4 Secrets of Working in the Entertainment Industry

If your dream is to work in the entertainment industry, you probably know what a challenge it is to break in – and, even then the odds of making millions are pretty slim. The average salary is just over $63,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter. For the best chance at success, even if you simply hope to enjoy making a living at something you enjoy, follow these insider industry tips.

Be a Master in Your Craft

If you have just average skills, you’re unlikely to get very far. Whether you’re interested in acting, composing, film production or something else, nearly every role in this industry requires hard work and dedication to your craft. Study the job descriptions that interest you and make sure you have the skill sets they’re seeking – if you don’t, get training or learn it some other way, or be prepared to get passed over for someone else who has the talent.

Be Willing to Accept Very Low or No Pay to Get Experience

The entertainment industry is highly saturated and competitive. That means that you’ll probably have to be willing to take on jobs for very low or no pay in order to get the necessary experience whether you’re looking to work as a makeup artist, an actor or anything else. If you can get an internship, you’ll have the chance to network with professionals, which can be crucial in this field. Work for a local television or radio station, in college theater productions or any other venue that makes sense for the entertainment career that you’re hoping to embark on. Your best bet for entering the world of entertainment is through a referral from an insider, which means building your network and nurturing those contacts, being involved in the industry as much as you can so that you’ll hear about potential jobs.

Be Confident

Confidence is key and it’s something that truly can’t be underestimated, especially in this industry. There’s no place for someone who is weak-hearted in show business – during the early stages, it can be especially rough with audition after audition, constant criticism and rejection are the norm. Exuding confidence can make you the winner in any interview or audition. While it’s normal to feel a bit nervous, you don’t want to let it show: stand up tall, don’t slump; smile and don’t be afraid to show how passionate you are about getting the job. Keep in mind that the more you practice, the more confident you’re like to become. Of course, there is also a line you don’t want to cross by being arrogant either.

Consider Every Avenue For Getting the Word Out About Your Talents

Even if you have the confidence and all the skills, it can still be very difficult to get paid work. One of the most important ingredients when it comes to success is to be able to market yourself and the talent you have to offer. And then what happens if you get a job through an agent that takes a significant portion of what you finally earn? One great way to do it without having to give someone else a big cut is to consider a live talent agency, perhaps an app where you’ll be showcased to those who are specifically looking for someone like you, whether you’re a comedian, an actor, singer, magician or something else.

Leo Fender – The Man Behind The Brand

Leo Fender & The Inventor’s Torment

Here we are, more than 70 years since Leo Fender first revolutionised the guitar, and players are still wringing new sounds out of his creations. The Fender Jim Root Stratotcaster and Telecaster, the Johnny Marr Jaguar, the Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster, and of course classic models for players like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, all serve as reminders that the early Fender designs are incredibly adaptable, able to be tweaked and refined for different musical purposes yet still baring the distinctive traits that the original designers designed into the instruments all those years ago.

But Fender’s designs were not easily won. It took much trial and error, theories, tests, discoveries, setbacks, redesigns and rethinks before the guitars we know and love found their way to us. That development continued on, of course, and Leo Fender was further refining his designs right up until his death in 1991. And it was all accomplished around a man who wasn’t a musician: Fender didn’t actually play guitar, although he understood the importance of surrounding himself with those who did – such as Western Swing guitarist Bill Carson, who suggested the body relief cuts that made the Stratocaster more comfortable than the slab-like Telecaster.

But much of Fender’s drive to create was informed by the music he wanted to hear. As devoted fan of country music, much of Fender’s early success was driven by Leo’s desire to provide instruments for the genre he loved. “We were trying to get a tone like you get with the steel guitar, because a steel was so much cleaner in sound than an acoustic,” Fender is quoted as saying in The Story Of The Fender Stratocaster by Ray Minhinnett and Bob Young. “We wanted to have something that you could hear that had sustain and a lack of feedback.” He cheekily added that the instrument had to be strong enough for musicians to use them in a fight in a club if they had to. “If you get clobbered over the head with one of those, you know you’ve been hit!” Fender said.

And let us not forget the brilliant flash of creativity that led Fender to create the electric bass. Before Fender, there was no such thing. Bass was a big instrument that stood upright and took up the same area as a small water craft. Then Fender came along and, with the original Precision Bass, turned it into something you could sling over your shoulder. Initially adopted by country guitarists, it wasn’t long – literally just a couple of years – before the electric bass became a standard instrument for virtually every band everywhere!

But not all of Fender’s design hunches were smash hits: Leo originally wanted to build necks without truss rods, believing them unnecessary in an instrument that was made well enough. And he felt that the act of channeling out a neck and installing a truss rod would impede the instrument’s natural sustain. A few Nocasters (Telecasters with the name removed due to a copyright claim on the word by Gretsch) and two-pickup Eqsuires were made without truss rods in the early 50s before it was decided that the extra care needed to create such a stable neck without reinforcement was too time consuming.

And the vibrato bridge, such a key feature of the Strat, took a while to perfect too. The initial design was similar in spirit to Paul Bigbsy’s famous bridge, with a moving tailpiece and roller saddles. But the unit was so lightweight that it pretty much killed the ability of the string energy to transfer to the body, and the guitar sounded awful. As Bill Carson says in The Story Of The Fender Stratocaster, “I took this guitar to a job, hooked it up to play it, and it sounded like a cheap banjo, the sound decayed so quick.” Carson phoned Leo Fender and Freddie Tavares to complain that they’d killed his pickups, only to be told that the pickups weren’t touched. It was a valuable lesson in the interaction between the mass of the tremolo system and the transfer of string vibration. Five thousand dollars worth of custom tooling was scratched and Fender went back to the drawing board.

It was Carson who suggested six individual saddles for the Stratocaster bridge, but the initial units adjusted from the opposite side to where we perform this action today: on the pickup side of the bridge rather than the back. This made it almost impossible to intonate, so it was flipped 180 degrees. Carson also says he was behind the decision to switch from two pickups in the Telecaster to three in the Stratocaster – although he wanted four. 

Some of Fender’s refinements were improvements in some ways but a step back (or at least sideways) in others.  For example, although the Telecaster’s original two-strings-per-saddle, three-saddle design was eventually superseded by a more intonatable six-saddle version, players lost a little of the tonal mojo created by the interaction between the strings on each shared saddle. With each pair vibrating with each other, and on a much bigger saddle, the sound was fuller and snappier – more ‘Telecastery.’ Swap those out for individual saddles and you get greater control over intonation, but a little of the magic is traded off.

Like any great inventor, Leo Fender wasn’t afraid to admit when he was wrong, but he also had the conviction to doggedly pursue his ideas when he felt that he could be ‘more right.’ And that’s what led to his work with the Music Man company in the mid 1970s, and then his establishment of G&L Guitars with George Fullerton in 1979. 

Music Man and G&L

Leo and co were never afraid to test an idea, refine it if it could be made better, or scrap it if they were just not on the right track. But it didn’t stop at Fender. After selling the Fender guitar company to CBS in 1985, Leo went on to work as a consultant for Music Man before starting G&L, and the innovations didn’t stop.

One of Fender’s more revolutionary creations was the electric bass guitar. First released as the Fender Precision Bass in 1951, it wasn’t long before this instrument became a core feature of virtually every band since (notwithstanding the occasional White Stripes or Jon Spencer Blues Explosion). A refinement of this instrument was very high on Fender’s list when he returned to the guitar making biz in 1974. After selling Fender to CBS, he signed a non-compete clause, and remained a consultant to Fender for a few years. He formed his own company in 1971, called Tri-Sonic, and changed the name to Music Man in 1974 ahead of the expiry date for the non-compete clause.

The Music Man StingRay bass (with input from Forrest White, Sterling Ball and Tom Walker) built on the Precision Bass in many ways, but presented a major innovation in the from of active electronics, which had never before been used on a production line bass. The StingRay featured a two-band active equaliser pared with a high-output humbucking pickup. Today the model can be purchased with three-band active EQ or even a piezo pickup for acoustic sounds (or just blending in further high-end clarity). But in the 70s the ability to boost both highs and lows was directly in phase with the direction bass playing was taking as players explored the slap and pop technique. Perhaps the best contemporary example of this is Louis Johnson from The Brothers Johnson, who you can hear doing his thing in this lesson video:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=CslkVhOoE2U

Less successful at the time was the Music Man HD-130 Reverb amplifier, which was designed to compete with the Fender Twin. It did this very well, but unfortunately the Twin was falling out of favour with the guitarists of the day, who were steadily migrating to Marshalls as their gain requirements increased. The HD-130 Reverb did have a few fans however, including Eric Clapton and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler.

When internal stresses – largely due to low sales – prompted Fender to grow weary of Music Man, he started G&L with fellow Fender alumni George Fullerton. It was here that Fender and Fullerton really went to town on refining and improving the early Fender designs. New Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickups were created which combined a ceramic bar magnet with adjustable soft iron pole pieces. Before that, pickups were typically made with warmer-sounding Alnico magnets and with immovable pole pieces. The ceramic magnets and increased control over string volume allowed the MFD pickups a higher level of clarity than earlier models. G&L also offered the MFD Z-Coil pickup, which features an offset design similar to that used in the split Precision Bass pickup, moving the treble part of the pickup closer to the bridge and the bass side closer to the neck, enhancing the clarity of the former and the warmth of the latter.

G&L also pioneered several bridge innovations which would be vast improvements on earlier versions. These tweaks included the Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato and the Saddle-Lock Bridge. The Dual-Fulcrum uses two pivot points to anchor the bridge to the body, rather than the traditional six screws. This reduced interference led to much smoother operation and made it much easier for the players to bend notes up as well as down. And the Saddle-Lock Bridge used a small Allen screw on the side to reduce lateral movement of the separate string saddles, improving tuning stability and sustain at the same time by preventing the saddles from moving, and allowing – or maybe a better term is forcing – them to vibrate with each other instead of against each other. 

Today, Fender, Music Man (under the ownership of the Ernie Ball company) and G&L are all going strong. Leo’s spirit of innovation – and his ability to bring in collaborators who could help him realise his ideas and contribute their own too – is seen and heard every day, from the smallest garage band to the biggest stadium acts.

 

Rebel Without A Cause: The Gibson M-III Superstrat

The early 1990s were an unusual time of rapid change for guitar design. In the 1980s, the classic shapes of the 60s and 70s had fallen by the wayside, replaced by sleek shredder’s axes. Where once guitar players demanded elegant carved maple tops and fixed bridges, the typical guitarist of the 80s wanted high-output humbuckers, Floyd Rose tremolos, 24 frets, and flash. Lots of flash. Slash helped turn things around with his low-slung Gibson Les Pauls after Appetite For Destruction hit, but for the most part, day-glo finishes and pointy curves were where it was at. 

In the early 90s, that all changed. Suddenly, by the end of 1992 shredding was out. And 80s-style hard rock was really out. And the guitars that made that music were really, really out. Players were instead seeking vintage – or at least retro-styled – guitars in keeping with the alternative aesthetic. Nobody wanted thin necks, hot pickups, whammy bars or reverse headstocks. As a result, a lot of innovative guitars never quite got their shot. Once such instrument was the Gibson M-III. 

After a decade of trial and error, guitarists and guitar companies alike were really starting to get the hang of hard rock-oriented guitar design by the early 90s. The Gibson M-III, introduced in 1991, was a sleek, double-cutaway instrument which was surprisingly un-Gibson-like, with the exception of its Les Paul-style volume and tone knobs and reverse Explorer-type headstock. The Standard and Deluxe models sported Schaller-made Floyd Rose tremolos and a H-S-H (humbucker/single coil/humbucker) pickup layout married to a five-way blade switch and a two-way toggle, making the guitar capable of both humbucker and single coil sounds. The pickups were a 496R in the neck position, a 500T in the bridge and an NSX single coil in the middle position. Flip the two-way switch one way and it focused on humbucker sounds: flip it the other for single coil voicings. A total of nine separate sounds were possible, including an enhanced neck pickup tone and a stand-by mode for muting or kill switch effects. Great care was taken to make the pickup layout seem intuitive, presumably to ease the learning curve for an admittedly un-Gibson-like Gibson. One particularly interesting touch was the ‘zebra’ pickup color scheme: the white coils of each humbucker, combined with the white single coil, provided a visual reminder that the guitar was capable of traditional 3-pickup single coil sounds as well as twin-humbucker ones.

An advertisement from 1991 touted the M-III’s slim-taper neck, “shaped to your hand, not some alien’s.” That 1-14/32-inch wide neck (which was set in, compared to the bolt-on necks one might expect on such an instrument) featured 24 jumbo frets, offset arrowhead-shaped offset inlays and a maple fretboard. The neck joined the body at the 22nd fret for superb upper-fret access, and to this day, if one digs deep enough, internet message boards are peppered with players reporting how pleasant the M-III’s neck is to play. In February 1992 Guitar World’s Chris Butler reviewed the M-III Standard and remarked that the instrument’s only drawback was that it was so addictive to play that he found himself noodling instead of focusing on the recording session at hand.

The M-III Standard and Deluxe each had a uniquely-shaped tortiseshell pickguard with an almost tigerstripe effect, which followed the crescent-like arc created by the treble and bass side cutaways. (Actually, if you squint hard enough, the pickguard almost looks like an upside-down and backwards Explorer body). The pickguard was echoed by a tortiseshell truss rod cover and toggle switch surround. The guitar was available in ebony, white and candy apple red (Standard) or a clear finish which showed off the quality of the mahogany body (Deluxe).

Other variants included some which were rear-routed (ie: no pickguard); different pickup layouts (a pair of humbuckers with no single coil); different tremolos (Steinberger); and different woods and construction methods (neck-thru models were produced, and there are unconfirmed anecdotal reports of a handful of bolt-on models out there in the wild). The innovative switching system and pickup layout were also incorporated into a few Les Paul models, while Epiphone made a version called the EM-2 Rebel (1991-1998), and offered basses inspired by the M-III body shape all the way into 1999. The M-III, meanwhile, remained in the Gibson catalog in one form or another until 1996, and today the body shape lives on in two guitars from Epiphone’s prophecy series, the EM-2 EX and EM-2 FX (the EM-1 was discontinued in 2010).

An early adopter was Sid Fletcher of the band Roxy Blue, who used the guitar in the video for the band’s single “Rob The Cradle” and appeared in a print advertisement campaign for Gibson in 1992. But for the most part, the M-III was bought and loved by regular players who required a high-performance instrument with Swiss Army Knife-like tonal flexibility.

Gibson brought the M-III back for a while in the early 2010s but in a stripped-down format without a lot of the stuff that made the original M-III cool, like the mini-toggle and the pickguard. They’re fun guitars if you ever get to try one, but it’s just not the same.

So here’s to the original M-III and its quirky weirdness!

Great Rock Bloopers And Spontaneous Moments

Mistakes. We’ve all made ’em. Some of us more than others. Rock stars are not immune to the embarrassment of a glorious clanger, and sometimes these little whoopsies, wonky notes and unwanted warbles can even make their way onto vinyl/tape/mp3/stream for all the world to hear.

Sometimes they make it through to the listener intentionally, and sometimes they sneak by purely by accident. Sometimes they might not even be actual bloopers so much as ‘in the moment’ things that get picked up and folded into the song. However they get to us, these little gems of humanity are part of what makes rock and roll so much fun, and what keeps kids wedged between a set of headphones when they probably should be studying.

The Beatles – “Helter Skelter” (The Beatles, 1968)

“Helter Skelter” is one of The Beatles’ most frenzied songs – in fact, a case could very well be made that it has a lot in common with the prototypical heavy metal that would soon follow. One of the most fiery aspects of the tune is the intense drum performance by Ringo Starr. According to The Beatles: The Biography, Ringo recorded 18 takes of the drum part on September 9, 1968. The very last take was the one used for the master recording, and it’s also the one in which Ringo performed one of the greatest tantrums in rock and roll, screaming out “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” at the end of the take. You can hear Ringo’s outburst at 4:24.

Joe Satriani – “Surfing with the Alien” (Surfing with the Alien, 1987)

Joe Satriani’s sci-fi tones and out-of-this-world phrasing aren’t just the result of inspiration and perspiration – sometimes a little bit of serendipity and a whole lot of electronic malfunction play a role, too. For the lead guitar tone on Surfing with the Alien’s title track, Satriani used a wah-wah pedal and a harmonizer. The former worked perfectly, while the latter was in its death throes. Satriani told Guitar World, “The sound that came out of the speakers blew us away so much that we recorded the melody and the solo in about a half-hour and sat back and went, ‘Whoa! This is a song, man!’” Then the harmonizer broke down and couldn’t be fixed. “We couldn’t do anything,” he said. “We lost our tone. When we finally got it working again, we weren’t able to recreate the original effect. It just sounded different. So rather than screw up a wonderful-sounding performance that may have had a couple of glitches, we decided to just leave it, because it was just swinging.”

Frank Zappa – “Muffin Man” (Bongo Fury, 1975)

Frank Zappa often said he saw lyrics as a necessity that he didn’t quite enjoy. In his autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book he said he felt that if he had to write lyrics, he might as well make them something that appealed to his particular skewed worldview. Nowhere is this more evident than the monologue at the start of “Muffin Man,” where the text and the voice he reads it in so appeal to Frank’s worldview that he breaks character to laugh at himself (0:48), before saying “Let’s try that again” and giving the line another shot.

Megadeth – “Paranoid” (Nativity In Black, 1994)

Megadeth’s take on this Black Sabbath classic was recorded for an all-star tribute which also featured Type O Negative, Sepultura, Biohazard, White Zombie, Corrosion of Conformity, Ugly Kid Joe, Faith No More and others. Megadeth’s version of “Paranoid” was a little faster and a lot angrier than Sabbath’s 1970 original, and the anger was ratcheted up tenfold when drummer Nick Menza continued playing by himself after the song was supposed to have ended (2:23-2:30). Menza is cut off by Dave Mustaine shouting “Nick… Nick …NICK!” – and when he realizes his mistake Menza berates himself with some choice words of his own.

Metallica – “The Four Horsemen” (Kill ’Em All, 1983)

One of the most unique features of Metallica’s classic track “The Four Horsemen” is its distinctive simultaneous two-headed guitar solo, heard from 4:10 to 4:30. You can hear two Kirk Hammetts, one in each speaker, playing roughly similar but still quite different solos. In 1991 Hammett told Guitar World this cool effect was entirely a fluke. After recording two takes of the solo, Hammett and Co. were trying to decide which one to use. “I listened to both tracks at once, to see if one would stand out,” Hammett said. “But playing both tracks simultaneously sounded great, and we decided to keep it like that on the record. Some of the notes harmonized with each other, and I remember Cliff [Burton, bassist] going, ‘Wow, that’s stylin’ – it sounds like Tony Iommi!’”

Steve Vai – “Sex & Religion” (Sex & Religion, 1993)

These days Devin Townsend is known as a heavy metal auteur, solo and with Strapping Young Lad. But when he was 20, Townsend found fame as the singer in Steve Vai’s band, alongside T.M. Stevens on bass and Vai’s fellow Zappa alumni Terry Bozzio on drums. A vocal follow-up to Passion & Warfare was always going to be a bold move for Vai, but nobody was prepared for the hyperactive Townsend, who soared into gorgeous melodies before plummeting down to the lowest pits of hell with piercing screams, often in the space of a single bar. At the end of the album’s title track, Townsend really goes for it with a perfectly pitched but very intense melodic scream which lasts for a whole 18 seconds (from 4:05 to 4:23) – and he doesn’t quite make it back. Townsend passed out after the take, and Vai kept some of what he said after he came to. “Oh I hurt your brain? Oh. My fingers are numb… right now, they’re numb… can I deprive my brain of oxygen?”

The Police – “Roxanne” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)

“Roxanne” is a classic for its melody, its vocal performance, its orchestration and the instrumental timbres, but it’s also unique for a different reason. The mysterious piano chord heard at 0:04 is an unusual, atonal cluster that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. So what gives? Well it turns out Sting slinked back to relax on a nearby piano but didn’t realize the lid was up, so he unwittingly played that gloriously dissonant chord with his butt. This also explains his laugh at 0:06.

Led Zeppelin – “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (Led Zeppelin, 1969)

“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is an eerie, moody track to begin with, but if you listen very closely you’ll hear a ghostly voice at 1:43. What is it? A backwards-masked magic spell? Some kind of ghostly incantation? Nope. That’s actually the sound of Robert Plant singing along with drummer John Bonham during tracking, and there was no way to delete Plant’s singing from the drum tracks. Whether that’s his actual naked voice leaking through the drum mics, or perhaps being blasted through Bonzo’s headphones, perhaps we’ll never quite know, but it sure sounds cool, and adds yet another interesting layer to discover among Led Zep’s tapestry of orchestration.

Radiohead – “Creep” (Pablo Honey, 1993)

One of the most unique parts of Radiohead’s hit “Creep” was the salvo of chunky, deadened notes played by Jonny Greenwood right before the chorus at 0:58, and again at 2:00. Bandmate Ed O’Brien told Select magazine that Greenwood’s ear-catching decision was actually born of frustration. “That’s the sound of Jonny trying to [expletive] the song up,” O’Brien said. “He really didn’t like it the first time we played it, so he tried spoiling it. And it made the song.”

Van Halen – “Everybody Wants Some” (Women and Children First, 1980)

This Van Halen classic features oodles of the loose party vibe the band were known for in the early days – you can almost hear the clinking of beer bottles and the boogying of bikini babes. Almost. One thing you can most definitely hear though is the sound of David Lee Roth totally flubbing a lyric. According to his autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, the line was supposed to be something along the lines of “I’ve seen a lot of people just looking for a moonbeam.” But that’s not what came out. Instead, at 1:58, Dave sang something resembling “Ya take a moople-ah, wookie pah-a moopie.” The band decided that the vibe of the new line worked just as well, and the messed-up take was left in the song, an enduring legacy to just how hard Van Halen rocked it.

Van Halen – “Eruption”

“Eruption,” with its blistering licks and innovative techniques, launched a million shredders, but the technique-redefining tapping section includes – by Eddie Van Halen’s own admission – a little mistake. Van Halen told Guitar Player, “…I took one pass at it and they put it on the record. I didn’t even play it right. There’s a mistake at the top end of it. To this day whenever I hear it I always think,’Man, I could’ve played it better’.” But wher is it? It sounds like a mistake can be heard at about 1.01 – listen for a tiny stutter which breaks up the flow of the tapping pattern. However, there are those of us who believe EVH’s playing to be utterly infallible and will not accept that he can make mistakes, even by his own admission.

Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker”

As anyone who has ever tried to jam along to “Heartbreaker” will attest, the song’s iconic unaccompanied solo section is pitched slightly higher than the rest of the song. As Jimmy Page explained to Guitar World in 1998: “The interesting thing about the solo is that it was recorded after we had already finished “Heartbreaker” – it was an afterthought. That whole section was recorded in a different studio and it was sort of slotted in the middle.” Even with the studio technology of the time it would have been possible to match the tuning of the two sections via some deft tape speed manipulation, so why does it sound higher than the rest of the song? Is it possible it was slightly sped up on purpose to appear even more impressive? Maybe we’ll never know.

Led Zeppelin – “Since I’ve Been Loving You”

Led Zeppelin chalk up another little studio mishap in the form of a squeaky kick drum pedal on “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” In 1993 Jimmy Page recounted his discovery of the artefact while putting together the first Led Zeppelin boxed set. “It sounds louder and louder every time I hear it,” he said. “That was something that was obviously sadly overlooked at the time.” Still, it’s one of those great little Easter Eggs that make Led Zeppelin albums such wonderful headphone fodder.

U2 – “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”

At around 3:10 to 3:14, drummer Larry Mullen Jr can be heard dropping a drum stick. He valiantly continues on for a few bars before obtaining another drum stick (I’d like to think that he summoned it to his hand using the Force). The mistake was left in the song – and it lends a particularly cool dynamic shift to the song – although legend has it that Larry Mullen Jr wasn’t exactly pleased with the decision to leave it in.

Frank Zappa – “We’re Turning Again”

On the version of this track from You Can’t Do That On Stage Any More Vol. 6, Mike Keneally loses control of his guitar after the Hendrix section (“You can regulate my fuzztone with your wah wah,” etc). Keneally quickly gets his axe under control but vocalist Ike Willis can be heard chuckling about the incident for a few more bars.

Black Sabbath – “Sweet Leaf”

Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” is a heavy, lumbering ode to a particular extracurricular activity the band often engaged in at the time of recording 1971’s Master Of Reality. The track opens with a tape loop of somebody coughing. Ozzy Osbourne told Rolling Stone in 2004 that the source of the cough was guitarist Tony Iommi. Iommi confirmed, “I was outside recording an acoustic thing, and Ozzy brought me a [not suitable for publication]. I had a puff and nearly choked myself, and they were taping it!”

Pantera – “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills”

The staccato feedback chops which punctuate portions of this Far Beyond Driven track were created when Dimebag Darrell stood a little too close to brother Vinnie Paul’s drums. Dime was running his guitar through a vintage flanger pedal and a noise gate. As he told Guitar World in 1994, his plan was to “just make a little bit of racket in the beginning of the song,” but by chance his guitar’s pickup sensed the sound of Vinnie Paul’s snare, and its output was enough to release the noise gate, creating a choppy, flanged roar perfectly synced to the snare.

Mr. Big – “Alive And Kicking”

This song instead – from Mr.Big’s breakthrough album Lean Into It – doesn’t include an actual mistake per se, but its main riff was created when guitarist Paul Gilbert was tuning his guitar. Gilbert told Guitar World (March 1991) that he hit two strings while twisting the tuning peg of one string, and the riff’s distinctively sassy first note was created. Gilbert figured out how to achieve the same effect by bending one string instead of messing with the tuning keys, but the riff wouldn’t have happened if not for a creative spin on a mis-hit note. Gilbert also plays off this effect during the song’s intro, both in the studio and live.

David Bowie – “Little Wonder”

While not quite a blooper so much as a clever rearranging of off-the-cuff moments, Reeves Gabrels told Guitar World in 1997 that the skittering riff on this 1997 hit was born after he recorded about 40 minutes worth of random guitar noises, loaded the results onto a sampling keybaord and messed around with the riffage until he found something he liked. Gabrels said that when Bowie and go started playing “Little Wonder” live, he had to figure out how to physically play what he had sampled. “It was really educational,” he said. “To a small degree it changed how I look at my actual real-time playing, which is a cool thing.”

The Mamas & The Papas – “I Saw Her Again”

This 1966 single includes an iconic and much-imitated blooper around the 2:40 mark. Singer Denny Doherty sings the first line of the third chorus a little too early, cuts himself off, and comes in again at the right moment with the rest of the group. Producer (who also produced Carole King’s Tapestry) intentionally left the flub in. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian mimicked the mistake on “Darling Be Home Soon” in 1967 and Kenny Loggins did the same on “I’m Alright” in 1980. A similar mistake can be heard before the start of the first verse of “Discipline” from Nine Inch Nails’ 2008 album The Slip.

Hilarious Yamaha guitar ads, circa 1992-93

I don’t know who wrote the copy for these Yamaha ads from 1992-93 (which I recently tracked down in some old guitar magazine issues) but they were a marketing genius. These ads are informative and fun, and they lodged themselves in my brain immediately when I saw them as a kid, staying there for a frankly embarrassing number of years since then.

Observe this brilliant piece for the RGZ (Guitar School, September 1992)

Aaaahahahaha. Or what about this, for the super-cool-but-where-is-it-now Weddington (Guitar World, July 1992):

Or, to bring things back around to the shreddier end of the spectrum for a moment, this Pacifica ad.

Yamaha Pacifica

And the APX acoustic isn’t left out. Behold! (Guitar Player, May 1993)

Playing In A Duo

The idea of a guitar-plus-drums duo isn’t a new one. A lot of us even started out this way by pure necessity. I know I did: I’d been playing electric guitar for about two years before I met a bass player, so my earliest jams were all with a drummer. One time a buddy and I even played Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” as a duo, sans vocals (and probably sans awesomeness, if I’m to be honest about our seventh-grade skills). But even back then I took steps to compensate for the lack of bass, mainly by trying to throw in as many notes from the bassline as I could in between C.C. DeVille licks. Now there are all sorts of ways you can fill out the sound if you’re playing in a guitar/drums duo, and there are lots of great examples of duos doing some pretty amazing things. 

If you’re playing in a guitar/drums duo you need to find a way to fill out the low end, because a standard-tuned guitar can lack a little of the fullness of a bass-driven band. There are all sorts of methods to achieve this. One I like is to drop the low E string down quite low – often to C or A. For me this was inspired by the Van Halen instrumental track ‘Baluchitherium,’ where Eddie drops his low string way, way down. This lets you play the stuff you normally would on the other four or five strings (depending on how you choose to tune) while also giving you access to a lower range for bass notes. Of course there’s no reason you can’t use a baritone guitar to get right down there for those lower notes.

Another useful method is to use an octave pedal or pitch shifter to generate a lower-octave tone to fill out the guitar sound. This can restrict what you play though, since many octave units don’t sound so great when you play a full chord through them. There are other options out there for generating a bass sound: the A Little Thunder pickup (which I’ve been messing around with in my Les Paul) generates a bass sound from the lowest three strings and sends it to a separate amp, and is even clever enough to only use the E string if you’re playing a six-note barre chord.

Or you could use a guitar synth, which also gives you the option of routing only particular strings to another signal chain, and letting you do things like muting the guitar notes on the bottom two strings so they’re not doubling the bass. Whichever method you use in a setup like this, it’s usually beneficial to send your faux-bass signal to a separate amplifier or direct into the mixing desk so you can achieve maximum sonic spread. Also, guitar amps typically aren’t designed to handle the frequency range of a bass amp, so you’ll get a more authentic sound if you send your bass-type signal to a bass amp.

Here in Australia there are two bands in particular who are doing some very innovative things in two-guitar bands: King of the North and DZ Deathrays. Both are guitar/drum duos. DZ is described as ‘dance-punk’ or ‘thrash-pop,’ and their guitarist/vocalist, Shane Parsons, uses a multi-amp/multi-effect setup to generate a dense, psychedelic, often alien-sounding guitar army. Although more recently Parsons has experimented with layering each element separately in the studio, if you catch them live the sound is all happening in real-time from the one instrument. King Of The North take a more direct approach. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Higgs uses a three-amp setup which seems complicated on the surface, but he likes to explain it as “Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams” – that is, one amp cranks out his rhythm guitar riffs, one handles the simulated basslines and one kicks in for lead guitar. It’s interesting to compare King of the North and DZ Deathrays: if you closed your eyes at a King of the North gig you wouldn’t even realise you weren’t listening to a traditional ‘two guitars, bass and drums’ band, while there are times when DZ can often sound as much like analog synths as guitars. 

Here’s King Of The North’s video for ”Wanted”

And here they are covering Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song”

 

New Metal Church single and lyric video

West coast metal veterans METAL CHURCH are back with a lyric video for another song from their upcoming “From The Vault” collection. The song was an unfinished idea from the summer 2019 recording sessions that would become the “Damned If You Do” release. “For No Reason” is quintessential METAL CHURCH and showcases the sound that has earned that band a loyal legion of fans around the globe. The lyric video for “For No Reason” can be seen here:

The song is available on March 18th on all streaming platforms.

The official lyric video of the first digital single “Dead On The Vine” can be seen here:

This latest release is a special edition compilation album that features 16 previously unreleased tracks from the Mike Howe era, which include four newly recorded studio tracks including a redux of the band’s fan favorite classic “Conductor”. The remaining tracks are compiled from various recordings in the band’s history and include five tracks from 2018’s Damned if You Do recording sessions, three cover songs and three unreleased bonus tracks from the “XI” album. Tracks 1 through 4 were mixed and mastered by Chris “The Wizard Collier” (KXM, Whitesnake, Prong, Korn) and Tracks 5 through 16 were mixed & mastered by Kurdt Vanderhoof.  

Born out of the West Coast Metal scene of the 80’s, Metal Church quickly became one of the standout talents of the genre. After signing a deal with Elektra records, they released two critically acclaimed albums, their self-titled release Metal Church and The Dark. With the heavy metal scene starting to rise in the U.S., Metal Church set out on a very successful tour with label mates Metallica. They tackled political and social issues of the day with the releases of Blessing In Disguise and The Human Factor. At a time when heavy metal bands moved from the underground and became part of the hair band/pop fad, Metal Church stayed true to their roots. In March of 2016 Metal Church released their eleventh studio album XIthat reached #57 on the Billboard Top 200 and also landed on several other charts around the globe. Metal Church’s previous album Damned If You Do was the follow up to XI and landed on numerous charts around the globe in 2018. The album has been described as a cross between the band’s iconic Blessing In Disguise and The Human Factor albums.

Pre-order “From The Vault” here: https://www.reapermusic.de/metal-church-from-the-vault

I Was A Teenage Ibanez Geek

I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1990. I was 12 years old, sitting in the lounge room watching a short-lived music show called Countdown Revolution. They cut to a filmed interview segment with one Mr Steve Vai. You can see it here because the internet is amazing.

I immediately recognised Steve as that cool dude swinging his guitar around his neck in a few David Lee Roth videos that had made a huge impression on me when I was 9 or 10. The interview was about his then brand-new solo album, Passion And Warfare, and he described the process of designing his 7-string guitar, the Universe. I remember him saying it was especially good for rock, blues, jazz or heavy metal, and that he took the idea to “Ibanez, the company that makes guitars for me.”

I immediately filed that away in the mental piggy bank, sure it would pay off later.

I still remember the first Ibanez guitar I ever played – a used JEM7PBK at Custom Music in Lavington. Christmas was approaching and my dad said I could get a good guitar that year. It was now 1993 and my first electric, a Status brand Stratocaster copy, had served me well for a few years but it spent as much time in pieces getting repaired as it did as a whole being played. I was now way into Vai, and I immediately recognised the sound of that guitar’s PAF Pro pickups as being a big part of his tone on several key Passion And Warfare cuts.

But alas, even Santa’s’ generosity has its limits and the Jem was just a few hundred dollars out of his reach. So I looked at the other guitars on the rack. After very briefly perusing a Washburn, I seized upon a pair of Ibanezes just to the left of the Jem. One was an EX series, which to me looked showy and tacky, with fake gold parts and what even I could tell was a fake flamed maple top. I’d seen one of those at school and I knew they were made in Korea and were cheaper models. Hell, the headstock didn’t even have that awesome Ibanez ‘swoosh’ logo. But next to that, I saw her.

There was no model number on the tag, but on inspection I gleaned a few things: This was a Japanese-made Ibanez, with the same Edge bridge as the Jem next to it, and with the ‘swoosh’ logo. It was the same colour (which I later learned was called ‘Jewel Blue’) as the cool pink-pickup-loaded Paul Gilbert model Ibanez I’d seen in Melbourne a few months earlier. I checked the price. I checked with Santas’ helper. Approval was granted, and I marched out of the store with my first Ibanez. After a while, I started to learn a bit about Ibanez guitars, and I noticed that this one didn’t really fit in with anything I knew about its contemporaries. It had an unsculpted block heel neck joint – completely square like a Strat, not contoured, carved or otherwise streamlined like other models. The neck plate said ‘Made In Japan.’ It had a genuine Edge bridge, even though I knew it probably should have had a LO TRS. And the pickups were probably not the V7 and V8 series I’d seen on RG470s at a few local guitar stores, because they didn’t have anything stamped on them and the pole pieces weren’t black – six were steel-lookin’ slot-head screws and the other six were steel-lookin’ slugs.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after I had discovered Jemsite, that I learned I could find out the model number by removing the neck and seeing what was stamped there. I was surprised to see that it was an RG370, a model number I had associated with cheaper, Korean-built models. Occasionally a skeptic will tell me my guitar can’t possibly be an RG370 if it’s Japanese and has an Edge, but I’ve seen the proof myself and I kinda like having a slightly unusual Ibanez, even if it’s not exactly one of the top-shelf models.

I’ve asked around in the industry and nobody seems to have a definitive answer on this but the general ‘I think this is what happened…’ consensus from various Ibanez and associated folk is that it might have been a special order by the local distributor. That seems to be borne out by this entry to the Ibanez Wiki, which says it was just for Australia and New Zealand.

Since then I’ve had a few interesting and/or noteworthy Ibanezes: an RGR480 with reverse headstock and deep wine finish (like a reverse sunburst, with purple on the outside fading to black in the middle); a sparkly silver Talman TC825 with Bigsby tremolo; an RG7420 with the neck stamped RG7620, which has an extremely thin neck compared to my actual RG7620; an RG550MXX roadflare red 20th anniversary reissue; and a Charleston model flat-top acoustic with jazz guitar-style f-holes. Then there are my Jem (7VWH) and Universe (777BK), and my first-year 1987 RG550BK. All great guitars, all with their own sentimental stories.

My poor old RG370 is now in need of an electronics overhaul and a fret job, but I still drag it out every now and then and am always impressed by how the guitar’s character has evolved and enhanced over the years. There’s a tightness to the bass frequencies and smoothness to the attack that are unique to this guitar compared to others in my collection, which I can only attribute to the thicker neck joint. One day, if Ibanez ever makes my signature model (hey, it could happen, right?), I’m sure I’ll take a few design cues from that guitar. Although I’ll probably make sure the model number is printed somewhere that’s easily visible, to avoid a lot of confusion for some poor kid some time in the future.