Next up is my trusty Vox Standard 25 (or what used to be Standard). This is the first really good guitar I owned, purchassed from a friend in High School. It started life as a stock Vox Standard 25 which could best be described as “if a Strat and a PRS had a child that traveled in time back to the mid-80s”. It was my main guitar through the end of the 80s and into the early 90s. Not sure if it’s just long term familiarity but it is one of the easiest and most comfortable necks I have played.
It was also the first guitar I played around with modding. It’s been through several personality changes and the current set-up is:
all the usual (straplocks, locking Neutrik output jack, graphite string trees)
custom cut pickguard
single coil Dimarzio in bridge position
Gibson Bill Laurence humbucker in bridge position
Roland GK midi pickup
momentary stutter button
The Dimarzio single coil was the original on the stock version, the humbucker came from a mid-80s Les Paul I did some work on for a friend (and the pickups that were replaced were given to me as payment). The wiring is a mix between custom and accidental: the first (volume) pot was replaced withthe momentary button, the third pot is a tone control exclusively for the single coil (this makes going back and forth between the e-bow and regular playing super-easy). The middle pot was supposed to be a master volume but somehow just rolls off some of the overall high frequencies. I’m not sure where I messed up but it’s been interesting playing around with this configuration. One of these days I might correct it, but for now…
One of the upsides of “downtime” is catching up on my instrument maintenance. So I started with the hot-rodded ones: they started life as basic and unremarkable and were then transformed into… well, you’ll see. Number one is only modded a little. Neutrik locking output jack and Dunlop straplocks (both standard on most of my modified instruments), and a momentary killswitch where the old jack used to be. It already had the graphite neck and LSR tuners. Usually tuned to E-flat and my main go-to for Strat sounds.
This was one of my main guitars used on the Bardela EP. The Crow is a good demonstration of it’s capabilities.
Well, It’s that time of year. Time for the pilgrimage to Annaheim for the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show. Here are the highlights:
My friend Juanito Pascual was here doing his thing in the Cordoba/Guild room. So nice to hear him play whilst not sweating over the sound.
My Guitar Circle/touring buddy Brad Hogg was also in the Cordoba/Guild room. That was a pleasant surprise.
Talked about frequency of Stick string changes with this guy. Tony something. I hear he’s played on a couple records.
One of the few instruments I was drooling over. No idea what it sounds like but look at it!
My “Nicko moment”* – Running into Dug Pinnick at the Tech 21 booth. He said, “Get this man a bass” and directed me over to test drive his new signature pedal (which is awesome). There is nothing like playing a Dug Pinnick bass through a Dug Pinnick pedal while standing next to Dug Pinnick to remind you that you will never be Dug Pinnick.
And the big highlight – meeting Emmett Chapman. It’s a pretty special and rare occasion for a musicain to meet the person who invented the instrument they play. I thanked him profusely and tried not to fawn or gush. I think I walked away with my dignity intact.
* A “Nicko Moment” is when I meet a person of a certain notoriety/fame who has had an influence and impact on my life and I lose restraint over my fanboy tendencies. Named after the occasion of meeting Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain last year.
Through an amazing stroke of luck and an act of kindness, I got a pass to the annual N.A.M.M. (the National Association of Music Merchants) show in Anaheim, CA. This is where/when all of the musical instrument manufacturers roll out their new products for the folks who sell them to schmucks like me. One of the things that makes it fun is the sheer number of semi-to-very famous musicians you run into (more on that later). Outnumbering them are the wanna-be rock stars who are always fun to watch. It is a Dionysian Bacchanal of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) and I was under strict instruction to NOT BUY ANYTHING. This was easy as I am not a music store. The real danger is in the weeks that follow but I reminded myself periodically that I pretty much have all that I need/can use and no disposable income. As I was still having a lot of spine-related leg pain, and I knew this was going to involve a LOT of walking, I brought along some painkillers (to aid in mobility and legitimately prescribed!). So, here I was in Southern California, feeling poor, surrounded by wanna-be rock stars and relying on narcotics to get through the day. It was like I’d never left.
There were lots of neat toys to drool over but nothing I really needed (well , there was ONE guitar that would be very useful). Years ago I adopted the process, when tempted by this or that new noise-maker, of taking a moment and asking myself: “Do I already own something that does whatever makes this new thing attractive?” I was continually surprised how often this served me well. So, it was really just a sight-seeing tour, wandering about, shooting pictures of the vistas, artifacts and (occasionally) the odd celebrity. Now I am not a big believer in the “hey can I get a picture with you, Mister Rock-Star?” For the most part, famous folks that I have met or spent any time with have turned out to be just like your average citizen – and I don’t really need my picture with the average citizen. There are exceptions; extenuating circumstances that warrant some sort of documentation so the following shots are accompanied by the excus- er, I mean reasoning behind their being taken. So without any more rambling…
Finally, being back on the streets of SoCal made me wonder two things: (1) did everybody here learn to drive playing Mario Kart? and (2) how long have turn signals been optional equipment in California?
Here we have an example of the technological excess that I rely on to make the noise I make. This is my Radio Underground/general rock pedalboard. Yes, it’s heavy and a pain to load in. Yes, it is worth it.
The signal path goes along as such:
guitar input -> Line 6 M5 with expression pedal for whammy and wah presets -> MXR Dynacomp -> Ernie Ball volume pedal – Korg Pitchblack tuner -> B.C. Rich programable swithcher (that swithches between my preamp and distortion/fuzz sounds: a DOD EQ, an early ’80s Ibanez TS9, a Sovtek Big Muff and an Electro Harmonix Tube Zipper) -> ART Tube preamp -> Electro Harmonix Freeze -> Line 6 M9 for delays/modulation/basic looping -> off to the amps!
Summer has ended and I’m trying to organize/prioritize/categorize my projects. Currently at hand are the following: Stick practice (ongoing), NST practice/repertoire (ongoing) – in anticipation of next Spring’s Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists Northeast USA appearances, mixing the live Radio Underground EP, rehearsing for some forthcoming RU shows, demoing for the next Ghost Ghost recording, exploring booking opportunities for both RU and solo gigs, knocking the dust off of the Pantet repertoire and restarting that behemoth. This is all in addition to the usual ongoing rig construction/deconstruction/reconstruction, instrument maintenance, web meandering and occasionally pondering returning to my two solo recording projects. One of these days…