Thursday, 30 July 2009

New amp update - Hughes and Kettner Statesman Dual 6L6 review

So yes the new amp purchased last week is a Hughes & Kettner Statesman 60W 2x12 Dual 6L6 combo.

I wanted an amp since I’m trying to get back to band playing/gigging etc. Also I’ve got fed up with the Line6 POD. It is very good don’t get me wrong but really there is something missing playing through one of those and small hi-fi like speakers, it just doesn’t move the air the right way. Also I found I rarely if ever really used the power and versatility of the POD and relied on a very small number of sounds… honestly probably about 8 at the most.

I had been looking for something valve. The Marshall Haze 40W looked good, the Blackstar HT5 good but probably underpowered if I did get into a band. Ideally I wanted something with separate eqs on the two channels but that starts pushing the cost up.

A couple of bloggers etc. commented on looking an H&K and a local shop recommended them as well. I also looked at the new small Laney 50W stack but the distortion on that was a bit “ringy” for me.

I stumbled over this H&K when looking in the local shop for the EL34 40W combo which was in the running maybe. But this is that amps big brother with bigger cab, separate eq and some other features. It was “shop worn”, i.e it has a few marks and scuffs on it where it’s been bumped so brand new but a little “road worn”… funny for guitars you pay extra for that for this amp I got a discount… ironic!

I tried it out on two occasions and the impression was excellent. It has a very warm crunch tone, it’s very “classic rock” and only at it’s extreme setting gets close to metal. If you are after a real metal rock amp I wouldn’t recommend this, H&K do others like that or the Marshall JVM is a good place to look. The clean channel is ace – very clean for a start unlike some that crunch up too early for me perhaps. It has a “Twang” button (don’t we all?:-)) that adds a Fender flavour to the sound. With my Les Paul on the neck pickup I get a very warm jazzy sound that I’m in love with.

So features is has…

Dist channel
Gain and vol. 3 band eq. A boost button that preshapes the eq, very useful esp to add that extra bit – RHCP going from riff to solo in Can’t Stop it is spot on.
Clean channel
Vol and 3 band eq. Twang button and the boost works on here as well with less effect for me.
Reverb and presence controls.
Clever bits
There are some clever bits hidden around the back. First you can balance the reverb level so more on the dist or the clean channel – handy. Reverb is footswitchable if I get another foot pedal for about £30.
Second master vol. Now this is neat. This is a footswitchable only (no button on the front) boost or cut that is preset on the back and works on both channels. So you set up to have a little lift in vol and use it if say at solo time you just feel you’re getting lost. The advantage is that it is relevant to the position of the channel vol on the front so you don’t have to adjust it once set whether in the bedroom at low vol or on stage the lift is set relevant to that…. Very very clever and useful.

Finally – it sounds great! With my Les Paul my son claims it sounds “awesome” and on the dist channel with the boost in my rendition of YYZ or Spirit of the Radio sounds almost like Alex Lifeson… no wonder he uses H&K amps. I’m glad I looked here rather than the Marshall blindness I had for a while. Due to the knocks I managed to get it for only £600 which was a stonking bargain to boot.

So what is going on?

A lot!

Firstly I’m now off to Sonicsphere at the weekend unexpectedly with my son. He has ended up without the person he expected to attend and immediately he wanted me to go… given Mrs F and I bought the tickets as his birthday present in the first place that seems fair! Looking forward to the music, Metallica, Heaven & Hell, Linkin Park, Coheed & Cambria top the list. Add to that Thunders last ever gig – I’ve never seen them but had an album I liked a long time back (Back Street Symphony) and I’ll try to make it to that. Hundred Reasons are another band I like and they are there on the Sunday as well as Feeder who I quiet like. My son is into Mastadon and Lamb of God, so all good on the music front. However…

Camping!? Yes camping – I’ve not camped since I was about 18 on a holiday to Switzerland. And the weather looks just rubbish for Saturday. Great!

Work – very stressed out not help by the holiday coming up and being away at the weekend now. I’m just completing 3 months in this new role and the turbulence appears to be a constant feature. I need to

  • ask for more advice and help and not believe
    • I know all the answers
    • appear stupid for asking
  • accept many others feel similar I’m not unique
  • it’s not the end of the world (I tend to catastrophise a lot)

Music – had some contacts with people that look interesting. Problem is finding the time to meet up with them as I’m so busy!

I had half thought of blowing the blog away – I’m not spending long here and not getting around to those I read. But I did all that last year about this time when I felt it was all going a bit Pete Tong and then set up this blog so I’ll stay here when I can and if I find I’m only writing to myself in a few months then blow it away.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Weekend stuff

Started off mixed with me buying my new amp. I think Mrs F is okay about it. It was "shop worn" and therefore cheap - only £600! It has a great sound, my Les Paul sounds "awesome" through it according to Son-of-Furtheron.

We went to the O2 to see the British Music Experience - not a bad day out. We enjoyed ourselves anyway. You can even watch yourselves dancing on-line once you get back home. Oh Dear! Then we went to see the latest Harry Potter movie - again not bad, I only read up to about book 4 I think so can't compare with the novel.

Sunday was a do nothing day but watch the motor racing and play guitar.

Something happened over the weekend that was upsetting, I'll not go into the details as that's not fair on those involved but when you see someone you love very badly hurt by someone and there is very little to do that is one of the worst feelings isn't it? Whatever you do you feel it's not enough because you can't fix the problem as it's not fixable as such. You can only be there and listen and support. I've found the last couple of days very difficult though.

Today is our anniversary and it's pouring with rain but we're heading out for a meal somewhere.

New Amp

Oh dear I think I've annoyed Mrs F as I bought one of these...

Friday, 24 July 2009

My kids are great

An odd looking envelope arrived for Son-of-Furtheron arrived yesterday, it was a large A4 one which had come from the university but had a hand written address on it which was sort of odd. He was out with his mate and arrived home in the evening, shocking us all by the way as he'd been into the Next sale and bought a couple of nice shirts, he doesn't do clothes shopping normally only with us cajoling him into.

Anyway the letter was from the head of his course, he'd one a prize as the most deserving student of the year! Brilliant - the prize is in memory of some old professor and there was a certificate in the envelope. He thoroughly deserves it, he works hard and is committed.

Later on Daughter-of-Furtheron, him and I were watching Mock the Week one of our favourite shows, we've only just introduced D-o-F to it. There was more than one occasion when he and I were laughing at a Frankie Boyle one liner and she looked blankly.

"I don't know what he meant but I think I do"
"If you don't know, don't ask love I'll not explain"
"Oh it was that then... that's disgusting"

Every journey begins with a step

Is that a Zen one or Mau? Hang on... just off to check in another tab on the browser... Confucius - and I've misquoted as always. Never mind

Back to the plot. I've put an ad up on PartySounds which several people had recommended, I'd tried Rock-Til-You-Drop but there aren't enough people on there in my area I think, although I've linked up with one guy in a prog rock type band and we are hoping to meet up at a local jam night which might be useful.

Anyway I've had a couple of replies to the ad which was looking for musicians to form a band. The bass player I've connected with sounds ideal in terms of thoughts, he is mature like me :-) so has the job, family etc. commitments and is looking for a "hobby" band to play a range of covers and original stuff, gig occasionally and maybe record the new stuff for either internet or CD exposure. Spot on. I'm following up the other lead for another guitarist and then we need to get together to test the chemistry and plan some form of "set list" to kick off a jam. Drummer... need a drummer - or do I buy a drum machine? :-) Singer as well... I've an awful feeling vocal duties might fall to me if not and trust me that'll doom the whole thing!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Quiet here isn’t it.

It’s been quiet over the last week on here hasn’t it. One reason for that is that I’ve not been feeling great currently. I don’t know what it is exactly. Over the weekend I thought it was Swine Flu as I had a sore throat and a headache and felt hot but didn’t really have a temperature. Then I thought it was getting better but really I still don’t feel right. My eyes have been stinging and my back has been hurting the last couple of days, not a normal back pain almost like something inside is hurting. I don’t know you get to your late 40s and you start falling to pieces! :-)

Work is very busy. Since taking this new role on in May I’ve been waiting for it to settle down and get to a normal level of activity and for some of the ambiguity that goes with any new role settling down. It isn’t. Maybe it’ll always be like this – dealing with ambiguity and juggling too many activities might be the best characteristics to develop in the near term.

The good news is that in less than 3 weeks we’ll be on our summer holiday, the bad news is we don’t really do relaxing holidays. This year we off on a tour of the USA visiting where I have worked in the past in Connecticut and also spending a longer time than we have before in Boston as we all rate that as a lovely city and want to look about it some more. But that’s hardly lying by a pool for two weeks doing nothing which would possibly be the best thing for me. Still I should be flipping grateful I can have a holiday like that anyway.

I suppose part of my malaise this week is that the rest of the household are now all care free until September. Son-of-Furtheron has been on hols since June – students have a great life really don’t they? Daughter-of-Furtheron broke up from school on Friday and yesterday was Mrs F’s last day. So this morning at 6am I hit the snooze button rather than my usual jump straight out of bed. I took Mrs F a cuppa in bed as normally she arrives downstairs after the snooze on the alarm clock just as I’m finishing my breakfast and heading upstairs for a wash. We normally shuffle past each other somewhere in the kitchen and grunt some form of acknowledgement – isn’t love grand. Today after my wash Mrs F still wasn’t up – which is fair frankly given she hasn’t got to get D-o-F up and get to work herself. Jealous? Too right I am! Still long weekend to look forward to, we’re off to the O2 to look at the British Music Experience, we might try to get to see the Harry Potter movie as well. Mrs F and I need to come up with something rip roaringly exciting to do on Monday to celebrate our 24 years of blissfully happy marriage… that’ll be going shopping at Bluewater then as we rarely seem able to come up with an alternative when faced with these kinds of decisions.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Thunder and Lightening. Jools Holland Gig Review

Last night Mrs F and I went to see Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at one of the Castle Concerts. These are a series of open air gigs played in the castle grounds of Rochester castle which is a lovely location. The whole event is a bit of a picnic etc. This is the first time Mrs F and I have been as often it has clashed with end of school plays etc. but this year the school took a different approach to that kind of thing so we are able to go. Jools Holland is pretty much now got a residency given he is a local himself living only a couple of miles away... in his own castle.

This was the umpteenth time we've seen Jools - well I think we figured it was probably the 6th but he is a firm favourite of ours. For a start his big band is something a little different, they are stunningly good musicians and clearly no matter how many shows they play always look to be having an absolute ball themselves. So last night we had several off the latest Informer CD with most vocal duties shared between Louise Marshall and the legendary Ruby Turner. Also Rico Rodriguez was a star of the show as ever - he maybe 74 but he still can get up there and give a show. He is a legend quiet simply.

The other big guest star was Dave Edmonds who rattled off a few hits finishing his stint off with The Sabre Dance - which given I was the only one who cheered when that was announced clearly many people didn't know what that was. Now about 30 odd mins into the show the predicted rain had started to fall and I had said to Mrs F "According to the BBC web site it'll be pouring down at 9pm". It did with lightening storms all about and The Sabre Dance was given a great backdrop. However the rain didn't dampen the spirits too much and it was a great show which ended a little sooner than planned I think as there was some concern over safety with more lightening on the way.

The support act was an American from NYC - Joshua Radin who I really liked. I've bought his CD, Simple Times, but not listened to it as yet. Anyone who remembers last year my discovery of Phil Campbell and who sought him out will appreciate why I like Joshua - he struck me as a bit of a similar USA type.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Funniest news story I read today

Sorry couldn't help myself laughing at this one....

Flat blown up in air bed accident.

Although given the devastation, the injury to the man and his daughter and now he might be prosecuted perhaps it's not so funny but... :-)

Monday, 13 July 2009

Book Review - The Hunt For Atlantis – Andy McDermott

On the face of it this looked an ideal book for me, a bizarre historically led modern age thriller with an archaeologist who had found where Atlantis was and was stopping some loony who was wanting to stop the world finding out about it.

It wasn’t a bad thriller if somewhat unbelievable throughout. However the author goes for very over the top action sequences that read like a script from James Bond, Mission Impossible films. That is okay but there did seem to be far too many of them in the book to me.

Will I try another one his books? Possibly. Definitively a light read with plenty of action in it. I just wished for a little more depth to it, even the twist towards the end was so telegraphed throughout the book that did little to surprise you… other than that the very very bright scholar who was leading the search for Atlantis never once bothered to ask some questions I think the rest of us would have asked long before she did.

I don’t know if my reading tastes are changing but often now I seem to want something deeper from my thrillers rather than the light plot with plenty of car chases etc. I can get that through any Hollywood movie, when I read I’d like to stretch my mind a bit more. :-)

What I achieved over the weekend

This was a one of those weekends where nothing happened but a lot happened if you get my drift.

Friday after work I cleared out a blocked gutter downpipe. I hate that job and only do it when it has to be done, it involves me up a ladder which is not a combination that is good. I hate ladders and being someone who suffers balance issues not surprising. Still all done with my sons help. I then cooked a Roganjosh for Mrs F and I. Oh yes my prize from the guitarnoize comp turned up to much excitement as well.Then it was an AA business meeting for 3 hours in the evening which was okay but meant sadly I missed Daughter-of-Further on getting a 2nd place in a swimming gala.

Saturday - we went out to lunch to celebrate my son getting great results in his first year in uni, everything was pretty much above 90% which was excellent. He works very hard and should be very proud, we were also celebrating D-o-F's success as well as she's had good end of year results, nearly top of the year in Science and a brilliant Spanish result among the highlights. I put a couple of the new straps from my prize to good use and let Son-of-Furtheron take one of the leather ones for his Ltd EC-1000. In the evening Mrs F and I went to one of her best friends 40th birthday bash. It was fancy dress... groan!! I don't really do fancy dress, or parties pretty much. Still Mrs F and I went as Marc Anthony and Cleopatra - so I spent sometime learning the first part of March Anthony's famous "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech from Julius Caesar but that didn't seem to be understood at the party by those I tried it on. Never mind.

Sunday - up early, bad news given it must have been gone 1am by the time we got to bed after the party as I had to be at another AA business meeting - bad planning that 2 on the same weekend still never mind. That was a profitable meeting and in the afternoon having watched the GP I got on the computer and stuck into a few of my AA service actions - updating our local website, creating a spreadsheet to track something and looking up some people to invite to a seminar we're putting together.

Good weekend all round

Thursday, 9 July 2009

How did I get here?

This month I'll have been married 24 years. Next month my son will be 19. Later this year I'll be 47 and my daughter 14.

Sorry! I am my Dad and he'll have been gone 25 years this October, that's more than half my life I've been without my Dad! No that's a whole other post... or a whole blog... or lots of counselling. Briefly I have spent a lot of time regretting and over compensating that I could never show my Dad that I could be a success in life.

Over the next few years we hit many big milestones. Next year obviously is our silver wedding anniversary. I'll have a son who will be in his 20s! The year after he'll be 21 and my Daughter will be 16! Then the year after that I'll be 50!!! (running out of !'s you know)

Somewhere along the line I went to sleep a teenager and woke up a middleaged "responsible" adult. Problem is I don't often feel like one in some ways I often feel like the teenager - you should have seen my son and I at the London Music Show. Difficult to know who was the more excited at times - I must have dragged him back to the Rob Williams stand 5 times!

What is growing up? What is grown up? Do people knowingly transition from various stages of their lives or does it just happen and then you suddenly realise that you've moved on? Seems to me my life is somewhat the latter version really.

Not that it's really a problem - acceptance is the key, accept who and where I am is the key and realising that some magic something will happen and that it'll all seem sorted out just isn't going to happen. As M Scott Peck points out... "Life is difficult".


I read an article today about rapamycin which is a drug that may lead to the creation of some kind of anti-ageing pill.

I'll not go into the ethics of all this ... in a world of increasing population, esp an ageing one in the developed world in which already we have a major elderly care crisis and future pensions crisis etc.

But the one thing that did tickle me is that the drug, rapamycin, is named after Easter Island where it was first isolated in soil samples taken there. Whilst historians and ecologists argue the exact facts there is a body of opinion that the population of Easter Island somewhere about 1700 basically was pretty much wiped out. Some of the theories about this are that the massive deforestation of the island could have been a major cause and one reason for this possibly was the zealot like worship of a religion on the island that led to the raising of the famous statues.

It just tickled me that we are naming the "elixir of life" (as I saw on one newspaper) after an island which has a history that shows the abuses man will take out on his environment and the devastating consequences that can have on a human population.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Getting old (er)

So I blogged about this a little while back in March.

It is that time! I'm clearly getting old(er). Today I had to move out of the fast lane at swimming as I was clearly getting in the way of the young(er) and fitter who wanted to get past this ageing numpty who plods along doing breaststroke. The other thing is that there are more people swimming these days. Time was if there were 3 of us in the fast lane that was a busy day, now it's regular 5 or 6 or more and that's a little crowded anyways.

Unfortunately I'm too fast for the slow lane and don't want to go in there and upset the "never get the hair wet" brigade as they enjoy their slow swimming - to be honest I think of it as floating with some forward motion - and don't want some fool splashing past them every other length.

So I was in the "open swimming" bit, which was okay but some folks don't just swim up and down but sideways and also that's where you get the "swim in a line having a chat" crew. Again they have a right to that but given most of them are pensioners - why the hell are they there at 7am! They have the rest of the day, some of us are still employed and paying the taxes so they can get in for free.

So I have to say sadly after 20plus years suddenly I don't feel comfortable swimming any more and I might have to give it up I think. That won't be good it's the only sodding exercise I do these days. I might have to go back to the gym who I still pay my subs to but never use, but that's always full of people who look like something out of a muscle movie... or "knobs" as my daughter called them last night as we walked past some after swimming practice. I think that wasn't the impression the guys pumping iron were looking for.

I need a pool that has a lane that is okay with a predominantly breaststroke swimmer who is just sub 25mins for 50 lengths on a good day. Somehow they don't seem to advertise that way do they?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Late again... missed national kissing day

Well I've blown that... apparently yesterday was National Kissing Day. I've tried to find out more but all my searches lead me to flower selling sites telling me they could have delivered if I'd have called them before lunch yesterday.

Did anyone else know this? According to The Sun website 29% of young woman don't believe they are getting enough kisses... so it tell us... "So fellas, if you're reading this - remind a gorgeous lass what she's missing with a saucy smacker today." Well it was yesterday so bugger that but also I've just remembered how I hate tabloid newspapers.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Good lord!!! I've won something!!

There's a running gag in the Furtheron family about me and my competition entering. I've never won a thing. I used to enter all the guitar giveaways etc. in all the magazines, Mrs F readily pointing out if I stopped buying the magazines and paying for all the postcards and stamps or text messages I could buy the equipment anyway!

Well amazingly I got an email saying I've won some strings in the Guitar Noize second birthday giveaway. Yippee!!

Oh yes a footnote. I have won a competition before, it was to have your house stone clad - which I didn't want and also at the time... I didn't have a house!

Jeff Beck at Royal Albert Hall - Gig Review

On Saturday Son-of-Furtheron and I went to see Jeff Beck at The Royal Albert Hall.

Firstly the RAH is a stunning venue, my son had never been there and in the evening sunshine it looked great and we wandered around the outside marvelling at the architecture and also commenting the change in the monarchs status from then to now... can you imagine something like being built if Prince Philip died? Whatever was built would it still be there over 130 years later?

Anyways to the gig. The current Jeff Beck band is simply a collection of four of the greatest musicians about currently. Joining Jeff are Jason Rebello on keyboards, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass. This is the same band on the recently released Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scotts - so if you want to find out more seek that CD/DVD out which won my live album of the year award last year by the way. All of the backing musicians are virtuosos in their own right, Tal Wilkenfeld is the young bass prodigy of the moment. However she is so tiny the bass looks taller than she is but it doesn't stop her demonstrating amazing dexterity getting around it. Her solo in Cause We've Ended as Lovers was brilliant - very Jaco like/inspired but none the worse for that.

The style is very much jazz rock but with so many styles and genres thrown in it's a variatable pot-pourri of guitar instrumental genius including rock, jazz, blues and reggae at the minimum. Over the years Jeff's style has continued to evolve and grow and in my humble opinion he is one of the most inventive players about in the world at the moment. He is a master of control, phrasing and melody. His right hand is constantly shifting position for the tone he wants, he uses the vibrato on his signature strat constantly and not just in a random dive bomb or wobble it's an intrinsic part of the tune either guiding the note to adding an embellishment. He also is constantly controlling his tone via the vol control. He was using a set up with two old looking Marshalls with 4x12 cabs and I noted that there was no micing up, the whole show was from stage volume. He must be a sound man's nightmare... :-)

Highlights included Cause We've Ended as Lovers, Nadia, A Day in the Life (yes the Beatles track) and in the encores Where Were You? Which is just an absolutely stunning track - you could here a pin drop through that, a guy behind us just said "Beautiful" as it finished and I couldn't agree more with that statement. Also Jerusalem was given the Beck treat and after the first run through Dave Gilmour joined him on stage for a brilliant duet on that famous hymn clearly chosen for it's RAH Proms connection. Then we had a sing a long to Hi Ho Silver Lining which sounded like a pub band - not sure if that was the intent but it was a laugh anyway.

So Jeff Beck - probably at his very best showing that the best musicians can continue to innovate and be more than relevant as they reach Old Age Pensioner status. I can't recommend him highly enough.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Having a bath

The swimming pool I use in the mornings has a problem with the water heating system.

Last week the pool was cool, then cold. Daughter-of-Furtheron swam in a gala there on Sat night and moaned that it was too cold and actually was cold on pool side as a result which is most unusual; it wasn't in the gallery where we were sat! BTW it was a team relay gala and she swam really well given she was in the U15 category - she is 13 although her swimming age is 14, the ASA has a system where everyone effectively has a birthday on 1st Jan. Therefore she was one of the youngest in that age group - she had a couple of really good races where she held her own pretty well against stiff opposition.

Well it was fixed over the weekend and I gleefully told D-o-F on Tuesday morning that it was nice and warm. Well today it was 34°C!!! It was stupid, my bath isn't normally that hot. Trying to swim with any pace was crazy and the deep end, in shadow etc. was cooler and each lap you longed for that moment of some respite. I gave up somewhere around 40 something lengths.

I gave up trying to dry myself off as well as the sweat just kept pouring off me! That probably isn't a pleasant image - apologies.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Another reminder

About 7 - 6 years ago we had a young admin assistant in our dept who was very good, very efficient. I remember her as a very quiet, lovely girl (lady I should probably say but she's a lot younger than I). Sadly in one of our ever continuing downsizing episodes she left to work for a different department in the company.

Sadly I heard yesterday that during the birth of her second child she has suffered a massive stroke and although now stable and begining to make the first slow steps of recovery she'll be in hospital for weeks and of course there is no knowing what her level of recovery will be.

She is only 27. That may well be a blessing for her future recovery but makes you realise how grateful we should be just for the very basics of health etc. I was reminded of the BodyWorlds exhibition I posted about the other day - the wonder of life and health and our bodies and also the complexity and fragility of it all.

Hug a loved one today (if a loved one isn't available hug a stranger but be careful who you select maybe :-)) - have a laugh, be happy cos you are in a good place aren't you?

The baby you'll be glad to know is fine.