loud!’ And he said, ‘I don’t care, Nadine!’ And he loved music. And my dad bought the record Hot August Night by Neil Diamond and he played that fucking record all the fucking time and I loved it. It’s almost unexplainable in a way, it’s like music has just always been the go-to thing about what made me happy. And it was so easy to disappear into music when I was growing up.
LED TO E OF ERED NOW.’’
taught me’ you know, it’s just like poetry about this really awkward moment in this guy’s life. I feel like that’s really what art is supposed to represent. It’s supposed to be a little snapshot of everything, including grim realities.
Because I came from a big family and I didn’t want to study since my ADHD was off the charts. No one knew it, they just said I was hyper and it sounded too close to a mental problem so it was untreated and ignored. And there was a bit of denial with the whole thing. You know, when I was growing up I suffered through school and I was awkward, hyper and crazy and music just calmed me down. It made me feel like everything is going to be okay. I just always wanted to disappear into it, you know? There were several bands that would kind of make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I just remember those bands as being like massively important to me. You know, I just love doing it. Sometimes it drives me crazy. I wish I was a better guitar player and all that stuff, but I try as much as I can to do things outside the lines and think outside the box.
Follow on Twitter: @OfficialFilter
FILTER CRAZY EYES STANDOUT TRACK: “TAKE ME TO HEAVEN”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 17
Candace McDuffie Rachael Wright
Frontman Kele Okereke On Using The Studio as a Writing Tool
18 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 19
ymns, the fifth album from indie lotharios Bloc Party, is a palpable departure from previous efforts. Granted, frontman Kele Okereke’s effortless charisma remains strongly intact and he is just as pensive on Hymns as he was on the band’s 2005 debut Silent Alarm. But on their latest creation, hooks are less confetti-covered and contain more of a transparent, glassy feel. Not only is Okereke refreshingly lucid through crippling generational malaise, but he is seductive in his modern-day soul searching and subversive lyricism. Although his words carry an ethereal weight, the vocalist knows it was a process to get to this point. “Every record from Silent Alarm on was crammed with textures - and I didn’t think that much about the lyrics. Now we’ve refined our approach,” Okereke divulges. He is also quick to acknowledge Bloc Party’s conceptually bolder stance of indulging their whims without ever getting tiresome. “During Intimacy, we were exploring using the recording studio as a tool in the writing process. It was fun to try and see what stuck...letting inspiration come and not forcing it is what we enjoyed most. When something in the physical world or a phrase excites me or when something appears randomly in my mind...it’s just better than forcing an idea.” The confessional and texturally enriched Hymns is a naturally progressive surge into the band’s foray into minimal grandiosity; gone are the days of endless neon pulses and digital addiction in favor of melodies that possess infinite amounts of sublime simplicity. Quixotic opener “The Love Within” bobs languidly around slippery reverb while the willful isolation of “So Real” comes off as slender-yet-strong. Despite vivid imagery and apparent surrender to some sort of higher power, Okereke isn’t one to disclose the meaning behind every single lyric. “With Hymns, I was just trying to describe what I hold to be sacred. I’m not really a religious person - it was just about what inspired me,” he reveals. “I can’t really explain the lyrics...I don’t see what other people see. They may not see it how I see it. But a lot of it is an ode to nature. I feel the presence of the divine when I am closest to it.”
“We were exploring using the recording studio as a tool in the writing process.” 20 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT When it comes to each Bloc Party record, Okeruke recalls how skillful his band mates are and how they have gotten used to being in tune with one another. “It’s just gathering material and basic ideas and [the band] just gets it so organically. When we write as a band, it’s very much collaborative...just being in a room jamming together. But it’s funny,” he teases. “I don’t really listen to any of our records after making them so intensely. The only record I listen to currently is Hymns - that’s the most reflective of what we are now.” The new album is sweetly tuneful and genuinely deep - characteristics that can be attributed to Okeruke’s penchant for thinking outside the box. “I pride myself on growing up in London. Growing up there, it didn’t feel like we had any boundaries. I was constantly exposed to do different worlds, cultures, all types of things. I love trying to do different things musically and learning as much about new stuff that I didn’t know before.” Okereke’s narration is as wistful as it is factual. “I’ve always been into Elliott Smith and Leonard Cohen, but I love rock music and pop music. I’m also getting into the neo-soul world currently, which I don’t know that much about.” When it comes to Bloc Party’s live presence, their energy is borderline elusive. On the surface, it can be classified as cinematic art
rock; each member plays their heart out while basking in cathedral reverb and synth swaddle. Okereke’s cosmic vocal glow is never more powerful than when he sings with flying-offthe rails urgency during one of their shows. Though they may have one of the most pulsating live shows on the planet, the frontman emphasizes the importance of balance. “I’m really happy about just constantly doing stuff...just being in motion. But with touring, I’ve been doing it for 15 years so I understand that you always have to travel and always be away. It’s a bit of a binary feeling,” he discloses. “Although I’m used to being on the road, I easily enjoy being domestic at home...walking my dog, cooking, watching stuff on YouTube.” It’s not long before our cell connection starts giving way and even though Okereke is pressed for time (his publicist is on the line timing the interview), he is prompted to add anything about Hymns that he didn’t get a chance to discuss earlier. His smile literally radiates through the phone. “I’ve been talking about this record for the last six months and I know when I hear that question, it’s pretty much the end of the interview,” he jokingly states. “I’m good.”
Follow on Twitter: @BlocParty
BLOC PARTY HYMNS STANDOUT TRACK: “SO REAL”
Yes. He is. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 21
SPOTLIGHT 22 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
THE TWO TENS
Chris Barber & Oly Kaz
Don’t Just Put on a Show. BE THE SHOW.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 23
“We have a yin and yang type thing; it’s a good balance.”
arely a year old, the brainchild of Adam Bones and Rikki Styxx, The Two Tens has erupted onto the scene. The chemistry between the two musicians is electric and the music is bitchin. For their newest album, Volume, inspired by ’60s garage, ’70s punk and elements of pop and rock n’ roll, Bones and Styxx have created a simplified (but powerful) sound, filtering the best of the bands who’ve influenced them. Maintaining positive relationships and having mutual respect with other musicians are two of the things that brought Bones and Styxx together. The third, and seemingly most important element, was the desire to have fun making the music that they wanted to. Styxx was a drummer in Bones’ solo project before he approached her to be in The Two Tens. The duo wanted to harness their energy into
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creating stripped-down tunes and having fun by being in a band that had a kickass attitude. Bones, guitarist and vocalist, embraces the fact that he is self-taught. Styxx grew up with punk rock and bought a drum set before she even knew how to set one up. She started taking lessons and attended a camp for female drummers where they practiced 10 hours a day, all because she wanted to branch out as a drummer; a good work ethic is the platform for success. Making a name for yourself doesn’t just deal with name recognition, it relies heavily on style recognition. Styxx says, “We really wanted all of our songs to be a little bit different. We wanted to add rock n’ roll into the recipe and stir it around [along with the punk and garage] because we don’t
want to get pigeonholed.” While Styxx notes that each song sounds a little bit different, the stylistic elements that are distinct to The Two Tens stays consistent. Their eclectic sound makes the album unmistakably theirs. As performers, Styxx and Bones differ in what parts of performing live are their favorite. Styxx loves seeing fans rock out uninhibited, living their lives and loving the music. Their reactions make her want to work harder. For Bones, putting on the show, BEING the show, and having everyone watch and enjoy their playing is his favorite. Simply being on stage and playing the songs with an electric, palpable energy is validation in itself. The earworms on this album are ridiculous. I catch myself singing all parts of each track when I
SPOTLIGHT listen to them. The drum hits, vocals and guitar riffs complement each other well. The vocals, in terms of both lyrics and musicality, are melodious and filled with emotion. It is evident that there are deepseated personal qualities used to enhance each of the songs. While the lyrics have an obvious punk tone, Bones crafted the record in such a way that it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a cartoon-like, angsty punk teenager. The songs are loud, like punk-rock should be, but they aren’t as-in-your face as most stereotypically are. As far as recording was concerned, the drums and rhythm guitar were recorded live and they overdubbed the lead guitar and vocals. Bones and Styxx agreed that their recording process went smoothly and that collaboration in the studio was fun.
Styxx notes: “We bounce ideas off each other because we both have ideas. We have a yin and yang type thing; it’s a good balance.” The balance that they have with each other has crossed over into the musical experience they create for their audience. Their songs are multilayered and have reached an equilibrium by balancing instrumentals, lyrics and portraying personality.
with a concept and worked with their director to make it all come together. With others, the director came up with an idea and they collaborated on the overall vision. As they gained momentum as a band, making the clips became easier. Styxx says she likes to “make everything fun, so it doesn’t feel like work.” That state of mind clearly is doing wonders for their music.
With Volume, Bones took a new approach with writing the lyrics. He drew inspiration from emotional events that greatly impacted his outlook on life. He explains, “I didn’t want to censor myself with certain topics so I thought, now, I’m just gonna sing about how I’m feeling and I’m not gonna gold back.” He continues, “Being honest and real, whether it’s the songwriting itself or the performance or what we are wearing, being authentic to ourselves and our fans … more people relate if we are being real.”
The Two Tens are already planning more tour dates and are excited about meeting new people and visiting new cities. New tracks are already written and their next album is in the works. While the duo are still making their way, Bones assures us that they “have no plans on slowing down… ever.”
The songwriting process was an organic experience and while the inspiration for the album was deeply personal, the topics he sings about are universally relatable. Styxx notes that not overthinking anything helped with the writing process. She goes on to say “being so close to Adam, knowing his perception of things” makes her appreciate the stories more. In her view, the two major messages of the album are to find yourself and who you are and if you’re lost, go exploring. While this is inspirational for listeners, the messages Styxx mentions seem to apply to the band itself. Bones explored with not censoring his songs by sticking to certain topics and he used the lyrics to make sense of what was happening in his life. Styxx has branched out as a drummer and is navigating the world of being in a duo. Volume seems to be an album for reflection and growth, and hopefully it is an appetizer of things to come for The Two Tens’ career path. In addition to releasing Volume, The Two Tens have released a half-dozen music videos [to date] in accompaniment. Their experiences making the videos were just as positive as making the album. For some of the videos, Bones and Styxx came up
Follow on Twitter: @TheTwoTens
THE TWO TENS VOLUME STANDOUT TRACK: “BREATHE”
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Complementing Counterparts and Cardinal Charisma: A Course in Kool Stuff Katie Jen Emmert
26 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 27
hat do you get when you cross Craigslist with intensely musical-minded folks seeking a match, rather than a hand-me-down piece of furniture? Portland’s garage rock, pitchperfect pairing Kool Stuff Katie. We caught up with members Saren Oliver and Shane Blem and got the lowdown on their newest album, It’s Fine (out now), and how their natural chemistry has morphed them into an unstoppable and dominating two-piece. How did you get your start in music? SAREN: Music has been central to me since the beginning. I have sung and danced in some form or another since I could talk. It has always been a huge part of who I am. After college, I did a lengthy stint with all-consuming non-profit work, and I found myself at law school studying to be an international human rights lawyer. However, I quickly felt that I was not the right person to do the vastly “type A” work required in law—I became depressed and unsettled, wrestling with what to do. I wrote and played music daily at my keyboard to keep sane, and ended up leaving school after a year. After making the very difficult decision to walk away from a sure career—even with a mountain of debt—I decided that I had to pursue music in some form or another. Otherwise, what was the point of thrusting myself into that uncertainty? I would have never been able to live with myself if I squandered the opportunity 28 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
I had to restart my life the way I wanted to. I met Shane after moving to Portland, and we have been playing as a duo and refining our writing process and style for about two-and-a-half years. SHANE: Music for me has always been something that I just HAVE to do. I can’t really explain why,
a skeleton of a song and then jam it out for a bit to write the instrumentals, then work out the vocals. What is the theme behind the new LP? SAREN: We didn’t set out to write this album with any particular theme or concept in mind, but as it happened, we were both dealing with a lot of
“Every record label is going to expect you to invest in yourself, before they decide to become part of your team.” but if I’m not playing actively and writing, then everything else seems to suffer in my life. Can you give us some insight into your general creative process? SAREN: This is our second album, and we have really streamlined our songwriting style since we started out. We generally try to keep songs short and simple in structure, with our vocals taking most of the melody. When writing harmonies, we experiment with competing complementary melodies and keep them in choice areas where they fit. When writing, we›ll usually come in with
frustration on a personal level, whether socially or professionally or relationally. So, the majority of material came from that place. It’s funny, though, because upon first listen, the songs are generally upbeat and fun to listen to, so we joke that we made an album full of anguish in disguise. How does your creative process evolve into a live setting? SAREN: We have found that a “less is more” approach to production on our records suits us best. We definitely want them to feel polished and full, but we always keep our live show in mind while
writing and recording tracks. We want to be able to recreate our songs live in real time, which as a two-piece that plays actual instruments is a special challenge. We have definitely improved in the sense that we have learned what translates well to both recording and playing shows. Tell me about your relationship to the gear that you use and how that then translates into the chemistry you have in playing together. SAREN: We started out playing as a three-piece for about a year - I was playing keyboard/synth and we had another drummer. When Shane and I parted ways with the drummer, we experimented with different setups, and ultimately decided that it would be best if I started playing drums. So, I began on a very simple and minimal kit—just a bass, snare, and floor tom with a hi-hat and two cymbals—mostly because I was literally learning as we went along. I wouldn’t have known what to do with much else. Now that I have a couple years of playing under my belt, I am much more comfortable behind the kit, but have maintained the same setup, because it feels [right] and familiar to me. That has definitely influenced the way that I play and the beats that I write; I tend to keep things simple and straightforward. Long fills or elaborate breaks aren’t really my thing. SHANE: I have kind of an organized, but chaotic, setup, to say the least. I use multiple guitar amps and bass amps to fill out our sound, A/B pedals so I can switch between amps, octave pedals so I can play bass, and a whole lot of other pedals that are honestly used in a way that you would hopefully think I’m not using any pedals. I want the sound to be big and full and nice, but at the same time, I want it to sound simple and just like a nice tube amp should sound. I have multiple guitars, but use the same Gibson P94 pickups in everything I use. All of this setup was specifically put together because of how Saren and I play together and what’s needed to make a two-piece work for us. I’m sure if I played in a more standard band setup I would probably drive everyone insane. I would definitely have to change
up my setup. How do you approach recording and the studio you’re in, as well as the equipment that you use? SAREN: We try to go into the studio as prepared as possible, so we can be as efficient as possible. We worked with Steve Fisk on both records, who is fantastic, and we sort of let him take the reins on what equipment we use. SHANE: As Saren mentioned, we like to make sure that what you hear on the record is what you will get when you come see us play live. So for the most part, it’s the same drum kit, same guitars, same amps, same synth, etc. We don’t even run any guitar effects on the guitar tracks when mixing. It’s all straight from my original pedal board, so the sound is very authentic. What tips do you have for fellow artists regarding promotion, general band business and recording? SHANE: I really have tried to go outside of my comfort zone and go the extra mile with every part of promoting this band. Saren as well. Even financially, we’ve done everything we can. Just like in most businesses, you have to invest in your business to get a return on it. Especially these days, with the music industry the way it is, every record label is going to expect you to invest in yourself, before they decide to become part of your team. And when I say “invest,” it’s not just a money thing; it’s a “hard work” thing, too. It is a business and we, along with our music, are the product. I think the other key is to create a team around you and help each other out as much as you can. A lot of life things happen because of who you know, which can be a good thing and sometimes not so good. The music industry is the same way, in my opinion. I would say that both Saren and I are both more on the introverted side of things, which can make promotion and talking about yourself and meeting new people extra challenging, but it is necessary if you choose this type of career.
What has being in a band taught you? SAREN: I have learned tons from Shane on a personal level, but on a strictly musical level, I have become much more confident in my collaborative abilities in the songwriting process. I’ve also become comfortable with endless trial and error. In that way, my personal creative process has changed quite a bit. SHANE: I wouldn’t really consider myself a guitar player, but more of a songwriter who uses a guitar. My guitar skills are medium. However, with this band, very few instruments have helped me become a stronger player, I would say, purely out of necessity. And I guess I’ve learned a lot about songwriting, and we’ve both come a long way in that respect. My goodness, I’ve learned more than I could ever express properly from Saren. We’ve become very close friends, we spend a LOT of time together, and she’s a very real, honest, smart person that I’m really thankful to be friends with. How do you define success? SAREN: We would like to one day support ourselves financially through music. If we are able to create a livelihood for ourselves by doing this, that would be the dream. But beyond money, I would also want us to always enjoy it as much as we do now. Each new challenge has been a blast to take on, and to continue that for a long time would mean success to me.
Follow on Twitter: @koolstuffkatie
KOOL STUFF KATIE IT’S FINE STANDOUT TRACK: “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 29
MAKE YOUR R SPACE SOUN What You Can’t Hear Can (and Probably Will) Hurt You
[Before we get into the meat of this month’s article, I’d like to start responding to readers’ questions. Please email me your questions or topics to be discussed. Recording, editing, mixing, production, management and even music publishing are all fair game. Fire away! info@digitalbear. com] ACOUSTICS & AUDIO MONITORING Let’s talk about acoustics and audio monitoring. So many folks bring me projects these days that are hampered by their ability to hear what is truly going on that it’s a subject worthy of discussion, and some effort and money on your part. 30 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
As you probably know, my company, Digital Bear Entertainment has had a succession of studios over the years. Some have been full recording facilities but the most recent was a world class mixing and overdub studio in Cambridge that I used for the last five years. It was a truly wonderful environment in which to get work done: warm and inviting, chill and productive, and mostly sonically accurate. I couldn’t have been happier. Unfortunately, the lease became untenable, so I am now building our seventh studio in a location I control. Clearly acoustics is on my mind at the moment, and it should be on yours too. What is the most important part of a mix?
Arguably, it’s the vocal – that’s the number one thing on which listeners focus. So, clarity in the mid-range is crucial. However, if you ask any musician, they’d likely say the low end. While I’d put the vocal first, the bass is clearly a very close second. As we all know, it’s that low end that’s so hard to get right. Why? Because acoustics. GOOD (OR BAD?) VIBRATIONS Let’s think about what happens in your typical home studio environment. By typical, I mean a bedroom into which you’ve piled a bunch of gear. In this environment, your loudspeakers start to excite the room (which sounds like a good thing, but isn’t). First, things start to vibrate - maybe your desk, or the floor, or the walls, etc. - but they
R RECORDING ND AMAZING will translate the audio energy into noise that you will hear. Not good. See
Then the audio will reflect back toward you, creating (depending on the size of the room) comb filtering or an echo. Think about your phaser pedal, the one that creates that crazy-cool sound by mixing the guitar signal with a delayed version so that the two waves partially cancel and partial reinforce. This gives that thin, spacey sound, which when swept and used creatively can be so cool. However, it’s really not helping us to have that sort of thing interfering with our hearing in the mixing environment. THEN ONCE MORE, GENTLY BOUNCING ’ROUND THE ROOM Last, particularly at those pesky low frequencies, the audio can start to bounce back and forth across the room creating what’s called as standing-wave (meaning that it continues to bounce back and forth). At certain points throughout the room these waves will cancel and reinforce. This means that at some points in the room for certain frequencies you’ll hear that frequency very little or very exaggerated. In many worst-case circumstances, moving your head just a few inches can dramatically change the character of what you’re hearing. What you get in these situation is unreliability. You can make a great sounding mix is such a place only to have it sound completely different, and often quite bad, in any other location. It’s maddening to try to make something sound good everywhere when you really can’t trust your instincts as you work! I can tell you from experience that these situations are all too common, and lead to sorrow and frustration. FIX YOUR ROOM! There are so many products out there that attempt to solve this problem simply, and fail. I’ve seen speakers that come with sites on them so you can visually align your head with the “sweet spot,” and even one speaker that came with a built-in head holder to force you to be properly aligned. Can you imagine mixing all day with your head in a vice? Oy!
So how do you fix this? Understanding the problem is, of course, the first step. Also, since we’re all adults here, figure that when professionals and corporations invest tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in solving these problems, it isn’t because they’re rich and stupid. The investment helps them get product out the door with the highest quality, in the least time (which is money, after all) and with the fewest client complaints. What does this mean for you? Invest less money in gear and save some to spend on your environment. For a home studio, this doesn’t have to be what the pros are spending. Egg crates and blankets are not terribly helpful, but some simple 2” acoustic foam is pretty good down to about 250 Hz. This stuff is readily available (hit Google) and not very expensive. You can use the mirror trick (hit YouTube) to treat the first-order reflections, and that’s a great start. See
KNOW YOUR LIMITS Also, understand the limitations of your studio. Even if you do treat your environment, you’re likely not going to address below 250 Hz. That’s where is gets really expensive. Use your studio
for what it’s good at: making your arrangements, recording the tracks, and getting a rough mix. Then, budget for some time in a professional spot to make the last tweaks and get everything right. This is exactly what I’m doing now while I build DBE 7. I’m constantly amazed at how much money people will put into gear without a dime of thought into the room. Let me say this now: NO AMOUNT OF GEAR WILL EVER WORK RIGHT IN A BAD ROOM. So save your money and invest it into your room first. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award winning mix engineer and producer Jordan Tishler runs Digital Bear Entertainment in Boston MA. Currently in the process of designing and building a new facility with renowned designer Fran Manzella, DBE will, once again, be the pre-eminent mix/overdub room. The SSL console and racks upon racks of analogue outboard gear, tape machine, and gazillions of instruments helps Tishler meet the expectations of artists including B Spears, JLo, Iggy A, MOTi, Justin Prime, SIA, and London Grammar. Contact me about producing your next record, or mixing the one you’re working on now! For more, visit www.digitalbear.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 31
BAE AUDIO 10DCF Compressor/Limiter Stereo Pair with PSU - $4000
Housed in a one-rack unit is a Compressor with a low pass filter and a limiter. The build quality is on these is simply amazing. Each knob and switch has a super robust feel, and each unit is handmade and hand-wired. We received a stereo set for review, which also included their proprietary power supply, and the detail in components and construction really shows. Tucked inside are Jensen and Carnhill transformers, and they live up to their legendary audio quality. On the left side, the compressor has the usual selections: Threshold, Ratio, Attack and Recovery, as well as a large VU meter. Each knob has detents to particular selection value, so no fiddling with those in-between positions; a sharp and positive click defines the knob’s setting. The increments fit in actual musical applications, even at extreme settings. Dialing in any desired sound is amazingly easy, and the response is very direct, overall. Put simply: it’s designed to work for music, not some algorithmic preset. And the results are stunning. The limiter sits on the right hand side, with its usual control options: Threshold, Recovery, as well as a Fast/Slow. Again, it features the same detent selections, with a sharp positive response between settings. It has plenty of options to radically bring audio to life, without dampening the dynamic range of the original signal (a problem we’ve encountered in other units). 32 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
One of the most pleasing features is the hi-pass filter, which means the compressor leaves the lower frequencies alone, while still compressing the upper range. In our tests, this really came in handy on kick drums, floor toms and bass, providing plenty of push, but not losing the deep low-end frequencies in the process. In a mix-down session, navigating each knob and setting is super intuitive; it’s not hard to find which settings work best, just within a few clicks. This is where analog rules over the endless options of digital; it gets the best sound, then allows the user to move on. Being able to link in stereo, the 10DCFs can also sit very well as a tool for mastering as well as mixing/recording sessions. There’s plenty of overall clarity and headroom, with a wide amount of range to spare. Trust us, it’s one of those things that just doesn’t get in the way, sonically. The stereo set isn’t cheap, coming in at $4000 with power supply. But this isn’t some preset box powered by software. The build quality is beyond excellent, with well laid out components, and excellent craftsmanship (yes we opened it up and took a peek under the hood, so to speak). It’s a tool that can be as individual as the artist, and for pro studios and serious home setups, it can be the final piece of the puzzle for crafting your next project’s sound. Chris Devine
Musical at every setting, incredibly well built. CONS
Pricey (but still worth it).
› Discrete Class A transformer-coupled circuit throughout. › Fully independent Compressor and Limiter for separate audio dynamics control.
igital recording has leveled the playing field, but nothing beats the real thing when it comes to compression. BAE Audio’s 10DCF brings that nice classic vintage sound, in an impressively well built package.
› Intuitive layout with illuminated meter showing gain reduction. › High quality stepped Elma switches for dialing accuracy and repeatability. › True bypass even when the unit is off. › Same remote power supply as used on other 24VDC BAE units. › One power supply can run two units.
GEAR REVIEWS It’s about the size of a hockey puck, with 5 buttons sitting on the north side. A springloaded click wheel resides in the center, with a scroll wheel inside it, just like on the PROv2. Place a hand over it, and each finger sits right at each button, so there’s no issues getting used to its ergonomics, and it works for both left handed and right handed users comfortably. The downloadable driver gives the user the ability to select whatever software they’re using, and assign the buttons and click wheel to any keystroke, command or even a programmable macro. It works across every popular piece of software made for Mac or PC. Audio, video, CAD, even mundane programs like Excel or Word work without issue. Even better, each button’s function can vary across the software, making it adjustable for whatever workflow habits the user has. It’s ultra portable and can fit in the pocket of a laptop bag easily. Using this in a remote
setting, when time and efficiency can be a factor, it can be a godsend (especially for mobile recording projects or demoing tracks in cramped hotel rooms on tour). A great audio application is to assign buttons to record, pause, stop, and save – boom, instant transport controls! In a practice room, it’s easy to set up a laptop to record, and use these buttons to run the session, without having to operate the computer. For a vocalist in an isolation booth, run the ShuttleXpress into the booth, and use it to control the session from there; no need for someone else to hit Record or Stop.
Small form factor, easy to program, useful across software platforms. CONS
Its street price is $59, and for users that might not need all the PROv2 has, this can give their non-mouse/trackpad hand a lot more functionality, without getting overwhelmed. Totally recommended. Chris Devine
› Weight: 0.5 lbs
n the April issue, we reviewed the Contour ShuttlePROv2, which is a great tool for pretty much any piece of software. Now they’re at it again with the ShuttleXpress, which gives similar functionality in a smaller package.
CONTOUR ShuttleXpress - $59
› Dimensions: 4.33 x 4.33 x 1.15 in › Wheel Type: Jog Wheel, Shuttle Wheel › Buttons: 5 programmable buttons › OS: OSX, Windows › Connection: USB PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 33
EARTHQUAKER DEVICES Night Wire Harmonic Tremolo - $195
rom Link Wray’s “Rumble” to The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now,” tremolo is an effect that can bring a unique sonic texture to any genre. EarthQuaker’s Night Wire Harmonic Tremolo pedal has a unique approach to this sonic flavour (that’s right, we spell it all British-like). The standard tremolo controls are here: level, rate and depth, but the addition of a frequency control, as well as a switch that toggles between an attack or manual mode, and a 3-way switch that has LFO, manual or attack selections. The effect takes the signal and divides them into low and high frequencies, then runs them through an LFO that flips them 180 degrees, giving that sonic counterpoint-ish push-pull.
More than just a tremolo pedal, great blend of tremolo & LFO goodness. CONS
Players looking for a “hard tremolo” should look elsewhere.
It’s hyper-rich in the “standard” tremolo mode, with a pulsating sound that goes way beyond a normal tremolo pedal. There’s no loss of tone or volume when engaged; the effect is very present overall in any setting. Think of it more on the side of soft and lush, rather than a harsh and direct punch. Engaging the Attack Mode, the speed is defined by pick attack, and the rate control becomes the sensitivity adjustment; pick harder, and the rate increases, like an autoor touch-wah. The LFO mode is amazing, bringing the feel of envelope filters, phasers, Uni-Vibes, and hyper modulations all together. The range of filter gets controlled by the frequency knob, and it’s an amazing blend of pretty much every filter and modulation effect. It can be overwhelming at first, but it’s very responsive with the Attack setting. Depending on the settings between the two modes, there’s not a super big change between Manual & LFO modes; it seems to just take it to another level in a seamless manner. Players searching for more on the tremolo side can switch to LFO mode, and it takes things to the next level, while still maintaining the overall effect’s nature.
› Traditional tremolo with adjustable filters › Filter Frequency has Manual, LFO, and Attack modes for tonal variety › Filter Frequency LFO mode continuously sweeps and frequency control adjusts the speed › Tremolo section has Manual and Attack Modes › Tremolo Manual mode uses rate control to set the speed › Attack mode responds to pick attack 34 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
In short, it can be subtle and slight, with a warm/thin warble, and go to extreme overthe-top LFO sounds. Players looking for a hard, harsh, bold “attack” might want to look elsewhere, but considering all the variations of the pulsating, expansive richness of a tremolo, as well as any LFO filtery goodness, this is well worth a look (and listen). At a street price of $195, considering the variations offered, it’s also pretty reasonable for a Made in the USA pedal. Chris Devine
magine every great Eventide algorithm in one box – color us impressed. So let’s get into it; the LCD display is a bit of a throwback, and the knobs on the pedal are programmable to allow for navigation and editing, although it’s not the easiest setup we’ve ever encountered. It can be connected to a computer via USB, and there is a free app for iOS devices that connects it via Bluetooth. The app, though, is super easy to use, and a lot more user friendly and portable.
EVENTIDE H9 Max Effect Pedal - $699
This version of the H9 (the MAX!) has every effect option and variation ever made by Eventide: reverbs, delays, modulations, filters, distortions, intelligent harmonizers, compressors, EQ and even a looper. Whew! The best versions of these effects are in here, hands down. With the “SpaceTime” setting, it brings two delays, modulation and reverb all at once. The presets are useful and musical, and can be as subtle as a classic spring reverb, but can also reach beyond expansive soundscapes. Modulations go from small clone, to hyper atmospheric dimensions. The tap tempo provides excellent syncing of delays and echoes, and can even be set on the app, as well as with the pedal’s footswitch. With such a vast selection of effects, and the editing possibilities, it’s a tweaker’s paradise! The only area that’s kind of weak are the distortions, especially for guitar applications. They’re not bad by any means, they just seem to be outshined by all the other effects. If this pedal is being used in an effects loop, they aren’t going to be much help either. It’s not just a guitar pedal though, with presets that are optimized for bass, keyboards as well as vocals. PROS
Excellent sound quality, insane quantity of effect options.
The app, which is iOS only, is really needed to fully utilize the pedal.
› Can employ all of Eventide’s stompbox effects › Simple one-knob user interface
› Free H9 Control app for iOS devices or Mac/PC › Pre-loaded with 45 classic algorithms › 99 selectable presets › Includes new UltraTap Delay › Stereo I/O and MIDI I/O, plus expression pedal and aux switch inputs › Built-in tuner › True bypass circuitry
Eventide has visual mode called X-Y editing. Basically foregoing the knobs, it allows the user to select a preset, and then use the iOS device’s display to drag a cursor across the screen, which alters that parameter. Now to switch between presets “on the fly” the large control wheel is fine, but since there are MIDI connections, it would be a snap for users to connect the H9 to a MIDI controller. Considering that some pedalboard switchers have MIDI connections, a setup like this makes the H9 even more useful, and can live among analog pedals easily. Nice touch. Its street price is $699, which can be equivalent to two or three boutique pedals, which in most cases, could be one trick ponies. One of these H9 Max’s could easily replace a wide number of pedals, clean up a pedalboard, your overall tone, and getting the best selection of effects ever made. Can you say no-brainer? Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 35
HOTONE Mojo Diamond Nano Legacy Amp - $99
hen things get smaller in the guitar realm they don’t often get better; tone gets traded for convenience. Hotone’s Mojo Diamond, however, brings big sound to a truly small package. Size-wise, it’s a little smaller than a Boss stompbox. The controls are normal for any guitar amp: Gain, Bass, Middle and Treble tone controls, and finally Volume. An effects loop, speaker output, headphone/recording out, and aux-in reside in the back side. Hotone makes several versions of their Nano line - this is the Fender tweed inspired version. Dialing in a clean sound, it certainly lives up to that tone. The EQ is quite flexible overall, and doesn’t leave the player high and dry looking for more than you would on any other amp. Crank up the drive, and it gets very crunchy and dirty. The sweet and smooth sounds give plenty of bite and clarity for Americana, blues and vintage-ish
rock and roll. At extreme drive settings, it goes a bit more into the Blackface Fender tone that’s more familiar to a Deluxe Reverb. With both single coil and humbucker equipped guitars it responds nicely; close your eyes and it’s hard to imagine that this little box brings so much tone. It interacts with pedals very well, too, with no more noise or hiss than would occur with a full size amp. With the included 18V Power supply, it cranks out 5 watts, which at maximum settings is still loud enough to make the person in the next room yell, “Turn it down!”. The output is 4-16 ohms, and can drive pretty much any cab, including a 4x12! While it is solid state, there’s plenty of warmth in there, too (sorry, tube-snobs). The price is fairly small too; at under $100 there’s a lot of value there. For small gigs (no pun intended) this and a 1x12 makes for a rig that can be carried on the subway or tossed in the back of
› Sound inspired by Legendary Fender Tweed › 3 Band EQ controls for shaping your tone › Speaker out can automatically fit cabinets of different impedances (4-16Ω) › FX LOOP for using external effects › 18V DC power supply (Adapter included) › Power Output: 5 Watts 36 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
a sedan. Or forget the 1x12 and plug into the PA with it. On the road, it’s a great practice tool, and can be a quiet way to troubleshoot a pedalboard in a hotel room, and not get thrown out. If your “big” amp has any issues, it will go beyond the “it’ll do in a pinch” scenario. In a studio setting, it’s great to bring an amp that can truly fit in a gig bag, and deliver a sonically rich sound. For players who rely on a pedalboard for a majority of their sound, this is a great way to get those tones at a lower volume. At this price, it would be easy to get two of them and have a great stereo rig, all for less than the price of one boutique pedal. Chris Devine
Super small, great tone, plenty of uses, well-priced. CONS
n May of 2015, we reviewed the original Jamstik, which was a great idea, but there were some limitations. The new Jamstik+ has addressed those issues, and made some serious performance upgrades. PROS
Tracking issues have been resolved, good learning tool, excellent use as a guitar synth controller. CONS
Limited Android support.
JAMSIK+ MIDI Guitar Controller - $299
It still has the appearance of a ukulele designed in the 25th century, with it’s 5-fret range neck. With real steel strings, the feel is like a real guitar. The same user-assignable 5-button interface sits on the top edge, and the USB port also acts as the charging point for the battery. The big advancement here is the addition of a magnetic pickup, which really aids in improving the tracking. There is also a new app for iOS devices to connect the Jamstik+; the previous versions used Wi-Fi, and the unit had some serious tracking and latency issues. The new version works over Bluetooth, and is a major improvement overall in tracking and response. Hyperfast shredders might want to adjust the response for faster tracking, but for most players there should be no issues, especially if you’re using it to control things like synth pads in your DAW. The app also has general synthetic sounds, varying from guitars, piano, sitar, banjos, strings, synth and drum sounds. As in the previous version, it’s a great tool for learning music theory and fundamentals, scales, chords and arpeggios. For guitar teachers it’s a great visual way to show students with the app on an iPad. The previous version was a great idea that just wasn’t quite there yet; with the addition of the magnetic pickup, and switching to Bluetooth, it practically eliminates the lag and latency issues, and is truly a great learning tool. There is a slight price increase, as it’s now $299. The only downside is that there’s limited Android support right now. Chris Devine
› Jamstik+ (2nd Generation BLE Model)
› USB Charging Cable › Adjustable Guitar Strap › Manual › Rechargeable Battery › 3 Downloadable iOS Apps - jamStik+, jamTutor & jamMix › 30 Day VIP subscription to FourChords Guitar Karaoke App PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 37
JHS Little Black Amp Box - $45
tube guitar amp sounds best when breathing; loud volumes allow the ability to feel the full range of tones, but in smaller clubs, practice spaces, and at home, it can be too much for neighbors, audience members and bandmates. JHS has a neat little tool to help get those large-volume tones, at a level that’s not ear-piercing. With an input, an output and a control knob, it’s quite simple. Get the amp sounding the way you want it and plug it in an amp’s fx loop; it doesn’t matter which side is input or output, it’s a passive circuit so there’s no issue of overloading anything. Then use the knob to lower the volume to taste. It acts like a “master, master, master volume control.” We tested it out with a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 1x12 combo, which at 40-watts can be plenty for a medium stage or club, but can be too much volume for a normal-sized practice room. It brings the big tone down to a reasonable level without a lot of fuss. Players using pedals will find that they don’t have to lower the output on overdrive pedals to achieve lower volumes, especially ones that really sound great at fuller output levels. Some players may think it cuts off some tone, but adjusting the EQ can easily fix that problem. There’s not much to it, and in fact for about $20 in parts, the diagram to build a similar unit can be found online. But for those who don’t
38 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
want to tinker, the $45 street price isn’t hard to swallow. Hey, it’s far cheaper than replacing a high-wattage amp with a lower-wattage one. Even better, it’s not permanent - just disconnect it to run the amp at full volume. It’s a small investment for something that can make a big difference in an amp’s usability. Chris Devine
Great tool, easy way make a loud amp more usable at lower volumes. CONS
edal junkies can get a bit snobbish, going deep into tiny details, and defining if a pedal is worth checking out by any myriad of items on a spec sheet. Joyo’s Ultimate Drive has even the most hardcore pedal snobs scratching their head, with it’s full, rich tone and tiny price.
JOYO JF-02 Ultimate Drive Pedal – $35
It’s been noted on various forums that it’s a clone/copy of Fulltone’s OCD pedal, at a fraction of the price (just $35). While we didn’t have any of the various versions of the OCD to compare it to, there’s no strangeness control-wise: Gain, Tone & Level, and a Hi/Low mini toggle. It’s true bypass, as well, maintaining the instrument’s true tone when not engaged. In the Low Mode, the original tone isn’t messed with, and when in the Hi Mode, there’s a bit more low-mids and bass; it might be considered a “more tone” switch, in practicality. The drive control is quite varied, with plenty of tonal choices across the whole spectrum, and even at maximum settings it doesn’t get hissy or noisy. It’s thick and rich overall and goes into Marshall’s glory with ease. In a middle-of-theroad setting, it resides in the standard overdrive areas, but can go into distortion pedal ranges, all while staying within a pleasing musical application. Where an overdrive isn’t enough, and distortion is too much, the UD works best, and can live in both worlds equally well. The tone knob sits best between 11 and 1 o’clock. Past those settings it can get a bit woofy or spiky.
Great tone, great price. CONS
Graphicsmay not appeal to all.
With humbucking guitars, it’s big and beefy, and keeps up well in the mix, for rhythm and lead playing styles. It’s classic and yet modern. Roll back the volume, and it can clean up nicely as well. Single coil guitars maintain their cutting edge, and don’t get shrill. Paired with a solid state or tube amp, it interacts quite well, and compared to other classic distortions pedals the range seems a bit more useable, and overall a bit quieter and less noisy – which we appreciate. The 9V battery compartment might be considered a bit cheap and the “Darth Maul/ demon skull” graphics are admittedly kind of cheezy. Considering the price and the tone, though, it’s a minor detail and easy to overlook. Chris Devine
› Recreates sound of a late-’70s overdriven tube-amp › Features Gain, Level and Tone knobs › Hi/Low Tone switch allows even brighter top end › Rich in second- and third-order harmonics PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 39
KYSER Quick Change Capo - appx $15
apos have come along way, from a poor man’s way to change the key of a song without having to learn new chord shapes to an essential tool for songwriting and performance.
While it is meant for acoustic guitars, meaning the spring has stronger tension for the heavier strings, and the larger necks most acoustics have, it can work just as well for electrics.
With a strong spring mechanism to solidly clamp down strings, the rosewood finish on our test model (other finishes are available) hides the alloy construction. The back side has a clear rubber insert that is non marring or harmful for finishes of all types. Regardless of position of the neck, it can totally transform the guitar’s sound, without buzzes or any adjustments.
There are trends to make a capo a multiuse piece, with tuners, pick holders, bottle openers, etc. Kyser’s design and approach is simple; it’s a capo, it’s well made, and it works. Period. With a street price of about $15, one of these should be in every guitar case. Chris Devine
40 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Excellent design, unique finish choices. CONS
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MONO Vertigo Electric Guitar Gig Bag - $249
he exterior material of the Vertigo is water resistant, and its “blue steel” color will make it stand out in a sea of the usual black nylon cordura other bags are made of. It’s a top loading design, meaning the zipper only runs around the top, for quick access. Small details like the zipper pulls are well thought out, and aren’t the usual offthe-shelf types that tend to break after repeated usage.
Excellent design, quality construction, plenty of protection. CONS
A tad pricey (but worth it)
The interior is lined with a thick foam that provides rigid protection, and is covered with a grey microfiber-like material. To prevent any damage to headstocks, there’s a great neck support system built in called “the headlock” on both sides of the bag, which securely holds the instrument’s neck in place. The comfortable handle is super thick, and has been not only stitched in, but riveted as well. A large front pocket is available for the usual items like straps, capos, strings, and the like. It’s not super deep; it can hold a stomp box, but it can be a squeeze. The idea is to not place items in the pocket that could damage an instrument. There are three “D” rings on the top of the neck area, that allows for a product (not included) MONO calls “the tick” - a padded rectangular storage case for bulky items like pedals, drum machines, etc. It essentially acts as a backpack for the gig bag. The shoulder straps are super comfy, and even when wearing a nylon windbreaker, there’s no “slideage” off of the shoulders. There is also a chest strap for ultra-secure wear-ability. On the bottom is “the boot,” which looks like a running shoe designed by NASA. On the inside, the butt of the guitar rests on this this rubber base. A neat little valley is designed for the strap button’s endpin to sit in. If dropped, it prevents a straplock from acting like a wedge or chisel and damaging the instrument. The boot has plenty of grip, and prevents any movement, such as sliding on a smooth floor. Put a normal gig bag down on a wet surface like a parking lot, and it will suck up the moisture, and eventually mold will make its home there, while MONO’s boot keeps things nice and dry. For players on the go, using public transport, or on the street, portability and protection are one in the same here. With a price of $249, it’s not cheap, but the quality materials and thought put into the design are well worth it, and it’s a lot cheaper than repairing a damaged instrument, right? Chris Devine
› Top-loading for easy stand-up guitar insertion/removal › EVA insole and a molded-rubber outsole (The Boot) › Headlock neck-suspension system › Specialized storage compartments › Water-resistant sharkskin outer shell 42 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Excellent design, quality construction, fantastic soundshaping possibilities.
NOVATION Circuit Groovebox - $329
Written documentation is weak, somewhat steep learning curve.
OK, that said, let’s touch upon the negatives first and get them out of the way. There’s really only one - and that is that the product documentation is incredibly weak. If you’ve never used a beat machine like this before, or a matrix-like pad-button interface for stepsequencing and synth production, you might be a little lost (and Novation certainly doesn’t help things out upon first opening the box). All right, so the documentation is pretty lame, which means you’ll probably want to do what we did and head to Novation’s YouTube videos for a quick primer on using the Circuit. Once you figure out the controls, the touchsensitive RBG colored-buttons become like an extension of your brain – your fingers will start punching in sequences and fine-tuning basslines or pads on-the-fly with ease. Sound
quality is incredible for such an affordable unit – no surprise given that it is built around the Nova engine. And the ability to save and recall patches is pretty simple. The thing that really catapults Circuit to the head of the class, however, are the amazingly responsive sound-shaping macro parameter controls at the top. Ditch the manual (yeah, we’re contradicting our earlier complaint about documentation – so sue us), and just start experimenting. You don’t really need to understand what each knob controls, just listen with your ears and let your fingers shape your sounds. The Circuit excels in this area, while other machines seem almost basic and quaint in comparison.
We dig the fact that Circuit comes with built-in speakers, so you can use it on-stage, in the studio or even in the tour van when inspiration strikes (it can be battery powered, too, a nice touch). For the money, we were thoroughly enamored. Once we figured out how to use the interface, sequencing drum patterns and patching new synths sounds was a snap, and giving the filter a good ol’ sweep when our loops were flowing was a pleasure. Considering you also get a copy of Ableton Live Lite with this, you’ve pretty much got a self-contained music production suite for under $350. Doesn’t get much better than that. Benjamin Ricci
› Nova-series synth engines and sequencing › Comprehensive RGB-backlit 4 x 8 pad matrix
e had an opportunity to see the Circuit in action at NAMM, and were so impressed we immediately requested a review unit. After getting our hands on one, we can confidently say that this is one of the best groove machines/beat production boxes we’ve ever encountered at this price point.
› 2-part Nova-series analog-modeled synthesizer › 4-part rhythm machine › Battery power and built-in speaker › USB and MIDI connections › Includes Ableton Live Lite PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 43
PEAVEY Classic 50 2x12 Tube Combo Amp - $899
Great tonal combo of British and American sounds. CONS
Might get overlooked because of the vintage tweed appearance.
he new Classic 50 2x12 from Peavey offers up the best of British and American sounds in one (attractive)
With that vintage tweed and chrome control panel, it looks like it just came off the line in a certain 1950s California factory, but the control layout is much more familiar to a modern amp, with a master volume, as well as pre & post gain controls. Even more modern is the detachable IEC power cable, and fx loop. With (3) 12AX7 preamp and (4) EL34 power tubes and Celestion Speakers, there’s no unusual configurations there - a classic (no pun intended), bulletproof setup for so many amps.
Using the normal (clean) channel, it’s got everything you’d expect a tweed amp to have: plenty of sparkle and chime, but dig into it with a humbucker and it can break up a bit. For slightly more overdrive, applying a simple boost pedal can get that clean-ish breakup sound; the normal channel clearly plants it foot on that side of the sonics. The lead channel, however, is where all the dirty goodness lies. The pre & post gain controls really define the level of drive and distortion, as well as its volume output. It can get great tube saturation at lower volumes, but it really opens up and breathes when let off the chain! The reverb is super sweet as well, and certainly fills out the sound. With the EL34 tubes, it lives more in the “British” neighborhood of
› Power: 50W (tube) › Tubes: Four EL84 (power amp); three 12AX7 (preamp)
› 2-channel preamp › Normal and bright inputs › Pre- and post-gain controls on lead channel › 3-band passive EQ (bass, middle, treble) › Effects loop › External speaker capability › Footswitch included 44 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
tube amps, and belies its tweed covering. There’s plenty of grind, grit and sustain for pretty much any kind of music, short of “super scooped metal.” Classic rock, blues, rockabilly, even solid ’70s/’80s hard rock tones reside here. And for modern country clean, it’s a great choice. With single coils it responds nicely, and the EQ is very flexible to dial everything in, tone-wise. Humbucker guitars really pack a punch through the Classic 50 and maintain clarity without getting too dark. Honestly, it’s tough to get a bad tone out of it. For players looking for that British/ black tolex sound, this shouldn’t be overlooked because of its tweed stylings. It’s hard to find a combo that does the best of the tweed and the best of the Brits in one unit. Its $899 street price isn’t too out there in comparison to other amps with these features, but the “made in China” stamp is odd, given Peavey’s history and heritage of being American made. Thad said, there’s really not a lot of options for a USA-made 2x12 combo under $900, though, and the sound and build quality that Peavey has staked their reputation on is still there, regardless. So don’t let the country of origin dissuade you from giving this a test-drive. Chris Devine
etro 8-bit sounds are all the rage, but in modern music, old school synths can sometimes sound dated and limiting. Teenage Engineering brings that vintage synth f lavor in a new form for you to make interesting music. Enter the Pocket Operator PO-28 Robot, and cue the Kraftwerk references.
Unique sequencer and drum machine, easy to program, interesting sounds. CONS
Internal speaker isn’t that loud, really requires a set of headphones or external amplification.
› Manufacturer Presets: 15 synth sounds + 1 mini drum machine
› Sequencer: 16-step sequencer › Analog Inputs: 1 x 1/8” TRS › Analog Outputs: 1 x 1/8” TRS › Number of Effects: 16 › Effects Types: Delay, distortion, filters, stutter, bit crush, vibrato › Power Supply: 2 x AAA batteries
TEENAGE ENGINEERING Pocket Operator PO-28 Robot - $59
Battery-powered, it looks like a gutted 1980s calculator, with the rubber buttons sitting on the exposed circuit board, plus the icon-laden monochrome LCD display. It looks more like the trigger for an explosive device than a pocket synth – but regardless of looks, it’s an interesting machine and can be linked with other TE Pocket Operators such as their Arcade and Office versions. A separate silicone case cover is also available, bringing protection from any accidental drops. There is an internal speaker, but even at max volume levels, it can be tough to hear. Bummer. The Robot PO-28 is a bit more advanced than the other offerings from Teenage Engineering, as this one features a 16-step programmable sequencer and drum machine, which features hip-hop, disco and techno variations. There must be something with the number 16 at Teenage Engineering, as there are also 16 sounds, and 16 effects to choose from. Making your own beats and sequences is super easy, and the 8-bit sounds have a distinct video game f lavour that’s quite cool. In a live situation, melodies can be played in real time via the buttons, without a standard keyboard; it’s a bit unusual, but not all that difficult to get used to. Really, it’s just another controller. There are even glide (portamento) controls, allowing extra expression. Overall, it’s a really interesting and fun device that’s not locked into the usual way of making beats or sequences. As we’d hoped for such a small device, it’s not overwhelming to sit down and really develop new musical ideas. The only bummer is that while it can be heard at a low volume, via its small internal speaker, using headphones or an amp is a much better solution. At a $59 street price, it’s a neat and inexpensive way to dabble in retro synthesis, without having to get into a full-on keyboard unit or MIDI hardware controllers, or read a manual that’s as thick as a brick. Chris Devine
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 45
OWC DIGITAL Thunderbolt 2 Dock - $219
WC’s new Thunderbolt 2 Dock might just be the tool you didn’t know your studio needed. With more and more Macs coming less and less equipped with i/o ports, adding an additional HD monitor, external hard drives, USB-based MIDI gear and more can become a huge headache. Enter the Thunderbolt 2 – taking advantage of the new(ish) Thunderbolt interface found on most Macs, the dock seamlessly adds a ton of new ports to your studio rig. Better yet, its sleek design fits well in any studio décor, and can pretty much disappear with its
relatively small footprint. The dock can handle 20Gb/s of throughput, which means no latency or data clogs (no-no’s when time is money in the studio). It also features the ability to daisy-chain another 5 Thunderbolt devices – so expandability is definitely the name of the game here. Plus, all the USB 3.0 ports offer power, eliminating a ton of cables, and the dock itself connects to your computer with one simple Thunderbolt cable. Honestly, we didn’t think going into this review that the OWC dock would be such an indispensable tool for the home studio user
or commercial recording space, but with the amount of gear and peripherals we all accumulate (yeah, I’m looking at you, gear hoarders and multiple-monitor junkies), it’s actually become a pretty essential component to our own office project studio. The street price is in the $200 range, so it’s not a huge investment, but it will allow for an enormous upgrade in your connectivity capabilities. Which means, you guessed it, you can justify buying more stuff! Benjamin Ricci
Mac only. 46 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Rugged design, great expandability for recording pros and home users.
› Five USB 3.0 ports including two side-facing, high-powered USB 3.0 ports. › Support for resolutions up to 4K via HDMI 1.4b › Full-speed Gigabit Ethernet port that requires no configuration. › Connect a microphone or any other line-in audio source.
MY FAVORITE AXE
Jesse Cook is a Canadian guitarist, composer, and producer. Widely considered one of the most influential figures in nuevo flamenco, he is a Juno Award winner, Acoustic Guitar Player’s Choice Award silver winner in the Flamenco Category, and a three-time winner of the Canadian Smooth Jazz award for Guitarist of the Year.
MAKE & MODEL
1997 Conde Hermanos Flamenco Negra handmade guitar WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
This is the one... the Stradivarius of flamenco guitars. I’ve used it on every album since I bought it in Madrid in 1997. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
If a nylon string guitar could sound like coffee or tobacco, it would sound like this. SPECIAL FEATURES
It features a golpeador, a plastic tap plate standard on all flamenco guitars to protect the wood from the hard percussive hits I inflict on it. ANY CUSTOM MODS?
Modify a Conde Hermanos? Sacrilege! CAN BE HEARD ON
The song “Beneath Your Skin” from the album One World.
Follow on Twitter: @JesseCookHQ
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PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2016 47
UNIVERSAL AUDIO 6176 YEARS MANUFACTURED
1990s (we believe) CATEGORY
1176LN compressor combined with a 610 tube mic preamp. BACKGROUND
Bill Putnam, Jr., the inventor of the 6176 said, “Our design goal was to build an integrated mic preamp and compressor that we would be delighted to use ourselves.” He went on to say he was shooting for a product that would “meet the needs of the modern recording studio while retaining the character of classic vintage equipment.” HOW IT WAS USED
Whenever you needed a world-class compressor and/or amazing, warm mic pre. INTERESTING FEATURES
You can use in “split” or “join” mode to allow for separate or series operation, giving you ultimate flexibility in your recording chain. CAN BE HEARD ON
From Frank Sinatra to Van Halen to Wyclef to Coldplay to Adele to any major studio you’ve ever heard of. OTHER NOTES
The 6176 is unique in that it allows for these two amazing pieces of equipment to be used simultaneously, so you really learn how each interacts with the other. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Miggs is a singer/songwriter/producer and fronts the band miggs (Elm City/Capitol Records). His love affair with vintage instruments and gear only presents a problem when he’s awake. Find out more at miggsmusic. com, lalamansion.com, or his FM radio show, @miggsandswig.
48 MAY 2016 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
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THE MUSICIAN’S DAW For Microsoft Windows
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B1000HD Bass Head • 1000 Watts • Class-D Power
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