Meet My New Kiesel Vader

Kiesel Vader

Hey Meet my Kiesel Vader! She’s a V7 with Hipshot/Kiesel vibrato. One of the coolest things about Kiesel is that every guitar is essentially a custom instrument: there’s an almost overwhelming range of options from which to spec out your dream guitar. Funnily enough, there’s a pretty similar guitar to mine on the V7 gallery, but that’s pretty much coincidence: whoever ordered that guitar just happened to have similar tastes to me. There are some differences too though, and as Homer’s assistant Karl said on The Simpsons, “My reasons … are my own.” Let’s break down what I selected and why.

Karl

So. Every element of this guitar was selected for a particular reason related to synesthesia. I’ve written about this before, including this article for Guitar World. Essentially synesthesia is a condition where a sensory input will set off other sensory ‘resonances.’ For instance, the number ‘2’ is blue to me, and always has been. It tastes kind of creamy and is very smooth to the touch. My brain has just always thought of it this way, and ditto for the other numbers, letters, shapes. It can happen with anything: particular speaking voices remind me of certain times of day. Certain guitar tones can generate really specific and complex chains of association that might incorporate texture, perception of size, levels of luminance, and so on. I’ve never done mushrooms cos I probably don’t need to. My brain is psychedelic enough on its own. That’s why I dig sensory deprivation tanks.

But back to the guitar: each of my specifications were based on specific things I wanted this guitar to be for. Things I wanted to play on it, sounds I wanted it to make, feelings I wanted it to generate or represent.

* Colour. This particular Aqua Burst reminds me of a shade of blue I often see in my dreams. I have a recurring dream of a futuristic city rising out of the ocean on the horizon, and it’s always an exciting place to visit. I wanted this guitar to embody that same sense of freedom and joy I have in those dreams. That’s also why I selected a flame maple top: to give the feel of waves in the ocean.
* Fingerboard. I always feel musically influenced by the colour of a fretboard. I feel like I play more ‘sunny’ on maple, and more ‘dark’ on rosewood. I chose Zebrawood because its mix of light and dark colours will (hopefully) encourage my subconscious to blend those two approaches.
* Neck. This is a 5-piece Black Limba/White Limba neck-thru. I wanted something that had more of a natural, ‘this used to be a tree’ look, and the particular colour of Black Limba reminds me of tree bark. This is a pretty futuristic-looking guitar so I wanted to balance that with something a bit more earthy.
* Body. The body is Alder, and I chose a natural finish because, again, I just wanted to offset the futuristicness of the design. And the almost desert-like colour balances really nicely against the Aquaburst top. It kinda makes the guitar look like Scarif from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
* Satin finish. I didn’t want this one to be shiny: sometimes it feels like a glossy finish is a barrier between me and the guitar.
* Pickups. This guitar as shipped has Kiesel Lithium pickups, but I’ll be installing my Seymour Duncan Custom Shop model, the Magnetar, soon. The bridge Lithium has an Alnico V plus ceramic booster, and a DC Resistance of 13.16k, and the neck model is Alnico V with a reading of 7.78k. The Magnetar is a pickup that MJ created for me when I asked her for ‘A pickup that sounds like the look of sunshine through a glass of beer, the feel of freshly-sanded wood and the taste of creme brûlée. It has an Alnico 8 magnet and it sounds both woody and airy, with a nice kick in the upper mids. Not too hot, not too gentle. This guitar will also have the first neck version of the Magnetar, and I’m going for a Zebra look for the same reason as choosing a Zebrawood fingerboard.
* Logo. I went with a white logo with black shadow because it stands out nicely and I wanted to proudly display the Kiesel name. Also another Zebra/light-dark balance thing.
* Seven strings. You can get a Vader in 6, 7 or 8 strings in standard or baritone scale or multiscale. I selected 25.5″ 7-string because 7 feels right to me, and I tend to be most comfortable on 25.5″ 7-strings rather than longer scales because I like to think of the 7 as a 6-string with a few extra notes when I need them, rather than orienting the whole guitar design towards those lower few notes. And I went with standard instead of multiscale because my multiscale heart belongs to Ormsby Guitars. Heh.
* Tremolo. Because whammy bars is fun.

So what does one name an instrument like this, designed to evoke both natural beauty and a certain space-age aesthetic, and to hopefully serve as a catalyst for better things?

Scarif.

Kiesel Vader

How A Guitar Pedal Helped Bring BB-8 To Life

bb-8

If you’re a Star Wars fan like me you probably fell instantly in love with BB-8, that adorable spheroid critter. I love how much emotion is conveyed in his movements and voice. And it turns out a very simple guitar effect was used as part of the sound design process to imbue his vocalisations with a touch of humanity: the humble talk box. Jammed into the face of none other than SNL alumni Bill Hader. The info is contained in this great interview by Amy Ratcliffe for The Nerdist featuring supervising sound editor Matthew Woodand supervising sound editor/sound designer David Acord. Read More …

Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Announced

Okay, this is of course not a movie site but it’s my site and I can write the hell about whatever the hell gets me excited, right? So the official Star Wars Facebook just posted this:
The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher

Mastodon’s Crack The Skye is a hard album to top. Heavy, progressive, psychedelic, multilayered, complex – any concept album that knits together such disparate elements as Rasputin and astral travel has gotta be followed up by something pretty big. Just like Crack The Skye, The Hunter finds Mastodon doing what they do best – combining lyrical and musical creativity – yet the approach is different, the songs are shorter, the themes less interwoven and the results more eclectic. The Hunter is a crucial album for the band. After the strength and influence of Crack The Skye, The Hunter has to prove it wasn’t a fluke – it just has to. Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds are one of the most interesting and creative duos in modern metal, and I spoke with Kelliher a week before the album’s release. But first we have even more important matters to discuss, about a shared interest… 

(Oh, and, uh, language alert.)

Before we get into talking abut the album, there’s something I wanted to ask you because we both have this in common: what do you think about the new Star Wars Blu-ray and all the changes they’ve made?

Y’know, I’m a fuckin’ Star Wars fanatic. I’ve got all the tattoos, all the toys… It’s like Beyond Thunderdome with the fuckin’ toy collection. I didn’t really know what was going on with the Blu-rays until I paid attention. I don’t really watch too much TV. And I turned the TV on and saw a commercial for it. My buddy had just told me about the spoiler – Darth Vader saying ‘Noooooo!’ as he’s throwing the emperor off the fuckin’ thing, and he was like ‘Fuck all that, it’s a bunch of bullshit. Can’t they just leave it alone? But I’m gonna buy it anyway.’ And after I saw the fuckin’ commercials, the advertising for it on television, I was like, ‘Man, it looks so awesome!’ I’m not gonna lie, I was completely sucked in by George Lucas once again. Just the little scenes that they showed on television, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to watch the whole thing.’ I’ve already seen the movies like fifty trillion times. I’ve got them on every format – Beta, VHS, LaserDisk – you name it. I’ve got every version. And it’s a shame that they had to fuck with the originals. They should have a Blu-ray of just the original movies separately if you want to watch those. Don’t fuck with it, man. Don’t put fuckin’ Hayden Christensen in where Darth Vader’s ghost was at the end of Jedi! What the fuck is that? Everybody aged except for him? What the fuck does that mean? Why? That’s just a sell-out. It makes me mad! I can go off on that shit. I was like, ‘What is that, a Walmart fuckin’ special?’ Maybe they should have done a young Yoda. Maybe Phyllis Diller or somebody could have done that. I don’t know. It’s ridiculous!

But the thing is, when people always ask me, ‘What do you think of the new movies,’ well, they’re fuckin’ horrible, but then again I’m not an 8-year-old boy any more. And when I was an 8-year-old boy – my kids are young, my son’s name is Harrison, for god’s sake – my other son’s name is Cohen, so I’m a little nerdy with the sci fi stuff. But the thing about Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, they’re still cool to me when I’m 40 years old. The new movies to me, they’re horrible. The fuckin’ fart scenes, where one of the creates farts, the whole Jar Jar thing, it’s fuckin’ retarded. But my kids, they think it’s awesome. They’re like, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing ever.’ And when they watch Star Wars they think it’s kind of boring. They know the characters and they’re interested, but movies have changed so much since when we were kids. I tried to watch that movie Transformers when it came out a couple of years ago, on a small television on our tour bus, and I could not even watch it, because a) there’s way too much shit going on, because kids these days need to see like 50 bazillion laser beams and explosions happening on a TV screen at once rather than an actual story, and, like, feelings and script going on. It’s just all about the action and something happening on the screen. And I couldn’t watch it. I was like, ‘I’ve got to turn this off. This is shit.’ Everything’s in focus, everything’s CGI, it doesn’t look real, I just can’t stand it. So who am I to say anything about movies these days? Let them release it. I don’t have a Blu-ray player but I’ll probably buy one just so I can watch the movies again and boo at the parts they redid.

Read More …

NEWS: GalacticBinder’s list of Star Wars/guitar crossovers

Just received an email about this cool article on GalacticBinder.com about Star Wars/guitar crossovers. As something of a Star Wars geek myself (at least, I was before I got a girlfriend, became a dad, began writing for a bunch of guitar magazines and writing a blog), I’m far too amused by this sort of stuff.

CLICK HERE to see Star Wars stuff on eBay
Or CLICK HERE to go straight to the action figures. You know you want to.

NEWS: Gibson Dark Fire on sale December 15

The good news is that Gibson has set a December 15 on-sale date for the Dark Fire, the latest incarnation of the Robot Guitar. The bad news is that they will be produced in a limited run of 2,000 and will only be sold at 400 stores worldwide, with each store getting 5 guitars. I guess that’s still slightly better odds than, say, the 1,987 Ibanez RG550MXX guitars produced a few years ago (I have one in Roadflare Red, woo!!!) but it’s still not a lot. So as of today you have 12 days to be very, very good so Santa will call in a few favours for you on the 15th. Failing that, get a blanket and thermos and be prepared to camp outside your local guitar store overnight like a Star Wars fan on opening weekend.

Here’s the press release:

Gibson Guitar announced today the limited availability of the Gibson Dark Fire guitar. Embracing the spirit of innovation and technical advancement that inspired the original Gibson Digital guitar in 2006 and Robot guitar in 2007, Gibson’s Dark Fire guitar is poised to change the music industry overnight.

The world’s most technically advanced guitar will rock the music industry to its core and will soon become the most sought after musical instrument of its time.

An Exceptional Look

Gibson’s flowerpot inlay graces the headstock of the Dark Fire as seen on other classic Gibson models such as the Byrdland and the 1911 F4 Mandolin. In addition to traditional touches, Gibson developed an entirely new look that required many changes in the manufacturing process.

The Dark Fire has a nitrocellulose finish created especially for this exclusive 1st run. The mahogany back and neck of the Dark Fire are given a satin finish, while the headstock face is sprayed with a gloss finish. The Dark Fire’s chambered mahogany body helps deliver an optimum combination of tone, balance and weight.” The result is a comfortable, lightweight guitar that is acoustically louder, with increased sustain and resonance.

Outstanding Playability

Taking much of its inspiration from the 2008 Les Paul, this instrument features a super fast and comfortable ergonomic neck shape with asymmetrical carving and with Perfect SetupTM. This is made possible by a computerized PLEK system, a computer controlled device scans and dresses a guitar under actual playing conditions, strung and tuned to pitch.

The tune-o-matic piezo bridge has been redesigned. It is much sleeker and the bridge now locks to the studs with new technology and works better. The nut is made of a new high tech material which includes Teflon (allowing for the tuning action to be smoother and faster [without breaking strings] and has a higher density than bone.

The bridge lock and the new frictionless faux bone nut insure maximum tone and sustain. The locking tuners insure that tuning and string tension are maintained during lots of hard playing.

The instrument will feel like butter in your hand even after 4 or 5 hours into a gig.

Tone Monster With Chameleon Tone Technology

The Gibson Dark Fire combines two of the most popular pickups, the P90h in the neck position and a Burstbucker 3 in the bridge position. Both are capped with new carbon fiber-like pickup covers, designed to match the Dark Fire’s finish. There are 6 low noise relay switches giving you more than 20 separate combination of pickup coils leading to an incredible variety of tonal possibilities.

The resulting pickup combinations are directed through optimized traditional volume and tone controls and then through a studio grade 4 band parametric equalizer/preamplifier. This awesome Chameleon Tone Technology is a pure analog signal path preserving the authenticity of instruments tone while giving unimagined tonal possibilities.

Add A Little Acousticness Please

The Gibson Dark Fire gives you the ability to adjust and blend the acoustic sound from the piezo bridge pickup with the sound from the guitar’s traditional pickups using a revolutionary rotary potentiometer which is part of the pickup toggle selector. Twisting the toggle head blends the piezo acoustic sound from 0% acoustic sound [100% traditional pickups] to 100% acoustic sound [no traditional pickups].

The piezo bridge pickup consists of six individual piezo pickups, one for each saddle/string, which can be brought out as individual audio channels.

TV On Control Knob

The key to controlling the new functions of the Dark Fire is the Master Control Knob (MCK), which incorporates a sophisticated, full color matrix display (mini TV screen). The Dark Fire’s new MCK also controls the ability to change pickups, coils, EQ settings and tunings allowing the ability to adjust all quickly and simultaneously even several times during the same song.

There are 8 tone guitar settings that cover the most popular guitar, and 18 different guitar tunings. In addition, there are 24 user defined guitar setting. All can be accessed with a quick use of the MCK.

Robot Gets Steriods

The redesigned power head tuners on the Dark Fire are radically faster and significantly smaller, compared to the original Robot Guitar tuners. You can access any preset tuning in less than one second, so you can change tunings in the middle of a song.

The powerhead tuners are lighter than traditional tuners. The tuners can be used either by hand or automatically without the need to engage them. The battery uses new technology that results in exceptionally long life and light weight.

Computer Hardware And Software Included

The Robot II comes with a small box about the size of a pack of playing cards that acts as a high quality studio preamp and a full interface to a computer using a firewire port. We call it a Robot Interface Pack [or RIP for short]. RIP can be used live, in real time.

With a headphone out, you can carry RIP in you guitar case and set up your playing environment anywhere with or without your computer. The RIP’s front panel carries a single 1/4-inch stereo input for the Dark Fire, a 1/8-inch headphone out with level control and a pilot light, which changes from dim blue to bright blue when the Dark Fire input is detected.

The rear panel carries two balanced 1/4-inch line outs, a FireWire connector to link to your amplifier or sound system and a hex connector that carries the analog outputs of each string, which can drive Roland or Axon guitar-to-MIDI converters.

To make full use of your laptop or computer, Dark Fire comes with two of the most powerful and popular software packages being sold today; Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 3 (recognized as the industry’s most flexible amp and effects simulation software), and Ableton Live 7 Gibson Studio Edition (a multipurpose recording environment for everything from songwriting, to demos, to full-blown productions).

Both companies have collaborated with Gibson to ensure you can install all the software wand be using it in minutes (on any contemporary Microsoft or Apple operating system) and be harnessing the enormous music-making power of these studio tools. By working with the software developers, Gibson has fined tuned the software specifically for Dark Fire and included simple and powerful templates.

The combination of Dark Fire’s on board Chameleon Tone Technology and the software tools, dozens of effects and emulations puts a truckload of sound and thousands of dollars of capability in the hands of the player simply and easily.

Dark Fire Gets An Internet Community Site

Gibson is setting up a Dark Fire community site to allow the lucky owners of this exceptional guitar to share tips, get new information, and discuss how to best use this state of the art instrument.

One amazing capability that comes with the guitar is software that allows you to use your computer to change user presets and store them. Users can then publish their personal favorite preset designs.

More Dark Fire Gear Being Designed

Gibson Guitar is already developing a range of audio equipment designed specifically to work with the new Dark Fire, some of which is already scheduled for release in early 2009, including a small transmitter module designed to work with Bluetooth wireless technology, allowing you the ability to connect wirelessly to your computer or laptop.

Limited Quantity 400 Stores World-Wide

The world’s 1st run limited edition Gibson Dark Fire guitar will go on sale on December 15, 2008 at 400 dealers throughout the world. Each store will be limited to carrying only 5 of the sought after guitars and no guitar can be sold before 5pm on Monday, December 15, 2008. Once the guitars are sold out they will not be reproduced.

This highly collectible guitar will be available in the Dark Fire finish only. To find the list of exclusive Gibson Dark Fire guitar dealers go to www.gibson.com/darkfire.

For more information, visit their web site at www.gibson.com.