A Sneak Peek At My New Kiesel Vader

 

Kiesel Vader

Ever since Kiesel announced the Vader headless (via a ‘one image fragment at a time’ social campaign a couple of years ago) I’ve daydreamed about owning one. At at NAMM this year checked out quite a few of them and was really impressed by the weight, balance and resonance. So, with thanks to Jeff and Manny at Kiesel, I’m about to take delivery of my dream Vader. Above is a snippet of a photo that Jeff sent me. There’s actually a very similar V7 on the Kiesel site, but mine has some key differences, and there’s a long and convoluted reason for every wood and colour choice, which I’ll get into in a full review when the guitar arrives. For now, why don’t you head on over to the Kiesel website to check out the various options on the Vader!

“Back When I Used To Listen To Music…”

“Oh yeah, I was into them back when I used to listen to music.”

“That band is still together?”

“They were the soundtrack to my teenage years.”

I’m a music journalist, and a dad in my late 30s. The ‘dad’ bit means I run into a lot of parents, some my age, most a few years older. It seems that most parents that I meet had their kids later in life than we did, and indeed a lot of my classmates are having their first kids now, while my son is 10 (and he’s into Bowie, Zappa and Devin Townsend, so woo). And the sentences quoted above are something I hear a lot when I chat with fellow parents. Eventually the question of ‘What do you do for a living?’ comes up and I find myself explaining my cool-ass job. And I inevitably hear things like those statements, and others like “I used to listen to heavier bands but I grew out of it” or “I have no time to listen to music now.” It really hit home with the passing of Chris Cornell, when a bunch of friends on Facebook posted things like “You’re my favourite, I used to listen to you all the time,” as if Euphoria Morning wasn’t fucking phenomenal, or like Audioslave didn’t exist, or King Animal wasn’t a thing. That really bummed me out because Cornell continued to make music every bit as vital as those big Soundgarden records. He never went away and his standards never slipped (well, there was that one pop album but even then, dude was following his muse).

I know I’m lucky because my job forces me to listen to new music. It’s the same as in any profession: you can’t really do it to the best of your ability if you’re relying on information that’s 20 years old. Still, it makes me sad that there are people out there who are my age and who would have been raised on the same diet of 90s alternative, industrial, metal, grunge and other now-retro-but-then-nowtro stuff, who think of music as something in their past rather than something that grows with them. The musical nostalgia industry is fuelled by the power of music to make you remember how you felt at the time you first heard it, but there’s no reason you can’t continue to bring new music into your life to serve as the soundtrack to where you are now. Hell, Spotify is like twelve bucks a month. YouTube is free and it’s loaded with new music. It’s so easy to find out what your old favourite bands are doing now or, even more importantly, to find new ones that can represent you and your feelings as they stand today.

Something I’ve been doing a lot of lately is going back and listening to things I never really had the access to check out back in the day, when in order to listen to a band you had to either buy the record, hear someone else’s copy or catch it on TV or radio. I loved the Cure songs I saw on the Australian music video show Rage, but my CD money was always spent on metal and shred. Now I’m digging further and deeper into their back catalog and more recent records, and while many of these tracks are over 30 years old and totally new to me, they’re finding a place in my heart that’s every bit as important as Dirt or Passion And Warfare or Fair Warning. So now I’m catching up on bands like The Replacements, or filling in the gaps of my knowledge of The Cure, or getting into Crowded House non-album tracks. But I’m also checking out newer artists like Between The Buried And Me, Rival Sons, St. Vincent, Northlane… and this music, all of which is new to me whether it’s new or not, has its own emotional resonance for my present-day life. I can still always put on Living Colour’s Stain or Ministry’s Psalm 69 to remember how I felt at 16, but I can also put on Ryan Adams’ Prisoner or Periphery’s The Price Is Wrong to capture how I feel today at 38.

My buddy Dean Delray, whose podcast Let There Be Talk is an essential listen, is always talking about this. He always hears folks saying “There are no great bands any more.” There are fucktonnes of them out there. But to hear them you have to own the fact that maybe the music you loved as a teenager wasn’t any more special than the music today’s teenagers are listening to: it’s just that you heard those songs at a time that was special to you, and you’ve associated the excitement of ‘first kiss, first beer, first party’ with those bands as part of one whole package of nostalgia. That’s totally cool, but see it for what it is and let yourself feel the same way about new music that can accompany new moments. Music is vast and beautiful and alive and you don’t need to stop listening to new music the moment you turn 18.

Seymour Duncan Releases Mark Holcomb Alpha & Omega Signature Pickups

 

IMG_0210

SANTA BARBARA, CA March 1, 2017 – Seymour Duncan, a leading manufacturer of pickups and pedals, announces the over-the-counter release of Periphery guitarist Mark Holcomb’s Alpha and Omega pickups in 6, 7 and 8-string versions.

“The Alpha/Omega set has been the heartbeat of my sound for the past several years,” Mark Holcomb says. “Since we developed and released the first 6-string set in the custom shop, I’ve had the same pickup set in every one of my 6, 7 and 8-string guitars, live and in the studio. It has remained one of the few components of my rig and setup that I haven’t even thought about tweaking.”

“The Omega bridge pickup came out super cool,” Holcomb continues. “It’s very, very aggressive and snarling, with that percussive quality that I like in the low mids. My style is based on really big chords with a lot of voicings, and I didn’t want to sacrifice any of that in the bridge pickup. And the Alpha neck pickup has lots of pick attack – probably the most pick attack of any neck pickup I’ve ever played. But it’s still very fat and glassy.”

“The 6-string Custom Shop release of this pickup was very popular and we heard a lot from Mark and Mark’s fans who said they wanted extended range versions of that same pickup and the ability to buy it over the counter,” says Seymour Duncan SVP of Products & CRO Max Gutnik. “We’re excited to make them available to more players, with more variety.”

Available as a set, or individual neck or bridge pickups.
6, 7 or 8-string options.
Trembucker option is available for 6-string.

Seymour Duncan Mark Holcomb Alpha/Omega pickups are made in the USA and will be available on March 1, 2017.

About Seymour Duncan

Seymour Duncan celebrates a rich history as the world’s leading pickup and pedal manufacturer. Since 1976, Seymour Duncan has helped the world’s artists develop their own unique, signature sounds. This is accomplished through a dedicated team of craftsman at their Santa Barbara, California office. For more information, please visit seymourduncan.com.

Peter

INTERVIEW: Trivium’s Matt Heafy

Trivium

Trivium’s 2003 debut Ember To Inferno is a landmark release that led to the band’s signing to Roadrunner Records and the worldwide success that followed. Out of print for several years, the band and 5B Artist Management have partnered with Cooking Vinyl to re-release the album, along with a deluxe edition titled Ember To Inferno: Ab Initium that includes 13 additional demos that have never been previously available. It’s a hugely important release for Trivium fans, filling in some gaps in the story of how they became one of the hardest-working and most self-reinventing metal bands in the world. I caught up with voclalist/guitarist Matt Heafy to chat about it.

What would the Matt Heafy of today have told the Matt Heafy of 2003 about what to expect from a career in music? 

If I could look back and talk to myself now I would say ‘be prepared. There’s going to be a lot of good, bad and ugly. You will have good things happen and you will have bad things happen, but all those things will bring you to who you are today.’

How did you grapple with the attention being so young?

Back on Ember, we didn’t have fans at that point. When that record came out, with the distribution deal it had, you couldn’t really find that record anywhere. So we were excited to get signed but when we went to our local record stores, we couldn’t find Ember. When the release first came out it was kind of cursed from the beginning. That label eventually did get their distribution sorted out, but by the time it was sorted, Ascendency was coming out. Ascendency completely eclipsed the release of Ember. And when Ascendency first came out we still didn’t have fans yet. I remember going on tour doing Ozzfest and having people not knowing who we were. The first time we went somewhere new and had fans who were waiting for us was the UK. That was the first time we really experienced ‘Oh wow, people are into our band!’ But in the Ember days, from the beginning up until the Ascendency days, we’d play a couple of local shows in Orlando once in a while, maybe play a dive bar and get five or seven people.

One of the most revealing things I’ve heard in an interview is when Metallica came to Australia in 2013 and an interviewer on the radio asked James Hetfield ‘Did you imagine in 1983 that in 30 years’ time you’d be headlining arenas in Australia?’ and James’s answer was something like ‘Yes, of course. You have to have goals like that and believe they’re going to happen.’

For Trivium the goal from the very beginning has always been to be one of the biggest metal bands in the world. To be the kind of band that makes an impact on the music scene. It’s something that takes a lot of time and it’s always been the goal. When we first came out, when people first started hearing about Trivium and reading about us in magazines, we were known as that band with the cocky ambitions of world domination. People were taken aback by that because we were 18, 19 years old and they weren’t used to people talking like that at that age, but people have got to understand that I’d already been in the band for six or seven years at that point. I’d already been living with that goal of wanting to be a massive band. It’s been that same way since day one.

Take me back to the demo days.

193530-l-hiWith the Ember reissue it has the Red, Blue and Yellow demos. At the time of Red, that was our first time recording in a decent bedroom-converted local studio. When we went to do the Blue album with Jason Seucof, that was the first time recording in something a little bigger. It was Jason’s garage converted into a little studio. And for us that was the biggest thing we’d ever been in in our entire lives. We did Blue, Yellow, Ember, Ascendency, The Crusade, I did Roadrunner United and Capharnaum, this technical death metal band I have with Jason, and it’s really like a DIY home-made studio. Jason pulled off some amazing things. So by the time we were doing the Blue album it was familiar with us to be with Jason.

At what point did you feel that you guys found your voice as a band?

That’s a good question. From the beginning we always made the kinds of music we wanted to hear as fans of metal. We made the kind of music that we felt was either missing or that we specifically wanted to hear at that point in time, and I don’t recall exactly when we were thinking ‘Oh we’ve really hit our stride now,’ but I can say that looking back now and listening to everything very intensely, I used to love Ember as being a record that was similar to Ascendency, in the same style. But looking back now, it really isn’t. It’s so different from Ascendency. Yes, there is screaming and singing but musically it’s approached very differently. And what’s so cool is it truly is seven records of Trivium that are very different to each other. Some have a little more in common with each other than others but I feel like Ember falls into that category as well. It’s great to see the scale and breadth that the band has, with so much different material that can still fit together. Like today we can play a song like ‘Until The World Goes Cold’ and go immediately into ‘Pillars of Serpents’ and it makes sense. That’s a really great thing and it’s not a contrived feeling.

You guys are in a category that I would put an artist like Devin Townsend in too, which is that you have fans who trust you with their ears, y’know? Whatever you do, they’ll find their personal way to connect with it and they don’t necessarily want it to be the same thing all the time. You’ll always get the people who latch onto one album and want you to make it over and over but they’re probably not the ones with Trivium tattoos. 

Exactly. And one of the cheeky things we always say about us not making the same record every time is, there are enough bands that do that, where it’s pretty much the same record every time. We would never be content to do that. And if you even look at Red to Blue, they’re very different to each other. Blue to Yellow, very different.

How have your gear preferences changed over the years since doing Ember?

I know the Blue album, we recorded with something weird. What was that gold BOSS rack preamp thing?

The GX-700! 

Yeah! I think we used that into an Alesis PA power amp or something really bizarre. I think that was the sound of the Blue album. I could be wrong. With Ember I want to say it was maybe some version of a Peavey 5150 or a XXX head. If I think of all the record it’s always been some form of a 5150 I, II or III into something with V30s or something similar. It’s always been that with an overdrive in front, whether it’s been Ibanez or Maxon or MXR. It’s always worked for us.

It’s so interesting that when Eddie and James Brown designed the 5150, the genres it went on to be used in didn’t exist yet but it’s such a perfect amp for really extreme metal. 

It’s crazy! Y’know, there’s actually a scene in Full House where Jesse and the Rippers were trying out new guitar players and there was a 5150 there. And there was a 5150 onstage with Jesse and the Rippers in a lot of scenes! But every record we’ve done has been some version of a 5150 head. I think with Ascendency, Sneap used maybe a Mesa Dual Rectifier for the leads.

Ember To Inferno is out now.

Shredfest ’93, Or The Paul Gilbert Duet That Never Was

Mr Big

I’m a daydreamer. I always have been. One of my current favourite hobbies is going to zillow.com to check out super-expensive homes for sale or rent in Laurel Canyon, then kinda just blissing out over the idea of waking up there, making a coffee, strolling out to the deck with an acoustic guitar and tweedling out some licks while while taking in the aroma of the eucalyptus trees. I’ve met people who don’t daydream at all, or who mistake daydreaming with goal-setting. I’d bloody love to live in Laurel Canyon but I’m not actively working towards it and I’m not fussed if it never happens: it’s just nice to go there in my head for a bit. Anyway, while pondering the nature of daydream recently, I remembered one of my favourite daydreams.

It was in December 1991. My family used to go to the seaside town of Bermagui every year right after Christmas. The seven-hour drive was always pretty brutal, but by ’91 I had a kickass tape deck that fit right behind my seat in dad’s four-door Ford F-150. Jam some headphones in that sucker, crack open a MAD Magazine and zone out until the next pee/snack break (my favourite was the town of Adaminaby, with its giant Rainbow Trout sculpture. Seriously, you’ve gotta go see that thing). That year my brother Steve gave me Mr. Big’s Lean Into It album for Christmas, and I brought it along for the ride, along with a few of my other favourites at the time: Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare, Metallica’s ‘Black’ album, Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

img_0161So here’s where the daydream comes in. I remember this as clear as if it happened yesterday. As I listened to Lean Into It‘s opening track “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy” I started to think about how awesome it would be to record a song with Paul Gilbert. I could picture it all so clearly. It would be an instrumental shred duet. We’d both be playing Ibanez PGM models because Paul would totally have given me one because we’d be best mates of course. Our song would start with a driving riff then kick into an awesome call-and-response verse. Then badass harmony chorus. An even wilder call-and-response second verse. Badass harmony chorus again. Then we’d each take extended solos. Paul’s would be really cool. Mine would utterly wipe the floor with him. I mean it would slay that dude. Poor Paul. And he’d be cool about it, of course, because he’s such a nice guy. And we’d make a video for it. It would be Paul and I, walking along a highway (the highway we happened to be driving along while I was having the daydream), kickin’ dirt on the side of the road. The camera would focus on a nearby snake before re-focusing onto me and Paul shredding on the road in the distance. We’d do some takes of us shredding in the middle of grassy fields. Maybe put a foot up on a fallen tree for a killer rockstar pose.

And the name of the track would be “Shredfest ’93” because I was a realist and I figured I wouldn’t be good enough to wipe the floor with Paul Gilbert within one calendar year, but I’d probably be able to do it by ’93.

Of course part of the thing about daydreams is they’re allowed to be impossible.

Let’s Talk About Stratocasters

lets-talk-about-strats

Stratocasters have been on my mind a lot lately. Part of it is that I just had my Strat set up by the wonderful Joseph ‘Soxy’ Price, who does incredible work. Part of it is that I’ve barely been able to let my Strat out of my sight ever since, because it’s just such a joy to play. And part of it is probably the new Seymour Duncan Jimi Hendrix Signature Strat Set, which I’ve got to get into my guitar ASAP. Whatever it is, I’m daydreaming about Strats a lot at the moment.  Read More …

Schecter Robert Smith UltraCure-XII

ultracure-12-string

Schecter has plenty of great Robert Smith models (as you may have seen in this article) and they’ve just added another: the UltraCure-XII, a 12-string version of his signature guitar featuring a Diamond Adjustable-12 bridge, Schecter locking tuners, Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers with push-pull coil splits, mahogany body and mother-of-pearl block inlays. Head to this link for more info. Read More …