Church Secret Shoppers & Humility

So, some sidebar on some site sent me down one of those internet rabbit holes, and I came out the other side of the mirror reading about church secret shoppers. And I remembered…I was totally secret-shopped (that sounds…odd) at my old church! Now, my disclaimer here: this was almost five years ago, about one year before I started this blog. Which, of course, by that time I was the consummate, professional, would-be-Christian-radio-staple-multi-platinum-win-all-the-dove-awards-away-from-DC-Talk-if-only-I-weren’t-so-humble artistic wonder you see before you now. If they secret-shopped me at a service today, they’d be on the phone with Capitol Records in an instant, floored by a worship leader who copies U2. Yep, I like to keep on the cutting edge (hehe) of church culture. For those of you who don’t know, there’s this thing…you’ve probably never heard of it…called dotted 8th’s… 😉

Anyway, the year was 2007, and this is how wonderfully the worship experience I was leading touched this guy:

“As I was reading through the bulletin the band began to play and I have to tell you that the music was so loud I actually was startled in my chair. The music was fast and the genre was Rock. In fact, the worship leader said something to the effect, “we are a rockin’ church!” The graphics on the projection screen definitely fit well with the music. It was a combination of fast moving “screen saver” type images. When I sang I noticed that I couldn’t even hear my own voice. “

That’s right. If it doesn’t sound good, turn it up. This was more than likely at the time when I was running stereo into two fully cranked 30 watt amps, with a third 40-watter cranked for the pads, all in a small school rec room with no sound treatment. Oh yes. And here’s the link, if you’d like: Karl gets secret-shopped and failed. I remember the week after it happened, as staff meeting. And everyone was so kind and was like, ‘Oh, he just isn’t used to your style’, or, ‘What a jerk.’ And I was like, ‘Ya…nope.’ It really was that bad that day. haha

As a side note, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about church secret shopping. I get that it can give a good perspective on things like, are your visitors getting greeted, did the music tear people’s ears out, etc. But some of the things these guys grade on, or so I read, are the painted parking lot lines, the dust in the corner of the bathroom, the temperature…and I guess I’m just not so sure how I feel about that. On the one hand it’s good because we do want to show love to people and be kind with how we set up our church, but at the same time, I can totally see this stuff breeding a culture where the church starts majoring on the minors. And we’ve all been to the churches with bathrooms we wouldn’t mind living in, but pastors whose messages hint that perhaps they spent their whole week obsessing over staffing the bathroom cleaning crews, rather than studying. But then again…haha I guess it’s just one of those things where I think, ‘Cool idea! Wait…’

But in the end, I failed, and totally deserved it. Also, my score is the lowest of any church he reviewed. 😀 Yay for me. It’s good to get that perspective every once in a while. Humility is a good thing, and those of you who may be like me and struggle with it…it’s good to seek it out like this…sometimes. And even though this particular instance was years ago, I also secret-shopped myself (what?) the other day by listening back to a recording of last week’s service at my new and current church, and I didn’t score much better. 😉

Ah, humility.



I’ve heard this many times before, but just a last month I read it on Alanis Morissette’s website (yes, I go to Alanis Morissette’s website), and it’s made a huge impact on how I’ve lived this past month.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Not something we don’t know, especially those of us who make a case for ourselves following the path of Jesus, but definitely something I don’t live.

And while we’re on it, here’s a clip from a concert I ran across after church one night when I was 19, and Jason Orme’s (the guitarist on stage left…okay I’ll stop trying to be cool with my awesome knowledge of high school geek stage terms…the guitarist with the Les Paul) tone and minimalistic style helped to change my life and shape me into the U2-ripoff that I proudly am today.

Notice the Matchless/Divided by 13 duo he is playing through. And note the size of both guitarist’s pedalboards. I know for a fact that neither of these guitarists have since switched to X3’s, M13’s, or Axe-FX. (No I don’t.)


Klon Centaur Blind Shootout

(Centaur shootout.)

The Klon Centaur is the Dumble of pedals. It’s aftermarket value is about 500% of what they sold for originally, and while some herald it as the overdrive played by warrior guitar poets of old, others maintain that it is a buzzier version of the Digitech Bad Monkey. So I set to find out. And since I cannot afford one (too many delay purchases in the last…well, all the time), Dan at Maple Neck was kind enough to send me his to demo out.

The Format

Blind shootout, then a demo of the Klon. Can your ears tell the $1400 difference?

The Players

–Klon Centaur (silver horsey-man version, with a serial number that pre-dates the gold horsey versions)
–Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire
–Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 (to be fair, works better as a boost to drive then as a drive itself)
–Fulltone Fatboost v.1

The Base Tone

–Prairiewood Hardtop with Wolfetone Dr. V pickups–>
–Matchless HC30 with EF86 channel used–>
–65 Amps 2×12 cab with 30 watt Scumnico mic’d up

Possible Biases

–I really didn’t play through the Klon that much prior to this demo.
–I really, really didn’t want to like the Klon because it’s doubtful that I’ll ever be able to justify buying one.

The Demo

And there you have it. And this time, unfortunately, the expensive pedal sounds…fantastic. I so wanted this pedal to be all hype. And it is so definitely not.

The Good

Maybe the most transparent EQ section ever. As in, ever. Tone at 12 o’clock, and it’s your clean tone driven. Wow. And the range on the gain in incredible. From total clean boost/preamp, to a pretty distorted drive. And the warmth and body is to die for…or rob a bank for, I guess. I have no idea what fizziness people are talking about. It’s big and robust. It also has one of the coolest mythological creatures ever on it, outside of a liger.

The Bad

It’s pretty big for three knobs. But that just makes it beautiful. It’s stupid expensive until Bill finally makes them available again. Yes, I know they’ve been ‘kloned’. Feel free to open that box again in the comments. 😉 Other than that, it’s all good. Said 1997.

The Verdict

I almost faked my death so that I didn’t have to send this back to Dan. It was quite amazing. That being said, the much cheaper and more obtainable Holy Fire really held its own, and I liked it better in a couple of the applications. So, good tone is possible, without a Klon. But unfortunately, it’s also so very, very possible with a Klon.

Alright folks, I’m off for my anniversary, so I won’t be around here for a few days. I tried to get to all the tone questions in my email, Gear Page, Facebook, and YouTube inboxes, but I failed. So I’m sorry to not have that all taken care of all that before I disappear. But feel free to comment and debate Klon’s and Klone’s and who gave whom permission to clone what was basically a clone of a tubescreamer anyway because all circuits are the same so let’s just steal people’s stuff because it’s all only really stealing from Ibanez anyway who is just a big corporation that steals from us in the first place with their price gouging TS808 reissues that don’t even have the correct RC4558 chip that everyone knows is absolutely essential for any type of good music to ever come out of a guitar amp, provided that amp is rare, handwired, and has a plentiful supply of lattice-soaked crystals. 😉 See you all in a few days!


Scumnico, Twin Peaks, & David Gilmour

  • So…practice helps.
  • Been watching Twin Peaks and it is fantastic. In the weirdest way possible.
  • I need more fuzz pedals, preferably ones that keep my David Gilmour fantasy alive. Thanks, Dan. 😉
  • And by David Gilmour fantasy, I mean the one where David Gilmour and I are at Disneyland together and he turns to me and says, ‘You are David Gilmour now. Also, it’s 1970 again.’ And then we ride Space Mountain on the day it came out, and Karl and I put our hands in the air, and there is much rejoicing.
  • The best part of that dream is that I don’t have to change my clothes for 1970, because 2012 is basically just reincarnated 1970. Although, when you see hipsters on Super Bowl commercials, you know the style is on its way out. Or maybe it’s even more ironic now that the subversive style has become so subversive that it has subverted culture and now is no longer subversive? It’s all very confusing to me.
  • I’m hoping that whatever style comes next will allow me to wear slap-wraps again.
  • I have barely even looked at a new amp in two and a half years. So, buying a Matchless has actually saved me thousands of dollars in shipping costs.
  • Scumnico 30 watt. All the good parts of a Celestion Blue with a little more depth and headroom.
  • I want an El Capistan. Wow, that didn’t take long. The Timeline is great, but it’s just…how do you say it…oh ya…more than two weeks old. 😉
  • It’s actually really hard to play good, solid, rhythm guitar.
  • I think for us guitarists, soundwaves literally do something physical to our bodies.
  • Man, I can’t wait to go play guitar!! Just gotta finish writing about it here, and then go check 15 websites and message boards so that I can know if I am allowed to like my tone or not.
  • Okay! Five minutes of playing is done. Now to check all my message boards posts and facebook updates and see if anyone responded!!
  • Strats are highly underrated.
  • I think I’ve found the secret to good tone: have two of everything. Because our ears are so blasted inconsistent. So when I hate the overdrive I loved yesterday, I just play a different overdrive today. And when I love the guitar I hated that I loved the day before, I just play the other one. So basically the secret to tone is fooling your own mind. ‘Tone-foolery.’ Instead of ‘Tom-foolery.’ And I immediately regret that decision.
  • Just filmed a demo of a pedal that I wanted very much to be hype. And it was not.
  • And lastly…we reintroduced ‘How Deep the Father’s Love for Us’ at church these last few weeks, and I have been reminded why I started leading worship in the first place. And it wasn’t tone, or lights, or chords, or blogs, or stages, or gear. It was just Jesus.



I have no words. But rest assured, I will say some anyway.

Promulgating the old Christian stand-by of building a wall around ourselves and keeping everyone else out by pelting them with self-aggrandizing and condescending propaganda, and then congratulating ourselves on witnessing?

Or just a chain reaction of very, very (very) unfortunate decisions?

I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt. There was probably a good heart behind it; it just got swallowed up by the early ’90’s. Like Uncle Jesse’s hair. And nuns teaching gangbanger children to rap. And I must admit, I loved all those things in the ’90’s, and there’s a part of me that still does. Plus, Geoff, you rocked the high part in ‘evo…LUUUU…tion’, so you’re okay in my book. 😉

Also, I will wear that vest and I will play that solo.


P.S. Okay, I lied. It’s not just a part of me. Every fiber of my being loves Uncle Jesse’s hair, and I want to watch Sister Act 2 tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on how wonderful it will be. And also if I decide to grow a mullet again. And if I do, it won’t be for irony. It will be for love.