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INTERVIEW: Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt

Opeth Opeth unashamedly alienated some of their fan base with their 2011 album Heritage. While a large portion of their fans were drawn to the Swedesh masters for their progressive death metal leanings, Heritage was primarily inspired by 70s fusion in the style of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra – and there wasn’t a single death-growl to be heard anywhere. And now, with Pale Communion, Opeth has moved sideways again, a little away from some of the jazzier moments of Heritage and towards more of a 1970s progressive rock feel, while still a million miles removed from death metal. It’s an album which will challenge some fans while thrilling others, but the overall impression from a chat with frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt is that he’s driven solely by his artistry, and this is what he’s feeling right now.  Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Shihad’s Jon Toogood

Shihad FVEYShihad worship at the altar of The Riff. Few bands this side of AC/DC have managed a knack for instantly identifiable, eminently air-guitarable riffs. But although they’ve enjoyed a consistent career of killer albums and shows, new album FVEY stands above their immense catalog as The One That Will Probably Move Them Up A Notch. Produced by Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, this album encapsulates everything everyone has always loved about Shihad – the riffs, the song craft, the energetic performance, the melody, the thought-provoking lyrics. But there’s something more happening on this one. I caught up with vocalist/guitarist/riffmeister Jon Toogood to talk about it.

First thing we all want to know is ‘Where the hell do these riffs come from?’

Okay, we’ve been experimenting with this tuning which is basically standard E with the bottom string dropped to a bass-register A. So you’re doing the A, an octave A, and then the rest of the guitar is tuned normally. And it’s quite hard to play because the low string is really floppy but once you get used to it it makes this wall of sound. You get a decent amp and turn it up loud, and then you play with a great bass player like Karl and a great guitar player like Phil, and when you all play in unison and are in tune it sounds like Satan’s bass player. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Jimmie Vaughan

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

Bono & The Edge Join Fender Board

U2 360 Tour Opener - BarcelonaPRESS RELEASE: The Edge and Bono, two pioneers of rock music, have joined Fender Musical Instruments Corporation’s board of directors. The Edge and Bono, best known as the guitarist and lead singer for the seminal band U2, bring a unique blend of experience in music, entertainment, business and advocacy to the 68-year-old music company. As members of the board, they will carry on the tradition of Fender as a creator of iconic musical instruments and will guide the company as it pursues new strategies to grow through increased engagement with fans. “By adding The Edge and Bono to the board of Fender, we are taking an important step toward building a company that is able to meet its potential as a business and a brand,” said Bill McGlashan, Fender co-chairman. “The music world is changing and Fender is undergoing a transformation into a better music company.” Continue reading

REVIEW: Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI

I recently fulfilled a long, long-held dream of mine by finally acquiring a Bass VI – in this case, the Squier Vintage Modified version (which I bought from my friends at World of Music). Remember the instrument that Nigel Tufnel wouldn’t let Marty DeBergi even look at in This Is Spinal Tap? Bass VI. If you’ve never heard of the Bass VI, let me give you a brief run-down: it looks a bit like a Fender Jaguar but it has a 30” scale length and is tuned E-to-E like a guitar, except a full octave lower so that the lowest four strings are the same pitches as those of a regular four-string bass. The string spacing is closer than a regular bass, and I can’t think of too many basses with whammy bars, especially Jaguar-style units. So what is this? Is it a bass? Is it a guitar? The answer to both questions is ‘yes and no.’ Or more accurately, it’s simply a Bass VI. It’s lower than the lowest baritone guitars, and it goes higher than conventional four-string basses by a full two strings. Continue reading

REVIEW: Dean Markley Helix Pure Nickel Strings

Guitar strings are a tricky thing. They can be very personal. What’s deliciously bendable for one player is too slick for another. And that’s kinda what makes string shopping so much fun. If all strings were the same, what would be the point? Dean Markley offer many kinds of string at all sorts of price points and for all sorts of applications. And their Helix Pure Nickel electric guitar strings feature an added twist every bit as cool as their revolutionary Blue Steels cryogenically treated strings. The trick to the Helix strings is that they feature a patent-pending Elliptical Winding process: the nickel core is bound up by wire that’s elliptical in shape rather than round, which means the strings feel smoother, there’s less space for gunk to intrude, and they’re easier on your frets and fingertips. Continue reading

Inside The Fender American Design Experience

2014 Capitol Studios Butch Walker Fender American Design ExperienceBy Steve Hochman

There’s an impending arrival in Amos Heller’s life that pretty much overshadows everything else. Home in Nashville between world tours playing bass in Taylor Swift’s band, Heller and his wife are expecting the birth of their first child. But another upcoming delivery has him excited too. He’s one of the first artists tapped by Fender to explore the new American Design Experience — creating an instrument to his own specifications via an easy-to-use online interface that lets you choose the materials, hardware and accessories to get the sound and look that’s just what you want. And the result is on its way from the Fender factory in Corona, Calif.  Continue reading

Nile Rodgers On His Iconic ‘Hitmaker’ Fender Strat

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Fender To Sell Guild To Cordoba

This is interesting: Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) intends to sell the Guild guitar brand to Cordoba Music Group, whose president Jonathan Thomas is the son of Larry Thomas, who just stepped down as CEO of Fender. It was recently announced that the Guild facility in New Hartford, Connecticut would be closed, so I guess Cordoba is effectively buying a bunch of trademarks, which must be a lot cheaper than buying a whole factory and everything associated with it. Once upon a time I was a business news journalist, and there’s a part of me that would love to know more, such as when did Fender start talking with Cordoba? Is FMIC actively seeking to divest any other brands? Personally I’d love to see Hamer sold and resurrected. How fricking awesome would it be to one day soon see new Hamers? Anyway, following finalisation of the deal Guild guitars will be made in Oxnard, California, rather than on the east coast. Here’s the press release for more info: Continue reading

Fender Names Bob Roback New President

Bob RobackPRESS RELEASE: Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) announced today that Bob Roback has joined FMIC as President and has also joined the company’s Board of Directors. Roback has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and executive in the music business, overseeing the growth and development of many of the most innovative consumer experiences in digital music and converting those experiences into successful businesses. Roback is an important new addition to Fender’s senior leadership team and will have a wide scope of responsibility including overseeing the development of Fender’s emerging digital strategy aimed at deeply engaging musicians and music fans more broadly. Roback will also establish a new Los Angeles office in order to expand the company’s consumer marketing and digital capabilities. Continue reading

Fender CEO Larry Thomas To Retire

Larry-ThomasPRESS RELEASE: Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) announced today the upcoming retirement of CEO Larry Thomas, effective May 31, 2014. Thomas was appointed to the FMIC Board of Directors in 2009 and later appointed CEO on Aug. 1, 2010. Current interim COO Scott Gilbertson will assume the role of interim CEO until the company completes its search for a successor. Gilbertson is a partner at TPG Growth and currently serves on the board of Fender Musical Instruments and has also served as interim COO since Oct. 2013. Previously, he held a variety of executive positions at leading companies including J.Crew, Under Armour and Bally International.  Continue reading

Fender Custom Shop Artisan, Master Designed Series

Fender Custom Shop 2014 Artisan Spalted Maple-Top StratocasterPRESS RELEASE: The Fender Custom Shop is proud to introduce the two latest collections of handcrafted instruments, the Artisan Series and Master Designed Series. With the Artisan series, the Fender Custom Shop pulls out all the stops for high-end instruments of remarkable tone, look and feel. In a first for the Custom Shop and inspired by Master Built instruments created for the 2013 Tokyo Guitar Show, this series is built to spotlight fine woods with distinctive figures, hand-rubbed stains and gloss finishes. Team-built for a limited time only, Artisan series instruments are also outfitted with a wealth of special appointments and features that contribute to their striking sound and style. Continue reading

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Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com

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