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Interview

INTERVIEW: MONO’s Daniel Kushner

Have you seen what MONO is up to? They offer a range of environmentally, zoologically and aesthetically friendly cases for we guitarists, as well as plenty of other items too – wallets, laptop sleeves, iPad sleeves, backpacks, pedalboard cases, DJ storage stuff… The company has a clear and identifiable design style  too, which gives their products a lot of character. Y’know how products by companies like Apple and Fender always feel ‘Apple-y’ or ‘Fendery’ yet retain their individuality as an item? That. I had a chat with MONO founder Daniel Kushner about the company’s philosophy, product offering and jam-friendly company culture.

How did Mono begin?

MONO was born out of 3 colliding factors: 1. My desire to build a design-driven company, 2. My desire to reconnect with my musical side, and 3. My frustration at the time with the state of soft goods in the music industry. I felt I could really make a difference in the industry designing pro level products for my favorite activity – going to play music. “Go Play” became my mantra, and continues to be our mantra!

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INTERVIEW: Gojira’s Joe Duplantier

French metal band Gojira have been a ‘next big thing’ for far too long. They’ve maintained the same line-up since forming in Bayonne in 1996, and each successive album has pushed them closer and closer to the spotlight. But L’Enfant Sauvage is going to change all that. This is the album that seems finally destined to bump Gojira all the way into at least Lamb of God/Trivium levels of fame. It combines a Devin Townsend-esque appreciation for atmosphere and melody with post-thrash rhythms, post-death metal drumming and a live, human element that’s missing from so much current studio-tweezed metal. After a triumphant run during Australias’s Soundwave Festival (which saw Devin Townsend and Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal join them on stage for a historic performance of their studio collaboration “Of Blood And Salt”), Gojira are ready.

“The reason why we did that tour was to see a kangaroo,” guitarist and vocalist Joe Duplantier says of the recent Soundwave shows. “That was our main purpose! The reason why we came to Australia! And then we played some shows with Soundwave. But mostly we wanted to see a wild kangaroo. The last day of the tour we still hadn’t seen a kangaroo so we rented a car and went to the desert. Couldn’t find one the whole day. But on our way back to Perth we saw one, man! The night was falling and this huge kangaroo was jumping, and everyone was screaming in the car.” But  now that the hunt for bipedal marsupials is over, Gojira is getting down to business. L’Enfant Sauvage is their first album on Roadrunner Records. It’s a diverse collection of tracks, some heavy, some more ambient, with an unusual amount of colour and drama for most bands other than Devin Townsend and Cynic. “I don’t listen to metal a lot,” Duplantier explains. I listen to Massive Attach and Morcheeba and Radiohead, Portishead. My brother [Mario Duplantier, drums] likes Indian music. Christian [Andreu], the other guitar player, doesn’t like music at all! He likes silence! He’s like, “Wow, this is the best.” And the bass player [Jean-Michel Labadie] listens to all kinds of metal. He’s a huge metal fan. So it’s an interesting mix. We have different attitudes, and it creates something more personal. I’d like to think that through the years, as we release albums, it’s getting closer to what we are, closer to the core. It’s a nice feeling. I love this album. We reached something that Im’ really, really happy with.”

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INTERVIEW: Thomas V Jones of TV Jones, Inc

TV Jones, Inc was formed 1993 by guitarist and luthier Thomas V. Jones in Whittier, California. Now based out of Poulsbo, Washington, the company is known for their brilliant recreations of classic Gretsch Filter’Tron pickups in the form of the TV Classic, as well as more modern variations on the theme, like the TV Classic Plus, Magna’Tron, Power’Tron, Power’Tron Plus (developed with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top) and Super’Tron. They do plenty more too: for the full range check out TVjones.com

How di

d you get started? Did you follow the classic ‘accidentally destroy a lot of cheap guitars as a kid’ route, or more traditional luthiery?

As a kid I took my guitars apart out of curiosity. Later on I did many repairs and even attempted to build a double neck electric guitar (6 string and mandolin). Around 1990 I decided to become more serious about guitar repair and construction, so I got a job at a violin shop called The World of Strings in Long Beach, California. I worked in the guitar department for almost three years, and learned to repair and construct stringed instruments based on orchestral instruments. So I got started as a luthier.

What is it about the FilterTron tone that is so magic for you?

The growl, clarity in the bass, and compression –– it is magical.

I imagine you must have disassembled, analysed and reassembled quite a few vintage pickups over the years – what have you learned from this process? Was there as much variation between FilterTrons as there was between classic-era PAFs?

I learned that it’s not just the coils, or coils that make a great pickup, but the combination of superior materials that make a great pickup. Most vintage pickups were made with high quality materials –– that’s all there was. We choose to have our components and materials made in the USA –– the birthplace of the electric guitar pickup.

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INTERVIEW: Morley’s Bill Wenzloff

Morley Pedals was started by brothers Raymond and Marvin Lubow in LA in the 1960s, when players were first really started to explore how they could use effects to enhance their music. Their first product was an electro-mechanical echo uni under the brand name Tel-Ray Electronics, but a subsequent product – a rotating speaker simulation in a box – provided the inspiration for the Morley name: the new unit was ‘More-Lee’ rather than ‘Less-Lee.’ But what really helped Morley to break into the big league was their line of treadle-operated pedals – wahs, volume pedals and the Rotating Sound pedal, the original ‘More-Lee’ pedal. Today Morley makes a variety of effects, including Steve Vai’s Bad Horsie and Little Alligator pedals, signature gear for Mark Tremonti and George Lynch. The company was bought by Chicago firm Sound Enhancements, Inc in the late 80s but Morley continues to use the innovations of the Lubow brothers as inspiration. I Heart Guitar caught up with Morley’s Bill Wenzloff to talk shop.

Tell us about your background as a player – how and why did you start? What did you play? 

I started playing guitar at about age 12. I was already a Beatles fan but once I discovered Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Rush and other rock icons, I knew I wanted to play guitar. One of the first rock songs I learned was Dirty Deeds by AC/DC. It felt so awesome hitting those chords out of a loud amp; it felt slightly naughty and yet so cool. I was hooked. I played in many bands throughout my life; some original, some cover and even a few tribute bands (I was Ace Frehley in Kiss Tribute “Kissed” and Brad Whitford in Aerosmith tribute called “Big Ten Inch”). Music has been the one constant in my life and I am continually grateful that I have the gift of playing music.

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INTERVIEW: Garbage’s Butch Vig

When Garbage went into hiatus around 2006, nobody expected the band to be gone forever. It really did seem like more of a ‘recharge the creative batteries’ break than a ‘we hate each other and can’t stand to work together ever again’ thing. So when they announced their plans to return, it was not really a surprise. What is a surprise is that their new album, Not Your Kind Of People, sounds like they never missed a day. It does what Garbage – Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson – have always done best, and that’s to sound like themselves. That indefinable quality that makes each Garbage album sound different to the one before it, yet makes them all sound like part of the unified output of those four musicians and the dynamic between them.

“We did not want to reinvent ourselves,” Vig says. “We wanted to embrace the sensibilities of what we like as the four of us. And just basically try to capture what it is that makes it sound like who we are.” Part of that was the realisation that nobody else sounds like Garbage, and that there’s something about having an identity that’s very hard to define and quantify, but that when you find it, you hang on to it. “I think that’s a huge, valuable asset in today’s world, to have that kind of signature sound. So we decided to simply do what we like to do. And that’s the sound of this record. A lot of people said it reminded them of our first album.”

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INTERVIEW: Dragonforce’s Herman Li

It’s always tough on fans when a singer leaves a band. Sure, Van Halen did fine with Sammy Hagar, and AC/DC didn’t exactly flounder when Brian Johnson joined, but there’s always that moment of “Oh jeez, will this work?” Post-Lane Warrant, heck, even post-Hagar Van Halen – there’s lots of scope for a misstep. Well the new Dragonforce album, The Power Within, will immediately shut up anyone who expects the band to lose some of its edge following the departure of ZP Theart. About a year after Theart walked, Dragonforce announced they’d enlisted Marc Hudson as their new voice. And what a voice. Dragonforce still sounds like Dragonforce, but even more musical, more powerful and more exciting. For a band who dishes out killer riffs and impossible guitar licks as easily as walking, kicking it up a notch is quite a feat. But The Power Within delivers.

Hi Herman! We haven’t met before but I remember you kicking around on the Jemsite forums back in the day.

Oh yeah! I still go to Jemsite. It’s got good information.

It’s been great to see forum regulars like you and James McIlroy (Cradle of Filth) going on to such big things. 

Yeah! Actually James gave me the contact with Ibanez to get my deal!

No way! 

Yeah!

Well, first question: What did the switch to Marc bring to the creative process?

With the switch of singer we definitely turned the whole recording process, the rehearsing, the whole band thing upside down and changed everything around. I think it was going to happen anyway, because after we finished the last album I wanted to really look back at the ten years we’d been doing the band – y’know, how we did it, how we wanted to change things, how we could make it better. So for this album and the recording process, I suppose I can almost say it’s completely different from the last album, the last two albums.

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INTERVIEW: Buddy Guy

Blues legend. That’s all there is to it. Buddy Guy is one of the pioneers of the Chicago blues sound, a continually amazing guitarist, highly energetic performer, and a prime influence on one Mr Jimi Hendrix. At 75 years young, Guy is nowhere near slowing down, playing Australian dates in Sydney and Melbourne with Jonny Lang, as well as a standout set at Bluesfest. I spoke to Guy prior to Bluesfest and just after he finished up a string of dates on the Experience Hendrix tour in the USA.

“I’ve can’t count the times I’ve been to Australia,” Guy says. “I started coming down there in 1972. That was my first time coming down and I had never met [Delta Blues legend] Arthur Crudup before. I think it was the guy who created the Newport Jazz Festival, George Wein – he was taking it around the world, and that was my first visit to Australia. And what a country, man. I just fell in love with it.”

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INTERVIEW: Buck Waller of ISP Technologies

You may have seen my review of the revolutionary ISP Technologies’ Decimator noise reduction pedal a while ago. The Decimator concept has evolved even further into the excellent Decimator G String, – my review of that one will be online tomorrow – but in the meantime I asked Decimator mastermind Buck Waller some questions about his groundbreaking designs.

What does the Decimator do differently to other noise gates, and why have other noise gates got it so wrong?
The most simplified noise reduction system is a noise gate. A noise gate works by simply switching the signal path open or closed so the signal is either on or off. The threshold is set so as to allow the desired signals to pass and to open the gate so no signal passes when the signal level decays to the point where the noise becomes undesirable. Most players find this undesirable since the gate will pop open and closed as the signal of the guitar gets near the threshold set point. For years downward expansion has been used as an alternative method of noise reduction and most professional studio noise gates actually use a method of downward expansion instead of a simplified noise gate. The typical professional studio noise gate will have an attack time allowing you to set how fast the expander opens and a release time or rate that determines how fast the expander attenuates after the single drops below the threshold point. This may provide acceptable performance in many applications such as a gate on drums where a single drum is fed through a gate to control the attack and release of a drum with a definable and repeatable waveform. The problem becomes evident when you try to apply this technology to a guitar signal, which can change hundreds of times in any given song. The guitarist is changing from staccato short fast playing to long sustained notes and everything in between and a pre-defined release of a gate or expander is a compromise at best. The Decimator is a single ended noise reduction system, not a noise gate, or a simple expander.

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INTERVIEW: Soulfly’s Max Cavalera

As founding member of Sepultura, Max Cavalera’s place in the books of metal history is assured. Even before the epoch-changing Roots, Max was carving it up with classic tracks like “Dead Embryonic Cells,” “Refuse/Resist” and “Troops of Doom.” But in 1996 Max split from Sepultura and went out on his own with Soulfly, a sometimes-rotating collective of incredibly able metal musicians. Initially Soulfly’s work carried on the tribal metal vibe of Roots, before the band started to carve out a niche of its own. And yet there was always the spectre of the Sepultura sound lurking in the background. Max’s other band, The Cavalera Conspiracy with his brother Iggor, has taken up the challenge in giving the world new music in the Sepultura mode. That seems to have freed up Max’s writing even further and fed into Soulfly’s latest, Enslaved. Just as previous Soulfly albums have demonstrated different facets of Max’s metal vision, the new one presents yet another side: full-on skull-crushing death metal. It’s an imposing, aggressive, brutal, jagged, glass-chewing, blood-spitting freak of an album. And Max is justifiaby proud.

 

This year Soulfly is celebrating its 15 anniversary. That’s a long time!

It is, man! It’s unbelievable. Sometimes I look back and I think it feels like yesterday that we were recording the first record in California. And now fifteen years later this is our eighth record. So many songs, so many tours, the band is still rolling and the band is even more popular now than ever.

 

How would you describe Enslaved compared to the last one, Omen

 

It’s more extreme. We have an extreme metal drummer who joined the band called David Kinkade who comes a school of death metal playing. He comes from a band called Borknagar and they’re a death metal band from Norway. He plays with double bass and blast beats. A very extreme way of playing. We actually built those songs around him. I was very influenced by that, so some of the stuff  even sounds like old Morbid Angel and old Death and Suffocation. So it’s really going to surprise a lot of people. It’s a very extreme Soulfly record, the most extreme Soulfly record of all of them. The most extreme record we’ve done for all the times.

 

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INTERVIEW: Arch Enemy’s Michael Amott


Arch Enemy are about to embark on the last round of touring for last year’s excellent Khaos Legions.  More melodic and with maybe a touch less death than you might expect from a melodic death metal band, Khaos Legions is also the last Arch Enemy album to feature guitarist Chris Amott, whose departure from the band was announced earlier this month. But mere line-up changes can’t keep Arch Enemy down: new guitarist Nick Cordle of Arsis has taken up the co-guitarist throne alongside Michael Amott, and the band has a lot to say and do before they put the full stop at the end of Khaos Legions.

You’re about to come to Australia for a very short tour. Only two shows. You know what that means for a lot of fans: heavy metal road trip!

Yeah! We’re happy that we got the opportunity to play Australia at all this year, but it’s just these two shows. We wanted to play it safe. And it’s at the end of an Asia run. We start in Japan and do four shows there, then we go round Singapore, the Philippines, Korea, various places around Asia. Then we got the opportunity with a new promoter to tack on these two Australian shows, Melbourne and Sydney. We’re just really excited about doing it. I guess it’s been a couple of years since we were there now.

The last time I saw you were was probably Gigantour.

Yeah. I think the last time we were there was ’09. We did Gigantour, we’ve done a few different things down there. This will be our fourth or fifth visit to Australia, and this will be the last one in a while. We’re obviously not going to come back this year after these shows, then next year, 2013 is going to be a year off for Arch Enemy mostly. We’ll probably put out a new album in 2014. So I don’t know, maybe 2015 we’ll be back, if metal is still around at that point! So it’s going to be a while, so if anybody wants to see us and get their dose of Arch Enemy this is the last one for a while.

Obviously the hot topic at the moment is Chris’s departure from the band. What’s the story?

Well, Chris informed us in October last year that he wanted to leave the band. Again. [Laughs]. He’s been out of the band, in 2005, 2006, 2007.

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INTERVIEW: Ace Frehley

It’s the Les Paul that launched a million guitarists: the 1974 Cherry Sunburst three-pickup Gibson Les Paul used by Ace Frehley during KISS’s breakthrough era. The guitar, known as the Budokan Les Paul in honour of the historic Japanese venue where it was given one of its best-known public showings, left Ace’s stewardship a few years ago, and it was long since retired from the road. But now it’s back, in spirit at least, in the form of Gibson Custom’s new Ace Frehley “Budokan” Les Paul Custom. This limited edition instrument will be available in four versions: fifty signed guitars aged by Tom Murphy in the Gibson Custom Shop; one hundred aged (but not signed) pieces; a further 150 finished with Gibson’s VOS (Vintage Original Spec) process; and 1000 pieces of an Epiphone version which retains most of the design features of its Gibson big brother. Ace took some time to talk with I Heart Guitar about the new guitar, the 30+ year old classic it’s based on, and his future plans.


“It was my favourite guitar that I used pretty much exclusively through the 70s and 80s, I guess,” Frehley says of the original instrument. “I continued to use it even with Frehley’s Comet. I don’t even remember when I got it! It was some time around 1975, 76. I had three or four backups, but the particular one that they just released, which is called the Budokan guitar, it was always my favourite guitar, my number one. It just felt the best and played the best.”

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INTERVIEW: Vivian Campbell

One of the coolest things to come out of NAMM this year will no doubt be the 25th Anniversary Vivian Campbell Shredder by Buddy Blaze. The original version of this guitar became the Kramer Nightswan, one of the greatest mass-produced shred guitars ever. To commemorate 25 years since the original guitar, Buddy and Vivian have teamed up to create a limited edition of 25 pieces. Buddy and Vivian will unveil the guitar at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California on Saturday at 2:30pm. Vivian was kind enough to answer some questions about the Shredder.

How did you first meet Buddy?

Buddy and I met in Dallas TX in early ’87. I was there for a guitar clinic for LaBella strings. Buddy had some of his guitars on display in the store and we got to talking about them. One thing led to another and Buddy offered to make me a guitar to my specs. The original blue polka dot guitar was the result.

At the time, there must have been millions of guitar companies chasing you. What was it about Blaze guitars that stood out?

I had actually just ended a disastrous relationship with B.C. Rich guitars – one that I was talked into by a slimy A+R rep with whom I had previously worked with at Charvel/Jackson. Having the fresh but bitter taste of ‘big-guitar-company-politics-gone-bad’ in my mouth, I was quite drawn to the idea of working one-on-one with a guy who simply wanted to build guitars as opposed to a bigger company that was more concerned with marketing.

The Shredder/Nightswan design was very innovative. What were the main design features you requested?

I liked the idea of a short scale guitar of 24 3/4 inches. I had been playing Charvel/Jackson strats for a year or two before that, and whilst I certainly appreciated those instruments there were certain features that were unnatural to me, one of which was the wide, flat and unfinished fretboard. Another, as mentioned, was the 25 1/2 inch scale; although I have big hands, I liked the idea of a smaller instrument with a smaller neck as I tend to use my left hand thumb over the top of the neck when playing bar chords and that was difficult to do with larger, wider necks.

Did you test many different pickups before settling on the final ones?

It was so long ago that I don’t recall the specifics of how many different pickups we may have tried. I vaguely remember going back and fourth with Seymour Duncan about the Full Shred and tweaking that. Perhaps Buddy’s memory is in better shape than mine!

Where’s the original Shredder today?

Buddy has been the custodian of the original guitar.

I see you with Les Pauls a lot (and that cool gold top Yamaha) – do you ever pick up the old Superstrat-type guitars and reminisce? Think they’d ever make an appearance at a Def Leppard show?

As a teenager, I started out on a Les Paul with my first band, Sweet Savage. It seems fitting to have come full-circle after all these years and having played so many different instruments. Nowadays I feel a lot more comfortable playing a fixed-bridge guitar and I could never see myself going back to playing a strat style tremolo guitar other than as a one-off experience. With Def Leppard, Phil plays strats, so the Les Paul (or Yamaha) is a good contrast – as indeed is our differing styles of playing.

Guthrie Govan

Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com

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