Thursday, December 22, 2011


OK, a pedalboard is not much if you consider that I ambition to build guitars - a sloooow process as you might have noticed - but at least it is really useful - since I switched back to pedals after a long multi-effect phase (I've been an avid user of Korg's Pandora - that fits in one's pocket), I've been carrying around a few kilos of pedals (and I don't even have boutique ones!) and lost a lot of time plugging and unplugging!

So this pedalboard made of aluminium mesh fulfills my needs: it's compact, light and cheap. I'm not super happy with the red rubber bands - there's a clear lack of coolness there -, but the system works and that's what matters! It fits in a basic alu tool case and I have a trolley for it, so I won't have a broken back anymore when I arrive at the rehearsal studio (knowing that I usually also carry two guitars, it was time that I take care of this!) At some point, I'll have to get new cables with proper length and flexibility, but this is not en emergency. 

OK, the next project is another planck guitar for a friend in France, that should quickly be used on stage for his current act - more about this later.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

more sketches

As you can see, lately I've been interested in ergonomic hollow body guitars... I was wondering if it would be realistic to make one myself, and I came up with the idea of an aluminium front hammered in an archtop shape, and I combined it with a straight neck / pickups alignment with a Fender style bridge... 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

pedalboard troubles

I can't believe that I've spent two hours rearranging these pedals just to make them fit in the case! Now I found the right disposition, with zigzagging cables, but I can't understand why MXR pedals still have their power jacks on the side on the 21st century, it's so unpractical!

Anyway,  a little bit more drilling, cutting and screwing, and my super-light portable pedalboard is ready!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

more sketches

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

more sketches

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meet Leo Lospennato

Yesterday I met up with Berlin-based Argentinian luthier Leo Lospennato, and it was a nice meeting. I first noticed Leo when I saw is book 'Electric Guitar & Bass Design' in Steward-MacDonald's catalogue, and I was very interested as it's quite an unique book! 

The dominant opinion about guitar design being "we already have Les Pauls, Telecasters and Stratocasters, why invent anything more?", it's refreshing to find someone who made the effort to gather and share knowledge about guitar design, and proposes creative tools to expand it. Leo kindly offered me the book and I will avidly read it in the coming days - and probably review it here.

I was happy to discover on Leo's website that 1) he's living and working in Berlin and 2) he's giving guitar-making workshops, something that I'm willing to do to reach another level. Not that I want to become a pro guitar maker myself, but I still would like to collaborate with a luthier or a company to have some of my guitars built, and I need to master more the subject to do that. I still have to decide if I will take his workshop in Berlin over the next few months or go to France to have a 10-day intensive one next summer with luthier Xavier Petit, but during our one hour meeting, Leo gave already interesting insights about guitar design and building - a.o. how to vectorise my sketches to rework them on my computer in scale one. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

concert review: The Horrors in Lido, Berlin

On sunday I saw the Horrors, and I'm sorry to say that it was quite a disappointment. I'm probably partly responsible for this, because I expected something like their debut album Strange House, the thrilling tongue-in-cheek faux-garage-goth I enjoyed so much when it started to be visible on YouTube (one of my favorite way to discover new bands, always more interesting live than in studio) and didn't listen to the following albums. 

Well this is not the same band obviously, not the same music, not the same spirit - the musicians look bored - not the cool blasé look of wannabe idols they sport on earlier videos, but more going-to-the-factory-to-earn-the-daily-bread bored. Most of the audience was bored too actually, if you except a bunch of drunk over-excited teens who could have been in front of Justin Bieber (to be honest, I don't know Justin Bieber's music, I just noticed his hairdo on top of pimpled faces), bawling the single's words. The music is mostly layers of synths with cheesy factory sounds covering the rest (but the drummer - Spurgeon was super sharp and prevented me from falling asleep).

Badwan's voice matured nicely and he has now some late Peter Murphy vibes, but with their current music it's just a waste. At some point I realized with horror that this music reminded me one of the worst band I've ever heard: Simple Minds! At least when Kaiser Chiefs are pillaging the Boomtown Rats, they have the good taste to steal interesting music. Only the last song was a little bit exciting, with a chaotic and noisy guitar and a long crescendo, but I felt too frozen to enjoy it, it was too late. No songs from Strange House, no Sheena is a Parasite, no She's the New Thing, alas...

Let's still talk guitars: Hayward plays Jazzmasters and Jaguar - Fenders and an unidentified copy - and a AFS Ibanez semi-hollow (with tape on the headstock, maybe Ibanez isn't cool enough, but for me their semi-hollows are highly desirable), and plenty of effects. Webb plays a precision bass with a cool metal pickguard - I liked him much better playing organ and leaving bass work to Cowan and his Dan'o Longhorn... If someone's interested, here is a pic of Hayward's pedalboard. 

They could have been cult, they will just be successful, the Horrors have lost their mojo!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

more sketches

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

pedalboard project

A man my age should have a proper pedalboard, thought I last week, mostly because I'm fed up loosing 20 minutes unpacking, plugging, unplugging and repacking my pedals each time I go to the studio to rehearse. Because I never have enough unachieved projects, I started working on one right away, with two constraints: keeping it as cheap as possible, and as light as possible (these are not gratuitous constraints I'm afraid), but still make a nice object. 

I settled for aluminium mesh with wood structure, and I still have to decide if it should really fit in the case I planed to use, because it's on the edge of no room enough. These are the pedals I use for my current music project, though I have to admit that the Wrong Side of Uranus and the Rat are a little too new to have found their definitive place in my rig and my sound yet - but they will, I'm working on it... And I have a few pedals that I will want to use some day - the rehoused-to-be Rocky Road, a reverse delay also by Danelectro, my DYI fuzz box... And I will need a few more - a MXR equalizer, a EHX Freeze, a Chi-Wah-Wah... (and one day I will replace the Boss Fuzz by a real Fuzz Face because that's the only sound I use on it).

Then I will probably need 2 pedalboards anyway...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

more sketches

Thursday, October 20, 2011

concert review: Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. in NK, Berlin

Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. 

Last monday I had the great pleasure to see Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. in NK - a cool place for alternative and experimental music in Berlin (where I've been performing last june). I utterly enjoyed their powerful and noisy psychedelic post-rock, and I am very interested in their artistic process evacuating the issue of novelty (that is often problematic in improvised music or dance in my opinion) by totally diving into psychedelic genre, using all the expected sounds and licks, and able then to focus on pure intensity and communion. I've had similar experience with butoh pieces that some people thought too cliché because they always expect something looking new, where I was marveled by the physicality and acuteness of the dancers.

So yes you could dance yourself into trance at their concert, but you could also take it as a pure musical moment - just like you can listen to a Johann Sebastian Bach mass without having to go to church! Of course Kawabata Makoto shone at the guitar, combining slide cosmic whispers with chaotic shredding and heavy riffs - almost made me feel like playing a stratocaster (though he wasn't playing his famous left-hand strat - I always thought that if I'd play one, I'd do the same and play reverse!). And other musicians are not just supports, they are such a powerful rhythm section that they could send the building into outer space!

A great moment (at the exception of the two stupid headbangers who arrived late and stood just in front of me when I was already on the first rank, and danced as if they were at a Motörhead concert in 1985 - I know what I'm talking about, I was there, but I grew up since)!

Edit: I didn't mention gear, but I was agreeably surprised to see that the musicians of AMT avoid the current trend of indulging in vintage/custom guitars plugged in a impressive line of boutique pedals. They play with basic Fenders - Precision Bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster - and each have no nonsense Zoom G2s multimeffects, a couple of Boss pedals - a looper for the bass a.o. -, a wah, a big handmade unknown metal cased pedal, that's it... Considering the sonic mayhem they can produce, it's all the more impressive!

Musima Eterna in Guitarz 2012 calendar

I told you already about the release of Guitarz 2012 calendar (that you can acquire here) featuring both my Doppelcaster (on the front page) and my good old Musima Eterna, about which I published a detailed post here

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rehousing a Danelectro pedal

Pedal time! After the Mystery guitar (still no better name - I like die Planck, a mock German name suggested by Guitarz co-poster David from Barcelona, but I'm not sure), let's go back to my DIY fuzzbox project - and while I'm at it, I plan to rehouse my Danelectro Rocky Road. 

I like the sound of this cheap version of a Leslie - I bought it to check if that would be a sound I could include in my music, before getting a more serious one, but it's good enough - or at least it would be if it was not so unpractical! The foot switches are too low, too small and to close to each other - as are the pot knobs... So I tore it apart to look how it would be modifiable, and it's going to be difficult - it's super compact and everything that I should replace is connected directly on the PCBs - and here again I know so little! 

But the only way to learn is to try, so I can only hope that I won't screw it all, and just go for it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

more sketches

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mystery Guitar (until I found a better name)

It takes so long to conceive and build my projects that I decided to go for it and make a guitar as quick as possible, and keep it as raw as bearable! So I gathered some gear laying around, bought a cheap neck on eBay, sawed a piece out of a big planck I picked in the street, cut, routed, perforated, drilled, sanded, soldered, oiled and here it is, my new baby - of which I'm very proud, I must say!

Here is the flabbergasting Mystery Guitar aka the 2 weeks guitar (the time I spent on it) aka the Rough Planck.

Simple, elegant, combining rough authenticity and high-tec design, and trendy recycling.

Full-frontal pic - see the cool round sound holes!

Neck is bolted, and something makes me think that I should visit my friend Pedro in Brazil one of these days.

Electronics are installed on the pickguard.

I soldered the push-pull knob (to split the humbucker) without any help - I'm so proud of myself.

The planck is too thick for the neck screws, I chisel a cavity for the plate.

De-branded headstock.

The body is routed and sanded - to remove the dirt and the splinters -, the pickguard is also roughly sanded, and perforated.

Got myself to finally use my plunge router to chamber the body, scary but efficient.

Gear plus pickguard.

Cutting the alu pickguard - one cut; see my bathroom tiles!

Now I can place the gear more precisely.

Drawing of the chamber and the pickguard - with the same pens I use for my sketches!

The pickup is a slanted dual blade hum bucker bought on discount from Eastwood's e-shop.

All the pieces together for a first impression.

Used strat-like neck branded Charisma from eBay (super flat - no radius).

A construction wood planck I picked in the street - cut to dimension 46 x 24 x 4,5.

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