DiMarzio’s new John Petrucci pickups are out now

Mr. John Petrucci of Dream Theater has a heck of a pair of ears on him for designing pickups. His DiMarzio Crunch Lab and LiquiFire set is one of my favourite combinations ever, and the Illuminators are no slouches either (I haven’t tried his Sonic Ecstasy set but I’m sure they’re badass too). His latest collaboration with DiMarzio is the Rainmaker neck and Dreamcatcher bridge humbucker set, which DiMarzio describes like this:

“The Dreamcatcher™ Bridge reflects John Petrucci’s continuing process of refining and expanding his sound. Although designed specifically for John’s neck-through signature Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty guitar, the basic performance shows the overall direction John said he wants to follow in pursuit of his personal sound. This pickup has an increased sensitivity to pick attack and more dynamic range overall. The Dreamcatcher™ Bridge focuses more power on the low mids to allow the bridge position to cut through the mix without brittle highs or muddy lows. The Rainmaker™ Neck has an interesting blend of both warmer highs and more open mids to blend classic and modern approaches to the neck pickup.”

And:

“The Dreamcatcher™ Bridge is a heavyweight pickup that’s also light on its feet. It has power but is not ultra-high output. The power is concentrated on the low mids, and there is a small scoop in the upper mids to keep the overall sound both warm and defined. The split sound is both full and very focused for the middle position neck and bridge split combination that John Petrucci is known for.

Although it may seem odd, John Petrucci has recently requested more of a blues-based tone without sacrificing his signature Dream Theater sound. The Rainmaker™ Neck achieves this with a broader EQ than John’s other models, with open mids and a bit less output. The result is a sweet overdriven sound that can clean up when the volume is rolled down and remains solid and articulate with high gain.”

The pickups are available in six and seven-string configurations in a huge variety of colours, and you can learn more about them on Petrucci’s Artists Page on DiMarzio.com, along with the various other pickups he’s used over the years.

Steve Vai has unveiled his new Synergy Amps module

Since Carvin rolled down the shutters for the last time, Steve Vai fans have been wondering what Dr. Vai is going to do next amp-wise. At NAMM he was talking up Synergy Amps, whose interchangable modules are damn fine indeed. And today Vai his previewed his signature module. Thus tweeteth Steve:

 

We can’t glean too much from the photo other than that it’s a two-channel preamp with three-band EQ and a couple of voicing switches. Typically with Synergy these are three-position Treble and Bass voicing switches. I love the green face plate, and you better believe I’ll be getting one of these when funds allow!

 

New Richie Kotzen song ‘Venom’

Here’s Richie Kotzen’s new single and video, ‘Venom.’ Love the guitar sounds on this one, and the guitar/bass doubling. And who wouldn’t want a red Kotzen Strat, eh? If you want some of that Kotzen tone yourself and you can’t get your paws on his signature Strat, check out the DiMarzio Richie Kozen Strat Replacement Pickuguard. The pickups are three medium-gain Alnico 5 single coils (actually they’re able to be wired as humbuckers if you wish but Richie has them running in single coil mode), all with the same output, classic-Strat-style, and you can hear them up-close in this video (the Strat section kicks in at about 4 minutes):

Meet the Fender Rarities Koa Flame Ash Top Strat

Check this beauty out! It features a two-piece ash body with a flame koa top and a one-piece, quartersawn European maple neck. The custom Tim Shaw overwound 59 gold-foil single-coil pickups are warm and clear, while the Shaw custom Filter’Tron™-style humbucking pickup delivers a powerful, articulate voice. The “Modern C”-shaped quartersawn neck delivers classic Strat tone while the 9.5”-radius fingerboard and narrow-tall frets make it comfortable to play.

Here’s a closer look at those pickups. The gold-foil single coils look amazing and I hope we see more Strats with this pickup configuration. I’m imagining these on a bound black Strat or on a Mustang or something. Oh please, Fender.

Tony Visconti’s legendary Bowie ‘Heroes’ vocal sound can be yours

You know the legendary vocal sound on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’? If you don’t know what I mean, listen to the album version (the single version cuts off half the good stuff). What you’ll hear at the beginning of the song is Bowie’s voice all close up to begin with but then as the song opens out to the ‘dolphins’ bit that kicks off the single edit, more reverb is introduced. Then as the song progresses, Bowie hits certain notes that seem to shake the whole room. What you’re hearing there is a very clever technique created by producer Tony Visconti; that’s three microphones at different locations in the room of Hansa Studios. The first mic – the one Bowie is singing right into – has a compressor on it to lift up his softest vocal inflections. The second is moved off a bit to collect a more ambient sound but only when Bowie’s voice hits a loud enough level to trip a gate on that mic. The third mic is set even further back and again is fed by a gate that is only opened up when Bowie really goes for it. And until now, you’ve had to have the right gear in the right room to achieve that sound.

But now Visconti has teamed up with Eventide to offer this effect in the form of Tverb, along with the ability to move the mics around the room in stereo. Imagine how it could sound with acoustic guitar or drums: your reverb can follow the dynamics of your entire track. And of course it’s going to bring vocals to life in the same way Visconti did on those legendary Bowie sessions in Berlin in the 70s.

Right now you can get Tverb for 75% off. Hit this link to learn more. And check out these videos.

Hear the new Northlane single ‘Talking Heads’

Northlane have just released ‘Talking Heads,’ the new single from their forthcoming album Alien, which will be out on August 2 on UNFD.

“‘Talking Heads’ talks about the insecurities and anxiety that come with growing up in a violent home with drug addicted parents,” vocalist Marcus Bridge says. “That trauma had made it difficult to express my thoughts and ideas in the past, both emotionally and creatively. We started working on this song pretty early in the process and I think writing it actually started to erase a lot of that insecurity, helping me open up a lot more for the rest of Alien. I think it’s important to know that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. I hope with this song and the issues talked about on rest of the album, that people will start to feel comfortable opening up about their past, turning it from a weakness to a strength in the process.”

New City And Colour single ‘Astronaut’ out now

 

Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas Green – whose solo output is released under the name City And Colour as I’m sure you know – has just released ‘Astronaut,’ the first single from his forthcoming album. It’s a haunting, immersive track which grows to an almost psychedelic crescendo and you can listen to it right here.

Produced by three-time Grammy-winning Jacquire King (Kings Of Leon, Tom Waits, Modest Mouse, Norah Jones) and mastered by Emily Lazar (Beck, Coldplay, Dolly Parton, The Chainsmokers), the first female mastering engineer to win a Grammy for best engineered album (2019). ‘Astronaut’ is the first original music from City and Colour in almost four years and is featured on his upcoming sixth studio album to be released this Spring on Green’s newly minted Still Records, an imprint of Dine Alone Records.

“I always think of the relationships in my life that have been fractured because I ended up doing what I do for a living,” says Green regarding the inspiration for the new song. “I’m always gone, wandering around and singing songs. However, it weighs on my family and friends. I’m asking for ‘one more year’. I left home at 21 to go play my guitar. It’s lonely, but it’s because I yearn to wander. I’m aware of how lucky I am.”

What I Like About Relic’d Guitars

Aged or relic’d guitars have been around for long enough now that they’re simply a part of the guitar vernacular. There was a time when the very idea of intentionally bashing up a guitar seemed like absolute madness. For a while I agreed: I babied my guitars to the point that 15 years after I got my first good electric guitar, it still looked virtually brand new (aside from a lot of fret wear). And why wouldn’t it? I watched over that thing like a hawk, kept it carefully stashed in its case, never let anybody else play it, and never tried to do that cool Steve Vai ‘throw the guitar around your body’ trick. Although I kinda wanted to.

I had a few other guitars before that good one: beaten up, scratched, rusty, abused axes which I didn’t really look after very well at all. These were the guitars that were leaned up against the wall, maybe had a coat draped over them once or twice, were tapped on with drumsticks during especially creative jams, and were generally treated like dirt. 

Guess which ones I felt more of an attachment to. 

A common analogy is that an aged guitar – whether it got that way by natural or assisted means – is like a comfortable pair of jeans. I totally get that. Of the two beater guitars I had back in the day (actually I still have them), one saw so much combat during its first few years that the glossy finish wore clear off the back of the neck behind the first few frets, behind the twelfth to fifteenth, and along the entire back of the treble string side. The other one has an oiled neck so there was no finish to wear off, but the fretboard looks …kinda gross, actually. It’s covered in grit and stains where I spent hour upon hour playing Jeff Beck licks, Jeff Buckley songs, Tea Party riffs (the Canadian ‘Moroccan Roll’ band) and Mike Keneally solos. Every year it acquires a few more scratches, a few more character marks and a few more signs of wear. But that’s okay because I do too. And every year it feels more and more comfortable, compared to that pointy shred axe, which still feels glossy and slick,

And that’s what I dig about relic’d guitars. It’s not the aesthetics – although a carefully aged instrument can have plenty of visual vibe. It’s that a guitar with the hallmarks of the aging process just feels more playable. It’s like it invites you to pick it up and create with it. For me this is particularly important on the back of the neck, because there’s a certain lived-in feel that seems to invite a closer emotional connection to the instrument. And I’ve found over the years that any aged guitar that gets this right immediately feels like a serious instrument to me. A carefully aged instrument will also usually have the fretboard edges subtly rolled to replicate the way the wood is gradually rounded over due to decades of regular play. Again it makes the neck physically easier to hold, which makes for a more natural playing experience.

Personally, when it comes to aging of the guitar’s cosmetics, I’m not really fussed. I like the look of a checked and scratched finish, and I dig the idea of a guitar which is aged in a specific way to look exactly like that of an established artist. But for me what I like most about these instruments is that they take away that fear of the first scratch. Once you’re forced to accept the first chip or ding in your guitar, you stop worrying about the next one.

A while back I bought a Les Paul Traditional. The folks at Sky Music here in Melbourne let me play every Trad in the store until I found the one that felt like ‘my’ Les Paul. And the one that spoke to me the most had a weird visual feature: the top appeared slightly mismatched (even though on close inspection it wasn’t). One half of the bookmatch had much more flame than the other. I like this because it shows that guitars really are pieces of wood and works of art. I also like that it’s reminiscent of the distinctive and sometimes imperfect grains that you find on vintage Les Pauls. And while I take care of this guitar to the extent that I don’t use it to play cricket with in the back yard, I’m not scared of my own guitar, and I’m not terrified of that first ding: it’s already got a few light marks in the finish that I could probably buff out if I wanted to, but as far as I’m concerned they give the guitar more character. These little marks, and the much more visible ones that are sure to appear as the guitar and I spend the next however many decades together, are going to tell the story of our shared history. Just as with other guitars in my collection (“That’s where the strap chipped the paint when I put it down on the stand too quickly to go answer the phone,” “That’s where the I discovered that the cool belt buckle I wanted to wear onstage was a bit too rough for the guitar’s finish”), this one is going to have definite memories to attach to it, and it also means I can direct my energy towards playing the thing instead of babying it.