INTERVIEW: Periphery’s Mark Holcomb

Mark HolcombIt seems like just yesterday that Periphery was in Australia – and it pretty much was, if you count ‘March’ as yesterday. Whereas last time around they travelled the country as part of the huge Soundwave festival juggernaut, they’re heading back in January and February for their own tour with like-minded proggy djenty iconoclasts Animals As Leaders. And what better way to prepare for the tour than to have a chat with guitarist Mark Holcomb? I caught up with Mark yesterday ahead of the second-last Periphery gig of the band’s current US tour. And right around the time I’m typing this, they’re onstage playing their very last show before taking some much-needed time off. But it won’t be long before we hear some new Periphery music, as you will see…  Read More …

INTERVIEW: Dream Theater’s John Petrucci

john petrucciDream Theater’s new, self-titled album is their twelfth, and it amounts to something of a resetting of the idea of what Dream Theater can be. 2010’s A Dramatic Turn Of Events was a big test for the band: could they survive without co-founder Mike Portnoy behind the drum kit? The answer to this question was a resounding “Yes!” ADTOE played up the band’s many strengths – epic melodies, virtuosic interludes, intricate solos, odd-but-natural time signature shifts – and it did so in a way that was clearly Dream Theater, even with new drummer Mike Mangini in the engine room. But it was a very safe interpretation of what Dream Theater could be. Parallels were drawn between the album and 1992’s Images & Words, for instance. And now with Dream Theater [Roadrunner], the band doesn’t have anything to prove. They don’t need to show you that they can continue to make albums that sound like Dream Theater. Instead they’re free once more to make albums that are Dream Theater, that present the band as an evolving entity exploring what it can do. Dream Theater is perhaps the most naturally representative example of what the band can do since 1999’s Scenes From A Memory, in that nothing seems forced. Read More …

REVIEW: Music Man Axis

lOnce upon a time, Ernie Ball Music Man had a certain high-profile endorser, one of those epoch-defining chaps who changed the way we approach the instrument. He designed a signature model with the company and it was very popular – as current used prices for said instruments will demonstrate – but eventually he moved in a different direction. Production was stopped on his signature guitar but most of the model’s features survived in the form of the Axis. Now almost 20 years later it’s still a great seller for Music Man, and an iconic guitar in its own right. And we described all that without once mentioning Eddie Van Halen.
[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]Musicians Friend – Everything for Guitarists, at the Best Prices in Town![/geo-out]

[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]Music Man is distributed by CMC Music Australia[/geo-in]

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COOL GEAR ALERT: DiMarzio Steve Lukather ‘Transition’ pickups

DiMarzio has just announced the Transition neck and bridge humbuckers. These are the same custom pickups found in Steve Lukather’s Luke III Music Man model. A set of these has just arrived for review so I’m currently gutting one of my guitars so I can install them and check them out for you!

Here’s the press release:


Staten Island, N.Y., December 4, 2012 – DiMarzio, Inc. is thrilled to welcome legendary TOTO guitarist, solo artist, and first-call session player extraordinaire, Steve Lukather to its team of esteemed endorsers. DiMarzio announced it will release two new Transition™ humbucking pickups for electric guitars in early December of 2012. The Transition™ pickups were developed by DiMarzio and Lukather for his new LIII™ Music Man® guitar. The pickups will also be available for retail sale from DiMarzio. Read More …

REVIEW: Sterling By Music Man S.U.B AX3

The Sterling By Music Man S.U.B Series family of instruments are designed to provide a new level of quality, features and value for the beginning or intermediate player. Part of this philosophy includes using established (and very player-friendly) Ernie Ball Music Man designs such as the Silhouette and Axis as the basis for budget-priced guitars. A lot of us might remember the SUB name from a previous attempt by EBMM to make their designs more affordable: the original SUB instruments were US-made but with more budget-friendly finishing techniques. The new S.U.B line is made in Asia, and ironically the finishes look a lot prettier than the old SUB line, which had a sort of industrial vibe.
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CLICK HERE to buy the Sterling By Music Man S.U.B Ax3 from Musician’s Friend for $249.

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REVIEW: Ernie Ball Music Man Game Changer

There haven’t been many innovations in pickup switching since the 50s. A few coil splits, phase flips, blend pots, series/parallel tweaks and Fender’s S1 are pretty much all that’s happened in that department in 60 years (okay, I’m understating it to make a point, but bare with me). So Ernie Ball Music Man has tackled the problem in a system that takes the best of what techs have been tweaking in back rooms for years, and blows it out to almost unlimited potential in The Game Changer. The best way to describe it is this: it frees the coils of each pickup from the normal order of things, so now you can instantly – and with an analog signal path – rewire your guitar or bass by combining any order of pickup coils in series, parallel and in or out of phase. The result is more than 250,000 possible pickup configurations, which you can create on your computer and then send to the guitar for storage in several banks.

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REVIEW: Ernie Ball Music Man Reflex

The Ernie Ball company is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012, and over the years they’ve done it all: strings, picks, basses, guitars, 7-string guitars, baritone guitars… they have original designs out the wazoo, and an incredible list of famous users who all operate on handshake deals – Steve Lukather, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, Albert Lee, Steve Morse. Heck, even Joe Bonamassa, who has Gibson and Epiphone signature models, still takes to the stage with various Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. The company has never been content to rest on the successes of the past, and their policy of closely listening to and collaborating with artists is why it can be so hard to keep up with their latest models. But that’s also half the fun. And it’s this drive for innovation that brings us to the Reflex, which features a particularly interesting pickup selection circuit as its biggest selling point.

The Reflex is a kind of odd design. It has obvious visual links to the old Edward Van Halen model (which lives on today in slightly modified form as the rather excellent AXIS), but it’s a little stretched out compared to that instrument’s rounder outline, giving it a slight Telecaster vibe, or maybe a little like one of Manson’s creations as used by Muse’s Matt Bellamy. Because this is a new shape, you don’t quite get the ‘I know exactly what kind of music I’m supposed to play on this’ vibe that you get from familiar shapes. So that makes the Reflex a good ‘clean slate’ platform for its unique switching system, and doubly so for Ernie Ball’s use of the instrument as the bed for the Game Changer pickup selection system[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]And you can buy the Game Changer version of the Reflex here)[/geo-out].

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