REVIEW: Q BALL – This Is Serious Business

Q*Ball is an eclectic artist who combines electronica, rock, and pop melodies with a sense of sonic experimentation and musical colour evocative of Berlin era Bowie. His third album, This Is Serious Business, adds live drums, acoustic guitars and grand pianos, and welcomes back the guitar and co-production talents of Bumblefoot, guitarist for Guns N Roses but also an extraordinarily talented solo artist in his own right.
Unlike some electronica, the songwriting of This Is Serious Business is strong enough to stand up to any treatment – these are songs that would sound great strummed around the proverbial campfire or raging out of a rock band. The instrumentation adds a sophistication and groove that make the album feel high-tech yet timeless, and the clean, strong vocals show a calm sense of restraint which keeps the delivery from pinning the album to a specific time in musical history – this doesn’t sound like a naughties or nineties or eighties album.
My favourite track is ‘She Drives Me Crazy,’ a power pop track with powerful drums and an almost Lloyd Cole vocal delivery. It’s the closest thing on the album to an arena anthem yet would also sound great being blasted out in an indie club.
‘Pez Dispenser’ has an almost Nine Inch Nails feel, and ‘Baked On The Freeway’ reminds me of Butthole Surfers meets Earthling-era-Bowie.
This Is Serious Business is a very engaging album and the Bumblefoot contributions will be of special interest to us guitar geeks.

NEWS: Dave Mustaine signature Marshall?

In an update on the Megadeth forums, mainman Dave Mustaine dropped what appears to be a hint about a possible signature Marshall amp in the near future. Dave has used Marshalls off and on throughout his career, when not using a Bogner Fish, Rocktron Prophecy, or most recently a custom, not-available-to-the-public Line 6 amp.

In the posting on megadeth.com about preparations for the band’s next album, which will be produced by Andy Sneap, Dave said: “On the tech side, I am going to be continuing on with my Dean VMNT’s as my guitar of choice, and I will be using my Signature GHS Dave Mustaine Progressives 10-52 gauge strings, Jim Dunlop Tortex picks and my signature Dave Mustaine Live Wires by Seymour Duncan, and DigiTech‘s killer GSP1101. I am proudly using Marshall Amplifiers and Cabinets, and boy do we have a surprise for you, but I will leave that up to the noble Marshall family to say.”

NEWS: Billy Sheehan Oz clinic tour

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 coming to Australia for a few clinics on behalf of Yamaha and Allans Music.
Billy has a new album coming out soon with some very special guests (including 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 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.

NEWS: Limted Edition Ibanez RG30AH

I just found this tucked away on the website of Melbourne msuic store Eastgate Music. A little while ago to not much fanfare, Eastgate posted about the forthcoming Ibanez RG30AH, a special version of the RG550 being released to celebrate 30 years of Ibanez availablity in Australia, where they are distributed by Australis Music. The guitars will feature a maple fretboard with a special Southern Cross star inlay, original Wizard neck shape and original Edge trem. They will be limited to 60 numbered pieces. Eastgate has pictures of the prototype, which has the old school Ibanez ‘swoosh’ logo, but the final version will have the Prestige logo instead. Recommended retail price is $2,495, and Eastgate will be getting 2, one of which is already sold, according to their website.
These look an awful lot like last year’s
RG550 20th anniversary reissue, which were built largely to 1987 specs but with improved neck construction and hotter versions of the original pickups. The 20th annversary version was available in black, desert sun yellow and roadflare red.
It seems more information about this limited edition guitar is very scarce. I’ve only found one other reference to it, from way back in March at the Ibanez Collectors website. If anyone’s seen these popping up in stores already, or if you have one, I’d love to hear about it.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have no association with Eastgate other than playing a bunch of guitars there and geeking out over Ibanez with them. If they happen to stumble across this page, hi guys! Hehe.

INTERVIEW: Cavalera Conspiracy

After a decade apart, Sepultura founding brothers Max and Igor Cavalera have reunited in The Cavalera Conspiracy, reviving the intricate thrash and crushing rhythms of Arise-era Sepultura with a modern brutality and ten years of growth on their debut album, Inflikted (Roadrunner).  

Peter: This band seemed to come out of nowhere. When did it start? 

Cavalera: I’ve been on this project now for the last two years, since I started talking to Igor again. I’ve been submerged with this thing from morning to night, 24 hours. I’m just very happy with it, man, I’m very proud of it. I like the attitude, the music, the visuals – It doesn’t look like all the shit that’s out there, y’know? I’m excited as hell to go on tour, and we’re really thrilled about the record. 

Peter: Did you get back into contact with the idea of playing together again, or was it about reestablishing the brotherhood first?  

Cavalera: My first approach with him was just to get back together as brothers, family, y’know, but once that was done my thing was, ‘Now that we’re brothers again, now that we’re family again, guess what: We need to play again.’ So that was the next move, and it was cool. We have a really cool chemistry together. It was perfect, really. It’s wild. It’s kind of surreal sometimes. Because it was so long ago and so much has happened in these 10 years, I’m glad we’ve restored our brother relationship. We grew up together in music. The first 20 years of my life playing music was with Igor, then there was a 10 year space where I continued making music but it was not the same. 
 
Peter: How have you changed musically in the time apart?  
 
Cavalera: Not a lot. I still play just 4 strings. I still don’t know the name of all the strings, and I still don’t tune my guitars. Igor noticed that right away: ‘Your shit’s still out of tune man! I can’t believe 10 years have gone by and your guitars are dirty still, you don’t clean them, they’re out of tune.’ And I say, ‘Well …(Woody Allen-style cough) I’m the same.’ And Igor’s pretty much the same. I noticed how much he’s matured as a drummer though. I always knew the double bass Igor, the crazy fills, but this was something else, kind of a Bill Ward, Bonham feel to it, where he can keep the shit as simple as possible but with a lot of power. It’s completely relentless, you can feel that drum beating you, punishing you.
 

Peter: The drums are mixed very in-your-face. Was that to say ‘Here’s Igor back’ or was it just the way it turned out?  

Cavalera: I was more in charge of the direction of songs, sonic ideas, themes and this and that. But Logan (Mader) as an engineer really knew the drums would be a huge thing on this project, and I think in his own way Logan made sure to record the drums the right way and mix it the right way, so when you listen to it the drums really jump out at you. It’s also a lot to do with the way Igor plays. He has this presence. I’ve toured with a lot of people, and the only other person with that kind of presence was Bill Ward when I did the Sabbath tour. One thing about Igor that a lot of people don’t know is that most of the time, the right stick is upside down, so he’s using the end of the stick, and that started in the Sepultura days. He said he wasn’t punishing the drums enough. It’s a very metal thing to do. The first day in the studio I was like, ‘Yeah, the upside down stick, crank it!’ 
 
Peter: So I guess that’s the secret to getting your sound is a guitar with 4 strings that’s out of tune, and an upside down drum stick. 
 
Cavalera: I was waiting for him to draw people he didn’t like on the toms, because he used to do that too. Bands that be ****ing with us on tour. Ministry was an example, they had a real asshole tour manager, he hated everybody, a miserable guy, and always talking shit about everyone. So Igor drew him on every drum skin, in many different ways – had him naked in one, had him dressed like a girl, and eventually he saw the drum kit and wanted to kill all of us. We didn’t give a shit, that’s the way we roll.  

Peter: Are you still playing your ESP signatures? 
 
Cavalera: Yep, the 4 string, out of tune. On the Conspiracy I’ve been using the AX shape signature model. It reminds me of my old BC Rich I used back in the Sepultura days, and we’re in the process of maybe making a new model, a 4 string model. I don’t know why I never thought of that before, actually made a 4 string guitar. It’s a big riff guitar. I love ESP, I love the guitars.

NEWS: This week’s new releases

Lindsay Buckingham – Gift of Screws
New solo album from the Fleetwood Macdaddy, with appearances by FleeMac cohorts Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. The word is that there is some pretty scorching guitar playing on this one, along with an altogether darker blues rock edge compared to his previous release, Under The Skin. Buckingham has always been hugely underrated but his tone and note choice are, to quote Cookie Monster, nomnomnomnom.

Buckcherry – Black Butterfly
Personally I was never really sold on Buckcherry. However, they do have some nice guitar tones and a cool sleaze-rock vibe, and early reviews proclaim this the best album of their career, so it may be worth a listen for those of us who never really gave them enough of a chance.

The Cure – Hypnagogic States
This EP consists of a few songs from the forthcoming full length album by the gloomy heroes of yesteryear, all remixed by the gloomy heroes of today, including members of My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, AFI, 30 Seconds to Mars, and 65 Days of Static. All royalties from the EP will be donated to the International Red Cross.

David Gilmour – Live in Gdansk
2 CD/2 DVD set by former Pink Floyd guitarist, playing solo tracks as well as Pink Floyd classics. Not a lot of surprises in the setlist, but any chance to watch Gilmour’s tastefully restrained playing close-up should be seized upon and ravaged like a zebra with a trick knee.

Marc Ford & The Neptune Blues Club – self titled
Former Black Crowes guitarist Ford stakes out his claim to the same guitar hero territory prowled by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, with an album of original blues rock.

CUSTOM CORNER: Swirled Ibanez RG

Here’s my work-in-progress custom Ibanez RG. The body was an eBay find, and a Christmas present from Mrs Iheartguitar: it’s an Ibanez RG570 with a custom swirl paint job by Herc Fede. For a while, Herc was selling painted bodies on eBay, as well as doing custom work, but as of July 1, 2008 he stopped taking orders for custom finishes. He plans to still occasionally offer painted bodies for sale, so check his webside periodically to see if you can snag one. What I particularly like about this body is the abstract duck figure in the top left corner of the image.

The neck was another eBay discovery, and was hand made by Herc himself. The colours are based on the Ibanez Jem 77PMC purple multicolour model from the early 90s. The neck is in great condition and feels very smooth and comfortable.

The electronics will consist of a pair of Dimarzio EJ Custom humbuckers, which are designed to sound like old Gretsch FilterTrons, and a Dimarzio Vintage Solo single coil in the middle, which is voiced to sound like a P90. I already have so many shred-style guitars that I thought it would be cool to have something that sounds a little more traditional, yet looks completely over the top.

The hardware is all authentic Ibanez, in the Cosmo colour, a kind of matte grey. The clear pickguard is from Jeannie Pickguards.

All that remains to be done now is have the body clearcoated and the electronics cavities shielded, which will be done by ET Guitars.
Other parts were ordered from World of Music in Brighton East here in Melbourne (I used to teach there, and they have an especially awesome range of Fender guitars and amps), Rich Harris’s Ibanez Rules, Matt’s Music Center, and eBay seller Kenvai.

FEATURE: Digital editing for guitarists

Once upon a time, if you wanted to record something at home, chances are that you had to do it with a clunky four or eight track portable studio set up. My first was a Yamaha unit from the mid 80s, which I bought second hand out of the local paper when I was 14. I logged hours and hours of time on that thing, bouncing down tracks, faking a bass by manipulating the tape speed, recording backwards solos, and generally making a whole lot of noise. One time I created a Ministry-esque rhythm track and recorded Simpsons quotes directly off the VCR, relying on my mad pause button skills to ensure the ‘samples’ were recorded at the right point in the song. Today even the simplest computer can be an entire recording studio, and the rules have changed. You no longer have to worry about losing a little bit of treble every time you play your track, like you would with a cassette. And if you flub a part, it’s really easy to fix a note or two. Try that on a tape deck.

For the last year or so, my recording system of choice has been Pro Tools LE. I’ve stumbled upon a few cool tricks which apply to pretty much any digital work station, so feel free to try these at home. Just don’t hurt yourselves.

TWINKLE PANS: Record a stereo track of a single chord with a panning effect moving from left to right, timed to sweep the sound from one side to the other over the length of each bar. Then chop each bar up into 8th notes, and juggle them around randomly, so you get the chord sort of ‘twinkling’ across the stereo spectrum. You might hear a slight clicking sound at the start or end of each 8th note. If that’s the case, just draw in the tiniest of fade-ins and fade-outs at the start and end of the note, and you’ll be fine. You can also try using a tremolo effect, which you can lock to the tempo of the track, and set to fade in and out of the note naturally.

RHYTHMIC TREMOLO: Similar to twinkle pans, chop a bar into 8th or 16th note segments, but this time, instead of moving them around, delete some of them, to create interesting rhythms. Be a little bit lateral and see if you can find interesting polyrhythms or syncopations you might not have come up with any other way. Even if you’re not sold on the tremolo sound, you can still use it as a songwriting tool to write new riffs, which you can then play ‘manually.’

INSTANT KEYBOARD, JUST ADD REVERB: For fake keyboard sounds, use a reverb effect with the mix turned to 100% effected sound and a second or so of reverb time, then tremolo-pick single notes or octaves as fast as you can. With the un-reverbed note and any sense of definite rhythm removed from the signal, you’re just left with the general harmonic information. If you bring down the bass and treble frequencies and notch up the upper mids a bit, you can create a very interesting texture underneath extreme metal riffing.

DELAYED EFFECT: For a unique delay sound, copy the guitar track to a second track, move it back by 1 or 2 beats compared to the original track, then apply effects only to the shifted track, so you can have, say, flanger or pitch shifter happening only on the delays. Imagine your original melody line being repeated as a diatonic harmony, or drenched in deep vibrato.

THE MULTI AMP VIRTUAL RIG OF DOOM: Many amp modelling programs feature the ability to use two virtual amp rigs at once, but if that’s just not enough, or if your modeler only offers one sound at a time, copy and paste the same guitar part onto multiple tracks, and process each one differently to achieve otherwise unattainable sounds. This is especially fun for getting vaguely Frank Zappa-ish sounds: Try separate tracks of a completely uneffected guitar, a distorted guitar with a very short delay, a distorted guitar with a stationary wah effect, and a distorted guitar with an envelope filter, all at once, panned to various points in the stereo spectrum.

LOOK MA, I’M A SYNTH: Lock a modulation effect’s tempo to the speed of the song and feed it into an envelope filter for crazy synth-like swells. Try it on two tracks, panned hard left and hard right, with the modulation tempo set to quarter notes on one side and whole or 8th notes on the other; set each envelope filter to emphasise a different frequency; and compress the hell out of each side. You should get a phat, rhythmic ‘wub’ sound with a million and one uses, from Tea Party-style post rock apocalyptica to rave freakout.

I hope you have fun with these, and are inspired to come up with new editing tricks of your own.