Outside the society… (Patti Smith)

I play in a coverband! I don’t say we are good at playing but we have fun and for some strange reason the local youngsters like it. Over time we have built a repertoire of sixties-, seventies- and even millennial songs. Being in a band with friends is great. It doesn’t matter what level of technicality you have or how virtuoso you are at your instrument. Most important is you can participate in a creative process with other people and experience the joy. Music connects people and playing in a band is great fun. It is why I stimulate young people to be musically creative in any style or at any level.

We now live in Youtube era and inevitable some of our gigs or part of them end up on the social network. Often shot with a phone camera and in crappy quality. I don’t mind. For me they are a library of memories, for some they are a pain in the ears. Our gig flicks rarely get views and thus more rare are the comments. But… I was surprised with one (only) comment. Not offended, not angry, …just surprised:

“Old white people singing a song with the N-word!” One of the songs on our playlist is Rock’n’Roll Nigger from the Patti Smith Group. A song from 1978. The female viewer was obviously “stunned” we had our go on a song with the repetition of a racial epithet. The vid did not even have 50 views and the first comment was an accusation of being an “old white man”? Well… that is how I understood as english is not my native tongue.

First of all you can’t say Patti Smith is an “old white”. I think (and certainly in 1978) she was more on the left side of the political spectrum, rebelling against the “old white (male)” dominance. If Patti Smith is a racist then I must be Big Bird from Sesame Street. Secondly, …didn’t she notice our singer is female and rather young (20)? Also one of the guitarists just turned 24, is that old nowadays? I got a feeling this commenting lady did not even see the clip. I am open for all critique: crappy movie, lousy song, poor quality, bad musicians,… all these things are fine by me. But posting your prejudice comment without knowledge is plain stupid. Probably Mrs K is just a grumpy old women, … my idea.

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GMP Guitars – Roxie

Wow, what do we have here? A custom made guitar from the GMP luthiers in San Dimas, California. In the early nineties they built a guitar for Ryan Roxie (Alice Cooper band) and thus introduced the Roxie line of guitars.

In 2010 GMP celebrated their 20th anniversary and the Roxie guitars were still their benchmark guitars. Behold the 2010 Ryan Roxie Standard in green metal flake with the “Ghost Skull” graphic. Nothing standard about this guitar. It has some unusual features.

First of all this guitar is heavy! A solid poplar/maple body, no chambering or weight relief. If you suffer back pain, don’t play this one. Eat your wheaties if you want to chop with this axe. The neck is quarter sawn mahogany with a maple fretboard. Body, neck and headstock have a silver metal flake binding. This guitar looks stunning. All green flake with a cool skull graphic. The fingerboard sports 6100-frets and big diamond green flake inlays.

The scale length is 25,5 “. A set neck, the upper frets are easy to reach due to the contoured neck heel. The headstock has an abalone inlay and is equipped with Sperzel locking tuners. The Roxie features a Graphtec nut and a TonePro bridge with stopbar tailpiece.

Monster tones come from the Rocket Guitar Pickups. An “Old School Classic” in the neck position and a “Satellite” pup in the bridge. Rockets are amazing guitar pickups handmade by Willy Houston.

This instrument comes wit a G&G custom case in green and black tolex. COA and case candy included. There is nothing standard about this Roxie Standard. Luckily I have the perfect amp to match: The Diamond “Phantom” (also part of Ryan Roxie’s rig). The amp will be reviewed in another article and I shall include a vid with this Roxie Standard.

Cheers!

GMP Roxie Standard – Green Metal Flake Skull: €3250,- Diamond Phantom – 100W class A amp head: €2200,-

Loud and proud!

Here at Château PGC we all have a bad case of tinnitus, caused by loud amps. Two of my favourites are the Marshall Jubilee 2555 and the Orange 40th anniversary custom shop.

In 2008, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Orange Amps, they issued a limited run of 40 handwired guitar amps. Each amp had a different voicing. 30 watts of class A tube power switchable to 50 watts in class AB. Every one of the 40 heads was identified by a girls name instead of a serial number. These heads were simple as can be: presence-; bass-; mid-: treble controls and a volume knob. Hi- and low inputs with no effects loop. With a hidden selector the amp could be switched to 110 – 230 volts. The amps are not to be confused with the limited run of 400 OR50 amps produced in 2008.

I could lay my hands on two of these heads (5 percent of the total production): “Angie” – how Rock’n’Roll is that – and “Sally”. You need to turn the volume way up before it starts breaking up. I use these monsters of noise as a pedal platform. They take pedals very well. One channel simplicity.

My other go-to amps are two Marshall Jubilees. A silver jubilee from 1987 and an original jubilee from 1989 with the regular black tolex. The same amp was reissued in 1996 as the “Slash” signature. The Jubilee is a JCM800 on steroids. No need for pedals on these, … and the luxury of a master volume. But who wants to play a Marshall on low volume? Switchable from 100 to 50 watts. The clean channel has a clipping mode for crunchy rhythm play. The lead has a separate volume to control this beast.

For those about to get deaf, we salute you!

Gibson ES-335 Chris Cornell

In 2013 I was the lucky owner of three Gibson Chris Cornell signature guitars. Two Olive Drabs and the black one. I sold the black one and till this day I regret it. I sold it cheap, When Chris Cornell passed away prices went up and nowadays these guitars are much sought after. I love these guitars and I love the Lollar pickups!

Last year Gibson announced to reissue a limited run of 250 guitars and since then I have been watching out for this rerun. Finally, last week, I could get my hands on a new ES-335 Cornell! Kudos to Omega Music (Mons), Belgiums second largest music store, great service and excellent coffee! As soon as I heard they had one in store I was on my way. In the past they sold me two guitars from the 2013 run and since then I visit them on a regular basis. I prefer the local brick-and-mortar store above the German box-movers. Try before you buy and support your local business!

Gibson ES-335 Chris Cornell

The Gibson ES-335 has everything to be a horrible guitar: a crazy neck angle and a Bigsby. Everything to guarantee an out of tune guitar. But the ES-335 also has some kind of magic. It just feels great, looks great and plugged into a valve amplifier it roars at you when you hit that open E chord. The magic is in the pickups! The Lollartron pickups sound like a bell and yet they have the right amount of power to cover every style. The Cornell ES-335 is my “go-to” guitar. My main instrument since 2013 and now I have some spares. Oh lucky me!

Is there a difference between the 2013 and the 2019?

There is no difference in sound between the 2013 and 2019. Gibson now uses MTC-Plus controls to tame the pickups. I still have to figure out what these controls are but to my ear it sounds pretty identical to the “old” ES-335. The guitars look and sound identical there are just a few minor differences between the first limited run and the second limited run of 250 guitars each.

price!

In 2013 I bought the black ES for €2200,- and the olive drab ES for €2500,-. At that time you could get them at the bargain booth in any music store. Guitar players are very conservative people. They don’t like it when something new is introduced. Only when a renowned artist starts using something new the sales will follow. Design and looks are of major importance in the guitar business. If it is not sunburst, ebony or any traditional color it might be risky business. In 2013 I could get a good deal on those matte finish guitars. It changed when Chris Cornell passed away and the prices on the second hand market rocketed. The new 2019 model is about €1000,- more expensive. I also was informed Gibson will donate part of the proceeds to the Chris Cornell Foundation.

Optics

The peghead inlay has changed from the traditional “frog” to the Chris Cornell logo or signature. A quarter sawn mahogany C-shaped neck remained. The fretboard is dark rosewood with pearloid dot inlays. The 2013 guitar I own has a much darker rosewood compared to the reissue, In fact the rosewood on the new guitars is more grained and not so “dark” at all. The 2019 hardcase comes without the “shroud”, the cloth to cover your guitar. I wish Gibson would bring it back. It adds something “sacred” to the instrument.

Heel

Most noticeable difference is the neck heel. The 2019 version has a smaller neck heel joint compared to the first run. It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t seem to affect the tone. Is it something in the manufacturing process? I have no idea. Both the new version and the original one have the same neck heel only the 2013 guitar has a slightly larger neck joint.

For you gearheads out there I shot a short video with the Cornell guitars. Enjoy and leave a comment. Keep Rockin’!

Why I buy local…

We live in a digital age. The internet has taken over a lot of industries: travel agents, print journalism, map making, book stores, porn magazines and… music stores. The music industry has been minimized and taken over by IT companies. The internet is giving the brick-and-mortar music store hard times. It is sad to see how the local music store is struggling with the domination of the big online box movers like Thomann or Musicstore. Sure, there is nothing wrong with ordering a Gibson Les Paul from the comfort of your chair but somehow it makes me sad. Am I old fashioned? Maybe. 

Six guitar amps I ordered from several European online stores went straight back or to my amp tech. They all had issues like broken valves, torn up speakers or produced “weird” noises.  Yes, there is a 30 days or more return policy but it is never hassle free. I have to box it up again, drive to the tech or the courier service or spend an evening on burning my fingers with the soldering iron. That is why I still prefer the mom-and-pop music store. 

As a kid, I was licking windows of music stores. Take the bus to the city and getting hypnotized by the goodies at the music shop. Saving and washing dishes in a restaurant to buy that Japanese Strat copy. The offers and choices of guitars were limited but the craving and the desire to buy the instrument were considered a life goal. Now I own 100+ guitars, basses and amps mostly acquired from brick-and-mortar music stores. The online purchase of an instrument does not give me the same buyers satisfaction as an online order. 

A musical instrument store is like a museum, a coffee shop and good place to stop. You can try out an instrument or order your guitar(amp) if it is not in stock. In general the prices are the same (or better) than the online store and I get some serious service on top: free set up to my desire and a quality check. I never came home from a store with a broken amp! Nowadays it is hard to see these stores have to make a living of the repairs from stuff people buy on the internet. 

One of my favorite stores is JnR Music Center in Hasselt (B). It is run by musician and luthier John Joris. They carry a large selection of vintage and new acoustic guitars.  If you cannot find your guitar of choice, he can build you one. Over 40 years of craftmanship in guitar building and repairs. John worked for Lou Reed, Toots Thielemans, Sting and Paul Simon. 

I rather buy from an expert and not from a warehouse owner or drop shipper. Unless you like to buy the smell when opening a guitar case for the first time … buy from your local music store!

Cheers!