NEWS: IK goes Insane with 4×1 promo when 3,500 join in

In yet further ‘awesome stuff waiting for me in my email when I wake up’ news, I saw this this morning from the folks at IK Multimedia.

(By the way, check out my reviews of AmpliTube Fender and AmpliTube 2)

IK goes Insane with 4×1 promo when 3,500 join in

Due to unprecedented user demand, we have decided to extend the current AmpliTube Power Group Promotion and give you up to 4 Powered by AmpliTube products for the insane price of 1 if 3,500 users join the promotion by December 31st!!!

So far over 2,700 users have joined-in by registering one of these:
* StealthPedal
* StealthPedal Deluxe
* AmpliTube 2
* AmpliTube 2 Crossgrade
* AmpliTube FenderTM
* Ampeg® SVX
* AmpliTube Jimi HendrixTM
* AmpliTube Metal

And has helped each other receive 2 of these absolutely FREE:

* AmpliTube 2 Crossgrade
* Ampeg® SVX
* AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix
* AmpliTube Metal

Now, when 3,500 users join in, everyone will be able to choose an additional title from the above AmpliTube products for FREE or choose one of these cool additional products:

* T-RackS 3 Standard
* SampleTank 2 L
* Miroslav Philharmonik CE

This is 4×1, equivalent to savings of 75%!

Help yourself and thousands of other users to get an incredible deal by joining in and spread the word to your friends!

NEWS: Mike Keneally’s Scambot 1 ships next week!

Mike Keneally’s been one of my favourite guitarists for, jeez, about 12 years now. After seeing him live with Steve Vai in early 1997 I tracked down a copy of his debut CD ‘hat’ and that became the soundtrack of my year. A few months later I also got Boil That Dust Speck, and from then on have followed each new release (you totally have to hear ‘Sluggo!’, ‘Nonkertomph’ and ‘Wooden Smoke’).

Mike’s new CD, Scambot 1, begins shipping next week. Pre-orders have been open for a while and I can’t wait to get this album in my little mitts. You can order it from Moosemart. The following is an email update sent to Mike’s mailing list today.

Scambot 1 Starts Shipping Next Week!*

Yes! And to celebrate, I’m going to do a couple of live chats next week over at Chat #1 is Monday, Nov. 2, 8:00 pm East Coast time. Chat #2 is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 12:00 pm noon East Coast time.! Come chat with me!

Scott Chatfield sent me a small boatload of questions about Scambot; here’s my responses:

Q. In a nutshell, what is Scambot about?

A. Antagonistic consciousness manipulation, a/k/a soul control.

Q. Who did you write Scambot for?

A. Anyone who makes time to sit down with a good set of headphones and a clear head, and listen to an entire album from start to finish. I still love to listen to whole albums whenever I can. I think it’s a fantastic art form.

Q. When you began the project, did you have a clear vision of its direction, musically and narratively?

A. Not at all; it started as a drawing, a one-page comic strip continuity I drew in my sketchbook while I was working on Wooden Smoke in 2001. I made up this little character named Scambot, spontaneously drew his character design. He seemed grumpy, and he had a weird friend who felt compelled to loudly defend him against critics: “Scambot ain’t RONG!” he said. I showed it to Scott Thunes in 2003 and he shook his head and said “I don’t like it.” I realized then there was something intrinsic in the character of Scambot that made me need to rescue him, make SOMETHING interesting of him. Over time I developed this idea of simultaneously devising a narrative (which might possibly mutate into a comic strip or an animated cartoon or a stage presentation or whatever) alongside a set of new music which would be influenced by the narrative, and that new music would inspire further narrative work which might inspire me to draw new characters, etc. Each prong of the creative fork inspired the other prongs to further achievement. The final important component of creating Scambot was that I imposed no schedule pressures on the process; it would take shape at its own pace. I ended up releasing 6 or 7 other projects while working on Scambot, starting with the release of Wooden Smoke in 2001 to Wine And Pickles in 2008 – while I was putting together all of that stuff, Scambot was developing in the background, and finally in 2005 it became my primary concern. Enough music was created to form the foundation of three volumes of music, and the plotline was developing in a way which made me realize that I really wanted to take my time in telling the story as well. Instead of trying to complete the whole trilogy and release it as a set, it made obvious sense to release it in installments.

Q. Scambot 1 has some very accessible songs along with some of the most complex, layered music you’ve ever produced. How would you suggest that a listener approach this record?

A. With an open mind and an adventurous disposition. And feel free to pause every so often; it’s 67 minutes long, it’s a lot of music. Maybe take time to mentally “turn the side over” every 16 minutes. Or crank the whole thing loud from start to finish, whatever gets you off.

Q. Are the story and characters an integral part of Scambot’s music, or can story and music be enjoyed independently?

A. I discovered early on that I didn’t want the plot of Scambot to demand undue attention; the plotline and characters, ultimately, were a kind of ruse to inspire me to create different kinds of music. The story is a luxury – the point of the album is the way it sounds. I didn’t want to clutter it up with dialogue and exposition – it’s such an abstract story anyway, and it didn’t need to be spelled out letter by letter in the audio. The story – at least, the initial stab at it – is in the CD booklet for people who are interested, and it adds depth to the listening experience.

Q. Did the Scambot characters arrive in your imagination fully formed, or did they develop over time?

A. These are good questions! I sketch junk all the time, and most of the specific character ideas arrived after drawing them. What happens is a face or body shape will materialize in my mind – I’m not thinking about inventing characters or even of something to draw, necessarily – and I’ll quickly sketch it out. If it looked interesting, it was likely to be drafted as a Scambot character, and then I’d invent a backstory and a way to insert them into the plot. I just wanted to create something long-form and intriguing, and would accept input in any shape and form.

Q. Do you see the Scambot saga manifesting into other media in the future?

A. Oh yep. I have an urge to do a comic strip, heavily influenced by the 60s strip Odd Bodkins by Dan O’Neill. The plan is to present the strip online, running concurrently with the 3 albums as they’re released, and eventually collect the strips in a book once the whole trilogy has been released. I’d also be real delighted to see these characters animated. And eventually I will take some representation of this music to the stage, although I don’t think I’d consider a heavily narrative stage version until at least Scambot 2 has been released. But if possible (given other projects going on, including work on a second album of Steve Vai solo piano reductions, a collection of new songs co-written with Andy Partridge, and my touring as guitarist with the [adult swim] metal band Dethklok – the new album The Dethalbum II recently debuted at #15 on the Billboard pop chart, and as I write this we’re halfway through a six week tour with Mastodon, so there’s momentum for us to continue touring in 2010), I’d love to take an ensemble out next year to perform Scambot music. It won’t be easy to construct the instrumentation for a group that can do justice to all the textures and styles in the album, but it’ll be fun.

Q. I can’t count the number of times I walked into the studio to find you leaning back in a chair listening to mixes, headphones on, eyes closed, and a gigantic smile spread across your face. How do you feel when you listen to Scambot 1?

A. I imagine, exactly the way I looked then. I love it. But I also feel that the styles covered on this first volume have been thoroughly dealt with here, and that the next two albums will differ significantly in style. I envision Scambot 2 being much heavier and faster, and Scambot 3 as airy and slow.

Q. What were your most pleasant experiences making the record? Most difficult or frustrating?

A. I honestly can’t categorize my feelings what way. The whole experience is one huge pleasure blob to me and I’m very excited about continuing work on Scambot 2 (I’m targeting early 2011 for its release).

Q. How can the second disc from the Special Edition, Songs & Stories Inspired by Scambot 1, enhance a listener’s appreciation of Scambot?

A. First of all I want to be clear that the second disc of the Scambot 1 Special Edition is not Scambot 2 (which is about one-third recorded right now). Songs & Stories Inspired by Scambot 1 uses plot material which fits into the continuity timespan depicted on Disc One. Some of the songs were intended for the main disc but didn’t fit for time reasons. The majority of the material was created specifically for this disc, done very quickly and spontaneously, as a spasmodic, cathartic response to finally finishing the first disc after so many years. The raw approach of Disc Two contrasts the relative polish of Disc One and I think they work nicely together as a listening experience. Also, if you’re concerning yourself with the narrative as it appears in the CD booklet text, there are major tentpoles of the plotline which are fleshed out musically on Disc Two. So you would want the Special Edition in order to hear the whole story.

What else is up. The Dethklok tour roars onward. Tonight was a sold out gig in NYC (and I met David Cross backstage – I nearly swooned). Tomorrow night is Halloween in Washington DC. Seriously, see this tour if you can. We’re just over halfway through, you got plenty of chances. I hung out for most of the day with Paul Green, that was fun. I’ve got a couple of Cream Tribute gigs with Kofi Baker in early December. The guys in Mastodon are all outrageous and entertaining to hang with. And I’m completely deliriously sleepy right now.

Chat with me this Monday and Tuesday at!
OK! Nite nite!

Love, me: Mike

* Editor’s note about Scambot 1 shipping: Orders will begin to be filled next week in the sequence they were placed. Since there are hundreds of ’em, it will take several days to fill them all, so your patience and understanding is kindly beseeched.

Scambot 1 Standard Edition

Calling the first volume of Mike Keneally’s Scambot trilogy “ambitious” might be understating things a bit. For five years Mike held it close to his heart as his main project, employing nine engineers and many musicians at six studios.

“We devoted intense energy to every second of the album,” says Mike. “There is a plot, and a bunch of characters. The CD booklet contains a very long story I wrote which lays out all of the action. Musically speaking, it’s about two-thirds instrumental. It encompasses a little bit of straightforward-ish rock and pop, a lot of rigorous composition and arrangement, some obsessively intricate vocal and instrumental harmonies, some improvisation which has been orchestrated, some digitally-manipulated musique concrete, some purely uncategorizable stuff and, I think, some of the most interesting melodies I’ve come up with. It is a peculiar album but I think very satisfying as a journey, and emotionally it hits a lot of different moods.”

And here’s another clue for you all: Scambot 1, Mike adds, is “dedicated to anyone who still listens to entire albums with their headphones on.”

Scambot 1’s songs:

Big Screen Boboli
Ophunji’s Theme
Hallmark (see video HERE)
Tomorrow (download song for free HERE!)
Cat Bran Sammich Part 1
You Named Me
Cat Bran Sammich Part 2
Cold Hands
We Are The Quiet Children
The Brink
Life’s Too Small
Behind The Door

Scambot 1 Special Edition

The Scambot 1 Special Edition includes the complete Scambot 1 CD, plus a second 53-minute CD crafted by Mike entitled Songs & Stories Inspired by Scambot 1, all packaged in an attractive Atticus Wolrab-designed slipcover made of genuine cardboard. This Special Edition is made even more special because Mike is individually numbering and signing the first 3000 copies!

Here’s what Mike has to say about Songs & Stories Inspired by Scambot 1: “This is a very uncompromising album, with a lot of guitar improvisation, demanding sonorities, alien vocal textures, truly insane song structure and many crucial pieces of the Scambot plot continuity. Plus a very entertaining credit sequence. If you are intrigued by the conceptual world of Scambot, it’s heavily advisable to hear both albums.” The great majority of the music on Songs & Stories Inspired by Scambot 1 is unique to it; three of the pieces are remixes of songs from Scambot 1, plus one demo.

Songs & Stories Inspired by Scambot 1’s songs:

Ahmmm…Ms. Loring…
Tiny Red Bug
Tomorrow (Karaoke version)
It Begins
Hallmark Fantasia
Broken Chair
Saturate (demo version)
Some Crazy Mishap
The 3rd Eye
Hallmark (2006 acoustic album mix)

Scambot T-Shirt

The first commemorative Scambot T-shirt is a simple but elegant affair. As tradition dictates, it’s a black 100% cotton pre-shrunk heavy duty garment designed for years of Scambotian wearage. On the front is Mike’s white, orange and black rendition of Scambot himself, along with both of their names. Somewhat high upon the reverse side are the prophetic first words Scambot hears, from the song “Hallmark” (“What did you see? Can you remember?”), along with the web address. Clothes that ask gentle questions are a good thing, we think. It’s yet another Atticus Wolrab design, as if you didn’t know.

NEWS: Bill Ruppert’s Electro-Harmonix Effectology Halloween Show

The other day I received this email from the very talented Bill Ruppert:

I am writing to tell you of a new Effectology video I know your viewers would enjoy and have fun watching for Halloween. (This is the video series I do for Electro-Harmonix on how to produce “impossible” sounds using just a regular guitar and EHX effect pedals.)

Electro-Harmonix Effectology, Vol.9 Terrifying Effect Pedals.

In this episode I demonstrate how to frighten your family, friends and neighbors using just a regular guitar and Electro-Hamonix effect pedals!

Its great fun.

Wanna make these sounds yourself? Here’s Bill’s ‘How to’ on the EHX forums.

REVIEW: T-Rex Twister Chorus/Flanger

The idea of combining chorus and flanger in a single analog pedal isn’t exactly a new one: the two effects share mostly the same circuitry, and each can be coaxed into at least approximating the sound of the other (flangers are typically able to reproduce warm analog chorus sounds, while in my experience most chorus pedals can produce only a subtle flanging effect). But the T-Rex Twister adds a whole swag of options and additional functionality, further blurring the lines between the two effects, while also exaggerating the very things that make them different from each other.

Controls on the Twister include On/Off, Level, Depth, Regeneration, Tone, Rate, Chorus/Flanger, Light/Heavy, and a side-mounted, push-in/push-out input level control with an associated red LED, so you can tame down your ingoing signal for a cleaner, more hi-fi sound, or crank it up for some soupy, swirly warmth. There is a single input and twin outputs (stereo left and right). Power is via a battery (recommended only for emergency back-up purposes – I guess it eats up batteries pretty quickly like a lot of pedals of this ilk) or 9v adaptor.

I found myself drawn to several specific sounds with this pedal. One was a Gov’t Mule-inspired rotating speaker tone, achieved by selecting the chorus mode, cranking up the speed, staying in ‘Light’ mode and having Tone and Depth at around 3 o’clock each. This one was especially responsive to P90 pickups, and I wish I still had a Firebird so I could try it with mini humbuckers too, because I can just tell it would sound amazing.

Another sound I kept returning to was a Paul Gilbert flanger freakout, with the rate at 9 o’clock, Depth and Regeneration on full, and Heavy mode engaged. This sound was thick and metallic, with lots of shifting harmonics and pushing at the edge of feedback when used to drive distortion. It was especially satisfying to bend and hold notes on the wound strings, and let the pedal take over.

Finally, there were a lot of usable classic chorus sounds – nothing with quite the same amount of unique individuality of the other two settings described above, but still of a very high quality. A wide variety of sounds are available by varying the input gain and tone controls, from a bright, clean, funky 80s LA studio sound, to a warm, overdriven growl.

The T-Rex Twister is a very versatile pedal, and is able to swing from natural, soulful sounds to crisp, almost cold ones. It’s not just a chorus and a flanger: it’s studio-quality hi-fi and vingage-quality lo-fi versions of each. The stereo capabilities add a further layer of swirliness and usability, and the input gain control is a genius feature which I’d like to see incorporated in a lot more pedals. Ultimately you’ll either find one sound you’ll stick with for live use, or you’ll explore the Twister’s depth more fully in a studio setting, where it really comes to life.


REVIEW: IK Multimedia AmpliTube Fender

A little while back I reviewed IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 2, probably my most frequently-used program apart from Pro Tools. Well now I’ve got my paws on Ampltube Fender, which takes the basic AmpliTube premise and filters it through authorised reproductions of specific Fender amps.

Like AmpliTube 2, AmpliTube Fender’s interface is divided into five separate modules: Tuner, Stomp, Amp Head, Cab and Rack Effects. There are two series/parallel guitar rigs available with multiple routing options. This comes in especially handy when you want to combine a few clean amps, SRV-style. There are 12 amplifiers. 12 Cabinets, 9 Microphones, 9 Stomp Effects, and 7 Rack Effects.

There’s also a phrase trainer which allows you to import an audio track and change the speed while maintaining the pitch, or to change the pitch while maintaining the tempo, and a metronome. I really dig having such educational features built into such an already useful program. But the real good stuff here is the amp model set, so let’s look at those.

The Champion 600 is designed to have a little more gain than the original classic Fender practice amp, and it’s an amp of simple pleasures: One control (a volume knob), one power tube, one speaker. I like cranking this little baby up to meltdown levels and bashing out some Diamond Dogs-era Bowie. It really handles that brash, strummy, open chord aesthetic. It’s also great mixed in relatively low with another amp model to add a little extra something in the midrange.

The ’59 Bassman sounds tough and bright, with just the right punchy bass response and that glorious cutting treble. Plug in a single coil axe, wind the amp volume all the way up and pick with your fingers for some authentic 60s Chicago Blues power, or go easy on the volume for more restrained, subdued clean sounds that work really well with vintage-output humbuckers. Now, since this model doesn’t have an inbuilt reverb control, you could certainly be forgiven for pairing it with the Spring Reverb effect module, either before the preamp or in the effect rack. You might also like to try turning up the ambience control in the cab section. Careful use of this control is one of my secret weapons when using AmpliTube. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

I really dig the ’65 Twin Reverb model for shimmering clean humbucker tones, and for turning up to the edge of the grunt zone for a tougher vibe. IK Multimedia says this is a good amp for ‘accentuating the character of external stomp boxes, making it an incredibly versatile platform to build on,’ and I couldn’t agree more. I would highly recommend selecting this model to get to know each of AmpliTube Fender’s effects modules before you start adding them to other amps. Now, as a longtime AmpliTube user I like to use X-Gear to combine modules from different AmpliTube versions (I also have AmpliTube 2 and AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix), and I really enjoyed using my Telecaster with the Screamer overdrive pedal from AmpliTube 2 into a pair of virtual ’65 Twin Reverbs from AmpliTube Fender, with some nice tape echo effects to spread everything out a little. Those who have heard Tommy Emmanuel’s excellent but less-known electric work would especially dig the creaminess and breadth of this sound.

The ’57 Deluxe is another one that really comes to life with my Telecaster. Adding a little slap-back delay, I found this model great for snappy country riffage and rockabilly. I also turned up the volume and combined it with a very pushed Bassman model for some cool blues vibe via my old trusty Strat copy. Set up a two-amp rig like the Bassman/Deluxe combo, don’t be shy about the reverb, flip to a neck single coil, and tell me you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a Texas flood.

Speaking of Texas floods, the ’64 Vibroverb Custom model is based on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s own original Vibroverb as modified by the legendary Cesar Diaz. The amp model has the requisite Volume, Treble and Bass controls as well as a Bright switch, plus an effect section with controls for Reverb plus Speed and Intensity knobs for the vibrato circuit. There’s an on/off switch for turning the vibrato effect on and off, but hey, what’s this back over there next to the bass control? It’s a Mod/Stock switch based on Stevie’s amp. Flip the mod on and you get more gain and midrange grunt – great for kicking a single coil guitar up into the next level. I also had a lot of fun boosting AmpliTube’s guitar input level to really drive this model, somewhat akin to using a clean boost pedal with a valve amp. Try it out! This model – especially in mod mode – is also great for simulating Nuno Bettencourt’s ‘Waiting For The Punchline’ tone, if that’s your bag.

The ’65 Deluxe Reverb sounds a bit brighter and growlier than most of the other models in this batch. Edge up the input gain for some cool buzzy garage tones, and throw on a fuzz pedal model for good measure. I especially liked this one for shimmery indie tones, and in combination with the ’64 Vibroverb. Set one for more ambience than the other, play some choppy R&B chords, and you could lose a whole afternoon to the wall of sound that ensues.

The Vibro-King Custom is home to some browner classic rock tones, especially with the aid of a ‘FAT’ switch. It seems especially at home with humbuckers, but there’s something about its midrange that makes it great for clean-toned lead work as well. Crank up the reverb and some tape delay, reach for that whammy bar and you’re in Shadows territory.

Perhaps one of my favourite Fenders is the Super Sonic. I remember the first time I played through one – I was working at World of Music in Brighton East here in Melbourne, and the Fender rep told us about this killer new amp designed by Richie Flieger. If you don’t know that name, you damn-well should – Richie did some great work with Marshall and is known all-round as an amp guru. So a few weeks later when a Super Sonic head and cabinet arrived in the store, I excitedly hooked it up, dutifully opened the manual to the suggested settings, took a Fender John Mayer Stratocaster down from the wall, and proceeded to have my head blown away by the awesome toneliness. (Incidentally, if you get the chance, try out the Super Sonic combo too – it has an extra gain stage compared to the head version, and sounds even better – the AmpliTube model appears to be based on the combo, judging by the gainier tone and the picture of the combo version on the IK Multimedia website).

The Super Sonic has a clean channel designed to mimic the Fender Bassman and Vibrolux amps, as well as a high gain channel with two separate gain controls to really fine-tune the character and amount of distortion and saturation. Since AmpliTube Fender already captures some pretty awesome Bassman and Vibrolux sounds, the software model here focuses on the high gain channel. It’s quite uncanny how IK Multimedia has managed to reproduce all the things I love about the Super Sonic – thick growling top end, smooth round midrange, and a loose but not messy low end. Just like the real thing, the model is great for medium gain lead tones which clean up nicely with clever use of the guitar’s volume control, and some flat-out killer dirtied-up clean tones are lurking at the lower end of the gain range. Nobody should buy a Super Sonic to seek a death metal tone, and the model here is no different, but if you’re into the brighter, grittier end of the high gain spectrum there’s a lot to love about both the actual amp and the AmpliTube model.

Here’s a little blues clip with the Super Sonic model:

One of the amp models is something I haven’t yet tried in the real world – the MH-500 MetalHead. Good lord… if the real thing’s anything like the model, look out. This model in some ways represents the opposite of the Super Sonic’s tonal stamp: cutting treble, tight punchy bass, and solid midrange which can, of course, be scooped right out for the classic solid state death tone beloved of metal monsters everywhere, myself included. After a bit of tweaking, I started to notice some shared characteristics between this model and James Hetfield’s tone on Metallica’s ‘…And Justice For All’ album. The effect was enhanced with some craftily applied compression and by calling up a pair of MetalHeads panned left and right with slightly different EQ and gain settings, to simulate studio double tracking. How does it sound? Check it out for yourself here:

The lead sound that you’ll hear a little way in is also a pair of MetalHead models, once again panned left and right, this time with different delay and stationary wah settings on each. For the lead tone I was going for a Kirk Hammett ‘Ride The Lightning’ kind of sound. Oh and there’s no bass on this one, cos you can’t hear the bass on Justice… Hehe.

The Bassman 300 bass amp is extremely interactive and very addictive. Imagine two channels – clean and distortion – which can be used singularly or blended seamlessly. You can also independently compress the high and low end, engage a graphic EQ, bump up the lows and highs with separate switches, and, I dunno, pilot the International Space Station remotely. I have a 5-string Ibanez TR bass that I’ve never been overly happy with, but through the Bassman 300 it took on a great punchy fundamental tone with a heavily compressed Channel 1 (clean) in combination with a very musical graininess from Channel 2 (gain). The scoopable EQ and the fine-tuning abilities of the compressor make it good choice for slap and pop styles and it’s a killer model for blues, rock and metal.

The TBP-1 is an amp I’m quite familiar with via its sister amp, the TB-1200 head. Like the actual amp and preamp, this is a great all-round model, with a cool Tube Overdrive section and a tube-voiced Vintage Tube Tone channel. The AmpliTube model mimics the ‘cut only’ passive tone stack in the Vintage Tube Tone section, so this is a great one to enhance the quality of a great-sounding bass, rather than mask the shortfalls of a bad one. The Tube Overdrive section includes only Gain, Volume and Blend controls (for setting the ratio of Vintage and Overdrive channels), but further tone shaping is available with a smart semi-parametric EQ section. There’s also a Room Balance control which shifts the EQ to fine-tune the tone of the cabinet – a stage-friendly feature built into the actual amp to make it easier to hear on stage while sending an un-Room-Balanced signal to the house engineer. In AmpliTube Fender it becomes a handy tone shaping tool for its own sake.

But what of the pedals? AmpliTube Fender has some cool effects.

Fender Blender is a recreation of the classic fuzz/octave effect. It has a decidedly Billy Corgan-esque sound, especially when you use it for leads, and its particular splendour is best experienced with a very clean amp model like the ’65 Twin. It’s no surprise that Corgan himself is a well-known Fender Blender user, as is Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. The range of tones is huge, from subtle to freaking sick, and I had a lot of fun using a Radial ProRMP reamp to use AmpliTube Fender’s Fender Blender model with my Marshall DSL50 head.

There’s a volume pedal with a selectable minimum range, which is very handy but would be even moreso with some kind of MIDI control like IK’s StealthPedal. Likewise the Wah and Fuzz Wah pedals. The former has is switchable from ‘Cryin’ to ‘Clyde McCoy’ modes and has minimum and maximum frequency controls to really dial in your tone (especially cool for fixed-wah sounds in Clyde McCoy mode), while the latter has a selectable fuzz effect which is satisfyingly dirty and authentic. I really dig using this fuzz sound by itself with single coils for some serious ‘old tone.’

The Fender Phaser is a recreation of this pedalboard-oppressing megapedal (seriously, have you seen one in person? The damn things are huge), and you can fine-tune the frequency and set the phaser sweep to follow the tempo of the music if you choose. Its stroberriffic pulse is hypnotic too, in the best, most psychedelic way. I especially like combining this model with a delay model.

The Tremolo circuit is based on Fender amp tremolo, so you can look at it as a way of adding awesome Fender tremolo to any amp you like (especially handy if you use X-Gear).

The ’63 Reverb is based on those cool old tube-driven external reverb units – you know the ones that look like a tweed shoe box and go for big money on eBay? Here you get controls for Mixer, Tone and Dwell, great for those Hank Marvin moments. Try it with some of the blackface models at around medium volume for some great indie tone.

The Fender Tape Echo model is based on the tape echo simulation from the Fender Cyber-Twin amp, yet another Fender amp that I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time with – seriously, all we really need’s a G-Dec sim and that’s pretty much my entire Fender experience wrapped up in a single program! There’s a huge range of control here and while I’d love to have a stereo option, it’s certainly more than able to handle all your mono delay needs from the warmest straightforward repeat to the warbliest modulated stretchy tape sounds. Try it in a chain with the ’63 Reverb model placed after it.

Finally there’s a Compressor based on that within the Cyber-Twin. It has four levels – Low, Medium, High and Even Higher – and is good for either subtle dynamic processing or the kind of ultra-pinched compression that works extra well for single coil country playing.

Most of the cabinets and mic choices in the Cab section are pretty self-explanatory: each amp has a matching cabinet that you can use as intended or substitute for any other cabinet. It’s great fun seeing what would happen if you ran the MH-500 through a tiny Champion 600 speaker, for instance. And there’s a wide range of mics: Condenser 87, Condenser 84, Condenser 414, Dynamic 57, Dynamic 421, Dynamic 441, Ribbon 160, Velo-8 and MD1-b, which are all useful in different situations (especially when combining multiple amps). But wait, what’s this? A Fender Vibratone rotating speaker? You can combine this beauty with any other speaker cabinet in the arsenal for authentic Doppler tones. Being a Mike Keneally geek I set up a Super Sonic tone that reminded me of his sound on the track ‘Own’ from the ‘Sluggo!’ album, called up the Vibratone model, and vibed out on the wobbly goodness.

By the way, speaking of the Cab section and as hinted a little way back, make sure to explore the Ambience control, which appears to increase the simulated distance between the virtual mic and virtual speaker. This adds some great stereo spread to the sound, as well as lending a further layer of complexity to the reverbs in the Stomp, Amp and Rack sections.

There’s a suite of seven rack effects, some of which are shared with the Stomp section: Tape Echo, Compressor and ’63 Reverb, albeit with a different layout. Others are Pitch Shift (particularly great for grainy, dirty effects in combination with the Fender Bender as well as subtle pitch widenings on cleaner tones), Sine Flange which I liked using with a clean sound for a Metallica ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ sound, Triangle Chorus which adds some Satriani-esque bounce to high gain tones and some bright shimmer to clean ones, and Fender Wah, an auto-wah which shares a feature set with the wah in the Stomp section, but here it has a different feel, especially on bass.

So is there anything I’d do differently in AmpliTube Fender? Well, like I said, I’d love a stereo delay – while I’m glad I can achieve this by using the delay module from AmpliTube 2 in X-Gear, I’d love to be able to do so with the exact feature set of the Tape Echo module in AmpliTube Fender. And I’d especially love some kind of intelligent software which models various famous Fender pickups for even more accurate classic Fender tone. But apart from that, I couldn’t be happier with AmpliTube Fender. I don’t particularly feel the need to zap out the midrange in the mix like I do with AmpliTube 2, because the Ampltube Fender models sit well enough as it is.

AmpliTube Fender may not be for everyone – while the Metalhead and Super Sonic models are great, they offer very niche tones which may not be for every metal player. But for those players who really love the Fender tone – and there are a lot of them – this is as close as you’re likely to get to the real thing without spending all day in a music store and earning the ire of the staff for your 12th straight rendition of ‘Couldn’t Stand The Weather.’ The fact that Fender have given their official stamp of approval is proof enough that IK Multimedia has delivered a killer reproduction of those classic tones.

Right now if you buy AmpliTube Fender, the can choose and download another 2 AmplITube software products for FREE! Details here:

NEWS: Beck, Guy, Di Meola, Green, Bonamassa for Bluesfest

The first round of artists to be announced for the 2010 Byron Bay Bluesfest has been released, and while it’s getting further and further away from what I would call blues, there sure are some kickass guitar players on the bill.

The press release is below, but how about I single out these names for ya:

Jeff Beck
Joe Bonamassa
Buddy Guy
Al Di Meola
Peter Green

Not bad, huh?

Colossal first announcement for Bluesfest 21st Celebration Event

The next Bluesfest era begins now in Tyagarah!

October 28th 2009 – The first round of artists to perform at the 21st Anniversary Bluesfest has today been announced! Australia’s most awarded and internationally renowned festival officially begins a new era (and with any luck another excellent 21 years) with the purchase and move to its permanent new home for the 2010 event – the Tyagarah Tea Tree farm just off the Pacific Highway, 10 minutes north of Byron Bay.

Bluesfest 2010 takes place over Easter from Thursday April 1 through to Monday April 5, 2010. The first artist announcement includes a massive array of the best local and international blues, roots, folk, soul, and world artists – with an emphasis on some of the best guitar players of all time.

The first Bluesfest announcement for 2010 includes:

Crowded House, Buddy Guy, Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, Gipsy Kings, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club®, Jeff Beck, Lyle Lovett, RocKwiz, Jimmy Barnes Plays the Rhythm & the Blues, Jessica Mauboy, The Swell Season, Newton Faulkner, Dr John & the Lower 911, Bèla Fleck’s African Project Featuring Oumou Sangarè & band, Blue King Brown, Al Di Meola World Sinfonia, Gogol Bordello, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Green & friends, The Flatlanders, Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Renee Geyer, Colin Hay Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lil Band o’ Gold, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, AND Robert Gordon & the Gang They Couldn’t Hang – featuring Chris Spedding (Roxy Music), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), and Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats).

Crowded House plays Bluesfest for first time ever!
The Bluesfest team is extremely honoured to present Crowded House for the first time ever as the first announcement headliner, following knock out performances over the years from both Neil Finn and Tim Finn. One of our region’s GREATEST bands, Crowded House is responsible for unforgettable songs such as ‘Weather With You’, ‘Four Seasons In One Day’, and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ to name but a few. Get set for a dynamic musical journey that will draw from the band’s acclaimed 2007 album, another new album due in early 2010, and their exceptionally deep catalogue of fantastic songs.

Festival director Peter Noble said, “We are so energised about the amazing artists in this first announcement – it’s easily our best ever first announcement just looking at the depth across the entire list. We promised a touch of classic rock and a guitar lover’s focus for this festival – and to see how that’s played out, you just have to look at axe shredding maestros like Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Peter Green (original Fleetwood Mac founder and hero of BB King, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page!), the Gipsy Kings who are the world’s best flamenco players, Bèla Fleck (stunning banjo virtuoso), and Joe Bonamassa a young blues guitarist who’s recently sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall.

“There’s also tonnes of local and global roots friendly artists too many to mention, Roger Hodgson the incredible singer and songwriter of all those timeless Supertramp hits, Jessica Mauboy who is such an outstanding and genuine artist verified by her recent four awards at the Deadlys and her record seven ARIA award nominations! There’s also Oumou Sangarè who joins Bèla Fleck’s new project and is one the greatest African singers you will ever hear.

“And all this is just the beginning – our second announcement is just around the corner and a stunner too! In fact, we know we have the best Bluesfest bill ever this year, which is a very satisfying way to celebrate our 21st birthday and move to our new home.

“Now at Tyagarah, we’ve got even more room to grow the vision, and give our patrons the REAL festival experience. What we stand for is keeping the counter-culture alive – and the very real notion that music can help heal the world – we’re bringing in artists from Cuba, Mali and even Gypsies all together to support this vision. Longer term, my intention is that Bluesfest will outlive me, and remain a beacon of light that continues presenting the highest quality music on the planet,” concluded Peter Noble.

More room for camping in the Heart of Bluesfest!
Bluesfest 2009 was held at Belongil Fields and accommodated 1,800 campers. Bluesfest 2010 looks forward to welcoming patrons on its own land – and will accommodate approximately 6,500 campers! The very spacious and natural environment is right next to the festival grounds and will include a general store, showers and toilets.

The festival itself will feature more space, more music, more stalls, and more areas to chill out, but is all about keeping in the Bluesfest tradition, which is about creating an environmentally sound, peaceful, relaxed and happy home for everyone. Regular shuttle buses will be included to and from the festival into Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and surrounding towns.

More awards for Bluesfest
And the Bluesfest awards keep on coming. September 2009 saw Bluesfest recognised as an international winner in The Greener Festival awards. This was for an impressive three years in a row, more than any other Australian festival – and a tribute to the event’s ongoing and long-term commitment to environmental sustainability.

Bluesfest was also the first music festival to be nominated for a prestigious Australian Events Award. Bluesfest was nominated for the Best Cultural or Arts Event alongside the Sydney Festival 2009 and Adelaide Fringe 2009. The award eventually went to the 16th Biennale of Sydney. Bluesfest was also recently nominated as the Best Overseas Festival in the UK Festival Awards!
Unlike any other Australian event, Bluesfest has twice had the honour of being nominated as Best International Music Festival by US concert bible “Pollstar” in 2005 and 2006 alongside world renowned events such as Britain’s Glastonbury and Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. And closer to home, Bluesfest has twice won the prestigious Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Festival in Australia, also in 2005 and 2006.

Tickets can be purchased by: Phoning the Bluesfest office on 02 6685 8310 
or visiting the website at

NEWS: Lick Library’s Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads DVDs

Lick Library release Zakk Wylde & Randy Rhoads – The Solos DVDs

Lick Library’s unique Learn to Play – The Solos format now includes Zakk Wylde and Randy Rhoads. The design of the Learn to Play The Solos DVDs includes a CD of professionally recorded guitar jam backing tracks at three different speeds, slow, medium and full tempo, performances of the solos at three speeds, plus expert tuition which breaks the solos down into easy to learn sections.

Zakk Wylde is best known for being Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, founder of Black Label Society and lead guitarist and vocalist with Pride & Glory. He’s won practically every guitar magazine award there is and has inspired guitarists of all styles. On stage with Ozzy, Zakk is regarded is one of the few guitarists still flying the flag for seriously shredded solos and high energy performances full of passion.

Randy Rhoads featured on Ozzy Osbourne’s first two solo albums which have sold over six million copies combined. Often cited as an influence by many contemporary heavy metal guitarists, Randy Rhoads was one of the few guitarists of his era to create his own signature style by being one of the first heavy metal guitarists to incorporate classical music into his playing. Although he only issued a pair of major-label albums during his lifetime, he immediately reached legendary status upon his tragic death in early 1982

Learn to Play Zakk Wylde, The Solos (RRP £23.99) is taught by professional guitar tutor Andy James, who was once lucky enough to jam with Zakk and Ozzy. The tuition DVD details five solos from classic tracks featured on the No Rest for the Wicked and No More Tears albums. This professionally produced, multi camera shot, guitar lesson breaks each solo down into clearly explained bite sized chunks, and is full of tips and techniques to help you get your playing up to speed. Watch and listen to demonstrations of pinched harmonics, alternate and hybrid picking and that heavy vibrato so indicative of a true Zakk Wylde style of playing. Solos taught on this DVD come from Miracle Man, Devils Daughter, Breaking all the Rules, No More Tears and Mama I’m Coming Home.

Learn to Play Randy Rhoads, The Solos (RRP £23.99) is presented by Danny Dill former pupil of Joe Satriani and writer of many of the songs featured in “The Osbourne’s” TV show. Danny invites you to pick a track and grab a guitar as he takes you through note for note demonstrations of five characteristic Randy Rhoads solos at three different tempos. The DVD format gives you plenty of time to understand what Danny is showing you, and the chapter keys allow you to repeat each section as many times as you need to nail that guitar riff or lick. Solos included come from the tracks Goodbye to Romance, Crazy Train, Over the Mountain, Flying Again and Mr. Crowley, all of which have become metal standards and showcase Randy Rhoads full talent as a guitarist.

The Learn to Play Solos format includes many more famous guitar legends, these and the Zakk Wylde and Randy Rhoads DVDs are available to purchase through along with over 20,000 other guitar tuition products. For the ultimate range of tuition products, has the comprehensive and definitive professional guides to learning to playing the guitar.