Now, not being from the UK, my main exposure to the phenomenon of the Christmas #1 is through the Christmas iTunes playlist compiled by Mrs I Heart Guitar a few years ago. And while I take great glee in pointing out the irony of thousands of people buying a song that includes the words ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ because someone told them too, I take even greater glee in the hope that this win will clear the decks and reset the Christmas #1 tradition to once again be awarded to cheesy Christmas songs by established artists who really should know better, like it was in the mid to late 80s. Observe these particular 80s chart toppers:
1984: Band Aid Do They Know It’s Christmas?
1985: Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone
1988: Cliff Richard Mistletoe and Wine
1989: Band Aid II Do They Know It’s Christmas?
1990: Cliff Richard Saviour’s Day
By the way, it’s not just number one songs that make Christmas in the UK rule. Check out these gems.
But what if this doesn’t reset the great Christmas #1 equilibrium? What if every year becomes a race to the top between the most recent X Factor winner and some other 90s hit? Could we see next year’s winner going up against Mr.Big’s To Be With You? Ministry’s Just One Fix? Primus’s Mr Krinkle? Or could you imagine waking up bleary-eyed on Christmas morning and flipping on the telly to see this?
No, wait, y’know what? I think 2010 should be the year The Christmas Song by Steve Lukather reaches number 1.
There are heaps of photos with the listing. Very cool.
CAE Bob Bradshaw Switching System (Dig the modified Rocktron logo…)
The Charvel Surfcaster debuted in 1992 and at the time it was a bit of an anachronism. A little too early to cash in on the grunge-inspired attraction to vintage designs, and a little too late for the kind of clean-toned, ‘The Cure’ type tones it excelled at, the Surfcaster’s most notable user was probably Anthrax’s Scott Ian, who used one for the clean tones in the track ‘Black Lodge’ from The Sound Of White Noise and was pictured with one on the cover of a 1993 edition of Guitar World. These semi-hollow, lipstick pickup-toting axes never quite got the respect they deserved, although those who did buy them evidently loved them because it’s quite rare to see them on the used market. When you do find them, expect to pay around USD$1,000. The Surfcaster design lived on until 2005, by which time it had been shifted to sister company Jackson, with production moved from Japan to India. Personally I’d love to see Surfcasters return to regular production under Charvel.
I love these retro designs. The SGV series was probably a bit to wild for most players, with its slight upside-down melted Rickenbacker bass look and unconventional whammy bridge which worked great when you gave it a little TLC but was maybe a little too high maintenance for some. The SGV-800 (and the more upscale SGV-1200) had a pair of P90-style single coils which were fat and growly. The SGV-700 (and lower-priced little buddy the SGV-300) rocked a smaller single coil and a very unique humbucker. The retro/modern look wasn’t lost on Meegs from Coal Chamber, who used a black custom shop SGV with twin humbuckers, a fixed bridge, drop-tuning lever on the low E string, and number-shaped fretboard position markers, Jason Becker-style. You can find SGVs on eBay and in pawnshops pretty regularly and while they were underappreciated in their day, a little set-up know-how makes them a bargain well worth seeking out today.
Washburn Steve Stevens
These models were advertised somewhat heavily in the guitar magazines when Stevens was a member of Motley Crue singer Vince Neil’s solo band circa 1993. I remember seeing the truss rod adjustment at the base of the neck, as well as the 2-humbucker, 1 volume, 1 tone control layout and thinking “Dude’s trying to make a Strat-style guitar out of an Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halen.” Funnily enough, by the time the Vince Neil tour rolled around, Stevens was playing… Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halens. There were three versions of Washburn’s Steve Stevens signature guitar: two Chicago custom shop-built models (the SS80 and SS100) and the Korean-made SS40. The SS100 had a white front with a Frankenstein graphic and black back and sides, while the SS80 was solid black. Pickups were a set of slanted Seymour Duncan JBs, and the body wood was poplar. Check out this old-school Washburn advertisement.
CLICK HERE to see Yamaha SGV guitars on eBay.
Fender Tommy Emmanuel Telecaster
Tommy Emmanuel is well known for his amazing acoustic playing, but those who started following Tommy’s career in recent years might be surprised to know he once had a signature Fender Telecaster. Very similar in design to Fender’s Nashville Telecaster, this Mexico-made axe was made exclusively for the Australian market, and it added a Strat-style middle single coil to the traditional Telecaster layout. It also had a six saddle bridge with old-school saddles (not those big flat ones like you see on Deluxe series Fenders), and a blue finish which recalled, without directly copying, Tommy’s blue Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, which had three black Bartolini single coils and white body binding. Tommy’s main Telecaster squeeze though was a gorgeous 66 Custom, also with Bartolonis. See that one here. (Fender Tommy Emmanuel Telecaster photo from the Fendertalk forums).
Ibanez Steve Lukather (SL1010SL)
Steve Lukather’s current Ernie Ball Music Man signature is so kickass a guitar that it’s easy to forget that in the early-mid 80s he had a signature Ibanez. Part of the Roadstar II series, Luke’s model featured a carved birdseye maple top on a basswood body, a maple neck with ebony fretboard, two Ibanez humbuckers (a Super 58 in the neck and an SL Special – essentially an overwound Super 58 – in the bridge position), 22 frets, subtle cross inlays, coil splitting performed via the volume and tone pots, and the much-maligned Pro Rock’r bridge, which had a locking nut and fine tuners but wasn’t as stable as Ibanez’s later Edge series models.
I Heart Guitar: What is your writing process like? Derek Sherinian
I Heart Guitar: What is your writing process like?
Derek Sherinian: It goes differently each time. A lot of it is influenced by who I decide to collaborate with. Most of the time I’m collaborating with either Simon Phillips, your fellow Australian Virgil Donati, or Bryan Tichy on drums. For some reason I gravitate towards drummers who are musically inclined, and I seem to work better in that environment. So the sound of the overall album is always gonna go in the direction of who I collaborate with at the time.
IHG: How much of the album features Virgil Donati?
Sherinian: Virgil and I co-wrote the trilogy that opens up the record. Virgil is just amazing as a writer. We first met during my first solo record, Planet X, in 1999, and we enjoyed the collaboration so much that we formed the band Planet X, and later recruited Tony MacAlpine. But Planet X hasn’t made a record in a couple of years and I really wanted to work with Virgil on my solo record, so it was cool to work with him again.
IHG: Do you have your own studio?
Sherinian: I own my home studio, it’s called Beechwood Manor, and it’s in my house. I make all my records there. I have a separate room where I have all my studio gear, and all my keyboards. It’s nice to have the studio in your house, because if you want to take a break you can go up and watch TV or just chill out, and just work as you’re inspired. It’s good. There’s no clock ticking.
IHG: When you’re composing, especially for this album, do you come up with things out of jamming, or do you write it down on paper first? What do you do?
Sherinian: I never write it on paper. Some songs come from jamming, a lot of songs start with a riff or one person will come up with something and you just keep expanding and developing it, and then before you know it you have a full song. You just keep putting ideas down and eventually you have an album’s worth of material. And you keep refining it, and you do overdubs, and usually after a year it’s done.
IHG: So Brian Tichy is playing both drums and guitar on the album?
Sherinian: He’s playing drums on five songs, and he’s playing some rhythm guitars.
Sherinian: There are two new guitar names that I’ve never used in the past: Rusty Cooley – he’s known in the guitar community, but he hasn’t played in any famous bands or anything. He and I worked on a song called Frozen By Fire that’s on my record, and I think Rusty sounds amazing. I can see myself doing a lot more work with him in the future. And also a Japanese guitar player named Taka Minamino, who is featured on two songs. I think he’s a great talent. He has beautiful vibrato, and bending a la Yngwie, and I think he’ll have something special once he develops his own style more.
IHG: Are you planning to tour on this album?
Sherinian: No, it’s very difficult, and very expensive to do an instrumental tour, but every once in a while an opportunity will come up where I’m able to play some shows. But as of right now my solo career has been pretty much limited to just the studio.
IHG: Yeah, it sucks with the economy the way it is now: it seems nobody can afford to tour at the moment.
Sherinian: I know, and it’s unfortunate. I love playing in Australia. When Planet X played down there we made a live album, and it’d be great to go down there and play again.
IHG: So I thought we could talk a little about how guitarists influence your playing. Like I hear some things and I think, ‘Oh I recognise that!’
Sherinian: Who do you hear? Lemmie hear it from your perspective, what do you hear?
IHG: I kinda hear a bit of Van Halen in some of the stuff.
IHG: Especially in some of your rhythms.
IHG: And I think I hear a bit of Al DiMeola.
Sherinian: Okay! Yeah! Cool! Anyone else?
IHG: Well that’s all I’ve picked out so far.
Sherinian: Oh okay. Cool!
IHG: So have you actively studied guitar players?
Sherinian: I’ve never transcribed people’s solos, but there are certain guitar players who have always moved me since I was young, and the first one who really made the biggest impact was Eddie Van Halen. He had such an identifiable style, and it was so heavy, and everything was so cool, that he was my first real musical hero. I had the pleasure of playing a gig with him at a private party at his house in 2006. That was the highest point of my career, playing with my hero. The coolest thing he said to me was that there’s only 12 notes, do what you want with them. I thought that was a really cool thing. Also Yngwie was a big hero of mine when I was a kid, and I’ve played on two of his records and he’s played on two of mine – and I was in his band over the last eight years, on and off, so a part of him has come through in my style. I was also into guys like Al DiMeola, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck. These are my main guys.
IHG: How would you say guitar influences your keyboard sound?
Sherinian: Definitely in the soloing, I always have a little bit of overdrive, and the phrasing is very guitaristic. I hear that all the time. I like more aggressive keyboard sounds. One thing I always try to avoid is, I think a lot of keyboard players use sounds that remind me of video games or are very cheesy. I always try to make sure there’s no cheese factor, and everything has balls, and it supplements the sound and brings heaviness. It’s always gotta be coming from a place of heaviness and no cheesiness.
IHG: Yeah, one thing I’ve always loved about your playing is that it has a lot of personality, it’s not stuffy.
Sherinian: Yeah, it’s very hard to do for a keyboard, and that was one of the things that was important to me in listening to Van Halen. You knew as soon as you heard it who it was. You know Al DiMeola, you know Yngwie. You know Allan Holdsworth. And on a keyboard you have to work a little harder to distinguish yourself from the pack. And I think I’m one of the few guys that, if you’re familiar with my style, if you hear it you know it’s me. Individuality should always come before technique, and if you’re able to have both, then that’s really cool. I would rather be like Jeff Beck, who can’t play a million notes but has such beautiful sound and style. Style will always come first.
IHG: So let’s talk about some of the guitarists you’ve worked with. Zakk Wylde is on this album, and he adds some cool Ozzy-meets-Alice In Chains vocals to the last track. Tell us about working with Zakk.
Sherinian: Zakk is amazing. He’s been a friend of mine for the last 20 years, and he’s played on my last five solo records. We always have a great time working together, and we both share the influences of Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie, DiMeola. I think it’s a cool departure for Zakk when he plays on my records, because he can be himself but he’s playing over a completely different musical backdrop than he would playing with his own band or Ozzy. Zakk is always welcome to play on my stuff, and I’m very appreciative of the relationship. He’s a great guy, he really is.
IHG: Al DiMeola.
Sherinian: That was one of the high points of my career. I was in Miami working with Yngwie on my Black Utopia record in 2002 and I wrote this epic song called Sons of Anu where Yngwie laid down his tracks, but I ran out of time with Yngwie but there was still this acoustic part that needed to be laid down. Then someone told me Al DiMeola lived in Miami, so I got his number, called him, and got Al in the studio. It turned out amazing, and it’s the first time ever with Yngwie and Al DiMeola on the same song.
Sherinian: He’s great. He’s really a maestro, a total natural. He’s the real deal of a guitar hero. The guy is just incredible. When he was in the studio doing the tracks for Sons of Anu, watching him do his thing and how fluid and effortless it is, it’s pretty amazing to watch live.
IHG: And finally, Steve Lukather.
Sherinian: Lukather is amazing. I met him through Simon Phillips. Simon called him up to come and play on the Inertia album that Simon and I co-wrote and co-produced in 2001. Lukather is just such a pro. He can hear a song and listen phrase-by-phrase, and he just takes care of business. He’s in and out of there in two or three hours, and he’ll lay three songs and make it sound like he’s been playing the song for twenty years. He’s a funny guy and I’m honoured to be on record with him.
Look for Molecular Heinosity on RiotAct.com.au soon, and thanks to Riot! for arranging this interview.
This year at NAMM EMG introduced gold and silver covers for their pickups. Previously the only time I’ve seen EMG pickups in anything other than black was on Kirk Hammett’s Les Paul. Other new goodies include a new line of pickups called the X Series, and an Alexi Laiho set which includes his favoured passive humbucker and a gain boost.
Team EMG is back from the 2009 NAMM Show and without a doubt we had a blast. The reaction to our new products was a resounding success. If you haven’t heard we are now offering high quality Chrome and Gold cover caps for our 81, 85 and 60 models which generated considerable excitement.
Besides featuring EMG’s new and existing product lineup, we had some very exciting artist appearances, scheduled and unscheduled, that were just icing on the cake and made our booth THE place to be. Some of the artists hanging out included Kerry King, Alexi Laiho, Steve Lukather, Sergio Vallin, Marcus Henderson and many many others.
Read more here.
Radial Engineering pedals have been high on my lust-list ever since I heard Eric Johnson using them, but I’ve not had a chance to try them yet. At NAMM this year they’ve introduced four new models, the London, Hollywood, Texas, and Twin City. I wonder if they’ll change the names for Australian release to the Melbourne, Sydney, Dubbo and Albury/Wodonga.
Here’s the press release.
Radial Engineering Ltd. is pleased to announce the launch of four new Tonebone® pedals, the London, the Hollywood, the Texas, and the Twin-City. All of the Bones features dual-mode functionality in a compact enclosure and employ standard Boss-type 9V power supply.
According to Tonebone President Peter Janis: “Today, the trend with guitar players is all about using effects pedals… they want to access all kinds of tones and make creative decisions on the fly. They also want to use pedalboards and eliminate the problems associated with batteries. This is what the Bones are all about.”
Bones™ Hollywood Distortion The Hollywood is a dual channel distortion pedal that features three drive settings for low, medium and high drive tones. At low distortion settings, the sonic signature is reminiscent of old American made amplifiers while at higher gain levels, it encompasses the type of tones reminiscent on would expect from Carlos Santana and Steve Lukather. The Hollywood is very dynamic which means that it cleans up just like a real tube amplifier when the guitar level is turned down. Each channel features separate level settings for rhythm and lead and is enhanced with a mid control called ‘cut’ designed to cut through the mix and increase sustain for solos. Requires standard 9V power supply.
Bones™ London Distortion The London follows the tradition of the British half stack by employing three gain stages to produce huge bottom end and fat sizzling tones. Even when driven to extreme, the bottom end stays clean and distinct. It features a variable drive control with independent level control on each channel for crunch rhythm and lead. A very powerful EQ, combines with the ‘bite’ switch that sets the overall character plus a ‘kick’ switch that adds midrange to produce a huge array of tones than span 40 years of British rock. Requires standard 9V power supply.
Bones™ Texas Overdrive The Texas is high-performance overdrive pedal that delivers ‘vintage’ style TS9 tones reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan all the way up to the ‘metal madness’ of today’s extreme players. Because of the dual channel configuration, one can set the first channel for a smooth rhythm and the second to extreme scream for soloing by setting the bite switches to suit. Each channel features individual tone control and level controls. Like having two pedals in one! Requires standard 9V power supply.
Bones™ Twin-City ABY Amp Selector The Twin City is a superior quality ABY amp selector that allows the player to select between two amplifiers and combine them without any loss of signal or without any of the clicking or popping switch noise that is common in most pedals. This starts with Radial’s unique Drag™ control load correction circuitry which counteracts the effect of the internal buffering circuit to deliver a natural tone. To eliminate buzz and hum from ground loops, output B is transformer isolated and equipped with a ground lift switch. To ‘phase align’ the amplifiers, output B also features a 180° polarity reverse switch. Easy to see bright LEDs make amp selection easy. Requires standard 9V power supply.
For more information, contact Radial Engineering:1588 Kebet Way, Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 5M5. Tel: 604-942-1001 Fax 604-942-1010
For more information, visit their web site at www.radialeng.com.
1. Play it like you say it. Sometimes one might speak in a low, sexy Barry White voice, like “Heeeeeeeeey baby… how YOU doin’…” Other times, it’s more like ‘ohmygodyoutotallywon’tbelieveitIjustsawagiganticspidereatingachicken” Both are valid forms of communication but you don’t wanna be saying “heybabyhowyoudoinletsgobacktomyvanbythewayyougotrealprettyeyes” when “Heeeeeeeeeey baby…” would do.
2. Play the pick as much as you play the guitar. Experiment with different pick types and grips, and with picking in different areas of the string. Pinch harmonics, percussive clacks, faux-wah sounds, imitation 12-string textures and grinding metal sludge are all yours for the taking.
3. Put the pick down. After you’ve mastered the pick, chuck it into the audience, Yngwie-style, and learn to pick with your fingers. A frequent pick-misplacer in my younger days, I learned to pick with my fingers quite early and developed my own voice that way, much sooner than I developed my ‘pick’ voice. You can hear an example in my song ‘Mistral’ which is played 100% with the fingers (even what sounds like pinch harmonics, using the edge of the thumb and the thumb nail).
4. Train your ear by playing along with the TV. Whether it’s picking out the melody to the Flintstones, adding chords to the Seinfeld closing credits or breaking out of a rut with the Conan O’Brien theme, this is a great way of learning intervals, melody construction, and transcribing.
5. Practice in front of a mirror. No, not guitar hero poses, Johnny Bravo. Watching your hands in a mirror is a great way of checking if your vibrato is smooth and even: if it looks right, it will sound right. Mirrors also help to make the transition from staring at the fretboard to looking out into the audience by reducing reliance on looking directly down at the guitar.
6. Steal from singers. If you’re just starting out on this technique, Ozzy’s phrasing is easy to replicate on guitar, and the way he sings behind the beat and slides between notes is very useful when applied to guitar melodies. After you’ve done that, try to replicate the vibrato of your favourite singers. Extra points if you can nail that Alanis Morissette squealy thing at the end of each phrase.
7. Play with the band, not just at the same time as them. This sounds simple but it can take a while to learn. Lock in with the kick drum, the high hat, the bass player, whatever you need to do to make sure you’re fully aware of the song and your place within it. When I was younger, I found this kind of advice to be boring – why should I focus on the drums when I’m enjoying the sound of a raging guitar amp? But it only takes one good rehearsal or gig to realise that stuff like this makes you sound better.
8. Play your song with PRIDE (Phrasing, Rhythm, Introduction, Dynamics and Endings). This is a lesson my Aunty Barbi, a music teacher, instills in all her students and it’s great advice whether you play guitar, violin, piano or whatever. They’re all obvious, and yet it’s easy to forget one or even all of them in the heat of the moment. Catch the audience’s attention and imagination with the introduction, leave them with a clear sense of finality at the end, and make sure you do everything to keep them there in between.
9. Use gadgets as much as you like, but don’t NEED to use them. It’s all well and good to chain together a dozen pedals and try to replicate the sound of a unicorn belching through a megaphone into the third circle of hell, but a truly well-rounded player should be able to conjur up the same vibe (even though the sound itself might only be attainable through a few feet of transistors) with just their fingers.
10. Do. Or do not. There is no try. This immortal advice comes from Yoda, and whether you’re a whiny little bitch like Luke Skywalker or a seasoned guitar vetaran like Steve Lukather, Yoda’s message is clear, even though his syntax may be a little shaky. If you tell yourself that you can’t play something, you’re probably right. If you tell yourself you can play it, you’re probably right about that too. Check out the book The Inner Game of Music by Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green for advice on how to locate that little voice inside you that says “I can’t,” roll him up into a carpet, and throw him into the river.
Now that the final Toto tour is behind him, Steve Lukather is about to embark on a tour of Europe, hitting Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, the UK, France, Monaco, Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Lukather’s band for the tour features Stevie Weingart, Ricky Z, Carlitos DelPuerto and Eric Valentine, and he’ll be playing material from his solo albums and a few new surprises, plus tracks from his recent solo album, Ever Changing Times.
Next week I’ll post my interview with Lukather, where he talks about the final Toto tour, recording Ever Changing Times, and his Ernie Ball/Music Man signature guitar.
STEVE LUKATHER EVER CHANGING TIMES WORLD TOUR 2009:
26 Tivoli, Utretch, Holland
27 Boerderij, Zoetermeer Holland
28 Lantaarn, Hellendorn, Holland
1 La Bonbonniere, Maarstricht, Holland
3 Satzvey Castle, Mechernich, Germany
4 L’Atelier, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
5 The Brook, Southampton, UK
6 Robin 2 , Bilston, Wolverhampton, UK
9 Alhambra, Paris , France
10 L’Usine, Istres, France
11 Moods , Monte Carlo, Monaco
13 Triebhaus, Innsbruck, Austria
14 Roter Saal, Speilberg, Austria
15 Forum, Gleisdorf, Austria
16 Rockhaus , Salzburg, Austria
17 Szene, Vienna, Austria
19 Lucerna Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic
21 Conrad Sohm, Dornbirn, Austria
22 Z7, Prattelen, Switzerland
23 Specktrum, Ausburg, Germany
25 LKA, Stuttgart, Germany
26 Zeche, Bochum, Germany
27 Blues Garage , Isernhagen, Germany
29 Frankfurterhof, Mainz, Germany
30 Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
WebLinks: www.stevelukather.net / www.myspace.com/stevelukatheronline.
* Feature on guitar neck materials
* Interview with Steve Lukather
* The first of many guitar lessons with TAB and audio
* Interview with YouTube guitar sensation Erik Mongrain, and a review of his CD, Equilibrium
* Lots of spooky stuff for Helloween
* Theme weeks! In addition to regular news updates, the first week of each month will be a theme week, with articles, lessons, interviews and reviews based on a particular topic.