First-Timer’s Guide To NAMM

It’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of music industry professionals, rock stars and hopeful dreamers converge upon Anaheim, California for NAMM – the National Association of Music Merchants trade show. It’s where musical instrument companies – a lot of musical instrument companies – showcase their newest gear to the world’s retailers, distributors and media; where hopeful designers and luthiers present their ideas to prospective investors; where musicians pitch themselves to potential endorsement partners; where historic jams take place; and where you can’t turn a corner without bumping into a legendary rock star, producer, or builder. Or, if you’re unlucky, Andy Dick. And it’s also pretty damned intimidating for NAMM first-timers. This upcoming NAMM will be my tenth and I’ve learned a few tricks to navigating this overwhelming schmoozefest so if you’re going to NAMM for the first time this year, I hope you find this guide helpful.

How To Get In
For starters, NAMM is pretty hard to get into. It’s industry-only, which typically means you need to be associated with an attending company or be in the media in order to get a badge. Occasionally, stores might have a handful of passes that they give to favoured customers. Once you do have your registration, it’s a good idea to pick up your badge early – that is, before doors open on the morning of the Thursday that NAMM officially begins on. If not, you could be waiting in line for a long time. If you get to Anaheim a few days early you’ll be able to pick up your badge in advance and it’ll make life a lot smoother for you on show day. Also, lot of people refer to the Sunday as ‘Public Day’ which just isn’t true – maybe it was many years ago? – so don’t just rock up on Sunday demanding to be let in.

Where To Stay
If you’re heading to NAMM this January you’ve probably already got accommodation sorted out (right? RIGHT?), but if you haven’t you’d better get on it! NAMM is held at the Anaheim Convention Center, just a stone’s throw from Disneyland, so there are plenty of hotels around for all budgets, and a buttload of AirBNBs. Some advice make sure you check if your hotel is on a NAMM shuttle bus route. It’ll make your life a lot easier. You’ll be doing a lot of walking throughout the day and the last thing you want is to be walking back to your hotel after a long, long day of schmoozing, and some of the hotels are a bit of a schlep.

Oh and Disneyland is relatively quiet at this time of year, at least compared to summer, so if you want to take a break from NAMM by throwing yourself around on a roller coaster or zooming around the galaxy in Star Tours, have at it!

nammpic

What To Eat
Because NAMM is so close to Disneyland you’ll find plenty of wallet-friendly meal options in the neighbourhood, including Denny’s, IHOP, Tony Romo’s, McDonalds and all that stuff. Just the thing to shove some greasy breakfast down your throat while taking advantage of free WiFi before a long day of NAMMing. And Downtown Disney is a retail and dining section of the Disneyland Resort that is open to the public without an entry fee, so you’ll find plenty of dining options there. And the Convention Center itself has various places to eat and drink including various coffee and beer stalls, places to grab a burger or a salad or a slice of pizza, and a whole bunch of food trucks outside. There are also Starbuckses in the Hilton and Sheraton, and at the Hilton you’ll find a food court with Sbarro, Baja Fresh, Submarina and Just Grillin’. If you’d like to get away from the Convention Center there are plenty of great restaurants all throughout the wider area. Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen in Orange is spectacular if you can handle a bit of a wait at busy times.

What To Do
Your very first NAMM can be quite overwhelming. There’s a lot to take in. There’ll be tens of thousands of people roaming the halls, a few hundred dudes playing Vai covers, buxom promotional models handing out flyers or posing for pics, and the persistent distant thrash of cymbals (It’s kind of like in Lord Of The Rings as they get closer to Mordor and they can see the fire in the distance and everything starts to grow dark… the closer you get to the drum section, the more the survival instincts kick in and you might find yourself trying to fend off Orcs reps with a cymbal stand or something).

If you’re planning to go to all four days of NAMM, Thursday is where a lot of business gets done and is pretty busy. Friday is very busy and with more signings, appearances, performances and launches. And Saturday is absolutely crazycakes, a huge crowded cacophony of noise. Saturday is when you’re likely to find yourself muttering, randomly sobbing, and saying things you would never, ever say at any other time in your life, such as “Oh shit, Steve Vai’s just showed up at Ernie Ball – better take the long way around or it’ll take me an hour to get through the crowd.” And Sunday is pretty quiet, especially in the afternoon. It’s tempting to be all like “Dammit, I’m staying to the very end to wring out every last drop of awesomeness from this experience,” but NAMM after about 2PM Sunday is a bit of a downer as companies start to slowly begin packing up.

If you’re at NAMM to work, it’s all about meetings, meetings, meetings. If you’re booking meetings with company reps in advance and you’re not already in California, here’s a tip for travellers which could save your ass: write them down on paper or in a text file: don’t immediately pop them in your smartphone calendar because – as I learned at my first NAMM – my iPhone scheduled all my appointments in Melbourne time and didn’t adjust for the fact that I was in LA! iOS is a lot better at these stuff nowadays but why risk it, right?

If you’re hoping to hit up some of the approximately 8 billion artist signings happening during the show it’s best to check the social media accounts of your favourite players and gear companies for schedules. And there are all sorts of performances going on all the time, some of them listed on the NAMM website and some of them more spontaneous. Make sure you pace yourself and give yourself plenty of time in case meetings run long. Get your hands on a floor plan of the convention center or the official NAMM smartphone app so you can figure out who’s where, and how far your appointments are from each other.

Oh and dude, business cards. Don’t fall into the ‘Oh nobody needs business cards any more’ trap. If you have ’em, bring ’em. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked back at my post-NAMM pile of business cards and remembered a piece of gear or a new contact that would otherwise have faded into the fog of memory.

The other great thing to do at NAMM is to play NAMM Bingo.

Oh and wear comfortable shoes. Seriously. I shit the not, every NAMM I lose about 5kg from all the walking. By the third day your feet are likely to feel like a pair of tenderised steaks flopping about on the end of your legs. So think ahead! Maybe pack some kind of foot-soak to rest your feet in after your last evening. One of my favourite things in the world is the moment of serene solitude on a NAMM Sunday night, making a foot soak in a bathtub, maybe lighting some candles and reading a book and just not being blasted by the combined noise of the entire musical instrument industry being under one roof.

After Hours
Many companies have VIP events at NAMM, especially on the Friday and Saturday nights. A lot of these are secret and you’ll need to be on good terms with someone at the company to score an invite. Maybe don’t just go up to someone you’ve never met before and immediately ask if they’re putting on an event, but don’t be too shy to ask after you’ve had a nice chat either.

Even if you can’t get into a secret gig, party or dinner you’ll find plenty of great events around town. And after dark, the lobbies of the Hilton and Sheraton right outside the convention centre are great places to catch gigs and jams, have a beer with a favourite player, network with some new contacts or, once you’ve been to a few NAMMs, catch up with old pals. Some of the best times I’ve had at NAMM have been at these loose, informal get-togethers in the outdoor area just behind the Sheraton bar. Oh and karaoke at the Clarion? Unbeatable.

Hall E
Make sure you go out of your way to check out Hall E downstairs. This is where you’ll find some of the more offbeat builders, tinkerers and designers as well as incredible boutique luthiers and pedal companies. You’ll see some pretty out-there ideas for new gadgets that their designers think will revolutionize guitar, and maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but it’s always enlightening. Every now and then you’ll see something utterly ridiculous that you just know will never, ever catch on, but try not to be a dick about it.

So There You Have It.
If you’re a first-time NAMMer, hopefully this will help you to wrap your head around it before you go in, so you can make the most of your time. Personally I look back on my first NAMM and just think of how overwhelming it all seemed. My fist NAMM was basically a lot of “OMG! WTF! EEEK! WHOA! HUH!” My second was more like “Okay… starting to get into the groove now…” and every one since has been like “Aaah, I’m home.”

If you have any NAMM tips you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment.

A First-Timer’s Guide To NAMM

nammpicIt’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of music industry professionals, rock stars and hopeful dreamers converge upon Anaheim, California for the NAMM Show – the National Association of Music Merchants trade show. It’s where musical instrument companies – a lot of musical instrument companies – showcase their newest gear to the world’s retailers, distributors and media; where hopeful designers and luthiers present their ideas to prospective investors; where musicians pitch themselves to potential endorsement partners; where historic jams take place; and where you can’t turn a corner without bumping into a legendary rock star, producer, luthier or builder. And it’s also pretty damned intimidating for NAMM first-timers. I’ve been to quite a few now, so hopefully some of what I’ve learned can help out those who are experiencing their first NAMM this year. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Morley’s Bill Wenzloff

Morley Pedals was started by brothers Raymond and Marvin Lubow in LA in the 1960s, when players were first really started to explore how they could use effects to enhance their music. Their first product was an electro-mechanical echo uni under the brand name Tel-Ray Electronics, but a subsequent product – a rotating speaker simulation in a box – provided the inspiration for the Morley name: the new unit was ‘More-Lee’ rather than ‘Less-Lee.’ But what really helped Morley to break into the big league was their line of treadle-operated pedals – wahs, volume pedals and the Rotating Sound pedal, the original ‘More-Lee’ pedal. Today Morley makes a variety of effects, including Steve Vai’s Bad Horsie and Little Alligator pedals, signature gear for Mark Tremonti and George Lynch. The company was bought by Chicago firm Sound Enhancements, Inc in the late 80s but Morley continues to use the innovations of the Lubow brothers as inspiration. I Heart Guitar caught up with Morley’s Bill Wenzloff to talk shop.

Tell us about your background as a player – how and why did you start? What did you play? 

I started playing guitar at about age 12. I was already a Beatles fan but once I discovered Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Rush and other rock icons, I knew I wanted to play guitar. One of the first rock songs I learned was Dirty Deeds by AC/DC. It felt so awesome hitting those chords out of a loud amp; it felt slightly naughty and yet so cool. I was hooked. I played in many bands throughout my life; some original, some cover and even a few tribute bands (I was Ace Frehley in Kiss Tribute “Kissed” and Brad Whitford in Aerosmith tribute called “Big Ten Inch”). Music has been the one constant in my life and I am continually grateful that I have the gift of playing music.

Read More …

NAMM 2010: Highlights of Day 1

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!

NEWS: Official Paul Gilbert/Freddie Nelson bootlegs for preorder

CDJapan will offer limited-release official bootlegs of all four shows on Paul Gilbert and Freddie Nelson’s mini tour of Japan. As an avowed CDJapan junkie, this makes me kinda dizzy with glee.

Here are the links to preorder the individual shows:

Official Bootleg Tokyo 1 [Cardboard Sleeve] (Title subject to change) [Limited Release] / Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson

Official Bootleg Osaka [Cardboard Sleeve] (Title subject to change) [Limited Release] / Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson

Official Bootleg Nagoya [Cardboard Sleeve] (Title subject to change) [Limited Release] / Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson

Official Bootleg Tokyo 2 [Cardboard Sleeve] (Title subject to change) [Limited Release] / Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson

And you can CLICK HERE to buy Paul and Freddie’s CD, United States, from CDJapan.

And apologies for the link overload, but you can CLICK HERE to preorder the new Ibanez PGM401 guitar from Thomann.de.
I’m planning to buy the hell out of these bootlegs. United States was one of my favourite CDs of 2008, and I can’t wait to hear how it translates in a live setting.

If you’re heading to NAMM in a couple of weeks, here are Paul’s scheduled autograph signings:

HomeBrew Electronics (2:00 pm Fri)
Ibanez Guitars (3:30 pm Fri)
Marshall Amps (10:30 am Sat.)
Ernie Ball Strings (Noon Sun.)
Alfred Publishing (1:00 pm Sun.)

NAMM 2009: Peavey NAMM schedule, including Devin Townsend appearance

Are you going to NAMM? If so, I’m insanely jealous and maybe somehow I’ll make it there next year. Peavey has released details of their endorsers’ NAMM appearances, and the press release is below. Most interesting to me is Devin Townsend, who has recently been photographed with a Peavey HP. Devin has used Peavey 5150 amps but most recently was seen using Mesa Boogie. Could he be going back to Peavey for amps? Is he leaving ESP for guitars?

Also of note is that Joe Satriani will be officially launching his new Peavey JSX amp. The one you can read about here.

Anyway, here’s the press release and schedule.

Legendary guitarist Joe Satriani will introduce his new signature Peavey JSX guitar amplifier during a special press conference during the NAMM (National Association Of Music Merchants) show on Friday, January 16, at 1 p.m., in the middle of the Peavey exhibit (5740) at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gary Rossington and metal legends Max Cavalera (SOULFLY, SEPULTURA), Alex Skolnick (TESTAMENT), David Ellefson (MEGADETH) and Greg Christian (TESTAMENT) are also slated to appear during the show.

Peavey NAMM artist schedule:

Friday, January 16:

* 11:00 a.m. – Rudy Sarzo (DIO, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT) autographs
* 12:00 p.m. – Max Cavalera (SOULFLY, CAVALERA CONSPIRACY) autographs
* 1:00 p.m. – Joe Satriani press conference, middle of booth
* 1:00 p.m. – Alex Skolnick and Greg Christian (TESTAMENT) autographs, rear of booth
* 3:00 p.m. – BLACK STONE CHERRY autographs
* 3:00 p.m. – Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR, CHROME DIVISION) autographs, rear of booth

Saturday, January 17:

* 11:00 a.m. – David Ellefson (F5), Devin Townsend (STRAPPING YOUNG LAD) and Rudy Sarzo autographs
* 1:15 p.m. – Joe Satriani autographs
* 3:00 p.m. – Flynnville Station autographs, rear of booth
* 4:00 p.m. – Gary Rossington (LYNYRD SKYNYRD) autographs

Schedule subject to change; please visit exhibit to confirm dates and times

CLICK HERE to buy Devin Townsend albums on Amazon.com.

CLICK HERE to see Peavey JSX items on eBay.

GUEST POST: Stratoblogster – Fender not stopping at Road Worn Series (Parody)

In a last minute scramble to add just one more price point in time for Winter NAMM ’09 in Anaheim, Fender has decided to follow its new MIM Road Worn Series with a Squier Relic treatment.

This newest Squier RUG BURN Series will incorporate the ever popular aging & distressing features into the Indonesian produced Squier line of guitars & basses, to be priced at a mid point between the standard Squier line and the Standard Baja manufactured products.

According to a company spokesperson, “We have a 10-15 age demographic just ready to make the jump from game controllers to a product with the appearance of something a great grandparent might have owned. It’s important to keep that heritage going, and at $329 we feel the RUG BURN Series is gonna fit right into that Xbox 360 niche. Creating another price point was only a minor consideration– as our priority is simply to service the needs of our public in the best way possible.”

Each RUG BURN Series instrument begins as a standard finished Squier model, which is then placed into “the tumbler”; a large rotating drum– similar to a concrete mixer, which is lined with Dupont Stainmaster berber style carpeting. During the tumbling process thousands of walnuts are introduced along with dried mustard for age tinting. After leaving the tumbler, the guitar is then “dusted” off with high pressure air & Kool Menthol unfiltered tobacco jets, after which the strings are finally added. Then each Rug Burn Series model is prepared for shipping in its own Dupont Stainmaster berber style carpet lined gig bag along with a Dupont Stainmaster berber style carpet strap.

Both the gig bag and strap are designed to help maintain the freshness of your RUG BURN Series instrument’s finish for many years to come.

Watch for the RUG BURN Series! And remember, it’s not a Squier Rug Burn unless it has the, “RUG BURN Series” sticker on the pickguard. So take one for test tumble soon at your nearest Fender dealer and you might just walk out with a Rug Burn of your very own!

(parody)

This is a guest post by JP from Stratoblogster – a very cool site with lots of great content, Stratty and otherwise. Go check it out! Here are some stories to get you started.

Rehab Series Strats coming next

Experts warn: Too much Telecaster ‘not safe’

Relic guitar treatment approved

Be a Relic guitar player!

Beyond Relic-Aged Strat progressions

Diane von Furstenberg Designer Strat? Stuff Happens…

A Strat For Friday #11: ‘McStrat!’

NAMM 2009: Return of the mighty Blackmore Strat

Fender’s bringing back the Ritchie Blackmore Stratocaster in 2009. Do ya think Yngwie will pick a couple up? This sort of thing is right up his alley: scalloped fretboard, white finish, unused middle pickup. 

The specs include a maple neck with a graduated scalloped rosewood fretboard, Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Flat pickups, and ’70s-style “F” tuners. Deluxe gig bag included.
If you can’t wait until NAMM for them to be released, there’s a 1997 Ritchie Blackmore Strat on eBay at the moment.
By the way, anyone else heard the rumours that David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore have had informal chats about a reunion tour for Deep Purple Mk III?