REVIEW: IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3

I’ve reviewed quite a few of IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube family of products on I Heart Guitar – AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix, AmpliTube 2 and AmpliTube Fender. On top of that I use IK’s T-Racks mastering plugin quite extensively. So I was stoked when the opportunity cropped up to review the latest incarnation of AmpliTube.

A lot of what makes AmpliTube so great is still here: The ability to mix and match power amps, preamps, tone stacks and speaker cabinets; the wide range of stomp and rack effects; the killer high gain sounds and highly detailed clean and edge-of-breakup tones. But as with each new incarnation since AmpliTube 1, you get more of everything: 51 individual stompboxes and effects; 31 amps, 46 speaker cabinets; 15 mics and 17 post-amp rack effects. According to the manual there are pedals based on the EHX Big Muff Pi, Boss’s DS-1, Super Feedbacker & Distortion; Metal Zone; Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer; Marshall Guv’Nor; ProCo Rat; Ibanez WH-10 wah; Roger Mayer Classic Fuzz; Mosrite Fuzzrite; DigiTech Whammy and many many more. New amps include models based on Vox AC30 Copper Panel; Orange OR-120; Peavey 5150; Randall Warhead; Marshall JMP100; Acoustic 360 bass preamp; Gallien-Krueger MB150; Trace Elliot AH250; Supro late 50s combo; Mesa/Boogie MKIII and more.

Read More …

INTERVIEW: Lemmy from Motorhead

There are few things you can really rely on in life. In fact, there are really only three: Your dog will always love you; there will always be Simpsons repeats on TV; and Motorhead will always be Motorhead. Their sound hasn’t changed too much over the years, but just as that claim can be made about AC/DC and Status Quo, Motorhead have created so singular a sound that they could put out the exact same album time after time and get away with it, because it works, dammit. Their new album, The World Is Yours, isn’t a million miles removed from the rest of the band’s catalog, but there’s a ferocity to the performances and a wry smirk to the lyrics that demands repeated listens.

 

A few weeks before the albums’ release, I fielded a 5am phone call from Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead’s main man, driving force and only consistent member. We’ll pick up the conversation after the sleep-deprived pleasantries. I don’t want you to read about me yawning in Lemmy’s ear.

 

I like the line in Get Back In Line, ‘Good things come to he who waits, but these days those things suck.’

Yeah, right! It’s true though, isn’t it, you know? Compared to a few years back.

It seems to tie in to the title of the album, The World Is Yours. One the one hand it could be an optimistic statement: ‘The world is yours, go out and take it!’ or it could be entirely pessimistic: ‘The world is yours – and look what you’ve inherited.’

Yeah right! Be careful what you wish for, right? There doesn’t seem to be an overall theme to the album except anger, you know? We easily do them sort of songs. Angry is good for ya. Gets the old synapses crackling, y’know?

Are you playing any of the songs live at the moment?

Yeah, we’re doing Get Back In Line, and we’re doing I Know How To Die, which is a cheerful little song.

Well on the other hand you have Rock & Roll Music – I guess you always have to have a real rocker on there.

Yeah, if you like, the Chuck Berry one. I always manage to sneak one past them like that.

I like that it has that archetypal rock and roll lick.

We do a lot of songs in that format. I really like the old stuff because I’m really old!

I do too! I’m 32 and my dad turned me onto all that stuff when I was little.

Right! So you understand!

Yeah, it’s a great place to start out when learning guitar, before students move on to other stuff.

I don’t know that moving on is a good idea, in a lot of cases, but they have to move on to find out which ones you like to do yourself. You have to be offered all of them before you choose anything, right?

Another album track that really jumps out isBrotherhood of Man. I know you don’t like to be classified as metal, and most of the time you aren’t, but man, that’s a metal song right there!

Yeah, I couldn’t think of any other vocal to do with that riff. It’s very metallish, I suppose, isn’t it, yes. All the same, we did it I asked for forgiveness for it because it was the only way I could think to do it. Or get Ozzy Osbourne to do it.

I saw a really cool bluesy acoustic version of Ace Of Spades that you guys did recently for an ad. Do you play a lot of blues?

We did that for Kronenbourg, Yeah. Well we did Roadhouse Blues on Inferno, and I’ve always liked blues myself, and Phil knows how to do it. It’s nice to bring out the old harmonica every now and then. Why not, y’know?

Was it hard to rearrange it?

Nah, it was easy, that one. I was happy to try different arrangements, but I lost!

Your signature Marshall amp is very cool.

The old Marshall stack. It’s most gratifying, y’know? It proves I was doing something right, I think? They just took one of my old amps, which has been on the road with me for years, and fucked around with it. They didn’t remember making it! They said ‘We have no prints for this. We don’t know what this is! Have you modified it?’ and I said ‘No, I’ve just fitted a new output transformer a couple of times, that was it.’ They were like ‘Oh wow.’ The Lemmy stack is a bit more toppy than the ones I’ve got. They made it a bit too much like a Super Lead amp because that was the only one they had a plan for! Hahaha.

I guess you would have seen some very early Marshalls when you were a roadie for Hendrix?

Yeah, I did that for about six, seven months. He used to use a stack of Marshalls and a stack of… what was it… there was a shop in London used to make their own stacks, and he used to have one of those and a Marshall stack… Music City, yeah. They were both really good. He used to link them together, the output of one into the input of the other, so you’ve got what’s known as a slave amp. It was amazing working with him. Imagine, y’know? Fucking Jimi Hendrix, y’know? Jimi Hendrix!

You’re pretty well known for using Rickenbacker basses. Have you changed what you use much over the years or is it still the same basic bass?

Well they made the Lemmy model of that, right, the carved one, and I’ve been using that for years. I’ve got a couple of other Rickenbackers as well. I mean, I just like the shape, y’know? And the old ones, you used to have to replace the pickups, because the old pickups were shit, but now they’re making the new pickups really good.

What are they like to play? Do you like your basses to play easy or to fight you back?

It’s never easy! I sanded the neck down on them to make it a little easier to run up and down the neck, but other than that it’s just from the shop.

Your bass style is really distinctive. Where does it come from?

It comes from being a guitar player before I was a bass player, really. I like to do a lot of chords and a lot of fill-ins instead of just ‘bom-de-bom-de-bom,’ because that’s fucking boring to me. I always wanted to be able to show off like the guitar players do. I think I managed that alright!

This is an alternate edit of an article I wrote for Mixdown Magazine.

Click here to buy the documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch from Amazon.com

 

INTERVIEW: Bumblefoot


Ron Thal – also known as Bumblefoot – is perhaps best known these days as one of the guitarists in Guns ‘N’ Roses, but long before he was sharing the stage with Axl Rose on a nightly basis, he was an experimental guitarist cranking out such stunning displays of virtuosity as his 1995 debut, The Adventures of Bumblefoot. Long out of print, this instrumental gem comes off as a conglomeration of Zappa, Loony Toons, Spy Vs Spy and a medical dictionary. The album was recently re-released along with bonus tracks (and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to MS research), and a TAB book of every guitar part on the album, prepared by Bumblefoot himself is also out now. I caught up with Bumblefoot to discuss the reissue and what it was like to be an instrumental guitarist recording at home in the 90s.

Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and jump back to back in the day when you recorded The Adventures Of Bumblefoot.

Let’s see, this was the early 90s – god, can I remember that far back? I was teaching music at a school, every grade from pre-school up to 18 years old, and they didn’t have a music department, so I set up an entire music department for them doing music for children and doing music history, I set up a jazz band, a choir, everything for the whole school. The school ran out of funds and it reached a point where I was just looking at life and I thought, ‘There’s no such thing as job security. You just have to follow what you love.’ And I did love doing that, but I would do that during the day then I would put braids in my hair and jump in the car and go and do some gig out in New York City at night, then get home at 4 in the morning and an hour later get up and teach again. It was at a point where I really needed to make a choice whether I wanted to have the more normal, safe life, or did I want to really be a full-time musician and jump in and learn how to swim. And I took the leap and six months later I had the record deal with Shrapnel Records. Originally we had spoken about him signing my band and doing vocal music, but to start off he wanted me to do an instrumental album to keep in line with everything that Shrapnel does. So I had a few songs already existing, just a small handful of them, and one of them was the song Bumblefoot. And I figured it could spark a nice little theme for the the album. And from there I started writing other songs that were also named after animal diseases and in the same vibe, with this bumbling spy kind of vibe to it – something between Pink Panther and Get Smart, and very quirky and comical, and just me, because I was a pretty quirky and comical human being. The album pretty much flowed out naturally and easily and quickly. By then it was the end of 1994, and it was out by May of the following year.

How was it recorded? Beavering away in a home studio?

Yes, it was more home than studio! At the time I was still living at home with my parents, and I had a little spot in the basement where originally I had a 15IPS reel-to-reel 1/4″ eight track and a tiny little eight channel mixing board, and I did everything from that. When I got the record deal with Shrapnel I invested in two ADATs, a 24-channel Mackie board, two Alesis 3630 compressors … did I even get more mics? I think I just used what I had, which was a couple of Shure 57s and a Sennheiser 421. I had everything stacked against the wall of my parents’ basement, and that was it! I can still picture it. I didn’t even have studio speakers or anything like that. It was too noisy – it would have interfered with everyone trying to sleep at 3am – so everything I did was through a pair of old headphones. After that was just a Marshall half stack with a blanket over it and a little SM57 under the blanket. Every now and then you’d peek under the blanket to make sure the weight of it didn’t move the mic to some funky angle or anything like that. I had a little footswitch that was very simple, just Record/Play. That’s all it did. It had a slight delay to it, so I would always have to hit it a little bit earlier to have it kick in where I wanted it to. It was never on beat, and you’d just have to smack your foot down at this awkward spot and it would manage to kick in at the right time right on the right beat when you needed it to.

I believe you used some pretty freaky guitars back then.

Yeah, I used to make my own stuff, just my own little monstrosities. Usually I would just take some guitar and modify it until it was a freak. I’ve still got them all. Don’t use them all any more. Since then I’ve graduated to playing guitars that professionals have built, and it’s certainly a lot better trying to find your way around a guitar that’s built by people that know what they’re doing, as opposed to me who just closes his eyes and starts drilling holes.

Do you ever get people bringing you replicas of the ‘swiss cheese guitar’ and stuff like that?

Yeah, that used to happen a lot! I used to have a page on my site where people would send me photos of their own versions of the swiss cheese guitar that they’d made.

What was the deal with the one that had the bass neck bolted on it?

(Laughs) Looking back I probably shouldn’t have done those things to the guitars I did it to. That one was, I think, a reissue of a 50s Stratocaster. It was a really nice Stratocaster, but the thing would not stay in tune. It was real squealy. The neck was constantly bending all over the place, and to me the value of a guitar comes from how it is in your, hands, not the name or the date. So I took the thing and I just chopped it up, and on the bottom horn I took a bass neck, I cut it in half at around the 7th fret, pulled all the frets off and refretted it to have the spacing that would fit a guitar that was starting at the 12th fret. I set it into the bottom horn of that Stratocaster and had a little Badass bridge that I spaced at the right spot, put a DiMarzio Super Distortion in there, and had this little mini guitar sticking out of the bottom horn. Everyone once in a while I would flick a toggle switch down to it and hit these notes that would just squeal and scream so hard. It was just brutal. Just that tone that would go right through you. I was playing at this place in Brooklyn, and at the end I was using that guitar, and I switched to that neck and was holding this one note, and the whole audience was holding their ears in pain. I was just like, ‘Yeah.’ I was loving torturing everybody. It was cool.

LINK: Bumblefoot.com

REVIEW: AVID Mbox Mini & Mbox

Pro Tools is, of course, the industry standard recording platform, and for good reason. It’s extremely flexible and it facilitates the creative process by being only as complicated as you want it to be. The new Mbox line-up is the first to be released under the name of AVID, the company which recently acquired Digidesign, and this is the third complete overhaul of the Mbox range. As you might expect, the new-look Mbox line-up features several key hardware differences over the previous version, as well as a cosmetic makeover that brings the look more up-to-date. There are three units in the series (Mbox Mini, Mbox and Mbox Pro), all designed by the same engineering team behind the top-of-the-line ProToolsHD systems. I checked out the first two, and compared them to my trusty Mbox 2 Pro, which I’ve had for about four years now.

Both the Mbox Mini and the Mbox interfaces feature premium analog signal paths and high-performance analog-to-digital converters. The mic preamps are of a higher quality standard than the previous incarnation too – an important point, as the one real criticism I’ve heard levelled at previous versions is that the mic pres are perhaps a little lacking and occasionally require backup from the occasional outboard preamp.

The Mbox Mini’s converters deliver 24-bit, 48kHz sound while the Mbox ups this to 24-bit, 96kHz. The Mbox Pro goes all the way up to 24-bit, 192kHz with ProTools HD, or up to 96kHz with Pro Tools LE. Pro Tools 8.0.4 is included with whichever package you purchase, and it’s contained on a single DVD (Pro Tools 9 is released later this week though). The two new Mboxes on review are connected via USB, although the Mbox Pro is still FireWire capable.

The Mbox Mini interface is compatible with other major recording applications too, with drivers for Logic, Live, Record, Reason, Fruity Loops, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar, and more. You can also use it as a CoreAudio device with your Mac. It also includes one XLR mic/line combo input with 48 V phantom power; two 1/4-inch instrument inputs (one DI, one switchable line/DI); two balanced 1/4-inch monitor outputs and one 1/4-inch stereo headphone output.

The Mbox interface has the same professional-grade soft-clip limiter circuit found in the high-end Pro Tools|HD 192 I/O audio interface, so you can track much hotter signals without overloading the inputs and clipping. This really makes it easier to get great-sounding tracks in the recording stage, and that’s super-good news for those of us who like to use amp sim software or reamping. The Mbox also includes built-in reverb, echo and delay effects (accessible through the driver settings in Pro Tools) which you can use during tracking – many singers and guitarists will find this very beneficial, and since the reverb is generated within the Mbox itself instead of your computer, it won’t tax resources quite so much. There’s also – gasp! – an integrated guitar tuner (also accessible through the driver settings or by holding down the Pad and Mute buttons), and a Pro Tools multi-function button for accessing various common software parameters like tap session tempo, start/stop record, and create a new track, right there on the front of the interface. It also includes two XLR mic/line combo inputs with 48 V phantom power; two 1/4-inch DI inputs; two balanced 1/4-inch monitor outputs; and one 1/4-inch stereo headphone output with volume control.

In operation, Mbox Mini and Mbox are similar in many ways, although you have more resolution available with the latter’s higher quality converters, as well as a few more more routing options. You can plug more instruments into Mbox and leave them plugged in compared to Mbox Mini. I’d definitely lean towards Mbox rather than Mbox Mini if you’re looking for more of a desktop studio setup with the added ability to cart it around when needed (and doubly so for the even more kitted out new Mbox Pro). It sounds great and is very easy to use. The Mbox’s soft limiter also also extremely transparent and musical – you won’t really know it’s on until you turn it off and hear the obnoxious peaks it’d been preventing.

The Mbox Mini is more for those who only need to record one instrument at a time and aren’t so fussy with needing to connect everything at once. This makes Mbox Mini a great in-the-field unit, especially for those who tend to work in-the-box more than with acoustic instruments, but who might need to lay down the occasional analog instrument or vocal line. Sound quality is great no matter which unit you choose, and I could hear a lot more headroom and dynamic range screaming out of the headphones of each compared to my old Mbox 2 Pro. This goes for my recordings as well as using Mbox as a CoreAudio device for iTunes.

It’s great to see the Mbox line overhauled for 2010, and especially in such a sturdy, high-quality series of units. The overhaul brings the Mbox family into line with the HD series and the visual overhaul to Pro Tools itself, and it’s cool to see AVID take the Digidesign legacy into such a confident new direction. This will become especially apparent once users get their hands on Pro Tools 9 in combination with the new hardware.

LINK: Avid

INTERVIEW: Evan Dando of The Lemonheads

lemonheads_evan_dando_01_gEvan Dando’s band The Lemonheads had been around for about six years by the time they released It’s A Shame About Ray in 1992. It was one of those things where the time was just right, and the album was huge. Buoyed by the success of a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson but able to stand on its own legs too, it was one of those albums that everybody seemed to have. After more than a few line-up changes, solo projects, a stint playing with the MC5, admissions of career-stalling heavy drug use, writing songs with the Dandy Warhols and working on soundtracks, Dando reformed the Lemonheads with a new rhythm section in 2005. They’re visiting Australia in November and December to perform the album in its entirety. I caught up with Dando for a brief chat about the legacy of the album. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s latest album – and his first for Roadrunner’s Loud & Proud imprint – is a labour of love which sees him sharing stage time with greater and lesser-known blues heroes. Live! In Chicago. The album is the exclamation point on a project which stretches back to 2007. Shepherd has performed with a lot of legends – he participated in G3 tours with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, after all – but when you listen to Live! In Chicago you’ll really hear a man in his element.

 

Could you tell us about the project that led to this album?

My last project, which I released back in 2007, was called Ten Days Out: Blues From The Backroads. That was a documentary film and a record where we went down through the south of the United States looking for the real deal blues musicians and wanting to go to them in their own environment and play with them. So we went to these guys’ houses, got set up on their front porches or in their back yards, and just played the blues on site and made an album and a film doing that. So basically there were a lot of my heroes on that, and also a lot of blues musicians that I was experiencing for the first time as well. So I put that out, and then we went out to do a tour in support of it, so we asked some of the musicians to go on the road with us. So we had Hubert Sumlin from Howlin’ Wolf’s band, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith who was in Muddy Waters’ band came out on the road with us… Buddy Flett, who was a guy from my home town who I watched growing up as a kid – he was like the hometown guitar hero –  and this guy Bryan Lee, a blues guy from New Orleans who let me get on stage with him for the first time when I was 13. Then we had Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. We were on the road supporting that project and we recorded this show live at the House of Blues in Chicago.

What’s it like working with a legend like Hubert Sumlin?

Hubert Sumlin has influenced so many people. He’s probably one of the most influential guitar players ever. And he’s one of the greatest guys. If you ever get to meet him, he’s just one of the sweetest men you could ever meet. One of the greatest things about getting to play with him was developing a relationship on a personal level. We became very close, and that’s really one of the most valuable things I could take away from meeting and playing with him. It was a wonderful experience to stand there and hear him play all these guitar riffs.

What was the particular show like, as a performer? I understand from the liner notes that you almost had to cancel the gig?

Yeah, that was the first time that I could ever remember actually feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to play. I think I just came down with an overnight flu virus, a 24 hour thing, but it was horrible. I was on the couch in the dressing room just really sick, almost debilitating, and I just forced myself, picked myself up off the couch and got out on the stage, and I felt the power of the music and energy of the band. When we were listening back to the show I couldn’t believe it. I was really anticipating the worst from my performance but I was really thrilled. It was a great night. We actually recorded the night before when we were in Milwaukee too, but Chicago was actually the better performance of the two shows, which is kinda remarkable after how bad I felt.

What gear did you use for the live shows? The tone on the record is amazing.

The basic setup was two Fender Vibroverbs – the 1964 Blackface Vibroverb reissues with 15″ speakers, handwired – they’re built in the Fender Custom Shop. I’m running those in stereo, and then for the majority of the show I’m playing my Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd signature Stratocaster. My pedalboard has a Dunlop wah wah pedal, then I have the Analogman King Of Tone pedal. I had the Ibanez TS808 hand wired Tube Screamer, then I have a chorus pedal that Analogman makes called the Bi Chorus, which is like two different chorus pedals with two different settings. Then I have the TychoBrae Octavia pedal and an Analogman delay pedal. That’s about it. Most of the time I just use the Tube Screamer and the King of Tone pedals. The other pedals are just there for one or two songs throughout the show. I’ve got one song I might use the chorus on, a couple of songs where I might use the Octavia, and maybe a couple of songs where I’ll use the wah wah pedal. But the primary sound is just the guitar, the Tube Screamer and the King of Tone pedal.

What were you after when you designed your signature Strat?

I modelled some of it after my 61 Strat, although the neck on my signature Strat is a lot thicker than the 61, but the rear profile is kinda similar, and the headstock and the way it kinda tapers towards the headstock. I went to a 12″ radius fretboard because initially I was having a problem with the 9″ radius when I was bending like a five-note bend which was just dying, so they said I should try a 12″ radius, which is flatter. Then we went for the jumbo frets because I play really heavy gauge strings, and those big frets really help you get a grip on the strings. I worked with them for like a year and a half trying to develop the pickups, trying to develop a big, fat round sound. Also trying to get the second position and fourth positions, where you’re using the combination neck and middle pickups, I wanted to get those sounding the way I wanted, because I’ve never been entirely happy with those sounds. So the pickups were something we worked a long time on. Then Graph Tech saddles – I’ve been using Graph Tech saddles since I was 17 or 18 and they really helped me with string breakage. It’s an alder body – my ’61 Strat is an alder body. Then we just went for a couple of different appearances. I’m a big car guy so I wanted to do one with racing stripes on it. I wanted a sunburst as my ’61 Strat is a sunburst, then we did this white guitar with a painted chris that my wife hand painted, then they transferred that to the guitar. I was a real pleasure doing that, a big honour. I’m looking forward to hopefully designing a couple more in the future.

And you had a replica made of your ’61?

Well basically I just got a little too paranoid about bringing my guitar on the road any more. It’s irreplaceable, and things can happen when you’re travelling – things can get lost on the flight, sometimes things get stolen – so I’m not too comfortable about bringing that on the road any more. So I asked Fender to build me a clone. They’ve got so good at this over the years, building guitars to look like the original. So I sent them my ’61 Strat, and they had it for about a year, and they sent me my original back along with the clone. I think only I would be able to tell the difference between the original and the clone. They really captured the soul of it. So I’ve been using the clone on the road now, and it’s like the best of both worlds, because it allows me to keep my original at home. Actually it’s supposed to go stay at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but at the moment I have the original at home and the clone on the road.

Well you know what you’re going to have to do is, if the clone gets dings and scratches on the road, you’ll have to get Fender to replicate them on the original.

Yeah right! Hahaha. That’s bound to happen!

LINKS: Kenny Wayne ShepherdRoadrunner Australia

 

INTERVIEW: Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge

AB III is a landmark album in the still quite young career of Alter Bridge. Far more than just ‘Creed with a different singer,’ the band has always had its own thing going on, but AB III kicks it up a notch. It’s loud, angry, hurt, dark, mysterious and heavy, yet at times it’s also bright, optimistic, reassuring, even straight-up happy. I spoke to guitarist Mark Tremonti, who was in the midst of a European tour.

You know how good the album is, right?

(Laughs) Thank you very much! Appreciate it!

How do you feel about it?

We feel great! It was a good time that we put into writing and recording it, and it turned out the way we wanted it to. The response from fans has all been overwhelmingly positive so far.

You’re releasing the album yourself in the US on November 9, but it’s in the very capable hands of Roadrunner for the rest of the world and has already been released in other territories. Why?

We had to look at all our options, and our managers deal with that side of things, and they felt that was our best option for the States. At first we tried to be on Roadrunner both in the States and internationally, but I don’t think they thought we had a radio single for the States, that it was more of a European-sounding record, so we went a different route.

It is a very European-sounding, dark album.

I think it’s just a combination of where me and Myles were at. I grew up listening to heavy, dark music and I’ve always been a fan of darker music. Not that we’re dark people, but we like to evoke emotion, and either write a song that makes you feel really good or write a song that makes you really think and feel really moody. It’s just a combination of me pushing dark-sounding atmospheric music and Myles writing the darkest lyrics he’s ever come up with, and it’s just a perfect storm.

Well everyone needs their Empire Strikes Back, y’know?

Yeah! Hahah!

Just don’t go filling the next album with Ewoks.

Haha, exactly. Yeah.

There are lots of cool middle eastern-sounding scales on the record.

I think both me and Myles just played to fit the song. We weren’t really thinking of any scales in particular. I know that on my end, for the guitar solos and whatnot I was just trying to fit the chord changes. I just played for the song.

Do you have a favourite guitar part or solo?

I think the solo for All Hope Is Gone is my favourite solo. Favourite guitar part in general would probably be the intro to Life Must Go On. It’s a part that’s been floating around for quite a while.

What gear did you use on the record?

I used pretty much the same gear as the last album, except this time I used a Fender Tonemaster layered on top of the Bogner Uberschall and Mesa Rectifier.

What’s your approach to tone? I notice you’re using amps that have a shitload of gain on tap, but you’re holding back.

Yeah, it’s something I learned from Elvis on the last record: to record with a small amount of gain to really get stuff to cut through, so you can hear every bit of whatever riff that’s happening or whatever part that’s happening. If there’s too much gain you lose that clarity. It makes a big difference.

What about guitars?

I just used my signature model Paul Reed Smith. I think the only other guitar I used – other than acoustic Taylors – was on some clean tracks. PRS made me a guitar, like a Strat-style, three single coil, maple neck guitar that sounds really good on clean stuff. Sometimes I’d layer with that. That was about it.

Have you tried the baritone 8-string Taylor?

No I had not. Didn’t know it existed. Wow, I’ll be calling them when I get off the phone! I need to get that for sure!

You have a lot of guitar technique – how did you develop that? Were you always technically minded or did you hit a point where you decided to really work on that stuff?

I just always try to learn something new every day. I’m a big fan of the guitar so everywhere I go I have tonnes of guitar instructional DVDs. I still look for new ones that come out. No matter what style it is, I’ll buy it. If it’s something I don’t have, I’ll get it. If I’m getting on a plane I’ll watch country chicken pickin’ DVDs or whatever it is, because you can learn something from everybody. I’ll also get on sites like guitarinstructor.com or bluesjamtracks.com or YouTube or I’ll search everywhere I can looking for inspiration. Sometimes you’ll find it in the least likely spots, from some guy you’ve never heard of.

What are your favourites at the moment?

Right now I’m putting a lot of time into Robben Ford. Years ago I would have thought you couldn’t use a lot of his approach in hard rock, but I think you can if you learn the right tunes. He does a lot of blues-based stuff that you can use right away. I’m into him lately, I’m into a guy named Matt Schofield that not a lot of people that I’ve talked to have heard of, but he’s great. Audley Freed is a big one for me over the last few years. Warren Haynes. I went through all my shred years and just kinda switched gears a couple of years ago, going for the more old-school approach to bluesy phrasing and chord tone soloing. Lately I’ve been trying to step into the jazz world, not to play jazz but to try to understand more of the theory side of things and to have it readily available whenever I’m playing. I’ve looked at some piano lessons and there’s a guy named Charlie Banakos that taught a lot of jazz guys, so I’m trying to dig out some old exercises that he’s taught.

Any plans for a solo album?

I’ve started to put together some songs. With the last couple of years with everything that’s happened – Myles going out with Slash, the Creed reunion and everything else – there’s going to be some downtime when we’re waiting for Myles to get done so we can get back out on tour, so in those times I’ll be putting together a solo record. At this point I think I only have about five songs I’ve demoed, and every time I have a couple of months I’ll put together a handful of songs and see what happens with it.

What kind of direction?

It’s going to be mostly just melody, song-based stuff. It’s not going to be like a progressive instrumental record. It’s going to be more of a melody-driven, song record. I do want to do it at some point, I’ve just got to find the time.

What are your favourite instrumental albums?

Alien Love Secrets was a big one for me. I spent a lot of time with Tender Surrender. I spent four months learning that song, and now I’ve forgotten it! I like a lot of the Larry Carlton stuff, the Robben Ford stuff… for me it’s like, songs instead of records. I’ll just dwell on one song for a long time. There’s just so much of it I don’t know where to really hone in on! Paul Gilbert had a lot of influence on my learning to pick and shred. Intense Rock was probably my favourite DVD for a long time.

Any plans to come to Australia any time soon?

We actually just talked about that with our agent the other day. They were talking about maybe targeting October of next year. We’ve just gotta see what happens next year. We have to plan so far ahead with the Slash tour and our tour, so we have to just let our agents point their finger in the right direction for us.

Yeah, I guess you couldn’t force Myles to do double duty and wear the poor guy out.

We’ve talked about it – have Alter Bridge open for Slash.

REVIEW: AVID Eleven Rack

AVID’s Eleven amp modelling software is well prized for its ability to emulate the response of real-world amps. Eleven Rack is an ingenious piece of gear which builds on the strengths of its software ancestor: part recording interface, part guitar preamp, part mic preamp, part effects unit, part amp sim – and perhaps most exciting of all, it’s capable of transporting your recorded tones directly to the stage.

Eleven’s amp models are based on such classics as the Bassman, Tweed Deluxe, Dual Reverb, AC30 Top Boost, Black Face Twin Reverb, 1959 Plexi, JCM800 2203, Mark IIC+, SLO100, Dual Rectifier, and two of AVID’s own modes: Custom Vintage Crunch and Custom Modern Overdrive. There are various matching speaker cabinets, microphone models including SM57, MD 409 and 421, U67 and U87; C 414 EB and 121 Ribbon. The speaker and mic models are convolution-based, and were designed with the help of legendary producer/engineer John Cuniberti, inventor of the Reamp and Joe Satriani’s right-hand man in the studio.

Eleven Rack also bares Cuniberti’s influence in its reamping capabilities. It records a clean, unprocessed signal as well as your processed one, so you can feed that sound out toEleven Rack later for further processing. This is great for if you’re happy with a sound as you’re recording it but are aware that maybe later the mix might call for something different that can’t be achieved with simple EQ changes. For example, did you record a part with modelled amp distortion but you later realise it calls for a clean amp setting with a fuzz pedal on top? Well then, just call up the clean track, reamp it through Eleven Rack, and there you go! You can also use the reamping capability to layer different tones, then spread them out in the stereo spectrum during mixdown.

Part of the beauty of the Eleven Rack system is that it also acts as a standalone amp modeller, so those sounds you worked so hard on in the studio can come with you to the stage. You can even put your own physical pedals or rack units into the effects loop, and move the loop around within each patch, then can use MIDI controller and expression pedals to keep your sounds at your feet.

Perhaps most important of all for the majority of users, Eleven Rack includes a high-impedance guitar input (in addition to a mic input with phantom power and gain control) soEleven Rack (or any other amp sims you run in your DAW while using Eleven Rack as your interface) will react with your guitar just like a real guitar amp would. The influence of this simple little addition really hit home when I plugged in my Mbox 2 Pro and created an identical patch in Eleven SE. The Eleven Rack version just ‘felt’ right, whereas the Mbox version felt slightly overblown – too loud and over-reactive. It’s the kind of thing you might not notice if you’ve only ever used interfaces without impedance matching, but once you do, you’ll have a hard time going back.

One of my main tests for any amp sim is to see how it handles the classic JCM800-plus-Tube-Screamer setup. I plugged my new Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster Reissue in, dialled in the relevant models and let it rip. There was just the right amount of sweet JCM800 roar and TS smoothness, but above and beyond that I could hear something else happening, especially when I cranked the amp model volume up. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Was I crazy? Then I realised what I was hearing:Eleven is so advanced that it even mimics the resonance of the speaker cabinet itself, so when you push the master volume past a certain level, you get the same ghost notes and cabinet noise you’d get with a real amp. You can use this to your advantage for ultra-realism. You can use a slider control to dial in any amount of this sag, from nothing to utter overkill.

By the way, the Custom Modern Overdrive model is pretty phenomenal. After about 5 minutes of experimentation I was able to nail the Richie Kotzen Strat tone I’ve been after for a couple of years. It’s a very hard sound for digital technology to even approximate yet Eleven slams it out of the park.

Part amp sim, part effects unit, part recording interface, Eleven has carved out a unique niche for itself while simultaneously stomping over all sorts of units that offer just one of its many aspects. Although a few more effect variations would be nice, the realism afforded by Eleven Rack really has to be heard and, more importantly felt, to be believed.

LINK: Avid.com