we played a show last weeked with our friends Public Radio and Vess. thanks to everybody that came out. we played some new songs. we played some old songs.
here’s the setlist:
The Wind and The Waves
The One That Gave It All
Chest of Drawers
For The Morning
Versus the Dark
it was fun.
we are still figuring out when the new record will be out. hopefully soon! thanks for waiting.
so ATBL is going on tour w/ JMM. it’s cool. it’s crazy. it’s scary. it’s gonna be great. i’m real excited and scared and nervous. it’s daunting enough doing the new JM tour. adding myself as the opening band is a whole different animal. oh, and i’m having a baby in the middle of the tour. crazy days i live in.
so i’ve been having to go back and dissect what i’m doing on the ATBL album. i realized in the first rehearsal that, although i know the music, i don’t KNOW the music. so i start doing my homework today. stetson was at mothers morning out for the morning and jacki was at work so i drug my amps and pedals and guitars into the dining room and went at it. it was a good morning. i’ll need a few more like it. but it’s gonna be good. it’s gonna be great.
i think one of the hardest parts of being a musician is being yourself. musicians, like any artists, are an insecure bunch. it’s cool to be different, as long as it’s different like everybody else. you can play any guitar these days, as long as it’s a telecaster. you can listen to any music, as long as nobody has heard it before you. everybody wants to rock the boat, but nobody will grab on to the side and start pushing. it’s a culture of cool. it’s bad for you. it’s bad for your music. it’s bad for creating anything different.
If you want to have your own sound you have to be yourself.
now, i’m not saying you can’t play a telecaster because everybody else has one. i have a tele and i love it. i sometimes find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum and i don’t want to play it because everybody else does. that isn’t good either. it’s just a guitar. who cares. but still. if you play something different a lot of people (read idiots) will think less of you. i’ve seen it happen a thousand times. sometimes i want to play my prs places just because i know people won’t think it’s cool. who cares.
it’s not about the instrument. it’s what comes out of the instrument.
i’m not trying to come down on people. i’m just suggesting that if you, as a musician, want to shake something up and create your own sound you have to think for yourself. you have to get out of what is expected. if you can, even for a minute, that’s when the real music happens. because that’s when you get honest. i know that you can tell when you are being real, because i can tell when i’m being real. let it be messy. let it be super polished. let it be lo-fi. let it be hi-fi. let it be real. that’s what art is about. you are creating something from nothing. often times when i am writing music i think it’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard. maybe because it doesn’t sound like what people i look up to sound like. maybe because i think people are going to not like it. or maybe i don’t think it’s as cool as the younger guys. i’m sure they don’t sit around worrying about that. they probably do. nevermind. it’s supposed to be scary and it’s supposed to make you uncomfortable. that’s the point.
WE DON’T GROW ON TREES.
there is only one person that can do what you do.
if i have a particular aspect of my playing that is a little unique, it’s probably the stuff i do on slide. which bothers me because i can’t just play slide on every song. right? sometimes i feel like i am playing it every song. then i feel stupid. anyways. it’s because i basically taught myself how to play slide. there wasn’t a whole lot of slide playing when i was growing up. besides the blues. i do love how the edge plays slide. probably one of my favorite slide parts is on a natalie imbruglia song called wrong impression. that was a song that made me want to play slide. people tell me i play the slide on the wrong finger, and that i shouldn’t play in standard tuning, and that brass slides are better… but that’s how i play. so whatevers. i used to get really insecure about everything i did. i’m sick of being insecure about the musician i am. i’m probably never going to be able to play jazz. i’m probably never going to be able to read music. i’m probably never going to be able to be as good as a lot of my friends. but that’s a dumb reason to be insecure and tighten up when they are in the same room. it’s the lack of any real proficiency on my instrument that makes me interested in music. so why be insecure. i am who i am. i play loud, sloppy and drenched in effects. that’s just sort of my style.
play like you mean it even when you have no idea what you are doing. there. that’s my secret.
don’t be afraid of who you are. don’t be ashamed of who you are.
i don’t grow on trees. neither do you.
I have gotten a lot of emails lately asking for advice about how to get good guitar sounds. A lot of times they will say something like “I have all the same stuff as you but i’m not getting the same sound for some reason”. I try to tell them , nicely, that they can buy everything I have, but it’s not going to make them sound like me. If that was the case I would have all of The Edge’s gear. And all of Jimmy Page’s gear. and I would have bought the same microphone as Bono…
I can play through anything and still sound like me. I can play through a line 6 spyder amp and still sound like me. I don’t enjoy that, mainly because a modeling amp just doesn’t respond the way a nice tube amp does. But I can make it work.
I’ve never been much for tweaking knobs on amps. I don’t really understand what mids do. I still don’t know what a presence knob does. I just keep them turned off. I pretty much just plug in and play. In the early days that didn’t work out too well. Over time, however, my technique improved. That helps a lot. Then I started to try to find the sounds I heard in my head. These days, for the most part, I can just plug in and go. I’m really used to having to make backline work. I know what my pedal board and guitar sounds like. So when I plug in to an amp I’ve never used before I usually just plug in and start playing and don’t touch anything. If it sounds totally ridiculous i’ll turn a couple of knobs and act like I know what i’m doing until something sounds right. I know the characteristics of certain amps. I know that if I plug into a Fender Twin i’m going to have to turn the treble pretty much all the way off and turn the volume down to 2 or the soundguy is going to be a pill. I know that if I am playing with a Marshall with a closed back cabinet I’m not going to get the type of low end I prefer (I like open back cabinets) and i’m going to have to watch out for the (sometimes) harsh high end those things can give you. A big thing that helps is learning the gear you already have, instead of constantly buying new gear. If it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work, but if you can’t make a tubescreamer style pedal and a digital delay with tap tempo work, and you play modern style worship music, then it probably has more to do with you not understanding how to use what you have. So going out and buying a more expensive overdrive pedal (that is usually just a tubescreamer clone) and a fancy $400 tap tempo delay isn’t going to fix the original problem of you not knowing how to find the sound you think you want. It just makes you have less money.
I went years using the same few pedals. I learned them inside and out. Then, over time, I added to the sound I developed. I bought things that complemented what i was doing. I tried to find pedals that emulated things I was doing in the studio. I try (now) not to just buy pedals to buy pedals. That’s dumb. Then you have a pedal board full of crap you don’t need or use. That’s not to say I don’t have a shelf full of pedals that I don’t use much, or at all. I do. But I know what they do and If I need a freaky fuzz pedal, I know there is a ZVEX Fuzz Factory sitting on my shelf. If I have a pedal that just sits and doesn’t ever get used, I give it away or sell it to buy something else I need/want.
I think most people are more into gear than they are into playing guitar. It usually seems to me that the people that are the most obsessed with tone often times don’t have good tone.
Why Is that? Maybe it’s because they never hold on to something long enough to gain a consistent sound. If you have money burning a whole in your pocket it doesn’t mean you need a $400 pedal. Maybe you should fix up what you already have. If you have a nice tube amp, maybe you should find some NOS mullards and retube your amp. That will make a huge difference. Maybe buy some nice cables. Maybe pay off your credit cards that you’ve been abusing buying all the crap you don’t need.
A few other things that make a huge difference to your tone:
Have your guitars set up by an experienced luthier. Having proper intonation is a HUGE deal. Making sure your pickups are at the right height is really important. How high your action is also makes a difference.
Make sure your patch cables are in working order. You could have a short in a cable and not know that the cable is responsible for the weirdness you’ve been hearing.
Make sure your pedals are working properly. Same thing. If you have a dirty pot somewhere it could be seriously affecting your signal.
Volume doesn’t always mean more tone. Just because you crank your amp doesn’t mean you are getting better tone than the guy that plays at a lower volume. I promise.
these are the best selling albums of the last decade.
now, if you remember, back when these came out the record industry was huge. most of these sold over a million copies in the first week. nsync and britney each sold over a million in the first day. these 10 albums have sold hundreds of millions of copies. for real. that’s insane and that is funny. i have never owned nor bought any of these albums except the beatles 1 album. and i think i bought 2 of those, thank you very much.
but somebody is buying them.
did you buy any of these?
I bought hundreds of cd’s in the last 10 years. but nsync, creed, eminem, and britney spears weren’t any of those. i was busy buying U2 imports i guess. and good music. sha. just kidding. i actually liked nsync. or their singles anyways. they were catchy. real profesh.
anyways. i thought that was funny and weird and interesting.
i am a big fan of early nineties alternative rock. it was such an exciting time for music. i remember when Nirvana’s video for Smells Like Teen Spirit was added to MTV. It was hilarious, amazing, and right. hilarious because you’d be watching, i don’t know, a winger video and then all of the sudden kurt cobain was standing in your tv with his fender jaguar hanging from his shoulders screaming his face off. it was amazing because right then you were witnessing a changing of the guard. music was going from spandex to ripped up jeans. cheap (at the time) vintage fender guitars were the new weapon shaped, hot pink bc rich guitars. hair spray sales plummeted in favor of the ” i haven’t showered for weeks and i don’t know when i will” look. it was right because it needed to happen. it was about time.
i have lately been revisiting all the old girl rock bands from that time. bands like juliana hatfield three, the breeders, belly, the cranberries and mazzy star.
i put mazzy star in my cd player last week and i was back in 1993. i love it when music does that. in an instant all the feelings, smells and scenery came flooding back into my memory. i can remember sitting on my bed with my stereo on the table right next to me listening to hope sandoval’s gorgeous, reverb soaked voice. i still remember the way i felt when listening to all the dirty guitars, tamborines and loose drums spinning around my 14 year old head like a mobile. this was my music.
i am in love with the sound of this album. it sounds alive and real. it sounds like they weren’t trying so hard. it sounds like they weren’t listening to somebody telling them who they should sound like. or look like. it sounds like they were being themselves. that’s what music should be. that’s inspiring.
it’s refreshing to go back and hear that classic fuzzy guitar sound and drums that were obviously not recorded in the digital age. there was no internet in 1993. not that i had ever seen anyways. people read books, not blogs. all i did was buy cd’s and figure out how to make more money to buy more cd’s. remember buying cd’s? actual cd’s with artwork? remember shrink wrap? i admit, i still haven’t really embraced itunes. it’s so impersonal. buying an album on itunes is like texting a best friend. it’s so impersonal. it kind of makes me sick. this is not a rant about the digital age. i’m blogging for god’s sake. this is a rant about MUSIC. this is a rant about MAZZY STAR.
if i can encourage you to make an album purchase in these tough economic times, i suggest going back a few years and revisiting your old friends. maybe buy that album you threw away in a ridiculous religious cd burning show. or had to sell at the used record store for rent money. or, perhaps, was stolen by a thieving friend. the one you’ve been thinking about for the last year. the one that you sat in your room listening to, dreaming about life and love. go find your music.
a little while after i wrote my blog on my guitar heros i realized i left a couple of really important ones out. i kept meaning to add them in to that blog, but i kept getting inspired at the wrong times. i’d be on an airplane with a guitar riff from one of them in my head and all the thoughts and emotions would be spinning in my heart, but i don’t take a laptop when i travel. then i’d start to write it down in a note pad and the inspiration (see motivation) would drain out of my kick drum of a heart. the flight attendants bumping into me, loud talkers and general airplane happenings gets to me. then it’s gone. i hate when i get in that mood. then i don’t even feel like listening to music. so i stare at the same stupid in flight magazine and sky mall catalog for 2 hours. or i fall asleep with my mouth wide open. either one sucks and doesn’t hold a candle to a joe perry guitar solo.
joe perry is the lead guitar player for aerosmith. you know this. brad whitford is the other guitar player, and he’s great too. but it’s joe perry that made me want to play lead guitar.
the thing that really impresses me and inspires me about his playing is that i, or you, or just about anybody can sing his guitar solos. that’s not easy, and it’s pretty b.a. that he can do it on a consistent basis. even his guitar riffs. walk this way. enough said. that’s always been what i try to do when i have to come up with a guitar hook or solo. i’m sure that’s what most people want and try to do also. with the exception of the guitar players that think playing as many different modes as they can at lighting speeds is impressive and musical and better. maybe it is. but i don’t care about it. i care about the solos that stay with you. that you play air guitar to. the solos that you hum while watering plants. or whatever.
probably my favorite solos of his are on the Get A Grip album. it might be a little poppy for the hardcore fans, but joe perry was really on fire. his solo on living on the edge, and cryin’ are so creative. they are a song in a song. i’m telling you. listen to them. they are the blues, but they are more than that too. the bends he does on livin’ on the edge are so full of emotion. and the notes he’s hitting while playing them are crazy. that same on cryin’. he’s the man.
probably my favorite solo of his is on the song Crazy. I know. it’s a cheesy love song. whatever. i love it. the solo is seriously unbelievable. i rarely try to learn songs or solos on the guitar, but i had to learn this one. I sat in my room for hours trying to learn anything i could from it. i was probably only 14 so it was a little over my head and ability at that point. but i learned what i could from it and used what i could from it for years. that’s how it works. i’m sure that’s what joe does with his heros too.
last year i learned the whole solo note for note. i sat in my guitar room and played along with it over and over until i could play it right with him. it wore me out, but i did it. my fingers were raw, but i did it. my ears were ringing, but i can play it now.
i bet joe perry had a similar experience when he was recording it. he probably put his guitar down walked back into the control room with his raw fingers and ringing ears and the biggest smile on his face. because he wrote that solo. something in that song pulled that out of him.
that’s what we as musicians walk around every day looking for. the feeling. with me it usually starts in my fingertips and shoots straight to my heart. it takes over and for a second i don’t know what to do. it’s an explosion. sometimes i want to throw my guitar down and crush it to death. sometimes i cry my eyes out. sometimes i just look over at one of my friends and smile. because they feel it too. i know they do.
it doesn’t only happen with music either. you never know what’s going to make it happen or when it will happen, you just love it when it does. i think it’s the best when it happens in a song, of course. i love that it doesn’t happen all the time. it makes you work harder .
if joe perry hadn’t gotten back together with the band, that solo wouldn’t have ever been written. i’d still be a guitar player. i’d still be married. i’d still be a father. but i wouldn’t have learned that solo, and i wouldn’t be the same musician.
thankyou, mr perry.
everybody has their influences. for instance, i think that author dave eggers (a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, you shall know our velocity, what is the what) hung the moon. when i write i wish it woud come out like something he wrote. he’s funny, thoughtful, paranoid, beautiful, outrageous, and humble all at the same time. anyways. i get asked a lot who my favorite guitar players are. I usually can’t think of who they are. I never was the kind of person that sat and tried to learn jimi hendrix albums note for note. i wish i had.
that’s not to say i don’t have favorite guitar players. i do. i have plenty. usually they are the people i play with or am friends with. like john mark mcmillan. he’s a great guitar player. i love his sense of rhythm. or leonard jones. he has the ability to completely blow your mind. and there are plenty of younger (than me) guitar players around town that really have something special. i learn from all of them. there are also the big dogs. the ones on the radio, television and the magazines. i used to study guitar player magazine when i was a kid. i knew every piece of gear everybody used. dreaming of being on the cover. that would be cool. probably won’t ever happen. just sayin’.
here’s a small list of who made me want to play. who made me keep playing. who made me push harder and who made me dig deeper. some are obvious. some aren’t.
I got a good education, musically anyways, from my brother josh. And when I was in 5th and 6th grade it was all about Led Zeppelin. He drove us to school and every day we listened to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. We got the Led out. Every day. i love his solos. they have such great melody, but they were usually really loose. In a good way. Like they are off the cuff (which is awesome), and he doesn’t care about technique. He cares about heart. Where is that in music today? He was the perfect fit for Robert Plant. Every guitar player dreams about that kind of relationship.
Jimmy page was in my head before a guitar was in my hands.
About ten years ago I was backstage at an Emmylou Harris show. Not because I was cool, but because I was guitar teching for the opener. And I was walking around and saw these amazing looking guitars. They looked like they should have been on the jetsons. Glittery finishes, weird push buttons, basket woven screens over the non-typical f holes. The man unpacking them was a quiet gray haired man that just looked at me, smiled, and said “hey”. I figured he was the guitar tech or something, until I saw him on stage playing next to Emmylou. That was Buddy Miller, and those were his Wandre guitars. I never heard anything else from him until a couple years ago and I was introduced to his solo music. He and his wife play really great americana music. His guitar sound is unbelievable. His whole approach was like nothing I’d heard before. He can go from a straight, dry, country sound to a huge, washed out, ambient sound and everything in between. His guitars on Fire and Water changed my thinking. His playing on Don’t Wait made me mad. He’s a beautiful guitar player.
The original guitar player for Third Eye Blind. Say what you want about them, their first record was a guitar masterpiece. He had some of the best guitar tones, melodies, and noise of the nineties. He recorded the guitars in the scoring room of George Lucas’ SkyWalker Ranch. That’s boss. Anyways, he introduced something completely new for pop music. His alternate tunings are mind blowing and his rhythm guitar work was groundbreaking. I’m not talking about Semi Charmed life. I’m talking about Losing a Whole Year, Thanks A Lot, God of Wine, and Motorcycle Drive By. Seriously, Kevin Cadogan is an amazing guitar player. Larry Mullen Jr. called him a “Top Guitarist”. Whatever that means, but, we all know who Larry plays with…
Well. What can I say. The Edge is my guitar hero. The Edge is my how-to book. The Edge is my dropped jaw, my how’d he do that, my oh my god, my did you just hear that, my rewind that, and my wish I’d done that first. The Edge is my Eddie Van Halen. He writes the melodies that live in my heart. He’s the most simple, but he’s the most technical. He can whisper and he can shout. He can cry and he can scream. You know the intro to Where the Streets Have No Name? He wrote that. He made that up. And he played it. You know the Solo on Love is Blindness? Played it. Pride? That’s The Edge. I could go on forever. He has created some of the most unique guitar sounds ever. Chimey Dotted Delay aside, go listen to Mysterious Ways, or the whole Achung Baby, Zooropa, And Pop albums. Seriously, it’s unbelievable. His rhythm guitar playing is way underrated. Even the way he pounds on an acoustic is totally unique. He really shines live. His solos are often extended. His solo on ONE on the ZOO TV dvd will make you cry. His solo on Please on the POPMART cd will change your life. His intro to Where The Streets Have No Name on the Rattle and Hum dvd will add ten years to your life. He’s the best.
Incidentally, it was riding to school in the 4th grade with my brother Josh where I fell in love with U2. Like I said: quite the education.
He’s probably not that well known to most people, but he’s been backing up Lenny Kravitz for years. He’s the skinny white boy with the big afro. He’s a great guitar player. His solos are raw, rough and totally rock and roll. He is a big influence on my lead playing. I don’t really play that kind of music, unfortunately, but it’s there. Big time. He’s got a great look too.
I know right. Most people wouldn’t think, “oh man, he’s a killer guitar player”. Ryan Adams is a killer guitar player. His acoustic playing is a huge influence on my electric playing. The way he accompanies his vocal melody is beautiful. It’s his signature. I also love his electric playing. it’s nasty.
I think this man is really responsible for the Delirious sound. Since day one he has always pushed to find new sounds for their music. He’s always experimenting. The guitars on Glo are unbelievable. The guitar sounds were seriously outrageous. Mezzamorphis was another benchmark. His guitar playing influenced the worship movement more than most people realize. Nobody had Ebow’s before “Find Me in the River” or “Obsession”. Nobody used Zvex pedals on worship music. There wouldn’t be Hillsong United if there wasn’t a Delirious. Yes, I realize there would be no Delirious if there was no Radiohead or U2. Whatever. He’s the Christian guitar hero. Christians need their rock stars too…