EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: Gavin Kennedy – ‘Pharaoh’

Gavin Kennedy is a ridiculously talented guitarist who has just released his instrumental album Sunchaser, co-produced with Adam “Nolly” Getgood. They met over in the UK a few years ago where Nolly mentored Gavin, and ehen Gavin decided to make an album, Nolly was all on board. They recorded the project in Nolly‘s home studio with real amps instead of taking the virtual route, and the guitar production on the album is incredible. Gavin is behind all of the guitars on the album which include Breedlove and Ernie Ball Music Man guitars, along with composing and producing the tracks alongside Nolly.

Here’s an exclusive premiere of a playthrough video for the track ‘Pharaoh’ from Sunchaser. We’ll have Gavin on the I Heart Guitar podcast soon!

You can listen to the album here: https://smarturl.it/sunchaser 

Follow Gavin Kennedy: 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GavinKMusic
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GavinKMusic/ 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gavinkmusic/

REVIEW: Ormsby TX GTR Eaton Special

Of all the Ormsby guitar designs, my favourites personally are the SX and the TX. Something about the SX just feels super-right to me and it’s always a treat to get to play one, whether it’s a Custom Shop made-in-Australia model or a Korean-made GTR version. But for me the TX is really where it’s at. Imagine if an Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halen model got it on with a Fender American Deluxe Telecaster but then spent a summer hanging around with a gang of Jazzmasters. Yes, before you even realise that it’s a multiscale guitar, the offset design tells you there’s something very different about this instrument, something that gives it great ergonomics even before you even take into account the fretting-hand-friendly multiscale design.

In its 7-string configuration, this guitar has a 27.8” scale length on the lowest string, shortening to a 25.5” scale on the highest. The 6-string has a 25.5”-27.5” scale. By this point I think most of us know about the benefits of a multiscale design, even if you haven’t tried one yet. For starters, the longer scale for the lower strings makes them tighter and snappier. For another, they just seem to intonate better. But most importantly for me, they naturally guide your hand into a very comfortable, tension-free playing position. After about five minutes of playing time, most players completely adjust to the different fret layout, and from then on it’s all smooth sailing.

The TX I reviewed was an Eaton Special model (owned by my brother Steve – hi Steve) with a 42mm-thick Alder body and a Flame Maple top. It has a bolt-on three-piece Maple neck and an Ebony fingerboard with Mother of Pearl inlays, and the beck of the neck is a Thin-U shape, like a D but with round shoulders. It’s not ultra-chunky but it’s not super-thin either. In fact it’s probably the perfect depth to be instantly accessible to as many players as possible, and it naturally guides your hand to a comfortable position for best orienting yourself to the multiscale fret layout. There are 29 Stainless Steel frets, with the last five being partial frets that follow the diagonal flow of the end of the neck.

Hardware includes Hipshot USA locking tuners and a custom Hipshot multiscale bridge, and the controls are volume and tone pots (with a push-pull switch on the tone for coil splitting), and a three-way pickup selector switch. The pickups are a PVH A5 humbucker and an Old School single coil, wound to Ormsby’s specs. Another nice touch: the curved control plate.

Unlike the super-popular Hype GTR model, which is a set-neck with a nice natural compression, the TX’s bolt-on neck gives it a snap and dimension that recalls the Telecasters that partly inspired it. It’s a very bold, in-your-face-sounding guitar with great note separation and a very tight attack. The pickups further enhance this natural quality with a very clear, focused vibe, and while they can handle some fatter tones with a bit of EQ work, they really excel at percussive chunk and screaming solos. Crucially, they’re not super hot in output, allowing for great clarity no matter how much gain you pile on, and also ensuring that when you split the humbucker into a single coil it sounds nice and twangy like a low-output single, not chewy and barks like a hotter one. The clean and semi-dirty tones are fantastic, especially in the middle selector position with the coil tap engaged, and are great for indie/alternative styles. The guitar itself doesn’t really look like something you’d see in that genre, but rules are made to be broken. It really sounds great for that stuff.

Although metal players seem to be the ones really embracing the multiscale, this isn’t just a metal guitar. Sonically it’s incredibly versatile, ergonomically it’s very player-friendly, and its design has enough of a classic vibe to appeal to forward-thinking traditionalists as well as modernists.

What Should Gibson Do?

A few people have asked me what I think should happen to Gibson if they can’t refinance their debt and they need to restructure. I used to write for Gibson, I own a Gibson, and everyone I worked with there was great.

But the brand is clearly off track. The overwhelming public perception is that Gibson’s management is pushing too hard towards the future at the expense of the past. It’s true that guitarists today don’t necessarily want exactly what players were buying in 1954. But too much deviation from what people expect of Gibson is a turn-off for many players too. Gibson’s current approach is a bit of a re-set from a few years ago when every Gibson USA model was shipping with robot tuners, but public missteps like the Firebird X (which was actually a really fun and great-playing guitar if you ever got a chance to play one) are still fresh in many players’ minds. Add to this Gibson’s quite public issues with imminently due financial arrangements, and it looks like something has to change. 

So if Gibson can’t refinance that debt to its satisfaction and has to downsize in order to continue, where should they start? 

To begin with, I think they should sell off non-guitar brands. So long, Philips. See ya, KRK. Toodle-oo, Baldwin. Take a walk, Cakewalk (actually, Cakewalk was just sold last week). Catch ya, TEAC. Onkyo, Slingerland, TASCAM, etc etc etc. It was a cool idea, but that debt won’t wait forever, and rightly or wrongly there’s a feeling in the guitar community that Gibson leadership is spreading itself too thin over too many brands. Guitarists tend to buy with their gut; if they feel queasy, that sale won’t be easy. 

Sell Steinberger. Headless guitars are way in vogue right now but Gibson isn’t really doing anything particularly spectacular with the brand. Perhaps the sale of the division would net more than current guitar sales. 

Sell Valley Arts Guitar. A once-great brand that has been buried at Gibson but could easily compete with the Suhrs and Andersons of the world in the right marketing hands. Remember when Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton played Valley Arts? They were highly desirable guitars in the late 80s and early 90s. But the brand doesn’t belong at Gibson. 

I don’t think Gibson needs to sell Kramer, but I do think they need to put some serious effort into the brand. Kramer should be competing in the same space as Schecter, Charvel, Jackson, ESP, Ibanez and other brands like that. But they’re not. The website’s most recent news item is from 2015. The guitar and bass range has been stagnant for a long time. 

Either sell Tobias or take it seriously. That brand could compete with Mike Lull, Mayones, Lakland, Sandberg, MTD of course… instead you never see them anywhere played by anyone any more. And the Tobias brand is under the Epiphone banner, which doesn’t help its prestige.

You own Maestro. Where is it? Oh yeah, you’re using the brand name on $65 acoustic guitars at Walmart instead of to sell thousands of fuzzboxes and Echoplexes to a hungry market. The players are there and they want the gear to be readily available. They’ll even pay more for it if it’s handmade and boutique.

Oh and hhey how come there are dozens of companies making resonator guitars but you own the Dobro and are just using it to make sub-$1000 models under Epiphone, as far as I can tell? With the current continued strength in country, Americana and folk, plus an underground blues scene that is stronger than folks realise until it sells out Bluesfest, supporting Dobro properly seems like a no-brainer.

So what about Gibson itself? What do I think they should do? Well, for starters, people do still want more or less traditional guitars from Gibson. It feels to me that Gibson USA should focus on making Les Paul Standards, Customs, ES-335s, SGs, Explorers… the bread and butter, maybe updated a little for neck strength and playability because it’s not 1958 any more, but not robot Transformer guitars that you need to charge and proprietary electronics that prevent you from swapping pickups.

But there is a place in the world for Gibson innovation. I truly believe Gibson has done some great things, especially when you pick up a Les Paul Standard HP with its compound radius fingerboard and versatile electronics. So take that spirit of adventure and create a new division. Maybe call it Gibson Modern, explore the futuristic stuff, but be realistic about demand from customers and expectations on dealers. Keep its R&D budget separate from Gibson USA so you’re not jacking up Les Paul Standard prices to pay for the development of LCD screens instead of fretboard inlays or whatever. Don’t lose the passion for progress, but don’t force the buyer into it. Again, guitarists buy with their gut, and they’ll accept small degrees of change at a time but not rapid swings.

As for Epiphone: keep on doing what you’re doing! Epiphone generally seems to be very strong. Maybe consider – gasp! – letting Epiphone use the Gibson headstock. It might be time. It might be the deciding factor between a buyer choosing an Epiphone Les Paul over an LTD Eclipse.

Also, review your social strategy: don’t be so scared to tag OEM partners or feature smaller artists in social posts. Artists and partners want to work together to help you and them sell stuff. 

Finally, you know you have a quality control issue. I’ve seen guitars come out of the box at stores then go straight back because of some flaw. When you find a great Gibson, it’s unbeatable. Be as strict on QC as PRS and Yamaha, who are notoriously tough on themselves. 

Anyway, whatever happens, I hope the folks I worked with at Gibson are okay, I hope the workers have stable jobs and I hope every Gibson that leaves the factory is as perfect to play and listen to as mine is. Henry Juszkiewicz has vision and ambition, but perhaps he needs to back his foot off the gas just a little bit and let the market tell him what Gibson needs to be, then adapt his ideas and drive to that, instead of trying to force market changes, as we saw with the ‘all robot tuners’ situation a few years ago.

And if Gibson ever need my writing skills again, I’d do it in a heartbeat and help to spread the word about what I hope is a very bright future, because if you’ve played a great Gibson, you would know that this company is still capable of making some of the greatest guitars in the world. 

Rocktron Introduces The ValveSonic Plexi

I had the pleasure of trying the RockTron ValveSonic in prototype form a few NAMMs ago and it blew my mind. I figure it’s gotta be even better now that it’s ready for release! I hoped to get time to try this final version out at NAMM but I never got a chance to make it over there. But it looks really cool and I bet it’d be killer with a great power amp.

Rocktron Introduces The ValveSonic Plexi

Battle Creek, MI, 21st February 2018 – Rocktron is pleased to unveil the ValveSonic Plexi, the first in the ValveSonic series of all tube guitar preamps. Developed in conjunction with LA Custom, this preamp captures the vintage tones of the iconic British “plexi” amplifiers, from the early stacked amps of the 60’s, to the arena sound of rock in the 70’s, to the sound heard during the 80’s “Sunset Strip” era and beyond…all in one convenient rack space.

The ValveSonic delivers pristine tone, no matter the musical genre. Its 1-2 switch allows players to quickly toggle between the ‘modern’ type of input used on British style amps, and a fatter, “classic” type of input. The Bright control allows five different variations, and the gain and boost controls allow you to replicate the 80s and 90s British amp tones. When combining the use of the unique AFTERBURNER switch, the ValveSonic allows you to fine tune your exact tone.

The ValveSonic Plexi is NOW SHIPPING! Check with your preferred local Rocktron dealer for pricing and availability.

To find out more about the new Rocktron ValveSonic Plexi, please go to http://www.rocktron.com/valvesonic-plexi.html

Sully Guitars Conspiracy Series

(Little Elm, Texas –  February 6, 2018) Luthier Jon Sullivan of Sully Guitars introduces the Conspiracy Series, incorporating the distinctive designs and close attention to detail found in his handmade instruments, but at a more affordable price.

Designed by Sully Guitars and made by World Musical Instruments in South Korea, the Sully Guitars Conspiracy Series debuts with three models: the ‘71 Starling, the Stardust, and the ‘71 SD, which is the Stevie D Signature Model for the Buckcherry/Josh Todd and the Conflict guitarist, with Conspiracy Series versions of other Sully designs to follow.

The ‘71 Starling (MSRP $1199 USD) is a set-neck guitar with a 25.5” scale length, Mahogany body, three-piece laminated Mahogany neck with 22 Jumbo Stainless Steel frets, Ebony 12-16” compound radius fingerboard, Luminlay side dots, Hipshot hardtail bridge and locking tuners, direct-mounted humbuckers wound to Sully specs, and volume and tone controls with a push-pull coil split.

The Stardust (MSRP $1099 USD) is a bolt-on guitar with an Alder body, three-piece laminated Maple neck with 22 Jumbo Stainless Steel frets, Ebony or Maple 12-16” compound radius fingerboard, Luminlay side dots, Hipshot hardtail bridge and locking tuners, humbuckers wound to Sully specs with a direct-mounted bridge and a pickguard-mounted neck model, and volume and tone controls with a push-pull coil split.

The ‘71 is inspired by a classic but with many very ‘Sully’ twists. “When I started playing guitar as a little kid, all I ever wanted was the guitar Ace Frehley played” Sullivan says. “But I eventually realized that I never kept them because of the scale length. So I started drawing. I let the design breathe a bit; I probably spent a little over three years coming back to it before I finally made the first prototype. The ‘71 definitely got its foundation from the classic American single cut, but the similarities end there. It’s got a more modern feel with compound radiused fretboards and stainless steel frets, the back of the body is contoured to be more ergonomic with effortless upper fret access, and ultimately, it just gets out of your way.”

The Stardust gets its inspiration from Sully’s lifelong love of David Bowie. “I wanted to take the ‘71, break it into quadrants, turn it around and meld it into an offset that didn’t necessarily look like a traditional offset guitar,” Sullivan says. “It definitely goes to that neighborhood, but then it drives through. Finally, I wanted to commemorate Bowie’s passing with more than just the model name; I wanted it to look like  something that he might have have played.”

Stevie D says of the ‘71 SD (MSRP $1249 USD), “It’s the meanest machine! It seamlessly bridges style, tone and playability, and the combination literally gets out of your way so you can be you!”

Sully Guitars artists include Stevie D (Buckcherry/Josh Todd and the Conflict), Acey Slade (Dope/Murderdolls/Joan Jett), Dee J Nelson (solo artist, Doug Marks Metal Method instructor), Adam Nañez (solo artist, Serosia, Roscoe Empire), Justin Hold (Stareview), Greg Marra (solo artist, Plenty Heavy), Perfecto De Castro (solo artist, Ariel Pineda), and Shane Lively (VII).

Contact Jon Sullivan
www.sullyguitars.com
Info@sullyguitars.com
312-469–0675
Instagram: @sullyguitars
Facebook.com/sullyguitars

 

Cool Gear Alert: Kiesel Zeus Headless

As many of you know, my current main guitar is a Kiesel Vader V7. I love that little thing! It’s very comfortable to play and sonically very flexible. Kiesel has now followed up the Vader design with the Zeus, a slightly Telecaster-esque outline which addresses my one complaint about the Vader: that sometimes the way I rest the guitar on my leg interferes with the tuners at the back. And it’s not just a Vader with a different outline: the Zeus is bolt-on whereas Vader is a neck-through guitar, so the sound will be a little different. It’s available in 6, 7 and 8-string standard and multiscale, or 4, 5 and 6-string bass. You can learn more about the Zeus here and in the video below.

New Podcast Episode: Roger Mayer

Roger Mayer is the Father of the Fuzz. Oracle of the Octavia. His early effects for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page changed the way we listen to and play guitar, and he’s still making great gear today. Join us for a chat about why analog is superior to digital, what it was like to work with Jimi Hendrix, and the emotion-heightening impact of a well-placed effect. 

Listen to it on iTunes here, in the embedded player below, or in the podcast catcher of your choice. Let me know if you need me to add it to any podcast services that you’re not finding it on yet! 

Be sure to visit Roger’s website at roger-mayer.co.uk.

If you’d like to help support I Heart Guitar, visit patreon.com/iheartguitar to support the podcast and gain access to subscriber-exclusive episodes, or donate to PayPal.Me/iheartguitar

Guitar Nerd Rig Fun

I’m currently in the throes of a good old-fashioned riggin’. You may not be able to tell much from the pic but this is kind of my dream rig. Lemme explain how it will work. 

First up, the heart of my tone is the Marshall DSL50 JCM2000. I love these amps because they’re totally no-bullshit: they put out whatever you put into them, putting that legendary Marshall stamp upon it in the process while remaining very faithful to your playing dynamics and phrasing where some amps mush all that stuff together. I usually stick to the Lead channel (in its Classic mode instead of the higher-gain, scooped-mid ‘Ultra’ mode) with the gain control at around 6. 

I sometimes use other pedals to get a little more grrr out of the DSL50 though. My favourite pedal for this is the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster, which can be set to give you a simple gain boost but can also perform some basic but very powerful tone-shaping tricks via a switch that boosts or cuts the treble. Hit the treble cut and you’ll get a slightly rounder, more vocal-sounding tone. 

Other pedals in my signal chain include a Jim Dunlop Buddy Guy Crybaby Wah, a BOSS OC-2 Octave and a Jim Dunlop KFK Q-Zone. And I have a Line 6 Relay G30 wireless and a Planet Waves tuner. 

But here’s where it gets complicated/fun: I’m sending the signal from the Marshall into the Mesa Cab Clone – a load box and speaker simulator – and then sending that sound into a trio of stereo Seymour Duncan pedals: the Catalina Dynamic Chorus, the Shape Shifter Stereo Tremolo, and the Andromeda Dynamic Delay. The output from the last of those pedals goes into the stereo inputs of the Seymour Duncan PowerStage 700 power amp, which then plugs into my Marshall cabinet’s left and right speaker inputs. I can then use the PowerStage’s three-band EQ to further shape the sound. This setup also allows me dial in exactly the perfect amount of power tube distortion at any volume, because I can set the amp volume wherever I like for the best tone for whatever musical situation I’m in, then use the PowerStage volume control to set the final level. 

Another bonus of this setup is that the Cab Clone has a Thru output which means I can send a dry signal to another cabinet. Actually what I’d love to do if I had the cash is to get a pair of Marshall 2×12 (or 4×12) cabinets and have those be my left and right effect cabs powered by the PowerStage. 

I love this nerdy stuff.