Pearl Aday and her band play kickass high-energy, slightly dark-tinged rock. It’s no surprise that the band rocks so hard. In addition to Pearl’s impressive resume and family history (for instance, she’s toured as a backing vocalist for Motley Crue as well as for her dad Meat Loaf), the band Pearl consists of the members of Mother Superior – who for a while were the new Rollins Band – and her husband Scott Ian of Anthrax. Being surrounded by rock her whole life, Pearl kicks off her debut album – Little Immaculate White Fox – with a raging anthem called Rock Child which immediately shatters any idea that rock is anything but in her blood.
“It’s just a rock song, high energy rock and roll. It’s pretty straight forward,” Pearl says. “The lyrics are about how I guess I am a, y’know, rock child. My dad’s a rock singer, and the lyrics are pretty autobiographical. When I was little my mom worked in a recording studio, and an open guitar place was a really good place for a baby to sleep if you put in a blanket and a pillow. So I actually did sleep in a guitar case. We just felt it was a fun song and a really good opener to kickstart the album.” Pearl could be forgiven for skirting the issue and not writing a song about it, but what would be the point? “I’m not ashamed of it,” she says. “I’m proud of where I come from. It’s part of who I am and what I do, so why not celebrate it?”
John5′s resume reads like a who’s who of hard rock and heavy metal frontmen. Having held down jobs with such diverse acts as Marilyn Manson, David Lee Roth, Rob Halford, and now Rob Zombie, John5 is well versed in the art of playing on other peoples’ records – check out his killer work on Zombie’s latest CD, Hellbilly Deluxe 2, where he adds all sorts of greasy blues-influenced licks to Zombie’s brand of dark rock. For his own solo work though, John5 combines his equal loves of metal, rock, shred and even country into a distinctive sound, capped off with the stunning displays of guitar technique that he rarely got to show off in his various high-profile day jobs (well, maybe with DLR). I caught up with John5 to discuss his fifth CD, The Art Of Malice, which is out now.
Did you start with a concept for The Art Of Malice?
Well it was my fifth instrumental record, so it was very special for me. It was something that was… I wanted everything in there. Everything and the kitchen sink. All kinds of music, all bits and pieces going everywhere. Country, heavy rock, metal, acoustic, Spanish flamenco, everything is in there. So I wanted to do it all.
And also, Steve Vai’s got his whole ‘seven’ thing, how the seventh track on each of his albums is the big ballad and all that stuff. You’ve managed to beat him by having your number be five!
(Laughs) That’s true!
One of my favourite things on the album is the title track, where we can hear you flip the pickup switch…
I love that because usually you’d edit that kind of thing out, but hearing little details like this is just great!
Oh yeah! I like doing things in one take, not chopping them all up but just doing certain things and not overdubbing.
What can you tell us about that track?
The true story is, I was doing a clean guitar part for the song The Nightmare Unravels, and I was testing the clean sound and I was playing around with some licks and stuff like that, and we were recording it to see how the clean sound was, and so I could listen back to it, and it sounded so good the engineer was like, ‘We should make this a little track.’ I kept working on it and doing a couple of different things to make it a little longer, but I think it came out really good. So it was kind of an improv thing, a spontaneous piece of music that really came out really nice.
How much of your work is improvised?
None! (Laughs) None! Really, it’s all, everything is planned out and everything is thought out and tried and turned around, and things like that. WIth this kind of stuff it’s very difficult to do so I don’t improvise at all!
Where did you record the album?
What I did was I would write at home, then I would rehearse, rehearse, rehearse at home. I would just get it all down, then I would go into a studio, and usually the track would get done in somewhere close to an hour because I was so rehearsed. I knew what I was doing, so it was mostly getting it down at home.
I hate being one of those journalists who is like ‘Well I read on Wikipedia,’ but…
(Laughs) No, that’s fine!
But I read that with David Lee Roth, when you recorded the DLR Band album, that was only two weeks?
Yeah! We recorded and mixed it and everything in two weeks. And it was all done at like 6 o’clock in the morning, too! I was playing with Rob Halford too, so we would rehearse at noon, and Dave would want be before Rob Halford, so we would rehearse at six in the morning. True story!
Speaking of DLR, your track Ya Dig, with Billy Sheehan, has a bit of the same vibe as Slam Dunk from the DLR Band album.
Yeah! And the reason it’s called Ya Dig is because Dave’s a good friend of mine, and when he talks, when people say ‘y’know,’ they say ‘y’know’. But what Dave says is ‘ya dig?’ like ‘Maybe we should go to the beach, ya dig? They have this great food there, ya dig?’ And there is nobody but Billy Sheehan who does the Billy Sheehan bass playin’. It was incredible. Incredible. Oh man, he’s the best.
There’s a bit of slide on the album. When did you get into slide?
I love slide. I’ve always been into slide. I love Pink Floyd and David Gilmour, but everyone always looks at me as this crazy shredder and stuff like that. But I really wanted to show people that I love music, and I love guitar playing, and I love guitars. Can I Live Again, with that nice melody and all that, that’s one of the most popular songs on the album. It’s really cool because I’m reaching everybody. There’s everything on there for everybody.
I love the little honky midrange tone at the start of Steel Guitar Rag.
I’m using my Fender Broadcaster on that. We just took a lot of the lows out in the studio, and then it kicks in with that nice steel guitar rag, and it’s one of my favourite tracks on the record. It’s hard to play with a clean tone but it’s one of my favourite things to do. When I’m on tour I always have a guitar in my hand, and I have a little battery powered amp, and it doesn’t get a lot of distortion, so it’s always clean.
There’s a cool cover of Ace Frehley’s Fractured Mirror…
I loved KISS when I was a kid, and that was my introduction to instrumental music. It’s my tribute, saying thank you to Ace.
And Last Page Turned sounds like a tribute to Jimmy Page?
That’s right. My favourite stuff was always his acoustic work on Physical Graffiti and Led Zeppelin 3. That’s where I got it. He’s amazing. I love him.
Now: guitar talk! The Fender J5 Triple Tele Deluxe is awesome!
Thanks! Everybody knows I love my Telecasters. It was the first solidbody electric guitar in 1950, and I just started playing Teles early on in my life, but no-one really played them in rock and metal that much, so I kinda wanted to design them so more people were able to enjoy this incredible instrument. So that’s why I designed the Triple Tele. It’s kind of like the Black Beauty Les Paul. And there’s a lot of chrome on it and it looks amazing and it sounds incredible. But I just put out a Squier version of my main model, and it’s priced to sell. Everyone can afford one of those, and they’re great guitars. You’ll have those forever. I have one with me in the studio. All the guitars Fender produces for me are unbelievable.
Yeah, the quality of Squiers is so much better than the stuff I started out with!
Absolutely, of course! They’re great, great guitars, and they’re very inexpensive so everybody can afford them, but they’re fabulous guitars. I’m online playing them, and I love it. I love it.
And the Telecaster in general is such an immediate-sounding instrument. Why do you think they’re not so much associated with rock?
I think because when it came out in the early 50s, rock n’roll wasn’t even around yet – y’know, rock n’roll didn’t really come in until 1955 – and everybody played Teles and they just played country music. So I think they got pigeonholed really quickly as being a country guitar. But y’know, in the 60s and 70s, Steely Dan played a Tele… the Stones of course, the Beatles, Jimmy Page. I started playing it in Manson, and Jim Root plays one in Slipknot and Stone Sour, so it’s my favourite guitar. It’s the best in the world.
The J5 Bigsby Telecaster is very cool.
I just play with the Bigsby a little bit for vibrato and things like that, and at the ends of songs you’ll hear me shake it and things like that. But I love the Bigsby, y’know? I really love it. I think it looks rad and I think it sounds rad, y’know?
And I believe you’re using DiMarzio D Activator pickups?
Yeah. To be completely honest, I’m not a huge tone chaser. I love guitars, but I’m not a huge amp guy. But pickups …Larry DiMarzio’s a friend of mine and he’s always like, ‘Oh you’ve got to check these out.’ And they just sounded so good. That’s how I am in the studio: if it sounds good, ‘alright, cool!’ Some people will fiddle with sounds for hours and hours but I just don’t think I have the patience for it, for just trying to find that perfect sound. But I think that’s why I have great engineers to do it for me. Because I’ll plug into a little battery-powered amp and play, just as long as I can play. Your fingers will get that tone for you. Eddie Van Halen says ‘I can pick up any guitar and I sound like Eddie Van Halen,’ because it’s in his fingers.
Any guitars on your wish list that you don’t have yet?
Yes! A Fender Nocaster. What the Nocaster was is, Fender came out with their first guitar in 1950, which was the Broadcaster, and they got sued by Gretsch, who had the Broadcaster drum set. So Fender had to take the Broadcaster part off of the headstock. So the collectors call them Nocasters. This was in 1951. So that’s what I’m looking for!
Do you have any plans to come down to Australia any time soon?
Actually yes! We might come down there with Zombie in February. I’m hoping, because it’s one of my favourite places in the world, but that plane ride’s a son of a bitch! It’s a long one.
I don’t foresee a situation where I could possibly ever get tired of listening to Frank Zappa’s ‘We’re Only In It For The Money.’
I want to grate it into a fine powder and sprinkle it on my pasta. I want to melt it down and drink it with a crazy straw. I want to take it on a shy bashful date to the movies and then feel it up in the back seat of my car at Make-out Point. It’s one of very, very few albums (Mike Keneally’s Sluggo is one; ‘David Bowie’s Low is another) that gets better and better with each listen. A true musical perpetual motion machine where the only way is up, baby.
If you haven’t heard this album yet, it’s a satire on the Summer of Love, and it’s merciless in its critiques of hippies, squares, cops, parents, musicians (Donovan gets a particular ribbing), and even Frank Zappa fans. What Frank seems to be saying with this album is ‘there’s a whole lot of stupid out there. And you’re a part of it. And you’re a part of it. And you… man, you’re a big part of it.’ Musically it’s progressive, sentimental, outrageous, precise, messy, overproduced, underproduced, and beautiful. Listen to Let’s Make The Water Turn Black for a glimpse of some local freaks back in Frank’s teen years. Check out Who Needs The Peace Corps for a sharp kick in the balls of the hippie movement (‘I will ask the Chamber of Commerce how to get to Haight Street, and smoke an awful lot of dope’). What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body includes one of my favourite musical interludes ever (the ‘all your children are poor unfortunate victims’ bit – man, that’s everything I want out of melody, harmony and rhythm right there). And Absolutely Free scores perhaps one of the biggest laughs of Zappa’s long history of making me laugh when, during what feels like an ultra-authentic rendition of flower power-era musical and vocal idioms (ie: the aforementioned Donovan pisstake), a little voice blatantly and flatly states ‘Flower power sucks.’ It’s one of my all time coffee-spit moments and it makes me chuckle a little louder than I probably should whenever I happen to recall it at an inopportune moment like being on public transport or in line at the bank.
There are probably easier Zappa albums to start on, like Apostrophe or Over-Nite Sensation or even Roxy & Elsewhere or Zappa In New York, but if you’re of the disposition to dig this sorta stuff, it’s absolutely essential.
We’ve been together for a long time. I still remember the first time I saw you. It was in the form of a double-neck 12/6 string, from the era in the 1970s when you made successful, competitor-unnerving Gibson and Fender replicas. I thought you were gorgeous. I heard Steve Vai talk about you in 1990 and I knew we were right for each other. I finally got to hold you myself in 1993 when Father Christmas gave me a Japanese-made, Edge-loaded Jewel Blue RG370. It was a rare guitar with unusual specs and an unusual country of manufacture for an RG370. I liked knowing you were mine, that I had something nobody else had. I didn’t want to think about how many other people in my town had played you as you hung on the wall of Custom Music in Lavington. I guess others must have strummed your strings before me, maybe even executed a devastating flutter on your whammy bar. Maybe you even liked it. I guess you knew deep down that I already had a Status brand Stratocaster copy – that you weren’t my first electric guitar. But we were blissful in our ignorance.
As time went on I acquired more Ibanez guitars and I loved them all dearly. I’ve leaped about onstage with an RG7620, I won a shredding contest hosted by Allans Music and Triple M using my RG7420, and as a member of Cereal Killer I shared a bill with Rob Balducci at Jemfest, armed with my UV777BK and Jem7VWH.
I can understand if you were hurt when you heard last week that I’d traded my Jem7VWH for a Fender Stratocaster. Really, I get it. We’d been together for so long, and my love for you was so strong that when I worked at World of Music, teaching guitar but more importantly (to you) performing set-ups and repairs, I was known to staff and customers as ‘Captain Ibanez.’ There was nothing about you I didn’t know, whether it be the names of the guys at the Custom Shop who crafted exquisite instruments for my heroes throughout the years (Mace Bailey, Rich Lasner, Tak Hosono), or the correct angle at which to set an Edge series trem (ignore the surface of the unit and instead judge by the knife edge inserts, making sure they’re parallel to the body). But to be honest, as much as I loved it and as comfortable as it was to play, the Jem just wasn’t for me. There was a time when I told myself it felt like it was designed for me: It seemed to fit my body and get completely out of the way as I executed flurry after flurry of sweep-picking crescendo. But I think I started to realise that that was the problem: it was too passive. It just lay there, letting me have my lustful way with it on special occasions but not particularly getting in on the act itself. I started to feel that the fire, the passion for that Jem was waning, even though it was super-hot and would let me do whatever I wanted with it. So I did what just a year ago I would have thought unthinkable.
But here’s the thing, Ibanez. Even though I’m one Ibanez down (and to be honest, I’m kinda thinking of trading my RG550MXX Roadflare Red in for a Telecaster, and I certainly have my eye on more than a few Gibsons – and how could I claim to be an objective guitar reviewer if I only loved one company?), I’m still an Ibanez Guy. I still love you. Really. I will never part with my Universe, because her and I have a special connection. Ditto my RG370. And super ditto my Talman TC825 with Bisgby, which has tremendous sentimental value as well as absolutely killer tones. And my two RG7s I mentioned before will always be with me because they sound great, play great, and mean something to me. Sure, I’m also on the fence about my original black 1987 RG550, but that one sounds monstrous and I’d be pretty nuts to sell it, even though a few friends have made some pretty flattering offers.
So what it comes down to, Ibanez, is that although I may from time to time visit another, you’re still my baby. It’s like Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed. Everyone knows Gene parties down with other girls. I’m sure Shannon quite happily encourages it, maybe because she knows he won’t change, or maybe simply because it’s nice to get him out of the house every now and then when she just wants to sit down with the latest Vanity Fair or to make a little caterpillar out of M&Ms and then eat him up one segment at a time (don’t be ashamed, Shannon, we all do it). I’m sure if Gene and Shannon were married he would stop his dilly-dallying around with other girls, and if I ever become a famous shredmeister and you come knocking on my door for an endorsement I would proudly stand with you and say ‘I do,’ forsaking all others. But until that day, let’s keep this Gene/Shannon thing going. And you can play with other guitarists too. Are we cool?
Steve Miller has long been known as a killer guitar player. Although FM radio audiences might now him from classics like The Joker and Abracadabra, Miller has always had a penchant for firey blues-rock lead playing. So it’s no surprise that Bingo! is a collection of blues covers, nor is it any particular shock that it rocks pretty hard, albeit in a controlled, mature, measured way. This is no strum and flail blues-rock of the kind propagated by all those mid-90s Stevie Ray Vaughan clones.
Produced by Miller with the legendary Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Chickenfoot) and recorded at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch, Bingo! features songs originally recorded by BB King, Lowell Fulson, Otis Rush, Jimmy Reed and Jimmie Vaughan. And looky who pops up to trade solos with Miller on both Rock Me Baby and Sweet Soul Vibe: one Mr Joe Satriani. On Rock Me Baby the interplay between Satch and Miller is damn near psychic, and it’s great to hear Satch play in a more bluesy style akin to his self-titled album in the mid 90s (which was produced by Andy Johns’ brother Glyn). Satch’s solo on Sweet Soul Vibe is a little more like his Chickenfoot mode, over a groove that reminds me a little of Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan’sTick Tock.
The guitar tones on Bingo! are considered and warm without being too hot; the playing is nuanced and detailed without being too stuffy, and the production has a very crisp, clear vibe without being too slick. And while it’s great to have Joe Satriani along for the ride of a few songs, Miller’s own sharp and tasty playing is more than worthy of holding the attention of guitar geeks like you and I.
By the way, Miller recorded another album at the same time as Bingo!, and that will be out next year.
I’m sad to say that despite its innate awesomeness, I just wasn’t really connecting with my Ibanez Jem7VWH on that deep level, and rather than let it sit around being unloved, today I traded it (plus some $$$) for this brand new Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster Reissue in Olympic White. Yay, new guitar day!
This is quite a different guitar to most in my Ibanez-heavy arsenal (although I do have a super-cheap Status Strat copy and a Telecaster made out of parts), but one can’t just play pointy metal axes all the time, right? When I decided I needed a Strat (inspired partly by Richie Kotzen and partly by the DiMarzio pickup upgrade to my Status copy), I looked around online to familiarise myself with the various models, and I decided that the things I like in Strats aesthetically are:
3 single coils
6-screw vintage tremolos.
On paper, the American Vintage Hod Rod ’62 was probably on top of my ‘want’ list because it features similar specs to the ’62 but with a 5-way pickup switch (the non-Hot Rod version has a vintage-correct 3-way switch); a reverse-polarity middle pickup for hum-cancelling 2 and 4 settings; a flatter 9.5″ fretboard radius instead of 7.25″; and medium-jumbo frets. I also hear the back of the neck is huge, which is something I really dig about my Telecaster. But after spending some time in the store with the American Vintage ’62, it just felt right. We bonded, sparks flew, everything got all slow and soft-focus, and I think I heard ‘Dream Weaver’ playing in the background.
Case candy includes a cool old-school strap, an equally old-school lead, a 5-way switch in case you want to upgrade so you get those 2 and 4 pickup positions, and the ‘ashtray’ tremolo cover that everyone always took off anyway.
DiMarzio‘s loaded pickguard ideas tap into two facts of guitar life, one pleasant, one not-so-pleasant: tonal improvement, and soldering. Everyone wants better tone. Some of us like the smell of hot solder in the morning, others of us detest this work, and yet others just kind of bear it because they know it has to be done and they’d rather do it themselves. (Me, I’ve worked as a setup/repairs tech so I’ve done more than my fair share of soldering and rewiring, and although I find it kinda therapeutic, I don’t really like to do it unless I have to these days… but I digress).
So along comes DiMarzio with a series of carefully constructed pre-loaded pickguards for Strat containing all the goodies you need to pimp your axe, with the added bonus of not having to solder anything. All you have to do is pop off the existing pickguard, snip a few wires, screw those wires into the replacement loaded pickguard, screw that down, restring and have at it. I replaced the stock pickguard and electronics on my beloved old Status Stratocaster copy in about 7 minutes, from removing the old strings to putting on new ones.
Before we delve into the tones though, let’s look at the options available:
Area setup: A hum-cancelling, vintage-style setup with an Area 58 in the neck, Area 67 in the middle and an Area 61 in the bridge.
Vintage setup: True Velvet bridge, middle and neck pickups (with hum-cancelling in the 2 and 4 positions thanks to a reverse polarity middle pickup).
High Power setup: ProTrack in the neck position, Fast Track 1 in the middle and Fast Track 2 in the bridge.
HS (formerly YJM) setup: HS-4 hum-cancelling pickups in the neck and middle positions and an HS-3 in the bridge.
Billy Corgan setup: BC-1 in the neck position (modified version of the Air Norton S), Chopper in the middle and BC-2 (based on the Tone Zone S) in the bridge position.
So how do they sound in my beloved Strat copy?
Area 58. An extremely dynamic pickup. Y’know how some neck pickups just seem to mush everything into the same frequency range and give you a nice flutey sound but without much variation? The Area 58 is pretty much the opposite of that. It can sound thick (especially with the tone control rolled down) but it can also sound thin and wiry, or loose and juicy. Riffs that bounce around between open E pedal tones and zippy mid-neck chord stabs really show off the sheer range of tone that can be wrung from these pickups. Picking hard gives you that classic Stratty ‘noodle sound’, while picking more softly or even with the fingers is great for authentic, soulful R&B – think Curtis Mayfield. Groovy.
Area 67. A lot of cool stuff happened in 1967, not the least of which was the mighty wallop of one Mr James Marshall Hendrix. The Area 67 captures the bright, clean qualities of single coils of that era. While a lot of players tend to think of the middle pickup only as something to combine with either the bridge or neck pickup for those classic quacky sounds, I’m a sucker for a good middle pickup, to the extent that – shhh – it’s kinda one of my secret weapons. I just love using the DiMarzio single coil on my Ibanez UV777BK for solos, especially at medium gain levels with lots of legato. The Area 67 is great for this, because it’s bright and clean enough to reveal the fine edges and detail of your playing, but placing it in the middle position is the perfect location to add a little fullness too.
Area 61. For my money, early 60s Strats are where it’s at. I’ve been super privileged to get my paws on a few through the years, and there’s just something magical about the tone of those axes. It’s slightly hollow, yet rich. You kind of feel like you can hear each little vibration of the string, right down to the windings. The Area 61 captures this vibe without the hum. Presented here in the bridge position, it has a lot of treble, but it’s a pleasant, musical treble, not a slice-your-ears-and-make-you-cringe one. Combined with a warm overdrive pedal you’ll get great SRV tones, while the clean sounds are twangy and clear. It’s very dynamic, making it great for those soulful bends way up high on the neck while also adding a great vocal tonality to rhythm work down near the nut.
The split positions have all the sharp-toned, hollow quack and cluck you could possibly as for. The neck/middle combination has a killer deep-but-not-muddy low end, while the middle/bridge setting has greasy rock written all over it, as well as melodic country sounds. Both options are great for hi-fi ultra-clean Satch sounds as well.
Whereas once my old Strat copy sounded tired, noisy and indistinct, it now sounds vibrant, quiet and toneful. The solderless Strat set has really given the guitar a new lease on life, and greatly increased the tired old axe’s chances of getting to spend quality time away from the guitar stand.