Paul Reed Smith is an innovator and a really great ambassador for the guitar in general. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet him in person, you’d know that he has this really contagious combination of enthusiasm and knowledge. Put a guitar in his hands and he seems to instantly become about 16 years old, and yet if you ask him to explain a design principle or a spec choice, he’s incredibly eloquent. You’ll see a great example of the latter in his TED talk, embedded below (or here if you’d like to open it in another window). Continue reading
Regarded as a visionary and one of the driving forces behind the modern progressive rock/metal movement, Steven Wilson, the man who created Porcupine Tree, is an eclectic and prolific artist who is able to tap into the pure emotional heart of his music as well as the intellectual side without compromising either. Witnessing a Steven Wilson live performance is to be engulfed by mind-bending visuals and a bombastic aural surroundscape. His latest album, The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) is perfectly built for the live stage. Actually, scratch that: the album is so ambitious and enveloping that it requires a special stage setup in order to pull it off in a way that’s true to Wilson’s vision. So when Wilson tours Australia this month, he’s brought with him a quadraphonic PA system as well as multimedia visuals for a truly immersive experience. Accompanying Wilson is a collective of world class calibre musicians: Guthrie Govan on lead guitar, Adam Holzman on keys, Theo Travis on flute and sax, Nick Beggs on bass guitar and Chapman Stick, and Frank Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman – drums. I caught up with Wilson on the eve of the tour to talk surround-sound, the guitar, the creative process and the shifting musical landscape. Continue reading
Ain’t no way around it: US-PRS guitars are pricey. And with good reason: they’re made to very high standards and their quality control is legendary. Not to mention the playability, the tone, the looks… you know you’re getting your money’s worth when you buy a PRS. The SE line does a great job of putting affordable instruments in the hands of players, but there was still a bit of a gap there in terms of an affordable US-made PRS. Well no more! The S2 series offers three models (Custom 24, Starla and Mira) which are made alongside their pricier brethren in Maryland, USA but with a few concessions made to lowering the price, such as clever use of bevelling instead of the more labour-intensive top-carving process. Continue reading
The WiMN (Women’s International Music Network) are giving you the opportunity to bid on a rare piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia: a Paul Reed Smith Orianthi Signature guitar and autographed by the queen of shred herself. This beautiful scarlet red guitar was graciously donated by Paul Reed Smith and comes with a padded case. Orianthi’s autograph reads: “Peace, Love & Rock, Orianthi.” As seen in the photos below, Orianthi signed this guitar at the 2013 She Rocks Awards, where she was honored with the Inspire Award. Continue reading
Orianthi has just released the video for her single Heaven In This Hell, which you can view below. In the video Orianthi uses a PRS JA15, which I asked her about recently. “That’s a new guitar I’ve totally fallen in love with,” she said. “It’s amazing. The pickups, everything about it, it’s just incredible. I play Custom 24s and 22s and my own model a lot, and when I was out at their headquarters in LA I played a black one, then I had a video shoot coming up for Heaven In This Hell and it’s all in black and white, and I wanted something that was going to pop and look kind of ‘classic rock.’ So I reached out to PRS and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m looking at using a PRS that’s really different and I really dig the JA15 I was playing before…’ then after that I didn’t want to give it back. I love it! It just sounds so good. And I’m really fussy with guitars. They all have different personalities. Some you really take to, and when you hit a chord or play a melody it’s just right. And this guitar is so great, plugged in or not plugged in.”
Here’s the video:
Check this out! I know a lot of folks have been asking for a seven-string PRS SE. Well here ya go! It has 24 frets, 25″ scale length, maple neck with rosewood fretboard, bird inlays, mahogany body with a maple top (with flame maple veneer), SE HFS and Vintage pickups and through-body stringing. Available in Royal Blue and Vintage Sunburst.
Tommy Emmanuel is one of the world’s greatest guitar treasures. He’s on the road pretty much constantly in the US, Europe and Asia; Chet Atkins famously conferred upon him the title of CGP (Certified Guitar Player); and he’s generally regarded as the finest fingerpicker in the world. But his skills were developed from an early age as a child star playing all over Australia in the Emmanuel family band, and he proudly plays Melbourne-made Maton guitars. And Tommy never forgets where he came from, returning home regularly to thrill audiences with his acoustic and electric brilliance. Tommy toured Australia 18 months ago with his brother Phil, and that tour featured plenty of electric guitar playing and a full band. But he’s back right now to play a run of acoustic dates, with special guest Frank Vignola.
Tommy was something of an underground guitar hero in the 1980s but he came to the attention of the Australian music world at large with the release of his album Determination in 1992, and its 1993 follow-up The Journey. The associated tours took Tommy and his band all around the country, playing to regional audiences not often visited by instrumental guitar acts. “That’s right,” Tommy says. “Half the guys still don’t go to Perth because it’s so far to get over there and it’s hard for them to make the kind of money they’re looking for. But I always do Perth, no matter what. You’ve got to!”
Recently I realised my beloved Ibanez RG370 needed a fret job. It was my first good electric guitar – Father Christmas gave it to me brand new in 1993 – and it’s seen thousands of hours of service over the years. Finally a pretty substantial buzz developed around the 15th fret. After hearing lots of great things about his work I took it to Joseph Price at Soxy Music here in Melbourne, and the dude really seemed to know his stuff. We got to chatting and his story sounded pretty damn interesting, so a while later I came back with a camera in one hand and my voice recorder in the other. Here’s our little chat!
So how did you get started?
I started dabbling in tweaking guitars – I guess what people call setups – when I was 15. I got a Paul Reed Smith, which I still own. It came with .009s and I thought, “What would this sound like with .010s? Then I tried .011s and all these things. Then I started with my friends’ guitars. And when I was 17 I had that guitar refretted at the best guitar shop in London, who should have done a good job and were very capable, but basically they cut the fret slots too deep so it weakened the neck. I didn’t understand what was wrong but I knew that something was wrong, and I knew by their reacction and me being unhappy that they knew something was wrong as well. So I spat the dummy and went “Well I’m gonna buy some tools, and I’m gonna show you!” I started buying up cheap plywood Yamaha Strats, and I would rip the frets out and refret them. After about ten goes I started to learn what works and what doesn’t, and I moved to Glasgow in Scotland to study, where I worked part time for a violin repair guy. And he showed me, “this is a hand plane, this is a chisel,” and he taught me more useful information about wood, grain direction, run-out, all of these old-school things which helped me to start to build guitars. But it was mentally quite a big jump from repairing to building, and realising they’re quite separate disciplines.
Today I had the huge honour of spending about an hour with Paul Reed Smith himself for a huge interview which will be posted on I Heart Guitar soon. We talked about a lot of very interesting stuff – various PRS pickups, signature artists, the growth of the SE division, PRS’s wood stocks, and much more. One thing I wish we’d touched on but didn’t was this beauty: the PRS Guitars “Stripped” 58 model. Originally offered as a limited run for Experience PRS in 2011, this guitar is based on the popular SC 58, but with some changes which make it more affordable but no less desirable. It has a 24.5″ scale length, 22 frets on a rosewood fretboard, moon inlays (with bird option), mahogany neck and body, plus a curly maple top (with a 10-top option). The pickups are a set of 57/08 humbuckers (which sound amazing) and there’s an individual volume and tone control for each pickup. The guitar also has PRS’s two-piece bridge, which is machined rather than cast, for greater resonance. Just look at that thing. That tailpiece is so chunky that I think I can hear it making my computer monitor more resonant just by being displayed on it.
Paul Reed Smith has many gorgeous signature models for artists like Carlos Santana, Alter Bridge/Creed’s Mark Tremonti, David Grissom and Al DiMeola, as well as SE models for Orianthi, Dave Navarro, Bernie Marsden, Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt and many more. The PRS Guitars Signature Limited is a signature model too, but you won’t find a specific artist named on the headstock. Instead this model has the backing of multiple artists: Howard Leese (Heart/Bad Company), Davy Knowles (when I told Davy I was reviewing the Signature Limited, he offered a few words: “It’s the only guitar I’ve played for ages now. So proud to be a part of it!”), Michael Ault, legendary guitar historian Tom Wheeler and Paul Smith himself. The model was launched at the 2011 Winter NAMM show as a 100-piece run through the company’s Private Stock division, but in 2012 the model has been shifted over to the core production line for a still-limited but much-larger, 400-piece run.
It can be an intimidating thing to stand up on stage with one of the greats and be expected to match them lick for lick, night after night. But that’s what Nick Catanese does. As second guitarist in Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, Catanese has to keep up with Zakk’s killer riffs, hold down the fort when the Wylde one takes a solo, and even handle some pretty high-profile leads of his own when required. Catanese has a reputation as a hard-working, reliable player who gets the job done with efficiency, energy and stage presence. And although his role is mainly a live one, Catanese has put in the hard yards to earn a rather nice Paul Reed Smith SE signature model.
Catanese recently took the opportunity to redesign his SE model. The original version was a more modern-looking, aggressive black and red affair, while the new one has more of a classic look. “It’s basically the same weight, dimensions, frets, everything, but the red flame top, all the chrome, the Chrome EMG pickups… we’re trying to go with the ’57 Chevy look,” Catanese says. “But it has the same neck dimensions. I like thick necks. No fret markers. The thing that’s different with this one is, on my first one I thought I was being cool when I put red fret dots on it, which looked cool in the light, but when the lights went down I couldn’t see anything! I had no fret markers or dots, so I was pretty screwed!”
I recently had the chance to talk guitar backstage with Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti prior to the band’s sideshow with Steel Panther during the monstrous Soundwave festival. Alter Bridge are about to release a live DVD via Roadrunner which will hopefully keep fans sated for a while in between Tremonti’s solo album and the next Creed recording. Mark is, and I say this in the most respectful way possible, a guitar nerd just like you and me, so it’s always fun to talk shop with him. So, enjoy!
How have the Oz shows been going?
We came down here without knowing what the crowd response was going to be, and it’s just like we’ve been touring here our whole lives. It’s incredible.
It’s been great watching you guys grow and evolve as a band, and especially seeing how nuts they go for you in the UK.
Yeah! This is very reminiscent of the UK over here in Australia. It’s seeming to grow very quickly. This is the second time we’ve been here and it’s already been over the top.
Slash got up and played a song with you recently. What was that like?
Oh it was great. Slash has played with us a handful of times now, and every time the crowd just eats it up. We love it. We’re all fans and we’re just honoured to have him out there.
And you’re playing with Steel Panther on this tour.
Yeah. We’ve known them for a while. We did a few shows in the States, we’re under the same management and they had the idea of putting us together on these sidewave shows. And I’ve jammed with them before, but I probably won’t do that tonight because they’re two very different shows.