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.

The Fine Art Of The Sequel Album

In a lot of ways, a good album is like a movie: it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. It should take you on a journey. You should learn something about the main character that you didn’t know before you started. The main character should learn something about themselves too. And it should leave you wanting more. And much like in the film world, occasionally a successful album will prompt a sequel. Sometimes this is a very, very good idea – such as when Star Wars was followed up with The Empire Strikes Back. Other times, well …you end up up with that unpleasant business that happened to The Matrix series. Here are a few sequel albums worth checking out.

Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime II

Okay, this one could well be seen as a controversial inclusion, especially amid claims that most of the band wasn’t terribly involved in the final product. But whatever internal turmoil was going on within Queensryche at the time they made this, the sequel to their multiplatinum 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime, you’ve gotta admit that a few of these songs stand up pretty well when held up against the Queensryche catalog. Most of the great tracks are skewed to the first half of the album – the fast metal of “I’m American,” the proggish “Hostage,” the driving “The Hands” – but this album also contains a great guest appearance by the late great Ronnie James Dio on the song “The Chase,” playing the role of Dr. X, the mysterious antagonist of the series. And if you happened to catch the band performing it live together with the original album, it worked pretty well.

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

Neil Young’s Harvest was a landmark album, topping the Billboard charts for two weeks and racking up the honour of being the highest-selling album of 1972. Twenty years later Young reunited with many of the same musicians (such as Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor) to record Harvest Moon, not technically acknowledged as a sequel but c’mon!!! Harvest Moon came about because Young was recovering from a bout of tinnitus after spending a lot of time playing really, really loud recording and touring the Ragged Glory album. Harvest Moon was critically acclaimed, scoring a Juno Award for Album of the Year.

The Smashing Pumpkins – Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

The Smashing Pumpkins released Machina/The Machines of God to stores in 2000, but the band always planned for Machina to be a double album. Virgin Records weren’t into that idea, so Billy Corgan released a second Machina album on his own label, Constantinople Records, in an extremely limited edition of 25 copies in the form of a double LP plus three EPs featuring B-sides and alternate takes. Some of those 25 copies were given to friends of the band, but a handful were given to fans from the band’s online community with an invitation to get the music out there free of charge. So Machina II became one of the first examples of an artist fully exploiting the viral nature of online music, back in the days when Napster was still a thing. A remastered version of the album is planned for release later this year alongside a remaster of Machina/The Machines of God, making Machina II commercially available for the first time ever.

KISS – Alive II

Yeah, we have to include this (and to a lesser extent subsequent sequels, but definitely Alive II). The original Alive was a landmark, star-making effort for KISS, and this sequel benefited from three whole studio albums’ worth of intervening material (Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun). Sure, some tracks were recorded at sound checks and the last five cuts are studio tracks, but Alive II was still huge, thanks in no small part to Ace Frehley’s incendiary (literally, wink) showcase “Shock Me.” 

Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare

Alice Cooper’s 1975 album Welcome To My Nightmare is a classic of the shock rock genre, but Alice eventually moved away from that sound as the years progressed, often incorporating strains of whichever heavy music forms were dominant at the time, such as the glam rock of Trash in 1989, or the dark Brutal Planet in 2000. 2011’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare reflected an intentional effort to recapture big chunks of Cooper’s mid-70s sound, and to that end he reunited with Bob Ezrin – the producer of the original album – as well as previous members of the Alice Cooper band, including Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce, Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter. The album is also full of guest musicians like Vince Gill, Rob Zombie, Chuck Garric, Kip Winger, Damon Johnson, John 5 and even Ke$ha, who performs guest vocals on “What Baby Wants.” What some folks forget, though, is that Cooper’s 1976 album Alice Cooper Goes To Hell was also a sequel to Welcome To My Nightmare, continuing the story of Steven, that album’s main character. I guess Welcome 3 My Nightmare wouldn’t have really worked for the 2011 album.

Steve Vai – The Story Of Light

Steve Vai conceived his Real Illusions: Reflections album as the first of a trilogy of records. It’s kind of a bummer that it took seven years for its follow-up, The Story Of Light, but Vai came through with the goods in characteristically unpredictable fashion. Who could have imagined Vai finally really laying into some angry blues (“John The Revelator”) or orchestrating a vocal chorus right out of Broadway (“Book Of The Seven Seals”), or composing a 7-string epic based on the placement of flowers blooming on a fence outside his studio window (“Weeping China Doll”), or duet with Aimee Mann (“No More Amsterdam”)? Or that he would break with his own convention by recording one of his most straightforward instrumental guitar songs ever (“Racing The World”)? Well, Vai fans, I guess! 

Sequel Albums That Aren’t Sequel Albums

Of course there’s a whole category of albums that look like sequels if you glance at their titles, but aren’t really, at least not in a particularly thematic or over way. Albums such as Van Halen, Van Halen II and Van Halen III (the last of which sort of works because it represents the third line-up of Van Halen to release an album); Led Zeppelin I, II, III and IV (the last one not technically having a name); and many, many more. 

What are your favorite sequel albums?

REVIEW: Eventide H9 MAX

“The H9 is that rare sonic tool that is capable of inspiring your entire musical direction.”

Eventide has been a part of the musical landscape since the 70s: David Bowie and Brian Eno famously used the hell out of an Eventide harmonizer starting from the Low album and that’s good enough for me! In the guitar world, Steve Vai practically created an entire genre of psychedelic progressive shred wackiness through his use of the H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer. But you’ll find Eventide’s family of harmonizers all over the place: recording studios, sound design, radio production… the company’s footprint is all over the last four decades plus of sonic history. Eventide doesn’t cut corners, so it can be a pretty costly proposition to add one of their rack units to your arsenal. Thankfully there’s a range of great stompboxes available in the form of the TimeFactor (delay), ModFactor (modulation), PitchFactor (pitch shifting), and Space (reverb). Each is a dedicated unit with plenty of controls and functions and they’re all serious stuff, but Eventide has found a way to cram every one of those pedals into a small, pedalboard-friendly unit called the H9 MAX.

The H9 gets away with this Tardis-like approach to effects management by placing the controls not on the pedal itself but on your computer or smartphone screen via the H9 Control App which gives you instant access to over 500 presets and practically endless editing capability. There is a degree of control available on the surface of the pedal itself in the form of a Hotknob and three assignable parameters, but this is a pedal designed for those who are comfortable dialling in their tone on their screen. 

Get Connected

Connections include stereo inputs and outputs, an expression pedal jack, Mini USB and MIDI Out/Thru (plus the 12v DC jack for the included power supply). It’s important to note that the H9 is not a multi-effect pedal – that is, you can’t combine multiple effects in a chain – but many effects include delay or reverb capability alongside their main function. And you’re not forced to commit to using it just in your amp’s effects loop or just through its front end. The stereo inputs and outputs can be treated as two totally different signal paths to select between, allowing you to send, say, a chewy-sounding vintage phaser preset to your amp’s front end, then switching to a delay or reverb preset that goes through your amp’s effects loop. It’s a really ingenious system that allows you to get the most out of the H9’s stunning range of capabilities as the song demands. 

Variations On A Theme

There are actually three variations on the H9 available, which differ only in the pre-loaded effects: the base H9 Core which comes loaded with the PitchFactor’s H910/H949 settings; the H9 Harmonizer which has two algorithms each from Space, PitchFactor, ModFactor and TimeFactor plus the H9-exclusive UltraTap Delay; and the full H9 MAX which is loaded with 50 effect algorithms and 99 presets, with over 500 presets available via the H9 Control app. You can upgrade the H9 Core or H9 Harmonizer to H9 MAX specs online for an additional cost using the MAXOut Program, so even if you don’t have the spare bucks to get the MAX up-front, you can get in on the ground floor with the H9 Harmonizer or Core and upgrade as you’re able. And it’s worth doing because here’s what MAX comes loaded with:

H9 Exclusive:

UltraTap Delay

Resonator

EQ Compressor

CrushStation

SpaceTime

Sculpt

PitchFuzz

HotSawz

From Space:

Shimmer

Hall

Blackhole

Spring

Plate

Room

MangledVerb

Tremoloverb

ModEchoVerb

DualVerb

DynaVerb

Reverse Reverb

From PitchFactor:

Crystals

H910/H949

Diatonic

MicroPitch

Quadravox

PitchFlex

Octaver

Harpeggiator

Synthonizer

Harmodulator

From ModFactor:

Chorus

Phaser

Q-Wah

Flanger

ModFilter

Rotary

TremoloPan

Vibrato

Undulator

RingMod

From TimeFactor:

Tape Echo

Vintage Delay

Digital Delay

Mod Delay

Ducked Delay

Band Delay

Filter Pong

MultiTap

Reverse

Looper

Some of these are pretty self-explanatory. Others are really unique. For instance, Sculpt lets you split the audio signal into high and low frequency bands and then apply different levels of gain and filtering to each, then add compression either before or after the distortion. In stereo if you want to. PitchFuzz combines fuzz, three pitch shifters and two delays for some truly filthy sounds. CrushStation is a stereo distortion that can do anything from blues tones to ultra pissed-off. And HotSaws is a pitch-tracking monophonic synth with modulation sources including LFO, Envelope Follower and ADS Gate, with four assignable destinations (Filter Cutoff, Volume, Pitch and Oscillator Depth), with each modulation source able to be assigned to any destination at any time. 

In Use

And that’s just the new stuff available only in H9 MAX: there are also plenty of classic Eventide effects that you’ll recognise from either the ‘Factor’ series of pedals, or earlier devices such as the H3000, H949 and H910. For instance, y’know Steve Vai’s classic ‘Ballerina 12/24’ pitch-shifted delay setting? That’s in here. The pitch shift preset from ‘The Animal’ is in here too, as are various EVH ‘1984’-inspired sounds (and I’ve been able to dial in a perfect replica of Eddie’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge-era chorus-like subtle doubling sound). In fact, the huge number of sounds in here from previous Eventide products like the H3000 really hits home just how innovative that classic rack unit was. The DigiTech Whammy Pedal? It’s basically just a particular H3000 mode with a built-in expression pedal, and you can do it with the H9 and an expression pedal too. Dynamic reverb, chorus and delay effects that respond to your picking? That’s all here just like it has been since the H3000. Extensive looping capability? Ditto. But there’s other stuff in here that has been criminally overlooked. Frank Zappa was a fan of using dynamic flanging effects, and Eventide gives you this capability (which works especially well as an ‘into-the-front-of-the-amp’ effect); trigger a flanger-sweep every time you pick a note, or deeper sweeps the harder you pick. Or assign the flanger resonance to an expression pedal. The signal-processing possibilities are endless, and that means your creative and expressive options as a musician are endless too. The H9 is that rare sonic tool that is capable of inspiring your entire musical direction.

The sound quality is so great that you can get away with using the H9 as front-and-centre feature effects in a recording environment – as you’d expect from a company whose gear is in every serious studio in the world – but what really impresses me is how utterly clean and noise-free the sound is when used with my roaring Marshall. I’m used to battling against hiss and hum in outboard gear and I’ve figured out various ways to get rid of it over the years but the H9 is so damn quiet. The dynamic range isn’t unnaturally squished, there’s no buzz, no hum, no white noise. And this becomes really apparent when using delay and reverb effects. 

The MIDI capability is also extremely handy. Although the H9 has become my go-to reverb and delay unit, I’ve been connecting the H9 MAX to my trusty old BOSS GT-8 Multi-Fx floorboard so I can use the GT-8’s delay and reverb effects when the H9 MAX is otherwise occupied with another algorithm through my amp’s front end (eg: Octave, Flanger, Wah or PitchFlex effects). This also lets me add H9 presets with my GT-8 presets, and also to use the GT-8’s expression pedal to control H9 effects. In a perfect world I’d have an Eclipse V4 sitting in a rack to take care of delay and harmonizer effects in my amp’s effects loop and an H9 on a pedalboard to look after front-end effects like fuzz, distortion, wah, flanger, phaser, pitch and whammy. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig into some serious editing on a smartphone, tablet or computer screen, the H9 will do absolutely everything you can ever think to ask of it. (If you’re a little put off by the control method but you still want some great Eventide delay and modulation effects – from the natural to the freaky – check out the new Eventide Rose Modulated Delay). The H9 is a serious piece of kit, which is why Living Colour’s Doug Wimbish had four of the dang things on his pedalboard when I saw the band live recently!