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INTERVIEW: Debashish Bhattacharya

Debashish BhattacharyaDebashish Bhattacharya has an international following not only for his playing but also his extraordinary instrumental arsenal. But more than that, Debashish is a voice of pure inspiration, helping to bring Indian classical music to the masses and tirelessly sharing his love of the form and his passion for life itself. Seriously, a 20-minute interview on the phone with Bhattacharya is like a session with a therapist, a music teacher, a learned scholar of sociology and a kind, trusted relative all rolled into one. His distinctive, idiosyncratic instruments include his lap-slide chaturangui, the 14-stringed gandharvi and the anandi, a four-string slide ukulele, but although it’s fun to dwell on the technicalities, all it really comes down to is that Debashish Bhattacharya has tapped into a whole other musical realm, and wants us all to join him there. He’ll be performing at the Dunstan Playhouse in Adelaide on July 18 as part of the Adelaide International Guitar Festival.

You play guitar like a beautiful voice, and that’s something that everyone can relate to whether they’re familiar with Indian classical music or not. 

That’s something I’ve been doing for the last 30 years: performing for both sides. The people who know the kind of music I do, but I am also very much accepted by people from places where Indian music has never been heard.  Continue reading

Hey. Stop Trying To Justify Music Theft, Alright?

grandpa simpson rantI was just reading some stuff over at The Guardian about Robin Thicke’s new album. It turns out The Guardian is mistakenly reporting that Thicke’s new album Paula sold ‘less than 54 copies’ in Australia during its first week. It seems that their assumption is based on the fact that it didn’t appear in the chart of the top 500 albums in Australia, #500 of which was a Blondie compilation which sold 54 copies. But the truth is that Thicke’s album hadn’t even been released in Australia during the week that that chart covered. We’ll get the real results on Saturday at 7pm.

But that’s not what this post is about. Nope, this is about a little exchange in the comments that really pissed me off:

Commenter 1: Who buys albums anymore? Doesn’t everyone know that music is free on the Internet?

Commenter 2: Music lover’s who want band’s to be able to exist to carry on making music . What you are is a thief. Music is rarely “free”, just because YOU don’t pay.

Commenter 3: Except it’s music lovers who bother to download and as such are the ones who are more likely to purchase merchandise and concert tickets. Not only that, but many unknown bands gain national and worldwide attention from being illegally downloaded, launching their career with essentially free marketing. Not only that, but when you listen to Spotify be sure to remember that Spotify pays bands next to nothing for us to listen to their songs for free.

Now, you can probably guess where I’m going with this, if you haven’t already slammed your laptop lid or phone down in disgust. Cos I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re a musician who values music for its own sake, and as a creative endeavour, a creative necessity, an integral part of your being. But I find that third commenter really frustrating. Dear Commenter 3, sweet Commenter 3, nobody is going to invest in music if there’s no return. And when you don’t invest in music, you don’t get music. You certainly don’t get well-executed, well-recorded music. You don’t get music by bands who were given the time to find their sound over the course of a career. We’re seeing so many bands falling apart or band members quitting because they can no longer make ends meet. Not every band has the huge following or commercial appeal to be a big enough live draw to shift thousands of tickets and t-shirts, but that doesn’t make their music any less valid to those who do love it. And by this commenter’s logic, those bands who used to focus all their creative energies into the recording studio rather than the stage, well, I guess they think those artists shouldn’t bother.

Let’s use an extreme example. Remember The Beatles? Bunch of dudes from Liverpool, snappy dressers, had some hits. Those guys stopped playing live in August 1966. After that time they confined their creativity to the studio and gave us Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album (and Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be, for that matter). Is that commenter saying these albums should just have been given away? For what? As free publicity for a tour that would never eventuate? Should they have just stopped, if they weren’t going to tour?

“Oh but you can make an album on a laptop or an iPad, so you can do it for like no money.” Yeah, you can, but you shouldn’t. We’ve already devalued music to the point where most people don’t pay for it, and we’ve devalued the sound of that music by listening to it in a low-resolution format (MP3, streamed audio, shitty YouTube videos). Think of this: unless you’re using a service like the brilliant HD Tracks, the average punter is listening to music in the worst sound quality since the days of mono vinyl. Cassettes sound better. Vinyl records sound better. CDs sound better. Everyone jokes that, hey, it’s 2014, where are our jetpacks? Well y’know what? Fuck the jetpacks. It’s 2014, where is our unprecedented level of audio quality? Why isn’t everyone listening to everything in the highest quality ever experienced by human ears, instead of on laptop speakers or those Apple earbuds that have no high end so you can’t hear the horrible compression artefacts living up there beyond 5kHz?

So yeah, you can make an album on a laptop by yourself, and it’ll probably sound just fine alongside all the other laptop albums out there, especially through a squished, compressed, neutered format like streamed audio. But go sit in the dark, close your eyes and listen to a well-recorded album crafted in a professional studio by musicians and engineers. Go remember what it’s like to be immersed in an album for its own sake, not as a hypothetical free advertisement to a concert you might or might not end up going to because, eh, you just downloaded Season 4 of Game Of Thrones and you’re going to have a binge this weekend.

I understand that people are used to not paying for music. The whole Napster thing was a very long time ago and for most people, music is a free thing that you just go to your computer or phone and listen to. And while I have some anti-Spotify friends who will kill me immediately after reading this sentence, I use Spotify too. I pay for a Spotify Premium account every month because I know that even though Spotify pays very little to artists, at least it pays something and in a very real way I’m contributing to that something. I see no problem with wanting to have the entirety of recorded music right there at your fingertips, but I do have a problem with devaluing it to the point where you don’t feel you need to contribute to the ongoing creation of quality music with quality sounds and presentation. And y’know what else? I buy more music now – on CD, mp3, vinyl and DVD – than I ever did before. Not because Spotify encourages me to go and buy more music (although I have bought a few albums after first hearing them on Spotify) but because I fucking love music. I always have, I always will, and I consider it my duty as a musician and as a music lover to support music as an art form and musicians as a community.

Mesa Cab Clone Makes Life Worth Living

Mesa Cab Clone

Aaah, that’s the stuff. Mesa Engineering has just announced the Cab Clone, a guitar speaker cabinet emulator and load box which lets you record your screaming, wailing cranked tube amp silently or to send a nice clean signal to a mixing desk via the balanced XLR output, plus a 1/4″ uncompensated output for sending your signal to a slave amp rig, cabinet emulated etc. Plus there’s a Thru output for sending the signal on to your speaker cabinet for ‘real speaker’ monitoring. It also has a compensated headphone output so you can get your groove on in your head without getting evicted/divorced. You can select between open-back, closed-back and vintage voicings, and there’s a DI level control for optimising the signal for mic, instrument or line applications. There’s also a Phase Flip switch and Ground Lift.

Win Tickets To Guthrie Govan’s Oz Clinic Tour!

Hey folks! I’ve got a free double pass to give away to one of Guthrie Govan’s Australian masterclasses in the city of your choice (excluding Adelaide) thanks to the fine folks at Thump Music. To enter, email iheartguitarblog AT gmail DOT com with “Guthrie Comp” in the subject line, and tell me which city you’d like the double pass for. Each entry will be assigned a number and the winner will be drawn at random using random.org on Friday July 18. And you can whip yourself into a guitaristic frenzy by reading my interview with Guthrie here.

Dates are:
PERTH – 21st of July – 7.30pm @ Hale School
BRISBANE – 23rd of July – 7:30pm @ The Princess Theatre
SYDNEY – 24th of July – 7:30pm @ Wesley Mission Theatre
MELBOURNE – 27th of July – 12pm Midday @ Gas Works Theatre

Hutchinson Guitar Concepts: Smashing It

Hutchinson Viking Explorer

Y’know how the other day I posted about how Carvin Guitars are, y’know, utterly smashing it lately? Well y’know who else is totally smashing it? Hutchinson Guitar Concepts. The first Hutchinson guitars I saw were mind-blowing, but each successive guitar gets even more mind-blowing, to the point where I’m not sure I have any brain matter left to be exploded by Hutchinson guitars. And yet they keep coming, such as the incredible Viking Explorer, created using an ESP Edwards Explorer as the foundation. Following are three Hutchinson press releases about three new products: the Viking Explorer, the Oxidizer Overdrive and the Cafe Racer. Continue reading

REVIEW: TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper

TC Electronic Ditto X2 LooperJust over a year ago, TC Electronic released the Ditto Looper. It’s an incredibly handy little pedal which has single control knob and a single footswitch, yet allows you to create and control looped audio so you can build up beds of awesomeness to solo over, or to make your single guitar sound like an army. It offers record, undo/redo, stop and erase commands all via that single foot switch. And it’s heaps of fun. But TC is great at identifying where players would appreciate more control or less control – witness the Flashback Delay and Flashback X4 delay, both of which offer the same great delay sounds but with different approaches to controlling them in a live situation. And now there’s the Ditto X2 Looper, which takes the functions of the original Ditto and ups its game with more control.

Click Here to find the TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper on eBay.

Continue reading

New Pink Floyd Album In October!

Stop the presses! Wait, is that even a thing any more? Stop the internet! Pink Floyd will release a new album in October! According to David Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson (who is a really great writer, by the way) on Twitter: “Btw Pink Floyd album out in October is called The Endless River. Based on 1994 sessions is Rick Wright’s swansong and very beautiful.”

Polly Samson

And Durga McBroom-Hudson, longtime Pink Floyd backing vocalist, has posted on her official Facebook about a pic she recently shared of a particularly interesting studio session…

Pink FloydShe says: “Remember this photo? It wasn’t what you THOUGHT it was… YES. THERE IS A NEW PINK FLOYD ALBUM COMING OUT. AND I’M ON IT. And there was much rejoicing.”

There’s even more info over at the very excellent Noise11.

Carvin: Smashing It Lately

10514515_521904291264742_7508801396186804314_nDo you follow Carvin on Facebook? I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice that they’re posting some really, really nice stuff lately, especially the work of Carvin owner Jeff Kiesel. With all sorts of custom builders getting all sorts of positive press in the current ‘custom-crazy’ climate, it’s great to see Carvin step up and remind everyone about their place as pioneers of custom guitar building. Man, every Carvin I’ve played has been amazing, although they’re very hard to find here in Australia right now. Below are a few examples of Jeff Kiesel’s recent work. Make sure you follow Carvin and Jeff’s own Facebook page to see more. On Facebook Jeff says, “On these builds I am hands on the whole way through starting with picking out every single piece of wood to some of the custom eye candy (such as treat fretboard). With theese KE guitars I will be pushing the envelope the whole way, with things like treated fretboards… I suggests combinations of finishes/woods/options that give these the Kiesel Edition look. I give updates and some photos during the build process. Taking it to the Next Level at Carvin Guitars.” Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Jack Johnson

Jack_Johnson_From_Here_to_Now_to_YouJack Johnson is primarily known for his laid back, intimate acoustic-based folky, rocky, breezy sound. He helped to kickstart a whole new generation of dudes who take guitars to the beach. But he’s also a devoted student of the electric guitar, and it should not have come as a surprise when he picked up various electrics – Telecasters, semi-hollow Gibsons – for 2008′s Sleep Through The Static and 2010′s To The Sea. Both albums could simply be seen as new angles on a sound and style he’d previously established. But the acoustic guitar is a seductive temptress, and she’s lured Johnson back to her earthy embrace on his latest album, From Here to Now to You. Produced by Mario Caldato Jr., who Johnson worked with while recording his most successful album In Between Dreams, it offers a sound that’s at once familiar and exotic, with lush instrumentation augmenting steel-string and nylon-string guitars. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Stevie Salas

Stevie_Salas Framus Idolmaker

One of the coolest guitars on show at the Winter NAMM Show this year was the Framus Idolmaker, a unique instrument designed by guitarist Stevie Salas with Framus’s Marcus Spangler and Hans-Peter Wilfer. It’s an incredibly original guitar that only vaguely recalls the merest possible hints of anything you’ve seen before, and when Salas was in Australia recently I jumped at the chance to interview him about it. But I also took the chance to chat about something very near and dear to my heart: his most triumphant guitar solo at the end of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Here’s our chat.

So what the hell are you doing in Australia? 

Y’know, I’ve been there many times before but I came down to do one song with a band from the Northern Territory, the kids of the band Yothu Yindi. They have this really cool band (East Journey) and somebody asked me if I’d come down and cut a track with them. And any chance I have to come down to Australia, I’m gonna take it.  Continue reading

Seymour Duncan Releases The 805 Overdrive

In January I spent a few glorious days at Seymour Duncan HQ in Santa Barbara, and while I was there I got to try some awesome new gear, including a prototype of the Custom Shop SLUG humbucker and a few prototypes of what would go on to become this bad boy: the Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive. A few of us tried these various versions (including Keith Merrow and Wes Hauch) and it became apparent that one prototype in particular was really special. It’s hands down the most versatile overdrive I’ve ever played, with a huge range of tones and a very responsive feel. And it’s utterly killer as a boost into an already distorted amp too, so those of you who like to use a EVH 5150 III or Peavey 6505 with an overdrive in front will love it! I know I’ll be using it to goose the Lead channel of my Marshall DSL50 (as well as using it as an overdrive in its own right). Here’s the press release. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Jimmie Vaughan

Jimmie VaughanMost biographies of Jimmie Vaughan rightfully mention his powerful yet restrained Stratocaster playing. Most also mention, of course, his brother Stevie Ray, with whom Jimmie recorded one album before SRV was taken from us. What’s perhaps slightly less prominently mentioned is that Jimmie is also a bit of a style icon: his classic band The Fabulous Thunderbirds helped to usher in a blues revival while also popularising ‘retro cool.’ The slicked back hair, the hot rods, the vintage threads – Jimmie is his own man who cuts an imposingly cool figure across the guitar landscape. So what would it be like to talk with a man who has opened for Jimi Hendrix, stood on stage with the likes of Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, opened for Bob Dylan and pretty much summarised a whole lifestyle which is soundtracked by hot 50s Stratocasters, scented by sun-warmed leather interiors and wrapped in mid-century sunglasses? Well it turns out that although he gives off an air of the ultimate baddass, Jimmie Vaughan is a dude who’s so cool and friendly that you instantly become cool by association. And you’ll want to go and pick up your guitar.   Continue reading

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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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