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Qu su ote ra an nc d e O Bu nli y ne !


Fun is a risky business—and it demands the experience and longevity that K&K Insurance provides. Performers across the U.S. like you choose K&K for our deep understanding of the coverage needs that sports and recreation organizations Fun is a risky business—and it demands the experience longevity that require. And when claims occur, our colleagues are hereand to resolve your claims K&K Insurance provides. Performers across the U.S. like you choose K&K for efficiently and effectively. our deep understanding of the coverage needs that sports and recreation Specialty and reliable claims handling from organizations require. And whencoverage claims occur, our colleagues are here to a trusted Shouldn’t you resolve your claims efficiently andexpert. effectively. work with K&K Insurance? Specialty coverage and reliable claims handling from a trusted expert. Shouldn’t you work with K&K Insurance?

K&K Insurance Group, Inc. is a licensed insurance producer in all states (TX license #13924); operating in CA, NY and MI as K&K Insurance Agency (CA license #0334819) K&K Insurance Group, Inc. is a licensed insurance producer in all states (TX license #13924); operating in CA, NY and MI as K&K Insurance Agency (CA license #0334819)



KMFDM by Mark Cowles





cover story


FRANKIE ROSE by Sarah Brooks




ALVVAYS by Micah McLain



Property vs. Liability Insurance for Musicians


An Open Letter to the Live Music Fan

12. How Stationhead is Poised to Shake up the Playlist Game 38.

TOUR TEST: Galaxy Audio GPS-8

40. GEAR REVIEWS: Fender, Yamaha, Studiologic and more… 48. MY FAVORITE AXE: Custom Eurorack System with KRON Cover

MARC BROUSSARD by Benjamin Ricci


THE NATIONAL by Candace McDuffie

Erez Avissar



As of press time, we’re still trying to figure out just what went happened at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas. Strike that. We know the ‘what.’ We’re utterly clueless (yet again) as to the ‘why.’ But does the why even matter? It’s a question I’ve struggled with personally, trying to make sense of senselessness. Will the ‘why’ bring back the 50+ dead and heal the scores of injured? No. But still we strive to find answers. It’s who we are. It’s hard to know how to feel about live concerts nowadays. As the father of two small girls, I get a twinge of pain even thinking about them coming to me one day, asking to attend a large outdoor festival. Part of me wants to say, “You can’t live in fear.” And part of me says, “Do everything you can to keep them safe.” It’s an internal conflict that I, as a music fan, don’t know how to resolve. Maybe none of us do. One of our regular columnists, Michael St. James, has penned an open letter in this issue to the live music fan. I’m not sure he has the answers, either. But still, we try.

I’ve presented his thoughts here, for the most part unedited, as a thank you to those of you who continue to support our industry in difficult times. We know it’s a choice to continue supporting live music, and not one to take lightly. Our hearts break for the victims of the most recent tragedy in my birth state of Nevada. I honestly don’t know what else to say; there’s nothing that will bring them back to their families, and likely nothing that will prevent future tragedy. I don’t know how we, as an industry, move on or recover from this. In all likelihood, we don’t. The feelings of fear, anger and confusion will linger. Like I said, I don’t have the answers. I’m just not sure how much more heartbreak I can take. Benjamin Ricci, editor

Volume 27, Issue 7 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 EDITOR Benjamin Ricci DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Andrew Ross, Benjamin Ricci, Candace McDuffie, Chris Devine, Heidi Schmitt, Mark Cowles, Micah McLain, Michael St. James, Sarah Brooks CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Sarah Modene, Arden Wray, Erez Avissar, Franz Schepers, Mikael Kennedy, Graham MacIndoe, Evan Norton ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919



© 2017 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.



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

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

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


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


Walk The Line Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Craft Recordings)


hen the original Walk The Line soundtrack was released on CD back in the mid-2000s, it quickly became one of my favorite in-the-car go-to’s. Over the years, as it transitioned from my car’s in-dash CD player to my phone’s internal memory, the songs have stayed with me. So, when I heard it was going to be issued on vinyl for the first time, my inner music geek went into joy overload. Which brings us up to speed, with Craft Recording’s re-issue of the Walk The Line OST on black vinyl (red or another movie-appropriate color would have been nice, but what are you gonna do?). First impressions: the cover’s not much to write home about, in fact the inner sleeve features much cooler artwork (originally found on the DVD special edition and movie poster’s key art), but the old adage is true: don’t judge a

book (or record) by its cover. Because listening to these familiar songs on my turntable was a bit of a revelation. The digital versions of these tracks have served me fine over the years, but there’s an extra level of clarity and punch that the songs exhibit on wax. Most notably, the fidelity of the strings, double bass and drums on Reese Witherspoon’s rendition of “Juke Box Blues” makes the music jump from the speakers, and the piano tickling and pounding on “Lewis Boogie” really elevates the track’s presence over the old CD pressing. Witherspoon and Phoenix are as dynamic as ever, and the chemistry they share on their duets are magical. If you enjoyed the actors’ takes on these classic country tunes when the film originally premiered, or even if you’re new to the Johnny Cash saga, we heartily recommend checking out the new vinyl edition of Walk The Line.

WALK THE LINE TRACK LIST: Side A: 1. Get Rhythm (Joaquin Phoenix) 2. Walk the Line (Joaquin Phoenix) 3. Wildwood Flower (Reese Witherspoon) 4. Lewis Boogie (Waylon Payne) 5. Ring of Fire (Joaquin Phoenix) 6. You’re My Baby (Johnathan Rice) 7. Cry! Cry! Cry! (Joaquin Phoenix) 8. Folsom Prison Blues (Joaquin Phoenix) Side B: 1. That’s All Right (Tyler Hilton) 2. Juke Box Blues (Reese Witherspoon) 3. It Ain’t Me Babe (Joaquin Phoenix / Reese Witherspoon) 4. Home of the Blues (Joaquin Phoenix) 5. Milk Cow Blues (Tyler Hilton) 6. I’m A Long Way From Home (Shooter Jennings) 7. Cocaine Blues Joaquin (Phoenix) 8. Jackson (Joaquin Phoenix / Reese Witherspoon) For more info, visit



Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced? (1967)

Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream (1993)

If I’m being honest, it’s very seldom that I find myself listening to Hendrix these days, but that doesn’t change the fact that this album, more than any other album, got me really excited about playing the guitar. Jimi was a guitar genius and no one can deny it.

The first guitar lick I ever learned was the intro to “Today.” I was listening to this album the most when I got my first electric guitar at 16, so it definitely had an impact. I was still figuring out how to make my singing voice palatable, so it was refreshing to hear such an unconventional voice on record.

The Beatles The Beatles (White Album) (1968) This is my desert island album and my all-time favorite band. This record is extremely diverse with styles ranging from ‘40s piano pop to avantgarde to proto-metal. I’m not entirely sure how they managed to make it work as a cohesive unit, but they did and it’s amazing.

With Frank Calcaterra of DieAlps!



Green Day Dookie (1994)

Radiohead The Bends (1995)

Every kid in middle school was rocking out to this album when it came out (until their mom read the lyrics). Growing up in a small town at the time, Green Day was about as punk as punk could be! I know better now, but Dookie still holds up.

The Bends is the perfect blend of grit and melody, and possibly the most influential album I’ve listed in terms of my current songwriting style. It was once the only CD in my car on a 14-hour road trip, so I know it well pretty well.



My dad started teaching me rock and roll history pretty early into my childhood – so early in fact, that I barely remember smashing my first acoustic guitar after watching a video of Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar ablaze at Monterey Pop. I’ve since calmed down with the guitar smashing, but I am a proud member of DieAlps!, a 5-piece indie rock band that my wife Connie and I started back in 2012. When I’m not “doing the band thing” you can probably find me recording other bands for a living at Atomic Audio Recording in Tampa, FL. Here are the records that inspired me to become a musician…

For more, follow the band on Twitter @DieAlps Sarah Modene

Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email for more info.




The Difference Betwee and Property Insuranc


e’ve run a number of articles in the past about insurance coverage for working musicians. Mainly these have dealt with avoiding insurance claims while performing live on tour or at other live events, and how to assess insurance policy needs for your band. One of the main questions we’ve received recently, though, is a pretty basic one. And that deals with the exact nature of liability insurance, and how it differs from property insurance you might already have. So, let’s break down the basics. As always, for more detailed information, please consult an insurance professional in your area – we recommend the good folks at K&K


Insurance, who’ve helped out countless artists on the road. THE KEY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIABILITY INSURANCE AND PROPERTY INSURANCE What it boils down to is (in the most basic terms) stuff vs. actions. With property insurance, whether it’s a variant of a homeowner’s policy, a renter’s policy, or other supplemental insurance products, the goal is to protect your possessions (in the case of musicians, your gear), so that you can be made whole again (i.e. get replacement stuff ) if the unthinkable happens. Depending on your policy, which we recommend you go over with your provider so you know exactly what’s covered, the unthinkable here would hopefully be a “coverable event” like, perhaps, a fire, or theft, or someone else vandalizing your gear. But the thing to remember is that these coverable events are likely not caused by you, but rather outside forces. With a liability insurance policy, the main difference is that it’s based on actions YOU take that could result in a lawsuit filed against you. Here, we’re talking about things like damages you or your party caused to a venue through negligent or reckless (no, not you, right?) behaviors. So, let’s say you’ve landed a cool gig and your roadies are less-than-careful during loadin and cause damages to the walls in the hallway leading to the stage. Or perhaps you’ve caused bodily injury to someone during the course of the show. Well, now you’ve entered the arena of liability insurance, because the venue or injured party may come after you (in the form of a lawsuit) for damages. So again, it’s stuff vs. actions, or possessions vs. lawsuits. Liability means you could be “liable” or responsible for actions (or non-actions) on your part that led to damages occurring. Property insurance covers your stuff, not someone or some entity trying to sue you for something you did.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN INSURANCE PROVIDER We asked Lorena Hatfield, Marketing Resources Manager for K&K Insurance, what artists should look for in an insurance provider when it comes to liability coverage, and she had this to say: “When choosing an insurance provider, always ask about the financial stability of the carrier; a high rating (A or better) by an independent rating company such as A.M. Best Company is the safest choice. Also, choosing a carrier that is “admitted” (licensed) is preferable because choosing an insurance company that is non-admitted (called surplus lines) may require you to pay extra fees or taxes. Of course, experience is also a factor.  Organizations familiar with the unique risks associated with the entertainment industry will be able to accurately price coverage and more importantly, provide prompt and reliable claims handling and resolution services.  You may also want to look for convenient services such as the ability to apply and purchase coverage online, as opposed to completing a paper application that must be mailed and approved before coverage is in force.”


een Liability Insurance nce for Musicians for complete coverage while belongings are in-transit or away from home. Most importantly, homeowner’s or renter’s property coverage does not cover business property or professional usage… A once sparse field of insurers has grown considerably and I now found ample insurance choices for studios of all sizes, including equipment property coverage, actual property coverage and liability coverage. Most policies covered gear and instruments, although some required itemizing of instruments valued over $5k. Some insurers wanted exacting lists of items, serial numbers, their replacement value and insisted on covering the value of the entire collection (no partial coverage). Some insurers offered liability and property together, while others allowed one or the other. Only a few rare instrument policies covered flooding, which is a completely separate issue (typically) in the world of insurance.” In the end, the type of policy you require will be based on your specific needs, so we urge you to consult professionals with any questions when it comes time for you to buy coverage. And remember, stay safe out there!

WHAT YOUR EXISTING POLICY MIGHT NOT COVER Rob Tavaglione, owner of Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC, offered up this piece of information in his recent Performer article “Protect Your Home Studio With These Insurance Tips”: “Most of us can wrap a particular instrument into our homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies without much difficulty. But musical instruments (and valuable electronics) are typically covered only up to a certain moderate value and particularly valuable pieces require itemization … such costs are not terribly attractive (and can easily cost as much as the rest of the entire policy). Sometimes our property coverage extends in part to our cars and vehicles, but an oddly named (and typically expensive) “inland marine policy” is needed PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 9




e, the music industry, ask a lot of you, the live music fan.

We sell you tickets to concerts coming up, oh, six or so, months later. Here’s hoping nothing comes up in your life, because it’s a big cash commitment. After all, ticket prices have risen 40% in the past five years, and 400% since 1981. Add to that all the extra charges that ticket brokers and promoters have adopted: convenience charges, order processing fees, facility fees, and even a fee


to print your own tickets!

because you don’t have seats anyway.

Then you get to the venue, parking can be as high as $20 (or more), one bottle of water is as much as a 5-gallon jug, one beer is almost as much as a 12pack, and if you want t-shirt, you had better have a solid line of credit.

My music loving sisters, you have it the hardest. You have to deal with lax security more concerned about people snapping pictures, while you dodge loaded dudebros who ogle and catcall. And the restroom facilities for women to use are notoriously smaller and have longer lines.

At some festivals, you have to stand in line for an hour to use a disgusting porta-potty, which isn’t much different from the rest of the concert

We’re sorry. It’s not all our fault. Certainly, it’s almost never the artists’ fault. It’s the venues,


MUSIC FAN, YOU definitely the ticket servicers, and sometimes the promoters, who jack these prices up. But most importantly, thank you. You keep coming, and we’ll keep playing. And then there is the truly horrific side of the live music experience. It’s happened again, this time in Las Vegas; a live music concert was interrupted by tragedy - horrific injuries, and tragic deaths of concertgoers. Sadly, this is not a new occurrence. This time it was a country concert. But it really doesn’t matter what genre, it’s happened at hip-hop concerts, jazz festivals, rock festivals, pop concerts in arenas, and metal shows in nightclubs. And yet, concerts go on, you - the live music fan - keep courageously coming. Musicians keep playing. In fact, I’m willing to say that there will undoubtedly be another concert put on in response to the tragedy of this particular event. Think about that, it’s amazing. It speaks to the power of music, to the connection that can only be experienced when musicians play songs live through big speakers to thousands of people sharing in the same night. I’m not getting into gun rights, mental health issues, concert security, or anything remotely close to that. No. This is my open letter of thanks to the live music fan. Thank you for paying your money and going to concerts. It’s a courageous decision in these days of terrorism. It’s an act of defiance, and it’s not easy. Musicians are not safe from risks, either -- Dimebag Darrell, Ty Longley, and more. It’s worth noting that managers and booking agents have had to make very hard decisions about cancelling tours, at great expense, to maintain the safety of their acts, as well as those who might come to the show to see them. But, much like the live music fan, they keep going out, in spite of the risks, in spite of the history.

Sadly, these tragedies are part of the modern music industry’s history. The Rolling Stones at Altamont, The Who at Riverfront, Great White in Warwick, Guns ‘N’ Roses in Montreal, Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan, Ariana Grande in Manchester, and there are many more. These are concerts etched in our history where fans at live music concerts died tragically, some by stampede, others by fire, and most recently by the cowardice of terrorists. But the music has gone on, because music is that important. It heals. It entertains. It will never die and will not be silenced. Recently, we’ve seen it play an important part of the healing process. Eagles of Death Metal returned to play for survivors just three months later in Paris. Ariana Grande put together a three-hour benefit concert in less than two weeks after a terrorist attack on her concert, for an all-star fundraiser in

Manchester that was shown in 50+ countries. So, here’s a salute to all who hit the road and play in foreign cities, in concert halls and outdoor venues they’ve never been -- thank you for continuing to play the music. And to you, live music fan, thank you most of all. Sincerely, from all of us who play, promote, book, and work in live music. We couldn’t do it without you. Despite fear, despite risk, at great cost, you keep the music alive. Thank you. Again. We hope to see you at the show. 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.





n the old days, it used to be, “Man, if we could just get on the radio, we will break out and sell a ton.” Then you got that radio spin or add on a college or major station, and... (insert Price is Right Fail Horns). Nothing really happened. Not for most. Not for those who didn’t have a national radio campaign with an ad buy. Sure, you could add the news to your bio, but many of you know the reality - no big increase in fans, tickets, or music sales. Why? Well, who was listening at the exact 12 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

time your song was played? Did the DJ get your band name correct, did they tell everyone where to get more info? Probably not. Then streaming came along, and the new way was to get on every service. Now it didn’t matter ‘when’ a song was played; it ‘could’ be played simultaneously by millions of people at any time. It was there, on your profile, waiting for the newest fan to discover it. But there’s another problem. In a world with 30 million+ digital songs

available, how could yours be found? Enter playlists. The game changes again. Now, if a fan playlists you, their friends see it, play it, and might add it, and so on. Even better, you hit one of the tastemaker playlists that has millions of more followers than you, and bam, you got a hit! But then we find out that songs are being sponsored, major labels are paying for inclusion into platform-produced playlists, and the chances

of your independent project organically getting in is suddenly diminished. We’re starting to see that the key to music streaming is multiplication. Much like in the early days of YouTube, the real secret is not your own following, but multiplying it by the number of other people who share your song. But all of that is still feels kind of analog. There’s no social to it. It’s just a play on someone’s phone. So, what if we could combine the cool things about radio (context, artist info, intros, call-ins) and combine it with Spotify streaming playlists in a beautiful interface on your mobile? And what if your project was front and center on that station along with other killer songs? Well, Stationhead has done just that. Co-founded by Ryan Star and Jace Kay in NYC, Stationhead has been making waves within the music industry with their slick new “pirateradio” app (available on iOS). Two of our favorites around here, PledgeMusic’s Benji Rogers and E Street Guitarist and Sopranos dude Steven Van Zandt, are counted among its many heavyweight industry advisors. Remember the movie Pump Up the Volume with Christian Slater? That’s basically what Ryan Star had in mind, saying “We’ve built Pump Up the Volume! That’s all you need to know about Stationhead. Our slogan is ‘talk hard’ because a kid and a voice, mixed with some punk-rock music, can really impact the world.” Here’s how it works. Sign in to Spotify, download the app (see our invite code below), start a own

24/7 radio station using Spotify playlists (other platforms to be added later) and broadcast it to the world live, including speaking in-between songs, or even taking call-ins to talk about the music. The station stays active even when you’re not on the app, and there is an “ON” button to alert your fans when you are live. There is also a chat function built in for people to give feedback or kudos on what’s being played, and of course, a community follow button to build a Stationhead tribe.



(Android coming soon). It’s by invite only, but we got your hookup. Enter in code: PERFORMERMAG 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.

Why should a band or artist do this? This is the opportunity for you to engage with your fans socially around music - yours and your favorites by others. That’s the goal, right? Stop spamming Twitter with links, take a break from IG’ing pics from stage left, snapping your 10 seconds of “about to go on stage!”, and actually engage in conversations about the music itself. Think about that, you telling stories about your songs, how they were written, where they were recorded, and then playing the song. Informing people about upcoming tour dates or new merch. Debut a new song demo or two, invite your fans to chat or call-in and discuss them. Mix it up with playing other bands’ music that you love and talk about their influence on you. Pimp out your friend’s project that needs some love. Hell, just talk about everyday life and what’s interesting to you and then play a song reflecting that. Tons of possibilities. Get creative. So, here it is. Go to or search Stationhead on the iOS App Store PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 13



Tossing out the Rulebook and Transitioning

KMFDM from Classic Synths to the Digital Domain

Franz Schepers

Mark Cowles




hen I think of Industrial music, the first band to come to mind is always KMFDM. The ElectroIndustrial pioneers have a new album available, Hell Yeah, and as usual it’s nothing short of brilliant. The ambience on the new LP has remained true to the band’s roots -maintaining its dark and catchy melodies, while taking on a whole new identity of its own with its haunting and enchanting anthems. They’re undoubtedly one the most influential bands of all time and their timeless sound has helped pave the way for an array of artists within the Goth scene, as well as various other genres. I was able to speak with the band’s iconic front man, Sascha Konietzko to get some insight on the new album as well as some of the history behind the excellence that is KMFDM. What were some of the prevalent themes that helped influence the lyrical content on the new album? The Donald Trump presidency (laughs). No, but the lyrics were written way before that even came into play. I’m being asked this question really every time I do an interview, because it’s so fitting I know. I started writing during Fall of 2015 and there were all kinds of things that attributed to the constructive process, as far as lyrics go. And as time went on (following Trump’s election) it was like “this is the final nail in the coffin,” you know? Can you reach back and tell me a bit about the formation of the band? Basically, it was a bit of a coincidence. I was driving a bunch of drunken painters from

up using a bunch of vacuum cleaners and we made this noise collage. And afterwards, I saw Udo (Sturm) at a bar and he said he was looking for artists and asked me if I was an artist. I replied, “Well, probably not in that sense.” I happened to have a tape of some recordings that I had done and I gave it to him. Think we wound up with a one page record deal…I think a lot of our success revolved around a lot of luck and coincidences. But about a year later I was signed to Wax Trax! Records in Chicago. And the following year after that I was invited to open for Ministry for the “Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste” tour which put KMFDM in front of a two thousand plus audience every night for about three months. And from there, I just sold my record collection, threw away all my stuff, flew to Chicago and moved into an apartment and the rest is history. I figured it was either move to the States and make some music, or go back to Europe to my dead-end job. Since I already had experience working in publishing, I knew a thing or two about royalties and whatnot, so it was definitely a risk I was more than willing to take. What were some of your earliest influences? My parents liked the Beatles and I liked the Rolling Stones. But the first record I ever bought was T-Rex’s The Slider. I was heavily influenced by Glam Rock, like David Bowie obviously. Then came a period in Germany, it was called “Kraut Rock.” It was like this sort of psychedelic type stuff. And all the great industrial music that I liked was starting to come out right after the punk rock movement. And really the two (genres) kind of went hand in hand.

“BE GRATEFUL WHEN PEOPLE SHOW UP TO YOUR SHOWS. BE GRATEFUL EVEN IF YOU’RE JUST PLAYING FOR A CASE OF BEER AND A PLACE ON A COUCH SOMEWHERE FOR THE NIGHT.” Hamburg, Germany to Paris, France and we found the place where this art show was going to be taking place. It was a construction site that looked like the Eiffel Tower and someone pointed out that acoustics sounded really horrible inside, and that we should make some noise to accompany this art exhibit. We actually wound 16 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

You could be a two-piece band, just a drummer, a singer and a tape deck -- and have some balls, do your thing, have something to say and just nail it. And that’s what we did. Be grateful when people show up to your shows. Be grateful even if you’re just playing for a case

of beer and a place on a couch somewhere for the night. And that was the ticket in the States for us. Being grateful. I noticed a lot of bands were ungrateful to their fans and would treat them like shit and I always had the completely opposite reaction. I always try to be as approachable, friendly and thankful towards our fans as possible. I think that really affects not only your reputation with the people who attend your shows, but also the way you play your music in a lot of ways. What was your first concert experience that really inspired you? It was The Sex Pistols, I love them. When I was on a class trip from Germany to London for like a week, some kids in my class were saying, “There’s this guy playing tonight” and I must have got on the wrong train because I was thinking, “Well, this isn’t that guy that’s supposed to be playing, but it’s about a hundred times better!” About 20 minutes into the show, the place was trashed. The band was covered in spit and blood and everything was shredded. It was as if a fucking

tornado had gone through the place. That was an amazing, destructive, unforgettable experience (laughs).   Can you tell me a little bit about the synthesizers that you enjoy using in the studio? One of the things that’s always accompanied me ever since the early days is the KORG MS-20. I appreciate that model quite a bit, and actually at one point I had like three of them. And then a few years ago I switched from the technical standard of about 2001 to the technical standard of 2014. And I discovered that you can do a lot of different stuff with plug-ins and so I spent all this money on really nice computer stuff and plug ins and I’m much happier now. Because I don’t have to worry about sending the stuff from my studio to be repaired. You know, you have the hassle of this not working, or that not working, or that not being able to be tuned anymore…you get the idea. Honestly, whether it’s on a sonic level or whatever, I can’t

What are some of your thoughts on the evolution of the Goth/Industrial scene throughout the years? It’s odd, because it’s either so great that it doesn’t need to evolve, or it’s so stuck in a rut that it can’t evolve. To me it seems like music in general hasn’t really changed that much at all. Even though we aren’t deliberately trying to emulate an ‘80s sound, people always say “KMFDM has that great ‘80s sound.” People want their music to sound like bands like Christian Death, The Damned, Fad Gadget or Bauhaus so they kind of shadow that sound. You can make records that sound exactly like Front 242 if you have the money. Ever since the early ‘80s things felt a bit stagnant, but it’s not a bad thing. Stagnant in a way that they had picked up on something that sounded really good and a lot of bands just kind of stuck with it and you can still hear it in today’s music.   I know it’s a difficult subject to open up about, but can you tell me a bit about the Columbine Massacre and how it affected you, both as a person and as a musician? It was a remarkable and strange day of my life. I got a call from my manager at the time as I was standing in line at a bank in Seattle, and he said you need to get your ass in front of a television, I don’t know what’s going on but I saw you on TV. I shrugged it off like “yeah, whatever.” So, I finished up my errands and went home and turned on the television. I couldn’t believe it, there were images of bloody people hanging out of windows, SWAT teams, all kinds of crazy stuff. And in the upper right-hand corner of the screen there were these alternating pictures of   Nina Hagen,  Tim Sköld  and myself and I just said, “What the hell is this?!”

what was going on, and then the telephone started ringing. At first it was like the local Seattle TV station or whatever, then there were some reporters camping out on my lawn which made me pretty uncomfortable because what did I have to do this? It was these two asshole kids. And my initial reaction was, “This is not my problem.” But apparently it was very much my problem. So, the next day I called my publicist and we did this statement to be issued to the media basically saying, “Yeah, what do you want? The kids who shot up their school apparently liked our music. Yeah, we’re German sure, but we’re not Nazis. We don’t condone murder or violence, we’re actually the exact opposite.”


really tell the difference anymore as far as the technology goes. All I know is what I’ve been using lately is very dependable and I’m more than satisfied with the results.     How would you describe the transition in sound on the new album? I think the main thing that inspired the sound (on the new album) was the fact that we hadn’t recorded anything in a pretty long time. The last studio album came out in 2014, so over the course of three years a lot can change as far as the creative process is concerned. And I think one of the most important things about this album was the fact that I came into it completely refreshed, so to speak. I wanted a fresh new KMFDM album and wanted to do everything in a new way. I didn’t want it to sound like another KMFDM album I wanted something different. It was a totally different setup as far as the music equipment goes, as I said, and it took some time but I think it really helped the evolution and progression of the sound.

And then 24 to 48 hours later people started hearing KMFDM’s name all over the radio and news stories. Then Marilyn Manson came into the picture and all the attention was kind of all diverted to him. I mean, of course it was shocking to hear that one of the dudes was wearing a KMFDM hat or t-shirt or whatever it was. It was crazy.      Lastly, what advice would you offer to young musicians?  I would say if you think that you have it, then just go balls to the wall. Don’t be shy, just believe in yourself. I think the three keys to success mostly come from luck, attitude and a little bit of talent (laughs).   

Follow on Twitter: @kmfdmofficial


So, it took a while for me to actually understand PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 17


Finding Strength After Tragedy: A Conversation with MorganEve Swain Mikael Kennedy


Heidi Schmitt


‘‘In a weird way, I think that vulnerability makes me confident’’ -MorganEve Swain… ” “B

from?’” I’m not really much of a writer, even though I was half of Brown Bird, [writing] was always Dave’s thing. So that first song that came out, it was like “Alright, thanks Dave.”

When did you decide you were going to make music without Dave? Pretty much immediately. The first song that came out of me was in May, and he had passed in April, so it was basically right away. It sounds kind of cheesy but this song came to me in the shower, and I thought, “Where is this coming

How were you able to write and pick up something brand new? We had been working on music together for Brown Bird’s last album. All during his illness, we were working on music, and it was really his therapy. And I latched on to that. I learned a lot from him in our years together, but one of the main things was changing how I thought about music and how I practiced music. When I was growing up, I started playing violin as a threeyear-old, which was obviously not my choice. I had this kind of love-hate relationship with actually playing music for most of my childhood because I absolutely hated practicing. But to watch him use music and writing music as a form of therapy and a way of staying true to himself

eing the leader for a band was definitely not anything I ever thought I would be doing,” says MorganEve Swain, lead singer of The Huntress and Holder of Hands, whose debut album Avalon was released in September. Swain may not have anticipated taking the helm of a group of musicians, but after the devastating death of her husband David Lamb, with whom she recorded music as the duet Brown Bird for over a decade, she found herself forced to make a decision: continue to make music or become a different person?

while his body was failing him was enlightening for me. When he passed, I realized pretty immediately that I’m not the sort of musician he was. It is not like a primal instinct like he had, to always be creating. For me, it’s more of a struggle. But the first three songs that happened came out of thin air, they came out of nowhere. So, I was kind of like “OK, I either have to listen to that and get the shit down right now and listen to whatever this muse is that’s happening - I either have to go all in and keep being the person I was with him, or I have to drop everything and move away and become someone else and completely start over and lose everything that we had.” How was making the album part of the grieving process for you? The writing of the album was crucial for my grief process. If I hadn’t done that, I think I would PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 19

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have lost who I was. Being able to write music and work on it was both grounding for me and also a way of keeping Dave around me. I very much felt like I wouldn’t be on this path if he hadn’t been in my life. So, it felt like I was honoring him by continuing to make music, and that was definitely a healing process and a coming into my own process. And it was also learning how to trust myself and to be a single person. Was there anything that you wrote that you made you think, “This is too personal, I don’t want to share this”? Or did you just put it all out there? There’s only one song that didn’t make the cut. And it wasn’t so much that it was too personal, it’s that it was too blatant. It was really just a simple-sounding country song that was too literal. I didn’t only want [the album] to be about grief and about me being devastated. I wanted it to be also be a powerful record. And something that’s sometimes kind of fun to listen to. It’s not just a personal record about me and my loss and my experience but something that can relate to other people and have multiple meanings, which I think certain songs do. How was it different to go from being the duet to being the frontwoman, running the show? It’s really weird. I’m still kind of figuring that out. I’ve never felt like being a leader is a natural fit for me. I have a really good group of people around me in this band. I trust them, and I feel very supported by them, and that’s certainly a huge reason that I’m able to do what I’m doing. But yeah, being the leader of a band was definitely not anything I ever thought I would be doing. So, you did it, you made the album, are you going to quit now? No, I definitely want to keep going. This is a difficult album - it’s difficult for me on a lot of different levels. And one of the more vain levels is, I really don’t know if it’s going to stand up. When it was me and Dave, I believed in what we did 100% because I believed in him. And now I only have myself to believe in, and I don’t have that

kind of ego, so I don’t know how it’s going to be. It will be interesting to see - is it the story, or if it holds up on its own. Is the music actually good, or is just kind of interesting because of where it’s coming from?

Follow on Twitter: @brownbirdmusic

Just putting yourself out there as an artist is difficult enough but you’re sharing a very personal experience through your music. How do you feel about that aspect of it? In a weird way, I think that vulnerability makes me confident in it. Because that vulnerability makes it like “I have to do this.” It’s not a body of work that I made with the intention of people liking it. With Brown Bird, we were like, “I wonder how people would feel if we do this?” or “Oh, did we get too heavy with that one, will Brown Bird fans still like this?” There was a lot of discussion like that and wanting to make stuff that people would actually like and keep our fans and keep them happy. With this record, I didn’t have any of that thought process. It was just like “This shit’s coming out of me, I’m gonna do it.” It was a necessity – I had to do this. The next record I’ll feel differently about it, because it will be like, “OK, people either really hated that one or they loved it, so NOW what do I do?” And I’ll change my process accordingly.





How to Stay Sane on Tour and Learn to Trust Collaboration

ALVVAYS Arden Wray

Micah McLain




lvvays released their sophomore album Antisocialites on September 8th (via Polyvinyl), and we recently caught up with guitarist Alec O’Hanley and vocalist Molly Rankin in Brighton shortly after the start of their UK tour. You’ve recently begun a new tour. How do you kill time while you’re out there? Alec: We try to get some local flavor. Last night our bass player Brian [Murphy] fell in with a group of locals and ended up on stage covering “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis. It wasn’t karaoke, he was playing a solo. He was ‘Steve Miller-ing’ to paying patrons. Molly: We know some pretty fun card games, too. How has the song development process changed over the course of She (Rankin’s solo album) and the two Alvvays albums? Alec: I think our involvement in the formative stage is relatively similar to how it’s been historically. It’s just as the documentation process continues, we’ve found ourselves involved in more and more aspects. So on this record we were intensely involved in the engineering and the mixing. Molly: I think we’ve always been collaborators where we cross over into each other’s space. We’re at a place where we’re comfortable enough to be helped and coaxed through the process together. Alec: That doesn’t mean we never disagree, and sometimes the beauty comes from disagreement, but we trust each other’s taste. Melodically our tastes are very similar, and what you hear is where we’ve overlapped. How do your influences differ across members of the band and how do these differences challenge and push you during the recording process? Molly: If I can speak for Alec, he likes Spaceman 3, Spectrum, and Spiritualized - all the ‘SPs.’ I might have a little bit more of an accessible pop structure craving, although I do like some industrial music. Alec: Yeah...I gravitate to the fringe a little bit. All of that stuff Molly just mentioned, they have pop songs, and I get as much excitement out of a wellcrafted pop song as anyone. I also love ‘Tsunami’ off Katy Perry’s new record, I think it’s brilliant. Or Max Martin pop. I like digging back and trying to be a little encyclopedic about music. We both know we’re a pop band of the guitar variety, and we try to see how far we can push those constraints. You’re currently signed with Polyvinyl. How was the label courting process and how did you make sure you found the right home for your band? Alec: I think they were the first ones to say ‘yes’ (laughs). We couldn’t understand why we were getting so many non-affirmative responses


What Alvvays achievement are you most proud of? Alec: I remember the night here in England when I found out we’d gone to the top of the US college campus radio charts. I felt happy in a way I hadn’t for a really long time, just because we’d been working so hard and sweating it out in little tiny bars. Molly: I think that every stage since we’ve released our record has been pretty nice for us because we were so groomed for failure by the time the record came out. We just played in Glasgow and I got to hang out with Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura. I would order her records to Prince Edward Island, like I would order them in the mail. I do really appreciate all those little moments. Alec: People say, ‘Oh, you don’t want to meet your heroes,’ but sometimes it’s cool to have them show up at your shows. Stephen McRobbie from The Pastels was at our show in St. Luke’s in Glasgow. And Norman Blake, who played on our new record. It’s really neat and gives you the fuzzy feeling for sure. Do any members of the band have particular passions or hobbies outside of music?


because we knew the record was something that would resonate with at least a few people. So yeah, it wasn’t the most romantic get together. Polyvinyl were quite into youth culture and they really got how college radio operates and we responded to that in particular. They’re about as artist-friendly as you could fathom. Molly: I think we’re really lucky they came relatively early in the record courting process because I feel really good about them as people. Alec: Yeah. And they put out good records.

Alec: Yeah, we do all [our art] ourselves. That’s one of the fun, essential ingredients of being in a band. Molly: Alec came from a scene in PEI where everyone did that. For lack of a better term it was quite DIY, where everyone would do their show posters or album art, their t-shirt designs… Alec: It can take some time but it’s often better to do as much yourself until you can find someone who does what you do better. Are there any drawbacks to playing and touring with old friends or is it all love? Alec: (laughing) Perpetual hippy love. Molly: It’s sort of an advantage; we all can read each other quite well by now. I can read Kerri’s eyebrows - I know when she wants me to be quiet (laughs). Alec: It’s an unnatural situation - you’re basically married to four other people. But we’re all good buddies. We’ll go swimming together and shoot the shit and still be able to function in a creative capacity reasonably well. It’s not a total love-in all the time -- I don’t know that such a band exists, but we certainly love each other. Molly: If you can keep everything remotely positive it’s really helpful for the whole group. Alec: Yeah, as soon as you recognize the only law that gets enforced on tour is Murphy’s Law then you’re much better equipped to deal with the shit tornado that inevitably ensues. What are your thoughts on musicians expressing their political/world views and their role in using their platform to influence others? Alec: It’s fine as long as it’s not Kid Rock (laughs). Molly: As long as you’re not wearing it like a brand, that gets kind of weird sometimes. Alec: And if there’s one good thing that came from

Follow on Twitter: @alvvaysband

“Sometimes the beauty comes from disagreement, but we trust each other’s taste.” Alex: Brian is an avid squash player; he’s climbing the Toronto YMCA squash ladder (laughs). He’s ranked reasonably high. Squash is like racquetball’s cousin -- a lot of business men in the ’80s played it. Molly: One of my favorite things is to mess around with visual art. That’s something that both Kerri [MacLellan, keyboards] and I did as children and it’s this weird little hobby that’s lent itself to what we currently do, which is pretty satisfying. We don’t have to pay someone to work on tour posters or single art.

November 8th, it’s no longer as frowned upon as it was on November 7th to talk politics. People are coming out of the woodwork that never really cared before or were kind of coasting, and are way more engaged. It’s been kind of exhilarating to see the size of that popular movement, so there are glimmers of hope in a very brutal time. Molly: There are things you can do behind the scenes too; sometimes that’s a little bit more productive. I see a lot of partnerships with nonprofits and organizations happening and I think that’s really smart.





Braving the Darkness to Push Creative Boundaries


Sarah Brooks




hen your musical resume includes Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Beverly, you’ve already got a solid following to your name. But it takes a unique musician to challenge all of those established frameworks that have been curated as an artist, and create something that’s entirely their own. Enter Frankie Rose, fresh on the heels of releasing her third solo album, Cage Tropical. The sounds are just as vibrant as the title depicts; think vintage-era synth beats, celestial riffs, mesmerizing instrumentation. I spoke with Frankie regarding her artistry, a sense of place, and why our darkest times make us who we are. This album is ethereal and other-worldly, and reminiscent of so many different eras. Where did you draw your inspiration from, and what kind of production techniques did you use to do so? I have this kind of file box of sound and musical references that live inside me. With every record I make, I think less and less about where my inspiration comes from. I know I make a song, and I have an idea about what the guitar should sound like. I’m not sure why I think it should sound a particular way, but I just know what sounds good to me. Listening back, I can see it’s a sound maybe Kevin Shields might be able to appreciate, or maybe a particular chorus effect on a vocal that Elisabeth Fraser may have approved of. It was a matter of unfortunate circumstance for someone else that I was allotted a ridiculous amount of time in an incredible studio. I think there is no way this record would be quite as full and finished if that had not happened.  How did your experience in other bands, like Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls, influence your solo sound? Only so much as every time I make a record or contribute to a project, I inevitably  learn something useful. Perhaps it is how to be a good band leader, or how something should or shouldn’t be mixed. Every project is an opportunity to make something better and more interesting. I read that your recent times have been juxtaposed between the stark contrast of Brooklyn and L.A., and ultimately, Brooklyn was where you recorded this album. How did a sense of place influence your recording and songwriting process, and how did you balance spending time in the Brooklyn scene versus L.A.? I started Cage Tropical in Los Angeles when I was “trapped” there due to a whole lot of bad life things that happened all at once. I started recording the record while living in an apartment across the street from the Echoplex. If I opened my window shades, I could see everyone standing in line to


get in. I was heavily influenced by my situation, less so by my surroundings—although it’s hard to separate those things because one informed the other. Because of cosmic luck I was able to return to NYC to live and finish the record. It was perfect because I have so many more resources here; it made finishing the record so easy and enjoyable.  I read that you felt as if you lost your way during your time in L.A. Can you expand upon that experience, and has that been cyclical in this world as a musician? I think the saying “when it rains, it pours” comes to mind. After 10 years in NYC, I was convinced a move across the country to L.A. was a good idea; upon arriving, my life seemed to architecturally fall apart. Every door I tried to push open was slammed in my face. I had health problems, a crazy family tragedy,  I couldn›t find a job and I even got bedbugs. Who moves to LA and gets bedbugs? All this in a new place can make a person question who they are. Am I a person that makes records? If so, what does that mean? Doesn’t that define me? Because right now I’m working on an ice cream truck and I have bed bugs. Actually, starting to make music again was a real act of faith—faith in myself most of all.  How do you feel about the idea that our darker times generally make us who we are, and actually help us to create better, more real creative work? I think this is true, not just for artists, but for people who are alive in general. It’s cliché to say it, but I think you can’t have the good without the bad and the deeper the bad the more you can appreciate when things are good for a while. No one can take away the gratitude I have now for the way my life is. I appreciate every moment of calm and am in awe that I was able to make a fourth album. Two years ago, that seemed like climbing Mount Everest. While in the midst of all of that horrible life stuff that was happening, there was no way I could have pictured a time after when I would be grateful for those experiences, but I am. Plus, a cool record came out of it all! Wow! Your music video for “Trouble” is super unique. Can you talk about the inspiration for that? To be honest, it was not even a real video -- it was more of a visual accompaniment, but I was really happy with what came out of it.   What is the meaning of the phone number in the video? I was tempted to call, but I wanted to hear what your answer was first… It’s a number to a voicemail in Roswell, New Mexico. You can leave me a message. Preferably about your UFO encounter. Sci-fi seems to be a big influence for you. What are some tangible ways that the genre has influenced your songs? 


I appreciate the minimalist synth soundtracks that often accompany the genre, also found in low budget horror stuff. I love John Carpenter and wow, that S U R V I V E stuff that came out of the Stranger Things series. Holy moly. With so many projects under your belt already, what’s next for you? I’m gonna make another record. I’m pretty sure I’m on the “Dead Moon” route of making records until I can’t hear anymore.

Follow on Twitter: @heyfrankierose

“Every project is an opportunity to make something better and more interesting.”




Marc Broussard

On the Challenges of Work-Life Balance for Today’s Touring Musicians Benjamin Ricci





n a more just universe, Marc Broussard would be a superstar. But, you don’t need me to tell you about what’s fair and what’s not. Suffice it to say, the Louisiana soul singer is a gift to the music-loving public, and on the eve of his latest release, Easy to Love, I had an opportunity to catch up with the artist, the family man and the world traveler for the first time in over six years. Easy to Love is a more rootsy, country-tinged affair, yet doesn’t betray Broussard’s own roots. It’s (no pun intended) an easy record to love for both seasoned fans and newcomers alike, and posed interesting creative challenges during its production. What was the genesis of the new record and its slight departure from your typical sound? Well, it started last year after I put out my last record [S.O.S. II], we started to talk about getting back in the studio for another project. 32 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

And initially, the project was just to write and record some new material that we could get film and TV placements for. So, it wasn’t, at the outset, a project for an original record. We were on tour last October on the West Coast and decided to take a couple days off and do

batch. After all was said and done, I felt really strongly about the material we had written, like it could stand up on record. As far as economics go, we thought if were gonna go into the studio to record this stuff anyway, we might as well make a release out of it. That’s really where this project started…

“I try real hard not to think too hard about the style of music I’m writing and instead focus on the sincerity.” some songwriting. We got a nice little Airbnb through a friend in Carmel and set up for a few days in a room, writing songs like it was the last thing we were ever gonna do (laughs). And we managed to turn out seven songs from that

When you’re in that room, what does the songwriting process look like for you? That writing session, which is indicative of most of the sessions which I’ve done, was with my co-producer Jim McGorman. And the guys

Is it because you think there are actually things wrong, or are you just a perfectionist? I would say it’s a mixture. A vocal like “Home,” for example, from my first record – when I listen to it now, I hear a young man trying very hard to sing that song. Very hard. There’s a whole character I put on [in that song] for some reason that I find displeasing, personally… But isn’t there an earnestness that enhances the authenticity of the song, when you’re young like that? I’d have to agree…that performance, whatever I think of it, definitely touched people and made impressions that gave me my first foothold in this business. That song is still the climax of the show. But like I said, there are little bits or entire passages that I’d re-sing on records of mine—

in the band were kind of available for help. So, we just sit around with a couple of guitars, throwing ideas at each other. Because the project was mine, I was kind of the gatekeeper for ideas we were gonna chase down and others that we’d disregard. Eventually, we all get excited about a particular theme or lyric and start chasing it down. And one by one, we fire of ideas and it’s kind of a “by committee” thing. I think everyone is pretty aware when we’ve got the right one and it’s time to move on… For you, how does the process then work when you take those songs to the studio? Sometimes the songs really just write themselves and record themselves. There are loads of songs where the production is very straightforward. It’s taking the mood and the melody…other times, I’ll get really inspired after having some time with a song and hearing it play out in my head I’ll get some ideas about how I want to record it. And plenty of times we get into the studio with no plans whatsoever. And once again, by committee, we home in on an approach. So, there’s really no one way to record a song.

But you get to do that in concert, re-sing and re-interpret the songs, right? Exactly! So, the guerilla recording style is really very natural for a guy who plays as many shows as I do. We’re always out there working, so we’re playing that show on the East Coast and the next weekend we’re on the West Coast. And in the meantime, we’re gonna cut the record down here in Louisiana, and a month from now we’ll be at another studio. And we’ll send Jim home with the track, and he’ll head back to the West Coast and cut some guitar or bass, and background vocals. And we’ll come back together to finish it all up to get it all mastered. It really felt very natural, believe it or not. Like you said, you’re on the road quite a bit. As a family man, how do you balance the career and home life? I do tend to use the opportunities to take my wife along with me. It’s not as luxurious as a retreat type of vacation because I have to work, but it gives my wife an opportunity to get away. It’s very difficult, and I’m hyper-aware…my chief desire when I come off the road is to be inside the house. And my wife is exactly the opposite (laughs). She wants to be out with me, reconnect with me. So it’s very difficult, there’s a lot of push and pull there.

When you’re off the road, is it hard to detach from the music? Stepping away from the music itself is virtually impossible. Give me about 30 seconds of pure silence [at home] and entire scores will start playing out in my head. You know? Let’s circle back to the new record. Was there a conscious effort to take the sound in a new direction or genre? Well, I think that the lead single and a few of the singles that come out are gonna demonstrate that really, this record is very similar to my other records in that it’s not very genre specific…


For this new one, you recorded in sort of a guerilla fashion. Is that a stressful way to put together a record? You know, if you asked me ten years ago I would have said yes. But I don’t put as much stock in the actual records as I used to…I care about the songs more than I care about the recordings. In fact, every single one of my records, if I could go back in time, I’d re-sing [them]. I’ve grown accustomed to being slightly dissatisfied with little bits here and there on every single one of my records…

It’s funny, you remind me a lot of those early Randy Newman records, in that it’s really hard to assign them a genre. It’s just music, and the words fall out of you so effortlessly that you kind of forget that it’s even supposed to have a genre. Yes, there are soul leanings, but once you get into it, it’s just music. And I feel that way about [Newman], as well… I feel like I’m really a folk singer… I try real hard not to think too hard about the style of music I’m writing and instead focus on the sincerity.

Follow on Twitter: @MarcBroussard




On Taking the Scenic Route – Literally – in Their New Recording Space




ATIONAL Graham MacIndoe

Candace McDuffie




he National-comprised of vocalist Matt Berninger, guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner, bassist Scott Devendorf, and drummer Bryan Devendorf--formed seemingly on a whim in 1999. As Bryan Devendorf enthusiastically explained their inception to me by phone, it was clear that he was still enchanted by that magic from nearly 20 years ago. “We were together prior to becoming The National. It was never a ‘let’s start a band and really go for it’ kind of thing. It was pretty casual at the time,” he confessed. “Aaron and I were living in New Haven, Matt and Scott were living in Brooklyn. We took the train--or maybe we drove--to Matt’s apartment, hung out, drank beers, and messed around with a four track.” Devendorf was briefly taken aback by this memory. “It’s very surreal that we are still able to do that.”


The sobering dissonance of Sleep Well Beast, the seventh studio album released this past month from The National, fits seamlessly into

to his sinister nature that has become a haunting trademark. Except this time around, his defensiveness is slightly off-putting. “Day I Die”

“Once we started working, we started working. We let the music take us where it wanted to go.” a catalogue plagued with self-deprecation, loneliness, and drama; frontman Matt Berninger still bears a sort of bleak elusiveness in addition

starts with Berninger fiercely declaring that he’s better off completely off on his own: ‘I don’t need you/Besides I barely ever see you anymore/And

SPOTLIGHT when I do it feels like you’re only halfway there.’ “Guilty Party” places Berninger in the midst of a relationship fictionally falling apart at the seams while the title track teeters between hopelessness and the acceptance of it: ‘We leave our saviors wrapped around the necks of new machines/Or at the ends of threads that hold their bodies to the ground/And then the men who look a little like they feel like me/Offered them some bottled water then cut them down.’ The band has become sonically synonymous with blustery intensity, tumultuous buildups, and beautiful letdowns. But when asked about how the recording sessions went for Sleep Well Beast, Devendorf insisted that everything was, well, idyllic. “For this album, the place we recorded certainly influenced the sound. Aaron built a studio on his property in upstate New York and it was very homey. We were all instantly relaxed. I was surprised we were able to write anything, really,” he chuckled.

“It was a very rural setting; there was a pond and lots of nature surrounding the studio, which was nice because usually we’re in windowless spaces.” Being one with nature helped the band work harmoniously together. “Everything around us was just so scenic and there was less pressure on us, I think. There were no interpersonal wars or anything; disputes only occurred about the music. Battles over what elements were to be used in the songs, the lyrics. But once we started working, we started working. We let the music take us where it wanted to go.”

Follow on Twitter: @TheNational

And perhaps that tranquil mindset also seeped into Devendorf’s outlook on how Sleep Well Beast will be received by the general public, as he admitted that in a way nerves are a thing of the past. “Maybe on some levels, I get anxious about the release of a new record but it’s more of a nervous excitement. The record was finished a while ago and I want people to like it--I want it to be loved. It’s like our baby, you know?” His vulnerability flashes for only a split second, but remains poignant nonetheless. “I get nervous about the live execution of the songs: will my 42-year-old body actually be able to do a worthy performance that people would pay money to see? Yes, we are more confident than we’ve been in the past due to the fact that we’re older. But we also realize that we only have so much time left to do this, so we better do it right.”




Absence of Ocean Puts the Galaxy A Personal Monitor PA System Through


e were surprised (and stoked) to find out we were going to receive a pair of Galaxy Audio GPS-8 PA speakers (a full system) to test out. While we have been a band for several years, a PA system has always been on the back burner in terms of gear purchases. We have always found ways around using a PA system. We ran our programed drum tracks and synths through a standard receiver/ home audio system - which never seemed to have enough EQ control or portability. We ran our effected vocals through an extra (noisy) amp we had handy after our guitarist upgraded. These worked for our band at the time, but never did our beats, synths, or vocals justice. Being a shoegaze band with electronic elements, our practices and live shows get loud. We have two guitarists usually running combinations 38 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

of overdrives, fuzzes, modulations, delays and reverbs at any given time. We have bass guitar which can be clean to fuzzy. We have Andrew and Audrey running their vocals through processors and pedal boards. We also have programed Ableton/Logic drums, synths, and samples. Our drums, synths, and vocals always tend to get buried under our heavily effected guitars. To be honest, we were worried that the GPS-8 PA System might not be able to cut through our walls of sound, but when we first plugged them in we were blown away. First of all…the Galaxy Audio GPS-8 speakers are incredibly portable and lightweight. They have a built-in handle, lockable stand mounts, and sturdy rubber stands for placing on the floor. One of the best features of this PA is that you can place it on its side to be used as a

monitor - perfect for practices or that venue that doesn’t have the best floor wedge game. We’ve definitely played some venues in the past (house shows/DIY venues) that have not had adequate sound system monitors. Not being able to hear ourselves and knowing our mix to the floor is off = not good vibes. But with the GPS-8 from Galaxy, we could finally hear ourselves! We could run our drum tracks, synths, and vocals through these and  the output was amazing. With 200 watts of power these things get loud without sacrificing clarity. The XLR or 1/4inch instrument cable inputs were perfect for direct-in vocals and audio from our mixer. With a little bit of tweaking, we were able to send our vocals from pedalboards or our audio interface to the GPS-8s, which were still able to cut through the mix with the volume control and bass boost. 


y Audio GPS-8 ugh its Paces

With the output connectivity, you can chain multiple GPS-8 PA systems for more monitor or PA usability. There were multiple times when we thought we may have overloaded the GPS-8s, but the limiter warning light let us know if we were sending too much to the system. These Galaxy Audio units have changed the way we practice, perform and have helped us immensely in writing our new material to record. These are perfect for the solo acoustic performer who needs more volume or monitor at their open mic gig, or loud bands who need a PA/monitor that can cut through a live or practice mix. The Galaxy Audio GPS-8 packs high sound quality and functionality into a small, portable, easyto-use, and affordable package. Just use an audio interface, mixer, or go directly into the GPS-8 to take your live performances and practices to the next level! PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 39


FENDER Fighter 12” Powered PA Speaker


’ll admit, Fender is probably not the first name I think of when it comes to PA gear. But in recent years, the venerable brand has been pushing further into both the consumer audio and pro audio markets to supplement its traditional guitar and amp businesses. And, since the company started off in the radio/ speaker/amp market, is it really that surprising to see a new line of Fender PA speakers?

acoustic guitar and another line-level input would work well). One less piece of gear to haul to a gig, and run cables to? I’d be willing to be a lot of artists on the house concert scene would dig that. I will say I also appreciate the option to chain the Fighters together and designate if the unit is being used as a full-range speaker or sub. Plus, let’s address the obvious as it relates to the build quality -- these might be able to withstand the most abuse out of all of the models we’ve Let’s start with the good. The new 12” tested out recently. So for the road warriors out “Fighter” model does sound pretty impressive, there, give ’em a serious look. at least at low-to-moderately high volumes. When pushed, and in all fairness I mean really In all honesty, we’ve reviewed a lot of PA pushed, high-volume applications seemed to speakers that do what these do in terms of sound start suffering slightly. But really, only slightly. and ease-of-use. Perhaps consumers who don’t I’m not sure how to quite put my finger on it, know much about the world of pro audio will be since it wasn’t traditional clipping that I’m drawn to the familiar Fender name, in which used to, but the sound seemed a touch ‘lacking’ case they’ve certainly made an affordable, when cranked to the max. We’ve pushed some hella-rugged, easy-to-use product that fulfills a comparable speakers recently to their limits lot of needs. And we do see some differentiation with slightly better results in clarity. That’s not for the Fighter line in the crowded marketplace, to say the Fighter 12’s sounded bad at all -- far which is what Fender will need to compete. from it, they’re more than up to the task of 99% So, all in all, good show. With just one or two of typical applications -- we’re merely pointing more interesting features the “other guys” don’t out that to our ears, we’ve heard a little better at already have, the brand can put their next series similar price points and enclosure sizes. over the edge.  Benjamin Ricci Which brings us to the next point – at $349 per speaker, there’s a fair bit of competition out there in the PA field (both new and used). So, to come at a lot of established brands and models, Fender better have something new to bring to the table. And to a certain extent, that’s PROS CONS PRICE where the Fighter 12 becomes an interesting option, especially for duos, small combos, DJs and solo singer/songwriters. There’s Bluetooth connectivity, but we’ve seen that in plenty of other speakers. They’re lightweight, but so aren’t many models. They’ve got lots of power, and are easy to use, but again…we’ve seen that. They’ve got standard pole mounts…OK, you get the point.

The one key differentiator that might be the selling point for artists is the multiple inputs and EQ settings for each channel. See, you’ve got three channels to work with and treble/ bass/volume dials for each. So, in essence, for small groups and functions, you might be able to get away without the need for a mixer (vocals,


Sounds decent, rugged build quality, easy to use, good controls, affordable.

Doesn’t break a lot of new ground in the category.




YAMAHA THR100HD Modeling Guitar Amp Head

amaha makes pretty much EVERYTHING -- pianos, guitars, motorcycles, and are known for their high quality. Their THR100HD guitar head lives up to their reputation of a well thought out piece of engineering that has everything a working guitarist would want. Its metal chassis is quite small, but just big enough to sit on top of a standard 1x12 cabinet. With 2 “channels” of the usual controls: Gain, Master, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence, Reverb, and Volume. A boost control is also available on each channel, as is an amp selector that allows the player to dial in the characteristics of popular amp styles: Solid: a solid-state amp model. It’s kind of reminiscent of an old Polytone Clean: very traditional American (Fender) tone Crunch: Think Vox AC style Lead: Classic Marshall-ish, very British Modern: Sits somewhere in the Bogner/Boogie realm While this is a solid-state amp, there are some interesting tonal tweaks available; each channel can be tailored to have the power amp response of EL34, 6L6 KT88, EL84 or 6V6 tubes, and work as a Class A or Class A/B amp. Class A responds a lot more to guitar input levels, and Class AB operates with a lot clearer output overall. All these features aside, each amp model delivers fantastically. The Clean channel can be overdriven like a classic tweed or blackface, and the Crunch can do early British Invasion to saturated Brian May-style velvety goodness. But the real deal is the fact with the EQ, power amp selection controls and Boost, it can take the flavor of the amp it’s styled after and give it that little extra. Ever wonder what an AC30 sounded

like with KT88’s, or do you favor a Marshall with 6L6’s? That little extra that usually makes a player wish for an amp mod, or meant adding a booster or external device, is built in here. A Polytone with an EQ that is actually versatile?!?!? Part of an amp’s quality isn’t the sound, but the player’s reaction and interaction which really is the dividing line. The amp responds like the versions available, and goes even further. It responds well to pedals too, but this amp could stop an overdrive pedal junkie in their tracks. There is an effects loop of course, and included is a well-thought-out footswitch control. The head comes equipped with XLR outputs for direct recording or PA applications, plus a USB connection for editing through Yamaha’s software utility app, or direct recording to a computer. A headphone connection is also available for personal practice. Now here’s the game changer: remember how I put channels in quotations? Think of each channel as two separate amps. There is the option to run BOTH channels at the same time, blending the two tones in parallel. Run the crunch of a Vox, but get the tight low-end from the higher-gain modern channel, no problem. There may be a bit of fiddling of getting the right balance, but it’s well worth it. Take it a step further and run the head to two separate speaker cabinets, and one cab will go to “channel 1” and the other to “channel 2.” For players who use two amps at the same time, this amp can make your life a lot easier, without sacrificing tone. In the studio using this feature via USB connection can bring great tones, without a ton of external adjustments or having to tax a CPU with plug-ins. The only downside is that getting the balance of tones between the channels requires a bit of tweaking, with no master volume for both channels

at the same time, so taking a bit more time at sound check isn’t a bad idea. The controls sit inside the chassis, with the exception of the power switch, which sits a bit proud outside of the unit. There’s a slight fear that it could get sheared off. A lower profile switch would be a bit better. But these two negatives are very minimal considering that this amp offers up great sounding versions of the modeling choices offered, and a plethora of tonal adjustments that go beyond what you may think of as coming from a modeling amp. Players who bring two tube amps to a gig, this amp is looking at you! It gives great tonal options, without the maintenance of tubes, in an ultraportable chassis.  Chris Devine PROS

Great amp selection, great way of blending the channels, footswitch included. CONS

A bit of adjusting overall volume blending, slightly large power switch. PRICE



STUDIOLOGIC Numa Compact 2 Stage Piano


hen we put out our Synth Issue last year, one of the biggest surprises was a schoolbus-yellow beast called the Sledge, courtesy of Studiologic. It easily earned one of our top spots for the best synths under $1000. So, when the opportunity arose to check out the Numa Compact 2 from Studiologic, we were pretty excited. Where the Sledge is a full-on digital synth monster (with oscillators, filters, envelopes, etc.), the Numa Compact 2 is a more specific instrument that focuses its energies on the more traditional pianist/keyboardist, with acoustic and electric piano, organ, lead and bass synth sounds (along with some surprisingly effective orchestral presets and some other random tones). The first thing you’ll notice is that the unit is lightweight without feeling cheap, and the weighted keybed is not only full-sized (a bonus over other units you may be considering like the Yamaha Reface), but it’s also semi-weighted (with aftertouch, yay!) for a more realistic feel. We were not surprised, considering it comes from Fatar. But of course, what good is a nice feel if the unit is hard to use and doesn’t sound good? Well, again, at this price point, we were very pleasantly surprised here as well. We typically don’t like menu-driven systems, but the small screen is clear and all the controls are easy to navigate. We appreciated having the tactile buttons to press, so the entire operation is not completely based in nav menus. It’s easy to 42 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

bank through different sounds with a light tap of the buttons and for the most part, they all sound really good. You’ve also got a few bonus features, like zone splitting and some pretty convincing built-in fx. Where you’d normally find pitch/mod wheels, Studiologic have option for two small, metal joystick-like controllers on the left side of the front panel, but truth be told, they’re just as easy to use for expressive purposes as a traditional wheel control. So, no worries there. The Numa Compact 2 also comes with built-in speakers. And while they’re not the richest small speakers we’ve ever encountered, they’ll surely suffice for practice purposes. That’s one of the nice things about the unit. We can envision this as a go-to piece of equipment for practice to work on your compositions or even in a rehearsal space, since it’ll connect easily to your PA. It’ll even work as a road unit, if you just need a few select piano-based sounds for your band on tap, but don’t require the overkill of something like a Sub37 or a Sledge. And finally, it’s gonna make a pretty nice MIDI controller for you as well, when it comes time to record. All in all, the Numa Compact 2 is an ideal solution that’s insanely versatile: it plays great, it delivers on the sounds it promises, and will be at home in the jam space, the studio and the tour van. Well played, Studiologic. Well played, indeed.  Benjamin Ricci


Great sounds, nice weighted keybed, ultraportable and affordable. CONS



It’s about the same size as a standard 1-button stomp box, albeit much thinner, with six low profile control knobs. Connect it like a standard effects pedal, and download the app to a smartphone or tablet. It will connect to your device via Bluetooth. The app has a plethora of virtual pedals that can be loaded to it: distortions, filters, EQ, modulations, reverbs, delays, cabinet emulators, as well as amp models. Select a model to load to the pedal, and it’s there. It works on Android and iOS devices, and with a USB connection on the back they can also be loaded using a Mac or PC. Various color LEDs light up whatever controls are active in the selected pedal model, while the app tells you which knob does what. Very handy and flexible.




here are tons of programmable pieces of guitar gear -- most are big and bulky, or have interfaces that even NASA would have an issue with understanding. Hotone’s new XTOMP Mini brings great tonal options, without a lot of programing nonsense.

The models are amazingly accurate; we were able to compare the RAT model to an original, and it’s spot on. There are some unique/rare/hard to obtain pedals in there as well, such as the Arion Chorus, and Marshall’s Guvnor Distortion. Sound-wise, they nail it across the board. It even dives into the flavors of boutique pedals, not just the mass-produced ones. The analog choruses and delays have that analog feel and response. A great effect that’s included is the step filter that works a bit like a ZVex Seek Wah. It’s a rare effect, and expensive especially considering it might get used for only one song in a set. So, load it up for that one song, and then re-assign it to some other effect for the next song. Simple. For pedal geeks who may not want to put that ultra-rare pedal from their collection on their road board, this will fill that hole easily. There are amp sim models loaded in there, and for the most part are really good. A couple of the high gain versions are a bit hissy, and over the top, but the classic Vox, Fender and Marshall versions are fantastic. Just connect it to a DAW and say goodbye to system-hogging plug-ins. Cabinet emulation is also available, with pretty much every variation. Put your fave dirt box (or entire pedalboard) in front of it. Depending upon what’s running in front of it, the responses vary, but the overall results are more than respectable. The pedal is buffered bypass, but individual pedals can be selected to be either true bypass or buffered bypass. Bass players might want to consider this, too, as there are plenty of bass fuzzes, overdrives, choruses and filters tailored specifically for that instrument.




Worried that these models might end up being out of date? Well, Hotone has been releasing new downloads at no cost since its inception, and there’s no sign of them slowing down.

Excellent selection, flexibility and great sounds.





GUITAR THRONES Spiked Strap Lock Buttons


uitar strap locks are pretty much a necessity. You’ve spent a lot of money on an instrument, and you don’t want it to get damaged. And of course, the embarrassment of your guitar coming off on stage is just something we all want to avoid. Guitar Thrones has introduced a strap lock that does the job, all while adding a unique aesthetic to an instrument. Simply unscrew and replace existing strap buttons with the GT version. They do supply enough variations of whatever screws already attach the existing strap buttons, so you should be covered. Slide on any guitar strap, and thread the pointed chrome metal pointy end over the strap button. They’re milled from 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum, and have knurled edge for grip. 44 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

The look isn’t for everyone, and it’s doubtful an ES-335 player would sport a set of these. But, for a metal/goth/hardcore guitar player, these would go nicely with a black leather guitar strap that has metal studs, bullets or other metallic details on it. The only downside is the pointy metal ends need to come off to remove the strap, and losing one during repeated removal is a pretty real concept. Leaving them on, however, might do some damage to a guitar’s case, or a gig bag. So plan accordingly after your gigs or rehearsals. But they do look unique, and for twenty bucks the price isn’t that bad for adding an extra nuance to a band who’s already sporting the aesthetic.  Chris Devine


Neat design. CONS

Might not be for everyone, pointed ends might damage/ rip guitar case/ gig bag linings if left on. PRICE


a neck pickup, but wish it had more push in the mix, this is the one for you. *coughSlashcough* On the bridge pickup, it again has that nice richness, with a more open response. There’s plenty of balance and bite here, and with an overdriven amp, the top-end is still bright without being piercing. Midrange-wise, they have plenty of poke-through, but not in a brash way. Lead parts sing through easily, with no brittleness or low-end mushiness. Rhythm wise, there’s plenty of tight drive, that still has space in there.


SHEPTONE Tribute Humbucker Pickup Set

Together they balanced nicely. In a lot of dual humbucker guitars, one pickup can really over color the other, but not here. The tone just gets fuller. Want more bass, go to the neck, more treble, switch to the bridge -- it’s a natural feel and overall response that gives plenty of tonal options.


ew pickups can breathe fresh life into any guitar, and there are a lot of choices out there. But Sheptone just made it easier if you’re looking for that classic PAF tone. We were sent a set of Sheptone’s Tribute Humbuckers, which we installed in our test guitar; a PRS Mira (Core) with a maple top. Control-wise it has a master volume, master tone, a 3-way blade switch, and a mini toggle for coil taps.


Excellent PAF tone, well balanced individually and as a set. Plenty of wiring options. CONS



OK, here are the specs: the magnets are Alnico 5 and the resistance is pretty close, with the bridge at 8.0K and the neck at 7.6K. With the ratings so close, the pickup’s actual physical positon in the guitar tends to dictate the treble and bass balance, rather than pickups optimized for individual neck or bridge locations. When using both pickups together, it means one isn’t overpowering the other, just a better overall tonal balance. While we didn’t have a guitar with a set of original Gibson PAFs for a direct comparison, from past experiences it should be good to note PAFs have an interesting and tight high-end response. In lower gain settings this is very present, and that same character is here in the Tribute set. The neck pickup has a nice rich and full tone, with a great blend of top-end chime on the B and E strings. It’s bubbly, and doesn’t get tubby or loose with the lower strings, even with an overdriven amp. Players who like soloing on

And with 4-conductor wire, you can coiltap until your heart’s content for even more options. When using coil taps, we wired up the screw coils to be active. In a lot of cases split coils fall into the “meh” zone, thankfully not here. There’s still plenty of overall presence, but it just thins out just enough, as if a low-pass filter was engaged, and just tighten things up a bit, like going from a heavyweight class to a middleweight class. They still have punch, but it’s less bulky. It won’t out-Strat a Stratocaster, or out-Tele a Telecaster, but a guitar equipped with these could save bringing a single coil guitar to the studio for overdubs, or hauling that Strat or Tele out for that one song in your set that needs it. Our PRS’s tone knob really responded nicely as well, with a deep sweep. If you’re one of those players who pretty much runs the tone at 10, because it doesn’t sound good anywhere else, these really interacted well, rolling of just enough high-end (great on the bridge pickup in split coil mode) where it wasn’t wanted. Sheptone gives you plenty of options for aging, baseplate, bobbin colors, metal covers in gold, chrome, nickel (aged and unaged), wax potting, and 2, 3 or 4 conductor wiring, and more. ANY guitar with a set of these installed can really be a game changer. We never had any issue with our test guitar’s original stock pickups, but after installing these, we’ve been thinking, “Where have you been all these years?”  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 45


FUZZROCIOUS LunaReclipse Pedal


tacking gain pedals together is nothing new, but balancing it all out can be tough. Fuzzrocious has found a way with their LunaReclipse pedal, which brings the best out of whatever dirt box a player is already using. There are two controls, a volume control and a 12-way rotary switch. There are 12 variations of Germanium, LED’s and Semi-conductor diodes that are selectable, and offer up various clipping options. Want to go a bit vintage? Germanium does the trick nicely. Want to go a bit more modern? The LED versions are quite nice. Scrolling through the range, it doesn’t go from smaller to bigger, like a volume control does; each notch does its own thing, and if you’re playing with one setting and it’s really close to what you want, clicking to the next, it surprisingly changes radically, in both overall volume and tonal feel. That’s just the nature of what this does. It’s certainly a great pedal to really hunt down certain sounds. Placing it after a distortion/overdrive pedal yields interesting results, as it’s re-clipping the signal (re-clips, get it?) and can act as a way to smooth out rougher, un-musical edges of the pedal. For players who like their distortion and drive pedals, but constantly think about getting mods done to them, this is an easier solution and offers up a lot more flexibility. We found using an EHX Soul Food that the 4:00 position was really nice, and a Mad Professor Tweedy Drive really opened things up at 4:00 and 8:00. While a more traditional Boss BD-2 Blues Driver really took at jump at 9:00. It’ll take some tweaking to figure out which settings work best with whatever pedal(s) it’s paired with. The signal seems to get clipped and compressed in a way to filter out unwanted frequencies that a pedal’s EQ and drive controls can’t control on their own. More of everything becomes available, -- more sweetness on the leads, more depth and chunk on rhythms, and all while not adding in any additional noise or hiss to the existing signal. Bonus. Humbuckers and single coils responded nicely, and plugging it into a variety of both solid-state and tube amps, it sounded fantastic! The only downside is that scrolling through all the variations can sometimes cause ear fatigue; it’s easy to spend a lot of time tweaking. After coming back to it with fresh ears, a player might ask, “What was I thinking?” It’s not one of those pedals where switching settings between songs is probably going to be an option, as the volume and frequency response


differences might require a lot of adjustment that might not be optimal in a live setting. A studio, however, should certainly look into having one of these. Yes, most studios defer to the guitar rigs their clients bring in, but this is an excellent addition to the arsenal, and can tame some of those hard-to-sit frequencies before trying to wade through a mix.  Chris Devine


Plenty of tonal options, regardless of the rig. CONS

Overzealous tweakers might go down the rabbit hole using it on its own. PRICE


ROTARY SWITCH OPTIONS: 1:00 – 1n914/1n914 2:00 – germanium / germanium 3:00 – 1n4001/1n4001 4:00 – LED/LED 5:00 – 1n914-1n914/1n914 6:00 – germanium – germanium / germanium 7:00 – 1n4001-1n4001/1n4001 8:00 – LED – LED /LED 9:00 – 1n914-1n914/germanium 10:00 – germanium – germanium /LED 11:00 – 1n4001-1n4001/LED 12:00 – clean boost


YAMAHA MX88 Synthesizer


f you want the a powerful (and realistic) sound engine, but don’t need all the bells and whistles of something like, say the MONTAGE series from Yamaha, the new MX88 might be just the thing for you. The MX88 is an 88-key synth machine that features an exceptional keybed with very piano-like action, a fully-loaded Motif sound engine, a built-in control surface and connectivity out the wazoo. We hesitate to call machines like this “workstations” anymore, because a) manufacturers typically hate it and b) the word has become kind of nebulous. But in this day and age, the MX88 really does become a station where you get work done. Starting with the bidirectional USB audio/MIDI interface, the MX88 not only acts as a powerful MIDI controller, but it solves the problem most USB-equipped keyboards don’t: namely, it doesn’t make me feel like an idiot because I want to capture the sound (not just MIDI data) from my synth. I mean, is that such a crazy request? With the MX88, recording your synth sounds directly to your DAW (Cubase AI is handily provided) is a breeze. Not only that, you’ve got an on-board control surface with transport controls. So, you can perform, edit sound patches, tweak parameters in your DAW, and do it all from one piece of hardware. Super nice touch for producers, especially at this price point. I love the sound of a lot of modern keyboards, but dislike the hassle of taking up precious inputs on small desktop interfaces when I want to record them. Bonus points for being able to take charge of your virtual instruments with the MX88 controls, as well. All of that is great, of course, but it means diddly if the keyboard doesn’t sound good. At

nearly a third the price of the MONTAGE unit we tested not too long ago, we were curious, to say the least. But again, with the Motif sound engine on tap, we were not disappointed. We loved the concert grand sounds on the MONTAGE line, and the MX88 is no slouch either. If you simply want a great digital stage piano, this might be worth the price tag just for that. In fact, we liked it better as a touring piano option better than some of the KORG and Roland models that we’ve seen at higher price points in previous years. It’s not just the grand sounds that are intriguing; you’ve got tons of guitar, bass, synth and other classic Yamaha keyboard sounds, as well. And of course, the fun doesn’t stop there. You’ve got 128-note polyphony (we tested all 128 notes at once, it sounds awful but it works! Just kidding, this is awesome to eliminate frustrating dropouts), iOS integration for you mobile recorders, and even specially coated keys that absorb all your gross (OK, all of OUR gross) finger moisture after long sessions. We played with the MX88 for a few weeks and found it has a slight learning curve, but is not nearly as intimidating as models higher up the Yamaha food chain. After one afternoon, we had it pretty well figured out (even the small nav screen, which we usually despise). That said, the menu screen is not as immersive as the MONTAGE line, but then again, we wouldn’t expect it to be. The MX88 is a perfect choice if you’ve been thinking about something like the Numa Compact 2, which we’ve reviewed in this issue, but you need more powerful studio integration and more sound library options. At around $1000 in the wild, the MX88 is sure to be your new best bud in the studio, on stage and in the practice room.  Benjamin Ricci


Feels great, plentiful connectivity, DAW control, MOTIF sound engine. CONS

Could be intimidating to newcomers. PRICE

$999 (street) $1,299 (MSRP)




The KRON mothership Eurorack modular synthesizer – a Mortal Kombat safari house horror synth. YEAR OF MANUFACTURE?

Age unknown, estimated over 9000 [years old]. WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

We have no other way to express ourselves. This is our sole means of communication. WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE?

Live bees fighting robot bees inside an aquarium made of feelings. ANY SPECIAL FEATURES OR CUSTOM MODS?

It runs on 12v. [It has] laser beams, copper touch plates, joysticks, ribbon controller, Theremin and other various control voltage and human interfaces. ANY OTHER NOTES?

Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant. CAN BE HEARD ON


Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at




Evan Norton for NextArt

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Remote-Mountable Receiver Units

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Performer Magazine: October/November 2017  

Featuring Frankie Rose, Alvvays, KMFDM, Marc Broussard, The National, MorganEve Swain and much more...

Performer Magazine: October/November 2017  

Featuring Frankie Rose, Alvvays, KMFDM, Marc Broussard, The National, MorganEve Swain and much more...