Pearl Aday and her band play kickass high-energy, slightly dark-tinged rock. It’s no surprise that the band rocks so hard. In addition to Pearl’s impressive resume and family history (for instance, she’s toured as a backing vocalist for Motley Crue as well as for her dad Meat Loaf), the band Pearl consists of the members of Mother Superior – who for a while were the new Rollins Band – and her husband Scott Ian of Anthrax. Being surrounded by rock her whole life, Pearl kicks off her debut album – Little Immaculate White Fox – with a raging anthem called Rock Child which immediately shatters any idea that rock is anything but in her blood.
“It’s just a rock song, high energy rock and roll. It’s pretty straight forward,” Pearl says. “The lyrics are about how I guess I am a, y’know, rock child. My dad’s a rock singer, and the lyrics are pretty autobiographical. When I was little my mom worked in a recording studio, and an open guitar place was a really good place for a baby to sleep if you put in a blanket and a pillow. So I actually did sleep in a guitar case. We just felt it was a fun song and a really good opener to kickstart the album.” Pearl could be forgiven for skirting the issue and not writing a song about it, but what would be the point? “I’m not ashamed of it,” she says. “I’m proud of where I come from. It’s part of who I am and what I do, so why not celebrate it?”
I took these shots at the G&L booth at NAMM. You’ll see the Tribute series Jerry Cantrell Rampage, along with some other tasty Rampage models, including the forthcoming Blue Dress reissue and, sweet lord, is that Jerry’s own actual Rampage on display? Y’know, the one that recorded dozens of classic Alice In Chains tracks? Or is it a replica? The whole relicing thing has become so well-honed these days that it’s kinda hard to tell! And check out the other models on display too. Can’t seem to dig up any info on if all of these will be available, or if they’re Jerry’s stage guitars on display, but they’re nice to look at, aren’t they?
Check out this G&L Rampage tour at NAMM by Premier Guitar. To be honest I haven’t even watched this myself yet cos I just found it and right now I’m trying to be mega quiet cos my son is trying to sleep a few feet away (I’m at a hotel in San Francisco right now) and I can’t get to my headphones without waking him up, but Premier Guitar always do awesome videos, and hey, maybe they answer the questions I asked earlier in the post! Bring on morning so I can find out for myself!
Today I trudged along for my very first NAMM and I think it’s safe to say my mind was utterly and stupefyingly blown. Below I’ll list some of my gear highlights, but first, here were a few incredibly cool things that happened today:
Geekboy alert: I saw both Michael Molenda and Brad Tolinski, two journalistic heroes of mine. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll work up the guts to say hello to them!
I had my photo taken with Nuno Bettencourt!
I met designer Rick Turner (and Seymour Duncan’s Evan Skopp)
I met probably the most friendly guy on earth, Vernon Reid. Seriously, I’ve heard stories about what a lovely guy he is and they’re all totally true. I just wanna hug him!
I saw Quincy Jones. QUINCY JONES!
I met Blake from the What’s That Dude Play website – awesome dude.
Finally met Pauline France in person. You may remember her from the awesome King of the Blues coverage she provided recently.
I interviewed Joe Knaggs, formerly of Paul Reed Smith and now with his own company, Knaggs. Can’t wait to get the interview transcribed and on the site – he was a very cool guy with lots of interesting stuff to say.
I met Brandon from Jim Dunlop, who has been great in supporting I Heart Guitar with info.
Checking out the new Martin gear. Look for a report soon.
Now for my day at NAMM. Apologies for the fuzzy iPhone shots – I took a camera but it’s having trouble interfacing with the computer, and I was clever enough to use my phone for some backups.
First off, here’s my view as I walked to NAMM. I literally got butterflies in my tummy like a little kid.
OK. Gear highlights.
The Ibanez UV77MC multicolour swirl 7-string reissue, painted by the artist who did the originals, Darren Johannsen.
Marshall‘s Dave Mustaine Megastack
Checking out the entire Blackstar amp range. Love that HT Club 40.
The new Randall Nuno Bettencourt mini combo amp.
The EVH Wolfgang Special! Yes, after a year of the EVH Wolfgang being totally freaking awesome on its own, it’s now going to be joined (in April) by a flat-topped version. You will also now be able to buy the Wolfgang neck and bridge pickups separately to add to your own guitar.
Seymour Duncan Slash signature pickup – designed to make Slash’s non-Derrick Les Pauls sound like his Derrick Les Paul!
G&L Rampage Jerry Cantrell signature models! In addition to the cream-coloured one everyone expected, there are a few other models with cool graphics.
Peavey Devin Townsend baritone V 7-string prototype. This axe is being displayed at NAMM to gauge the response, and if things go well it’ll make it to production. Devin’s latest CD, ‘Addicted,’ is so freaking awesome that I hope there’s huge support for the guitar. I checked it out and it was incredible – great attack and sustain.
More info on these items and others in the morning!
Whoa! Check out this Premier Guitar video about the G&L Rampage Jerry Cantrell model. The guitar will be available in Tribute and US-made versions in 2010.
Look at the specs of the Tribute version.
Kahler 4300 bridge
Alnico 5 humbucker designed with Jerry
Soft maple body
The US-made version will have a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker and an upgraded Kahler bridge.
Alice In Chains has released a new single, A Looking In View, via their website, www.aliceinchains.com – rock on over there now to download it for free, in return for signing up to their mailing list. Small price to pay, methinks. The track is from the forthcoming album ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ which is due for release on September 29. CLICK HERE to preorder the album from Amazon.com.
So what do you think of the track? Here are a few thoughts, in dot points because they’re fun.
• Huge guitar tone from Jerry Cantrell. It reminds me of his sound on Dirt but, I dunno, bigger. More body and oomph. Something about the pick attack reminds me of Sepultura’s ‘Against’ CD, which is a kinda weird comparison, but there it is.
• Big production with lots of overdubs and audio candy. This shouldn’t really be a surprise since AIC’s best stuff was heavily layered.
• One thing this song does is once again remind me that Jerry’s vocals are a huge part of the Alice In Chains sound. His role had gradually increased during the band’s first, Layne Staley-led incarnation, to the point where now Jerry and William DuVall seem to be sharing the lead vocalist slot equally.
• Speaking of Duvall, he seems to be purposefully using a Staley-like vibrato in a few spots, but his voice is more nasal than Staley’s. I quite like that he’s not trying too hard to sound like Layne, but at the same time isn’t denying what a huge part Layne played in the AIC sound.
With Alice In Chains in town recently for the Soundwave festival and their own side shows, now seems like as good a time as any to look at the guitar tones of Jerry Cantrell. The band’s defining moment was the 1993 album Dirt, which stripped away the slightly 80s-rock elements of their debut and ratcheted up the dark, foreboding, Sabbath-y elements instead. Cantrell’s tone was huge and warm, and a lot more ‘boutique’ than most of his grunge-era contemporaries.
The Dirt album was recorded with legendary producer Dave Jerden (as was its predecessor Facelift and the acoustic EP Sap), and legend has it that on Dirt, Jerden had Cantrell use a multi-amp rig to fatten up the guitar sound, with each amp chosen for the particular frequencies it emphasised. If you want to copy this approach at home, you don’t need a whole warehouse of amps and a huge studio to record them in (although it helps). You can get somewhere close using multiple amp simulator plugins. I’ve had good Cantrell-like results in Pro Tools by combining Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier and Marshall JCM800 models from IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 2 for the bass and midrange, respectively, and the Bogner Ecstasy model from Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 3 for the high end. Place each plugin on a separate track, dial out the frequencies you don’t need from each amp (for example, you already have a lot of bass from the Mesa, so turn it down on the other two models), and select the same track input for each track. Each part on Dirt was double-tracked, so you might want to do the same in a recording context, or use a stereo doubling effect live if you’re one of the growing number of guitarists who uses a laptop live instead of an amp.
Cantrell uses effects pretty minimally, but along with Kirk Hammett he was one of the main proponents of the wah wah pedal in the 90s. In this era he favoured the Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Crybaby model, which has a bassier and much darker response than other Crybaby wah pedals – especially those available in the early 90s, when Jim Dunlop were still a while away from adding the myriad tone-shaping features available in some of their more high-tech pedals today. One way of getting close to this sound is to simply try to keep away from the upper register of the pedal’s travel, but that might get in the way of your performance. Through a lot of trial and error I’ve found (and verified by comparing this directly with the Jimi Hendrix wah) that you can get quite reasonably close to that sound with a regular Crybaby by simply turning down your guitar’s tone control. This is especially effective on the title track for Dirt, which features a snaky, wah-drenched melody like that would be a little too brittle if a more trebly wah sound was used.
The G&L story is quite a familiar one by now. Leo Fender and George Fullerton formed the company in 1980 to carry on the work begun in the 40s by Leo’s former, somewhat successful guitar company. Along the way they created such classic instruments as the Legacy and ASAT, as well as the Rampage model favoured by Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell.
Leo Fender invented the electric bass at Fender, so you would expect any such instrument from either of his namesake companies to be something pretty special. So how does the L-2500 stack up?
The L-2500 is a 5-string bass which mates a swamp ash top to an American tilia back, with a bolt-on maple neck and rosewood or maple fretboard. The frets are a little smaller that I would expect in width, and also in height, but it all adds up for playing comfort and helps to offset any learning curve associated with the soft vintage V-shaped neck profile.
The test bass was finished is a gorgeous honey colour that’s practically edible, but it’s available in a range of finishes. Tuning keys are G&L’s Ultra-Lite design, and they are very solid in both operation and stability. The bridge is G&L’s innovating saddle lock design, with brass saddles for extra tonal punch. Electronics are a pair of G&L humbuckers which feed an active/passive preamp system consisting of 3 pots and 3 mini toggle switches.
CLEAN UP IN AISLE 3
Okay, now that the specs are out of the way… this is one heck of a bass. It feels like it’s a living, breathing thing, and notes sustain practically for days. The natural unplugged tone is good enough and full enough that it you were able to mic it up adequately, it could sit perfectly well within a pro mix – and it only gets better once you plug it in.
In terms of attack the L-2500 responds equally well to pick or fingers, and rolling back the treble makes way for a powerful, resonant John Paul Jones sound. The preamp system includes a 3 way toggle for pickup selection, another for series or parallel operation, and yet another to turn the preamp off, on, or on with a high end EQ boost. It might sound complicated but the only tricky thing about it is figuring out which sound to use, since they’re all great. With the flick of a switch you can go from a meat-and-potatoes rock sound to a hi-fi studio funk sound and back again. It’s exhilarating to have such versatility in a single instrument, and while other companies might try to pack a variety of sounds like this into their basses, what makes the L-2500 special is that each of its voices sounds good enough and ‘real’ enough that each could stand on their own if it was the only sound offered by the bass.
I would be quite comfortable – in fact ecstatic – to add a bass like this to my recording arsenel and I’m a little sad to have to give it back after the review. The perfect playability means there’s nothing to get in the way of playing exactly what you hear in your head, while the huge range of tones means you can summon any sound you need with a minimum of fuss.
CLICK HERE to buy the G&L L-2500 5-String Bass Guitar Natural Gloss Rosewood from Music123 for $1,575.
PICKUPS: 2 G&L Magnetic Field humbucking pickups
BODY WOOD: Swamp Ash top on American Tilia back
NECK WOOD: Hard Rock Maple with Rosewood or Maple fingerboard
NECK RADIUS: 12″ (304.8mm)
NECK WIDTH AT NUT: 1 3/4″ (44.5mm)
TUNING KEYS: Custom G&L “Ultra-Lite” with aluminum tapered string posts
BRIDGE: G&L Saddle Lock with string through body configuration; chrome-plated brass saddles
CONTROLS: G&L Tri-Tone active/passive electronics, 3-way mini-toggle pickup selector, series/parallel mini-toggle, preamp control mini-toggle (off/on/on with high end EQ boost)
FINISH: Standard finishes included
OTHER: Chrome hardware; no pickguard; G&L molded hardcase included
The last time Alice In Chains toured Australia, I was still in high school and lived 4 hours away from the nearest capital city. The circumstances required for me to see them live were alarmingly insurmountable, and even after I moved to the big smoke and was geographically and economically able to see them, the tragic death of singer Layne Staley seemed to spell a permanent impasse to my ever witnessing them live. Jerry Cantrell has been one of my favourite players ever since I was about 14, so I was ultra-excited to be able to finally see him live.
Now, of course, Comes With The Fall vocalist William DuVall has taken up the front-and-centre position on stage, and within the first song of the night I’m sure anyone with lingering doubts about his place in the band had resolved to shut the hell up and just get on with having their socks rocked off. DuVall also provides rhythm guitar on certain key tracks, and is a very capable player.
I’ve heard reports from those who saw Alice In Chains back in the day that they were a less-than-inspiring live act, with dull stage presentation and sleepy musical delivery. How much of this is true I can’t really say, but the band who appeared on stage at the Palais last night were energetic and powerful, and certainly knew how to work a crowd. The set list included, but was not limited to, Angry Chair, Man In The Box (third song in!), Rain When I Die, Love Hate Love, Them Bones, Would? Rooster, No Excuses, Dirt, Junkhead and We Die Young.
In the years between Alice In Chains’ first incarnation and 2009, guitarist Jerry Cantrell seems to have picked up a more cultured, controlled vibrato, and was able to nail accurately-pitched bends with a confidence I don’t recall hearing in previous performances. Naturally it stands to reason that one’s playing will develop and evolve over a given time span, so this should come as no surprise, but the Jerry Cantrell on stage last night seemed to go that extra step beyond what the Jerry Cantrell of 1993 was capable of in terms of phrasing, dynamics and all out rock power. By the way, Cantrell still uses his original old G&L Rampage, as well as a few other Rampages, and some Gibson Les Pauls.
Mike Inez was, as always, a very solid player, keeping the sound full and powerful on any of the single-guitar songs in which Cantrell took solos. He seemed to be smiling all night, and locked in perfectly with drummer Sean Kinney’s behind-the-beat-yet-perfectly-in-time playing. Incidentally, I’m not sure how but Kinney has managed to not age one day since 1993. Dude must be into some kind of freaky age-defying voodoo.
Finally, special mention must be made of the band’s trademark vocal harmonies. Longtime fans of the band are surely well aware that Jerry Cantrell’s harmonies and backing vocals (and occasional lead vocal lines such as in the verses for Grind and Would?) were always an important part of the band’s sound. Well, despite the swapping of Staley for DuVall, Alice In Chains still sounds like Alice In Chains, and a big reason for that is that Jerry is still singing too. This is certainly not like in the case of Van Halen where the whole sound of any back catalogue songs changed when Sammy Hagar stepped into David Lee Roth’s gig.
If you haven’t seen the new version of Alice In Chains because you’re sceptical about whether they can hold it together and live up to their legacy, it’s time to put aside such concerns and check them out. Of course they’ll never be the same without Layne, but last night’s performance was a powerful demonstration that the Alice In Chains of 2009 deserves to be spoken of in the same reverential tones as the Alice In Chains of the 90s.
Kudos to Mrs I Heart Guitar for spotting this on the Make blog. Ever wanted to build your own talkbox for a little Peter Frampton or Jerry Cantrell vibe? Or are you in a cover band and you need to play Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and/or ‘It’s My Life?’ Then you’re in luck! Everything you need to know to build your own talkbox is right here.