REVIEW: Pickmaster Plectrum Cutter


I don’t know where my guitar picks disappear to. I’m pretty sure it’s the same place my socks and my abs went. Some days I spend at least as much time searching for plectra as I do playing guitar, and although for years I was strictly a one-pick dude (the Jim Dunlop Jazz III), I’ve trained myself to now use whatever pick I find, wherever I find it. It’s just better and more musicianly to remain adaptable than to be bound to any one type of pick.

The makers of Pickmaster must realise this quandry because they’ve created the ideal way to ensure you are never left pickless. The Pickmaster Plectrum Cutter is a very chunky and solidly built tool which lets you stamp out picks from whatever material you find around the house – old credit cards, the lid from the butter tub – you could even be super-ironic and use it to cut a guitar pick out of one of those large triangular bass picks. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Gojira’s Joe Duplantier

French metal band Gojira have been a ‘next big thing’ for far too long. They’ve maintained the same line-up since forming in Bayonne in 1996, and each successive album has pushed them closer and closer to the spotlight. But L’Enfant Sauvage is going to change all that. This is the album that seems finally destined to bump Gojira all the way into at least Lamb of God/Trivium levels of fame. It combines a Devin Townsend-esque appreciation for atmosphere and melody with post-thrash rhythms, post-death metal drumming and a live, human element that’s missing from so much current studio-tweezed metal. After a triumphant run during Australias’s Soundwave Festival (which saw Devin Townsend and Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal join them on stage for a historic performance of their studio collaboration “Of Blood And Salt”), Gojira are ready.

“The reason why we did that tour was to see a kangaroo,” guitarist and vocalist Joe Duplantier says of the recent Soundwave shows. “That was our main purpose! The reason why we came to Australia! And then we played some shows with Soundwave. But mostly we wanted to see a wild kangaroo. The last day of the tour we still hadn’t seen a kangaroo so we rented a car and went to the desert. Couldn’t find one the whole day. But on our way back to Perth we saw one, man! The night was falling and this huge kangaroo was jumping, and everyone was screaming in the car.” But  now that the hunt for bipedal marsupials is over, Gojira is getting down to business. L’Enfant Sauvage is their first album on Roadrunner Records. It’s a diverse collection of tracks, some heavy, some more ambient, with an unusual amount of colour and drama for most bands other than Devin Townsend and Cynic. “I don’t listen to metal a lot,” Duplantier explains. I listen to Massive Attach and Morcheeba and Radiohead, Portishead. My brother [Mario Duplantier, drums] likes Indian music. Christian [Andreu], the other guitar player, doesn’t like music at all! He likes silence! He’s like, “Wow, this is the best.” And the bass player [Jean-Michel Labadie] listens to all kinds of metal. He’s a huge metal fan. So it’s an interesting mix. We have different attitudes, and it creates something more personal. I’d like to think that through the years, as we release albums, it’s getting closer to what we are, closer to the core. It’s a nice feeling. I love this album. We reached something that Im’ really, really happy with.”

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Queensryche – Tate’s out, Todd’s in.


So by now you’ve probably heard the news: Geoff Tate and Queensryche have parted ways, and the remaining members – briefly known as Rising West for two shows in Seattle recently – will continue as Queensryche with Todd La Torre on vocals.

As a fan of both Tate and Queensryche, I feel both bummed out and excited by the news. I’m sad to see an effective end called to one of my favourite bands. Queensryche always meant a lot to me, especially Promised Land, for many reasons – Tate’s vocals, his lyrical intelligence and creativity, the band’s overall sense of melody, the rhythmic interplay, and of course great guitar work. I always respected the band’s earlier, more metal days, but for me Queensryche were at their best when they were pushing and pulling between their heavier sounds and their more melodic side. Check out the song “Open” on the overlooked Tribe album or “Right Side Of My Mind” from Q2K for examples of what I mean. Yeah, my view on Queensryche is not the popular one (Y’know, “Everything after Mindcrime/Empire/Promised Land/Hear In The Now Frontier [select one depending on which came out when you were still a teenager] sucked”), but as a listener all you can do is respond to what affects you emotionally, and there it is.

But as someone who really liked Geoff Tate’s solo album, I’m also excited by this outcome. Tate will now be free to explore whatever it is he wants to do as a solo artist, without clashing against the idea of what Queensryche is – an idea held by fans, his former bandmates and maybe even Tate himself. There seemed to be a definite disconnect between what Queensryche as a collective wanted to do and what fans would let them do. But now the fans who wanted the older, heavier stuff will be happy, and the fans who followed Tate beyond Operation: Mindcrime into Empire, Promised Land and the like may just find something they can connect with on Tate’s forthcoming solo album (which he has referred to as hard rock with progressive influences). And the rest of the guys will be free to play the heavier stuff and to create new material in that vein. And fans who liked both the earlier heavy material and the later stuff might just have two cool bands to follow now instead of one. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what Michael Wilton gets up to now that he’s being freed up to write heavier Queensryche material again.

By the way, Geoff, if you need a guitarist to do a  Promised Land 20th Anniversary tour in 2014… *cough*

Mike Keneally completes Andy Partridge collaboration

Woo! I can’t wait to hear this album! Read about it here.

There was a particular year of my life where my musical diet consisted of walloping amounts of Mike Keneally (particularly Sluggo! and Boil That Dust Speck) and a few XTC albums (along with Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine – Biomech). So the very thought of an album featuring songwriting collaborations between Mike Keneally and XTC’s Andy Partridge is just too awesome to comprehend – in the ‘awe’ definition of the word awesome, not the surfer dude one.

COOL GEAR ALERT: Gibson SG Standard 24

I was just cruising around Gibson.com and I came across this: the Gibson SG Standard 24 for American Music Supply. Look at this thing! Just LOOK AT IT! Argh, how cool! It bums me out that this is an exclusive model that I guess won’t find its way to Australia. I love mini humbuckers (I used to have a Firebird with Seymour Duncan mini humbuckers which sounded awesome), I love SGs (I’m Australian – we’re genetically predisposed to like SGs because of Angus Young), and 24 frets are ear-shredding fun. From a tonal perspective a mini humbucker in the neck makes a lot of sense: it focuses the pickup on a narrower area of the string, giving you a tighter and more focused sound. I’d love to get my hands on one of these, but alas, I fear I am doomed to miss out. Still, phwoar.

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