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. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

New Complexity's Reso-Harp and Harmonic Master

I usually don't post about other people's guitars but I've been following for some years the remarkable work of Lewis Waters, the man behind New Complexity - a guitar company located in Melbourne, Australia (so unfortunately I never had the opportunity to try one of his instruments...) I posted already about them on Guitarz - here, here and here.

Lewis is mostly busy with expanding the range of acoustic sounds one can get out of an electric guitar. He built several instruments with third bridges and pickups amplifying harmonics that are usually hidden within the main sound. New Complexity's new instrument, the Resonant Harp Guitar, adds ten sympathetic strings to the usual six strings, activated by a Sustainiac (electromagnetic sustainer system that keeps the string vibrating endlessly) responding to the main pickups. 

There is also an updated version of the Harmonic Master with an angled tuning bridge that allows to tune the strings behind the main bridge -  that can used either for the harmonics or as a small harp. The different string portions have their own pickups and outputs and can be amplified and effected independently.

I hope that someday a contemporary music composer (someone reading this blog maybe) will notice Lewis' instruments and compose pieces specially for them and exploit all their possibilities - though they would also fit very well for psychedelic pop - or whatever music that will come in the future, inspired by these guitars (remember that telecasters were created for country music, but spawned unexpected music styles!)

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