Actual Tone Dreams

Anyone else have actual tone dreams? I mean, actual ones. Not, ‘It’s my dream to play a ’54 Stratocaster’, but ‘I had a dream last night that I was playing out of 4 Matchless amps at one time.’

Ya. I do. I know I shouldn’t……but I do.

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That’s a ’70′s Gibson ES-335. And that’s the guitar I had a dream about. And I shall tell you why.

Yesterday, I helped some friends out by playing one song at their wedding. When I got there to set up, there was this guitarist playing ambient wedding music as all the guests walked in. Alright, this guy just threw all my lofty tone ideals out into the street and said ‘Go play’ and then ran them over with his car…… in a nice way. He’s playing this really old (looks like maybe ’50′s or ’60′s) hollow body Gibson ES-335. Gorgeous. And the tone is spectacular. Just warm and full and swanky…. everything a jazzy old hollow body should be. And of course I look around for the 1959 Fender Bassman amp he’s obviously playing out of. And I nearly jump out of my skin when I see his cord going from his guitar jack directly into the cheeseball PA system. Ya. Whoa. 

So I’m humbled. And not only that, he’s just going to town on all these classy ’40′s love tunes, playing not just the melody, but harmonizing all the other parts as well. Just beautiful.

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And this is him, Bill Coleman. The guy playing the wonderfully beautiful classic melodies accompanied by himself into a PA system with some of the best tone ever. You can check out his site at www.billcolemanmusic.com . And he was like, the most humble guy ever, too. I told him he sounded incredible, and he shrugs and says, ‘Oh, just some songs I happen to know.’ Ya, right. Totally nice guy. And the best part is, and you can only tell this while sitting next to him, he hums the melodies of the songs like, a half measure before he plays them. It’s really, really interesting to listen to. But, hey, I guess it works! Because the songs coming out of the guitar are perfect.

So anyway, last night I dreamed that I went out and bought a ’50′s Gibson ES-335. The wood was all old and warped and everyone cried when they heard the sound. Oh, yes…..and they were tears of joy. And I woke up still clutching at the guitar…..but it was not there. And then I thought, ‘There is something definitely wrong with me.’

And you’re probably thinking that I’m making this up. I do wish you were right…..but no, I actually dreamed this last night.

So….I’m just wondering…..does anyone else out there, anyone at all, have dreams about music gear? It would make me feel so much better if there is someone else……anyone….

Splendid old Gibson ES-335′s,
Karl.

Best Thing I've Ever Heard………Ever!!!!

Okay, okay, okay. You’re so not going to believe me. This is just…..okay, wow. I can’t even say this; I don’t know what to say, so here goes.

Thanks to the wonders of gearpage, I have just discovered that Steven Seagal has produced blues albums. And yes, that is ‘albums’, plural. And yes, he both plays guitar and sings on them. And yes, I will show you an album cover:

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And yes, they sound…..well….just about how you think they would sound. Sort of like that incredible album cover. Ya. It’s Steven Seagal, people. 

And the best thing is, look at his face! Even on his album cover, that Steven Seagal emotion chart is totally true:

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Look!! That’s totally the exact same face as on his album. Classic. 

See? I just gotta get famous at something…..it doesn’t matter what…..and then I can produce all the albums of myself playing that I want, whether they sound good or not. Just like Steven Seagal, and just like someone I found years ago making lovely music:

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And yes, that is David Hasselhoff.

So splendid.
Karl.

Boss PH3 & Out of the Guitar Center Loop

I know, I know, another Guitar Center post. But seriously, folks, you walk into Guitar Center and it’s just a blog waiting to happen. It’s like walking into a used car dealership if all the car salesman thought they were famous Indy 500 drivers. And if they played 6 bad versions of Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ in 6 different keys over the dealership’s loudspeakers. Ah, well…… the story begins….

So I sold my Moog phaser. Again. I’ve had two, and sold them both. And it’s my all-time favorite phaser. There are issues here (with me, not the pedal). But it’s big and expensive, and I always think I can find a smaller and less expensive phaser that sounds just as good and then I can use the extra money and extra board space for another pedal. And then I always end up just buying another Moog. It’s like a game I play when I’m bored or something. 

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(One of my old Moog’s. And if things keep going the way they are going, not my last.)

So I’ve been trying out a bunch of phasers, and my latest is the Subdecay Quasar. But on Tuesday, it still hadn’t come in the mail yet, and I just shipped off my current phaser, and the worship leader playing with that night sends me the songs and they all have ambient guitar parts. Of course. Sometimes I go weeks without using a phaser. And the one day I don’t have one, I need one. That will always happen in my life. No matter what. If I’m ever in a band that gets to open for Coldplay or The Editors, the whole band will get sick or die, or what’s even worse….lose their instruments, that night. (And it might be because I stole their instruments. Not planning on it, just sayin’…… if that kind of temptation ever arose…… I know myself too well.)

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(The one in the mail….. unfortunately….. still in the mail)

So I take the plunge. Guitar Center phaser. Just for tonight, to get by, and then I can return it to them with their 30 day rental…..I mean, return policy. hehe But seriously, they encourage you to try their stuff out, and if you don’t like it, they have their 30 day ‘no questions asked’ policy. So I don’t feel bad….. because if I buy something from them and I play it and it actually doesn’t sound like grossness, I’ll gladly keep it. But usually it does sound like grossness, so I usually return these things.

The local Guitar Center had a grand total of three phasers: 
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone reissue, MXR Phase 90 resissue, and Boss PH3. 

So I go with the Boss PH3 because that’s the only one the kid at the counter can find that also has a box. He tells me it’s the best phaser ever. I thank him for his vote of confidence in my tonal selection skills (meaning, deciding on the only one Guitar Center has in stock.)

And here’s the thing…. I’ve had a black label Japanese Boss PH-1r from the ’80′s before. And I sold it for just over a hundred bucks. My handmade Subdecay Quasar that’s in the mail only set me back 130 bucks. And both of those are worth a lot more, and sound a lot better, than Boss’ current phaser incarnation (PH3). And I’ve seen the Boss ones go on   e-bay for like $40, so I figure this one will cost $60. Oh, no. It cost $118.31. $118.31! I almost passed out, but then an out of tune AC/DC riff coming from the direction of some kid on a Marshall half stack brought me back. I thought the whole draw of these mass produced pedals was their cheap prices. Obviously not! Now I could have talked him down a bit, but it always feels awkward to do that when it’s possible that I’ll return it the next day. But almost $120 bucks is the street price on this pedal?! I have clearly been out of the Guitar Center buying loop for quite some time.

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(It is green. I like green pedals. Give me a green pedal with a blue led, and the tone goes up like 50%. But it’s $118.31!)

So I buy it, amongst more promises from the sales kid that this phaser will change my life, and it’s a new secret circuit that only Boss, he, and the Argentinian mafia know, and how he has used it in the songs of all 8 of his touring bands. 

And, of course….. it did not change my life. In fact, it sounded like I expected. The good things about Boss pedals have always been for me that they are inexpensive and they are durable. And lately Boss has been getting smart and adding versatility to them. Well, obviously ‘inexpensive’ is not one of the strong suits for them anymore. But it is durable…you probably couldn’t break it if you tried, and they did put a lot of versatility into it. I was actually impressed that you could select phaser settings from 4 to 12 stages, and that there were also settings to make the phase shift downwards and upwards. And then there is a setting that gives computer-type sounds ala the Moog Murf or Zvex Seek Wah. Cool.

But the sound was disappointing. Just thin. I don’t know how else to describe it. It sounds like, ‘Okay, effect is on’. No subtleness, the effect just takes over your whole tone and makes it tinny. I mean, not unbearably, but definitely noticeably. And that’s just your actual tone. The phase tone itself was fairly tinny and digital sounding. Not hi-fi, just tinny and lifeless. The 4 stage setting was the only usable one for me. And it still wasn’t very warm or earthy sounding. I ended up using the pedal only when I had to, for the Tuesday night church service, when the song absolutely called for it.

So, if you play the PH3 and love it……. wow, more power to you. Like I’ve said before, I like to joke about Guitar Center because there is a ton of junk there…. but if you look in the right places you can find some good stuff. And if you’re a good enough player, you can get a good sound out of virtually anything. Or maybe my ears are just different from yours. But if you’re looking to buy the PH3, I’d say stay away. For the price it’s at, you could get a nice boutique or vintage Ross phaser that sounds way better.

So…. bad review from me on the Boss PH3. It seems so cliche to give a good review to a boutique pedal like the Zendrive (see previous post) and then give a bad review to a ‘non-boutique’ pedal. But, unfortunately, that’s how my ears heard it. And I really wanted to like it, too….. it would have been really cool for the ‘mass-produced’ pedal to sound better than my ‘handmade’ ones. But it didn’t. Not even a little.

In need of a good phaser,
Karl

Zendrive is Smashing my Overdrive Shootout Dreams

If you’ve been reading through my last few long-winded posts, wondering to yourself, ‘Is there ever going to be another gear review?’, then you have probably read about my plans for another overdrive shootout.

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(Mmmm…. Tombstone shootout. Think they would have been happier then if they had electric guitar tone to soothe them and then instead of doing real shootouts where people die, they could do overdrive shootouts where it’s very rare for people to die. Actually, no, it’s beyond rare. If you die doing a gear shootout, then you did something very, very wrong. By the way, Val Kilmer did wonderfully in this film. And no, I don’t have a big boy crush…. well….. maybe a little. But did you see his acting in Heat?! Come on! I think Heat and Tombstone were his two best performances. And I also think I have spent way too much time discussing the nuances of Val Kilmer’s acting in a blog post about Zendrives. But hey…… it’s me.)

My last overdrive shootout was like, three months ago, and I now have a different amp and different guitars (shocker, I know.) You can read about that shootout, I believe, on the very last page of this blog. This time, though, the players will be a bit different:

–Menatone King of the Britains (newest version)
–Paul Cochrane Tim
–Ibanez TS7 (home TS808 mod)
–Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face clone (homemade, but not by me)
–Hermida Zendrive
–Keeley modded Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
–MI Audio Blue Boy (newest version)
–Danelectro FAB Metal

(Yes, I know everyone’s like, ‘FAB Metal?’ It was at Guitar Center one day, used for $5. I was like, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool if a $5 pedal just smoked all the boutique ones?’ Ya. It didn’t. But it’s still fun to keep in the shootouts for reference.)

But here’s the deal. The King of the Britains and the Blue Boy haven’t even arrived in the mail yet, and I’m already in love with the Hermida Zendrive.

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(And when it is on, that led is bright blue. I have a thing for blue led’s. I don’t know why.)

I have always wanted to try one of these out, but the hype on these pedals is big, I really didn’t want to have one on my board and look like I just bought into all the hype. (Ya, my pride again, I know.) But just recently the guy who builds them has been getting caught up on his back-orders, so people are actually ordering directly from him now, which is driving down the used prices on these things, so I can finally afford one. 

And I meant to save it for the shootout, but I needed a more distortion-voiced overdrive on my board for a couple church sets this past week, and stuck it on there.

And yikes. This thing sings. It’s incredibly transparent, letting your tone come through very nicely (this is a huge deal for my tastes in pedals)… but it also adds compression for that big distortion sound. My first thought was….. that sounds like a Tim pedal with compression. It gives just a huge gutsy distortion sound, that honestly sounds too big to be a pedal. Just sweet, clear sustain on top of huge distortion that is retaining articulation. 

And the controls are very usable and very sensitive. I’ve had trouble before dialing in distortion pedals to not be too compressed to where it sounded like a volume drop from your clean in order to get the distortion sounding right. Then if you raised the volume, you’d lose that compressed sound. This one maintains the nice, compressed distortion at high volumes. The ‘voice’ knob helps with this. It’s an added knob in addition to ‘volume’, ‘gain’, and ‘tone’. And it sounded great with both my Les Paul and my Strat. And, for reference sake, I was using an EL84-based amp.

I should also mention that this is the Zendrive 1. He makes a Zendrive 2, that has a 12AX7 tube in it. I’m interested to try that one…. but I think the tube might make it a little too compressed for my tastes. But as soon as I see a good price on one, I’ll pick it up to try out.

And I’m running it on 12 volts. I do the same thing with my Tim pedal. Increases the headroom, and makes it sound a little bigger to my ears. You can run some of these boutique overdrives all the way up to 18 volts, and some even up to 24.

So….. ya…. I was a little blissfully annoyed (hmmm) tonight during a worship set when I turned on the Zendrive and was like, ‘Okay, that’s just not fair. I don’t even want to do the shootout now.’ But I smiled…. because it sounded so good…. hence, the blissful part of my annoyance.

So, you should probably go get one. Looks good… sounds good… and the prices are no longer causing you to choose between feeding your children or buying a Zendrive.

Splendid.
Karl.

Worship Performances…..and Loneliness

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(Love this photo.)

Ever get really excited on Saturday night because you know there’s a huge solo (or perhaps an anti-solo, as I prefer to play) coming up in one of the songs for the Sunday morning service and you’re the one who gets to play it on your instrument? And then you perform it…. and then you get excited because maybe for once people will recognize the utter glory of your tone? And maybe, just maybe, the sound guy will turn you up enough for your solo (or anti-solo…. yikes, I can’t even type the word ‘solo’ anymore without some explanation…. I’m a dork) that perhaps someone will hear the difference that your NOS tubes and Mosfet boosted mid switch are making in your tone? And then there will be tears of love and joy and Irish longing all at the same time? And it will all be for God’s glory? (And please know that I am totally describing and making fun of me right now.) :-)

And then on Sunday, it happens, and you perform the heck out of your solo (or….you know), and you wait for the applause, or the tears, or the voices, or the hands raised to the Lord, or the people falling on their faces in worship (not of you, of course)…………………………………………………………………….. and then you open your tear-filled eyes, and through the watery mist see blank faces staring back at you?

Oh, ya. Gets lonely quick.
 
I was at a nameless church gathering the other day….. lots of churches, lots of church leadership, lots of people feeling important, lots of ‘cutting edge culture’ videos that gave me an odd nostalgic feeling from when I was 5, and just generally a lot of good, old-fashioned Christian awkwardness. 

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(A prime example of ‘Christian awkwardness.’ Swing that Gospel axe. And the frightening thing is that one of them really does have an axe.)

And I’m sure I’m one of the biggest offenders of Christian awkwardness…. but I can’t see myself, so I just assume that I am generally perfect. hehe

So, there’s this nameless musician (and she did have a name, it was all over everything being sold there) gets up to do some songs. And I won’t describe what ensued…. because I don’t want to give away where I was. But suffice it to say I was a sinner and shot some ‘Jim-from-The-Office’ looks over at a friend of mine across the table when the singer had told us to close our eyes so the power of her song could drench us in worship. *Gasp!*

But at the end of her songs is where this story really ties in to what I am saying, and it’s not just an excuse to tell a story (which I really enjoy doing).

The last song is a chorus. And a very well-known chorus. I mean, you can’t be alive in America today and not know this song. Not just Christians alive in America. (Really hope I’m not giving this away here.) And so she invites us to sing with her. And the whole room starts singing. And people are worshiping. And hands are being raised. And it’s not a worship song. And more hands go up. And we sing more lyrics not about God. Which I’m okay with. I like U2 just as much as the next guy (no, that’s a lie… I like them more). It’s not a U2 song, but it’s less Christian than a lot of their songs. And it’s a good song. And good lyrics. And I like the song. But I am not raising my hands while singing it. Sorry. Little rant right there. 

But anyway, this singer starts to put more and more….shall we say, ‘flare’, into every line of the song. And she’s showing off her amazing skills. And more trills come flying out, and arpeggios, and notes that I don’t even think are there in a blues scale, and then some Chinese quarter tone scale notes on a part of the song that the rest of us are just trying to hold out just one note……… and what do you know……. by the end of the song, she’s all flustered because no one is singing with her. And she says in the last chorus, ‘Sing with me to the Lord!’ But tragically we can’t. She is not singing the melody of the song…… ya, not even a little.

And I wonder…… if we as worship musicians, held back just a bit, and played with the song….. or sang a melody that people were comfortable with, or played a bass line that went with the chords, or a drum beat that helped the beat, or a keyboard part that anchored………………………………………………………….. then maybe people would sing more, and worship more, and we might feel a little less lonely out on our solo.

See, it’s like, we always want to perform……. and then we’re shocked when the congregation can’t follow. If you want to sing a crazy melody with lots of gospel arpeggios and such, that’s fine. Maybe you can even worship better when you do that. But you can’t be surprised when people suddenly can’t sing with you, and end up watching the performance. And maybe as guitarists, we could make just one solo a month be the melody of the song…. or something crazy like that. So it might help the people worship with the song a bit. Not all the time. Just a few times. See people singing the lyrics to the Lord in accompaniment with your solo, instead of blank stares.

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(So sorry. Really. But I couldn’t resist.)

I am fine with performances. They can have an incredibly powerful place in a worship service. And not just performance-based songs….. I’m all about the huge guitar solo or the secular song or the decibel level being huge. But if we’re asking people to worship by engaging themselves actively in the song with us (which is what we most often do), let’s not (again) be surprised that no one is singing, when in reality we just really wanted to perform. And the we go off-stage after full-on ‘performing’ the set (and you know when you were showing off your skills as opposed to when you were using your skills to further the song and the worship) and shake our heads like, ‘Wow. People’s hearts just are not where they’re supposed to be. You know what? Maybe a solo during the offering song will help! I’ll try that!’

Just a thought. :-) Please feel free to disagree! And much thanks to everyone who reads these random musings looking for a pedal review and then ends up just laughing at my rants. Your patience is appreciated. I think it’s important to think about worship mindsets, and tone. So, here’s the worship mindest post. I’ve got a Zendrive, a Keeley modded Blues Driver, and a Subdecay phaser all coming in, so the tone posts are coming! :-)

Splendid.
Karl.

New Site for Worship Musicians

Alright, I tried to do this post about two weeks ago…..and then blog.com decided to be retarded a lot and so I deleted this post thinking it was the trouble, but it definitely wasn’t. So, let’s try again.

There’s a new discussion board that Joe from gearpage started, and it’s for worship musicians. And it’s called ‘Worship Musicians.’ And it’s at www.worshipmusicians.com . Imagine that. So, there’s no excuse on not remembering the name or something. Really, really imformative discussions over there, and they center around playing in venues where the focus is worshiping the Lord.

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It’s got a ton of gear discussion, and some thelogical dicussion, too, which is cool. So, I loved the site, and thought I’d show it some love.

Cheers this time,
Karl

The Journey to my Amp Tech

I am very particular about who fixes my gear. I play a lot of handmade and rare stuff (yes, I know, I’m a boutique snob….but hopefully I’m an open-minded and friendly boutique snob who realizes that he’s still not that good of a guitarist and that most people sound better than he does even though they don’t play the boutique gear :-) ) so I want to make sure people know what they’re doing before they dive in and take the stuff apart. It’s best to send them back to the builder, but in some cases that’s not possible. 

Like my Holland head. I adore this amp, and have never heard another sound quite like it. It’s technically a Vox AC30 clone (EL84-based), but the circuit is kind of Fendery. It’s like, the Vox chime and singing mid-highs, with the warmth of a Bassman. Really cool amp. But the builder, Mike Holland, is kind of private and difficult to get ahold of. And me not being a famous or accomplished musician by any stretch of the imagination (and believe me, I do stretch my imagination pretty far pretending to be famous), it’s difficult for me to get ahold of him. And then I’d probably have to ship the amp somewhere, and pay UPS or Fedex to kick my beloved amp around, as well as pay for the repair.

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(My Holland. A few scrapes and dents ago.)

So I found this tech named Jerry Blaha in Hollywood. Jerry’s amazing. Used to be Black Sabbath’s guitar tech. He’s rebuilt a Peavey Classic 100 that caught on fire (seriously), told me how to fix an Orange DC-30 over the phone for no charge, and fixed the reverb and power on this same Holland. Pretty cool guy, and does impeccable work. 

This time….I need a half power switch. It’s getting ridiculous to run my head on stage at church, and a 50 foot speaker cable to my cabinet in the closet. Things keep falling on my cabinet in the closet (see a previous post), and I can barely hear my guitar through our in-ear monitors, let alone get any type of feel. So I end up overplaying like a total hack, and it sounds like junk. So it is definitely half power switch time so that my amp can go back on stage with me where it belongs. hehehe

Plus, one of my other amps had bit the dust, so I decided to have him mod the Holland, and fix the other one.

So I call him up, he proceeds to explain to me 6 different ways which he can do the mod (which I pretend to understand), and I make an appointment to come up the following day. 

And then I forgot to bring my camera. 

But, this blog is about the return journey the next week, after he finished my amps. 

Now Hollywood is pretty far…..which is awesome. See, an amp needing fixing or a mod is just an excuse to grab a friend and galavant around Hollywood like musical tourists (even though we only live, like, 2 hours away). There’s a ton of guitar shops up there. I’ve bought more gear than I should have at most of them over the years. And now, of course, it is time for more. So, I call my buddy Justin (a great guitar player in his own rite), and off we go. What follows is a photo-journal of our tonal journey.

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This is me taking a picture of the 15 freeway for no apparent reason.

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This is me trying to take a picture of the 15 freeway for no apparent reason and failing.

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I thought those mountains kind of looked like the Misty Mountains from Lord of the Rings. I am a film freak just slightly less than I am a music freak. But it was a beautiful rainy day.

Then, I picked up Justin:

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Ya. With all the trees in the background, kind of looks like a hitch-hiking troll. But that’s Justin. I’ve known him for many years. We both started in a metal band in high school where the idea was to play as musically proficient as possible, using all the musical knowledge you could muster, in order to dumbfound the audiences because it sounded so bad that it must be some crazy musical technique. Oh, ya. If we were trying to write something contrapuntal or something of the like and it ended up sounding good, we’d scrap it, because sounding good was ‘selling out.’ And this works for some bands, like Dream Theatre; some people like hearing just straight technical music. The problem was…..we weren’t very good at being technical……we were in high school. So what you got was music that thought it was being technically snobby by not sounding good and being really proficient, and in reality sounded like bad Offspring.

U2 saved us both some years ago.

Now, remember I said how my film freakishness is only surpassed by my music freakishness? Well, before we got to Hollywood, we had to stop in downtown LA to take pictures at a memorable site of one of the greatest films of all time:

Heat.

Oh…….yes. 

This is where Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, and Tom Sizemore robbed the bank. And where Al Pacino chased them. Eat your hearts out.

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My picture.

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Mr. Sizemore right where I was! (I’m a loser, I know.)

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My picture.

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Bobby DeNiro and Val……I was sooooo there!!

And just to prove it………………

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This is me, doing the best DeNiro and Kilmer impression a guy with a U2 shirt on can muster.

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And this is after me telling Justin to do an Al Pacino impression, and Justin telling me I’m an idiot.

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Here’s me pretending to be Al Pacino chasing the bank robbing actors. And it looks like I’m doing the worst job of it that you could possibly imagine. (There’s supposed to be a gun in my left hand. Just thought I’d let you know. Helps the plotline.)

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And Justin told me to take a picture of this because it was in Heat. (It definitely wasn’t.)

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And this guy was just on the street, playing his saxophone. It’s stuff like this that makes me just love LA and Hollywood. (Note my incredible photography skills as well.)

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And these are the two tallest buildings in downtown. The one on the right is the US Bank building, and the one on the left is the one they supposedly robbed in Heat that we were just standing under and pretending to be famous actors (well, at least I was.)

So, the sidetrip to the Heat filming location was over. And there was much rejoicing.

Onward to Hollywood!!

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Sunset Boulevard!! 

My amp tech lives a few miles down Sunset, so we traverse the whole length. Fantastic. For some reason, I just love being here. I think I imagine myself to be people who I’m not going to say the name of (for fear of getting made fun of), going to play a show.

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The Channel 5 satellite on Sunset, sending us 7th Heaven re-runs as we speak.

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The CNN building….or one of them. Some ghetto yellow used car sales flags, too. Wouldn’t be the complete Hollywood experience without some ghetto.

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Nickelodeon Studios. Such stars got their starts here as Aaron Carter, Hilary Duff, and Miley Cyrus. Ya……we drove away pretty quickly.

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Best music store in the world. The craziest rarest records and cd’s you’ll ever find. Fantastic bands that you’d never hear of anywhere else. An indie kid’s dream.

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And of course, the Paladium. Justin’s and my old band (you know, the one I mentioned we were in years ago as high schoolers) were supposed to sell tickets to play here. The bill featured such talents as Sick Deer, Sickless Impaired, and Ghetto Fabuloso. Our band name was not much better…..Requiem Mass. They spelled it Requiem Mess on the flyer. Ya, that’s about right. The Paladium closed down before we played it, thank goodness. It’s been closed for like 7 years now. Hmmm….how in the world could it close while promoting such bands as Ghetto Fabuloso?

So then, we arrive at the main part of the trip (well, besides my amp tech). Guitar Ghetto. Guitar Ghetto is the nickname given to the place surrounding Guitar Center Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. When I first started coming here 3 or 4 years ago, there were about 6 or 7 boutique and vintage gear shops within these two blocks. Now it’s down to 2 or 3 because of online gear places. I’m told that in the early 1990′s, there were like 19 or 20 guitar shops. Stupid online buying. I’m gonna boycott all e-bay and gearpage gear buying so that these shops will have a chance!…………No……I’m not. I gotta be honest. 

But Guitar Center is still there, and honestly, it’s one of the better, if not the best, Guitar Center.

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Guitar Center Hollywood. Now, anyone who reads this blog even once in a while, probably knows my feelings on Guitar Center and how they mercilessly and greedily rip off the general public by selling mass produced and sub-par gear at inflated prices (see what I mean?). But no, seriously, Guitar Center does have some nice gear….you just gotta know what to look for. But the Hollywood one is a totally different story. Boutique rooms, used pedals, and a vintage room that will literally kill you with joy. They’ve got 1890′s 

Martins, and 6 1963 Vox AC30′s, and ’40′s Guild electrics and you name it, if it’s vintage and valuable, they have four of ‘em. Very awesome. They also have the RockWalk there, where all the great guitarists have put their handprints in bronze at the entryway into the Guitar Center.   

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This is Justin very happy to be at Guitar Center Hollywood.

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This is Justin showing his happiness in a different and much more frightening way, seeing as we are still in LA county.

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And this is Vintage Gear Hollywood, one of the shops still open. Incredible gear. Guitars, amps, pedals…..vintage and boutique and rare. There’s an Epiphone Jupiter amp in the picture that kinda faded into the background (again, my photography skills.) But it’s got a cab with 3 12″ speakers. Killer. And there was also a bass amp in the store bigger than me. 

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And this is the former site of Future Music (RIP). Awesome shop. I’ve bought many, many delay pedal children within those walls.

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And Voltage Music (RIP). They had a ’74 Explorer at one time. I wanted it. I had no money.

So, we leave beautiful Guitar Ghetto and head out to my tech’s. 

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This is Sunset Hills, and he lives just below them. Gorgeous. My favorite part of Hollywood. (And not just because that’s where Edie, Robert DeNiro’s girlfriend in Heat, is supposed to live.)

Picked up my Holland head for the half power switch mod and my Mondo Amps Bassman clone for a repair. Seriously, Jerry’s the best. A wrap up of the mod and repair that he did at the end of the blog. For now, more Hollywood!!

We did go to Truetone in Santa Monica…..which may just be the best boutique gear shop on universe. Stacks….literally…..stacks of boutique amps. Pedals which haven’t even been released yet…..they have ‘em.

But….we forgot to take a picture of Truetone. Oh well. You’ll just have to join us on our next escapade and see the glories for yourself.

So, back down Sunset to the 101 and home.

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I saw these Shrek dolls on the bottom of this truck. I got excited. I don’t know why.

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Rain on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with my amps in the backseat. It doesn’t get any more perfect than this for me. Except if Jamianne were here. :-) Sorry, Justin. hehe

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This is me thinking I’m an artsy photographer.

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This is a picture I wish I hadn’t taken.

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We saw this motel and figured people had definitely been murdered here.

And then Justin saw the best graffiti ever:

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Scary demonic bunny with an ’80′s ghetto-blaster. Seriously, who drew that?

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And of course, lastly, how can you see a random photo of crazy Dennis Hopper of Apocalypse Now fame and not take a picture. “Look at me! Wrong!” –Dennis Hopper.

And so our journey ended. With bunnies and Dennis Hopper. I don’t know how that fits. But that’s how it ended. And me with the best mod ever on my Holland. The half power switch is incredibly transparent. Still has all the fullness of the amp at full power, just at a lower volume. Amp sounds great.

And he fixed the Bassman clone just as well. Even re-biased it, and it’s never sounded better. It’s awesome to find a good amp tech. And to live out your fantasies of being Al Pacino……and U2……………………………………….Hollywood is the best.

Splendid.
Karl.

Hope

My complete apologies for posting this randomness, and not a guitar review, or tone rant, or something to help with ‘guitar for worship’, seeing as that is, of course, the actual name of the blog….not ‘whatever I feel like posting.’ But, I did really feel like posting this. :-)

I have an unhealthy love for a band named U2, and everyone tells me so. And since I cannot deny it, it is nice to find things to make fun of them for every once in a while, just to prove to myself that I’m not going to go crazy and wear their skin to my birthday anytime soon. (Hmm….that sounded much more frightening than I intended. No, no, I’m not that crazy into them….there are actually a couple songs of theirs that I don’t like…..wait……no, seriously. I’m not sure what they were thinking with ‘Numb’….and most of this ‘Ocotber’ album (pictured below, and the actual subject of this blog) doesn’t do anything for me.

But, anyway, U2 is re-mastering and re-releasing all their old albums, so on their site, this picture of the October album came up, circa 1982. And the hair….

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It’s very sad. Especially Adam, the one on the far left. I think that’s a definite fro-let….or a mul-fro, or whatever you call them.

But then I think, wait, this band is one of the biggest in the world. They have sold out stadium’s and arenas for over 20 years. And then I look at the picture again, and I think…’Them?’ and then I think that then there might be a chance for me.

You see? U2 brings hope to us all.

Splendid.
Karl.

Dumb

I seriously should have gone to wordpress for my blog. Blog.com can’t figure out how to wrap lines….it used to…..now it won’t…..so I’m having to go through all my old posts and manually ‘return out’ every line like I’m on a type-writer. Much fun. Not so much. Thanks to everyone for their patience when reading a post and not being able to read the last 1/4 of every line.

When I typed in ‘free blog’ into google three months ago, couldn’t some other site besides blog.com have come up first in the search? Or maybe I should just do research before putting a lot of time and effort into things? Nah. That couldn’t be it. :-)

*Sigh*
Karl

The Exception to the Rule

I have this rule about playing any instrument for any type of setting….that means guitar, piano, bass, drums, etc. for concerts, shows, worship sets, personal practice, etc. (Sorry, just really wanted to get the point across that for me this is a ‘universal statement’, choosing to blindly ignore Charles Dickens’ statement ‘The broader a man’s statement, the narrower his mind’.)

The rule is that it takes a better musician to find the one perfect note for the phrase than the one who can fit 800 32nd note arpeggios into the same phrase. Again, a very broad statement, but I find, at least in my hopefully humble opinion that it is more often than not, true.

However, John Mayer is the exception to the rule for me. See, according to my rule, he plays waaaaay too much. But he does subscribe to the even bigger rule than playing tastefully: ‘Sound good.’ 

See, I talk to musicians until I’m blue in the face about playing less, and playing simple, and being minimalists. But what it really comes down to is, ‘Sound good. Play with soul. Let the music do something for you, let it do something for the crowd.’ And Mr. Mayer definitely has soul, and his live stuff definitely does something for me. And if you’ve only heard radio John Mayer, I’d encourage you to check out some live stuff. Incredible blues guitar player. Great tone, great soul, and he just stomps all over my minimalistic views and makes me go running back from whence I came, crying like a little schoolgirl, to go re-think my minimalism mindset.

Oh, ya, and he has the blues face when he hits a note he really likes.

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See, I think as musicians (hehehe, I’m totally trying to have a serious thought here, but I keep glancing up at the picture and laughing) we sometimes get a little bogged down with the formulas for the music…..and dare I say, the formulas for what will get people to worship. My personal formula is minimalism. And I believe I am right….just ask me. hehe :-) But in reality, sometimes we need to step back, and just play. Play with soul, and do it for the One who loved you enough to die for you.

See? John Mayer made it make sense for me. And then I hear another worship guitar player just Eddie Van Halen-ing ‘How Great is Our God’ where a three note recurring line with a bit of modulation effect would have fit so much better, and I’m back on the minimalism kick.

Ah, the need for balance in our ever-so-staunch viewpoints, and how hard said balance is to achieve. Please let me know when you’ve got it figured out. I’ll pay you.

Splendid.
Karl.

–>6/8, 7:30 PM Edit:

Props to Jason over at Feedback is a Joyful Noise (http://www.mesaspeedlab.blogspot.com) for drawing my attention to this John Mayer awesomeness:

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(Ya………..he better be hitting a reeeaaaally good note right there.)

Much more splendid now.
Karl.