I never had time for David Bowie.
That changed when I was 16 though. I read an article in the newspaper, an interview with Bowie about his then-new album , 1.Outside. It was a concept album, planned to be the first of a series, one to be released each year until 2000 or something like that. (It didn’t quite end up happening like that. 1.Outside was the only disc released from the project). In the interview Bowie talked about his creative process and his assumption of different characters and stuff like that, and as a teenager struggling with his sense of identity and coming to terms with what it meant to be a creative person, I was intrigued. Accompanying the article was a competition: you could win the album by phoning up and answering a trivia question or something. I did, and I won. So my first Bowie album was possibly his most impenetrable, his darkest, his moodiest. The one with a graphic depiction of a disembowled cadaver in the booklet. Continue reading
You might recognise Railhammer Pickups from the Reverend Reeves Gabrels II model guitar. And chances are good that you’ve heard of Railhammer/Reverend founder Joe Naylor before. Railhammer has just released a new humbucker model called the Chisel and from the following press release it sounds like a monster!
RAILHAMMER PICKUPS LAUNCHES CHISEL – BRIDGE MODEL
Features include Ceramic magnet and 44 gauge wire.
The Chisel – Bridge model pickup is aimed at hard rock and metal players. Using a high output Ceramic magnet and 44 gauge wire, the tone is aggressive and thick, but with enhanced clarity. The rail/pole structure allows players to dial in a tight percussive tone on the wound strings without the plain strings sounding thin or sterile. Riffs are loud and clear, even under heavy distortion.
The legendary Reeves Gabrels is one of the most unique, creative and altogether interesting guitarists on the planet. Check out his work with Bowie (solo and with Tin Machine), his solo albums and his latest project, Sonic Mining Company (which you can buy from Bandcamp by clicking on this link). Sonic Mining Company is a collaboration with Frank Swart (Norah Jones, Patty Griffin, Morphine), and naughty drummer Adam Abrashoff (Funkwrench, SIMO) and it’s brilliant.
And now Reeves is playing with The Cure, performing at festivals throughout the northern Summer. Cool huh?
Reeves and Reverend Guitars also just unveiled the Reeves Gabrels II, a new version of his signature guitar featuring the Railhammer Chisel bridge and neck pickups, solid Korina body with flame maple top, tone control with stealth push-pull phase switch, Wilkinson trem with back rout, and a rotatable pickup selector toggle switch which can be easily angled to suit the individual player.
Here’s a video of Reeves playing with The Cure at the Pinkpop festival.
A press release just landed in my inbox from J21, a musician of impeccable taste in collaborators. Just look who he’s surrounded himself with on his album Beyond The Holographic Veil: Don Preston, Scott Thunes, Ed Mann and Robert Martin from Frank Zappa’s ensembles, Mike Garson and Reeves Gabrels of David Bowie’s band, Marco Minnemann, Geoff Tyson… and the music itself is very cool – proggy stuff that I just know my mate Steve Turner would dig. Order the album here.
J21: ‘BEYOND THE HOLOGRAPHIC VEIL’
“UNLIKE NORMAL PHOTOGRAPHS, EVERY PORTION OF A PIECE OF HOLOGRAPHIC FILM CONTAINS ALL OF THE INFORMATION OF THE WHOLE. IF A HOLOGRAPHIC PLATE IS BROKEN INTO FRAGMENTS, EACH PIECE CAN STILL BE USED TO RE-CONSTRUCT THE ENTIRE IMAGE. JUST LIKE IN A HOLOGRAM, WE CAN SEARCH FOR THE ANSWERS OF THE QUESTIONS THAT THE WHOLE UNIVERSE PRESENTS US IN EACH ONE OF OUR ATOMS. WE ARE THE CENTRE AND THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE AT THE SAME TIME”
Floating World Records are inordinately proud to present Beyond The Holographic Veil, a dazzling and diverse new album from the fertile imagination of Spanish-born guitarist J21. A thoughtful and inventive, beautifully-packaged set that also features guest performances by the likes of ex original Mother of Invention, keyboard ace Don Preston, David Bowie alumni Mike Garson (the guy who provided the incredible, atonal and innovative piano solo on Aladdin Sane) and guitarist Reeves Gabrels, as well as the likes of Scott Thunes (formerly of Frank Zappa’s 1980s bands, as well as lining up with Wayne Kramer of The MC5), Beyond The Holographic Veil is an incredibly absorbing listen that creates a kind of alternate universe of the imagination.
When I was 16 probably my greatest guitar hero was… actually it was Steve Vai. But my second-greatest was the unfathomably incredible Reeves Gabrels. I fell in love with Reeves’ playing on David Bowie’s 1.Outside album – check out his amazing Fripp-on-shrooms solo in ‘A Small Plot of Land.’ I was also blown away by his playing on Tin Machine II, especially the snaky melodies of ‘Shopping For Girls.’
Reeves has used many different guitars throughout his career, including Steinberger and Parker models, but now he’s working with Reverend. Here’s the press release about this new sig. I’ll make sure to check it out in person at NAMM in a couple of days
Reeves Gabrels to Unveil new Reverend Signature Guitar at NAMM
January 11, 2010
David Bowie/Tin Machine/solo guitar legend Reeves Gabrels will be appearing at the Reverend booth to unveil his new signature electric guitar. Gabrels will also be performing in the Allstar Guitar Night Concert on Saturday night. Visit the Reverend booth for concert details.
The new guitar fulfills Reeve’s desire for a guitar that can cover everything from high-gain shred to avant garde rock to heavy blues. The uncovered Reverend bridge humbucker and Dimarzio Fast Track 1 neck pickup deliver clarity with power, and the push-pull phase switch adds unique tone options. Other key features include a solid korina body, flame maple top, 25.5″ bolt-on maple neck, Pin-Lock tuners, and Bass Contour control. Available in Trans Red, or Trans Black. List: $1199, Street $999.
Visit the Reverend booth (#1372) for appearance schedule.
LINK: Reverend Guitars
Head on over to the Music Player forums to see Reeves Gabrels’ new tour diary for Guitar Player! The first update is on now, and Reeves will write a diary entry each day of the 10-day, 10-city tour.
Here’s a snippet:
15 July 2009 — Greetings. This is the first report from ten shows in ten cities in ten days by Reeves Gabrels and his Imaginary Friends. This summer mini-tour is my first time on the road since recovering from lyme disease, and it’s a different world. GUITAR PLAYER Editor Michael Molenda thought it would be interesting to share what it’s like to tour in the present economic climate and music industry maelstrom. A saner group of people quite possibly wouldn’t bother, but my imaginary friends and I just like playing live too much to do the sensible thing.
And I also found this to be particularly interesting:
I’m playing through a Koch 50-watt combo with one 12-inch speaker and a Mesa/Boogie Rectifier cabinet with two 12-inch speakers. As a spare — in case I should run into any unexpected amplifier problems — I have my trusty Crate Powerblock. I brought three guitars: a soon-to-be-announced Reverend signature model, a Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster, and my Fernandes with a sustainer and a 1967 Telecaster neck. I don’t usually bring three guitars, but I’m treating myself.
Reverend signature model? Wha? Whoa!
CLICK HERE to read more and make sure you check back daily.
One of the coolest techniques for expanding your guitar style is to copy other instruments – this is why you’ll sometimes find articles on I Heart Guitar about keyboard players, f’rinstance – but there’s probably no more expressive instrument than the human voice. When I was in high school one of my favourite things in the world was to chuck my bag in the corner, crank up my amp and play along with the vocal melody to David Bowie’s ‘A Small Plot Of Land’ from his ‘1.Outside’ album. It’s a pretty obscure track and you’ll probably have to dig pretty deep into iTunes to find it, but it’s well worth it, not only for Bowie’s killer phrasing and some very atmospheric Brian Eno production, but also for Reeves Gabrels’s really out-there guitar playing.
However I think the reason I became so entranced with this particular song as a guitar exercise was because the vocal melody included a lot of sustained notes, as well as a few small phrases with quieter dynamics than the rest, and a few notes that sort of drifted over the bar lines and behind the beat. It taught me a lot about leaving space in a melody, and about applying progressively wide vibrato over the course of a note, instead of the same level of vibrato over the whole thing.
So with this in mind, here’s a countdown of five other songs that I’ve found are good for copying vocal phrasing:
5. Black Sabbath – Changes.
Ozzy’s phrasing is relatively straightforward and is a good starting point for this technique. He tends to stick quite faithfully to the pulse of the song rather than messing about with the rhythm too much, and a lot of his melodies seem to be based on pentatonic scales. In Changes, there’s a lot of space between each phrase, and there are a few notes that he slides, which you can choose to mimic either by sliding from fret to fret or by bending.
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4. Led Zeppelin – We’re Gonna Groove.
This is a good one for trying to get underneath some very staccato rhythms. Plant tends to hold the same note for a steady stream of words at a few points in this song, and it’s a challenge to use different pick attack, vibrato and slide techniques on guitar to make up for the fact that you’re playing the same note over and over again. A vocalist can get away with this a lot easier because they can change the word, but a guitarist has to be a little more resourceful.
3. Alanis Morrissette – You Oughta Know.
I know, I know, this might seem like an odd choice, but y’know that thing Alanis used to do (she seemed to grow out of it after a few years) where she would finish a line and her voice would kind of jump to a high (and sometimes out of key) note? This can translate quite well to guitar, especially if you use it to go to a note that’s actually in the key of the song. You can use various techniques to hit these extra notes: harmonics, tapping, or, under the right circumstances, feedback. Find a spot near your amp where you get the same feedback note whenever you take your hands off the guitar, and soon you’ll be able to conjure that note at will.
2. Living Colour – Ignorance Is Bliss.
While the melody itself isn’t particularly crazy, this one is a little more out-there in terms of phrasing, with Corey Glover often holding a note until the last possible beat before dropping down to another note for the next syllable. There are also some very tricky vocal slides which translate really well to bends. You’ll also have to tackle the same “What the hell do I do when the vocalist sings different words using the same note?” issue as ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ in the ‘Ignorance is no excuse’ section.
1. Devin Townsend Band – Storm.
Devin’s metal screams and growls are some of the best in the biz, but his melodic singing is particularly amazing. This song features some great phrasing where he finishes each line with a note which slides down while he also applies vibrato. This technique is very tricky but for those with whammy bar-equipped guitars there are two ways to accomplish it: either apply the vibrato with your fretting hand and drop the pitch with the whammy bar, or slide the note down the neck with your fretting hand while using the bar to achieve the vibrato. Devin ends the song with an octave-higher, slightly on the edge restatement of the verse melody, and it’s here that the sheer range and emotion of his voice is in full flight. Check out the bit from 3:40 to 3:50. It’s extremely difficult to copy on guitar, as he slides from one note to another, and then to another, all on the same word, but such full-on pitch manipulation is very rewarding when you get it right, and these skills can then be applied to your own material.
Whether you’re playing a Battle of the Bands with your dad as your roadie, or playing the Big Day Out with a pro tech at your side, there are certain similarities to the kind of gear you need. The key to playing on any multi-band bill is foresight. What songs are you going to play? What tunings are they in? What effects do you need? What’s going to happen while you’re changing guitars? What happens if you bust a string?
In the late 90s David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels used a Parker Fly guitar direct into a Roland VG-8 modelling system via a MIDI pickup. This allowed him to model everything from amps and pedals to guitars and pickup selections all at the touch of a button. It also meant he didn’t have to take speaker cabinets on tour at all, cutting down on haulage costs. The VG-8 even allowed him to change tunings within the unit with the tap of a foot, and it could be plugged directly into the front of house desk for a perfect reading of the programmed sounds. One final bonus of this system was that he could just copy his sounds and plug them into another VG-8 anywhere in the world if his broke down.