INTERVIEW: Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend Project

Transcendence is the latest album from the Devin Townsend Project and in many ways it feels like a culmination of musical explorations that Devin begun in 2009 with Addicted! and that flowed through Epicloud and Sky Blue. It’s alternatingly melodic and crushing, ethereal and imposing, and in true Devin fashion it’s an album that reveals more about itself on each subsequent listen.

I love the new record. Y’know how every now and then an album comes along that’s just what you needed to hear at that point in time? 

That’s awesome. Thank you, Peter. It’s a special one for me in a lot of ways, and especially the latter half. The processes that went into it and the challenges that came into it, the control issues, letting go of things and trying to participate with other people and be analytical and aware enough of myself that I could call myself on my own shit is one thing. But it also coincided with what feels like a real tangible shift in my own psyche. Now, whether or not that was because of the fact that I took myself on vacation for the first time in my life, or something to do with age, or something to do with circumstances I’m not sure. But something shifted at the same time as the latter half of this record and now I find myself in a place that is new and foreign in a lot of ways and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Read More …

MUSIKMESSE: New Martin Models

e75dd9955407ad7f1c238e520276f85c_MPRESS RELEASE: C. F. Martin & Co. (www.martinguitar.com) will unveil four outstanding new models at Musikmesse 2014, Hall 3.1 Stand F81, in Frankfurt, Germany March 12-15.  Two new retro-inspired models, the 000-18 and OM-28, both highlight distinct vintage design and include features that can be found on coveted Martin pre-war era guitars.  Additionally, two new cutaway models are being introduced, the DC-Aura GT and GPC-Aura GT,both of which will come equipped with Fishman F1 Aura Plus electronics.

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NAMM: Ibanez 7 And 8-string Acoustics

ibanez1One of my big ’causes’ is to remind players that 7 and 8-string guitars don’t just have to be for djent – you can play all sorts of styles on these instruments. Classical guitars with extra strings may not be super common but they’re nothing new. Yet when Ibanez makes them, it’s big news. Ibanez knows probably better than anyone how to make extended-range instruments, and these guitars are bound to inspire new musical styles and explorations. At NAMM this year Ibanez showed three extended-range acoustics: two 7s and an 8. Here they are:  Read More …

REVIEW: CORT M200P

First off, I don’t know if you can even buy these guitars new any more. I wrote the first version of this review for Mixdown back in 2006, and haven’t seen any of these axes in stores for a while. But maybe this review will help out somebody who stumbles across a used one for sale and needs some more information.

Cort guitars have enjoyed a massive surge in popularity lately. The company, formed by Jack Westheimer and partner Yung H.Park in 1973, was originally established to promote Japanese and South Korean made guitars, which were gaining prominence and reputation at that time. The brand name Cort actually came from the Japanese acoustic guitar brand Cortez, which Westheimer had contracted. When the opportunity arose, the Westheimer and Park took the plunge and went from distributing other company’s guitars to making their own.

Park remains with Cort to this day, and the company’s factory in Incheon, South Korea, has attained a world class reputation not only for the manufacture of Cort guitars, but also guitars for many other top brands. The company has been able to take this design and manufacture experience and incorporate it into their own work, and we’re seeing guitars coming out of Korea today that are every bit as good as the Japanese output of the 1980s. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies bass player Billy Cox, Steve Vai/Pretenders bass player TM Stevens, Hiram Bullock, session legend Larry Coryell, Blues Brother Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Neil Zaza and Ricky Garcia are all proud Cort users. Several Cort basses were also my instrument of choice when I was teaching bass and guitar at World of Music – I knew I could just reach for a Cort on the wall and chances were it’d be pretty good.

The M200P is a unique hybrid guitar, based on the still-available M200. Its general outline is somewhere between a PRS and a Line6 Variax. The carved agathis body is extremely heavy, and the subtle arch of the fretboard results in a Les Paul style neck pitch. Picking the guitar up from the treble side cutaway, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re holding a set neck guitar, but the M200P is a bolt on. The neck joint itself also feels like a set neck, and it all adds up to making the guitar feel sturdy and resonant.

The 22 fret mahogany neck is just a touch on the smaller side of medium depth. Fretboard width is relatively small, which is a huge benefit for speedy legato techniques and general long-term playing comfort. The tip of the headstock has a small semicircular bite out of it which creates a distinctive shape and creates a contour for the “Designed by Cort Research” logo to follow. The larger screened Cort logo sits between the unbranded tuners, and the model number is stamped on the back of the headstock and on the headstock’s truss rod cover.

A pair of uncovered black humbuckers form part of the M200P’s sonic arsenal, but by far the most impressive inclusion at this price point is the Fishman Powerbridge – a unique addition for the Australian market by special order of distributors Lamberti Bros, and no doubt the ‘P’ added to the M200P name. This little beauty features piezo elements in each of the bridge saddles, connected to a preamp and integrated with the guitar’s existing magnetic pickup system. It’s a huge advantage to have the ability to summon acoustic tones on demand at a gig without having to deal with lugging an acoustic guitar and dealing with feedback woes.

The aforementioned thin neck width, combined with a flattish fretboard radius, the angle of the neck pitch and the subtle carves of the top, contribute to making the guitar easy to play for long periods despite the heavy body weight. The frets are relatively low in profile and highly polished, which further enhances the playing experience. The neck on the review model was perfectly straight and the action was low and buttery, inviting wide bends and slippery smooth slides and position shifts.

The pickups sound quite rich and full, with a decently high output. The bridge humbucker emphasises pick attack and just loves to be pelted with harmonics. The neck humbucker has an almost single coil vibe, but with higher output and no noise. The single coil effect increases the harder you dig the pick into the strings. The middle pickup setting sounds great for vintage Santana style leads or warmly overdriven classic rock rhythms.

Flipping to the Fishman Powerbridge, the M200P yields a very usable approximation of an acoustic guitar tone. By definition piezo pickups can’t replicate the warmth of an acoustic guitar’s body and wood, because they only transfer the string vibration itself, but this particular preamp seems to impart a little warmth, playing down much of the ‘quack factor’ inherent in piezo pickups. It’s interesting to note that when you switch to acoustic mode, the M200P feels like a completely different guitar. I found myself playing it quite differently to when in electric mode, yet still getting just as much out of it. The thickness of the humbuckers gives way to the clean note separation of the piezo, and the tighter than usual grain of the rosewood neck contributes to a rounded tone, free of neck dead spots.

Best of all, though the M200P only features a single output, it’s actually a stereo output combined in a single jack, and using a stereo Y cord you can split the acoustic signal to one amp and the electric signal to another. This is a great way of adding huge amounts of texture, especially in a band with only one guitar, and opens up a whole world of processing tricks. It also allows you to maximise the potential of the piezo tone by sending it to a dedicated acoustic guitar amp or to the mixing desk via an appropriate preamp. This is a great alternative to just using an electric guitar amp’s clean channel, which isn’t designed to reproduce the tonal range of an acoustic guitar.

The M200P is a killer utility guitar, suitable for everything from nu metal to classic rock, Chicago blues to modern FM radio stuff, and that’s even before you flip the switch and turn it into an acoustic capable of covering country, jazz, pop – maybe even classical with a judicious tweak of the tone control. The stereo output is an especially nice touch, and contributes to the M200P being one of the most versatile guitars for the price. You may have a hard time finding one internationally, but if you’re here in Australia and you look hard enough you just might be in luck.

Buy Cort guitars at Green Meanie Guitars – enter the code IHEARTGUITAR for an additional $10 off!

REVIEW: Baden Guitars D-Style


Baden Guitars was founded by T.J. Baden in 2006. A former vice president of sales and marketing at Taylor, Baden and partner Errol Antzis, a former investment banker and a guitar lover, enlisted European luthiers Andreas Pichler and Ulrich Tueffel and together they set about to redefine the acoustic guitar.

The first thing you need to know about Baden guitars is that they are made in Vietnam, and while this information might trigger alarm bells for some shoppers who prefer their instruments to be US-made, it’s important to point out that Baden guitars are no production-line-stamped, automated, cheap little axes made in a facility that builds guitars for half a dozen other brands too. Nope, these instruments are all completely hand-built, overseen by six French luthiers.

The first and most striking thing about the Baden D-Style is its shape. It’s a dreadnaught, Jim, but not as we know it. The curves have been flattened out and the outline is given a slightly boxy vibe, almost like certain vintage Danelectro electric guitar designs. The next thing you notice is the subdued approach to ornamentation: no elaborate inlays, overwrought rosettes or extravagant abalone binding here. The Baden design philosophy is one of minimalism. In fact even the Baden logo on the headstock is simply cut into the wood, rather than inlaid or painted. The one concession to style-over-substance in this regard is a tiny triangular wedge driven into a little circular cutout at the fretboard end of the sound hole. The D-Style’s back and sides are mahogany, and the top is Stika spruce, while the The binding, bridge, fretboard, heel cap and headstock overlay are rosewood. The fretboard is free of any kind of position markers, with only subtle side dots to help you find your way.

Electronics on the review model are a Fishman Matrix Infinity system with simple volume and tone controls, unobtrusively tucked away inside the sound hole. However, Baden has recently started using Fishman’s more pimped-out Aura range, which adds acoustic imaging to the piezo signal for added realism. Unplugged the D-Style is a very bright-sounding guitar, with lots of loud yet tight bass and a throaty, zingy high end. The tone is ideal for players who need to be loud and proud in the mix, especially in country or roots styles. If your music requires some heavily-picked rhythmic chugging on the low strings, the D-Style keeps up with every note, while chord stabs ring out brightly and clearly. It’s also a good fingerpicker due to the clarity and note separation. The action as set up at the factory is quite low at the nut end of the fretboard, gradually rising as you travel along the neck. This makes it more at-home for open-position chords right out of the box, but any music store or luthier worth their salt can adjust the action to a more barre chord-friendly height with ease. Plugged in, the Fishman does a good job of translating the guitar’s natural tone, but it’s a shame I couldn’t get my hands on the Fishman Aura version.

The D-Style is a bold, unique take on the traditional dreadnaught design, and it’s an ideal choice for those looking for something a little unique while still sounding like a dreadnaught should. Baden is attempting something quite innovative in what can be a quite conservative market segment, and their guitars are well worth checking out.


NEWS: Parker Fly Mojo MIDI

This is interesting. Parker has launched the Fly Mojo MIDI guitar, which features a Roland GK-KIT-GT3 divided pickup kid so you can plug the axe into various synth-type gadgets.

It’s also interesting to note that this one has Seymour Duncan pickups, and that Parker chose to use the Roland pickup instead of the piezo elements in the saddles for the MIDI information. Perhaps doing it this way keeps costs and complexity down, which is good news for buyers as well as techs.

So what do you think about Parker guitars? One of the best guitars I’ve ever played was a Fly back in about 1998 or so  – I was told that that very guitar was later bought by guitarist Ben Fink of Aussie band The Whitlams, and every time I saw him use it live I got a little bit more jealous.
Here’s the press release:
Parker Guitars announced today the availability of the Fly Mojo MIDI Guitar to their stellar line of electric guitars. Designed for the professional player, the Fly Mojo MIDI combines cutting edge MIDI technology with the innovative breakthroughs pioneered by Parker Guitars.

The Fly Mojo MIDI Guitar features a Roland GK-KIT-GT3 Divided Pickup Kit, which allows for full integration with the Roland V-Guitar System, GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer or any BOSS GK- Effect Series Pedals. Utilizing plug and play connectivity, the Fly Mojo MIDI Guitar allows players to create a world of unique tones with the simplicity and quality that musicians have come to expect from Parker.

Along with the MIDI capability, the guitar features Seymour Duncan Jazz (N) and JB (B) pickups, Sperzel Trim-lok tuners and an exclusive Fishman Piezo electronics system. The Fly Mojo MIDI is constructed from a carbon glass epoxy fretboard fused to a single solid piece of Mahogany.

“The addition of the Fly Mojo MIDI Guitar to our Fly Series further strengthens our position as a leader in innovation within the guitar industry,” said Jody Dankberg, Director of Marketing and Artist Relations at Parker Guitars. “The Fly Mojo MIDI Guitar combines the MIDI innovations pioneered by Roland with the signature style and technology unique to our Fly line of guitars. Once again, Parker Guitars have set the industry-wide bar for simplicity and innovation.”

The Parker Fly Mojo MIDI Guitar Features:

MIDI Support utilizing the Roland GK-KT-GT3 Divided Pickup Kit
Seymour Duncan Jazz (N) and JB (B) pickups, Exclusive Fishman Electronics System
Solid one piece Mahogany body with a carbon glass epoxy fretboard
Sperzel Trim-lok tuners
Plug and Play integration with Roland V-Guitar System, GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer, or any BOSS GK- Effect Series Pedals
The Fly Mojo MIDI is currently available at Parker retailers. To locate a Parker retailer, please visit http://parkerguitars.com/code/dealer/dealer.asp

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