Stuff (4)

When anxiety unexpectedly ruins your gig

Had the most horrible experience at a gig on Friday, and if I am being honest, one that has thrown me sideways all weekend. It’s been in the forefront of my mind ever since and I think.. I think… I’ve worked out what the problem was.

A little bit of background for those not familiar with my ramblings about the band. I play in a basic cover band, 5 normal guys playing the music that they like. We aren’t what you would call a Top 40 band as we generally refuse to play the songs that most pub crowds want to hear, and when we do give in and do a popular song, we make it our own. Basically, this means I get a load of opportunity to show off with various styles and quite a few elongated solos. Sounds kinda great doesn’t it!

I don’t consider myself to be a great player, but I can certainly hold my own in this band. Obviously, when I sit down with Tom Quayle I come away thinking I’m a complete novice, but relatively, in this situation, I’m good enough to be the sole guitar player in this cover band, playing the circuit we play. I’m confident about what I do and most of the time I come away quite happy - I always try to play for the song and try not to overtake the basic intention, just try to add to it, in my own way. So, you know, generally, it’s all a good experience for me (sounds like I’m trying to convince myself here).

Right, now all the background crap is over, here is what happened. We played two sets on Friday and the first set was great and the second set was utter crap. Not the band, just me. Everything felt wrong. I usually don’t suffer from any kind of nerves when playing – I’ve been doing this a long time - I just get up there and enjoy myself. I love my guitar and my gear in general – playing live with this band is my ‘comfy space’.

Looking back at it objectively (which is what I try to do with most things whenever possible), I can see the following things that happened. During the first set I played right at the top of my game, I was more than happy with it. My tone was spot on, my guitar felt like it was part of me and everything went well. We did our usual set and I think, in terms of my own capabilities, I pretty well nailed it. My musical barometers (the bass player and my wife) came up to me in the break and said it was all going rather well, and pointed out a couple of moments that really worked (I tend to improvise most stuff so you know, it’s a bit of a gamble). The people who were there and who were listening enjoyed it. So, thus far, it was all going swimmingly. The second set, from the moment I stepped up to make sure my guitar was in tune, my guitar felt like an alien in my hand. I honestly felt like I’d never touched it before and it just felt wrong. Absolutely everything about it wasn’t familiar to me. I felt like I was stood there on my own and sticking out like a big sore thumb, exposed as a complete fraud. To compound the issue, when I started playing it felt like my tone had changed also, considerably for the worse. When we finished the second set I couldn’t wait to get home, curl up in a ball and never think about it again. Yeah right. The reality is that I’ve been thinking about nothing else since. The thing that confuses me about this is that after the 2nd set my barometers said it was still great – just as great, but my wife did comment that she could see I wasn’t comfortable up there until it was coming to a close, when I looked more like myself. She said at some points I really didn’t look like myself and I was struggling, but my playing was on point.

When I got my guitar out of its case last night (I couldn’t bear to see it until then, which for me is unusual as I like to see it as I am around the house) it was exactly what I expected it to be. The action was how I like it and it felt like part of me instantly. I have no idea what made it feel different. Now, to counter the obvious questions - I don’t drink when gigging, so it wasn’t as if I had had one too many in the break, I don’t smoke anything I shouldn’t, I didn’t have any kind of bad experience in between, in fact, for the life of me, on the surface, I couldn’t think of anything tangible to give reason for this.

Here is what I think happened. I’m pretty certain that at the moment I picked my guitar up for the second set, something in my head said “NO” to me and I didn’t pick up on it. Generally, in my life, I quite often have an argument with myself about myself, and when my head says no about something I can identify it and move forward without too much stress – and yes, that is oversimplifying it immensely, but you probably don’t want to read about my process in full. What I didn’t do on Friday was identify this properly. The only way I can describe it – well, kinda, is like this. Have you ever been in a crowd and all of a sudden felt claustrophobic? Every been in a social situation and everything suddenly felt wrong and you have to leave for no apparent reason? It was like that – something was just wrong and everything around me was wrong and I had to get out, which I obviously couldn’t, so I had to stay and play. Now, I suffer from both of these feelings at times and I have learned how to deal with them both - I have things I can do to make sure I can overcome any sense of uncomfortable and move on. Trouble is, I’ve never had it on stage before in my comfy place, nor have it happen so sneakily and for it to have such a weird effect – basically, I just didn’t spot what this was. I don’t consider myself an overtly anxious person but I’m pretty certain I had somewhat of a subtle anxiety attack as I stood there. As usual with these things, there was no reason for it other than it just was.

OK, so what can I do to make sure I don’t suffer from this again. Well, right now I don’t really know. I can’t. All I do know is that it’s possible it might happen again - so I need to be able to identify it quicker and work with myself to contain it. As a 44 year old man with a fairly long history of ‘interesting emotional issues’, I’m in a position to work through most situations that come up (usually by talking to the people who can understand me, or as I am doing here, to total strangers) and I’m a long way forward from my lowest point in life, but I am aware that things like this can drag you down extremely quickly. I’ve learned, again, that when you are in your most comfy of places your head can totally mess with you and seemingly only do so for its own amusement. Should this happen again, I will be (hopefully) be able to identify it and concentrate on my space, my space within that space, and know what to do and how to bring myself through. There are focus things I can do, breathing things, internal headspace things, that help.

I do think that creative people, ‘artists’, are the most likely to suffer from issues such as these which leads me on to think I am going to have to write about this more, in depth, soon. I know there are a lot of people who are emotionally crippled by anxiety and I just can’t imagine what that must be like. What we see here is but a tiny snapshot, a token experience, one that (fortunately for me and those around me) I can deal with on my own.

Thank you for listening. I suppose that I should just shut up and play my guitar, and will do so. I’m only talking about this now because I’m pretty sure this happens to a lot of people,  and in more extreme situations, that happened to me. My relationship with the guitar is deeply personal and one that I treasure, I’m guessing that I need to be careful that I can’t let myself take away the thing I love the most from… errmm... myself. I'm lucky enough to have my guitar hanging on the way in front of me as I work, I keep looking at it and thinking "I love that thing" so I'm guessing as long as I'm thinking that, I'm still winning?





Overview of the Paisley Drive

The Paisley Drive was designed for Brad Paisley to give him that great tube saturation like he would get from his Trainwreck amps, but at manageable volumes. Trainwrecks are known for being extremely touch responsive with loads of smooth, liquid sustain. These amps are very rare, so it took a bit of time and several prototypes before we landed on a design. However, despite it being created as a signature for him, it’s capable of a lot more. It works really well for most any type of country, rock, and blues for a bit of breakup to full on fat saturation..

One of my absolute favorite parts about this pedal is the response it has to pick attack and volume control. Set the gain and volume for a slight boost, then just roll back the guitars volume knob and it cleans up, and then roll the volume back up for boosts for solos. It works great with single-coil guitars, giving them an extra depth and punch that single-coils can often lack. It also works really well with humbucker-equipped guitars. On the humbucker guitars, the drive is a bit fatter, and the saturation has more *chunk* to it, for lack of a better word.



  • Level:  There’s a good amount of volume on tap. This control interacts directly with the gain knob. As the gain goes down, the volume has to come up. For instance, if the gain is up around 2pm, the volume is near unity at 11am, if the gain is at 9am, the volume will reach unity around 1pm. (approximate settings).
  • Tone: The tone knob helps dictate how much high end you’re introducing to the signal. When it’s lower, say 9-10am, it will be around unity and the drive is really fat and warm. As you increase it, the highs and the higher-mids begin to pop out and it gets punchy and cuts through the mix.
  • Gain: This pedal was designed more for using with gain more so than as a clean boost. As mentioned above, when the gain is down, the volume has to be up to achieve unity. 9am will add a touch of grit and fatness to the note, like a tube amp just starting to breakup…great for country chickin’ pickin’ and some cool blues lead work. Above 2pm gets into a heavily saturated overdrive, bordering on distortion. This is great for some modern rock and pop songs, and it covers 90’s alt-rock like you wouldn’t believe. 3pm and above and playing on the neck pickup will make you think you’re using a fuzz. As the gain increases, the fuzziness and thickness also increases because it’s like blasting a tube amp to the max.

Mid Contour:

  • Up: This position is the middle ground between the other two switch positions. It’s very open and clear, but with some mids to accentuate cutting through the mix. This is switch doesn't jump the volume up or down at stays very neutral.
  • Middle: This is the position with the least amount of mids. It’s a bit more neutral and reserved sounding compared to the other two options. This is great for a basic rhythm tone no matter where the gain knob is set. Switching to this position will drop the volume a little bit compared to the others, so it's good to boost the volume back up to unity.
  • Down: This position is for the mid lovers. Think of it as a highly modified popular mid-range boosting OD, but on major steroids. This is honestly not for the faint of heart. The mids in this position cut through the mix like a knife. This also happens to be Brad Paisley’s favorite switch position. This position will give a slight volume boost compared to the other selections.

Presence Switch:

  • Down: This disengages the presence switch. The tone is a bit fatter and warmer like this. Great for smokey blues and rock tones. Amps that are inherently brighter will likely sound a bit better on this setting due to already having that frequency on the output. The pedal is extremely fat and beefy in this setting.
  • Up: This helps add some clarity and accentuates the higher frequencies more. We suggest setting the tone know where it’s sounds good to the player, then cut this on to brighten the frequency to cut more in the mix. Another good thing that helps is if you have an extremely bass-y and dark amp (think Peavey Classic 30 or Fender Bassman), this will help accommodate and not get muddy when the gain goes up. The effect of this switch is varies depending on your tone setting, along with how much gain you're using.

The technical stuff:

  • 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ inches (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) (Height excludes knobs and switches)
  • The Paisley Drive can run from 9v-18v and anywhere in between. That being said, it has to be a Negative Center Tip plug, and not over 18v. If a different plug is run into it, the pedal will smoke out and cease to work. So don’t do that! :-)
  • The only difference between the earlier version and the current version is aesthetics. The new graphics feature Brad’s signature on the bottom left corner. Nothing related to the internal circuitry was changed at all.




The 5 Guitar Moments That Changed My World (Max)

5 guitar moments that changed my life

Early this week, Jason posted a Blog about the 5 guitar moments that changed his world. Piggy-backing off this idea – here are my 5. Although numbered – it’s hard to put them in any official order. It was also hard to pick only 5.


1) Who did you think I was? – John Mayer This was one of the first songs that made me want to really “Chase Tone”. I can remember exactly were I was when I first heard this song. I was sitting in my car with the top down of my Mustang (It was a cool car to me – but pretty much a piece of junk to anybody who had seen it.) Anyways – I was sitting at a stop light near my childhood home in Mooresville, Indiana listening to the local radio station 92.3FM (A modern music radio station) when it came on. BAM! Hit me like a freight train! Just the opening riff, Strat, Tube Screamer, and a Two Rock – Blown Away! I’ve been an unashamed Mayer fan-boy since.



2) Jonny Lang – Lie To Me This album came out in 1997 and I purchased it at my local Karma record store on a whim. I was 11 years old and just starting to get in to blues. His voice and riffs were just so tastey – even at an early age – I knew I wanted to sing like that. Oddly enough I didn’t start singing in public until my early 20s. But Johnny Lang’s guitar and vocal phrasing and still a super prevalent influence in my music today.



3) Texas FloodStevie Ray Vaughan I first got in the blues when I was 10 – nearly 20 years ago now. Texas Flood was one of the first albums I ever received. My very first copy was on tape that I received as Christmas gift. I wore that out, quite literally. I stretched the tape so bad you couldn’t understand it in anymore for being played so many times. After doing that to about 3 copies in a matter of months. My parents got me a Sony Discman CD player with a CD version of Texas Flood so they wouldn’t have to buy me any more copies of that album on tape. You can hear the emotion and power behind every note played on that album. If you haven’t listened to it for a while – you owe yourself a favor – sit down, relax, and enjoy.



4) Taxman – The Beatles So for those of you who know me – and for those of you who don’t – I am a huge Beatles fan. My office is pretty much covered in Beatles stuff. My Dad was a huge fan – and I think he passed that gene on to me. While it’s hard to pin point any one favorite Beatles song – I think the song “Tax Man” really stood out to me. The pocket of the Rhythm guitar chugging along during that song has always brought a smile to my face. It’s a fantastic example of pocket – it makes the whole song!



5) Tedeschi Trucks Band

In recent years, I’ve fallen in love with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are both great guitar players on their own – but since marrying one another and forming a more than incredible band together – they continue to amaze me. They both play off each other’s guitar riffs well, song structure is articulate and fun, and I’m not even mentioning that Derek Trucks can make his SG and glass slide sound like a Gospel Singer. While they are known for their up beat structures – I really like this song when I need to just unwind. There still lots of power and emotion – just directed as to relax you. Sound odd I know – but you be the judge for yourself.


Honorable mentions: Sean Costello – I’m a Ram, Jimi Hendrix – Crosstown Traffic, and Government Mule – Beautifully Broken.

- Max

Which boutique pedal company are you?

I just found this quiz on - 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!