XAVIER RUDD Spirited Away
Whether he’s using native Australian bird sounds as percussion or making his signature Weissenborn slide guitar crank out some weirdly wonderful electric sounds, roots troubadour Xavier Rudd is living proof of the diversity of the 21st century’s incarnation of the blues and roots genre. JENNIFER PETERSONWARD sat down with Rudd ahead of his performance at the Astor Theatre on Wednesday, April 4. At 34, Xavier Rudd is acclaimed as an Australian marvel: a songwriter who can be smart and primal, raucous and meticulous, ethereal and earthy, bleak and comical. He has sung spun tall tales and reeled off free-associations that somehow add up; and has also shown a vulnerable side in tender love songs. Having persisted on his own terms throughout his 10 year career, the Torquay-born icon’s new record, titled Spirit Bird, is set to be released later this year and features something new for the multi-instrumentalist: birdsong. “About a year ago I came up with the idea of using bird sounds as percussion, like just building them up with lots of loops and then laying them in with the rest of instrumentation. So far I’ve got about 30 different samples of native Australian bird species, which I mainly obtained from a man called David Stewart who has spent the last 35 years recording birds. I did record some of the birds myself, but it’s mainly David’s samples [that I have used].”
people,” he says, concluding with a few wise words of advice for aspiring musicians: “Just play. Don’t be worried about who’s listening, don’t worry about how many people are rocking up to your gigs, don’t be worried about getting a record deal, don’t let anything like that get in your way. I’ve learned quite a few times on my journey that it’s pointless to think about where you’re going. I just let it happen. If it’s right, it’s right, and all that other stuff will come later.”
“Don’t be worried about who’s listening, don’t worry about how many people are rocking up to your gigs, don’t be worried about getting a record deal” While he’s more than a little excited for his fans to hear his new Bird-enhanced tunes, when it comes to instrumentation choice, Rudd attests there is simply nothing like the sound of a Weissenborn lap steel. The guitars built by Hermann Weissenborn in the 1920s are the stuff of legend among roots guitar players and are currently favoured by some of the genre’s biggest names, including Ben Harper and John Butler. “I use all handmade, wooden, full-bodied guitars. I just love the warmth and dreaminess of hollow bodied guitars,” Rudd explains. “I’ve spent years developing ways to make them sound big. Basically, I take an acoustic guitar and I run it through a series of amps. It sorta makes this homemade electric guitar sound. These kinds of guitars aren’t designed to sound big, but I just love the sound.” Rudd also says he has an “over the top” obsession when it comes to testing out left-of-centre instruments. “I’m really into unique instruments. I use a Chaturangui, which is a West Indian slide guitar that has 22 strings, it’s almost like a sitar with a slide. I also have a bunch of different percussion instruments, including about nine different didgeridoos, a range of different harmonicas, and a stomp box – which is basically a wooden box with a microphone underneath it to help amplify the sound,” he laughs. “I like a challenge.” However, there won’t be much time for experimentation this year as Rudd heads back on the road after a lengthy period of rest and recuperation. “The recording process was longer for Spirit Bird than it had ever been in the past.Most of my albums have been made in three weeks – usually when I’ve been able to find a hole in my touring schedule – but I had back surgery in March [last year] and that forced me to take time off from being on the road. I worked on Spirit Bird for about six months all up,” he says. “It was nice to [lie] low, until I was ready to get into [the music] again. I do think I’ll take my time [during the recording process] from now on. On the road, you can get into this groove of never stopping – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – but sometimes you need to stop. I think this last year, for the first time, I was ready to stop. I don’t think I’ll ever have as heavy a touring schedule [as I have had in the past] ever again.” Despite admitting that taking a break from live performance helped rejuvenate his personal creative process, Rudd says he is eager to dedicate the next 12 months to extensive promotional duties and touring. “I’ve started to get the itch again. I definitely get a lot out of the recording process and being in the studio and all that, but performing is my first love. It’s what I’ve always done, it’s such a huge part of me – just being able to go out there and share my stories with 46
X-Press – First on the street, Wednesdays
THE ROOTS OF BLUES Emerging from the slums of the deep south of America at the turn of the last century, blues music undoubtedly set the motion for the decades of popular music that followed it. But what is it about this style of music that inspired countless more genres? TOM VARIAN reports.
First entering the history books in 1912 with Hart Wand, blues wasn’t popularised or recorded until well into the ‘30s. This expressive style of music hit upon a near endless well of improvisation within what is now known as the 12-bar blues and gained footing with melancholy lyrics about ordinary, disadvantaged people’s lives. But more than that, its influence has stretched multiple generations and it eventually evolved into the most popular form of music of all time – rock. Let ’s get a quick over view of the beginnings of blues music. The seed of the genre started along the now famous Mississippi Delta region. As the myth famously goes, musician Robert Johnson walked to a crossroad and sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the blues. Though the parable that he invented the blues is just plain wrong, his short life ended when he was only 27 which helped the myth propagate. But whether he was the first one or not, there is no mistaking the purity of his voice on the little recordings he left, arguably the greatest collection of Delta Blues recordings. In truth not one person invented the blues – it was an evolution of African American slave workers spiritual hymns, work songs and drum music. As they toiled the fields they sang together as a form of freedom and hope, and like folk songs they were passed down and evolved. Making up a blues song is usually simple lyrics that tell a tale, a lesson learned and it’s cyclical nature, using only a few chords that you iterate through, along with what is known as the blues notes, such as the minor 3rd to major 3rd bend that is so common on blues recordings. And of course that walking bass line, stuck in a groove that just feels, well, like the blues. After the blues found a footing and home along the Mississippi, with stand-out artists such as Skip James and Charlie Patton, there was a mass movement north to Chicago, which brings us to the second phase of the blues evolution to rock. So-called Chicago blues differs from Delta blues with its use of electrically amplified instruments and a full band usually backing the blues singer. It has a more upbeat nature, quicker tempo, and uses more notes and major chords, borrowed from jazz and which gave rise to the sound of R&B. Label Chess Records recorded some of the most seminal music from this era and artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy helped popularise the blues to new heights.
But rock still didn’t come easily. If blues was the father of rock‘n’roll then country music was its mother, as artists such as Chuck Berry, influenced by both country and blues tunes, took elements of both and created not only the sound but attitude blueprint for rock music. It can’t be said enough, the impact that Berry’s Maybellene had on American culture at the time. It easily sold a million copies and subsequent hits like Rock And Roll Music and Johnny B. Goode defined what made rock‘n’roll different; it’s easy lyrics aimed at the youth with stories of girls and fast cars and his use of guitar solos and showmanship that commanded the stage. Not far behind Chuck was a gaggle of white artists, such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis whose early recordings are often referred to as rockabilly. Now that the white folks are in on the party, albeit it very late, we are inches away from modern rock, or more accurately an ocean away. In the UK young artists were absorbing the music of the US and early British rock acts such as Cliff Richards and The Shadows shot to dizzying success. And so we come to perhaps the final leg of our journey, with the British invasion. After the success of early rock artists in the US, rock was on a bit of a decline with its major players either dying, getting put in jail or conscripted for the US Army and so it was the new blood of UK musicians such as The Animals, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds and, well, I could go on for a long list, to dominate the charts. Of course in-between you have numerous offshoots of rock, such as doo-wop, skiffle and beat music, such as The Beatles (you finally get the pun now, hey?) but largely the evolution of rock was complete. By 1966 beat music (think early Beatles) was beginning to sound out of date, especially when compared with the heavier blues rock that was beginning to emerge with artists like The Moody Blues and Cream. There was a movement on the surviving rock groups to move and evolve rock into different forms including psychedelic rock and eventually progressive rock. The rest is history, and likely the vast collection of your music shares DNA with these early artists, so do yourself a favour and explore the vast amount of archival blues music available on YouTube.
To celebrate their 20th year of operation the fine folks from the Perth Blues Club are planning some great new initiatives, gigs and a huge memorial show later in the year. Coming up in next few weeks are Patrick Woodley Trio, The Hips and Richie Pavlidis on Sunday, April 4; the Au Revoir, Farewell and Good Luck Show featuring Bob Marchini, Pete Hardinge, Bob Patient, Sue Bluck, Roy Martinez and Gary Howard on Saturday, April 10; and the Blues Factor showcase on Saturday, April 17, which will feature the talents of seven up-and-coming local blues and roots performers. Check perthbluesclub.com regularly to keep up-to-date with all the goings on around town.
Originally developed in the ‘80s, a 25th anniversary limited edition model of the pedal-to-the-metal shred machine Ibanez Roadstar Guitar has recently be released. Head to musiciansuniverse.com.au for the full list of specs and prices.
SEALED WITH A KISS
Making its debut in 1977, the Budokan Les Paul became Ace Frehley’s main guitar when KISS’s fame was exploding around the world. Now, Epiphone makes this iconic guitar available to players everywhere in a beautiful faded Cherry Sunburst finish with three DiMarzio pickups. Click over to musiciansuniverse.com.au for the full list of specs and prices.
Widely known as the brutal force behind death metal pioneers Hate Eternal, Malevolent Creation, Nile and Serpent’s Rise, Derek Roddy will present a drum clinic at Allans Music + Billy Hyde on Friday, May 4, from 7pm. Tickets are available from allansbillyhyde.com.au or in store.
Blues Brother Whether he’s playing the part of a smooth, soulful, blues crooner or a rock‘n’roll madman about to explode, Michael Vdelli has made a name for himself as one of Perth’s premier players throughout his colorful career. Earlier this month, JENNIFER PETERSON-WARD caught up with the iconic muso to talk about three of his loves – Budda amplifiers, homegrown crowds and international touring. Tone is an elusive thing. Guitar players know that it can be hard to define, and even harder to find. But, as local muso Michael Vdelli attests, when you get it you never look back. Known for his powerhouse guitar playing and captivating stage presence, Vdelli and his band (also called Vdelli) have been making waves on the local music scene for 15 years. “We started as a blues band and over the years we’ve developed a more rock sound, although there are also some elements of funk too. Our style is constantly evolving,” Vdelli says. Despite their chameleon sound, Vdelli says his core set of instruments have remained the same over the years. “I’ve used the same guitar for over 20 years – a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, [but] as far as guitars and pedals go, as long as it produces a nice sound and is up to doing the job night after night, I’m happy to use it,” he says. Vdelli also points out that his Budda SD80 II amplifier has earned a place in his heart. Known for their ability to respond to the touch and picking action of guitarists, Budda amplifiers specialise in creating unique tonescapes that balance warm tube gain stages with defined, responsive attack. “It’s just a really good amp,” Vdelli says. “It’s got a pure tone and a really good gain structure. It’s also very powerful, it’s got lots of grunt, [and] it’s got a really smooth overdrive tone. You end up with a sound that is creamy, not raspy. It’s never short on power.” Vdelli says he will put his Budda to good use when he and his bandmates rock the Indi Bar every Friday evening during a residency which will www.xpressmag.com.au
Vdelli last until the end of April. “We haven’t played for over a year so it’s nice to be back to see everyone again. I’ve had a good relationship with the staff and management over the years, but I mostly like the crowd they draw there, the audience is what makes the gigs great,” he says. Considered by industry insiders and fans alike to be one of the shining lights in the blues genre, local music fans shouldn’t miss this opportunity to catch a rockin’ Vdelli live show before they head overseas. As Vdelli divulges, preparations are well under way for the bands 20th European tour which will take in more dates than ever before and will culminate in an appearance at the Swedish Rock Festival, which boasts a stellar line-up including Soundgarden, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Lynyrd Skynyrd. “We’re really looking forward to playing the festival,” he concludes. “It’s nice to get a crack at that.” Vdelli play the Indi Bar on Friday, March 30; Friday, April 13; Friday, April 20; and Friday April 27. For more information about the Budda amplifier range, please visit megamusiconline. com.au. 45
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PRODUCT REVIEWS COLE CLARK FAT LADY 1 12-STRING ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Cole Clark Fat Lady 1 12-String Acoustic Guitar There’s nothing quite like a great sounding acoustic guitar played well. Live or recorded, the right acoustic instrument in the right player’s capable hands can cover an amazing range of styles and evoke the whole gamut of emotions from the listener. Australian guitarbuilding company Cole Clark has produced many highly-regarded acoustic models, and the Fat Lady series has proven most popular with acoustic musicians. There is a seemingly endless supply of acoustic players in the industry at the moment, flourishing due to the ever-increasing opportunities for musicians to perform in more intimate surrounds such as small bars, cafes, restaurants and wineries. The challenge then for acoustic guitarists is to find a way to set themselves apart from the competition and find a unique voice. A 12-string guitar is one way to achieve that goal.
The Cole Clark Fat Lady 1A 12 is an all solid timber dreadnought-styled instrument in a nitrocellulose natural stain finish. The necks of this series of guitar are fashioned from Queensland maple, the tops from solid bunya or spruce, and the back and sides from solid bunya, Queensland maple or spruce. The bride and fingerboard are fashioned from solid rosewood. The FL1A 12 features the standard Cole Clark dual input acoustic pickup, comprised of a Piezo-type bridge mounted and top plate sensor. A blend control allows players to choose their preferred balance between the bridge and sensor pickups, providing a unique array of tones. Also featured in the pickup controls are master volume, bass, middle and treble levels. Grover machine heads provide solid and reliable tuning. The overall tonality of this guitar is robust and earthy; the sound level and intonation is consistent right across the neck, and the overall response is punchy and even. The neck generally feels easier to work with compared to many 12-string guitars and the string tension and action is easy on the fingers, making this model a greet transition for guitarists moving into the 12-string realm for the first time. Both in terms of production quality, tone and value for money the Cole Clark FL1A 12 is hard to beat. The Cole Clark FL1A 12 retails for $1729 with included moulded ABS case. The Rock Inn currently has this model on sale for $1549. The Cole Clark FL1A 12 was reviewed at The Rock Inn, Mount Lawley.
BUDDA SUPERDRIVE 30 1 X 12 COMBO AMPLIFIER
Budda Superdrive 30 1 x 12 Combo Amplifier
Bigger, better tones in smaller, lighter packages, that’s what the guitar amplification market seems to be all about these days. Largely due to the scaling-down of many stages and performance areas (and the increasing need for ease of portability) many amp companies are striving to pack more features and quality into less physical space. The Budda Superdrive is a 30 watt
RODE COMPLETE VOCAL RECORDING SOLUTION PACKAGE
Rode Complete Vocal recording Solution Package Whether it is a professional studio, a home studio, or even just a simple home recording set-up, one of the most important factors in producing a great recording is quality of the recorded source. While an attempt to ‘fix it in the mix’ is an option, there’s no doubt that achieving a workable, reliable tone at the input stage is far more desirable than hoping for the best during post-production. RODE is one of the best known names in studio amp featuring three 12AX7 high-grade preamp tubes and a hand-wired power amp. The rhythm and hi-gain drive channels can be switched on the amp face via a push/pull switch or an included footswitch. The amp face controls also include treble, mid and bass, and push/pull mid function. There is also a push/pull control for a brightness function on the rhythm channel which provides an extra bit of clean-ish bite for those clean solos that can sometimes be hard to voice over the rest of the band. The rhythm channel provides a sprawling, crystal clear tone which can be mildly overdriven, but the amp is nicknamed ‘The
Boss RC-3 Loop Station
BOSS RC-3 LOOP STATION
One way to expand the sonic frontier in smaller line-ups such as solo acts, duos and trios is to incorporate looping technology. Widely regarded as a more organic and ‘legitimate’ solution compared to standard backing tracks, a loop pedal adds dimension to an act, affording players the opportunity to play along to pre-recorded loops or create new loops on the fly during a performance. The Boss RC-3 is geared towards guitarists, who will appreciate the true stereo inputs and outputs on the pedal if their setup is designed to run in stereo. In addition to recording guitar loops, users can also record other external stereo audio sources via the RC-3’s auxiliary input. Sound from an iPod, for example, can be recorded and converted into a loop. The RC-3 features a massive internal memory with up to three hours of stereo recording time and 99 onboard memories for storing loop presets. While this memory size is very impressive, this unit does not feature a memory card of any type, so expansion of memory beyond factory parameters is not possible. The by-now (almost) obligatory www.xpressmag.com.au
WITH CHRIS GIBBS
microphones, and the affordability of many microphones in the RODE range gives studio projects at every level the opportunity to attain high production levels. The RODE NT1-A condenser microphone delivers the warmth, dynamic range and clarity and usually reserved for more expensive microphones. Recognised as the world’s quietest studio microphone, the NT1-A is ideal for vocal recording for music as well as voice-over projects and even environmental recording. The NT1-A is currently available in the RODE ‘Complete Vocal Recording Solution’ package which includes everything budding home producers and engineers require to attain a professional vocal recording standard. A studio grade pop shield and shock mount is included, along with a microphone cable and dust cover. For home recording enthusiasts who are just starting out, there’s even an instructional DVD entitled NT1-A Studio Secrets, presented by founder and company president Peter Freedman, which is packed with plenty of recording tips. Top that off with RODE’s 10 year warranty and you have an incredible amount of value at a recommended retail price of just $525. Mega Music Wangara currently has this pack on sale for $299. The RODE Complete Vocal Recording Solution pack was reviewed at Mega Music, Wangara. Dirty 30’ by the talented people at Budda with good reason. There’s plenty of gain to be had on the drive channel, the response aggressive while remaining warm, controlled and even. The sustain and resonance from the amp on both channels is to die for. The power on tap within the Superdrive 30 is nothing short of incredible; it seems unthinkable that the master volume would ever travel anywhere beyond the 40% mark even in the loudest band on the biggest stage, so there’s an immense amount of headroom to guarantee clear, authentic tone. The rear of the amp includes an effects loop, two speaker outputs, switchable between 4, 8 and 16 ohms, and a slave output with level control which can also be used as a direct output for live or studio recording. While so many boutique amplification companies are offering quality products at low prices due to compromising on the country of manufacture, Budda amps are designed and built in the USA, and while this affects the price tag, the sonic benefits are obvious from the first chord. The Budda Superdrive 30 retails for $3799. Budda amps are available exclusively from Mega Music Myaree and Wangara. The Budda Superdrive 30 was reviewed at Mega Music, Wangara. USB port allows users to connect to a PC and import or export WAV audio. The RC-3 can accept 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV files of up to 1.7GB in size. As with most stompboxes, the RC-3 runs on a single 9-volt battery or optional AC power supply. There are different options available for looping on the RC-3. For example, an AutoRecording feature commences recording the moment the guitar is played, or as soon as a connected audio player is started, while Count-In mode gives players one bar of rhythm before a recording starts. To keep loops in time, rhythm patterns are included in the RC-3’s onboard library. Ten types of rhythm are provided, including Rock, Pop, Funk, Shuffle, R&B, and Latin. Rhythm volumes can be adjusted and tempos can be set via tap tempo. Users can even specify the time signature and when a phrase is saved the rhythm type and time signature are also saved. As with DigiTech’s Jam Man Solo counterpart, the RC-3 can be tricky to engage and disengage due to the single pedal format, and although additional footswitches are available to remedy some of the required fancy footwork, this really defeats the purpose of a single stompbox which otherwise slots easily onto a crowded pedalboard. Nevertheless, players who are after a more seamless approach to looping would probably benefit from exploring larger units such as the Boss RC-30. Having said that, all effects units require at least some level of getting used to regarding functionality and the few physical limitations are far outweighed by the overall capabilities of the RC-3. The Boss RC-3 Loop Station retails for $299. The Boss RC-3 Loop Station was reviewed at The Rock Inn, Mount Lawley. 43
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Classiﬁeds and Music Services Hotline: 9213 2888 Display ads: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline: 4pm Monday Credit cards welcome
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X-Press â€“ First on the street, Wednesdays
Published on Mar 27, 2012