NEWS: IK goes Insane with 4×1 promo when 3,500 join in

In yet further ‘awesome stuff waiting for me in my email when I wake up’ news, I saw this this morning from the folks at IK Multimedia.

(By the way, check out my reviews of AmpliTube Fender and AmpliTube 2)

IK goes Insane with 4×1 promo when 3,500 join in

Due to unprecedented user demand, we have decided to extend the current AmpliTube Power Group Promotion and give you up to 4 Powered by AmpliTube products for the insane price of 1 if 3,500 users join the promotion by December 31st!!!

So far over 2,700 users have joined-in by registering one of these:
* StealthPedal
* StealthPedal Deluxe
* AmpliTube 2
* AmpliTube 2 Crossgrade
* AmpliTube FenderTM
* Ampeg® SVX
* AmpliTube Jimi HendrixTM
* AmpliTube Metal

And has helped each other receive 2 of these absolutely FREE:

* AmpliTube 2 Crossgrade
* Ampeg® SVX
* AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix
* AmpliTube Metal

Now, when 3,500 users join in, everyone will be able to choose an additional title from the above AmpliTube products for FREE or choose one of these cool additional products:

* T-RackS 3 Standard
* SampleTank 2 L
* Miroslav Philharmonik CE

This is 4×1, equivalent to savings of 75%!

Help yourself and thousands of other users to get an incredible deal by joining in and spread the word to your friends!

Coming soon: Amplitube Fender review

Just a heads-up, I’ve been chipping away at a huge review of IK Multimedia’s Amplitube Fender. It’s such a big program that it’s taking a while, but I should have it ready this week. It’ll be about 4,000 words when it’s all done, so you might want to go stock up on popcorn before then.

In the meantime, here’s my review of Amplitube 2 to keep you busy. Check out the included song, ‘Travels In Hyperreality,’ to hear my shameless Marty Friedman ripoff licks.

And hey, don’t forget Guitar Noize’s review of Amplitube Fender.

REVIEW: IK Multimedia Amplitube 2

Way back in 2007 I reviewed IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix program for Mixdown Magazine. This plugin exactingly models all sorts of gadgets and amps used by Jimi during his illustrious career, and includes carefully tweaked presets designed to emulate specific tones across his entire discography. I enjoyed the program’s interface and sound quality enough to take the plunge and spring for AmpliTube 2, which features the same basic operation but with its own set of amp, effect and cabinet models. So I’ve lived with the program for quite a while now and used it for everything from simply jamming in the living room, to songwriting, to completed recordings.

AmpliTube 2’s interface is divided into five separate modules: Tuner, Stomp, Amp Head, Miked Cabinet, and Rack Effects. There are two series/parallel guitar rigs available with all sorts of routing options, so you can have a single amp through two cabinets, two complete amps through different cabinets, and a whole stack of other possibilities including two amps and cabs through separate effects racks; two amps and cabs through a single effect rack, or one ‘virtual pedalboard’ feeding two totally different setups. There are 14 Preamps and EQs, 7 Power Amps, 16 Cabinets, 6 Microphones, 21 Stomp Effects, and 11 Rack Effects.

The stomp models include emulations based on classic pedals such as the Arbiter FuzzFace, Ibanez Tube Screamer, MXR Dynacomp, MXR Phase100, Electro Harmonix Memory Man, Boss CE-1 chorus, Fender Opto-Tremolo, plus some very cool pitch shifter, analog octave and harmonizer effects. There’s also wah, volume and filter, controllable by pedal if you have the appropriate outboard gear. Depending on the seris/parallel rig option you select you can use between 6 and 12 stomp models per amp.

The amp models are pretty comprehensive, including digital models based on the Fender SuperReverb, Fender Bassman, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Supro, Vox AC30, Marshall JCM800 and JCM900, and an officially licensed and approved THD BiValve. There’s also a bass amp and some IK Multimedia-designed models including Modern High Gain, Solid State Fuzz, Solid State Lead and Solid State Clean. You can mix and match the gain, preamp and power amp sections of each model, so, for instance, you can have a Marshall JCM900 front end, the tone controls of a Vox AC30 and the THD’s single ended Class A power amp. You’re given the same flexibility with the speaker cabinets: there are 16 including 1X6, 1X8, 1X12, 2X12, 4X10 (the last three in open and closed back versions) and several 4X12 models (both vintage and modern), and three bass cabs (vintage 1X15, 4X10 plus tweeter, and 1X12).

Mic options include Condenser 84, Condenser 87, Condenser 414, Dynamic 57, Dynamic 421 and Dynamic 441. There are switches for Off/On Axis as well as Far/Near, and an ambience slider which adds increasing levels of room sound. Finally the comprehensive effects rack includes a very versatile Digital Delay, studio-quality digital chorus and reverbs, an analog chorus simulation, a natural-sounding Tube Compressor, harmonizer, parametric EQ, stereo enhancer, and a rotating speaker simulator. Again you can use between 4 and 8 rack effects on an amp depending on what routing option you choose – for some options you can use 4 for each of two simultaneous models or speaker cabinets.

There’s also a metronome for when you want to practice your John Petrucci licks, and a phrase trainer which lets you import an audio file and slow it down (while maintaining pitch) for easy transcribing – or take a downtuned track and play it back in standard tuning – great for rocking along with those Van Halen and Hendrix tracks that are tuned down a half step. Just tweak the recording back up to standard tuning and off you go. As a dude who uses a lot of floating Floyd Rose-equipped guitars, this is a very very good thing for me. Anyone who’s ever tried to tune a Floyd-toting axe down a half step for an afternoon’s Yngwie noodling will agree.

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN AMP

So after all that, how does AmpliTube 2 sound? Well first you need to mess around with your input level – if you hit the computer with too high a signal you’ll get some audio weirdness which will confuse the program. But once the signal is in AmpliTube you can boost it with an input control which you can use to achieve a flat signal, turn it down to tame some of the heavier models, or use it as a clean boost to get some authentic overdriven growl out of the THD and AC30 models. Once you’ve got your level set, you may be tempted to crank the power amp all the way up to try and get that full overdriven-amp vibe. Don’t. There’s a magic spot somewhere around two thirds of the way up where you get the perfect blend of articulation and punch, and if you just turn up the master volume control from the start you’ll miss out on this very cool sound.

My favourite models are British Tube Lead 2 (which you can hear on all the guitar parts in the YouTube video at the end of this review, boosted by the Tube Screamer-inspired stompbox model), Tube Vintage Combo (the Supro), British Tube 30TB (the AC30) and the THD. The Rectifier model (Modern Tube Lead) sounds quite authentic and is especially great with active humbuckers, and British Tube Lead 1 (the JCM800 model) has a growl and punch that are faithful to the original amp, allowing you to unleash your inner Zakk Wylde with the help of a little chorus. The stomp effects are very cool, especially Fuzz Age (the Fuzz Face) and Crusher, which adds some Nine Inch Nails-style digital grit and grizzle to your sound. I’ve also found that you can use the graphic EQ to simulate some of the characteristics of various pickups.

AmpliTube 2 seems most at home with overdriven sounds, such as the THD and Vox AC30 models. I recorded one particular track using the former for the lead part and the latter for the rhythm, and it sounds natural and responsive like a real amp. In fact the lead part is played solely with the fingers, Knopfler-style, a technique which can easily reveal any little deficiencies in an amp sim’s ability to sound like a real valve amp and mic’ed speaker cabinet.

For me the real fun in AmpliTube 2 is the ability to mix and match the various components. I like to ‘virtually’ change the Mesa Dual Rectifier model from 6L6 to EL34 output valves and substitute its EQ section for that from the JCM900, while keeping the gain stage and speaker cabinet the same. This warms up the amp considerably while retaining much of its recognisable character – it’s surprising how much of each model’s sound is reliant on that first module. Another thing I really appreciate in AmpliTube is the microphone interface. Adding a little bit of distance and depth to the AC30 or JCM800 models (the latter at a low gain setting) brings out a distinctive Jimmy Page vibe, moreso than any other amp modelling programs I’ve used. While flipping the On/Off Axis and Near/Far controls does have an effect on the sound, it’s a little bit more subtle and with less control than actually placing a mic off axis or moving it further from or closer to a speaker in the real world, so this is best used as just part of your general tone-tweaking rather than agonizing about exactly where your ‘virtual mic’ is placed.
It’s also almost criminally addictive to combine two amp models, for instance pick any two of the Fender models, add tweak the individual reverb levels to taste and throw in your favourite Stevie Ray Vaughan licks. Or set up the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and the JCM800 with the Tube Screamer model, then throw on some digital chorus and tube compression for a thick modern FM rock type of rhythm guitar sound. Here’s another tip: mix together the bass amp model with a huge pile of compression, and roll off the treble. At the same time set up the JCM800 model, maybe with a little fuzz or overdrive, but definitely with some gritty preamp distortion grind, and zap out the bass frequencies. Mix the Marshall model down so it’s just low enough to add some growl and roar to your bass track, and it will sit much more comfortably with heavy rhythm guitars. This is especially great for Tool or Billy Sheehan bass sounds.

One very important point: all of AmpliTube’s amp models respond to changes to the guitar’s volume control in much the same way a real amp would – the valve amps respond like valve amps, and the solid state ones act like real solid state designs. As a chronic control-tweaker this point is particularly important for me when choosing an amp sim.I find that the key to getting the most out of AmpliTube though is to make sure you run it though a quality EQ at the mixing desk. There’s a bit of midrange poke which sounds great when you’re playing by yourself or along with CDs, but in a mix it can be a little too strident. I don’t see this as a particular problem though, as it’s completely reasonable to apply a little EQ attenuation to any recorded source, be it a ranging vintage Marshall stack or a digital simulation of one, to make it sit nicely in the mix. I use the EQ of IK’s T-Racks mastering software to do this and I’m consistently happy with the results.

If your appetite is whet by the Marshall and Mesa/Boogie models and you need more metal power, IK Multimedia offers AmpliTube Metal, which includes models based on the Peavey 5150, Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier, Randall Warhead and Marshall JMP1959 mkII, as well as a whole crate full of virtual pedals based on stompers pitched at the heavier side of the fence. Or if you need more of the vintage tones or just dig the whole Fender vibe there’s AmpliTube Fender, an officially licensed product which includes Fender-approved models of the ’65 Twin Reverb, ’57 Deluxe, ’59 Bassman LTD, ’64 Vibroverb Custom, Super-Sonic, Metalhead and many more, as well as models of Fender effects including the Blender fuzz/distortion, Phaser, Fuzz Wah, ’63 Reverb, the Tape Echo simulation from the Cybe-Twin amp, and a classic Fender volume pedal. Any of these programs also include, for free, X-Gear, a program which allows you to combine all of your AmpliTube programs into one huge amp sim. Want to combine the Fender Super-Sonic’s preamp section with the THD’s power amp from AmpliTube 2, a cab based on the Peavey 5150 and the Maestro FuzzTone-based model from the Jimi Hendrix program? You can do it within X-Gear.

TUBE BE OR NOT TUBE BE


AmpliTube 2 is the perfect option for the all-round guitarist who needs tones raging from the 50s to the present day. The user interface is logical if not downright intuitive, and while the mic positioning options aren’t particularly interactive and exhaustive, they are very musical. I would consider this to be AmpliTube 2’s only real limitation and I sometimes wish you could actually pick up, move and angle the virtual mic with the mouse. Otherwise it’s an extraordinarily useful program which is great as a practice tool, for jamming to your favourite tracks or, with a little careful EQ, as your main guitar tone on a recording.

SHOPPING LINKS:

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 2 Electric Guitar Amplifier and Effects Modeling Plug-in Software Standard


IK Multimedia AmpliTube Metal Studio Software/USB Audio Interface Package Standard


IK Multimedia AmpliTube Hendrix Studio Software/USB Audio Interface Package Standard


IK Multimedia StompIO Amplitube Stage Controller And Audio Interface Standard


IK Multimedia AmpliTube Fender Studio Software/Hardware Bundle Standard


LESSON: How to sound like Frank Zappa

Dweezil Zappa is currently zooming around the world for another Zappa Plays Zappa tour, in which he pays tribute to his dad’s enduring legacy through the startlingly accurate reproduction of his works, as well as painstaking recreations of Frank’s greatest guitar tones. It’s pretty much impossible exactly copy Frank’s legendary tone without investing in thousands upon thousands of guitar and studio gear, and also hiring a tech like the revered Thomas Nordegg to look after it for you. So that’s what Dweezil has done, even bringing out several pieces of gear actually owned and used by Frank. (Here are the complete Zappa Plays Zappa tour dates, including the Progressive Nation tour with Dream Theater).

One of my favourite tricks for getting a Zappa-esque guitar sound is to construct a virtual amp and effects rig in a software modeller. There are plenty out there, so whichever one you prefer, try this combination simultaneously on different tracks, panned to different locations in the stereo spectrum:

* One track of a completely uneffected clean guitar, equalized to emphasise the high and low ends, so you get that sizzling string noise and a punchy low end. (If you’re into Mothers Of Invention-era Frank, try rolling off the treble and increasing the mids, and maybe throwing on some vintage-style compression to get closer to the sound of an old-school mixing desk and tape saturation.)

* A distorted guitar with a very short delay.

* A distorted guitar with a stationary wah effect or a parametric EQ feeding the amp input. Use the EQ or wah to emphasise certain midrange frequencies for that faux-feedback feel. The exact frequency will depend on other factors such as the amp model and your pickups, so you may need to experiment from guitar to guitar. Frank had complex parametric EQs built into his guitars so he could conjure up feedback and sustain at will.

* A distorted guitar with an envelope filter.

* A distorted guitar with a triggered flanger. A triggered – or dynamic – flanger doesn’t sweep to a set tempo. Instead it begins its sweep upon receiving a signal from the input. In other words, each time you pick a note, the sweep starts again. Listen for this effect on ‘Drowning Witch’ and you’ll see what I mean.

You can hear me doing something similar (minus the triggered flanger because I don’t have one!) on my Myspace, on the ‘Myspace intro’ track. I used IK Multimedia’s Amplitube for this.

By the way, many amp modelling programs feature the ability to use two virtual amp rigs at once, but if that’s just not enough, or if your program only offers one sound at a time, copy and paste the same guitar part onto multiple tracks and process each one differently.

Of course, if you want to get somewhere close to Frank’s sound using an actual amp on a real live stage, you might need to take a different approach, unless of course you want to lug half a dozen amps with you. Splitting at least between a completely clean tone and an effected one is usually preferred, but if you can’t do that then the most important elements are the trigger flanger and a wah wah so you can find those resonant frequencies easily.

LINKS: Zappa.com, IK Multimedia Amplitube.

NAMM 2009: Amplitube Fender

I’ve been using IK Multimedia‘s Amplitube 2 for a while now, and I find it an especially handy songwriting tool which allows me to test parts out with a variety of different amp and pedal combinations before settling on how the hell to do it live on stage. Fender was already bitten by the modelling bug a couple of years ago when they paired up with Boss to release a few pedals which emulated Fender amp tones. Now the modelling bug has well and truly sunk his fangs into Fender’s tweed-covered hide in the form of Amplitube Fender.

Press release:

AmpliTube® Fender® is the only official Fender® guitar/bass amp and FX software suite, made by IK Multimedia in cooperation with music icon Fender® Musical Instruments Corporation. With a collection of 45 pieces of gear, including some the most sought-after classic and modern Fender® amps (Twin Reverb®, ’59 Bassman® LTD, Super-Sonic™, Metalhead™ and many others), cabinets, stompboxes and rack effects, AmpliTube Fender® sets the new standard for software amplifiers. From guitar to bass, and from country to blues, rock, punk and metal—whatever style you play—AmpliTube Fender® is the only amp suite that gives you the world’s most influential guitar and bass tones right on your desktop.

AmpliTube Fender® is the result of years of intense research and development by the tone gurus at Fender® and is handcrafted by the software and audio engineers at IK Multimedia. Seldom has there been such close cooperation between two leaders in their respective fields, with the goal of producing the most advanced and realistic-sounding software recreation of the world’s most renowned amplifiers and effects. The results have been amazing, as Fender’s Shane Nicholas, senior marketing manager for guitar amps said:

“An electric guitar is nothing without amp tone, and Fender® amplifiers are the standard by which great amp tones are measured. We’re confident that the thrill of plugging into a great tube amp will never die, but we are proud to give digital recording enthusiasts the opportunity to discover and utilize many of the best Fender® tones, old and new, with the convenience of PC recording. Unlike other guitar modeling software, IK Multimedia developed the realistic sounds of the AmpliTube Fender® edition with the master tone-team at Fender® Musical Instruments. From the legendary Tweed Deluxe™ to the modern high-gain Super-Sonic™, this is the real-deal palette of tones you need to make great music in the digital domain.”

The extremely accurate Fender® tones achieved by this collaboration, together with the large variety of gear included, covers the widest range of tonal palettes and makes AmpliTube Fender® the ideal choice for those who are recording guitar for the first time or for DAW users who demand nothing less than tonal perfection.

Features
Stand-alone and plug-in software for all the most popular platforms, including VST/AU/RTAS plug-in formats.
12 of the most influential guitar amps of all time.
12 original matching cabinets and more, with nine microphones.
Six signature classic stomp effects and six rack effects.
Incredible tone flexibility; mix and match amps, cabinets, mics and more.
Sound-certified and approved by Fender®.
Five separate modules: tuner, configurable stomp pedal board, amp head, cabinet plus mic, and rack effects.
Two fully configurable rigs with up to 32 simultaneous effects.
Digital tuner.
Includes SpeedTrainer™ and Riffworks™ T4 recording software.
Can be expanded with additional “Powered by AmpliTube” models using AmpliTube X-GEAR.
Can be controlled live with StompIO, StealthPedal™ and any traditional MIDI controller.
Hundreds of presets included, with more that can be downloaded from the AmpliTube preset XChange area. Powered by AmpliTube® with exclusive DSM™ (dynamic saturation modeling) and new VRM™ (volumetric response modeling) technology.
Pricing and Availability
AmpliTube Fender® will be available in 2 versions:

AmpliTube Fender®
The official Fender® guitar and bass, amp and FX software with 12 amps, 12 cabinets, six stompboxes, nine mics and six rack FX. Also includes Riffworks™ T4 for guitar recording and AmpliTube X-GEAR for full expandability with any “Powered by AmpliTube” software and live control. MSRP €169.99 / $229.99 (excluding taxes).

AmpliTube Fender® Studio:
The easiest way to plug your guitar into your computer and get the legendary tone of Fender®. Including StealthPlug USB audio cable interface and AmpliTube Fender® LE (four amps, five cabinets, two stompboxes, two mics, two rack FX), plus Riffworks™ T4 for guitar recording and AmpliTube X-GEAR for full expandability with any “Powered by AmpliTube” software. MSRP €109.99 / $139.99 (excluding taxes).

AmpliTube Fender® and AmpliTube Fender® Studio will be available through the entire IK sales network of dealers and distributors by the end of February 2009. Preorders are already available through selected dealers around the world and in the IK online store.

For further information online, visit http://www.ikmultimedia.com/fender/features/
For more information, visit their web site at www.ikmultimedia.com.

NAMM 2009: IK Multimedia StealthPedal

Here’s a neat little idea from IK Multimedia. They’ve combined an audio interface with an expression pedal for control of wah, volume and pitch effects, or any other MIDI-controllable parameter. I use IK’s Amplitube program quite a lot and I’ve often wished I had the ability to control various effects with an expression pedal – like making a phaser speed up, or blending between two amp models.

Here’s the press release.

IK Multimedia Announces StealthPedal

IK Multimedia presents the StealthPedal, the first guitar audio interface/software controller in a compact wah-style pedal, allowing users to record, play and control the included “Powered By AmpliTube” software, or any other MIDI controllable software, with the same feel and ease of use as a traditional guitar pedal.

StealthPedal is an affordable USB-powered audio interface that also works as a software floor controller, allowing anyone to record guitar or bass with Mac/PC at the highest possible quality, with 24-bit A/D and D/A conversion and 44.1/48 kHz operation. Two separate inputs are provided for Hi-Z or line level instruments as well as two separate outputs, plus a convenient headphone output.

The built-in expression pedal and switch can be associated with any parameter of “Powered By AmpliTube” software, or any other amp and FX modeling software with MIDI control capabilities. The StealthPedal controls can also be expanded with an additional expression pedal and two extra switches for building a mini-pedalboard rig with preset and single effects control capabilities for full live/recording usage.
Users are not limited to controlling amp-simulator software with StealthPedal, as it can control any effects plug-in, virtual instrument or DAW with MIDI control capabilities.

StealthPedal sports a rugged, classic-wah style, compact enclosure with a volume
knob and three LED indicators that operate as a status display, tuner or level indicator when used with any “Powered by AmpliTube” software. StealthPedal’s circuit design has been derived from IK’s StompIO high-end stage controller, ensuring the highest fidelity in the recording of for your guitar and bass with software configurable input gain level, 109dBA low noise input stage and optimal audio quality throughout.

StealthPedal also comes with a must-have assortment of software including AmpliTube 2 Live guitar and bass amp and fx modeling software, standalone and plug-in, AmpliTube X-GEAR for further expandability with all “Powered by AmpliTube” software and Sonoma Riffworks™ T4 for immediate recording/composing/online sharing with your Mac or PC. The StealthPedal and the included plug-in is also compatible with all popular DAW software supporting ASIO and Core Audio drivers on PC and Mac.

Additionally when used with the “Powered by AmpliTube” software the system can be expanded to nearly 200 gear models including the all-time classic, exclusive sounds of Ampeg®, Jimi Hendrix™ and the just announced Fender® edition.
All of this makes the StealthPedal the most convenient, complete and expandable solution on the market, for playing/recording guitar and bass with the computer.

Features
USB powered audio interface and pedal controller
2 balanced / unbalanced audio inputs (hi-Z or line level)
24 bit A/D and D/A conversion
44.1/48 kHz operation
2 balanced audio outputs
Headphones output
Volume control
Built-in expression pedal and MIDI foot-switch
Multiple LEDs can operate as Tuner or Level indicators with AmpliTube
External double switch and expression pedal inputs
Classic, rugged metal Wah-style construction
High-quality, low-noise input stage (109dBA /104dB RMS S/N ratio)
Control all “Powered by AmpliTube” software/plug-ins
Control any MIDI controllable software/plug-ins
Includes AmpliTube 2 Live standalone and plug-in, AmpliTube X-GEAR and Sonoma Riffworks™ T4
Compatible with all the most popular DAW software supporting ASIO and Core Audio drivers on PC and Mac.
Endless software expandability with AmpliTube modules

Price & Availability
StealthPedal will have an MSRP of €199.99 / $269.99 (excluding taxes) and will be available for shipping by the end of April 2009.

For more information, visit their web site at www.ikmultimedia.com.

CLICK HERE to see IK Multimedia products on eBay.

INTERVIEW: John McLaughlin


There’s a handful of guitar players who changed the way the instrument is played, and with it the course of music itself. Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen spring rapidly to mind. But for those who seek a deeper path, there’s John McLaughlin. The soft-spoken English jazz fusion pioneer has worked with Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams and Al Di Meola, just to name a handful. After decades of friendship and musical collaboration with pianist Chick Corea, McLaughlin and Corea have formed the Five Peace Band, a jazz rock fusion supergroup who are heading to Australia for a series of shows groundbreaking shows in February.

Scoring this interview was a touch of serendipity: A few months ago I marched into a CD store and marched out with a stack of jazz fusion CDs, and the most played of those since then has been Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Birds of Fire,’ a landmark of the genre released in 1973. I confess my newness to McLaughlin. “Oh you’re a guitar player?” Yeah! “Great! Well Birds of Fire, that was about 35 years ago I think, wasn’t it? Well why not! You have to start somewhere! So you were involved in another kind of music or another style of playing?” I tell him I’ve been into the blues since I was really young, and then I discovered heavy metal, and now I’ve hit 30 and I kinda feel like I need to look elsewhere, expand my horizons beyond pointy guitars, demons, and all that other cool stuff that comes with metal. “Well you’ll never go wrong with the blues, that’s for sure. I started off with piano until the age of 11, but the guitar came into my hands simultaneously being exposed to the Mississippi Delta blues, which itself was a revelation. It marked me for life. Are you into playing jazz now, or jazz fusion?” I’m getting into fusion, yeah. “Well you’ll find that the blues is very much part of that also. You take the blues out of jazz and you don’t have much jazz left, you know what I mean?”

After some mutual geeking-out about the virtues of the blues, I figure I’d better ask about the Five Peace Band coming down to Australia. “Are you aware of Chick Corea’s music? Coming up in January Chick and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary of friendship and musical collaboration. We actually met on the recording ‘In A Silent Way,’ which is a Miles Davis recording. Chick was in Miles’s group and I’d just arrived in New York, and Miles had me on the date, and that’s where we met. Although I knew Chick’s music already by 1967 when I heard a recording of him with Montego Joe. I was already a fan of Chick. He’s just one of the greatest musicians of our era. Anyway, we’ve collaborated on a lot of different things over the years. It’s a lifetime! We’ve been friends longer than you’ve been alive! But this is the first time we’ve had a group together.”

But far from being ‘McLaughlin, Corea and friends,’ the Five Peace Band is filled out by some quite respected named. “In the group we have another Miles Davis musician, Kenny Garrett, alto sax,” McLaighlin enthuses. “Great player, wonderful player. Christian McBride, who has gotta be number one or number two on bass today, he’s just outstanding. And we had Vinnie Colaiuta for the first five weeks – we just finished a five week tour of Europe – but I think we’ll be in Australia with Brian Blade, who’s one of the new, great young drummers of our era, so this is going to be very exciting, because Brian and I have never played together. But I’m really looking forward to it. He’s already got a reputation as an amazing player. And Chick and I, of course, we’ve got this connection going back so many years, and so many memories. And not only that, we were both very much, in a way, at the forefront of this fusion movement that happened in the early 70s, because in 1971 I formed Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I think it was just six or seven months later, Chick formed Return To Forever, and these two groups were pivotal in a way, in the fusion movement that began in the early 70s. They were probably the most well-known groups at that time. So we have a lot of music, a lot of history – mutual history, combined history. But strangely enough this is the first time we’ve had a band together. What we’ve done over the years is played many times in duo together, piano and guitar. And this is something that we really love to do, and we will certainly do it at some point during the concert that you’ll see in Australia. We do it every night at some point, we’ll just get together, just the two of us on stage. It’s very special, it’s really something. We have a very strong complicity, in a way. It’s just such a joy with this band. They’re such great musicians and great human beings too.”

I’m very curious about is McLaughlin’s personal approach to improvisation, obviously a huge part of jazz rock fusion. “In improvisation, if you’re thinking, you’re not playing. And if you’re playing, you’re not thinking. In true improvisation you have to learn a lot of things. You have to learn rhythm, melody, harmony, phrases. It’s like learning a language. You learn some words, then you put a couple together and you make a little phrase, then you learn some more words, and then you start improvising, you change the phrase, you add this word. And it’s the same in music. You need to start developing a vocabulary of phrases that correspond to the way you feel. And the other thing that happens in music is that every day is different. We’re changing constantly, and I’m different today than I was yesterday, and I hear a little bit differently. Now, one day to another’s not much, but over six months, you’ll really notice it. This is why I continue to work, because my phrasing that I hear in my imagination, which is behind my musical playing, is also evolving. So I have to work just to keep up to date with my own imagination, if you know what I mean.”

The conversation shifts to amplification. “I’ve been using (IK Multimedia’s) Amplitube 2, but not in the last year,” John says. “I went on tour last year with a new band, an electric band, and I was using a Roland Cube 60, which is a nice little amp, but at the end of last year I started using one of these Mesa Boogie tube preamps – very nice, very nice. I’ve known Mesa Boogie amplifiers since around 1973. They’re great amps, and he made these tube preamps that are really good. With Shakti I was using a laptop, because I was using synth guitar also, and with a laptop it’s great, to have something like Amplitube as a virtual amp that I can use simultaneously with some software synths. But with the electric band I’m not playing any synths, I’m just playing electric guitar, and it’s the same with the Five Peace Band, I’m just playing electric guitar.

The synth input to the laptop was achieved via a Godin guitar. “It’s a really great guitar,” John says. “One of the reasons I went with Godin guitars in the first place is it has a great MIDI pickup. Once you see ‘This Is The Way I Do It,’ you’re going to see a score that moves in sync to all the audio. To do this was quite a tricky problem, and what I found was that the Godin guitar had the best MIDI output pickup available, and it has a great audio sound too. So I recorded MIDI and audio simultaneously, and I was able to construct a score which was then exported, cleaned up and then reimported into the mainframe for video rendering. It had never been done before, so we had no reference. It was a tricky problem, but it actually came out very well.”

Five Peace Band Australian tour dates:

Wed 18/02/09 08:00PM
The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Melbourne

Fri 20/02/09 08:00PM
Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Sat 21/02/09 08:00PM
Sydney Opera House, Sydney

[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]CLICK HERE to buy the Godin Freeway SA electric guitar from Musician’s Friend.[/geo-out]

SONG: Just One Thing

I wrote this one a while ago (the main riff popped into my head while I was strolling around the Melbourne showgrounds between bands at the Big Day Out in about 2004), and I’ve recorded a few versions of it. This one is from about March 2008 I think, but I’m not 100% happy with it yet and I’m sure I’ll rerecord it again some day. This version has been on my Myspace for a while but I always thought the mix sucked, so this morning I whipped up a new mix which tamed some of the harshness of the rhythm guitars, and opened up the dynamics a bit.

This song originally had lyrics, but I never planned to actually sing it myself, so the lead guitar is the vocal melody. We used to play it in my old prog band, The Silent Age, and I played it to a backing track at Shredfest in 2007.

Most of the guitar parts were played on an Ibanez RG7420 with Dimarzio Tone Zone bridge pickup and Blaze neck pickup, but there’s also one track of my homemade Telecaster with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder pickups in the background of a few parts. I used Amplitube 2 for amp modelling, and an Ibanez TR series 5 string bass. Drum sounds are from Toontrack’s Drumkit From Hell Superior.