Tuesday, October 11, 2016

more sketches

Music of the month: lately I bought some Miles Davis albums from his late 60s / early 70s electric era and I never have enough go his music... I was more familiar with his earlier and later work (I saw him on his Tutu tour some time back in the 20th century), but this phase is just fantastic - and you can find some full concert videos of the 1973 european tour on YouTube. And I really enjoy the music of Canadian band Suuns that combines beautifully synths and guitars, as much as pop and minimalism.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dhellemmes + Birkhan at the Small Forms Sessions

Getting ready for coming Friday's Small Forms Sessions - we will be recording in the afternoon and performing in the evening. I will play (unless the project evolves some more) a first part with my iPad and two guitars, then writer / performer Ines Birkhan will join with spoken words, synth and drum machines... 

I started to use the iPad for concerts last month and I'm thrilled by the result - some sophisticated apps I use combine perfectly with the raw guitar sound I came up with recently - thanks to my new North Effects Ampeg Scrambler clone (I need to post something about my current pedal line...)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dhellemmes / Reardon in Zajkert #5

Next week I will play my first concert ever in Hungary, together with pianist Edward Reardon -  we started this fruitful guitar / piano / electronics duo one year ago and it's a real pleasure to play to a new audience. 

Zajkert is an experimental music festival hosted by the Modem (centre for modern and contemporary arts) in Debrecen. The evening will end with a massive improvisation with all the musicians of the programme - I expect it to be grand!

Zajkert V, Modem
Baltazár Dezső tér 1.
4026 Debrecen, Hungary
17 September 2016 18:00

Monday, August 22, 2016

Musima Eterna ready for next concert

Last week I cleaned up my Musima Eterna, as I decided to finally use it for a music project - not just collecting... 

In October, I will be part of a recording/concert sessions going on in Vienna - I will tell more about it in due time - for which I want to equally use guitar, electronics and voice, and I was looking for a way to break my patterns - that's when the Eterna hanging on the wall blinked at me. With its extra fat neck and overwound pickups, it will be nothing like the super easily playable Jaguar or Epsilon I usually use.

Shortly after I bought it, the tremolo arm broke and there is no way I can replace it - and the substitute I tried didn't work - it's not a standard model. The electronics look strange to me - but I'm not a specialist -, still they work fine and need no change. The bridge and tremolo were heavily greased - super dirty but preserved from rust. So at the end it was mostly just cleaning and polishing, tightening screws, putting new strings and it's ready to rock again! I didn't bring it to the studio yet to play loud but I think that it will fit well to my current pedal combination - and that's a topic for a next post. 

(BTW, only after I bought this guitar, I found out that Kim Gordon used one when she recorded with Free Kitten, and I couldn't imagine a better predecessor...)

Monday, August 8, 2016

more sketches

Music of the month: started to work on a new project with guitar/baritone guitar, piano/synth and drums... Still trying to combine incompatible influences such as jazz fusion and batcave, minimal repetitive music and free improv! As we exchanged music to try to understand what we three have in common, we discovered than we all like The Dead Weather a lot, and decided to make a free instrumental cover of 'Treat Me Like Your Mother'... Otherwise my favorite guitar sound lately is  made by Reignwolf.

BTW, this is the 500th post on this blog...

Friday, June 24, 2016

more sketches

Still struggling with time to keep this blog active - I do manage to get projects done though - music, instruments, etc... - but posting here comes after the rest at the moment. It will get better.

Music of the now: Parallelograms by Linda Perhacs - my only folk album since Neil Young's Harvest 30 years ago... I can indulge in sweet melodies and harmonies sometimes...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Reaching for the cosmos

(picture used without permission, sorry)

2016 is definitely the worst year, and my blog will soon be more about dead musicians than about guitars... Alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi was not David Bowie or Prince, and his death will not make more headlines than his life or music... But those who knew him will remember him with fondness and gratitude. 

Marco passed away yesterday after a lifetime dedicated to uncompromising  art. Though he performed with the greatest free jazz musicians in the US and Europe, and released or played on numerous records since the mid-80s, his reluctance to please had him struggle for survival all his life, and keep on at the age when artists are either successful or gave up - until the very end. 

I met him when I moved to Vienna where he has been living since 2004 and where he organised the The Neu New York/Vienna Institute of Improvised Music - a weekly improv session where touring musicians would meet Viennese improvisers for a common practice of free music. After years of playing solo when I was in Berlin, that's where I learned again sharing and improving myself at he contact of fellow improvisers.

I never saw Marco on stage, I only heard him in the Celeste Jazzkeller club, never further than 3 meters from me. His saxophone sounded like thunder, it was like concentrating the energy and anger of 10 men into one column of air. All his music was about how mastering a technic could free your creativity, and it was a precious inspiration for any musician who would listen to him. Playing with him was truly uplifting, challenging but not intimidating for he was a generous man and artist. Sometimes at the end of a session he would go to the piano and hammer it with the same energy - and you found it also in the spontaneous poetry he was posting on Facebook...

Marco was living in Mexico since last year, as he was expelled from Austria for not regularising his administrative situation. It's not as bad as what Austria currently does with Syrian refugees, but it shows how stupid ideology and bureaucracy can be - and loose valuable people to a country. A few weeks ago he was touring Europe and came to play at the improv session in Celeste but I failed to go - too tired, busy with the baby... Huge mistake, I will never play with him or hear him live ever again.

Thank you for everything,  Marco.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

more sketches

You might have noticed that my posting has been scarce in the last months, but I have a very good reason for that (I always have a good reason, have I not?): since last December I am the proud father of a baby girl (sleeping in my arms as I write these words) and my priorities have shifted. But I'm coming back slowly to my guitar-based activities - concerts, projects, design... More instrument-based projects actually, since my synth collection increased and I've been practicing with them more than with guitars - it's easier to play keyboards/MIDI interface with a baby on your lap (I'm an adept of attachment parenting, but it's another story...) 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dancing on Ashes (Circle) in Pinacoteca

Tomorrow I will perform again a projected text + music show I created 5 years ago in Berlin - one of my few theremin based projects. It will also be the first Angel Meat performance in the last years...

This heap of pedals allows me to create a quadrophonic soundscape - just from the sound of the theremin (I couldn't use so many effects with a guitar, I had to make a performance for too many pedals!) The place is called Pinacoteca and is a small but very nice independent gallery in Vienna, with cheerful and supportive people.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

One Love Machine Band

A couple of weeks ago I saw the One Love Machine Band - the love child of Berliner artist Kolya Kugler - perform in Vienna, and as you can see its robotic bass player Afreakin plays a real bass with fingers... Music playing robots belongs often more to field of puppetry than to music, but I do enjoy them - the teenage cyberpunk in me I guess... 

Though it sticks a little bit too much to the rules of the genre - trash aesthetics, humanoid form, decorative details -, One Love Machine Band has something I've never seen before: it's playing neither metal music or techno, but as its name indicate, music rooted in reggae. And because of its simplicity and rawness, it sounds quite like early Public Image Ltd - a mix or post-punk and dub I particularly enjoy (Kolya and his metal friends actually opened for PIL in Switzerland last year and composed and played a tribute song, but he told me that he was totally snubbed by an unimpressed John Lydon). 

Seriously, I totally see myself fronting such a robot combo - lately I try myself at playing with drum machines and bass sequencer but it can't beat musicians, even when you love electronic music. The One Love Machine Band has it all - it can play repetitive and minimal lines but the approximation of pneumatic movement generates a lively groove.   

Afreakin's feet are BMW labeled engine parts - Kolya claims that it stands for Bob Marley & the Wailers... 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sometimes it Snows in April

Back in the 20th century, Prince made me who I am by teaching me that all that matters is the music - there are no styles, no genre, no chapels, just the music. This is true for everything. Saw him in Paris on the Lovesexy tour - I suppose it was in 1988 -, and I remember everything of this epic concert 30 years later...  Tough year.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna in Musikraumgarage

Soft Power Ensemble of Vienna will play at Musikraumgarage on March 22 2016 at 21:00 and the concert will be visible on livestream.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dhellemmes + Reardon in Celeste Jazzkeller, Vienna

Next week I will play the Epsilon on stage for the first time! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Leo Lospennato's new book: Electric Guitar & Bass Making & Marketing

A few years ago I had the privilege to meet  luthier Leo Lospennato in Berlin and to read his first book - Electric Guitar & Electric Bass Design, a book full of teachings and information about instruments design and conception that seem to never have been gathered before in such a pleasant way.

Leo - who in the meantime created and directed  luthiers'  magazine Sustain - is back with a new book as necessary as the first one - Electric Guitar & Bass Making & Marketing - and a must have for every guitar maker - either newbie or pro, because there is always something you can learn or improve!

It starts with very basic things such as how to screw - not as easy as one might think - or open a Facebook account to promote your work, up to very esoteric things such as 3-layer binding, everything very concrete with detailed explanations, schemes and pictures, based on Leo's experience as a luthier, with the input of occasional collaborators. You will also learn how to make a half pencil - very useful for some marking -, get some good advices about how to organise your workshop or what not to do yourself (like pickups winding or advanced finishes) so you can stay focused on the guitar making...

Not only this book meticulously describes every step needed to build a guitar (though you'll need the first book for the conception phase and have some guitar knowledge to know what it's all about - it doesn't start from zero) but it's also an interesting journey into a technician's brain, and I actually recommended it to people out of the field as a good insight into the world of making stuff... With my academic and artistic background, I had to re-learn everything about pragmatic process and I really needed something like this (now I have to go and fix some mistakes I made in finishes polishing and reorganise my tools).  And because Leo is passionate and witty, the book is just a good read!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

more sketches

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

God is dead

"God is dead,' Nick said. 'They found his carcass in 2019. Floating in space near Alpha."
 Philip K. Dick, Our Friends from Frolix 8

When I was in grammar school  back in northern France in the late 1970s, there was a small theatre under the school cafeteria, where pupils could try themselves at standing on stage in front of an audience, and learn how to do something worth watching. Some other kids had negotiated with the school director the right to use the theatre as a chill-out space for lunch breaks and covered the walls with early metal bands posters...

I was part of the theatre kids - some of them actually ended up having big careers as directors or performers - but I never really understood anything about what was going on. I loved stage but I was never so much into words, and neither into pretending... But I must have been much more impressed by the Motörhead poster on the wall than by Bertolt Brecht (I think that we made some kind of Bertolt Brecht mash-up at some point) because that's what I remember most. A little bit like the most vivid memory of my first Motörhead concert is the one week long deafness that followed. 

Motörhead was the first time I was confronted to musical badassery (at the exception maybe of Stravinsky) and it's like it's been there ever since, the snarling mutant skull, hanging somewhere where one could catch a glimpse of it, as were audible once in a while the blasting drums and the bass riff of Overkill. It was as if for once power and violence would be on your side instead of being against you. Isn't it ironical that a tough motherfucker like Lemmy ended up as a fatherly figure, steadily radical when the 1968 generation turned into 1980s yuppies, 1990s health food consumers, 2000s pensioners? Listening to Lemmy and Motörhead was like being connected to history, the real one, the one that's worth living... 

Fucking hell, I think that I reached the age when all my childhood idols will start dying, one after the other... I have to play some loud music.

Friday, December 25, 2015

more sketches

Music of the week: in the last days I've been listening to everything I could find online by João Gilberto - and particularly to Chega de Saudade with his then 14-year old daughter Bebel. However noisy and chaotic the music I listen to or play, there is always room for old school bossa nova in my heart...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tom of Finland Junior

A few weeks ago I passed by a small music shop in a Viennese suburb and saw a 60€ Epiphone Les Paul Junior in the window (actually it was 69€ but the seller insisted to sell it for 60, I didn't object). I bought it because I want to design a kind of LP variation (you might have noticed this in the last sketches) and I needed to feel its balance - I never played a Les Paul, I'm not attracted to these guitars at all. So more or less I needed a template - also I had in the back of my mind that I'd like to customise a cheap guitar just for fun. 

It's Epiphone's last discontinued Junior model with the zebra humbucker and it's astonishingly good for the price - the neck is of good quality, easy to play, straight, good finish, good fret work, tuners do their job - and the pickup is clear and powerful - this just confirms again that people who spit on China-made cheap models are merely being snobbish (when they are not racist). Only the wraparound bridge was badly set up but easy to fix... 

And I had no remorse crudely modifying it it: I refinished it with white spray paint - it doesn't matter if the layer is too thin to last long, it will look even better once beaten -, put a Warman chrome dog-ear P90, also cheap but sounding nicely - the reviews I read about it didn't lie -, and adorned it with a Tom of Finland sticker (that I ordered in Thailand - not only it is hardly possible to find a non-old school pin-up decal, but when you do it's not around the corner...)

I really like my new little guitar, I tried something similar with a cheap First Act a few years ago but the neck was too thin, fretwork awful, and it sounded always quite weak, even with a new pickup. The Warman P90 sounds really good, clear and chiming when clean, sharp and agressive when dirty. Maybe I just needed to play on a P90 after all these years with humbuckers... I still have these Custom 77 pickups, for my next next project (the next will recycle the Junior humbucker, that I wouldn't leave unused...).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

more sketches

music of the week / month / maybe year: can't stop listening to David Bowie's Blackstar - since his come back it was clear that he was moving beyond pop - but it's even better, he's moving pop beyond pop. 

gUitarREN's facebook

gUitarREN on Facebook