Meet The Fender Ultra Luxe Series

Today, Fender is unveiling the American Ultra Luxe series for players who demand the ultimate in performance and tone with the most advanced series of guitars and basses.

The addition of four new American Ultra Luxe models in 2021 will bring the guitar playing experience up a major notch.  These elevated models in this series feature versatile, state-of-the-art specs that will inspire players to push their skills to new heights. 

The American Ultra Luxe series features a unique Augmented “D” neck profile with Ultra rolled fingerboard edges for endless playing comfort and a tapered neck heel that allows easy access to the highest register. A speedy 10”-14” compound-radius fingerboard with 22 stainless steel medium-jumbo frets means effortless and accurate soloing.

Models include:  

·         American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster® ($4,499 AUD). The American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster features Ultra NoiselessTM Vintage pickups and advanced wiring options providing endless tonal possibilities – without hum. Available in 2-Color Sunburst (Rosewood fingerboard) and  2-Color Sunburst and Plasma Red Burst (Maple fingerboard). 

·         American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster® Floyd Rose® HSS ($4,699 AUD). The American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster Floyd Rose HSS features Ultra NoiselessTM Hot single-coil pickups and Ultra Double TapTM humbucking pickup, along with advanced wiring options, providing endless tonal possibilities – without hum. The Original Floyd Rose Tremolo system allows for precision vibrato effects while staying perfectly in tune. Available in Silverburst (Maple fingerboard) and Mystic Black (Rosewood fingerboard).

·         American Ultra Luxe Telecaster® ($4,499 AUD) This model features Ultra NoiselessTM Vintage pickups and advanced wiring options providing endless tonal possibilities – without hum. Available in Transparent Surf Green and 2-Color Sunburst. Available April. 

·         American Ultra Luxe Telecaster® Floyd Rose® HH ($4,699 AUD) Featuring an Original Floyd Rose Tremolo system, stainless-steel frets and eye-catching custom colors with matching painted headcaps, the American Ultra Luxe Telecaster Floyd Rose HH is Ultra – elevated. This model features Custom Double TapTM humbucking pickups and advanced wiring options, providing endless tonal possibilities  – without hum. The Original Floyd Rose Tremolo system allows for precision vibrato effects while staying perfectly in tune. The sculpted rear body contours are as beautiful as they are functional. Available in Mystic Black (Maple Fingerboard).

Check out Jared James Nichols’ new ‘Gold Glory’ Les Paul Custom

NASHVILLE, TN (April 6, 2021) Epiphone, the leading accessible guitar brand For Every Stage, is proud to release the new Jared James Nichols “Gold Glory” Les Paul Custom; available worldwide now via www.epiphone.com.
The new Jared James Nichols “Gold Glory” Les Paul Custom, is a limited edition take on the Black-finished “Old Glory” signature model by the rising star who is originally from Les Paul’s hometown. The Jared James Nichols “Gold Glory” features a classic 1955 style Les Paul Custom body with a distinctive Double Gold Aged finish, a single Seymour Duncan P-90 Dogear pickup, an ebony fingerboard with traditional block inlays, Grover Rotomatic tuners, and an EpiLite case.
“’Gold Glory’ is an ICON of a guitar,” says Jared James Nichols. “Between the beauty of the tone, and glitter of the gold, it is breathtaking and bold. It’s simplistic, and powerful, a complete classic, yet rooted in today. I am honored to continue my ‘Glory Days’ with this incredible new signature model. I cannot wait to get this guitar out into the world and into the hands of players looking to find their own unique voice. Simply put, ‘Gold Glory’ inspires me to play, create, and perform at my very best.”
“2021 is going to be a big year for Jared James Nichols,” says Elizabeth Heidt, Vice President of Cultural Influence at Gibson Brands. “We are so inspired by Jared’s artistry and can’t wait to hear and support his new album. Jared James Nichols embodies everything that we are about at Epiphone and we are proud to have him as part of our family, and to bring the next evolution of Jared’s guitar to his fans.”
Over the past few years Nashville, TN-based singer-songwriter-musician rock artist Jared James Nichols has performed over 400 live dates traveling around the worldwith his band. Known for his high-energy, pick-less guitar-playing Jared James Nicholssigned his first record deal with Black Hill Records–a new label dedicated to rock, owned by independent publisher Round Hill Music and distributed worldwide by The Orchard–and will release new music later this year. The rising rock musician first collaborated with Epiphone in early 2019 on his first-ever signature guitar, the “Old Glory” a Les Paul Custom with an Ebony finish which quickly became a best-seller for Epiphone.
Watch and share the interview as Jared James Nichols talks about the “Gold Glory”guitar today, live on Epiphone Instagram and view his signature guitar video: HERE.
In other news, tune in to watch the first live concert in a year with Jared James Nicholsand his full band on Saturday, May 8 at 12pm PT/3:00pm ET via: https://www.ursalive.com/jared-james-nichols.

Listen to Wolfgang Van Halen’s debut single. Bring tissues.

Wolfgang Van Halen has just released his debut single, ‘Distance,’ via his solo band Mammoth WVH, and it’s utterly beautiful. It’s a tribute to Eddie, and the video is an absolute tear-jerker.

From the YouTube notes:

“As my pop continued to struggle with various health issues, I was imagining what my life would be like without him and how terribly I’d miss him. While the song is incredibly personal, I think anyone can relate to the idea of having a profound loss in their life. I never intended ‘Distance’ to be the very first piece of music people would hear from me, but I also thought my father would be here to celebrate its release. This is for him. I love and miss you, Pop.” – WVH

Proceeds from “Distance” will be donated to Pop’s favorite charity, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation MHOpus.org https://found.ee/MammothWVH https://www.Facebook.com/MammothWVH https://www.Instagram.com/MammothWVH https://www.Twitter.com/MammothWVH https://www.YouTube.com/MammothWVH

“Distance”
I’m so happy
You’ve found a place
That’s better for you
Than this rock we’re living on
I’m so nervous
Don’t know my place
A life without you
I’m not ready to move on

No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay

I’m so tired
Can’t see your face
My memory of you
Slowly fades when I go on
I’m still cryin’
Don’t want this place
A world without you
I don’t think I’ll ever move on

No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay

No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay

No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay
No matter what the distance is I will be with you
No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay

No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay
No matter what the distance is you’ll be okay
I’m so happy
You’ve found a place

Eddie Van Halen

I haven’t tackled the massive, sad news of the passing of Eddie Van Halen here yet because it just felt too immense. This guy changed everything for everyone. Do you play a Strat-style guitar with a humbucker in the bridge position? Companies make those because Eddie played them. Play a guitar with a Floyd Rose? The fine tuners were Eddie’s idea. Paid attention to metal over the last three decades? You’ve heard the amps Eddie designed. Artificial harmonics, two-handed tapping, Drop D tuning? Eddie didn’t invent them but he sure mastered and popularised them.

We all have our personal little stories about Ed and how he impacted our lives as guitarists. I wanted to tell you about the most important lesson I learned from Eddie Van Halen, although that lesson was actually imparted by someone else. 

When I was in 9th grade I returned to Peter Cominos, the guitar teacher who had taught me when I first started playing in 5th and 6th grade. Peter remains a great player. And he was the perfect teacher for me. During the first couple of years of lessons he would indulge me by breaking out of the ‘Progressive Guitar For Beginners’ book and helping me to train my ear to recognise chords and learn to teach myself songs. And so I’d figure out things like ‘It Must Have Been Love’ by Roxette, or ‘Faith’ by George Michael. In 7th grade I went it alone with my first electric guitar, getting to know this new electrified and expressive instrument, so much more versatile than my plunky-sounding nylon-string acoustic. 

By the time I returned to Peter for lessons again, I was doing pretty well with my ear training and I could play pretty fast. I didn’t really understand phrasing yet though, so that was something we worked on a lot. We’d dissect a solo phrase by phrase. One night I showed up for my lesson and Peter put a photocopy of Steve Vai’s transcription of ‘Eruption’ in front of me. As we dug into each phrase we looked at how Eddie began and ended each note, and what he did in between. And Peter said (I’m paraphrasing), “The thing that mades Eddie so special is that he’s put in the work to know exactly how to make the string do exactly what he wants, no matter what he wants it to do.” Essentially, Eddie had played guitar so frigging much that he had internalised all the tiny little micromovements that allowed him to really take control of the note.

That made a huge impression on me, and it was something I always paid attention to from then on, when listening to Eddie or just in general. It’s something that not all players have. I could name any number of great players who don’t necessarily have that kind of ultra-microscopic connection to each note.

I sort of met Eddie once, at a Fender party at NAMM. He showed up towards the end of the party and headed to the EVH section, completely surrounded by people as you may expect. We’re talking high-end retailers, artists, media… people who are used to being around famous guitarists just as a simple part of their job, and they were all grinning like kids at the sight of their hero. I couldn’t get anywhere close, so I got out of the way and looked at some guitars. Then the crowd started to shift and Eddie and I were suddenly face to face. He saw my jaw drop and he shot me that grin and saluted me. It was surreal and beautiful. In the context of a hectic NAMM party it was probably the best I coulda hoped for, and if you told that teenage-kid version of me that one day he’d even get to say so much as hello to Eddie Van Halen at a private Fender party at NAMM, he would have freaked the hell out. 

This blurry photo is the closest I got to documenting the moment.

But of course, the fact that I was even there in the first place and working in this industry is undoubtedly due in part of Eddie’s influence and example. 

Rest in peace, Ed. You left the guitar world a better place than you found it and you touched millions upon millions of hearts. Thank you. 

The Last Action Hero: best soundtrack ever

These days it’s common – nay, expected – for a big blockbuster movie to have a kickass soundtrack packed with original new tracks by the big heavy-hitters of the day. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time the ‘movie soundtrack’ section of a record store was populated largely by recordings of the actual orchestral music scores of films. If a soundtrack featured pop songs, they were often classic tracks that everybody knew. Even in the case of big blockbuster soundtracks which featured a healthy amount of original new songs – like the album which accompanied the release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 – the tracks were very much mainstream radio-friendly pop. So the 1993 release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero and its soundtrack sent shockwaves through the hard rock and heavy metal scene of the day because it was fricken loaded with crushing tracks by metal, thrash, grunge and alternative icons.

This was an album which featured new, never-before-heard tracks by some of the biggest names in heavy music at the time, including two of thrash’s Big Four. Check out this track listing:

“Big Gun” – AC/DC
“What The Hell Have I” – Alice In Chains
“Angry Again” – Megadeth
“Real World” – Michael Kamen and Queensrÿche
“Two Steps Behind” – Def Leppard
“Poison My Eyes” – Anthrax
“Dream On” [Live] – Aerosmith
“A Little Bitter” – Alice in Chains – 3:53
“Cock the Hammer” – Cypress Hill – 4:11
“Swim” – Fishbone – 4:13
“Last Action Hero” – Tesla – 5:44
“Jack and the Ripper” – Michael Kamen & Buckethead – 3:43

AC/DC’s “Big Gun” kicks off the album, and although they’ve never played the track at a concert, it was heavily visible at the time of its release, particularly due to the pervasive presence of Arnie himself in the video. A classic driving AC/DC twelve-bar-blues-based track with a monster single note riff punctuated by a slinky, bendy melody, the song is classic Acca Dacca. Check out the video, and watch for Arnie doing his own version of Angus Young’s famous duck walk, complete with Gibson SG. While the SG looks huge on Angus’s diminutive frame, it looks like a ukulele in Arnie’s hands.

Alice In Chains’ two contributions, “What The Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter,” are especially noteworthy entries in the band’s catalog because they represent the first tracks recorded with bass player Mike Inez, who was fresh from Ozzy Osbourne’s band at the time, replacing the departed Mike Starr. (Trivia buffs will know that Inez wrote the bass riff to Ozzy’s “No More Tears”). The two songs were mixed by Andy Wallace, although both were remixed by Toby Wright for the band’s 1999 Music Bank box set.

Three of the soundtrack’s songs continued to be played live regularly by their respective creators for quite a while afterwards. Def Leppard’s “Two Steps Behind” was released in two versions: an electric version from the band’s Retro Active compilation of rare and unreleased tracks (the song was also a B-side to the “Make Love Like A Man” single) and a stripped-back acoustic version. It’s the acoustic rendition that was used for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and this is the version of the song that the band still plays live to this day.

Another enduring live track is Megadeth’s “Angry Again.” Written specifically for the film and later appearing on Megadeth’s Hidden Treasures rarity EP, the song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards. Apart from Marty Friedman’s brilliant guitar solo and the impressive handlebar moustache sported by Dave Mustaine in the video, the song is particularly interesting for a neat little songwriting trick used in the verses. During the first verse, Mustaine sings over the second half of a two-bar riff, but in the second verse he sings over the first half. It’s a great way of creating a sense of movement from one verse to the next, and probably one of the reasons it’s such a fan favourite.

The album’s other thrash legends, Anthrax, contributed a song leftover from the sessions for their 1993 album Sound of White Noise, their first with Armoured Saint vocalist John Bush and last with lead guitarist Danny Spitz. While the song features the same big riffage as the Sound of White Noise tracks, it has a much more adventurous arrangement, including the use of record scratching.

Queensrÿche and composer Michael Kamen collaborated on “Real World,” a sweeping epic in the vein of their previous work together, “Silent Lucidity.” In fact, “Real World” represents a step beyond “Silent Lucidity,” with Kamen set free to push the Pink Floyd-esque progressive elements of the band’s sound even further. Like “Angry Again” and “Two Steps Behind,” “Real World” was performed live on many Queensryche tours.

A few of the album’s tracks had been released previously, including Fishbone’s “Swim” (from their album Give A Monkey A Brain And He’ll Swear He’s The Center Of The Universe). Cypress Hill’s “Cock The Hammer” is from their 1993 classic Black Sunday. And of course Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” presented here as a live version with orchestration by Michael Kamen. Tesla’s “Last Action Hero” is a powerful 80s rocker, although it felt a little out of place in the grunge-friendly climate of 1993, even on an album with such 80s megastars as Def Leppard and Queensryche. But it’s a rockin’ song with some very cool Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar harmony work.

The album is closed out in spectacular fashion with another collaboration between Michael Kamen and unlikely partner: Buckethead, whose alternatingly haunting and rocking guitar weaves through orchestral ambience and electronica. Although Buckethead was already known to hard-core guitar fans, this was probably his first ‘big time’ exposure, and as an introduction to the world at large it’s a very impressive one.

There have been plenty of innovative soundtrack albums since Last Action Hero – the rap/rock collaborations of Judgment Night later in 1993 being a particularly noteworthy example, pairing Dinosaur Jr. and Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Helmet and House of Pain, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Living Colour and Run DMC, Slayer and Ice-T, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill, Mudhoney and Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill, Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and more. In fact the Judgment Night soundtrack may have been a big factor in the rise of rap-rock and nu metal a few years later. But perhaps that’s a story for another time.