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Master Fader: Intuitive wireless control over everything, proven at more than 2 million live mixes

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ELEMENTAL When a guitar has all the right elements, it just sings. The new Mitchell Element Series acoustic guitars will resonate with serious musicians, as well as those just getting started. Enjoy the unmistakable feel of rosewood and cedar, spruce and sapele, combined with exceptional craftsmanship, at a price you simply won’t believe. Available in dreadnought or auditorium style, with built-in Fishman electronics and cutaways, there is an Element guitar that will resonate with you. Play one today and you’ll see. Starting from only $299. ©2014 Mitchell Guitars

18 cover story Marc Ford

by Brad Hardisty The revered guitar-slinger is back with a new acoustic-fueld LP and tour. Go behind the scenes of Holy Ghost with a revitalized Marc Ford.

Damnation A.D. by Mark Cowles


After 20 years on the road building a legacy of brutality, we chat with Damnation frontman Mike McTernan about battling stage fright, honesty in lyricism and what it means to be a musician today.


by Joshua Broughton




ATL’s veterans are back with an epic, concept-filled double album that just might rip apart the very notion of what it means to be indie rock.


Letter From the Editor


Scene Spotlight: Asbury Park, NJ


Quick Picks: The Best in New Music


Vinyl of the Month: Hawks Do Not Share


Live Reviews: Boston Calling & MidPoint Music Festival

24. Five Ways to Improve Your Band’s E-Newsletter

25. Six Rules for Not Pissing Off Music Supervisors

26. Seven Powerful Facebook Features Bands Overlook

27. Four Creative Ways to Sell More Merch 28. Four New Tools For Bands to Accept Mobile Payments

29. Eight Great Ideas to Strengthen Your Band’s Brand

30. My Favorite Axe: Evan Shore 31. Recording: Modulation FX pt. 1 32. Studio Diary: Andrew St. James 34. G  ear Reviews: Dragon’s Heart Picks; Phred Guitars; Source Audio FX

36. Flashback: 1971 Fender Stratocaster



Howdy, y’all! With today’s rapid-fire internet culture, where memes emerge quicker than I can put on my socks, there’s been a trend in the indie community to produce as much output as possible. And while the rise of inexpensive recording equipment and ultra-fast PCs has aided in the ability for bands to get down their ideas quickly and cheaply, one of this month’s interviews reminds us that, perhaps, sometimes taking it slow and getting it right has its benefits, as well. Now that’s not to say that you should stop being creative, or not hit “record” when the moment strikes. But in speaking with Atlanta’s SlowEarth, I think we’re reminded that some of our favorite albums were created with a little more time and care than we might be affording our own work.

Volume 24, Issue 9

We’ve got quite a few bands pitching us a new EP almost every quarter, and while a fast-and-loose approach to rock and roll can be awesome (at times), maybe just take a minute and breathe... relax. It’s quite possible (and likely) that not EVERY idea you have is worth capturing in Pro Tools. Perhaps some ideas need to evolve, germinate on the road and fully develop before they’re put out there in the world.

PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9200

Just a thought from an old geezer...who is still having trouble putting on his socks.

EDITOR Benjamin Ricci

-Benjamin Ricci, editor

PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930

DESIGN AND ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Aya Lanzoni, Benjamin Hanson, Benjamin Ricci, Brad Hardisty, Brent Godin, Candace McDuffie, Chris Devine, Chris M Junior, Christopher Petro, Don Miggs, Ethan Varian, Jaclyn Wing, Joshua Broughton, Lauren Moquin, Lesley Daunt, Lucy Fernandes, Mark Cowles, Matt Ingersoll, Matt Lambert, Michael St. James, Shawn M Haney, Taylor Haag, Vanessa Bennett, Zac Cataldo CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Ashley Anne Jones, Chris M Junior, David Register, Gabriel Burgos, Ian Doreian, Jessie Lee Cederblom, Matt Lambert, Rick Carroll, Robby Redcheeks



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“It’s not just where Bruce Springsteen came from,” says singer/songwriter Quincy Mumford. “I’ve watched the city grow. It’s cool to see so many different bands and genres in Asbury Park.” Mumford has grown, too. He continues to explore new markets as a touring act and work on a follow-up to 2013’s It’s Only Change that will “show the different sides of what I do.”



Bassist Kayla Cervone likens Asbury Park to a “hidden treasure,” albeit one that is “hip and very trendy.” Adds drummer Jen Amoscato, “It still has that old feel to it, but it’s also changing.” Nicole Atkins had a hand in producing Sleep Deprivation, a five-song Glycerine Queens EP released this year. The post-punk band has new material ready for a potential full-length album in 2015.

Asbury Park, NJ Situated along New Jersey’s shoreline, Asbury Park often gets overshadowed by the Garden State’s more refined coastal communities. But when it comes to music history and being a destination for current sounds, Asbury Park blows away all of its seaside neighbors. These young Asbury Park veterans are among the many rockin’ reasons why the gritty city that meets the sea is a desirable place to be. Photos and text by CHRIS M. JUNIOR PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 5


ANDREW ST. JAMES The Shakes San Francisco, CA (Island Jar/Fortune)

BEN RABB Until It’s Gone New York, NY (Self-released)

BEWARE FASHIONABLE WOMEN Bird Park Pittsburgh, PA (Self-released)

San Francisco native Andrew St. James is back with his second full-length album, The Shakes, which is well worth indulging in. He holds on to his singer/ songwriter roots on this endeavor, allowing his vocals to shine against a backdrop of varied instrumentation including saxophones, tambourines and snare drums. He uses them with ingenuity, creating dramatic layers of sound and an atmosphere of gently swelling love ballads and softly dissipating declarations of redemption. He throws in some synthesized beats and keyboard notes for good measure but all in all maintains a simple, more pared-down composition. This intentional design is not bland or predictable but rather captivating in the journey it takes listeners on. St. James’ thought-provoking lyrics and minimalist compositions create something not only pleasant but also infectious. His mastery of the genre and the personal style he brings to it is evidence of an artist on the cusp of a prolific career. Follow on Twitter @_AndrewStJames_  Vanessa Bennett

Ben Rabb is a man of hope, resilience and (most importantly) truth. Drawing from influences such as James Taylor and Otis Redding, the NYC singer/ songwriter puts together extraordinary indie melodies with hints of folk and Americana. But what makes Rabb’s music so great is the honesty and humility in his lyrics. The songs on his debut EP personify sorrow and loss, but with the most positive attitude possible. Singing of the struggles one faces when trying to make dreams come true in New York, Rabb admits he’s “like an empty train of hope running on steam,” but also notes that “the broken glass beneath our feet heals away with time.”Rabb is a gifted storyteller with the unique ability to pull you in to relate to what he’s feeling. It’s the manner in which he does so with his lyrics, vocals and instrumentation that separates him from the rest. Follow on Twitter @benrabb  Matt Ingersoll

Witty, spontaneous, haunting indie power pop, an orchestra for the palate…Delightfully refreshing and stirring, Bird Park is an electric collection of 10 songs churning with indie pop goodness. Barak Shpiez is a jack-of-all-trades, composing, performing and recording each instrument and vocal part on this spontaneous, free-spirited work. Each song is brooding with unique textures and colors, as the talented Shpiez brings his Pittsburgh roots into the project with the help of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo...Profound and intriguing, Shpiez is a genius composer, writing music with boldness and flair, at times eclectic and exotic, fully engaging and never losing the immediacy to connect with the listener. A most crafty experience. Follow online  Shawn M. Haney

Here you’ll find the best new music our writers have been digging this past month. For full reviews and to stream tracks and videos from the artists featured on these pages, please head to Enjoy! BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues Louisville, KY (Drag City Records)

CHEERLEADER On Your Side Philadelphia, PA (Bright Antenna Records)

DAN BLAKESLEE Owed to the Tanglin’ Wind Somerville, MA (Self-released)

The iconic Louisville native always had a bewildering songwriting approach. His eleventh release deepens singer Will Oldham’s meta quality—a rollicking reinterpretation of previously subdued minimalist folk released largely from 2011’s Wolfroy Goes to Town. Here Oldham takes another approach, glazing the minimalist folk with a ramble-shamble country rock shell, in the vein of his 2009 Beware release. An assortment of bristling string instruments shuffle, pluck and strum: banjos, acoustic guitars, thin scrubby percussion and electrified country steel guitars slide out rustic melodies that temper a folk singer’s approximation of bluegrass. Oldham describes his connection to songwriting in the form of relationships, and like a jazz musician he fearless reinterprets himself and his substantial catalog, daringly exploring new avenues and woozy potentials. Follow on Twitter @MoreRevery  Christopher Petro

Cheerleader‘s latest EP is full of boppy, well-structured songs reminiscent of some of the “one hit wonders” of the Eighties. This band, however, is far from being labeled that. Filled with one blazing pop song after another, listeners will find this four-track EP unapologetic in its attempt to fill your head with an infectious, laidback attitude. A sure-fire crowd pleaser is the title track; the song immediately bursts into action, sending the listener into a sing-along-dance-like-no-one’s-watching musical journey. It has “single” written all over it. Hell, it has the CW Network written all over it. Though On Your Side invokes Fountains of Wayne and Superdrag, Cheerleader establishes its own identity and undoubtedly stands out as such. Their ability to cross genres, and the masterful way in which they write hooks will lead this band straight to the top.

Stirring and amiable, Dan Blakeslee is quite a prolific songsmith and artist, striking a chord with the New England region with his crafty, noble tunes, over five albums’ worth of work. With stirring numbers like “Poet on the Porch” and “Tattooed Man and the Saint,” his new record bleeds with sound and words, putting to music his life in the New England area through strong and fervent storytelling. This is soulful folk both magical and immediate; the vocals are gripping, haunting, decorated by a gifted band of musicians, complete with dynamic guitars, banjos, organs and percussion. Peaceful, meditative and relaxing, these ten songs spell gritty, bold folk styles of the New England area. Owed to the Tanglin’ Wind is a wonderful, much needed gift of respite, perfect for the journeyman.


Follow on Twitter @chrleader 

Lesley Daunt

Follow on Twitter @Dan_Blakeslee  Shawn M. Haney

HANDSOME JACK Do What Comes Naturally Buffalo, NY (Alive Naturalsound Records)

LES SINS Michael Columbia, SC (Company Records/Carpark)

The five-member Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) manages to convey an old timey feel with a ’70s Jamaican flair on their newest album, Steady. The band weaves bass, drums, guitar, keys and vocals together, resulting in a reggae vibe with jam band interludes. Steady is GPGDS’s fourth studio album, and has a more non-traditional feel. While the tracks exude unique vibes, a live recording or attending their concert may do their music more justice than a studio LP. The record does a good job capturing the band’s essence but unfortunately, it does not feature their musical segues and extended, improvised jams, which would further highlight their stellar musicianship. All in all, the roots-positive vibe and original reggae grooves comes through strongly throughout the entire album, which we still highly recommend for fans of the genre. Follow on Twitter @GiantPandaDub  Jaclyn Wing

Fuck it, this review is gonna be short. This record rules. It’s an album for people who want stanky, swampy, dirty boogie. It’s also for people (like us) who have eaten up everything Alive Records have served up in the past few years. Like label mates John The Conqueror and former label mates Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Handsome Jack has a thick, smoky vibe that will leave your speakers smelling like whiskey and stale cigarettes. This one’s a keeper; trust us. You want standout tracks? Try all of ’em.

In a rhythmic crock-pot, this musical chef uses an electronic broth, a fillet of four-on-the-floor, and two cups of hype with a dash of samples and synthesizers to concoct a deliciously danceable 11-course meal that is complex, with flavors of slick production and pure energy in its delivery. The side project of Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, this debut full-length is a coalition of many provinces from the United States of Dance, skipping from the ambling tempos of chillwave to the bombastic bounce of electropop before landing on the blips and eerie harpsichord of 8-bit chiptune. Delightful in its complexities, but knee-jerk in its enjoyment, the album wines, dines and doesn’t disappoint.

Follow on Twitter @HandsomeJackBnd  Benjamin Ricci

Follow on Twitter @ToroyMoi 


GIANT PANDA GUERILLA DUB SQUAD Steady Rochester, NY (Rootfire Easy Star Records)

Taylor Haag


OLIVIA JEAN Bathtub Love Killings Nashville, TN (Third Man Records)

WE WERE ASTRONAUTS Artificial Light Boston, MA (Self-released)

Loveskills does it yet again, with the newly released EP, Pure, which reinforces that Richard Spitzer defines his own music category. It’s a unique EP where he has managed to successfully combine elements of electronica-infused R&B, hip-hop, and synth-based EDM. The phrase that most accurately captures the essence of Pure is “mixed-futurism.” The EP is clean and pure, as the title suggests, and represents the rawness of creating something from scratch. You can feel that Spitzer created all the melodies, chords, and lyrics himself; each track has a unique sound but the theme is consistent across the board. You can easily drift away with the therapeutic synth.

Stepping aside from The Black Belles for a bit, Olivia Jean has given us her first shot as a solo artist. The album collects light perspectives of bummer situations, with simple, mature instrumentals. “Excuses” in particular grants us the opportunity to hear a bass line that perfectly complements Jean’s cool factor. Standing alone, both Jean’s vocals and the bass line could make interesting songs on their own, but together they create a sound much like a confident strut down the street. Although Jean shows a strength that could power a solo career, part of the fun comes with experiencing a Jack White project. Together they’ve fleshed out their preferences in a way that collides into something psychedelic at times, but having been produced by Jack White, many of the sonic guitar solos and echoes sound warm and familiar. “Cat Fight” marks a point in the album where the compatibility of White’s whimsy and Jean’s relaxed nature of could not be clearer. Follow on Twitter @oliviajeanmusic  Lauren Moquin

OK, the basic facts: We Were Astronauts is a great indie rock band based out of Boston. Their name comes from the band members’ shared childhood dreams of becoming astronauts. And Artificial Light, their latest EP, was released this September. Their sound is characterized by their mid-tempo, guitar-driven rock combined with big choruses with catchy hooks. Their music also features lively drumbeats and occasional synth leads. The danceable “I Wanna Know” is an uplifting track (and possible single) about reflecting on the past. “Hollywood” is about the pursuit of a career in show business, and the final number, “Keep it Together,” has a sly Kings of Leon vibe to it. Highly recommended for fans of powerful indie rock and for those who want to check out the best of what Boston has to offer.

Follow on Twitter @LoveSkillsMusic  Jaclyn Wing

Follow on Twitter @Wewereastronaut  Benjamin Hanson



Hawks Do Not Share


Portland, OR (Predator Friendly Records)

Portland’s Hawks Do Not Share offers up their latest LP on heavyweight 180-gram vinyl, and it’s an electro-pop dreamscape that is sure to please the late night crowd. Kicking off with the trippy “Forgiveness,” the record bathes the listener in chorus-laden guitars and haunting, ambient piano textures. Refreshingly, there’s much more guitar to be had on HDNS than can be found on other records by similar acts. Perhaps it’s this tie to old school, analog rock and roll that makes the LP stand out from its peers, or perhaps it’s the Postal Service-meets-’80s-prom vibe that makes it feel like the lost soundtrack to Pretty in Pink. Whatever it is, Hawks Do Not Share have it, and fans of bands like VHS or Beta should flock to this record. Just don’t forget to pick up Ducky on the way to the record store.

Produced by Hawks Do Not Share Recorded in Portland, Oregon at underwater research and design & Nip Factory

Follow on Twitter: @hawksdonotshare

Color: Black Vinyl

“Feels like The Postal Service playing an ’80s prom…”

Units Pressed: 450


Mixed by Jeremy Wilkins at underwater research and design Mastered by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering Size: 12-inch Speed: 33 1/3 rpm



Boston Calling Music Festival City Hall Plaza – Boston, MA / September 5-7, 2014 Three different takes on Boston’s latest offering to the festival gods…


t seems like Boston Calling only upstages itself with the passing of each festival. Despite the thunder and lightning that brief ly cleared out concert goers and forced Girl Talk to cancel his set, the adjournment only made the performances of Lorde and Childish Gambino that much more epic. Nas’ set (before he was joined by The Roots) was sadly much shorter than anyone expected, Twenty One Pilots resuscitated a dilapidated crowd, and The 1975 charmed the pants off of us. While next May’s lineup hasn’t been announced yet, it’s a sure bet that we will continued to be blown away.

Intro by CANDACE MCDUFFIE. “Best of” portion by MARIA PULCINELLA MURRAY and day-by-day by MATT LAMBERT & AYA LANZONI Photography by MATT LAMBERT, IAN DOREIAN and ASHLEY ANNE JONES. Special thanks to MIKE DISKIN for social media photography BEST ENCORE Throughout their set, The National were seductive, moody, and absolute in their aim for precision. The encore was, just as gracefully, an emotive bonus sendoff. The sad boy indie rock veterans who make up the five-piece ensemble were an excellent kickstart to the weekend’s festivities, showing off perhaps the most collective musical talent in Boston Calling’s arsenal. If we were to look back at the Bastille-lead encore of “Pompeii,” which rang through the corridors of City Hall Plaza last May, The National’s beautiful, hushed melodies leave nothing to be compared.

BEST THEATRICS After a nearly three-hour-long rain delay, Lorde resurrected the festival in dramatic fashion. The 17-year-old New Zealander responsible for the megahit “Royals” stormed the stage like a woman possessed, her limbs flailing wildly and her voice constantly in check. Elaborate, overproduced stage work and the obligatory arsenal of backup dancers are stripped down entirely: a two-person backing band, a simple gold-embellished cross which serves as the stage’s backdrop, and Lorde — stunning in an all-black high-waist harem pant/ bandeau combo — are the only elements at play, and their electricity makes stagecraft where other minimalist artists fall short. PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 9


BEST ALL-OUT GUITAR JAMS The festival’s main demographic, drawing heavily from the city’s younger college crowd, has a potential for mass indifference in that, for many, it’s a festival of convenience. Boston Calling’s fall incarnation thwarted this head-on with additions like White Denim. Its 2:15 Sunday slot could have sold the quartet short, but the Texas natives tore through psychedelia, hard blues, boogie, prog rock and fusion without ever reaching cacophonous territory. DAY-BY-DAY BREAKDOWN DAY ONE Based out of Baltimore, Future Islands kicked off Day One with a unique mix of synth-pop and alternative rock. Featuring songs “Tin Man” and performing their lead single “Seasons (Waiting on You)”, the band brought on a strange and interesting performance, as frontman Samuel T. Herring made punching motions toward himself. Neutral Milk Hotel brought good ol’ American indie rock to the stage as the sun went down behind the buildings surrounding City Hall Plaza. Most noted for their experimental sound and vague lyrics, Jeff Mangum and co. sounded a bit heavier than usual; the band could have been better suited for another venue, but still brought in a large crowd. Closing out the day were headliners The National, covering the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” and it seemed that everyone sang their hearts out to “Don’t Swallow the Cap” from the band’s latest album Trouble Will Find Me. DAY TWO Regardless of the humid heat that parked itself over downtown Boston, Day Two opened with Sonicbids winners St. Nothing, who brought what could be described as soft electric pop to their performance. Clifflight, hailing from Brighton, MA, took the stage with a smooth synth-pop dynamic; the energy presented during their set was hotter than the day’s 90-degree heat, Bleachers took the stage later that evening with a decidedly indie pop sound, formed by Jack Antonoff while on tour with his other band, Fun. Bleachers performed songs such as opener “Wild Heart,” “You’re Still a Mystery” and the single “I Wanna Get Better,” which reached number one on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady grabbed everyone’s attention with their thematic setlist, featuring classic rock riffs intermingled with indie sounds, creating a whole new atmosphere for the festival-goers. Girl Talk and Volcano Choir’s sets were cut from the second day of the festival as storm clouds rolled in. Lorde’s confetti cannon was knocked over by strong gusts of cold wind around the same time a Boston Calling Capital360 stage banner was partially blown away. Lorde’s set was delayed until 9 p.m. that night as music-lovers had to evacuate for about an hour from festival grounds.



When she did take the stage, she commanded the crowd like no other. She opened with “Glory and Gore,” an all-too-appropriate song considering the passing storm. Most famous for his role in Community, actor, producer, comedian, and rapper Donald Glover (known by stage name Childish Gambino) closed the night with loud and intense hip-hop; Gambino’s music added an interesting twist to the eventful Day Two. DAY THREE With more-than-perfect weather and (thankfully) no rain, Gentlemen Hall opened Day Three with something new and exciting. Another one of Boston’s own, the indie pop band incorporates different sounds into their set, including piccolo/flute mixed with synth-pop beats. After the soothing blues and jazz influences of Lake Street Dive, Twenty One Pilots riled up the music lovers with their crowd-engaging energy and experimental rock sounds. Much of their setlist consisted of cover songs, such as Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and more recent songs such as “Drunk In Love” by Beyonce. Nothing else was heard as the band’s single “House of Gold” was played, and the crowd sang along and overtook frontman Tyler Joseph’s powerful vocals. Coming all the way from Manchester, UK, The 1975’s indie rock sound set the stage perfect for the setting sun. The smooth riffs of Matt Healy (vocals, guitar), Adam Hann (guitar), and the rest of the band created a mellow atmosphere that still demanded attention. The Replacements performance at Boston Calling was the first time the group has played in Boston in well over twenty years. As one of the headliners, The Replacements lifted the crowd’s spirits even further to help complete the Boston Calling finale. Featuring covers such as “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5 and Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” the veteran rock band also performed classics “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Bastards of Young.” Nas closed Boston Calling IV with The Roots; the two acts ended the festival with classic Nas tracks mixed with the Roots’ jazz influences to create something uniquely special for the festival-goers. Though Lorde said during her set that it was the attendees who were “magical,” it was the bands, groups, and artists who collaborated together to form a weekend of magic…despite the evacuation processes.

Follow on Twitter: @Boston_Calling PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 11


Midpoint Music Festival 2014 Cincinnati, OH / September 25-27, 2014 Perennial urban festival returns with stellar indie lineup and new stages.


014’s CityBeat-sponsored Midpoint Music Festival took place during perfect mild fall weather and, as usual, the turnout was stellar. Approximately 150 bands, gracing 14 stages in Cincinnati’s downtown and nearby Over-The-Rhine neighborhood, again drew thousands of people eager to sample acts representing every possible genre of music from rock, R&B and bluegrass to hip-hop, electronic and pop, as well as interesting indie hybrids of all stripes. Headliners this year were Chromeo (Thursday), The Afghan Whigs (Friday), and OK Go (Saturday). A welcome addition to the lineup of venues was the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, which provided both a large open air outdoor stage (replacing the outdoor Grammer’s Tent of previous years, and a much less cramped space to enjoy larger-draw acts), as well as a smaller indoor garage stage tucked inside the adjacent brewery building itself. Newly established Red Bike offered the choice of quick and easy sharebike access for festival goers, with several stations located nearby the festival venues. Thursday’s lineup was impressive, particularly a Chromeo performance at 12 NOVEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

review by LUCY FERNANDES / photography by RICK CARROLL Washington Park’s main stage outdoors. Punctuated by fusillades of pulsing spotlight rays and flashing strobes, the two-man juggernaut of electronic funk simply didn’t let up. Later on, The Black Owls at the Midway Stage (also outdoors) muscled their way through a rousing UK-tinged pub band set of straight-on rock. Following even later, Steelism at Mr Pitiful’s put on a display of pedal steel and guitar-driven instrumentals so engrossing that it was only much later the realization dawned that not a word was sung during the entire performance! Not an easy group to categorize, as they have many musical references - from surf, Spaghetti Western, to soulful R&B, but somehow this group made it all work together. Closing out opening night, Nikki Lane at Motr Pub packed the place and wowed with some colorful yet strong country tunes. This lady is no shrinking violet. Friday started off at the Christian Moerlein Brewery with Drowners. The backdrop this new outdoor stage provided evoked an almost West Side Story feel, bordered as it was by planked-up red brick buildings, their angled shadows thrown by industrial light fixtures…

a perfect ambiance for an urban rock festival. The sound was impeccable, and the jangly guitar-laced Brit Pop tunes of this group carried out into the night. Tycho, following on the same stage, cast an ambient wave of swelling, pulsating sounds over the crowd, which by now was totally in the moment and enjoying what was more of a wash of hypnotic mood rather than individual song. Saturday’s late afternoon set by Empires began that evening auspiciously - the melodic brand of evocative, powerful pop songs echoing throughout the outdoor Washington Park venue. Soulful, soaring vocals, complemented by rhythmic guitar work and panoramic choruses were the hallmark of their sound. Rounding out the musically diverse festival’s final day, the rollicking, bawdy, barrelhouse piano romp of Low Cut Connie at the Midway Stage fit the bill. There never seems enough time to catch all the artists of personal interest, but that only makes it more compelling to look forward to next year’s festival; kudos to all the staff and musicians who made the 2014 Midpoint Music Festival another successful celebration.

REVIEWS Follow on Twitter: @midpointmusic




damnation a.d. Mike McTernan On Battling Stage Fright, Writing Gut-Wrenching Lyrics & 20 Years of Duking It Out In The Trenches by MARK COWLES / photos by ROBBY REDCHEEKS


or some, music is nothing but a mundane distraction of background noise. But to others, music can serve as a tool of survival and bring hope to otherwise hopeless situations. In the complex spectrum of human emotion and the fierce struggles that every day reality can bring, one can always find solace in music. One such band that encapsulates this very ideology is Washington, D.C. based Damnation A.D. Looking back on 20 years of Damnation A.D., an in-depth discussion with front man Mike McTernan reveals his experiences, memories and gratitude for his involvement with the straight edge hardcore band, as well as his personal struggles with depression, anxiety and the role they play in the storytelling of the songs. With vocals that can best be described metaphorically as a tormented soul in unbearable pain, and backed with the heaviest of guitar riffs and a blasting rhythm section, this unbridled force of nature has gone under the radar for far too long. Quite simply put: they are a phenomenal, energetic, and highly influential cult band and it’s time to address the recognition they truly deserve (and have rightfully earned) in their two decades of harsh existence. Can you tell me about the formation of the band? Back in 1990 there was a band called Worlds Collide, who were around for about three years and they just all started going in different directions

musically. Ken [Olden] and Hillel [Halloway] wanted to focus a little more on heavier stuff and I was kind of Worlds Collide’s tagalong for the whole time they were a band. Before I ever even knew it, it was a sort of natural thing for me to step in and start singing. I had never sang for a band before so it was one of those things where we didn’t know if

My brother Brian actually knew him prior to me knowing him. Ken and I had a lot in common and we gravitated to each other and in high school we were inseparable. Without Ken…it would be nothing. I’ll always give him full credit for almost everything Damnation has ever done.

“When you’re playing live…I always looked at it as an emotional release.” I could do it until I actually did and it worked. My brother [Brian McTernan, noted music producer] sang for Battery, which Ken was in also, so I guess they must’ve thought, ‘He probably doesn’t sound too different from Brian.’ So they gave me a shot and Damnation was formed from the ashes of Worlds Collide. We actually recorded our first song on their last tour. You and guitarist Ken Olden are not only the founding members of Damnation A.D. but the equally as powerful When Tigers Fight. How did you guys first meet? The D.C. hardcore scene wasn’t too big when I was young so through mutual friends me and Ken met.

Melancholy, anger and despair seem to be prevalent themes in the lyrics. Sometimes mainstream bands use it as a gimmick but when you listen to a Damnation A.D. album you get the utter truth about battling self-destruction. I wouldn’t say I never see the good in things, but you know a lot of times I end up getting hurt, whether it’s by my actions or someone else’s or just loneliness in general. There’s a depression or a darkness that has hung over me my whole life, so it’s very natural for me to front it because I’ve always looked at myself as an honest person. I have a hard time pretending to be happy, you know what I mean? PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 15


On battling stage fright: “I throw up because I’m so deathly afraid of what’s going to happen.”

We never intentionally tried to write or play something with a specific style, just whatever came out. And that may be part of the reason why we never really went anywhere as a band, because a lot of the bands who made it…had a style. Everything we did was very unintentional, we all just loved music Ken, Hillel and Alex, they were musicians. I loved to travel and meet hardcore kids and talk about hardcore all night with people. Musicianship is what drove them, what drove me was going and wanting to meet hardcore kids. The list of acts that you have shared the stage and studio with is staggering. What are some of your fondest memories looking back on past tours? When I think of all the bands we’ve toured with in the last 20 years, not to sound egotistical, but we were so lucky to play with some of those bands and you know my fondest memories are never the shows, it’s going to Denny’s at three o’clock in the 16 NOVEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

INTERVIEW morning with whoever we’re on tour with. I feel so lucky because I don’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to meet all of these wonderful people if it weren’t for this band. What are the inspirations behind the lyrics? I’ve never considered myself a musician. I kind of fell into it because of the circumstances, but I’ve never been able to sit down and write lyrics. So if you’re familiar with my lyrics at all they never really rhyme or piece together that well, and a lot of it comes from my diary. Basically all I’d do is write down whatever I’m thinking and just go through it and try to do my best to put it together to give it all meaning. And I would just give Ken pages and pages of rambling and he would do his best to put this mess together and make it coherent. He would always amaze me because sometimes the words just didn’t fit and they just sounded like the insane ramblings of an insane kid.

Despite your admitted anxiety and stage fright, you still manage to sustain a powerful, captivating and hypnotic charisma with the audience, even under duress. How do you maintain such a natural stage presence? Why, thank you! I’ve blown out my knees so many times that I always have to do a lot of stretching, put on my knee braces and then I throw up because I’m so deathly afraid of what’s going to happen. But you know what’s weird is after the first line all that goes away. The only consistent ritual before going out on stage is me just looking for a way to get out. There were a couple occasions where I’m very surprised I even got up on stage because I was so torn between doing the show and ‘I’m going to walk out of this fucking building right now because I can’t do this.’ Whenever I throw up it usually gets a lot worse [laughs]. Now I just kind of trained myself to look face front. So other than

the knee braces and the puking, there’s not much to it [laughs]. When you’re playing live, obviously the audience plays a part in it, but I always looked at it as an emotional release. I think it’s because I get so nervous and I get so worked up before we go on stage that I’m never really fully aware of what I’m doing, because I’m on a totally different level. What does Damnation A.D. symbolize to you? What it has been for me personally is just a way to voice my feelings and then hopefully offer comfort to people who feel the same. I was bullied all through grade school and high school, but when I would read lyrics to the music I liked I would say, ‘Wow, I’m not alone in feeling like this.’ It was so comforting; that’s really a big part of why I still do music whenever I can. I made it this far; I’m getting up here no matter how many times I’ve felt like I’m at the bottom. PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 17






How To Focus Studio Sessions by Willingly Giving up Control by BRAD HARDISTY photos by JESSIE LEE CEDERBLOM




arc Ford laid out what he calls love songs on his latest LP, Holy Ghost, out now on the Naim Label. Produced by Stew Jackson aka Robot Club of Phantom Limb, Holy Ghost features a blended line-up of Marc’s immediate family, wife Kirsten of almost thirty years, Marc’s son Elijah and members of Brixton, UK band Phantom Limb. Ford decided on Stew Jackson to helm this project after producing his band, Phantom Limb and developing a great working relationship. Marc is now on the road with Stew and his immediate family first with dates on the other side of the pond and spending this next year on the road in the U.S. - just as Holy Ghost lands Stateside, tailor-made for the Americana crowd that eats up material by Ryan Bingham or Hayes Carll. I guess you are out on the road missing California right now? I’m in Arizona. It looks like you are booked all the way out till October of next year. Is the title Holy Ghost anything to do with the documentary project of the same name that you interviewed with a couple of years ago? It’s unrelated. I accidentally named it the same 20 NOVEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

thing. I called them up and I said look, this has nothing to do with the show. That was actually a couple of years ago. I guess it is more to do with your own personal belief system? The record is just love songs. I just thought it was a cool title.

Are you doing a full-on band tour or is this a scaled down live group? It’s a full band. Elijah does some acoustic stuff by himself then there is a break and then there is a set with the band. Did the Bristol band, Phantom Limb, come over from England to tour with you?

“I just wrote a bunch of songs on my acoustic guitar and didn’t think about the genre thing; I wouldn’t have called it [Americana]. I guess people need titles.” I guess the Holy Ghost aspect is just part of what you do. It is just a part of life. Yeah. You know, realizing that who you are and what you do is just a part of the plan or something like that. Does that make sense? I don’t know. I’m just too uncontrolled. Your son Elijah is out on tour with you as well as your wife Kirsten. Yeah. Elijah does a thing on the side as well.

A couple of the guys, yes. They couldn’t all come but, yeah. As well as a friend from California, so it’s kind of a mixed bag. Holy Ghost has a feel that’s not out of line with some of the guys you have worked with like Ben Harper and Ryan Bingham. Is your live set all over the map from Burning Tree, Black Crowes up to now? I’m concentrating mostly on the new record. I was

wanted to deal with it for some reason. So, Naim just said, ‘Let’s do it ourselves’ and now you have a British Indie label releasing an Americana record here in North America. It sounds like you had a good time working with Stew and the other Brixton bandmates. Do you think you will collaborate with him again? I don’t think we’re gonna not work together ever again. We are actually finishing up with the record he did with Elijah [Ford].



How is it being on the road with your son Elijah? We have a great time together. He’s blowing me away. I don’t say that just because he’s my son. My Mom [Gigi] came to the show in Las Vegas the other day and she bought me my first guitar when we lived in Lake Havasu, California when I was like nine or ten, so it was a real trip. I mean I was thinking, ‘See how far that eight bucks went?’ [laughs] It’s kind of fun that you have gone full circle where you are playing acoustic in front of a band now. Yeah, I mean, it’s all circles and squares. I think it’s a great record, a great band and a great show. I think people will enjoy themselves. I’ve been pretty fortunate.

just a hired gun for The Black Crowes. I want to sing my songs. As far as instrumentation, you use a lot more steel guitar and other things on this album. That is Stew Jackson. So, he produced Holy Ghost which features him on steel and now he is out on the road with you? Yeah, among other things. Do you basically use the same gear you have used for years? A Martin acoustic. We also have my signature model from Asher Guitars as well. That’s basically it. Do you think you will stick around within the Americana scene? I just wrote a bunch of songs on my acoustic guitar and didn’t think about the genre thing; I wouldn’t have called it that. I guess people need titles. Are there any particular songs that stand out for you? Like I said, they are all strong and I think they are

the best ones that I’ve cut and happy to be a part of. When I listened to Holy Ghost I thought this could have been cut in Muscle Shoals or East Nashville. I saw that it was produced in England and I guess there had to be a back story to this. The thing is, from my experience or my collective experiences you could put it, being a producer is really just a kind of higher-level communicator. Like for example, ‘I think what the guitar player is trying to say to you is this.’ When we did this record, I didn’t want to produce myself again. It’s too hard to do. It’s really a trusted perspective, you know. So, Stew did this as a favor. Did you use Stew as a second opinion or did you let him work things out? It started with a band and a song that I had been working on. I knew where I wanted it to go. I just wanted to show up and play and not think about anything else so that I could just think about singing and playing. You worked with British label Naim under their Edge label. Did it take a while to get [the record] the States? We looked at getting a Stateside label but nobody

Follow on Twitter: @MarcFordMusic



Deconstructing The Concept Album For The Internet Age by JOSHUA BROUGHTON photo courtesy of the artist


A brief history: SlowEarth released Cage in 2001 and followed with 2003’s Edge, a seamless, interlude-laden, soundtrack-like reimagining of Cage. They had every intention of repeating that process with 2006’s Beautiful Machines, but lost the thread toward the late 2000s. Instead, they released a twenty-track collection of songs from the band’s younger years called Vault in 2010. In other words, we aren’t talking about a group of men who are quick on the release-new-material trigger. They’re thoughtful, careful, and take some time between releases. Conventional wisdom dictates an album a year, and nü-rules has an EP every six-months with a digital/physical hybrid release. SlowEarth doesn’t fit into that niche. They’re candid about it as well. Solem talks almost spiritually about writing and releasing SlowEarth material. “I call it the conduit,” he says. “Whatever that power is, it starts to create itself [and grows] with you.” Construct evolved organically and holistically, without a sense of self-imposed pressure to prematurely release a fractured idea. The band’s entire catalog has been written this way back to the very beginning. When asked if the concept or the music came first using the old chicken-and-egg causality dilemma, they all yell one or the other over each other like the old friends they obviously are. All four men come back to the same point, though – the

On writing new material: “I call it the conduit. Whatever that power is, it starts to create itself [and grows] with you.” – Zach Solem, vocals they’ve crafted an intense, ambitious, double concept album called Construct. With twenty nine tracks and nearly a hundred minute-playtime, the effort falls totally at odds with the modern zeitgeist of steady, quick releases that (generally) have little to no narrative - all within the confines of a genre that is not typically associated with “indie.” Yet indie they remain: the music is fiery and antiauthoritarian with a mixed sense of the punk layered over a certain abstract, well, sweetness – the band has ditched that misanthropic sensibility that often comes with electronica/rock hybrids. Construct pulls the American dream apart by its seams during the first half, then rebuilds it into a strange - sometimes frightening - alternate vision during its finale and denouement. I had the chance to sit down for a couple of hours with Zach Solem (vocals, programming), Richard Farmer (drums), Joe Price (guitars, design) and Ben Thomas (synth, bass, programming) to talk with them about the genesis of Construct; its personal and professional implications, the state of the music industry, gear, and about a million other offthe-cuff things. The men behind the record talked over each other in a friendly, affable way; it’s easy to understand how the band has lasted as long as it has during the most tumultuous time the music industry has ever seen.

narrative and concept for the album grew with the music. Nothing in the process was disjointed; the concept grew from and fed on the music, the design of the physical product sprang from – and influenced – the lyrical content. Talking with SlowEarth makes this seem like an inevitability. How could it be otherwise? The processes of creation and revision were so intertwined during the genesis of Construct that they became hard to discern from one another to the band itself. So, which came first? The chicken, maybe? They don’t really know, and that’s a good thing – also, it’s another difference between SlowEarth and many other bands in the Internet Age. This is a record that was penned, above all else, directly through the conduit, to use Solem’s metaphor. The music of Construct is a rollercoaster. The opening track, “Providence,” begins with a long intro fade of clipped and chopped interjections (“Google for your life!”) and builds to a tremendous mid-tempo monster of a tune. Here’s the interesting bit: that sort of tempestuous, metal-influenced style doesn’t at all prepare the listener for the rest of the experience. SlowEarth drops the bomb at moment zero and fills the array with a multi-genre, almost schizophrenic mix of highs and lows. That’s all according to that weird sort of unplanned evolution they’ve created and directly fuels the concepts

of construction and deconstruction. Those two concepts buttress every facet of the record, keeping it oddly grounded. You hear militaristic, marchingband-like Wagnerian interludes that feed directly into melodic and syncopated synth-pop. That isn’t something you hear often today. If you wiggle five bucks just right at a local rock show, you can walk to the car with a monochromatic, single sleeve compact disc – I have about a million floating around. Price, SlowEarth’s guitarist, designed a beautiful slipcover for Construct, and the band packaged the record by hand. We all know that sort of DIY kaizen, the feeling of connection with the audiences, but the band really went above and beyond. It has a distressed, tornado-like writing-onwriting vibe that feels very ray-gun gothic; think of retro-futuristic print media or the early days of postmodernism. The discs are printed beautifully…even the liner notes are stylized in such a way that denotes a crazy amount of diligence. You can immediately see that a ton of work went into the album’s presentation, right down to its wax seal. This sense of presentation is the first of many concrete doses of departure from the norm you get with Construct. The concept, the packaging, the writing philosophy, the tunes. All this stuff adds up to a band that doesn’t really work like the rest of us have over the last decade or so. They’re an old-school outfit. Somehow, in an age far faster-paced than its predecessors, that is very satisfying. It feels new again. So, is Construct great? It sunk its teeth into me. You listen and decide.



he musical climate in the States these days is fairly homogenous. By this time, we’ve all fought through the adolescence of broadband Internet, that which confounded established wisdom and changed the rules of the hustle almost overnight. Rebellion was cool, then ceased to be cool in an ironic way, then became cool again. The pillars that we thought we understood are in constant flux: inconsistency is the new normal, and we’ve all grown accustomed to that. These days, it’s rare to find a local band with a history longer than a couple years. The idea of longevity works totally at odds with our collective attention deficit. Music comes in quick, hot bursts and fades into other forms as quick as you please. It would never work: you can’t distill epic 1970s concept albums into every-six-month SoundCloud EPs. The age of Tommy is over. The Wall has given way to the charmingly quirky pop ballad written by the good-looking scruffy urban lumberjack. The good news is that we get a lot of hip music released, and those releases are often rapid fire. The flip side of the coin, however, is that we rarely get anything with more ambition; we rarely see anything that tries to challenge the listener. Unless you happen to live in Atlanta. SlowEarth is a four-piece electro-rock outfit with a 25-year history. Over the last four years,

Follow on Twitter: @SlowEarth



5 Ways To Optimize Your Band’s Email Newsletter



Here are five simple guidelines to help you get the most out of your band’s email newsletter:

2. CREATE EFFECTIVE SUBJECTS LINES One of the most important factors to ensure subscribers receive and actually open an email is the subject line. The subject line is a subscriber’s first contact with an email and it’s necessary to keep them clear and to the point so subscribers know the purpose for the email before they even open it. Another tip: sloppy subject lines are the quickest way to trigger a subscriber’s SPAM filter. To ensure your emails land in a subscriber’s inbox and not their junk folder, avoid at all costs using phrases including “Free”, “% off”, using multiple exclamation marks “!!!,” as well as typing in ALL CAPS.

4. DESIGN A VISUALLY APPEALING EMAIL BODY Using one of an email platform’s prebuilt templates is the easiest way to create a visually appealing email body. This way you can build professional looking emails quickly without needing to know any HTML or design code. Inserting a clean header image at the top of an email is a great way to quickly grab your reader’s attention and direct their gaze to the rest of the page below. Segmenting the email body into lists, paragraphs and tables is another way to help subscribers visually digest your content. Also keep in mind color scheme, font size and paragraph indentation when designing an email, but once again, simpler is better.

1. CHOOSE AN EMAIL MARKETING SERVICE PROVIDER The first thing to do when building a newsletter is to choose an email marketing service provider. Signing up for one of these platforms allows you to manage recipient lists, easily schedule email deployments, see detailed analytics and build HTML emails using professional looking templates. A few of these services include MailChimp, Nimbit, Constant Contact and ReverbNation, and most provide different tiers of service as well as free accounts. Each service also offers its own unique benefits, so do some research to see which works best for your needs. MailChimp, for example, lets you send to up to 2,000 subscribers with just a free account, while ReverbNation’s Fan Reach software allows

3. WRITE CONCISE EMAIL COPY According to MailChimp, people read promotional emails for an average of only 15 seconds. This means it is imperative to let recipients know exactly why you are contacting them quickly and directly. Keep your email copy to no more than a few hundred words and prompt fans to take a specific action, whether it is to “View our upcoming tour schedule below” or “Download our new EP here” – in other words, have a clear call to action. It’s also helpful to give subscribers many clickable opportunities to direct them to your iTunes, merch page or other desired location. A simple email template will help you insert hyperlinks into the email text and even create clickable buttons.

5. DETERMINE SEND FREQUENCY & SEGMENTATION How often you choose to send campaigns will vary depending on your audience, but you need to be careful not to fatigue your recipient list with too many sends. For most bands this probably means no more than once or twice per month. Some email platforms offer tools such as open and click rate analytics that can give you an insight into how often to deploy campaigns. Some platforms, like Constant Contact, even offer geographic targeting options that can help you notify fans in specific metro areas about upcoming local shows. Most importantly, you need to be aware that fans have entrusted you with their email addresses and it’s necessary not to betray that trust.

ith a multitude of new ways to engage your fanbase online, it’s easy to forget about the most effective tool you have at your disposal – good old-fashioned email. While it may not be as sexy as starting a Kickstarter campaign, building and maintaining a professional looking email newsletter is the most effective way to stay in touch with your audience. According to the ExactTarget marketing blog, 94% of consumers prefer to receive direct marketing communication via email than any other channel. And unlike many social platforms, with email you are in complete control of exactly how when you choose to communicate with your fans.


you to integrate email sends with links to your various social networks.



6 Rules to Not Pissing Off a Music Supervisor

’m writing from the beautiful Hyatt in Los Angeles while finishing up details on a music supervision project for a film. This one was a beast. Over 30 cues (and six original compositions), in various styles, plus less than three weeks to temp, turn, and place. Every supervision project is pressure-filled, from the challenge of artistically finding the perfect placement, to the negotiation of the master/ syncs. Add to that listening to the slew of submissions, dealing with file transfers, and the mountains of paperwork, and it’s a wonder how any project gets done on time. But they do. And the reason is normally because of excellent relationships with producers and artists who know how to professionally play the licensing game. They make it easy to choose their tracks because the files are named perfectly, their business is order, and they only pitch excellent masters based on the request. With all of that fresh in my mind, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you some real-life tips on successful pitching for placements. In this case it’s for a film, but these tips work for any other pitch, too. More specifically, these are rules you need to learn to not piss off a music supe.

Rule #2: Do not pitch if you do not have your song properly prepared. This means: registered with your PRO, publishing and co-write splits on paper, and knowing to whom payment(s) will be going. Make it easy for a supe to use your music, and help your career. Two artists were knocked out of contention on this project because there’s no way to properly credit and cue the tracks, plus there is a possible soundtrack backend.

Rule #1: If you are asked to pitch, unless otherwise stated, do not spread the pitch around to your network. This creates hundreds of intro emails, a whole backlog of tracks to wade through, and then a bunch of “sorry, you didn’t make it” emails. And it should go without saying, but be focused with the songs you are pitching in that they match the callout or brief. Don’t send your quirky ukulele track (that you’re just sure is a hit) to a pitch asking for House Trance.

Rule #4: If you have been trusted with what the project (film, TV show, ad, etc.) is about, do not tell anyone about it. Not your media contacts, not your industry friends, no one. Understand the industry; if you’re music is being temped, the project is in post-production, but not finished yet. There are countless competitive reasons to keep a project under wraps until the right time, and you are not privy to those decisions. Chances are, even though you’re trying to help,

Rule #3: Re-title your pitch songs to include the artist or writer name, genre, and then the name of the song. Trying to find and temp 100 tracks is already a workflow nightmare using submitted songs in different folders, but it’s even worse to do a track count without this info included. So, if your band name is “ShockerKahn,” and you’re pitching an instrumental based on a callout for techno, your filename should look like this: “ShockerKahn_ techno_Shake-the-house-instr.wav” Sidenote (a): If you are the one-stop, or a licensing agent, pitching multiple tracks and artists, you should add that to the filename as well, like this: “SongPitcher_ShockerKahn_ techno_Shake-the-house-instr.wav” (Dibs on the band name SkockerKahn, BTW)

you can only hurt the project by promoting it without permission. Rule #5: Have instrumentals. You are not just in the “song” business. Almost every license worth significant money requires an instrumental because of the mixing process. Supes must be able to find space for VO [voice over] without losing the track, and while also maintaining emotion. Lyrics - even just one line - can make this nearly impossible. But with the instrumental, supes and editors have every option open to them. Can you get licensed without instrumental? Sure. Will it ever be for much money? No. Rule #6: If your music is not good enough, don’t pitch it. Sounds simple, right? But I often get pitched tracks that are mixed horribly, and sometimes not mastered at all. Too many artists seem to think that if their music is just chosen, they would be given a chance to kind of “fix it” before the deal is finished. This is not going to happen. Further, I will probably be less inclined to listen to what you send me next time, if there is one. So, be patient, and pitch like a pro. Wait until you’re ready, and be as easy to work with as possible. Often, the way in which someone pitches me will earn the artist another chance, even if their music isn’t right for this particular project. 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 NOVEMBER 2014 25


7 Powerful Facebook Features That Bands Overlook 1. ADS THAT CREATIVELY TARGET AUDIENCES The most popular way to target fans is geotargeting, which allows you to find users by geographic location including country, state, city, and town. You can even target people within a given mile radius. Don’t forget, however, that you can also target fans using other criteria. Factors like age, gender, education, place of work, likes, and interests are all viable options you should take time to explore. What do these factors mean for your band? Consider key players and organizations in your city who are music influencers and tastemakers. Target local booking agents or media outlets in your town. Endless possibilities are at your doorstep if you think outside the box. 2. PAGE PINS AND BOOSTED POSTS Facebook utilizes a very specific algorithm: if your post receives little to no comments or likes, it will sink to the bottom of the news feed and become virtually invisible. If the opposite happens, your post will remain at the top as more and more activity rolls in. Bands use many strategies to capture attention, but sometimes even the best creative ideas don’t yield the desired results. If you think your content is engaging, but it’s just not seeing the response you want, consider pinning a post to the top of your page or boosting it. For a small price, your Facebook post can be “boosted” to reach a wider audience, or can be freely “pinned to the top” of your page’s timeline for a maximum of seven days. 3. PROFILE PHOTOS AND COVER PHOTOS The cover photo and profile picture are the only two areas where Facebook users can manipulate the appearance of their page and go “all out.” Develop this space with different photos per section: real life photos and promotional photos. Real life photos of the members of the band should always be prominently featured. These photos can be live performance shots, behindthe-scenes moments, or press-worthy looks from photo shoots. Promotional photos vary across the board, but they must provide information to fans and promote your band. Focus promotion on newsworthy events and branding designs. Examples include graphic logos, album artwork, a band photo that includes a list of upcoming tour dates, etc. Think creatively and constructively about which photos to use so that your cover photo and profile picture are not in the same category. For example, if your profile photo is your album artwork, your cover photo should be a picture of the band.


4. THE “ABOUT” SECTION AND CONTACT INFO Include an active email address that you check regularly. If a promoter [editor’s note - or magazine] is looking for your band online, one of the top results in a search engine query will likely be your Facebook page. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because you forgot to include your email. Make sure all band links are present, including your band’s official website. If someone visits your Facebook page, they should be able to click and link directly to all of your social media accounts and your site. 5. EFFECTIVE CONTENT UPDATES Bands should focus on sharing four kinds of content: new music releases, upcoming events, behind the scenes candids, and glimpses into their personal, everyday lives. It goes without saying that bands should share new music releases and tour dates, but don’t over saturate your Facebook page with only these kinds of posts. Now more than ever, fans want to feel personally connected to their favorite bands. They want to know where you’re playing next and what you ate for breakfast. Make sure the content you share on Facebook is of a wide variety, but keep it within the realm of your artistry. No one wants to see a timeline full of selfies, memes, and cat photos. 6. TAGGING VENUES AND FESTIVALS Perhaps the biggest mistake made by bands is not tagging venues and festivals in their posts after being booked. When you tag any

Facebook page, your post will appear on their timeline, which helps you connect to the event and possibly their built-in crowd. Have you seen the phenomenon where bands turn their backs to the audience to take selfies with the crowd? One big benefit is that fans can tag themselves in the photo and then share it with their friends on social media. Win-win! 7. RESPONDING TO FANS As stated before, music lovers don’t only want to read about bands and watch them perform. Fans champion a personal connection and want to feel like they know the person behind the music. Take the time to respond to your fans when they write you messages or leave comments on your Facebook page. Set aside at least 30 minutes of your day to monitor your social media sites. As your career grows, you probably won’t have time to respond to everyone, but there are ways to combat volume. For example, set up a Q&A on Twitter and let your fans know ahead of time that you’ll be available for a live chat. Editor’s note - This article was originally posted at It has been republished here with permission. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kaylee Bugg is an account coordinator at Sonicbids. She is a singer, songwriter, pianist and actress from Atlanta. A graduate of Berklee and former talent buyer for the Red Room @ Cafe 939, she also helps manage an independent band from Boston and produces musical theater events.



4 Creative Ways to Sell More Merch

erch can become a great revenue stream for you and your band – if you have some strategies in mind when pitching and selling your merch. Here, we’ll cover four you can start implementing right now or at your next show. 1. Let people know you’re selling merch Okay, this one isn’t exactly “creative,” but you’d be surprised how many musicians fail to do it, whether it simply slips their minds, or they aren’t comfortable playing salesmen. We’ve all been to a concert where the excitement of the music and being with friends means we just don’t think about merch. Something as simple as mentioning that you have a merch table or even directly asking fans to check out what you’ve got for sale will increase the number of people who stop by. If you want to really go above and beyond, take some time to walk through the audience (not during any other band’s performance, of course) and get a conversation going with fans. Carry some merch with you and make transactions right from your smartphone with a card reader like Square. 2. Make it fun Sometimes the prospect of T-shirts isn’t enough to draw fans to the merch table. Once you actually get people there, however, the chance that they will buy greatly increases. One of the best ways to get people to walk over to the merch table is to make it an event. Don’t entirely leave your merch to some random assistant or venue employee – before and after the show, hang out there yourself!

Of course, you could just hang and talk to fans and that will certainly be effective, but, if you want to go one step further, take some time to think about how you can really turn it into a fun event. If your audience is primarily teenage girls, set up a photo booth with fun props where fans can take pictures with you and the band. If you play hip-hop or EDM, host a spur-ofthe-moment dance contest over by the merch stand. Something fun will draw people – and purchases. 3. Don’t leave selling merch to just the live show Yes, the live show is a great opportunity to sell some merch, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only opportunity. Your website, social media, and email newsletters are also great ways to drive people to purchase your products. Give your contact list or followers special discounts to try to drive sales, and if you get a new T-shirt design in, let people know! That’s not to say you need to constantly push your merch at your virtual friends. Overdoing it will get annoying and probably lose you some fans, but, every now and then, don’t be afraid to link to your online store. It doesn’t have to be an obvious pitch. If you have a blog, whenever you or someone else wears your merch in a photo or video, link to it! You could even include a link to your online store in the description box of any YouTube videos you release. 4. Get your fans involved People are more likely to buy something they feel they have contributed to, so getting fans involved in the design process is a great way to drive sales. Ask fans to submit artwork for a

T-shirt design contest, and throw in something else to make the offer irresistible – maybe two backstage passes or a private house concert. If you don’t want to put a big chunk of your revenue in the hands of your fans’ artistic talent, you could instead ask fans to vote for their favorite design. Create two or three different mockups, or even just have the same design in different colors, and take a poll. Not only will fans feel invested in the outcome, you’ll also ensure you’re creating the shirt your fans will actually want to buy and wear. Of course, in addition to merch, there are more revenue streams for musicians. In the New Artist Model online music business courses, you’ll learn how to turn your music into a successful business – a business where you’re the CEO! You’ll create an actionable and personalized plan that will help you achieve a career in music, and you’ll be able to do it all with the resources you have available right now. Editor’s note – this article was originally posted at It has been republished here with permission. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dave Kusek is the founder of the New Artist Model (, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He has worked with musicians his entire career, providing tools, mentoring, and knowledge necessary to be successful in the music industry. PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 27



4 Easy Ways to Accept Mobile Payments

verything is on-the-go these days, and the more convenient you can make things for your client, the better. Whether you’re selling merchandise or taking a payment for the gig, accepting mobile payments is almost a necessity these days. Check out some of the best services available for taking payments on your phones or tablets. Who needs a cash register anymore? (Although, the buttons are kind of fun to push…) SQUARE Probably the most recognized, Square is a device that you plug into the headphone jack of your iPhone, Android smartphone, or iPad. They’ll hook you up with a free reader when you sign up for the service, and they also have a free app that makes it easy to take payments anywhere. There are no monthly service charges or commitments. Even if you don’t have an Internet connection, you can swipe in offline mode. Fees are pretty standard, at 2.75% per swipe for Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. Lastly, you can email or text receipts for your customers’ records. Bonus: Deposits are fast and you’ll see them in 1-2 business days. VENMO This service is better used between people who know each other, and is a money transfer rather than a reader like Square. Venmo is probably better used for getting paid for your gig or taking deposits from your client, versus accepting payment for merch from a stranger. Security is guaranteed, and Venmo prevents unauthorized transactions on the bank accounts used. If something does happen, they’ll cover your losses. This app is also free as long as the sender’s payment is being funded by a Venmo balance, bank account, or debit card. Credit card transactions do have a 3% fee. Bonus: Receiving money is always free. POPMONEY Popmoney is very quick and easy to use, but is also best for trusted transactions. If you’re requesting payment, you send a request through the service (telling them who to collect from and how much). They send a notification to the client, and the client sends money directly into your bank account. To send money, simply enter their mobile number, the amount, and payment info. They’re notified of their deposit, and voilà! Money in the bank. Bonus: When asking for cash, the client


doesn’t have to sign up with Popmoney to send it.

card that gives you 1% cash back on signed purchases.

PAYPAL HERE PayPal might be giving Square a run for its money, even though Square is currently more popular. Their new reader, called PayPal Here, also plugs into the headphone jack of your iPhone, iPad, or Android smartphone. While Square charges 2.75%, you can save a little with 2.7% fees on each swipe with PayPal. They also offer live customer support, and you can access your funds in minutes rather than days because it’s linked to your PayPal account (obviously). They also accept non-U.S. cards for an extra 1% fee. Bonus: It comes with a PayPal debit

Bottom line, checks are so yesterday. Try out one of these apps and get mobile with your money! Editor’s note – this article was originally posted at It has been republished here with permission. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Megan Frisbee is a Brand Ambassador at Gig Salad. She is a reading and writing fanatic who loves making people laugh. She’s also a huge romantic. Aww!

or a band to be successful, it must ultimately create its own brand, which presents its musical story both tangibly and intangibly. Your brand applies to every aspect of the band’s activities, including visuals, sound, and presentation. Anything from its logo, website, and photos, to its recordings, performances, and merchandise counts. Even your silly social media posts, online interactions with fans, and clothing styles can impact your brand. It is the band’s persona that leaves an impression on people. Though she initially created visuals for her Brooklyn-based pop band, Rubblebucket, Kalmia Traver admits she didn’t even know what branding meant for the first three years of the group’s existence. “I always associated music and visuals very closely – inextricably,” she says. “I ended up creating the fundamental linchpins of the band by expressing my spirit in a [visual] way that resonated with the music.” Creating a brand for your band is a long process and presents its own set of unique challenges. To get you started, here are eight ways to build and strengthen your band’s brand. 1. Express yourself “It’s always good to verge on the side of more personal,” says Traver. “It’s really important to have your heart behind every aspect – even the booking and social network. There is no room for anything but heartfelt, genuine expression if you want to cut through. Humans really connect with other human beings.” Also, don’t worry about catering to your grandma. Use your best judgment, but, most importantly, just be yourself. 2. Be consistent across all channels Your brand manifests when it’s repeated consistently and pervades all aspects of your band, including posters, T-shirts, album art, videos, stage persona, etc. Once your brand is recognizable, it is yours. Consistency also means frequent outreach. Update your website regularly, log onto social networks, and engage your fans in creative ways. Create a blog to share thoughts, stories, and photos, or start a mailing list and send out a newsletter once a month. Think of ways to give back to the community and be involved in a meaningful way.

3. Be unique and open to change Keep it genuine, yet distinctive. Research your competition to generate ideas and stay on the cutting edge. Find ways to distinguish yourself from other artists, and make sure your brand relates to your personal and current experiences. Use your knowledge and research to help make your image unique, even if that means changing it up every once in a while. “We are always open to change,” says Traver. “We never feel like we are nailing anything down; we are always swimming around, trying to find the creativity that represents us. We glean from what we’ve done, and f lesh it out as who we are now and what we’ve been through this recent year.” If your band is your brand, your fans are your investors.

4. Every detail counts Traver points out that branding includes “every facet of how you are perceived in the world – your attitude towards staff at a venue or an opening band, how nice you are, and activism and politics, too.” Choose a brand that ref lects the mood of your music. You can’t ignore the details, so have fun with the design process. Carefully develop your color palette, fonts, graphics, bio, photos, and clothing style. 5. Use social media to showcase your brand Your persona and, in turn, your brand, comes through via your social media. Without being too self-conscious, take care and present yourself intentionally. There is a balance between being carefree and over-meticulous. Though Rubblebucket knows the importance of social media, the pressure can sometimes be consuming. “When we are in the van during tours, we have many hours of discussion,” explains Traver. “‘How should I post this? Heart or smiley face? Link to Facebook?’ It’s group decision-making for these small details.... Social media is an amazing way to connect with the world.” 6. Build a relationship with your fans If your band is your brand, your fans are your investors. Read their comments and feedback, reflect, and build from there. Engage them by creating contests and asking questions on social media, and give them ways to be involved


8 Ways to Build and Strengthen Your Band’s Brand F and join your team. If they run your merch table at a show, toss them some free swag. Invite fans to share your Facebook posts or re-tweet you to win tickets. The more your posts spread, the more people learn about you, your music, and your brand without even physically seeing you. 7. Trust your team Always make sure to work closely with people and artists you admire and trust. “We have a loose team behind the design, but [the band has] creative control,” says Traver. “For the album art, we had a sculptor, and we requested he make a wearable version [of the art] to incorporate into live shows and videos. We consult with the web designer and merch people all the time, and our manager helps connect the dots.” Also, utilize your band members’ strengths and creativity in the process of creating the brand. In turn, you’ll all have some responsibility when it comes to maintaining the band’s image. 8. Be patient Building a brand and fanbase takes time. Even though you’re working your butt off, don’t forget to enjoy watching the process unfold! Editor’s note – this article was originally posted at It has been re-published here with permission. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Christiana Usenza is musician and dancer with a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from Tufts University. She teaches music, writes music, and works in the booking office at Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA. She is a member of the band Paper Waves, and they are currently working on their first album.




MUCK AND THE MIRES, Boston’s international ambassadors of garage rock ‘n’ roll were named #1 Garage Rock Band by LITTLE STEVEN Van Zandt and have albums produced by RUNAWAYS legend KIM FOWLEY and JIM DIAMOND (White Stripes). They tour worldwide. MAKE & MODEL

1987 Rickenbacker 320B WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

My favorite guitar. I bought this one brand new and have played hundreds of shows with it. It’s completely beat up now but still sounds great. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE

It’s got that classic John Lennon Rickenbacker chime. SPECIAL FEATURES

It’s a tiny 5/8 scale guitar. CUSTOM MODS




(Muck of Boston’s Muck and the Mires)

I replaced the nameplate with the vintage type that extends all the way to the end of the headstock, after I randomly found one for sale in an NYC City guitar store for only $25. The lead volume and bass tone knobs have been transposed to enable the guitar to be quickly silenced. OTHER NOTES

The 320B was a short-lived model introduced by Rickenbacker in the 1980s before they started making accurate reissues of their classic guitars. It is essentially an ’80s model 320 with vintage pickups and vintage pick guards/ nameplate. CAN BE HEARD ON

The first two Muck and the Mires records and all of the recordings by my previous Boston bands such as The Voodoo Dolls. Muck and the Mires tend to record out of town now and I won’t take this guitar on a plane for fear of losing it.


Follow on Twitter: @muckandthemires

Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at 30 NOVEMBER 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

part 1 of 2



Performer’s ultimate Guide to Modulation FX e have a lot of guitarists who come through the studio and they have an idea what they want their recordings to sound like, but have no idea how to articulate those ideas in terms of effects we use in the studio. They may have a favorite song with that really awesome swirling sound on the lead guitar that makes the song ‘so epic!’ but they don’t really know what that effect is or how to explain it to us. Many guitarists do not really know the difference between Chorus or Flange or the best ways to apply them. In this article and in its second part, we will clarify the differences between various modulation effects and give some examples of these effects in practice so that you will be able to tell the difference going forward.


Right now you are probably asking yourself, what the heck is modulation anyway? Well to get super technical on you, the definition of modulation in terms of audio recording is the variation of an electromagnetic wave or signal, such as its amplitude, frequency or phase. Now that you are thoroughly scratching your head at that definition, let’s get into a more practical definition. All modulation effects are built around a Low Frequency Oscillator, more commonly referred to as just an LFO. An LFO is an audio signal usually less than 20Hz that creates a pulsating rhythm rather than an audible tone. These are used to manipulate synthesizer tones to create various modulation effects. There are a number of different effects that can be created from this and we will explore a few of them.

track. Another more modern example of tremolo on a guitar track would be the lead guitar part from the Black Key’s song “Howlin’ For You.” Or think of the opening to “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths. In general, vibrato works well in short spurts, like using a whammy bar on a guitar for a short passage or bending a string up and down (vibrato) on the fretboard. It’s hard to give an example of a song that uses a vibrato effect on a guitar track because, well, it doesn’t generally sound that good over long periods of time because it produces a very psychedelic effect.


Two of the most commonly confused of the modulation effects are tremolo and vibrato. One reason for this confusion goes back to Fender mis-labeling what is now known as a “whammy bar” as “a tremolo bar” (when in fact it should have been called “a vibrato bar”). Tremolo modulates the amplitude of the incoming signal, resulting in periodic VOLUME changes, while vibrato is a modulation of periodic changes in PITCH. Both of these effects first came into fashion in the 1950s-1960s in the form of guitar add-on units (or pedals as we all like to refer to them now) and built-in amp effects.

The flange effect is created by mixing a recording with a slightly delayed copy of itself, whereby the length of the delay is constantly changing. Back in old’n tymes, this was achieved by recording the same sound to two tape machines, playing them back at the same time while pushing down lightly on one of the reels, which slowed down one channel. But luckily, thanks to the miracle of digital technology, we can just throw some plug-ins on our recorded tracks and get the same effect. This creates a smooth, swirling feel to a guitar track. We usually have depth and rate controls, as well. The depth controls how much of the delayed signal is added to the original, and the rate controls how fast it will change.

One of the most famous and best examples of tremolo on a guitar track would be the opening guitar riff of the Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter.” In this song you can really hear the stutter effect that the tremolo is giving the guitar

A great example of flange being used well on a guitar track would be on the opening rhythm guitar track of the Heart song “Baracuda.” You can really hear the swirling sound as the guitar is chugging away in that famous riff.



The chorus effect is very similar to flange and is often times confused for it by guitarists in the studio. This is pretty understandable as chorus is created in nearly the same way as flanging. The biggest difference between the two is that chorus uses a longer delay time, somewhere between 20-30ms compared to flange, which is 1-10ms. This difference in delay time causes chorus to affect the pitch of the track it is applied to. The longer delay times of chorus causes slight pitch bends and depending on the speed at which the delays are set, you can achieve either a slow spacey sound or a fast wobbly tone. Nirvana famously utilized the wobblier chorus sound on the guitars in “Come As You Are.” If you are looking for the smooth, slower chorus sound, look to the guitar sound on the Boston hit “More Than a Feeling.” And pretty much any clean tone on Police LPs will have a signature chorus sound. Editor’s note – come back next month for more in-depth analysis on modulation fx and how to use them in the studio. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Zac Cataldo is a musician and owner/producer at Night Train Studios, a recording studio in Westford, MA. He is also co-owner of Black Cloud Productions, a music publishing company. Reach him at zac@nighttrainstudios. com. Brent Godin is a bassist/guitarist and engineer/ producer at Night Train Studios. He is also a talent scout at Black Cloud Productions. Reach him at PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 31



· Kay Bass · Neumann U87 Mic · Gibson J45 Custom Acoustic · Martin Acoustic Hi-Strung · Moog Cordovox Combo Organ/ Synth · Echoplex Tape Delay · Critter 7 Guitari Pocket Piano · Korg Microkorg · Moog Little Phatty · Boombas (German percussion instrument) · Glockenspiel Wurlitzer Electric Piano

Andrew St. James

19-Year-Old Bay Area Native Demos in Raunchy Bathrooms to Inspire Dusty, Vintage Sound interview by BENJAMIN RICCI / photo by EMMA SCHACTER


ALBUM INFO & CREDITS Artist: Andrew St. James Album: The Shakes Recording Studio: 9th Street Opus Record Label: Island Jar Release Date: October 21, 2104 Produced by: Jim Greer & Andrew St. James Engineered & Mastered by: Jim Greer Artwork by: ASJ and Veronica & layout by Cyndi Harvell PRE-PRODUCTION What was your pre-production like on this project? Not very structured at all. Much like the last release, several songs on this album I recorded demo-style in a variety of bathrooms (including this real raunchy one in a basement of a building in Boston which produced “Nightmares Pt. 17”). But in studio it’s all natural. We build a track like a house or something, one by one, we’ve done it a lot so not too much thought comes before a track is laid down.  How did you choose the studio? We had used it for Doldrums work [editor’s note – ASJ’s previous album]; it being local had much to do with it. That’s Jim’s space [producer Jim Greer], so naturally working with him is best when we’re posted at his spot.  PRODUCTION What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it?  Many of my recordings feel very dusty, vintage in a way. We like to mix that with a newer edge to it. We achieve through using a random assortment of vintage gear we’ve accumulated. Or maybe just in the demos (that end up on the album) I only use a single microphone and record in spaces that have their own different room sound. We mix that with some more produced tracks and we get that Andrew St. James Sound.  How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process?

Did you use any special gear or recording techniques on this one? We used a bunch of vintage gear. Jim has a room full of random and rare instruments along with the standard guitars and keys. We usually start with acoustic guitar and then build from there. If we think we’re going to make it a little more produced/processed, then we’ll use a click track. Then Jim starts linking up beats and making loops out of drum machines and stuff we record into the microphone. The idea is to be real honest on some songs - just good vocals and representing the lyrics. Other times it should be sonically fresh and different. Mix a little 2014 and beyond into it. I think we achieved that on “Cold War,” “5 Years,” and “Despite All Good Intentions.” We used tablas and weird pocket pianos and things to create atmosphere. Usually the song just keeps asking for stuff and then it’s like, “OK, that’s good.” Then we stop and edit that. We keep it really spontaneous; it’s pretty raw in a way. What was your philosophy on live, fullband takes versus individual tracking? This album was all individual tracking, as most of my songs are. We are totally down with the live tracking stuff, we did some of that on Doldrums songs but for this release we stuck it to the Andrew+Jim in one room approach.

What were the toughest challenges you faced? Choosing which songs were meant for The Shakes. Over the last year or so since Doldrums was finished, and even before it was released, I wrote and recorded demos and studio versions of many songs. Sitting down and weeding them out was very hard. For a good couple of weeks there we thought we were going to release an Elvis Costello-esque 25-song album. And that was after the initial cut!


Almost exactly the same really…these songs and recordings just kind of happen, almost like a stream of consciousness.

Any funny stories from the session that you’ll be telling for a while? Hmm, at one point we were filming and we ended up having all the lights off, wearing goggles, with a cameraman flashing red and blue psychedelic lights all over us while we pretty much played avant-garde drums and synths. It was like Syd Barrett at 5:00 in the morning or something. That might have been the point we realized we had enough stuff for a record and we were just getting crazy. POST PRODUCTION How did you handle final mixing and mastering? Jim and I sit throughout the process listening to mixes. On the last record, at one point we took a break, then just sat for a day and visited each tune fresh, made final tweaks, and we were done. It’s not good to overthink this stuff. Jim will be working on stuff, too - he kind of takes it in the car and

“Many of my recordings feel very dusty, vintage in a way. We like to mix that with a newer edge to it.” Any special guests? Ralph Carney (local SF horn guru, uncle of the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney) played sax on “5 Years.” We had the spirit of Mark Foster from Foster the People on this album too; he came by and we worked on another song that might end up coming out sometime later in the year. That was a real special experience, and we put “Despite All Good Intentions” together the next day, channeling him a bit. What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live? Live I just play solo at the moment. So in the studio it’s like having fun and layering songs, which is just the best way to spend time. So I can do anything in the studio, but only solo live for now. Know any bass players???

is always making little adjustments. He does the mastering himself at the moment. What are your release plans? Gonna be doing some shows around SF to promote, then just playing regionally and anywhere I can. Last year I got out to Boston, NYC, and Nashville for some gigs, so hopefully I’ll be everywhere I can be!

Follow on Twitter: @_AndrewStJames_

Have a unique studio story to share? Email PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 33


C. WHITNEY GUITARS Dragon’s Heart Guitar Picks appx $9.00/each

PHRED INSTRUMENTS Ernesto VH3 Guitar - $589



Unique, durable and works for plenty of playing styles (shredders welcome). CONS

Slightly pricey for an individual pick.

uitar picks have come a long way. The “standard” in the beginning was the Fender 351 style. Since then people have used various shapes and materials to create a new feel for a new generation. C Whitney’s Dragon’s Heart Picks are certainly something new, both in shape and feel. At 2.5MM thick these are pretty beefy (think Dunlop Jazz), but each edge is beveled; one half of the “back” of the pick looks like a heart, and the other half extends to a sharp point. The “Original” model pick we checked out is made of polyamideimide with 12% graphite content. It’s lightweight, and seems to resist wear very well (they claim up to 1,000 hours of use before serious wear becomes a problem). Using it like a standard pick is pretty easy, even for players used to standard medium weight picks. The beveled edge offers plenty of attack and the heart “half” is great for rhythm styles, while the “horn” side offers up hyper accurate attack for both shred masters and jazz boppers. Comparing it to other picks, it’s somewhat a hybrid of a Fender 351 and a Jim Dunlop Jazz III (the Big Stubby version). It’s unique, and at a street price of $9.00 it’s not cheap, but it does cover a lot of options in a single pick. Plus if you dig it, it should last for ages.  Chris Devine


Versatile, great tonal options, looks fantastic.


Effects loop may take some getting used to.

et’s get this bit out of the way. Yes, it looks like Trey Anastasio’s guitar, which was made by Phish’s soundman/guitar guru Paul Languedoc. Yes, you can get one made by Paul, but that will set you back about $10,000 and you better be prepared to wait about two years for him to build it. At a street price of $589, this is both affordable and actually available to the average working musician. The body is hollowed out mahogany (much like a Rickenbacker) with a flame maple veneer top, with plenty of binding around the edges and f-holes. The bridge is a combination of a Tune-o-matic on a rosewood base, and 24 medium jumbo frets sit on a dark ebony fingerboard, attached to a very comfortable maple neck. It’s a unique configuration with the hollow body construction and a 25.5” Fender-style scale length – it’s a bit snappier than a Les Paul but with a touch of that humbucker fatness. Electronics-wise, it sports two generic (but rather good sounding, we must admit) humbuckers, with mini toggles that allow the coils to be split, as well as a 3-way toggle switch for pickup selection. There is a 9v preamp and buffer, which brings us to the built-in on-board effects loop (OBEL). Using a stereo Y cord, effects can be placed right in the guitar’s signal path. Pedals like overdrive, compression, or EQ can really make a difference in this configuration, but modulation effects are even cooler to place in this loop as you can directly manipulate and control their volume (Jerry Garcia pioneered this type of control). A mini toggle bypasses the loop and also acts as a kill switch if you’re using a standard mono cable output. The OBEL is a great idea, but might take a bit of experimentation if you’ve never tinkered with something like it before. Sonically, the VH3 is very rich indeed. The neck pickup is super sweet, and the ability to split the coils really opens up the tonal choices. The bridge pickup has plenty of bite and sustain, even in single coil mode. Truthfully, we were surprised at just how good this instrument sounded, given its price point. It’s the sum of the features that really makes this a unique and versatile guitar. For players who get bored with tones easily, this could be the cure. It might be hard to get a non-Phish/Trey fan to check it out, but it’s well worth a look for guitarists interested in a semi-hollow or fully hollow thinline.  Chris Devine

Body: Mahogany with Flame Maple Veneer

Made from a carefully selected polyamide-imide 12% graphite content



Neck: Maple (25.5” scale) Fretboard: Ebony with 24 Medium Jumbo Frets Nut Material: Bone (1 11/16” width) Custom Electronics: Preamp/Buffer (Master volume wired post-OBEL)

Ultra fast playing surface

Output Jacks: One Mono output jack & one OBEL output jack.

Lasts 1000 hours

Weight: Appx 7 lbs


COMING SOON! -Review of the Chapman Guitars ML-1 -PLUS interview with Rob Chapman -Stay tuned...


SOURCE AUDIO SoundBlox 2 Multiwave Distortion Pedal - $169


Good selection of distortions, flexible controls. CONS


ulti mode programmable effects have been known to be tricky to work with; menus, parameters, patches and banks can make things tough. Source Audio has brought all the plusses of programmable distortion with the simplicity of a stompbox. It’s not that much bigger than the typical stomp box, with tons of distortion modes from tube drive, to an octave fuzz, and pretty much everything in between. The controls simple: Drive, Voice, Tone, and Output. A 3-mode noise gate, as well as three modes of tone shaping are available as well. The Voice control is unique, as it acts more like a “warmth” control, which is very nuanced, but can make a big difference in small doses, especially dialing in more vintage tones. Another unique feature is the Tone Shape, which allows more customization of the tones at the touch of button. Saving sounds is über easy; make a setting, press and hold, and it’s all set. Sound-wise, it nails the models it’s using as a basis. The smoother Tube Drive really re-creates the sound of an overdriven amp, and the El Raton nails the sound of an old Rat pedal while the noise gate keeps things from getting unruly. It has the ability to connect to a MIDI source, as well as Source Audio’s Hot Hands system (available separately), as well as a morphing function that requires an expression pedal. This allows the user to pan between a two different modes of the player’s choosing to get a unique blend of the two at the same time! For the pedal junky who needs a ton of good distortions options, this does the trick perfectly. Considering all the models, the ability to modify and save them, and practically use them in a live setting, this unit is well worth the asking price.  Chris Devine

23 varieties of unique distortion algorithms


Compact, cast aluminum housing 2 User Presets easily recalled via two footswitches Universal Bypass - selectable buffered or true bypass 3-band tone control Noise Gate - easily activated 3-level noise gate MIDI Capable State-of-the-art DSP PERFORMER MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 35


1971 Fender Strat If it’s good enough for Hendrix… BACKGROUND By 1971 many guitarists felt the Strat lost its luster ever since CBS bought the company from Fender, but this guitar proves that most of the “issues” with the ’70s guitars were simply they weren’t ’50s or ’60s models. Increased manufacturing inevitably meant some of the quality had to suffer, but the good guitars from this era are to be treasured. photo by GABRIEL BURGOS WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE Hendrix loved it because it had a maple neck with a big and round profile for his hands. Great tone and extremely smooth playability. NOTABLE STRAT USERS OF THE ERA Ritchie Blackmore, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton. INTERESTING FEATURES For only nine months Fender went to a 4-bolt neck (from the oft-maligned 3-bolt version) and this has that. Plus it is a one-piece neck like they made in the 1950s. OTHER NOTES Hendrix had a sunburst version and he likely influenced the original owner of this guitar, Dan Hartman. It has been told to me that Dan wrote the big Edgar Winter Group song “Free Ride” on THIS guitar. 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, or on his radio show, @thefringeAM820 (Saturdays 5-7pm EST).


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Everything You Need For Your Very Best Live Acoustic Performances.

Just Add You.

The new Acoustic A1000 is an incredible all-in-one amplification solution for your acoustic gigs. You get 100 watts of raw power (2 x 50W) in true stereo via a pair of neodymium co-axial speakers. Two independent channels for instruments or vocal mics (or both at once) and two independent digital signal processors for effects and feedback elimination. Even Bluetooth connectivity so you can play backing tracks using any mobile device. And you get it all for much less than you’d think.

• 100 watt (2x50) Class D power • Two 8” full-range neodymium co-axial speakers • True stereo performance • Two discreet channels, 4 total inputs • Each channel has two combo XLR-1/4” inputs • 3-band EQ with sweepable mid-range on each channel • Dual digital effects with user editing • Bluetooth connectivity for instant backing tracks • Automatic feedback elimination • Effects loop • Full-feature direct output with ground lift, pre-post EQ and level for each channel

Available exclusively at: ©2014 Acoustic

Performer Magazine: November 2014  

Featuring Marc Ford, Damnation A.D., Andrew St. James, SlowEarth, Handsome Jack and more!

Performer Magazine: November 2014  

Featuring Marc Ford, Damnation A.D., Andrew St. James, SlowEarth, Handsome Jack and more!