Mylo Xyloto, Vangelis, LP’s, R&B, Popular Music, Secular Music in Church, & Anything Else You Can Think Of

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I took a little break from virtual life, spent time with real people, real family, real words printed on real paper, and it was quite fantastic. However, such is the extent of my narcissism, that I feel that none of that stuff is truly real unless I pontificate upon it.

  • I finally got Mylo Xyloto for Christmas, after holding off (for once in my life) and saving money by not buying it. And I must say, that for once everything I have heard about it makes total sense. It seems to be a collection of wonderful melodies in a style broad enough to reach a very wide audience, and alienate all the indie fans. Well done, Coldplay. I admit that I too was disappointed by the eclecticism and pop flavorings at first. Then the melodies sank in and I couldn’t resist.
  • I also appreciate the ‘high-ness’ and the spirit of the album. It’s pretty uncool to come off as that happy these days, and as Brian Eno says, when everyone is being very cool, uncool becomes very important.
  • My only critique of the album might be the production/mastering, which is pretty compressed. But that’s just the norm now, especially as iTunes begins to phase out cd’s, and no one cares too much about lossless file formats except for nerds and Jack White. Or maybe I’m just on a kick, as I had the chance to hear a Vangelis record on LP at my folks this Christmas, and was reminded how good recorded audio can actually sound.
  • Of course, the last track on Coldplay’s album is super Vangelis-inspired, so I guess all is forgiven. So much so that I am wondering if those are actual analog synths on that song. Did Mr. Eno perhaps pull out some of his old Prophets? Or is it just a Nord Lead 2x making me sound stupid by mistaking modeling for the real thing? ;) Perhaps we’ll never know. And even if it says ‘Nord Lead 2x’ in the liner notes, I will still maintain that we will ‘never know,’ and it’s all a big mass-produced company conspiracy.
  • Same as I refuse to believe that Edge is playing an Axe-FX on demo’s for the new U2 album. I find that life is much better if you simply disregard any facts that disturb you. ;) Christians are masters at this.
  • As for pop music influence, which these days of course means R&B and rap influence, I have been trying very hard to get into those styles. Why? Because those styles are extremely popular; meaning, a lot of people like them. And I have learned over the years that explaining pop culture away as ‘mob mentality,’ or ‘intellectual bankruptcy of the general populace,’ borders very dangerously on close-mindedness and elitism. It’s these very mentalities that used to cause me to consciously force U2 melodies out of my head and listen to Dream Theatre albums that gave me headaches, in an effort to be artistic and cultured. So I’ve been trying to see what it is about pop music that I am missing. And I’ve been honestly, failing hard at trying to appreciate it. But the R&B-influenced beats and tracks under the real melodies in the new Coldplay album are really helping me get there. It’s never a bad thing to broaden your horizons a little bit.
  • In the same vein, a few months ago I played a Nelly Furtado song at church. ‘Say It Right.’ Now I’m not a Nelly Furtado fan, but I will say this. We did the live version at the Grammys, I believe, and I saw a guitarist up there the whole time. No guitar sound. So I was just about to write the song off and go learn the other songs, when all of a sudden the guitar player comes up and rips a very, very soulful solo. Definitely food for thought. There’s some good musicians out there in the ‘homogenized, mass-produced, big box’ music.
  • The afore-mentioned song is not embedded here, as we get people of all kinds on this site, and I don’t wish to offend anyone with the lyrics and Miss Furtado’s dancing. Both of which are incredibly tame compared to anything you even see on commercials these days, but still. However, that brings up an interesting discussion. I was helping out at the church that played this song. They had thought about it a good deal, prayed about it, and shared the vision for doing the song in a worship set with the band. I also had a good conversation with the pastor about it, and it was a night at which they expected a bunch of unchurched people to attend. I appreciated where they were coming from, and played the song out of respect for their theology on the performing of it. However, I am not at a place where I would ever choose to do that song in a worship set at my home church, or at any church in which I had a hand in choosing the setlist. In fact, I am reticent to choose any song for a Christian worship service that does not either directly glorify God, or very decidedly drive home a point made somewhere else in the service production. And I am very, very curious to hear your guys’ thoughts on that.
  • Had more fun than you could possibly imagine with a Boss OD1 and an Arion SOD1. Boutique is on its way out. Or maybe its never been in, except for us church players, hacks, and other non-professionals. ;) Nope, I retract that immediately. The true bypass tone fairies compel me.
  • There are a lot of bitter Christians at Christmas time. Either that, or pretending to be bitter and have a ‘cutting edge church’ view on Christmas makes for good sermons, blog posts, and status updates. Personally, I think it’s pretty cool to make a big deal out of Jesus. Plus, I heard a song admonishing me to come and adore Christ the Lord. At Disneyland. Where ten thousand other people also heard it. I think that’s pretty cool.
  • Got to end a Christmas carol at our Christmas Eve service on a ‘Tierce de Picardy’. Now that was fun, and there’s no way I can sneak that in again until next year. ;)
  • I also snuck in an aug5 chord as the actual tonic of the song. That, unfortunately though, was not on purpose. lol
  • I also think that saying ‘Tierce de Picardy’ makes me sound smarter. When in reality, it just means ending an Em song with an E major chord, and I read a cool name for it somewhere. hehehe
  • Speaking of pretentiousness, ( ;) ), my wife and I watched a video tape of a high school Christmas play we were in together. She made me. And as fun and hilarious as it was to watch, I was reminded of how incredibly cool I thought I was. And how incredibly false that sentiment was. haha Yet realizing that doesn’t change the way I treated people, and sometimes still continue to treat people even to this day. As stepping stones for my ego and sense of self-worth. I’m sorry, everyone. Although, as I was treating you poorly, you were probably laughing at how big I thought I was, acting my little heart out.
  • Isn’t it funny that even when we’re penitent, we’re prideful? It’s great to be sorry for the hurtful way you’ve treated others, but incredibly hilarious how we think so highly of ourselves that we’re certain one word from us can destroy someone else. When in reality, they probably passed it off as ‘What a jerk’, and never thought about it again. Of course, be careful with it though; there are the Steve Buscemi’s out there who may have your name on their ‘People to Kill’ list from high school. :)
  • People always apologize for giving gift cards, when in reality I want to kiss them for the best gift ever.
  • I risked a bad power adapter on my acoustic board that could have cut my entire signal at any moment, just so that I could have the option of doing swells if I needed to. Which of course, I never did. I make myself sad sometimes.

And that was a lot of things. Some might even say, too many things. I would also.

Thanks for reading, or for at least choosing the two bullets that are one line and reading those. I have a feeling we’ll be talking about gift cards and aug5 chords. ;)

Splendid.
Karl.

Annual Merry Christmas Post

Have a wonderfully, wonderfully merry Christmas, everyone. As always, it’s been a joyous bundle of a year discussing, arguing, laughing, crying (okay…at least discussing and arguing) over guitar tone, Blues Junior’s, pedal cloning, how God would like to see the church, and…oh ya, Timeline’s. :) But for now, I trust that most of us will be celebrating a Savior, and spending time with those we love most. And hopefully that means wives and children and parents and sisters and brothers, not Fender’s and Mullard’s and Memory Lane’s and Tim’s and Timmy’s. Different kind of family. ;) As I will be doing the same, I leave you, my friends, with these gems of the season. People everywhere singing of God’s love. It’s a really, really good time of the year.

I know I post these every year, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Jesus changed everything. Merry Christmas!

Sincerely,
Karl

Boss OD1 Demo, Best $30 I’ve Ever Spent, & So Many Other Things

Finally.

I finally found that deal. You know, the one you dream about…where you go in to some used guitar shop and find an old Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face marked ‘Dallas Orbiter Fuzzy Face – $10′. And there would be much rejoicing. Okay, so not really. I still haven’t found that deal or the infamous ‘Kron’ deal, even though I check all the time. Every guitar or pawn shop I ever pass, I go in. But I came close. A couple weeks ago, I was looking at Guitar Center’s used section, which is getting really good lately, and noticed a Boss OD1. An original. Turned it over, black label boldly sporting ‘Made in Japan.’ No price, though. So I asked the guy, and he looked it up on Guitar Center’s what I believe to be DOS-based computer system. And he says, ’30 bucks.’ And I say, ‘Mine.’ Hoping desperately that it’s one of the original 14-pin chip ones that can sell for $500.

Turns out, it’s not. It’s an OD1d, dated to 1979 or 1980. It’s also a weird one though, as it has a stamped serial number inside the battery compartment but also a black screw on the footswitch. Supposedly those shouldn’t have gone together, but this one has it. It also has an odd chip designation, that I can’t find any info on. But it’s all original, not modded. Best I can figure, it’s one of the first OD1′s to be built after they ditched the 14-pin chip due to supposed supplier issues, but before they started dropping the quality of the rest of the components. Wow, I’m a nerd. Just skip that paragraph.

It also is in horrendous condition. So with it not being the 14-pin version, and in the condition that it’s in, it’s probably a $100-$150 ebay sell. But, in true Boss fashion, the outward condition has no impact on its functionality, and it works great. And sounds…surprisingly…incredible. To be honest, I had more fun playing this $30 pedal than I did playing the Ethos.

The Demo
(No clean tone, features, or bias listings, because it has two knobs. Level, Drive. Gorgeous.)

So if you’ve got $30, and search a little bit, I can almost guarantee you some pretty cool tone for super cheap. And I suggest you do. As you may have noticed, I’ve been selling increasingly more modulation pedals, and buying up more and more drive pedals. And unlike the Ethos, this one is staying on my board. And the reason is that I have been becoming more and more bored with sterile, crisp, clean, and produced church services. Churches, it seems, tend to find a style, and then homogenize and produce the very life out of it. And I’m sensing a backlash to that starting on the near horizon. Folk tried to be the backlash, but inexplicably got caught up in the machine, and now only exists in churches and even in popular culture as a bearded dude with a $2000 Martin that he purposefully put a hole in, sweating under an 8-layer scarf in the summertime, next to a girl in a grandma skirt she bought at Wet Seal, who thinks she’s vegan because she drinks organic milk, filming themselves on their iPhones in the woods behind the Wal-Mart, playing up-strum chords and singing ‘honest’ lyrics that they really could care less about. Okay, so that’s a gross generalization, and I’m definitely wearing a scarf under my beard right now. ;) But it seems that everything gets homogenized, especially in church, and we lose the heart. And where overdrive comes in, as my good friend Matt and I have been talking about, is when we can break from that and start to play stuff that sounds worse. Not too much worse, just slightly worse. As if the world will not cave in and no one will leave the church if there’s a .1 decibel hum coming from the guitar amp. It’s like the Nirvana response to ’80′s synth-pop; I’m just praying that we don’t decide that that’s what it’s going to be, and then calculate out what made Nirvana popular, put it into a formula, and then perform that formula to the lowest common denominator. I’m hoping that we put a little bit of heart back into things, and ditch formulas for just a bit.

The other interesting thing about this pedal, is that technically, it sucks some of your tone. It takes a bit of the body of your clean tone away, and colors it. But the thing is, tone is a tool for the music. And sometimes, when trying to use that tool to fit the music, your tone can be, in essence, too good. What I mean is, what we think of when we think of great tone…warm, full, round, present…can be so good and powerful and out-standing, that it hurts what the overall music is trying to do. And drives like this OD1, though technically hurting your tone, can do a great job of giving you sounds that fit the overall mix and ultimately, the overall music. Sometimes, you have to make your tone worse so the music can be better. Just sometimes, though. ;)

And that is a lot of things coming out of the playing of a $30, two-knob pedal. Sorry. But not really, of course. I don’t have the time right now, but after the Christmas season, there will be posts expounding upon each of these ideas. For now, remember the mantra: Tone does not always equal price. But sometimes it does. The Ethos? Tone definitely equaled price. It’s expensive, and also amazingly good. The Boss OD1 is the other side of the equation. Tone completely does not equal price with this pedal. Cheap, and sounds great. Buy one. Love one. And then buy another one.

Splendid.
Karl.

Custom Tones Ethos Overdrive Review & Demo

One overdrive pedal to rule them all.

Or so it has been described. So I just had to find out for myself. Is it just a great overdrive pedal? Is it a Dumble in a box? Does it magically make every amp sound better? Is it the best low gain overdrive this side of John Mayer? Will Henry Kaiser jump out of the box and grab the wang bar whilst playing metal music? Think of a description that makes you think of sweet tone, and this thing has had that description labeled on it by someone at one time or another. And of course, I just can’t stand the fact that there may be good tone out there that I haven’t heard. So as is my custom, I bought one.

With every intention to sell it. In fact, I listed it for sale before I even tried it out. Because I knew there was a very good chance that I would enjoy it in a somewhat frightening way, and I cannot afford $600. However, if you are able to wait a year on the Custom Tones waitlist, you can have this pedal for $445. Still a good deal of money, but when you think about the fact that this is a clean boost, overdrive, and solo boost pedal, all in one, that works out to about $150 per pedal. And I know a lot of us have drive pedals on our boards a lot more expensive than that. But for the inflated used prices, it is admittedly a bit of a stretch, and the unfortunate reason why I cannot keep this pedal. Unfortunate, of course, because it sounds lovely. Straight-up, lovely.

In a way, the Ethos is an amp in a box. The clean boost brings you very quickly into very decent Fender territory. It’s supposed to be Dumble territory, which is pretty much just really, really good-sounding Fender territory. For those of you who hate how many times I say Fender and all its derivations therein, feel free to stop reading now lest you want to hit me. Because this pedal allows you to take a good tube amp, and turn it into a bolder, rounder, more Fendery version of your tone. Both the clean boost and the overdrive. And it does a good enough job of giving you that tone whilst still reacting with your amp, that eventually, this will be on my board. Not only does it sound great, but it is extremely versatile and gives you lots of tone-stack options. Bright, modern/classic, rock/jazz, options on both channels. Plus a Classic/TLE switch for bass compression options, a master voicing switch allowing the pedal to work better with amps, and a mast hi cut knob that really works. It’s fantastic, and I will hack away to show you.

The Clean Tone

’96 G&L strat (also Tele switching options that are heard during the video)–>
Matchless HC30 (EF86 channel, lo input)–>
65 Amps cab (Celestion Blue mic’d)

Possible Biases

–I don’t really like the idea of amp-in-a-box pedals.

–I really needed to sell it, and hence did not want to like it.

–It looks super cool.

–I don’t know anyone who has one. That would make me cool, without having to actually practice, or even play the guitar whatsoever. ‘What’s that pedal?!’ Automatic talent.

The Demo

I should probably just never talk again. But the pedal…in my humble opinion…brilliant. Well done, Custom Tones. (Thanks, Ken.) I’ve seldom had that much fun playing a pedal.

The Good

–Tone. Awesome. Some would say ‘tone for days.’ They would be correct, but also annoying. So I don’t say it. I choose ‘Fendery’, as people have been kind enough to point out. ;) Also, ‘super cool’, and someone has even noted hearing me say ‘flatier.’ :)

–Allows you to still have your tone, but shaped or stacked differently. Extremely versatile, and doesn’t cause you to lose your base tone.

–Many switching options.

–Three pedals in one.

–Can be powered by its own adapter, the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2+, or even by battery.

–Deceptively small.

–Hand-etched serial number. Best-sounding serial number ever.

The Bad

–No control over the boost setting, but it reacts surprisingly well to wherever your overdrive is set.

–Always a pretty saturated overdrive tone…not great for real low gain sounds, unless I suppose you manipulate the jazz setting.

–Can’t really think of much else. Price perhaps, but if you by direct instead of used, $150 per ‘pedal’ really isn’t that bad.

The Verdict

Can’t justify it now, but will probably get on the list. One of the best things about this pedal is that Custom Tones does not charge you upfront. You pay when your pedal is ready, according to the site.

Custom Tones website

In the words of Tobias, ‘It’s a wonderful pedal!’

It sure is.
Karl.

P.S. If this is a little too rich for your blood, then stay tuned, because I’m currently editing two demo’s of two pedals I am keeping…one was $30, and the other was $15. Price does not always equal tone. But sometimes it does.

Pchew! Psschew! (That’s the Sound of the Bullets)

  • Boss OD1!! I’ve wanted one for so long, and it has not disappointed. How can such a bad sound, sound so good. Mmmm. Like 1994 in a box. :D
  • My Valvulator went out last week. As it is now unacceptable to me to play without it, I drove to Placentia the next day to pick up a new one, and almost bought an oversized Orange 2×12 cabinet from the guy, too. Not because I need one. Because it was there and I like buying things, apparently.
  • Thank you to everyone who has bought or listened to the Christmas EP, and not unloved me for using this blog to promote my music. I mean, I know it’s my blog and everything, but you can’t really use those types of posts in your church on Sunday, now can you. ;)
  • Every time I like a pedal, I want two of them. You’d think I wouldn’t be so lazy that I can’t bend over and change settings. Nope!
  • I’ve told too many people about the Guitar Center used section online and in stores. It just keeps getting better and better. You’re welcome. My new G&L and OD1 were almost stolen from there.
  • Mmm…strats.
  • Mmm…Les Paul’s.
  • Mmm…that mixed one that The Killers guitarist who looks like Robert Plant plays.
  • The spillover on my Blue Sky shut itself off. I had to reset it. More proof that Strymon is Skynet, and I will gladly welcome their ruling fist of oppressive tone. Sweet, sweet tone.
  • Should basic human rights be given up for tone? Yes.
  • I don’t really want to post this, but YouTube is uploading my Ethos demo really slowly, and I know I haven’t posted in a while. So sorry. For not posting, for this post, basically for my existence. Stole that from Will Arnett. Always a good idea.
  • I never liked JAG.
  • People are cool, but not all the time.
  • Churches feel like 1950 all over again, just with white triangle sails instead of stained glass windows.
  • I still like ‘O Praise Him.’ Worst ballet intro ever, but great melody, and people actually sing it. As opposed to a lot of songs I’ve seen played in church. I think we should care more about that. ‘Sing it out, church!’ But sadly, they can’t. It’s in Db, and sounds like Dweezil Zappa wrote the melody but never used it because he thought it was too weird.
  • I’m just kidding. Halfway. Okay, two thirds.
  • I’ve seen so many churches and Christians doing grass roots, unorganized outreach this Christmas, though. I really like that!! I’ll take a dozen unsingable melodies for a couple of those.
  • Speaking of which, I should probably go do something like that instead of reading that wonderful Freekish Blues thread on Gear Page for the fourth time today. Bye folks! See ya when the demo is uploaded, and hopefully I’ve done at least one good thing out of love for God besides just talking about it all the time. Feels good to talk about it, and somehow makes it feel real. But it’s not. Real is more difficult. And almost always, more difficult is better. Man, I talk a lot.

Splendid.
Karl.

Christmas Music EP

Christmas is like, my absolute favorite time of year. It’s like for one month, people are suddenly a little bit more okay with being warm, cheerful, and perhaps a little bit more corny in the best way possible. And this year, now that I actually have an outlet, I celebrated by having a ton of fun and recording a Christmas EP.

Now, normally I don’t take an entire post on this blog to talk about my musical endeavors; I try to sneak it in subtly to posts about Boss OD1′s, so that you don’t become angry and there’s not a hostile takeover by Strymon fans. ;) (And by the way, I picked up a used OD1 for $30 at Guitar Center…Japan black label and all…and it sounds terrible and glorious all at the same time.) But I’m breaking that rule this time for two reasons. One is because Christmas is so near to my heart, that recording these songs really was an act of worship. And two, because in the spirit of love this year, half the proceeds from not only this EP, but from all my music during the month of December, is going to families in need this Christmas. Ambient pads album included, as well as the two free projects, for those of you who are super kind and actually pay for them even though they are free. You know who you are, and I love you. In fact, when you feel strangely warm embraces in the middle of the night, that’s me hugging you with my mind. But I think this is going to become a tradition, to release this EP with maybe a couple new songs added each year, and to give half the proceeds from all music I have out go to folks who need it. Here’s the link to the album on Bandcamp:

http://karlverkade.bandcamp.com

So here’s a couple of the new songs. There are three original pieces, and three traditional songs (public domain) with new arrangements. And fair warning…I just kind of wrote what was in my heart without paying too much mind to style. So apologies to those of you looking strictly for the ambient genre; it’s a little different than that. But it was a joy to record it.

That one is very textural, and I actually like the sporadicness of it and how nothing seems to quite fit until about halfway through the piece. Kind of feels like a kid on Christmas, or maybe the first Christmas. And yes, I got a G&L. It’s a ’96, and it’s brilliant. My local Guitar Center all of a sudden just has a ton of used gear, and good stuff too. And at amazing deals. I saw this guitar, recognized it as a real one, and played it through a not so great amp. And I literally have never bonded with a guitar that fast. Haven’t even changed the strings yet. lol Heresy. So if you see tremolo pedals, speakers, drive pedals, delays, etc. on the Gear Page emporiums under my name in the next few days, this guitar is why. Because I do not have the money for it, and I’m so not going to sell it. hehe It’s also this strat on the ‘O Holy Night’ rendition on the EP.

That one is actually just the camera mic for the audio, but it is the actual recorded take of ‘First Snow.’ What happened is that right at about the 3 minute mark, the camera fell off it’s secure perch leaning over the cabinet propped downward by The Joshua Tree book. But I was doing kinda good on the take (very few clunkers ;) ), so I just kept going, and then turned the video into a quick promo for the EP a couple weeks ago. But that’s all the video of ‘First Snow’ that there is. lol And that’s all Timeline reverse delay.

Okay, this next one is very much not ambient. Sorry. It’s like Ireland with a faux choir and about 37 layered guitar tracks. I kind of like it though. :)

The World in Green & Red by Karl Verkade

There is also a version of ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ on this project, and that song is really the heart of Christmas for me. The lyrics are a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written on Christmas Day, after his wife had passed, and he had just received a letter that his son had died in the war. It’s a very emotional piece, and when looked at the lyrics in the light they were written, with the conclusion Longfellow comes to, it’s a very emotional song for me.

So once again, if you’d like to get the EP and/or help me out, support local music, listen to Strymon pedals, help me buy a trem pedal more expensive than the $15 Danelectro which was actually used on this EP…basically whatever I can say to get you to click the link, here ya go. ;) It’ll be available until January 1st.

http://karlverkade.bandcamp.com

So guys and gals, in all seriousness, thanks for reading. Thanks for the support, and thanks for listening. Thanks for not judging posts solely about my music. (Hopefully. ;) ). And I hope you all have the best Christmas you’ve ever had.

Lastly, a little one take with the Prairiewood:

Splendid.
Karl.