Classic Aussie band Geisha recently released Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, a CD combining new tracks, greatest hits and covers. The guys from Geisha, founder Chris Doheny and recent addition Joe Matera (who is also a music journalist that you may remember from his excellent guest posts on I Heart Guitar), recently played email tag with me while I was swanning about in the US.
How you did you come to join Geisha?
Chris and I first met when I interviewed him for an article I was doing on Geisha’s debut album for Australian Guitar magazine. After the interview, I mentioned I was a guitarist and we got to chatting about similar interests. Later we jammed together and realized we had an incredible chemistry between us, and so started working together further and that eventually evolved into me joining Geisha.
‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ contains greatest hits, new tracks and covers. When you perform a cover are you consciously ‘Geisha-ing it up’ or is it an organic process?
I think whenever I perform any song, whether cover or original, it will always be performed ‘the Joe Matera way’. I am the sum of all my influences which will obviously come out in the way I play and approach things musically. I have always loved guitar harmonies, big riffs and melodic guitar solos, so they are in many ways integral to the way I will stamp things musically on anything. And when you add Chris and I together, because we share a similar musical background and outlook, then, every musical thing we play together will become “Geisha-ed” of its own accord.
There’s some pretty sweet guitar overdubbage on the cover of The Small Faces’ ‘Tin Soldier.’ What’s your approach guitar harmonies and multitracking?
I’m old school in the approach in that I love double tracking rhythm and lead parts as it thickens the sound of the guitar to make it sound huge. It also gives it a much fuller headroom sonic wise, where you can also pan the guitars left and right. Harmonies wise, it’s not always the typical building block of thirds I’ll use it’s usually what sounds good to the ears and will sit better with the rest of the chordal harmony. Some of the harmony guitars utilize not only thirds, but fourths, fifths and sixths. What was it like working with Tom Werman? What are your favourite albums he’s produced?
Working with Tom has been great and was a tremendous learning curve. Tom has an amazing knack for song arrangement, and an incredible ear for sonic detail, producing isn’t just about guitar tones, it’s about everything involved in making the song the best it can be. He also brings out the best in you as a musician. One of the many things I learned from him was about making a guitar solo as concise and appealing to the ears as possible. Some of my favorite Tom Werman produced albums are the “classic trilogy” of Cheap Trick albums – In Color, Heaven Tonight & Dream Police and Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry.
Your guitar tone seems quite clear and warm (and really has that ‘make you wanna crank up the stereo’ factor). What gear do you use?
In the studio, I play a Les Paul Epiphone and a couple of Fender guitars, a Fender Deluxe and a Fender Standard. Both are modified with Seymour Duncan JB humbuckers in the bridge. The other two pickups are stock single coils. On the single, Birthday, Gibson kindly loaded me a reissue of a 1958 Les Paul Custom which had an amazing sound and tone so I used that on for the rhythm tracks and the intro and solo. I also used my black Epiphone on some of the initial rhythm tracks and my white Strat for the outro solo. Live, I’m primarily using my Fender Deluxe though the Les Paul is my back-up. My amp of choice is a Laney GH50L head and Laney cab with 4 X 12s. As for effects, I use a Boss Chorus, Boss Overdrive/Distortion and a Boss Digital Delay. And I use custom made Grover Allman guitar picks exclusively. When it comes to acoustic guitars, I only play Matons. They’re the best damn acoustic guitars in the world. Period.
How do you set up your guitars? Do you make any modifications?
I like a low action on my guitars as I like the fluidity of playing lead and aside from that, I basically keep my guitars stock, with the exception of fitting all my guitars with a graphite nut. And as mentioned, all my Strats are fitted with humbuckers in bridge position; a Seymour Duncan JB which gives my Strats a real ballsy my tone.
How did you get started in music journalism?
In 2000 I started writing for some music websites and eventually scored my first “real” published interview in Australian Guitar magazine. It was with Killing Heidi who at the time was one of the biggest bands in the land. That interview led to others and eventually other magazines came along. My big international break came when I got an article – ‘Metallica In The Studio’ – published in US mag Guitar World. Soon after, I got a regular gig writing for UK’s Total Guitar magazine and the rest as they say, is history. What have been some of your standout experiences as a music journalist?
There have been many but the one that stands out the most was meeting and interviewing Sir George Martin and his lovely wife, Lady Martin. I spent half an hour with Sir George and we discussed The Beatles and music in general. And to hear many of his stories and being given a glimpse into his production approach…
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to work in the music industry, either as a guitarist or a writer (or both?)
I think as writer the most important thing is persistence. As you know yourself Peter, it’s a very hard work and solitary for the most part. So you have to have discipline, passion and be well researched. There is nothing worse than lazy journalism. Don’t ask an artist a question that can easily answered from a quick perusal off a press release and ask something that has been asked a hundred times before. Find a topic that engages the artist’s interest. Sometimes something totally unrelated to music can open up a discussion that leads to some of the best answers you may ever get.
As for advice for guitarists, I believe it’s important to always be playing with other musicians. And to also always be yourself, don’t try and imitate anybody else or your guitar heroes. Every player is unique in his or her way. At the end of the day, it is what makes up your character as a musician and person you are that will be your calling card.
Chris, you played bass and acoustic guitars on the tracks. Do you think being a singer influences your bass playing?
I think being a songwriter probably influences my bass playing more. I will quite often leave the bass part until last, even after the vocals. Then I spend a long time writing the bass lines around the melody and the rhythm. Sometimes I wish I did take being a singer into account more when I write the bass parts I would probably make them more “bass player/singer” friendly!
Being a multi-instrumentalist, do you find that the instrument dictates the musical idea, or is it the other way around, with the music as a whole influencing your choice of instrument?
I think when you have the seed of an idea; the instrument does dictate where you are going to go in terms of say, style or genre(I sometimes write on Keyboards, guitar, or even bass guitar to begin a song idea) However once you get a more complete structure (intro, verse, chorus, bridge and mid 8 etc..) I think the song gets a life of its own and it starts to tell you what instrumentation is going to be required.
The Sgt Pepper’s cover has a very cool drum sound, and an overall production that’s respectful to the original yet has its own personality. What is your approach to engineering?
Thanks. I treat most tracks individually in terms of recording construction. With this track though, I first recorded a basic rhythm track of the complete song (guitar, vocal, click track). I then had our drummer on this track bring his drums in to a very large woody and live sound room that I thought was suitable. We used a mixture of vintage mics and pre-amps (Neumanns, Shures, Sennheiser)It was also important that the drums were wacked pretty hard to get that slamming sound you hear on the track. The heads have also been tuned with the tension right down.
Could you tell us about Geisha’s history from your perspective, and the recent revival of the band?
The band has been around since 1983. We had 8 Australian top twenty hits and two albums in the top forty during the 80’s. I have had the pleasure to work with amazing producers and engineers throughout seven albums. Like Peter Dawkins (Dragon), Richard Lush (Beatles) Dave Marret (Little Heroes), Kevin Beamish (Reo Speed wagon), David Courtney (Leo Sayer), Peter Blyton (Choir Boys), and now Tom Werman (Cheap Trick, Motley Crue). Geisha made a come back in the late nineties and the reaction was fantastic. But it wasn’t until 2005 when I started work on the remastering of our back catalogue that it really clicked again. In 2006 Geisha toured in the States and when I returned to Australia. I met Joe Matera who was interviewing me about our debut album. We got to talking and pretty soon developed a connection with each other. I soon asked Joe to join Geisha as guitarist and after a few gigs started work on our eighth album “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. Last June we released the first single “Birthday” which was received well. In January 2010 we released a double A side “Mystery Writer / Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” which is already getting a lot of attention.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow contains greatest hits, new tracks and covers. When you perform a cover are you consciously ‘Geisha-ing it up’ or is it an organic process?
The covers we have on the album are The Small Faces “Tin Soldier” The Beatles “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” recorded by us in late 2009) and “Come Together” (recorded for our the debut album in 1985 but never released on CD before and Geisha’d up 1985 style!). I have been playing these songs for years live because I love the songs dearly. I used to personally drag a 1973 Fender Rhodes piano to my gigs just to play Tin Soldier and get the authentic keyboard sound. It nearly killed me every time because that thing weighed 70 kilos! Sgt Pepper has been in my head since it was released in 1967. My Ma gave it to me for Xmas 1972 along with a little record player and I wore the record out, I swear! I think probably these songs get Geisha’d up because of the fact that we are Geisha and that’s just the way we play, if you know what I mean.
How did you hook up with Tom Werman, and what did you learn from him?
Joe became a good friend of Tom’s after interviewing him some time ago. When Joe and I joined up Joe asked me if I minded if he played some of my newer tunes to Tom. I said “Are you crazy? This guy only produced two of my fav albums ever!! I would be absolutely rapped” I was talking about Cheap Trick “Heaven Tonight” and “Dream Police.” It turned out that after listening to the tracks Tom did want to produce us and now here we are. Tom has a great ear for arrangement and he knows it when he hears a hit. He is a stickler for getting things just right. He also really understands melody, harmony, contrapuntal and parallel sound. We use a lot of harmony and counterpoint in our vocals and in our guitar work and Tom made sure that it was right every time! I also learned a lot about mixing from Tom (I mixed the single Mystery Writer with Tom overseeing my work).
LINK: Geisha’s website
I got this press release from Martin Guitars the other day about Jorma Kaukonen returning to the C. F. Martin fold. I’ll be checking out all the new Martin instruments at NAMM in January.
Oh by the way, check out Joe Matera’s ‘A Brief History Of Martin Guitars’ guest post on I Heart Guitar.
MARTIN GUITAR INTRODUCES THE M-30 JORMA KAUKONEN CUSTOM ARTIST EDITION
LEGENDARY JEFFERSON AIRPLANE AND HOT TUNA GUITARIST’S UNIQUE DESIGN INSPIRES A PERFECT GUITAR FOR ACOUSTIC FINGERSTYLE BLUES
SEE IT AT THE NAMM SHOW IN JANUARY!Nazareth, PA – December 8, 2010 – Friends let friends play their Martin guitars. Credit David Bromberg for bringing fellow guitar wizard Jorma Kaukonen back into the C. F. Martin fold and inspiring the impressive new Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Edition.
“I played a gig with David Bromberg somewhere in New Jersey and he brought along the prototype of his Martin M-42 Signature Edition,” recalls Kaukonen. “I played that guitar and immediately fell in love with it. ‘When this guitar goes into production, I’ve got to have one,’ I told him. ‘Done,’ he said. When I got it, I loved it and I still do.” So much so, in fact, Kaukonen now plays Martin acoustic guitars exclusively.
While playing a loaned Martin Custom Shop M, Jorma began to really love certain aspects of that guitar (which he calls the “M-5”) and decided to combine specifications from it and the M-42 David Bromberg to create the Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Edition.
One can appreciate Jorma’s selection of Martin’s M body style (jumbo width, 000 depth and 25.4” scale) for his Custom Artist Edition; it handles everything from fingerpicking to flatpicking with ease. The M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Edition features a top of rare Italian Alpine Spruce and forward-shifted scalloped braces for full, saturated tone and impressive dynamic range. The top is paired with East Indian rosewood back and sides for rich, warm bass and strong projection, with an enlarged soundhole for enhanced midrange and treble response.
The Modified V neck with diamond volute is carved from genuine mahogany. “As much as I love my Bromberg, my aging hands need a somewhat wider neck. This works beautifully for my style of playing.”
In a career that has spanned five decades, Jorma first went electric as the lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane in 1965. The Airplane became one of America’s most popular bands of the era, helping define the San Francisco Sound with hits like “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit,” and had eight Top 20 albums during his seven-year tenure. He also first recorded his fingerstyle classic, “Embryonic Journey,” while with the group. Jorma was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Jefferson Airplane in 1996.
Before he left the Airplane, Jorma and longtime friend (and Airplane bassist) Jack Casady joined forces in a side project: Hot Tuna. It began as a duo playing acoustic blues and expanded to include additional musicians, different genres, electric sets and original material. More than 35 years and 25+ albums later, Hot Tuna is still going strong, with Jorma, Jack and multi-instrumentalist Barry Mitterhoff mixing acoustic and occasional electric performances.
Jorma has also recorded 13 solo albums and in 2002 released “Blue Country Heart,” an album of traditional country blues that received a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Traditional Folk Album.”
In 1998, Jorma and his wife Vanessa established Fur Peace Ranch in the rolling foothills of southeastern Ohio. Here guitarists of all styles and skill levels stay, play and learn at workshops led by Jorma and an impressive roster of top musicians. Fur Peace Ranch also hosts a concert series throughout the year called “Live From the Fur Peace Ranch.” This series is broadcast on the Ohio University NPR affiliate, WOUB.
In complement to its unique design, the Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Editionshowcases handsome vintage Style 30 appointments, the first time they have been used with the M body style and only the second time they have appeared on a modern Martin. A Style 45 rosette in select abalone pearl (with the inner ring eliminated) encircles the large soundhole and a vintage-inspired polished and beveled Delmar tortoise-color pickguard protects the top.
The polished East Indian rosewood headplate frames an abalone pearl version of the familiar “C. F. Martin” logo, which arches over a slightly modified Martin “torch” inlay, also in abalone pearl. Nickel Waverly tuners with oval ivoroid buttons complete the headstock. The African black ebony fingerboard features rare Maltese “diamond and squares” position markers in abalone pearl, with a Maltese cross at the 3rd fret, two diamonds at the 5th fret, a square at the 7th fret, two diamonds at the 9th fret, a square flanked by cats eyes at the 12th fret and a cats eye at the 15th fret, and culminating in his “Jorma” signature – no last name needed here – inlaid between the 19th and 20th frets. Both the headstock and fingerboard are bound in grained ivoroid, and inset with mitered black/white fine line inlays. Black/white fine line inlays also accent the grained ivoroid heel cap and end piece.
The nut, compensated saddle, pearl dot-topped bridge pins and endpin are all crafted from bone. Aging toner on the top adds to the guitar’s vintage vibe, and Martin’s polished gloss lacquer finish highlights the beauty of both its tonewoods and appointments.
Each Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Editionguitar is delivered in a vintage style Geib™ hardshell case, and bears an interior label personally signed by Jorma Kaukonen numbered in sequence without the total, and a second interior label depicting his Fur Peace Ranch. Left-handed guitars may be ordered without additional charge and factory-installed electronics are an extra cost option. Authorized C. F. Martin dealers will begin taking orders for the Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Edition immediately and participating dealers will be listed on the C. F. Martin website: www.martinguitar.com
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Part Time Love affair
Girl Like You
Calling Your Name
Never Tell You Why
No Second Prize
*Produced by Tom Werman
** Recorded for Geisha’s 1985 self-titled debut album and here, issued for the first on CD.
The album will be released on December 16th by Diamond Dog Records.
Read Joe Matera’s I Heart Guitar guest posts:
A Brief History of Martin Guitars
Joe Matera is also interviewed in Neil Daniels’ book ‘All Pens Blazing – A Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook’
Joe Matera, rock journo extraordinaire and guitarist for Geisha, spoke with Joe Perry of Aerosmith the other day. Joe Perry told Joe Matera the following, which he has provided to I Heart Guitar as an exclusive news item. Thanks Joe!
JOE PERRY INTERVIEW
Joe Perry: “…I’m hoping to get down there [Australia] with The Joe Perry Project and play for our fans down there that have been waiting for forever and ever to hear us play.
Joe Matera: When do you expect that to happen?
Perry: Probably some time in the coming new year, as I don’t think Aerosmith are going to be working for awhile. So its going to give me enough time to do a tour of not only of the U. S, but we’re also going to try and cover every place we can play around the world.
Matera: How is the recovery process coming along for Steven [Tyler]?
Perry: From what I understand he is resting and his doctors will know in the next couple of weeks how well it is mending and if he is going to have surgery or not to help the bones knit. So there is a lot of waiting around as it takes awhile. Any time you have a bone that is cracked or broken, above your waist, it is hard to keep it still because you have to breathe you know. I’ve had cracked ribs before and I know how long it takes for those to heal because you have to breathe and your ribs are always moving. And so they have taped them up very tightly and its really uncomfortable and really painful and he’s trying to deal with all of that right now.
“I really like my old Marshall tube amps, because when they’re working properly i.e. when the volume is turned up all the way, there’s nothing can beat them, nothing in the whole world. It looks like two refrigerators hooked together……..”
James Marshall Hendrix – Los Angeles, 1967
Joe Matera: So how did a drummer end up developing a classic guitar amplifier?
Jim Marshall: Well, I’d started in show business as a singer. I’ve been in show business for 64 years, singing for 64 years but drumming for about 58 years. I started drumming afterwards you see. It’s just something that progressed over the years from showbusiness to teaching. I taught many of the top drummers like Mitch Mitchell with Hendrix, Micky Waller with Rod Stewart…many of the top drummers, I’ve taught during the 50′s and then decided to open a drum shop. But that went wrong because Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore and one or two others got onto me and said “why don’t you stock amplifiers and guitars?”. I said “well, I know a lot about drums but not much about guitars”. They told me if I would stock them, they’ll buy them from me instead of going to the West End of London because they were treated there in London like idiots. The rock and rollers used to use the Fender Bassman. That was the nearest thing to the sort of sound they wanted. Later on in 1961 they said to me “well, the amplifier’s (Fender Bassman) not built to give us the correct sound”. So I got together with a young electronics engineer, he was only 18, but he was brilliant and after 6 proto-types we produced the first rock and roll amplifier and its been that sound ever since. That’s how I got into it and I actually only wanted to do it for my own shop and my own customers but it grew and grew and grew until it’s where we are now. We put roughly 4,500 units a week, amplifiers and cabinets, into the world market.
JM: In many magazines over the years, Pete Townsend has always been credited with developing the idea for the Marshall “stack”. Is this true?
Jim Marshall: No! Unfortunately, a lot of magazines write what they think readers want to read. What really happened was this. Pete came to me and said, “the 50 Watt amp I’m using is not loud enough for me, I want a 100 Watt”. He added, “but instead of a 4X12 cabinet, I want an 8X12 cabinet”. I said “well what sort of cabinet do you want?”. He said ‘a great big square one!” and I replied “that’s going to look stupid with a little amplifier on top, but leave it with me”. I said “what I think you need is the first 4X12 I designed, which was a straight fronted one and the second one to make the amp and cabinet look as if it was designed like that, cause that’s why I put the angle on. We’ll make that a stack”. Pete replied “No, I don’t want two cabinets…put them all in one cabinet!” I thought alright it’ll still be the image of the stack, but it’ll be in one cabinet. Well, I was very strong in those days and I had an athlete working for me on the cabinet side and we carried these cabinets out of the factory in Hayes, Middlesex and they were so heavy it was unbelievable and I said to Pete, “your roadies going to kick my ass!” and he said “they get paid!”. Well, two weeks later he came back and said “your right Jim. I tried to help one of the roadies top put one of these cabinets into the truck and IT was heavy!. Have them back and cut them in half”. I said well if I cut them in half they’ll fall to pieces. So leave it to me to go back to what I suggested in the first place to make it a stack”. And that’s the way it came about. It was him that wanted 8X12′s because of the 100 Watt heads, they were the first three 100 Watt heads we ever made…and he had them. Of course the 100Watt was no good in those days with one 4X12, because the speakers in those days were only capable of taking 25 Watts, unlike speakers today that can take 300, 400 Watts. Thats the way the stack really came about.
JM: You had so many of the early classic British bands actually form in your shop. Every one from Hendrix’s band to Deep Purple.
Jim Marshall: Mitch Mitchell, who was a child actor actually, came to me in the first place to ask me if he could have the job in the shop as the Saturday boy. Then he wanted me to teach him drums. Then Ritchie Blackmore was playing with one of my other pupils in a school group and they all came together in my shop. You see, all the guitarists that came in to see me were those playing with my pupils. I was the first drum teacher over here (England) to teach them rock and roll. And Micky Waller was the first one to get me to teach them, because he said to me “can you teach me to play this new stuff called rock and roll?” And I said “its only even quavers, basically its Latin American, so its quite easy and I’ll teach you”. Because the accents are in different places that’s all it is to it, and because I taught the drummers, the guitarists came in and it was like a labour exchange and thats where a lot of the early groups were formed, in my shop in London.
JM: In 1981, you introduced the JCM800 series.
Jim Marshall: There’s another story to go with that too, the true story! I’d just finished a 15 year contract with a company called Rose-Morris and unfortunately being a pro musician, I thought to sign a 15 year contract with regular money coming in was the next best thing since sliced bread….and I was wrong! After about 3 or 4 months I realized I could outsell this company any day of the week and during that 15 year contract they never ever reached a million pounds turnover in a year!. So in 1981 I’d already done re-designing the appearance of some of the things and I was stuck to know what to call it and for weeks I was thinking how can I put this over. Then one day, I walked out to the car park, and looked at my number plate: JCM 800. That was perfect for the 80′s wasn’t it, so that’s how it (the series name) came about. I had bought that number plate way back in 1972, so it was very lucky I’d bought that number plate then.
JM: You were also contracted to do the VoxAC30 re-issues?
Jim Marshall: Yes, because that had gone through 7 different companies earlier who tried to make the AC30′s and 15′s and none of them established the real sound. And although I did not want to do the Vox AC30 and 15, it was a challenge to me because I knew if anybody could do it, we could re-create the original Vox sound which we’ve done. Everybody else gradually before us got worse until Rose-Morris did it and that was a disaster!
JM: What’s the secret to the enduring success of Marshall amps?
Jim Marshall: Well it’s having a good design team as I have now, probably the best in the world and sticking to the original sound. The original sound MUST be in the unit somewhere. Although with the Marshall amps these days, you know, you can choose what sound you like out of it, it can be country and western, jazz, rock and roll etc.
Jim Marshall: Exactly what we’re always tried to do, you know, it’s to produce the best in the world and keep the established Marshall sound going through because that’s what all the rock and rollers and heavy metal youngsters want. But to try and please all musicians too, that’s all we want to do and to keep the quality as it is now…the best.
JM: What has been the highlight of your career?
Jim Marshall: Well I suppose it was the first time I saw Marshall on television.
JM: You would have many stories to tell. Which one in particular is your favorite?
Jim Marshall: I suppose the best one is of course, in regards to my greatest ambassador and that was Jimi Hendrix. He was playing at Ronnie Scott’s in London and Mitch (Mitchell) was on drums with him, but the group that was playing there at the time were all using Marshall and he said “I’ve got to meet this Jim Marshall because my name is James Marshall as well”. So Mitch brought him into my shop and Jimi said to me, “I’ve got to have Marshall amplification”. And I thought, “Christ!, another American wanting something for nothing!”. But fortunately he said ” I don’t want anything given to me. I want to pay the full retail price but what I do want is service wherever I am in the world”. I thought, “Christ, that’s going to be a tough one” because we were only dealing with France, Germany and Canada at the time. They were the only places I had distribution, but his roadie at the time, came and spent two weeks in the factory learning how to change the bias and change the tubes or valves if they went down and do simple soldering. And we were never called out once by Jimi Hendrix. He actually purchased 4 complete stage set-ups to have in different places in the world so he would not have to transport any too far. And that’s one of the best stories of the company.
I just got an email from my buddy, Geisha guitarist and journalist extraordinaire Joe Matera (you may remember his recent guest post about Martin guitars HERE) telling me about a book he is featured in, All Pens Blazing: A Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook.
I’m nothing if not a geeky collector of music books, and this sounds brilliant! Can’t wait to pick up a copy.
ALL PENS BLAZING: A HEAVY METAL WRITER’S HANDBOOK
By NEIL DANIELS
(Foreword by MARTIN POPOFF)
Ever wondered what it takes to be a heavy metal journalist? In this comprehensive collection, Neil Daniels has interviewed a staggering 65 of the world’s most successful writers of heavy metal and hard rock. Many of these writers are successful biographers, editors and long-standing freelancers who have interviewed some of the genre’s leading artists from KISS to Metallica and Black Sabbath to Slayer. They’ve travelled the world over, lived in tour buses, got drunk with their idols, attended some of the greatest gigs in history and are still alive to tell the tale. It’s all here; the wild stories, the anecdotes…and the advice!
All Pens Blazing offers a potted history of the genre as well as the publishing industry from the legendary Sounds and Melody Maker to metal bibles Kerrang! and Metal Hammer to modern day magazines like Terrorizer, Powerplay and Classic Rock. There’s also a wealth of information on fanzines and webzines as well as long-gone magazines like Metal Forces, RIP and RAW. With a foreword by the Canadian metal historian Martin Popoff, this collection makes essential reading for the heavy metal fan. It is also a worthy historical document for the serious enthusiast and can be used as a handy reference tool for the aspiring metal writer.
Includes exclusive interviews with: Geoff Barton, Dante Bonutto, Paul Brannigan, Steffan Chirazi, Ian Christe, Dave Dickson, Malcolm Dome, Paul Elliott, Lonn Friend, Neil Jeffries, Howard Johnson, Dave Lewis, Dave Ling, Peter Makowski, Matthias Madder, Joe Matera, Joel McIver, Alexander Milas, Derek Oliver, Martin Popoff, Greg Prato, Dave Reynolds, Steven Rosen, Xavier Russell, Brian Slagel, Paul Suter and Jeb Wright, et al.
Throughout its long and colorful history, and under the tutelage of successive generations of the Martin family, C.F Martin Guitars have been continuously producing acoustic instruments that are acknowledged to be the finest in the world.
The 20th century ushered in a period of tremendous growth for Martin that eventually peaked in 1928 before the Great Depression of 1929 brought about a reversal in fortune. It was during these darkest years that the company emerged with two major developments that would have lasting effects: the creation of the now famous “Dreadnought” guitar, and the invention of the 14-fret neck.
Though an early version of the Dreadnought – so named after a large class of World War I British battleships – appeared in 1916, it was exclusively made for the Oliver Ditson Company, a retail and wholesale distributor. At first these instruments were not very well received simply because there were not many singers using guitars, and solo players felt that the bass on the Dreadnought was overbearing. However, as folk singing became increasingly popular, interest in the Dreadnought increased. The deep bass response of a Dreadnaught was a very unusual feature to musicians used to the clear treble and overall balance of smaller “standard size” instruments.
And when the Dreadnought made its way into the hands of country music performers, it also found an appreciative audience. So when the Ditson Company closed shop in the late 1920s, Martin began producing Dreadnought guitars under its own name. The first models were designated the D-1 and D-2. The D-1, like the earlier Ditsons, was a mahogany bodied instrument while the D-2 introduced what may still be the most popular style of steel string guitar; the rosewood bodied Dreadnought.
Though all of the early Dreadnoughts featured a 12-fret neck, Martin decided to introduce the 14-fret neck version in 1929 in an effort to increase the guitar’s range and make it a more versatile instrument. Dubbed the “Orchestra Model”, it was so well received that Martin extended the feature to all models in its line. Later renamed the OM-28, it was the first regular Martin guitar specifically designed for steel strings, and it proved so popular that other guitar makers copied it, becoming an industry standard.
In 1933 the first D-45 (left) appeared as a custom order for Gene Autry. Autry had wanted a guitar similar in appearance to his idol Jimmie Rodgers’ 000-45, but in the new large body style. The 1930s and 1940s continued to be an active time of development for the company that would lead the company through a period of prosperity in the post-war years due to the rising popularity of country music. With country stars the likes of Hank Williams and Lester Flatt all playing Martins, interest in the guitars soared to new heights. This was further boosted by the explosion of folk music in the 1950s. Many folkie artists of the day such as Judy Collins, The Kingston Trio, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, (it’s often acknowledged that Peter Yarrow popularized the D-28S) and Woody Guthrie all appeared on stage, TV and their album covers playing Martins.
In 1954, the Martin Company again started building Dreadnoughts with the elongated body and 12-fret neck, but on a very limited basis. The resulting D-28S model proved to be popular enough that, in 1968, Martin added it (and the D-18S and D-35S) to its regular line. Versions of all three models are now featured in the Martin “Vintage Series.”
In the late 1960s Paul McCartney and John Lennon both took their D-28 Martin guitars to India during their visit with the Maharishi where they co-wrote many of the songs that appeared on the now legendary Beatles’ White Album. Those D-28s also showed up many times back at Abbey Road Studios and were used for several of the White Album’s acoustic tracks like Mother Nature’s Son, I Will, It’s Been A Long Time, Blackbird, and Rocky Raccoon. In the 1968 Martin re-introduced the famed D-45, as they had not made any D-45s since 1942. And a totally new model the D-41, was introduced in 1969 to fill the gap between the D-35 and the new D-45. This instrument featured pearl borders around the top only, as opposed to the all encompassing borders on the more expensive D-45.
Also beginning in the early ’60s, Martin launched a short foray into the world of electric guitar manufacture. Martin had first wet its feet with the electric guitar in 1959 when it started slapping DeArmond pickups onto some of its acoustic guitars; OO-18E, D-18E and the D-28E were laptop guitars with DeArmond pick-ups. But it’s first truly electric guitars didn’t appear until 1962. Consisting of three main models, the “F” series comprised F-50, F-55 and F-65, all hollow bodied electrics with F holes and again fitted with DeArmond pick-ups. The F series Martin electric body shape was closer to the 1930’s Martin F series arch tops. In 1966 Martin replaced the “F” series with the “GT” series that consisted basically of the GT-70 and GT-75 thinline models. It wouldn’t be until a decade later before Martin would introduce a new series of electric guitars; the E-18, EM-18 and EB-18 guitars and basses before bowing out of its manufacture of electrics completely in 1982.
With the tremendous interest in acoustic guitars in the early 1970s (which coincided exactly with the new “soft-rock” era of James Taylor, Loggins & Messina, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – whom favoured the pre-WWII models – and Seals & Crofts), the Martin company increased production to an unprecedented rate. The 1970s also saw the company in acquisition mode eventually acquiring the renowned Vega Banjo Works of Boston, the Fibes Drum Company – makers of a unique fiberglass drums – the Darco String Company and the A. B. Herman Carlson Levin Company of Sweden, all of which uniformly lost money for the company.
Martin debuted the D-76 Bicentennial model in 1976 and shortly thereafter followed it in late ’76 with the HD-28. The HD-28 was a conscious effort to remake a guitar from the past—the prewar herringbone D-28. Like the early Dreadnoughts, it featured scalloped top braces, a small maple bridge plate, and herringbone marquetry around the top. This bow to the past was to prove to be a very popular model.
In the early 1980s, the company slumped to its lowest ebb since the Great Depression years. The decade proved to be one of it’s darkest in its history, with the only new addition to any guitar line being the JM (now called simply J) model in 1985 which followed on its predecessor the M sized model back in 1977.
The 1990s would see the company eventually returning to its former glory days. In 1994, Martin issued a recreation of Gene Autry’s famous 12-fret D-45 which bore a list price of $23,000! And in 1995 Eric Clapton collaborated with Martin on a limited edition 000-42 (right) with a number of other special features. Only 461 were made (the figure commemorates Clapton’s 1974 ‘comeback’ album “461 Ocean Boulevard”) and the project was so successful that Martin went on to develop a signature Clapton model, the 000-28EC which is currently available under the Vintage series.
And in 1996 a collaboration with “MTV Unplugged”, would yield a highly unusual Dreadnought that mixed both rosewood and mahogany tonewoods with MTV conceived inlay patterns. As the company heralded in the 21st century and looked forward to the future, it also celebrated its one millionth Martin guitar to roll off its production line.
Joe Matera is the lead guitarist with Australian rockers GEISHA. He is also a respected music journalist whose interviews appear in countless guitar magazines around the world from ‘Australian Guitar’ and ‘Guitar & Bass’ to ‘Performing Musician’ and ‘Guitar World’. He’s interviewed everyone from Aerosmith, Tool and Motley Crue to Steely Dan, Black Sabbath and Cheap Trick.
Check out this page for a recap of recent Geisha gigs, including pics, fan feedback and a few fan-filmed live videos from our Melbourne shows the other week.
For two evenings, the eighties returned to two Melbourne venues in the form of a re-vamped Geisha outfit playing a smattering of their classic hits mixed in with some rarer gems from their back catalogue, and also including their recently-released single “Birthday”.
On Friday 10th July 2009, the band played at Spensers Live and followed this up with a second gig played at the Toff In Town on 16 July 2009. At both venues, an appreciative audience was able to re-live the classic Geisha tunes or, in the case of those who were too young in the eighties to have known of the band, discover a piece of Aussie rock/pop history. Geisha delivered two sets of songs with frontman Chris Doheny offering the crowd some insights and stories relating to the band and songs’ histories. The crowd were also treated to an encore comprising of an intimate acoustic set of songs, which included the highlight “Kabuki”.
Check out the Geisha page for the video for Birthday.