This is another in my series of ‘How To Sound Like…’ columns from Mixdown Magazine. These columns are fairly general, to give tips on how to get a particular sound without necessarily buying the same gear as a particular player or band.
Muse’s Matt Bellamy is a renowned gadget tweaker, and his custom Manson guitars are filled with all sorts of goodies, including Z Vex Fuzz Factory pedals, MIDI controllers for Digitech Whammy Pedals, Ibanez Edge Pro floating bridges, and all sorts of other mischievous machines of mayhem. Yet despite all the exclusive gadgetry, there are ways of copping the essence of Bellamy’s tone without buying up a whole guitar store effects department and shoehorning it into a boutique custom made axe.
One way of getting Matt’s sound is to use several cascading medium gain stages, rather than one ultra-distorted sound from just an amp or just a pedal. Try plugging an overdrive or distortion pedal into a valve amp, and set the gain or drive controls on each to around halfway. If your pedal has a single tone control, see what happens when you sweep it from minimum to maximum setting. You may hear a sound which is almost like a phaser, as the pedal’s tone clashes with that of the amp, especially towards the higher end of the tone control’s travel. Sometimes this can yield some really cool new sounds, but they may be a bit too grating for a full song, and are best used for effect. Back down around 9 o’clock or so on the pedal’s tone control, there often lurks a sweep spot which enhances midrange while taming treble ever so slightly, and makes the overall sound more complex, thick and reactive. You might even like to try adding a compressor or using several distortion or overdrive pedals at once, all at lower gain settings.
Bellamy is not shy about cranking the midrange to emphasise a solo or melodic section, such as that snaking melody in “Plug In Baby.” One way of doing this is to use a graphic or parametric equalizer. Another, far cheaper way is to simply turn your guitar’s tone knob all the way down. With a clean sound, this will usually just muffle the tone. With a distorted one, you’ll get a round ‘honk’ which almost sounds like a wah wah pedal left in a stationary position. The effect is even more powerful if you’re using a Strat-style guitar with a separate tone control for the middle pickup. Combining the wide open bridge pickup with a tone-tweaked middle pickup retains the high end and pick attack while still giving you that bold, vocal midrange quality, and can make it sound like the guitar is feeding back, but completely controllable.
As for the whammy pedal freakouts, you can either fork out for a Whammy pedal, or you can simulate the effect by wearing a ring or one of those tiny half-sized slides on one of your picking hand fingers, and whizzing it up and down the strings. With a little patience you’ll be able to play melodies and accurately drop down on pitches which would be otherwise out of the range of a regular guitar.
I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging over Christmas, but if anyone needs me I’ll still be checking my email every day. But don’t fear! I’ve written a few articles that will be automatically published over the next few days, so there’ll still be something new to read if you’re desperate for new content.
For quite a while I’ve felt that Godin guitars are one of the best kept secrets in the guitar world. It seems they’ve always been in music stores, but with the exception of John McLaughlin and Steve Stevens, you never really see them in the hands of too many players.
The Redline 2 features a super fast 24-fret rock maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, silver leaf maple body and 2 active EMG humbuckers (neck: EMG-85 / bridge: EMG-81).
The Redline 3 is also loaded with active EMG humbuckers and is available with a maple or rosewood 22-fret fingerboard and a Floyd Rose tremolo bridge.
The Redline HB fmodel eatures a rock maple neck with 22-fret rosewood fingerboard and Godin design GHN-1 and GHB-1 humbuckers.
All of these models will be available in various colours and flame tops.
Visually, the Redline series kinda reminds me of ESP’s Jon Donais (Shadows Fall) models, and that’s good news for players who like the general vibe of Donais’ ESPs, but don’t want to play a signature guitar, and might want the option of a Floyd Rose.
I’ve been embarking on a bit of a jazz discovery kick lately, so it’s perfect that I discover Razl, or Raúl Huelves, at this point in my musical journey. We were originally put in touch by Bryan Beller after I interviewed him, and Razl sent me his amazing CD, Rotonova, to check out. The music is funky, varied, passionate, always interesting, and is packed with emotion and groove. The cover art is also awesome (who doesn’t love robots?), winning the immediate approval of my 2-year-old, which is always a good sign cos he has impeccable taste.
PETER: Why do you play guitar? What was it about the guitar that drew you in?
RAZL: I remember well when I got a guitar in my hands for the first time. I think there was an old classic guitar in the basement of the Pharmacy where my father used to work, it had several cracks and it had almost no strings. One day, my father showed up with that thing when my brother in law happened to be around. He played a couple of Dire Straits and Eric Clapton songs and right there and then he draw a simple guitar method. Then I went to my room and stayed there the whole day practicing. Two days later I called him for more material, since I had already learnt the two songs.
PETER: So where did you go from there? What was your next guitar after the cracked-up classic? And did you take formal lessons?
RAZL: The next guitar after the classic “thing” was a red strat from korea, I don´t know the brand. Few years later I had to sell that guitar to buy a better one, and at that moment I knew how I loved that axe! I took some formal lessons from time to time, but I consider myself as a self-taught guitar player because all that I really know about playing, I learnt it from the music that I listened to the albums that I loved.
PETER: How was the album recorded? It sounds very live and real.
RAZL: Rotonova has tracks that I wrote a really long time ago. Groovin Ants has been in my head for several years but others like Glow Pig just came out while I was recording the album. It¹s quite complicated to gather all musicians at the same time, especially if their names are Mike Keneally or Dean Brown and live a thousand miles away from you. Some of the musicians recorded their part when they were on a tour in Spain or just visiting and others did that in their home studios or studios they liked. In order to keep the live and real touch, I tried not to give many instructions about what each of them had to do, just simple guidelines so they could feel as free as possible and leave room for improvisation, which was the main ‘directive.’
PETER: I like how you start the album with Glow Pig, and finish it with Glow Sheep it’s like a book-end either side of the album. I find that it makes me want to go back to the start and listen again.
RAZL: Well I like that you have noticed that because that’s really what I tried to get. I’ve always liked albums that tell a story, like when you read a book. For many years I¹ve followed symphonic or progressive rock bands and one of the things I liked the most was to ‘read’ the music, so to speak. I just had to listen to the albums from the begging to the end because listening to just one track meant losing the meaning the album had for me. Obviously Rotonova doesn’t have anything to do with those bands musically but I think this perception has somehow remained in my brain and subconsciously the album took that ‘reading’ feel.
RAZL: I’m a fan of the organ sound, I love the way it naturally integrates itself in the sound of a band and it’s especially amazing when it¹s a trio band. I’m a big admirer of music with a big presence of organ, especially funk and blues. I love Medeski, Martin & Wood and their aggressive sound, dirty and elegant at the same time. I¹m actually listening to the last Stanton Moore trio album right now and it’s brilliant. Since I discovered the Rotosphere pedal (that simulates a Leslie amplifier) it has become part of my sound, it gives the guitar a great expression. It also has been one of the main sounds of Charlie Hunter for many years. From my point of view, Charlie took a giant step in guitar expression with his way of playing, extraordinary.
PETER: What was Jungle Karma influenced by? I like the way that the nice ringing notes are balanced out by fast little runs it has a very effective use of space.
RAZL: Jungle Karma is one of the most complex tracks in the album. It also has a complex story since I wrote parts of it a long time ago, while others I just improvised when I recorded the album. It’s influenced by some Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Erik Truffaz bits and pieces, especially when it comes to rhythm. I love what you have mentioned about the use of space, especially in more contemporary tracks when there is a dialog between the main player and the drummer that I particularly admire. It’s really incomparable.
PETER: The album features guest appearances by Bryan Beller and Mike Keneally. What was it like working with them? Are you a long-time Mike Keneally fan?
RAZL: To be honest, I still can’t believe that these incredible musicians have participated in my album. I thought of it at the beginning of the project in a very naive way and then I saw that all of them were delighted to accept the invitation. I obviously liked their professionalism and how easily they understood my suggestions but most of all, I saw that they were all really great guys. In fact, I had been a fan of Mike for many years, he has always been one of my favourite musicians since he has many of the qualities I like in a guitarist: his unique sound, his sense of humour at the guitar and the ability to move in very different styles but always making them his.
RAZL: Wow! This is a very difficult question because there’s a lot of favorite Keneally songs for me. I think that maybe the album that contains the great majority of favorite Keneally songs is ‘Dancing.’ I love that album from the beginning to the end, and it’s very special for me because it was very hard for me to find it here in Spain. So once I had it in my hands I felt very happy.
PETER: What guitars do you use?
RAZL: The one I normally use, both in gigs and in the album, is the Carvin SC90. It has a spectacular thick and percussive sound, and that goes perfectly with my finger-picking style. I also use the Gibson ES 137 Custom a lot, it has a more classic tone and it sounds incredible even if you plug it into a toaster.
PETER: What amplifiers and effects do you use?
RAZL: Through out the years I’ve been reducing my equipment to the minimum. I had a really awful period when I had to set up a thousand pedals, effect processors and stuff like so after the concerts I ended up being really pissed at the end because something had gone wrong. At some point I decided to get rid of all that and I¹m happy now just plugging my Carvin to my Fender Blues Deville 4×10 amplifier, my pedal H&K Rotosphere and my wha-wha Carl Martin.
PETER: How did you develop your style? It’s very complex, yet natural and relaxed.
RAZL: Well, I’m not sure if it’s complex but it’s certainly relaxed. I really like the natural sound and that¹s why I started to leave my pickup behind and play only with my fingers. That has given me the expressive qualities that I was looking for. You find a great deal of nuances playing like that and for some reason it enlarges my vision of the fretboard. I’m still investigating finger-picking possibilities although always turning them into my style.
I wrote this one a while ago (the main riff popped into my head while I was strolling around the Melbourne showgrounds between bands at the Big Day Out in about 2004), and I’ve recorded a few versions of it. This one is from about March 2008 I think, but I’m not 100% happy with it yet and I’m sure I’ll rerecord it again some day. This version has been on my Myspace for a while but I always thought the mix sucked, so this morning I whipped up a new mix which tamed some of the harshness of the rhythm guitars, and opened up the dynamics a bit.
This song originally had lyrics, but I never planned to actually sing it myself, so the lead guitar is the vocal melody. We used to play it in my old prog band, The Silent Age, and I played it to a backing track at Shredfest in 2007.
Most of the guitar parts were played on an Ibanez RG7420 with Dimarzio Tone Zone bridge pickup and Blaze neck pickup, but there’s also one track of my homemade Telecaster with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder pickups in the background of a few parts. I used Amplitube 2 for amp modelling, and an Ibanez TR series 5 string bass. Drum sounds are from Toontrack’s Drumkit From Hell Superior.
The ever-awesome Mike Keneally has just released the SCAMBOT Holiday Special as a free bonus for shoppers at his website, or as a $5 download.
If you buy $50 worth of merchandise f you’ll receive a free copy of the limited edition CD-R, The SCAMBOT Holiday Special. Now the SCAMBOT Holiday Special is available as an instant download for only $5 at MooseMart. (The only way to get the physical CD-R hand signed by Mike is still to by $50 worth of MK stuff at MooseMart.)
According to Mike’s latest website update…
ABOUT THE SCAMBOT HOLIDAY SPECIAL
Two days ago (Dec. 4) was the fifteenth anniversary of Frank Zappa’s passing. I’ve been obsessively listening to his music in the car for several months without being specifically conscious of the upcoming significance of Dec. 4, but when I realized yesterday what day it was, I was struck by how strongly Frank’s presence has been exerting itself in my life lately. Sending out strong love and gratitude to Frank right now.
Possibly as a result of all that, I think he had an unusually strong influence on the construction of The SCAMBOT Holiday Special, but I also feel strong echoes of Firesign Theatre in it, and of Brendon Small’s work on Home Movies. And also, very specifically, the influence of variety TV shows from the ’60s to the present. So that’s a little listing of some of the influences on this insane little thing.
This is an interesting little holiday presentation which I’ve written and produced here. It’s about fourteen-and-a-half minutes long; five tracks, with tracks 1, 3 and 5 acting as framing devices for tracks 2 and 4, which are full-length studio recordings of the songs “Holiday Face” and “Salve-Dependent Scorpions.”
“Holiday Face” is a new acoustic instrumental recording done specifically for this CD. It reminds me compositionally of “Thanksgiving” but has an even more intimate studio vibe than that song, and I tracked it with Mike Harris engineering at Chatfield Manor. Me on all instruments: two acoustic guitars, bass, organ, tambourine and other percussion. Bunch of vocals and a wah-clavinet solo at the end that I’m really happy about.
“Salve-Dependent Scorpions” is an alternate take of an instrumental piece from the upcoming multi-volume work SCAMBOT. The basic track was recorded on analog tape by Tom Trefethen, and has me on Hammond organ, Rick Musallam on electric guitar, Bryan Beller on bass and Joe Travers on drums. (This was, surprisingly to me, the first studio session of the Guitar Therapy Live version of the Keneally Band.) Later at Chatfield Manor we overdubbed two takes of Evan Francis on alto sax, and two takes of me on lead guitar. The version which will be on SCAMBOT will be entitled “The Scorpions” and will feature such completely different guitar and sax performances that it’s essentially another composition. Have to admit to a strong Frank influence on the guitar performance.
Tracks 1, 3 and 5 of the The SCAMBOT Holiday Special (“The Quest,” “The Swordfight” and “The Owl”) are twisted little combinations of electronic music done on a Moog, other added effects, and dialogue/narration/singing which advances a peculiar narrative (I originally wrote it as part of the actual SCAMBOT album-slash-comic book story continuity). I couldn’t find a way to wedge it into SCAMBOT comfortably, but it now forms the conceptual backbone of this Holiday Special. It’s in these short segments, which illustrate a surreal imaginary late-’60s television holiday special about a quest of some kind, that the Firesign and Brendon influences come to the fore, but there’s also some heavy Lumpy Gravy and Läther influence in there. I can’t help it, sorry.
The CD-R was mastered by Scott Chatfield at the Manor, and served up fresh to those of you who wisely choose to treat themselves and/or their loved ones to fifty bucks worth of quality Moosemart merchandise (a copy each of the hat. and Boil That Dust Speck special editions, for instance, and you’re already there. Just saying).
I downloaded it the other day and I freaking love it, plus it’s totally awesome to have a preview of sorts for the monumental SCAMBOT project.
The video comparison of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ and Joe Satriani’s ‘If I Could Fly’ has been yanked off YouTube at the request of Coldplay’s record label, who obviously wish to downplay the similarities ahead of the plagiarism case heading to court.
Maybe Coldplay will get lucky and Satch’s legal team will forget to play the two songs to the jury.
Thomann has now updated their website with a photo of the Ibanez AT100CL-SB, the newly reissued Andy Timmons signature guitar which will be out in 2009.
In a posting on the Seven String forum, an Ibanez representative has announced that in 2009 Ibanez will unveil two new 7 string guitars.
The only hints he’s dropped so far are that one will be a 7 string RG Prestige with a trem bridge and a maple fretboard, and that neither of the new guitars will be in the RGA (arched top) range.
This is huge news because Ibanez have only ever released one maple fretboard 7 string, the UV777GR Universe, which was made in pretty limited numbers.
I’ll keep my eye out for further updates.
And no, the photo above isn’t a hint or a clue, I just needed a pic of a 7 string headstock, sorry!