Sunday, 29 June 2014

Metallica at Glastonbury

I'm an armchair festival goer these days, all that sleeping in tents, queuing for hours for the showers and standing for hours in a muddy field waiting for the roadie to stop saying "one... two" every 10 seconds.  So luckily at least whilst BBC3 exists on-air I get to watch some festivals on tv.  So it is Glastonbury weekend.  I'm writing this on Sunday morning so premature review perhaps but with Dolly Parton and Kasabian the big acts on Sunday if I was in a tent in Somerset I'd be thinking about packing up early and beating a retreat in advance of the rest of the army anyway.

Friday was a great line up.  Elbow and Paolo Nutini were the highlights both delivering terrific sets.  Elbow are the best festival band around with their huge sing a long anthems and charismatic stage presence - a band that simply walk on in jeans and shirts and nail the music first and foremost.  Paolo I've loved since first seeing his d├ębut on Jools Holland's Later some years back and his latest album reinforces my belief he is a great great singer.  On Friday night he delivered a stunning vocal performance of great strength and emotion.

Saturday... Robert Plant played a set that really ought to define Glastonbury's position as an all inclusive festival.  A band of eclectic musicians playing new and old stuff with aplomb and his soaring voice above it all.  Even when he touched on the Led Zep catalogue both Rock n Roll and Black Dog underwent total overhauls with African instrumentation etc. so that they were hardly recognisable from their original form.  Whole Lotta Love was the only one there the iconic guitar riff thundered out but again the middle was totally re-worked and re-orchestrated.  Great set but I felt most of the audience had gone expecting a bit more Led Zep given the response to Whole Lotta Love - but that isn't what Robert is about these days - he's made that pretty clear folks... live with it.

Metallica - the controversial headliners.  Petitions from regular festival goers to get them off the bill, demands for boycotts since James Hetfield is pro-hunting.  Is this the Glastonbury love, tolerance and inclusive values that we expect? Hmm....  For a start hunting has a completely different social position in the USA compared with the UK where I would argue a lot of the previous arguments against it has been more an allegory for much of the class struggle that has blighted UK politics and social development at least since the beginning of the 20th century.  Also Metallica are up there in terms of record sales - arguably over 100million which puts them up in the upper reaches of Rock royalty - only AC/DC as a heavy band out score them (frankly musically you can't really say AC/DC are heavy metal just heavy rock... mostly they play rock n roll just loudly and in short trousers).

So I've seen Metallica live 3 times myself and every time been impressed.  They nail the performance with energy that bands half their age would give their limbs to have and without any need for looks, nods, concerns they are tight as a clamshell.  I thought they were outstanding last night.  The crowd looked large to me, not the mass boycott asked for and also seemed to be going nuts for much of the set.  Metallica are not like some metal bands with careful managed clothing images (Judas Priest) or large sets (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) they are four guys in black jeans and shirts who let their thunderous music make its own statement.  Will Glastonbury replace Download or Sonisphere as iconic metal festivals?  Clearly not but will we see other huge metal bands now playing there?  Iron Maiden have publicly said they won't but their style of bombastic, tuneful, story telling and incredible stage production would fit Glastonbury well I feel.  The mould is broken lets see.

Not sure this'll work in all regions but ... One....

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Pedal Board finished.

Ok so here it is the completed board!!

"Hang on!" you say... "that's smaller"... yes yes, I had to admit that it was too bloody big.  So I cut a bit off the back shelf to allow the vol and wah to go back and viola a more compact solution.  I ended up with the chorus on the front row as it is one of my most used effects. First outing for live use this Sunday hopefully.

I used the Planet Waves pedal board kit to make up some of the cables - it works out about £9 a cable which isn't cheap but you can make the cables to custom lengths easily which is great.  Very easy to use, cut the cable with the cutter provided, undo the little screw on the jack, carefully push the cable home using a little back and forth movement, do the screw up and ... finished cable.

I removed the rubber feet off the wah and vol pedals to help fit them on the board better.  I've kept them safe in case of needing them again in the future.

Other thing I used was pedal board tape - pricey but a lot of people recommend over dress-shop Velcro.

Finally tidy up some cables with cable ties attach a couple of handles to help carry it and I'm looking like a bloody pro! 

You can see here how I cut back the shelf for the more compact mk 2 design.

For the really geeky of you here is a schematic showing the signal path - it is pretty straight forward. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pedal Board Project update

I found a spare afternoon, got out the jigsaw, drill and screwdriver and tackled the pedal board project I mentioned the other week.

I had a sheet of 6mm MDF board that I'd bought as part of a model railway project with my son some years back.  It'd been sat in the garage for a long time - you might note some odd staining on it due to what it has been sat behind.  The wood was some off cuts from a shed roof repair job a year or so ago.  So far so good.  No additional cost!  Haha!

 So here we start - my test diagram - life size on some old wall paper.

Next cut out the mdf board... the two pieces will become clear in a moment...

 Here I've cut out two bits of wood that'll form the sides and just drilled the holes.   Next glue and screw the wood end pieces and a couple of supports too...

Then put the top of the back section as I wanted the pedals at the back to be lifted above the ones at the front, esp as I have a wah and vol pedal there.

Finally a test pedal fit.  This isn't the final layout, the phaser at least will come down onto the lower front part and I need a couple of extra leads made up to get the vol pedal and guvnor overdrive wired in - although I very rarely use the guvnor with my amp - it is really a "get me out of jail" card to be used if my amp fails and I need to plug into the PA.  However it is looking good so far.  Next step is to finalise the layout and cabling and then fix them all to the board.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

It's like seeing your kids all grown up...

... well that probably is over egging it a bit but this month sees the superb Guitar & Bass magazine featuring Flat Eric's incredible collection of basses and guitars.

Now look at the cover...

I've made that as big as I can... see bottom right... the collection in question... now look closer (sorry) in the middle of the first standing rank? (I've added the picture now it is available to help... ) My old Peter Cook bass that I owned from sometime in the early 90s when I saw it languishing covered in dust at the back of a clutter of basses in the old Unisound shop in Chatham until I sold it to Eric a few years back after he saw pictures I'd put of it on a vintage guitar forum.  After I'd bought it from the guy at the shop, actually handed over the readies etc., I told him that Entwistle had played Peter's instruments.  The guy said "Oh should we have charged you more?"  I smiled as I left with it. It probably was the best made instrument in the whole shop!  However I'm not a bass player and although it did find itself onto some of my home recorded efforts over the next dozen or so years when it lived with me it often sat on the wall or in a rack or a case doing very little but humming gently to itself.  My son used it briefly when about 16 he suddenly kindled an interest in music and joined a band. Also it saw a little action when I was in a band called Tripwire around 2002/3 and the bass player used it for a song in drop D to save retuning his Jazz.  I subsequently bought a five string Ibanez off a guy at work and sadly it sat getting even less use which wasn't right for such a piece of guitar history.  Eric was keen to get an Axis for his collection so I struck a deal with him and off the old girl went via ParcelForce to a new home.  Eric has now got a 6 string Axis to match with it which is cool as it had been living with my six string sibling too.  I'm glad it isn't lonely any more.  There was a pang on regret seeing it there with someone else in the magazine, all guitars do become part of me if I own them for any period of time.  However when I read in the magazine that Eric "get's such a buzz playing it live" I knew it was in the right place, treasured by someone who truly appreciates it is a great, rare beauty and also someone who is using it as it was intended to be.

So here is a picture of it with it's sibling when in my very humble collection from a few years ago...   And as a post edit... the picture with it in Eric's Collection alongside his 6 string Axis.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Pedal Board Project

For many years now I've been talking (mostly to myself... oh that's another post...) about building a pedal board.  I have a bunch of pedals on the floor next to my Hughes and Kettner amp.  When ever I'm off playing I normally just take those I really really need.  But that is a pain and unpluging, setting up, breaking down, resetting up at home etc. is a pain...  and they "wander" over the floor, under the hifi unit etc.

So finally I'm in the process of sorting out a pedal board.  Might take a while as I have a list of household chores to do as long as my arm but anyway I'm up and running.

First steps...   I drew out a plan on some old scrap wall paper to get the size I need and check layout etc.  I then thought I really need to finally get the compressor I've wanted.  So I left a space on plan - went onto the computer and one of those "weekly deal" emails from a company I'd previously bought for had landed in my inbox, I opened it half expecting to hit the usual "delete" straight away and there was... a used but good condition Boss CS3 - just what I wanted, about half price.  Before you can say "What is the password for my Paypal account" it was being dispatched :-)

I looked at some additional cables, needed due to the compressor being added and a layout change from how I've cabled up previously and I thought I'd try out the Planetwaves Solderless Pedal Board cable kit after looking about and seeing a couple of YouTube reviews of it.  It was marginally cheaper on price than getting some cables made up but I was more attracted to the ability to get a cable just the length I wanted not 2cm too short or 27cm too long.  I'll be reviewing this as part of this project too.  I also ordered an additional 9volt daisy chain power distribution cable.  The one I ordered (which arrived the next day!) is much better quality and design than the Boss ones I already have, the lengths are longer between plugs which'll be better for the non-Boss pedals I've got on the board.

So ... stay tuned as this takes shape.... 

My life in 6 songs

I've been featured this week on a great series over at running sobers blog in which people are describing their lives through 6 songs...