Which one should I begin with as I stand up and shyly speak as the whole group watches?? Should it be "Hello, my name is Jason and I'm addicted to chasing tone" or "Hello, my name is Jason and I'm an opinionated idiot"?
You see, the problem I have is that both of those statements are true. I expect if you think about it, you are probably both of those things as well. If you've ever said "All you need is a telecaster", "Guitar - Cable - Amp, it's good enough for Keef", "Clapton is God", "Clapton is dog" or "Jimi didn't need to have true bypass" or what ever, then you are guilty of it as well. I think if we are all honest with ourselves we can think of occasions when we've fallen into this trap many more times than once. Me more than most!
So, let's look at this a little deeper. Why am I writing this? Is it self therapy, I don't know - all I do know is that two statements I've seen on the internet in recent times have made me think about this subject more than I usually do. I think it's because it's the anniversary of Jimi's death. These statement (the first was a 'hilarious' meme) are...
1. Everyone tried hard to enjoy themselves at Woodstock... Despite the fact Jimi's pedals were not true bypass.
2. Jimi didn't need loads of effects to sound great.
Let's make another couple of statements that are no different from the ones above, but I'll use the Beatles to demonstrate my point.
1. The Beatles played Shea Stadium with 100w VOX amps and nothing else.
2. The Beatles didn't need Pro Tools to make Sgt Pepper.
When the two sets of statements are compared, it kind of makes you realise that those blanket statements about your favourite artist are kind of... well, you know, silly. I say this because when McCartney played at Shea Stadium with Billy Joel in 2008, the back line and P.A. were somewhat more powerful and I'm guessing, although I can't absolute confirm it - unlike the Peppers sessions - he used a little more than 4 tracks on his last album.
What do we think Jimi would have used if he were still making music today? I know that he has extremely fussy when choosing his wah pedals - I've had some interesting conversations with Wampler escapee Travis who I guess you might know is a massive Hendrix fan. Travis has been lucky enough to pick Roger Mayer's brain's about Hendrix and some of the things said were "he would go through 5-10 wahs every night at sound check to get the right one" and that he only used Marshall's because they were the only ones loud enough and that his own middle name was Marshall. I can't categorically state this next thing but it seems to me Hendrix was a tone chaser like the rest of us and would have absolutely loved the options available to him today had he still been here. Can you imagine Hendrix with an AxeFX or a Kemper? I can't, I don't think... but I can see him with an absolutely massive pedal collection and loving every second of exploring them.
Here's a couple of cool interviews with Eddie Kramer, I'm obliged to warn you that the language is explicit in places, definitely NSFW or for those of a nervous disposition, but he confirms again that Hendrix was a tone chaser and loved to jump in head first and find those tones...
So, thank you for attending this weeks Tone Chasers Anonymous session, my name is Jason, and I am an opinionated idiot. And remember, everything you just read must be true, because you just saw it on the internet.
I started playing the guitar at about age 8, massively influenced by my older brother, my grandfather, and my uncle (who were all players) - I started the same way as everyone else my age did. Listening to the radio and going through my, and my friends, parents record collection. Here are the songs/riffs/solos that throughout my playing life have completely turned me upside down, influenced me or in one case, bought a little tear to my eye. (Note: I’ve intentionally left out Hotel California as it’s too obvious)
Sunday Bloody Sunday – Edge (U2)
Live at Red Rocks version, obviously. My first experience with Eb tuning, It wasn’t until I saw the video I saw that he was playing it “there” so it meant the guitar must have been downtuned. I remember being blown away with Edge’s right hand and his aggressive nature of playing rhythm, the riff was cool but the playing was better.
Phantom of the Opera – Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)
I first heard the song in an advert for Lucozade, just he intro and a little of the main song riff - it was of course the studio version with Dennis Stratton playing with Davey instead of Adrain. It took me months to track the song down (ahhh… the days before the internet) and when I heard the version on Live After Death (unfortunately that performance was never videoed) Iron Maiden became my life’s obsession!
Comfortably Numb - David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
I think this one is pretty much a no brainer for most players. I first became aware of this when a band played it in a pub one time and the guitarist got pretty close to the original. Loving what I had heard I went out and bought the album, loved every second of it but when that first solo of Comfortably Numb passed I was utterly floored. Literally shaking with emotion and joy. I've spent years dissecting the phrasing - how it just seems to fall out of his fingers still blows my mind to this day.
Answers – Steve Vai
My introduction to Mr Vai was at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donnington in 1988 with DLR. They shared the bill with G’n’R, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Helloween. It was really hard not to take notice of him, apart from the extremely raucious G’n’R (with the exception of their outstanding professionalism when the crowd started to go absolutely mad) he stole the show for me. Passion and Warfare was the seminal guitar instrumental album for years, and Answers shows the one thing that is NEVER talked about when discussing Steve’s playing. Phrasing. It’s sublime. This video is the first time I saw him play it live, you can even hear the loud “Yeeeaaahhh”s from me at the start! I would give almost anything I own to be stood between Dave and Steve playing the third harmony line at the end of this song!
Blowin’ Smoke – Brent Mason
I have total and complete clarity of the first time I became aware of Brent. It was 1998 and every Monday night my local pub had a jam night that was hosted by a country/blues band (Country is rare in the UK). The bass player, a great friend of mine called Rick, was always on top of music and had all the latest and greatest imports from across the pond. One Monday I was stood in the pub, having a quiet pint before the jam and Rick put the CD on over the PA. I noticed the tone and note choice instantly. Then the next tune came on and it was just beautiful… I walked over to Rick and asked who it was, he said “Some session guy from Nashville, Brent Mason – keep listening, you’ll love the next track..”. Blowin’ Smoke came on and you could say it was the riff that changed my life. I turned the dirt off, grew a couple of nails on my right hand and I was off… And no, 17 years later, I still can’t bloody play it like he does!
You can listen to Blowin' Smoke on Brent's Soundcloud, for some reason it won't embed here.
45 years ago today (6th September) Jimi Hendrix performed his last ever gig 10 days before he was tragically inducted into the 27 club. We've managed to locate some photos from before, during and after that last gig, photographers unknown...
Today would have marked the 69th Birthday of Farrokh Bulsara - better know to the world as Freddie Mercury. To many, including myself, Freddie was not only a mind blowing musician, singer, and songwriter; but the greatest live showman to ever grace the stage - it's really hard to imagine him knocking on the door of 70 year old.
Today I shall be dusting off my Queen albums, live DVD's, cranking up the Thirty Something and marvelling in the majesty of Mercury.
Here's my favourite Mercury moment, 25 minutes that is now known to have saved the band from self destruction - the performance of day (from either side of the Atlantic). Fortunately, living here in England, I have enjoyed watching bands in the old and new Wembley Stadium so I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there and been one of the 72,000 people who was in the palm of Freddie's hand... actually, no I can't.
So, on my day off yesterday I found myself sitting in my living room, next to a snoring dog, and reading blogs on the internet... Pretty standard stuff for a guy of my age with a brain that can't sit still. Most of the time, I freely admit, most articles/blogs/statements go into my eyes and then fall straight out the back of my head without even scratching the sides - but yesterday I read something that consolidated several thoughts I have recently had, all at once, and gave me an understanding about what the difference is with music, and the way we consume it today, and for example, in comparison with 1985.
The article in question was from Wampler Artist Dave Brons - an independent musician from the North of England. His blog piece was talking about communicating and connecting with his audience and how he feels the music industry is treating artists in the 21st century. I strongly advise you read it here - The blog certainly gives you something to think about in terms of income streams for the professional musician and also how an emerging artist can make a difference in such a plastic, manufactured and manipulated music industry and maintain some sense of integrity.
This brings me back to the title of this blog. What is the the value of music in 2015? Where does value come from? Let's look at the band who can arguably be called the biggest rock band in the world over the last 30 odd years - Iron Maiden. This week they are due to release their 16th studio album (it's amazing they have only released 15 considering their first was in 1979) to an incredibly eager, loyal and patient fanbase. Now, thinking about this, I expect some of you can relate - In 1985 I remember being a 12 year old kid who had saved up ALL my pocket money to buy their latest release. Picture the scene - for the first time ever I was allowed to go into town on my own. The album, of course, was their now legendary recording made over 4 nights at Long Beach Arena, "Live After Death". I made it into town without incident and had been into the store and headed straight back to the bus station with my prized possession ready to go home. In front of me was a 30 minute wait for the bus and another 30 minute bus ride home... How did I spend those 60 minutes? Well, if you are in someways unaware of the album I will describe it for you. It's a gatefold double vinyl, with the usual conceptual artwork of "Eddie" provided by Derek Riggs front and back, and literally hundreds of photos by Ross Haflin inside that had been taken of the band over the entirety of the tour the album was recorded from - these photos were not just on the album inside cover but actually on the record sleeves themselves... I can tell you now that that hour was the fastest and most exciting of my life.
I can't remember how much the album cost me, about £10 ($17 or so) which was at the time, to me at least, was an absolute fortune. Literally months worth of saving. The one thing I can tell you now though is that it was worth every penny before I had even got home and put either of the discs on to the turntable... Think about that for a minute. You go out to buy an album for (subjectively) a LOT of money and you consider it to be complete value for money before you've even put the record on and listened to it.
How does that compare to today. Well, as mentioned before this week sees the new Maiden album being released. Book of Souls. And guess what, 7 days before the album was released I was offered the album on .mp3 at 320 kbps. So, in the opinion of many people, probably the best quality you can get out of .mp3. That .zip files could be downloaded, unzipped and in my iTunes within what... 3 minutes? Now, let's compare the acquisition of this album and directly compare it to that 12 year old kid who was so engrossed in the cover of an album he nearly missed his bus stop on the way home. Quite the difference.
It saddens me that music has come down to this level. It's pretty obvious that to many it has become a disposable commodity openly shared between people who don't know each other. People can steal music in a matter of seconds, or if they do buy it is in their preferred music player almost instantly without leaving the comfort of their own armchair... Where is the excitement? Where is the fevered anticipation? Where is fun?
In conclusion, it becomes obvious that Brons nails it in his blog piece. In order to make waves in your career you must connect with the people who buy your music. You have to find a way to make them emotionally invested in you as well as your product. You have to make them want to connect with you in such a way they will part with their hard earned money because if you can do that, you will start the long journey of successfully making a living by doing what you love - writing, performing and releasing your music.
I guess the question you are all asking is did I download the Maiden album a week before release? Could I resist it? Of course I couldn't, I did it. I listened to it before release. But... think about this also, I had already preordered it at full face value a week before and the reason I continued with the purchase of something I already had possession of (I can't say I own it) is because of the connection I personally have with Iron Maiden. Because of the 12 year old me sitting on the bus finding that tiny picture of Dave Murray sitting on Bruce Dickinson's shoulders during a live show and daydreaming that one day it could be me...
I just found this quiz on reverb.com - thought I'd take it to see which one I got - I answered the questions honestly and got the result I hoped I got - having worked for Brian for around 6 years I needed for it to say this!!!
You can take the quiz for yourself here - let me know what result you get!
Do you remember when you first sat up and really, really took notice of the guitar - how it could talk? How it could cry? How it could be a little cheeky or dare I say it, give the impression of being a touch sarcastic or have the kind of comedic timing only ever found in Laurel and Hardy films?
Like so many others around my age, for me it was the The Eagles, Hotel California. I was a young player, single figures young, and had absolutely no idea about phrasing - real musical phrasing on the guitar... about feel, touch, expression... About 12 strings, compression, phasers, fuzz, overdrive, humbuckers, single coils, harmony or even the concept of multi track recording, I just knew what sounded amazing to my young and impressionable ears. And Hotel California sounded just that, amazing.
Now, many years on, after countless hours spent learning the various guitar tracks, and far too many times berating the radio stations and plastic sounding DJ's who talked over the solos - someone has kindly taken the time to isolate the various guitar parts (if somewhat crudely) and put them on You Tube.
Aaaaahhh, the internet. How I love you!