Ugh, Jazzmaster

THIS is what a Jazzmaster should sound like: glassy and compressed with a really soft, undefined midrange.

I recently got a Jazzmaster in a trade. I’ve wanted one ever since I saw this video and first heard At The Drive In.

LISTEN TO THAT. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a monster.

Anyway, after literally years looking for one but being unable to find one at a reasonable price, I was fortunate enough to have one of these fabled tone machines fall into my lap. Don’t worry, it’s not a custom shop, just an old, wrecked Japanese one. And, while the look is bang-on vintage Fender, a candy apple red body and matching headstock, the sound is just… not quite there.

I love certain parts of the guitar–the neck is perfect, and the vibrato is comfortable and almost intuitive to use–but other parts like the awful stock bridge, tuning pegs and -just-a-crappy-sounding-Strat-bridge-pickup have got to go.

First steps:

1. Clean the paint off it. (For the love of God, don’t ask.)
2. Get a new bridge pickup
3. Get a new bridge (Mustang or Mastery)
4. Shield the crap out of it.

The last owner was an artist, so I think he left the guitar out in his studio while he apparently flung paint around the room like a blindfolded Jackson Pollock. I’ll post some photos and video soon… once I get it cleaned up.


I want to be Guthrie Govan’s buddy

Guitarist magazine just put up a video of Guthrie Govan demo’ing a new guitar Charvel’s put together for him.

Normally, these videos are god awful, but I found this one hilarious.

Guthrie’s a gregarious, engaging subject; it was very refreshing to hear him say, “Well, they take maple and… sort of cook it,” when referring to what’s going on with the neck on this guitar. Quite a change from most of the corporate BS press releases we see regurgitated in things like this.

And accurate, too; that is what they do to maple on these. It’s not an attractive process, even if it does make for much better necks and fretboards.

Pay particular attention to the scooped-out neck joint and scalloped horn. Those are the sorts of features we should be clamoring to see more of, rather than putting up with the ancient and antiquated 4-bolt monstrosity here.

I’d recommend listening all the way through, but he starts playing around 4:20 if that’s all you’re looking for. The single-coil’s a little gainy/grainy for my taste; I guess they jacked it up to match the output of the humbuckers. Not great, but the other pickups sound pretty good, at least for what he’s doing.

And damn, he can play.

By the way, Govan’s actually coming to Canada this year! He’ll be playing the Phoenix April 23rd alongside Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson.

At Last, Guitar Equipment Has Attained… Cuteness

Okay, so that may not be a goal we would think the guitar equipment industry should be striving for; nonetheless, they’ve reached it.

Just look at these things. They’re like pieces of candy. I expect them to be filled with caramel or chocolate or whatever the hell they put inside Boston cream donuts. Which would be… Boston, I guess?

The original Fuzz Face was always a pain in the ass to use. Most of them had reversed jacks, so you had to use extra long cable to hook it up to the rest of your pedalboard, and likewise, most of them weren’t able to be powered any other way than 9-volt batteries, meaning you had to always remember, “Oh, I should change the battery on my Fuzz Face” before you went out to a show. As well, if you’ve ever looked at the schematics for a Fuzz Face circuit, you’ll see that there’s literally nothing in it. You could probably build a functioning Fuzz Face out of pieces you pull out of your remote control. It’s good, then, that they’ve finally ditched that huge housing—and those backwards in and out jacks—for something a little more pedalboard-friendly.

And true bypass? Sweet.

It’s nice to see Dunlop pay some attention to their bread and butter pedals, rather than giving us endless MXR ‘custom shop’ variations on the Tubescreamer circuit like they have been. I mean, I like sparkle paint as much as anyone, but really. That company’s really made some interesting strides in the last few years, what with their resurrection of Way Huge (Jeorge Tripps FTW) and all the awesome stuff that they can do under that banner. I’m paying more and more attention to them; now if only they could come up with a better power supply than the Brick.

Here’s a video. Hot tip: wraparound face mics are ridiculous.

What do you think?

Big Sugar’s Revolution Per Minute

I’ve long thought of Big Sugar as having a lot of reggae influence. But now, I’m wondering if they might simply be the BEST, DIRTIEST SOUL BAND IN THE WORLD.

On Tuesday, June 28th, it’s going to be a good day for stereo systems everywhere. Revolution Per Minute, the first album Big Sugar’s put out in 8 years, is hitting stores, and it’s going to make some noise. Here’s the first track, “Roads Ahead.”

In the intervening years since we’ve had a new Big Sugar release, singer Gordie Johnson—for my  money, one of the best frontmen working—has been busy co-writing and producing hit songs across North America and playing in his country-metal outfit Grady. Continue reading

Through Michigan to Illinois; Indiana, Too…

What I’m Up To: Interviews, writing reviews, playing guitar and long nights in bars. Little jobs in a big career, writing on broken computers and playing on borrowed guitars. Gigs n’ other things, but everything’s at least a long drive away.

Ah, well. Canadian Music Week’s over; now, I can get back to work.

Coming Up: “Rope” by the Foo Fighters, Northrop Frye on Why We Read/Why We Write, and a vain quest for me to put together 3 grand for a Gretsch White Falcon (even though I’ll probably still play The Beast more.)

PS Aw yeah. These guys are amazing.

Well, the city lights are risin’ / On this midnight black horizon / And I’m wishin’ you were with me / When no passengers are ridin’.

In The Service Of The Story: Poetics, Songwriting & Robert Service

Yeah; I put the obvious joke in the title. It’s out of the way now. Stay with me. We’re going somewhere cool.

I like to think that a lot of people go into the arts not for the paycheque (meager) or the notoriety (fleeting) but for the sakes of the stories. They simply don’t get the satisfaction of telling stories, from start to finish, in any other possible career they may come across. All of our modern modes of art and culture come back, more or less, to that one need: to serve the story, and I’ve found the heavy hitters of each mode or method of creating art—because the tendency can be channeled in many different ways, crossing facts, films, fiction and poetry—tend to all be obsessed with the concept of story.

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I Play Wrecked Guitars: The Beast

I need a saga. What is the saga? It’s songs for the deaf. You can’t even hear ‘em!

There’s a lot to be said for vintage guitars. As a musician, a lot of pressure is placed upon me to have choice gear–fancy stuff, old stuff that other people wish they had. Which, when it comes to electrics, usually means mid-60s or earlier, and a model that was played by someone famous back in the day, like Pete Townshend or Jimi Hendrix. Those guitars can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I don’t play guitars like that. I play old, wrecked ones. And this one’s my favorite. In the winter of 2009, I decided to get myself a project. I’d recently acquired a Gibson SGJ Gordie Johnson guitar that was just too damn nice to beat up, and wanted another one to teach on and smack around. I figured if I was going to gig and jam and ruin a guitar, it may as well be one I put together or fixed up that really wasn’t worth anything.

After a week of diligent craigslisting, a man in Scarborough contacted me and asked me if I was interested in… this:

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