NEWS: Dean Buddy Blaze ML

Dean Guitars and guitar builder/designer Buddy Blaze have just announced yet another variation on the Dean ML theme. Blaze is the guy who customised Dimebag Darrell’s famous Dean From Hell. The Dean/Buddy Blaze ML has a pimped out chrome flame graphic, and features a top mounted Floyd Rose and custom wound Dean DMT pickups.

The guitar has custom ascending flame mother of pearl inlays on a 2 octave fretboard, attached to a pitched neck featuring Dean’s V carve. It’s interesting to note the bridge/middle/no-neck pickup configuration, something of a signature for Blaze, who is pictured on his website with a similar guitar, in the company of a very young and innocent looking Dimebag Darrell, back when he was known as Diamond Darrell.

Dean CEO Elliott Rubinson says “We have the highest regard for Buddy’s talents and after sitting down and discussing what we both envisioned for this guitar we realized that the new Dean/Blaze ML would incorporate the features that many players would find very appealing and a departure from what we are currently producing.”

Blaze says “My love for the Dean ML has endured over 25 years, the chance to create a signature model ML with Dean Guitars is a dream come true! After meeting with Elliott at Dean headquarters in Tampa earlier this year, I was impressed with his depth of guitar knowledge and his love of the ML. I asked that we do a complete design, not just a graphic, and he allowed me to reinvent my favourite Dean model! Modern era Dean guitars are 2nd to none in quality and value and I have no hesitation adding my name to this model. I insisted on top quality components and rigid adherence to my design elements. Elliott and the Dean team delivered! The Dean DMT pickups just scream tone!!!”

INTERVIEW: Steve Turner

Steve Turner is a hella talented guitarist and vocalist from Melbourne, Australia, and his prog rock power trio launched itself upon the live scene in 2007, including a jaw-dropping headlining set at Shredfest (the opening act was yours truly). Turner has just released ‘Not In Kansas Anymore,’ a 5-track EP which shifts from speedy noodling to epic metal riffs to soaring melodies to hypnotic syncopated interlocking lines. I chatted with Turner about the EP, his gear, and his new endorsement with RJM Music Technology.

PETER: ‘Recalibrate The Solar Wind Generator’ has a lot of atmosphere and restraint. What was the writing process for that one?

STEVE TURNER: Recalibrate came about through a very organic process. I was messing around with a new synth sound I had tweaked, hitting drone notes and playing guitar parts over the top.

The style of the song was very influenced by King Crimson. I am a huge fan of their work – especially from Discipline onwards. When I hear something I like I want to know how it works so the band have learned “Three of a Perfect Pair” which we perform live some times.
Recalibrate was driven by the interplay of two completely separate guitar lines – a compositional technique inspired by King Crimson. I wrote the bass lines as I went and the song came to life as a demo in a couple of long sessions.

When it came time to record I was lucky enough to have real drums and a great bassist willing to breathe life into the parts I had created. Of course, the parts that Evan and Greg came up with were far more interesting than my own on the demo versions.

Evan used a Chapman stick to rework the bass lines for the CD version of Recalibrate. Using the stick gives the bass parts a lot more dynamic intensity and sonic identity. Greg took the drum parts and gave them groove and feel. I think he had a lot of fun recording that song.
The guitar parts for the final version are actually the original demo recordings. Every time I tried to rerecord the guitars it just didn’t sound or feel right so I went with the originals. That has never happened to me before.

The track is very restrained in the sense that there are no blazing lead guitars or vocals stealing centre stage. I wanted the track to be a conversation within itself – each instrument telling its own story. To have an interloping guitar solo just didn’t feel right at all.

PETER: The title track has a very proggy vibe and Dio-esque vocals. How would you describe your vocal approach?

STEVE: It is interesting you picked up on the Dio vibe of “Not in Kansas Anymore”. Vocally I am a huge fan of Dio and I must admit that I was listening to a lot of the “Dream Evil” and “Master of the Moon” albums when I wrote Kansas. I think it shows – hopefully in a good way!
I especially like the way Dio changes key in the middle of songs and makes it sound so easy. Subconsciously, I think that is why I came up with the key change in the middle of the Kansas chorus vocal line. It just kind of happened and it wasn’t until I tried to lay down the harmonies that I realized what I had done.

Vocally my approach was to try and convey a certain emotion which the lyrics describe. The song uses some “Wizard of Oz” imagery as a metaphor for the deeper message. No, it is not about Kansas and I have never been there. The imagery I chose meant that the melodies had to be sweeping and as grand as possible.

The full band version has a heap of layers and hidden little parts. Of course, on the acoustic version I stripped all that away and just kept things as intimate as possible. I like to mess around with sounds and felt there was more than one way to convey the meaning of this song.
The imagery in “Not in Kansas Anymore” also became the basis for the awesome work Aaron Seeto (Moko Creative) did on the album art work. I like to get mileage out of ideas!

PETER: Who are the other musicians on the EP?

STEVE: I was very fortunate to work with great people and great musicians on the Kansas EP. I give people a lot of freedom when they work with me on my songs. If I didn’t value their input, why would I have them on the team? Though the songs are very much my own the other players really bring something extra that I really enjoy.

Greg Limberis (Drums) is a very versatile player who isn’t just caught up on the double kick thing like a lot of players these days. He is more of a rock and fusion influenced drummer with great hands. Given the range of music I had written for the EP and live performance I needed a drummer who could put some feel into the various moods and he has done that very well. Greg does a lot of session work and teaches drums.

Evan Harris (Bass / Chapman Stick) recorded all bass except for the acoustic version of Kansas. Evan is pretty well known on the scene in Australia. He currently performs with Black Majesty but has previously worked with Endel Rivers and was a founding member and main songwriter for progressive metal legends ‘Taramis’. Evan is a very musical bassist and probably one of the most complete musicians I have ever met. Like Greg, Evan does a lot of session work and teaches bass professionally.

Dean Gaudoin (Additional Bass) recorded his parts for the acoustic version of Kansas using an upright electric bass. He has worked with Xtreme Measures, played live on tour with Eric Martin of Mr Big fame and also with a lot of local metal bands in Melbourne. I would describe Dean as a jazz player at heart who has never lost his metal roots.

Christine Ferra (Additional Vocals) recorded backup vocals for the acoustic version of Kansas. She is always a pleasure to work with and has appeared live with us a few times to help harmonise the odd song here and there. I like having other voices in my music and it also gives me time to focus on my strings.

PETER: What gear was used to record the EP?

STEVE: Guitars: I used my Steinberger GM-Pro for 90% of the electric guitar work on the EP. I love the sound of the EMGs and graphite neck. I used my Soundworks Custom in a few places for some harmonies. The Soundworks custom is the love of my life but its tone just wasn’t quite right for this release.

I used a cheap Cort ‘Strat’ rip off for a few seconds of lead break in one of the songs because I wanted to have a $250 guitar on the album just to make a point. I think people get caught up on gear a bit too much some times. I know, I do it myself! I think it is important to remember that you can do amazing things with whatever you have lying around if you have the right approach.

All rhythm guitars were recorded through my Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier and a Ceriatone Trainwreck blended together. The Boogie was running through my Soldano 4×12 and the Ceriatone through an Achillies 2×12 cabinet. Leads were mostly done through the Ceriatone and Achillies cabinet combination.

Achillies is a local Melbourne company and the owner, Labros, built the 2×12 for me with V30s. It is a gorgeous cabinet finished in a dark red snakeskin look. He takes real pride in his work and is a real craftsman.

I didn’t use any effects on the dry signals that I recorded. They were handed to David Carr at Rangemster clean, so anything you hear in that regard was all his magic. He really did a phenomenal job and his resume of past artists really speaks for itself. David loves guitar music too which made him a great choice for me as an artist.

I used Cubase for all audio recording purposes. Everything except the drums and Evan’s bass were recorded at my home studio. I have built up a few channels of reasonable gear including a JLM Audio 99V and TG dual channel microphone preamp. I used the TG channel of the JLM mic preamp with an SM57 for all heavy and lead guitars. I tried other more expensive microphones but the SM57 just had the right sound.

I used a Red Type A Vocal Mic through the JLM and a Crane Song Trakker (compressor) for all vocals. I like what that combination does for my voice and the Red microphone has switchable capsules for different sounds.

Evan used a Music Man 5 string bass with Moses graphite neck, a Dean Rhapsody 12 string bass and a Chapman stick made (1976 model recently upgraded with new pickups). The Dean 12 string has 4 sets of 3 harmonized strings – much like a 12 string guitar has 6 sets of 2 harmonized strings.

Evan used the 12 string on “Surfing With the Tsunamian” and it helped really fill out the riffing with a fat, warm sound. It has a huge output and he tells me it is responsible for sending more than one cabinet cone to Valhalla. All I know is that when he plays that beast I have to turn UP!

PETER: How does your recording setup differ from your live rig?

STEVE: Live I use my Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier head running into my Soldano 4×12 cabinet. The Soldano cabinet is really beat up but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I run a G-Major through the effects loop of the Mesa and a midi controller switches my amp and effects unit presets with the aid of an RJM Amp Gizmo. Recently I started using an X2 Digital Wireless unit which I think is the cleanest wireless device on the market.

I keep my live tone very natural – I don’t use much in the way of effects on my tone. Some times I use effects pedals but between playing guitar, singing and tapping pedals my attention span is already challenged enough. Usually I just stick with the midi controller and forget the pedals as they are too much work.

My recording setup isn’t that different except that I never apply effects when recording and whist the Mesa is my main amplifier I might use whatever else I have lying around if the song needs something extra.

PETER: You recently scored an endorsement with RJM Music Technology. Tell us about your switching system.

STEVE: At the moment I am using their base model Amp Gizmo. You could think of it as an interface between your midi floor board and your non midi guitar amplifier. RJM make a bunch of different cables to connect the Amp Gizmo to the pedal input of your amp so it can be used with all sorts of guitar amplifiers.

You basically tell the Amp Gizmo what each midi patch will do to your amplifier. When you select a particular patch it triggers your amp mode, solo boost, effects loop or whatever else your amp can do via standard pedal input.

For guys out there struggling with multiple foot controllers this should really be ringing some alarm bells… It also has a ‘midi through’ to connect to whatever other midi gear you are running.
From one midi floor board I can control my effects processor as well as the switchable settings on my Mesa Boogie. I don’t need to run the separate Mesa Boogie amp controller floor board anymore as the Amp Gizmo replaces everything it does. I control my amp features via midi. Amp and effects changes that used to take me three or four foot taps now take only one.
When I am singing I don’t have the luxury of being able to look at my feet and perform an elaborate tap dance. Actually, dancing is not something I can do at the best of times! I would rather grab a beer and watch the ladies go for it.

I struck up a friendship with Ron from RJM and when I expressed an interest in upgrading to the RG-16 and Mastermind floor board he offered me an artist endorsement. The RG-16 does everything the Amp Gizmo does but also has 8 effects loops through which I will be able to run my analog pedals.

Once I integrate the RG-16 to my live rack I will be able to use my analog pedals and have everything – the amplifier, the effects processor and my individual pedals –controlled via the Mastermind midi controller and RG-16. Allan Holdsworth and Dweezil Zappa use RJM so that has to say something about the quality and design!

PETER: Tell us about your Soundworks custom guitar.

STEVE: The Soundworks Custom was made for me back in 2000 and is a Brazilian mahogany body with Canadian rock maple top. The body is reminiscent of a music man crossed with a PRS and I totally love the arch top flame finish. It hosts an LR Baggs Piezzo bridge (which was used for the brief flourish in Tsunamian) and I have loaded it with Seymour Duncan pickups in HSH configuration.

The Soundworks Custom has a fixed bridge and 22 frets and is, for me, the ultimate guitar. I don’t use it live too much but given it was built to my exact specifications it will always be special to me. It is a great rock guitar with a lot of dynamic range. If I give it to anyone to play I always have a lot of trouble getting it back.

PETER: What can we expect from future recordings?

STEVE: Currently I am working on some new material and have started writing with a 7 string Ibanez. Evan has also recently acquired a new instrument which is really exciting – an NSStick – which is an eight string cooperative design by Chapman Stick and Ned Steinberger. Between Evan and myself, that is a lot of strings!

I still have a decent number of songs that the band play live but have not been recorded. I want to get those down but also record some of the new material. The new stuff has a darker and more progressive sound. I will also have other guest musicians and vocalists on board to add a bit of variety.

I think I got a whole lot of different sounds onto the Kansas CD EP and look forward to doing the same on the next one. I have been playing music for so long I really need to keep it interesting for myself, and hopefully the listener as well.

The ‘Not in Kansas Anymore’ CD EP can be ordered from Steve Turner’s website. While you’re there, you can listen to the track ‘Surfing With The Tsunamian’ for free.

NEWS: Hetfield Iron Cross ESP

Word on the street (okay, the UK guitar magazine Total Guitar) is that ESP is working on a new signature model for Metallica’s James Hetfield, based on his customised 1973 ‘Iron Cross’ Gibson Les Paul. It will be officially unveiled at Winter NAMM 2009 in ESP and LTD versions.
No doubt this guitar will be based on ESP’s Eclipse model, because if it was a straight copy of the Les Paul, Gibson’s lawyers would be out for blood.
Earlier this year, there were rumours Hetfield was about to leave ESP in favour of Gibson, which would have been good news for anybody who wanted an authentic late 80s-early 90s-style Hetfield Explorer signature model. I’m not sure if that was all just talk – fans online have speculated that Gibson was unwilling to make a signature model for Hetfield, but that doesn’t really sound right to me. If they can make a Kiefer Sutherland model, I’m sure they would appreciate the dollar-spinning potential of an EMG-loaded, white Helftield Explorer.

CLICK HERE to buy Metallica’s Death Magnetic

CLICK THE IMAGE to buy the ESP LTD James Hetfield Truckster from Music123.
ESP James Hetfield LTD Truckster Electric Guitar Aged Primer Gray

NEWS: Another new Washburn Nuno limited edition

The latest very limited run custom-ordered Washburn Nuno Bettencourt N4 is this baby, the High Gloss Padauk Body N4 from Boogie Street. I’m not normally a fan of glossy wooden finishes on guitars – a little too coffee-table for my liking – but something about this has managed to break through my glossy wood finish filter. Dig those photos by Boogie Street’s Eric McKenna.

Boogie Street is commissioning several runs of these High Gloss Padauk N4s. Each run will be a numbered run of 7 guitars, and each run will be slightly different in hardware color and/or other subtle differences. They will all feature a high gloss Padauk N4 body and an oil finish padauk neck, plus Nuno’s specs including the Bill Lawrence Bridge humbucker and the Seymour Duncan ‘59 in the neck.

A factory hardshell case is included, as is a Nuno-signed extra blackplate, a Washburn/Boogie Street Guitars/Nuno dealer banner, and a 10 x 16 full colour certificate of authenticity, signed by Washburn USA Custom Shop director Terry Atkins, as well as by Eric McKenna from Boogie Street.

Hit up Boogie Street Guitars for more info.

CLICK HERE to buy Extreme’s new album, Saudades de Rock and CLICK HERE for a recent I Heart Guitar story about the Washburn N3 Nuno Bettencourt limited edition and Nuno’s new signature Randall amp.

NEWS: Billy Sheehan Oz clinics this week

Just a reminder that bass god Billy Sheehan, he of the flowing blond mane, insane tapping licks and growly tone from albums by David Lee Roth, Talas, Mr Big, Steve Vai, Devil’s Slingshot, Niacin and about a billion more, is in Australia this week for three clinics on behalf of Yamaha and Allans Music.
Billy has a new album coming out soon with some very special guests (including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Kings X’s Doug Pinnick, and Billy’s former Mr Big bandmate Paul Gilbert), and Devil’s Slingshot recently released their debut album, Clinophobia. The progressive metal band consists of Billy, guitarist Tony MacAlpine and Aussie drummer Virgil Donati, and for a time these three, with the addition of Dave Weiner, were Steve Vai’s backing band. You can see them in action on Vai’s Live At The Astoria DVD.
Billy has a rad new Yamaha bass to pimp, as you can see from the pic. This one reminds me of the bright pink Yamaha he used to play in the David Lee Roth days.
Dates for Allans are:
Melbourne: October 14, Allans Music, 152 Bourke St, City
Brisbane: October 16, Allans Music, 90-112 Queen Street Mall, City
Sydney: October 17, Allans Music, 228 Pitt Street, City

Tickets are $20 and available from Allans stores and online.
Billy will also appear at Kosmic Sound in Perth on Wednesday, October 15. Email for details.

CLICK HERE to buy Devils Slingshot’s ‘Clinophobia’ CD

CLICK HERE to buy Billy Sheehan’s ‘Advanced Bass’ DVD.

NEWS: New Releases 13/10/2008

Click any title to buy the album

Yngwie Malmsteen – Perpetual Flame Rising Force Records
Everyone’s favourite fury-unleashing, donut-disdaining, Strat-twirling Swedish shred god is back with Perpetual Flame, the first release on his own Rising Force Records. This one features former Iced Earth/Judas Priest singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens.

Pat Travers – Radio Active,Black Pearl, Hot Shot Lemon Records
Unbelievably, these classic Pat Travers albums from 1981, 1982 and 1984, respectively, arrive on CD for the first time in 2008. Come for the phrasing, stay for the flanging. These albums are from the period described as Travers’s commercial peak.

Tommy Emmanuel – Center Stage DVD Mel Bay
Come for the Beatles medley, stay for ‘Initiation,’ but maybe dip out for a wee when Tommy plays ‘I Go To Rio.’ The sound and video quality of this release are outstanding, with lots of close-ups of Tommy’s impeccable technique, which is great news for Tommy fans but quite heartbreaking for Maton guitar fans, as Tommy wails and wallops his beloved acoustic to within an inch of its life, then wallops it a few more inches for good measure.

Various – We Wish You a Metal Xmas…and a Headbanging New Year Eagle Records
‘Silent Night’ featuring Chuck Billy and John Tempesta (Testament), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Jon Donais (Shadows Fall) and Geoff Tate (Queensryche). ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ by Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi (Heaven & Hell/Black Sabbath). ‘Run Rudulph Run’ by Lemmy (Motorhead), Billy F Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Dave Grohl. What more do you need to know?

Faxed Head – From Coalinga to Osaka Mimicry
Okay, this freaks me out because on the way to work this morning I was listening to Mr Bungle’s ‘Disco Volante’ and I thought “I wonder if Trey Spruance is releasing anything soon.” Then I log on and find this. Yet another brilliant side project from the Mr Bungle/Faith No More/Secret Chiefs 3 guitarist.

Joe Satriani – Surfing With The Alien (Vinyl) Sony Legacy
If you’re a guitarist and you don’t have this album, there’s probably something wrong with ya – there, I said it. Sony Legacy rereleases this noodle-filled classic on vinyl to coincide with Satch’s current US tour. Read my recent Joe Satriani interview here.

GIVEAWAY: Bryan Beller’s ‘Thanks In Advance’

In association with Bryan Beller, I Heart Guitar is giving away one copy of his new solo CD, ‘Thanks In Advance.’ To enter, leave a comment, below this post, about your thoughts on the site: What would you like to see? What have you enjoyed reading so far? Anything you don’t like?

After you leave your comment, send your email address (I promise it won’t be used to spam you or anything like that, I just need it to verify your mailing address if you win) and a copy of your comment to The winner will be drawn on November 1, 2008.

After you’ve posted your comment, check out these links:
Or if you can’t wait around to see if you win the CD, go here to order ‘Thanks In Advance.’

FEATURE: Timbers for timbre

Whether you’re putting together a parts guitar, having a custom built or just buying off the rack, knowing what each type of guitar wood sounds like can be an important part of getting closer to the sound you hear in your head.

The original theory behind the electric guitar was that it didn’t matter what it was made of – the pickups were only supposed to gather information from the vibration of the string itself. But the vibration of the string is affected by the qualities of the material it’s attached to – how the string energy dissipates or is amplified, for instance.

Guitar bodies are typically made of mahogany, alder, ash or basswood. There are other woods used, of course, but these are by far the most common. Next week we’ll look at different materials used in fretboards, and the effect they have on the tone.

Alder (Alnus rubra)
Alder has a closed grain, which prevents the finish from seeping into the body and makes it easier to paint and finish. Tonally, it has an even mix of frequencies, giving the tone a slightly warm quality. It’s been used by Fender since the dawn of time, and is the body wood of the Ibanez Jem7VWH. Alder sounds especially lively with single coil pickups, as Stevie Ray Vaughan demonstrated, and tends to sound at its best with thin finishes as opposed to thick shiny polys.

Ash (Fraxinus americana)
Ash is also used by Fender and has more treble than alder. It is known for its high levels of sustain, and is particularly successful when used for Telecaster style bodies. It’s very light too.

Basswood (Tilia americana)
Basswood is a lighter wood often used in metal or shred guitars by brands like Ibanez, Jackson and ESP, as well as many Japanese Fender Strats and Telecasters. It’s a lighter weight wood with a closed grain, but paint has a tendency to sink into it so after a decade or so your nice crisp shred machine may have a few visible lines in it. Some companies glue on a thin layer of another type of wood to prevent this happening. Sonically, it has a round midrange and is especially suited to lead guitar.

Korina (Terminalia superba)
Korina is an African wood used in the original Gibson Explorers and Flying Vs. Hard to find and notoriously hard to work with, it’s a heavy wood with a tone similar to mahogany but with more midrange. If you’re trying to nail that early Van Halen tone, half of the first album was played on a korina Ibanez Destroyer, an Explorer-style model. Eddie then ruined the guitar by cutting chunks out of it for looks, only to realise he’d robbed it of much of its tone.

Mahogany (Khaya ivorensis)
Mahogany can be quite heavy and is used for the Gibson Les Paul and SG, as well as the razor-thin Ibanez S series. The tone is warm and full, and it is often complemented by a maple top to add treble and cut. It’s often used as a neck wood as well in guitars that already have a mahogany body.

Maple (Acer saccharum, Acer macrophyllum)
Maple is more commonly used as a neck or fretboard wood, or as the top of a body mostly comprised of another wood like mahogany. It’s frequently used by companies like Paul Reed Smith for its attractive grain in quilt or flame form. Some lower budget guitars which look like they have flamed maple tops actually have a very fine veneer instead, or even a thin plasticy film that emulates the three dimensional shifting patterns characteristic of flamed maple.

Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Poplar is another wood commonly used in metal guitars, especially by Jackson. It has a greyish colour so it’s never used with transparent finishes.

Rosewood (Dalbergia baroni)
Rosewood is most commonly used as a fretboard wood on everything from Fender and Gibson classics to modern hi tech axes and everything in between. George Harrison famously played a Rosewood body Telecaster on “Don’t Let Me Down.”