Thursday, July 17, 2008

Space Is The Place

How things have changed at Midian. Is Mr Midian ever coming back? I liked that when I called to book the room for rehearsal he recognised my voice. Now there seems to be an ever-rotating cast of what can best be described as dudes. It's like the actor who plays a central charcter in one of your favourite shows changing every week. I found it tremendously annoying in Palindromes that the main actress kept changing around (that Todd Solondz certainly knows how to confornt my middle class values and shock me out of my complacent rut I can tell you!), even more annoying than the creeping feeling throughout the film that it was a bit duff. In any event next week we find ourselves in what I consider our holiday home, Room 6. It's not as comfy or familiar as Room 8 but we have had some great times in there. The short entrance hall gives Room 6 a grander feel but it lacks the door on the jaunty angled wall that makes Room 8 feel so modern and forward thinking.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pretenders In The Gulag

My trip to Gallins has prompted another post. When the shop was Fretted Instruments there was a range of guitars of many brands and I could browse and nod thoughtfully for many a 15 minutes during my occassional walks at lunchtime. But Gallins are slaves to the Gibson grind, to wit the front is filled with Epiphones and the rear is filled with Gibsons.
I don't think Silky will mind me saying that my eyebrow was raised by Jorma Kaukonen getting a signature series (the quality of the guitar seems top notch) but by itself it is not worthy of comment. Though he may not be first in the list of the axemen that...well any list of axemen (I even looked up Finnish axemen and he didn't figure), time has accorded him, along with album sales a certain cred that makes the signature model the next logical step.
However, Epiphone seem to give signature models to ANYONE. I first humphed at sighting the Noel Gallagher as he is a strummer first and foremost and his piss-weak solos have always made me whince. His song writing certainly is super catchy and he has far outsold even the mighty Jefferson Airplane (even if you include the Starship years) but the axework is more than unremarkable. He would have been kicked out of any band were he not the writer of songs that make drunk englishmen sing and cry at the same time.
Next was the one that actually made me laugh out loud...dear readers everywhere I give you the VALENSI! Verily, 'tis the guitarist from the Strokes. The hippest one-album rich boys this side of Albert Hammond jnrs solo career. Surely he is no one's guitar hero? Style hero? fine, maybe 5 years ago. Lovely chap? I do not doubt it for a second. But do we really want to buy a guitar set to Nick Valensi's exacting specifications so we can reproduce his "signature sound". Yes everytime Valaensi strums an open chord the charisma and personality come flowing out...HIS SOLOS ARE HIS TRADEMARK!

I am of the firm belief that if you haven't had a ghost written by-line in at least one guitar magazine you cannot have a signature model. Step forward Ace Frehely! Right this way Kirk Hammet! Sit right down George Benson! Can I get you a drink Dimebag Darrel! Perhaps some wine with dinner Eric Clapton!

Don't get me wrong, this is nothing personal against Noel or Nick but they just aren't guys that inspire you to become a guitarist...they may inspire you to pick up a guitar and become a song writer but you aren't going to try and nut out any of their solos note by note.

Silky, a gent to the last, rather than rip me to shreds on the blog in the same way Axl once did to popular music magazine executives instead chose to walk me through the highlights of Jorma's career on the telephone. These highlights included Hot Tuna and his recent stewardship of the Adelaide Guitar Festival...surely being the headline act at a guitar festival is the next level up from having your own ghost written byline in a guitar mag. I shall spend the remainder of the year attempting to claw back some credibility.


This Is The B Flat

I shall have the perfect pitch of a 6 month old hence forth.

It has been a wee while since we have had a kit update and I have exciting news (which suggests I am lively). I was out promenading on Chapel street when I passed what had been my good friends at Fretted Instruments. To my surprise and dismay they had become Gallins, dismay because Gallins have always been a bit swift in my opinion (I realise Silky scored a hot deal on his Kaukonen [the hottest finnish guitarist ever?] and I have been very pleased with my dealings in recent years but in the early days they never had prices on anything and they once tried to sell me a custom made case, quite forcefully, at a high price when an off-the-shelf number did the never makes you feel warm towards a shop when their sales technique seems to involve ripping you off...and they never stocked fenders). However I noticed their grand opening sale was on and, always one for being manipulated into buying something that has been marked down to the price you could have got it for anyway, in I went. Anyway I bought a tuner. It works really, really well.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 11, 2008

Never question Bruce Dickinson

Voice, guitar, drums and bass are the classic ingredients of great rock — the original quartet, if you will. Sometimes there are extra textural elements added, like piano for that old-time rock sound, or strings for a lush, orchestral touch. However when you need something extra, something magic, something to take you that one final step into greatness there is one go-to instrument that you must call upon.

The cowbell.

Yes the cowbell. That rhythmic vixen, that bewitching accent, that roman statue of idiophonic percussion, the glorious favourite both of inventive heavy metal drummers and of people who can't find their herd of cattle.

No song has ever been lessened by the addition of the cowbell. There are pantheon of glorious, life-shaping rock songs made perfect by that spicy beat of the cowbell.

Let me name just a few:

  • AC/DC — You Shook Me All Night Long
  • Aerosmith — Walk This Way
  • The Beatles — Helter Skelter
  • Bon Jovi — Bad Medicine
  • Cheap Trick — Dream Police
  • Guns 'n' Roses — Welcome To The Jungle
  • Kiss — Rock And Roll All Night
  • Powerstation — Some Like It Hot
  • Rage Against The Machine — Killing In The Name
  • The Rolling Stones — Honky Tonk Woman
  • Survivor — Eye Of The Tiger

The only criticism the band has heard of Squid Ink's as-yet-unreleased début album Eight Legs To Hold You from those lucky enough to listen to it is that there is no cowbell. Would the diamond that is Mrs Bun have been given that last final polish with a judicious touch of cowbell? Would some cowbell have been the final brushstroke on the masterpiece that is Gonna Hear My Sound?

Back in 2000, the awesome Christopher Walken guest starred in what has now become a favourite Saturday Night Live skit: More Cowbell. Does the skit work despite, or because of, him spending the whole time reading cue cards? Does it work despite, or because of, the unprofessional way the cast are trying not to crack up on stage? My theory is that it works because Christopher Walken is awesome.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

On The Purpose Of Squid Ink

Further to the salute to Jeff Healey below, I was listening to The Science Show on radio national last night and there was an excellent interview with Oliver Sacks mainly regarding his new book about brain malfunctions and oddities regarding music (a middle-aged surgeon with no prior musical intent or ability gets hit by lightening and two weeks later becomes obsessed with Chopin to the extent that he learns piano just so he can play Chopin's work, at the expense of his marriage, and this year saw the concert debut of some chopin-like piano pieces that he has since written). Anyway, he dropped some interesting facts throughout the conversation such as less than 1% of the population has perfect pitch but over 40% of the blind population has perfect pitch. Also (and I am not sure how this is ascertained) almost everyone has perfect pitch in the first year of life but subsequently lose it… I am setting Hughie to work as we speak. What sets Ollie apart though is the ability to link all these back to the human condition… the plight of the everyman… and he used a favourite phrase of mine from Thomas de Quincy “the pressure on the heart from the incommunicable” to express why he thinks music is important, i.e. that music, and Squid Ink in particular, relieves that pressure.

If in this world there is one misery having no relief, it is the pressure on the heart from the Incommunicable. And, if another Sphinx should arise to propose another enigma to man – saying, What burden is that which only is insupportable by human fortitude? I should answer at once – It is the burden of the incommunicable.

Not sure why a Sphinx is proposing enigmas and why anyone is listening but I am sure that is this caused by my mythological ignorance.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 04, 2008

Another Inmate From The Guitar Gulag

In a sad follow up to our regular series on guitarists worth a damn begun by Silky with his revealing post on Django (does one need further reason to see Woody Allen's rare late era gem Sweet and Lowdown?), I would like to mention the passing of Jeff Healey.

The poor bugger developed retinoblastoma at age 1 which thieved his eyesight. Jeff reckoned because of this he was drawn to music and guitar playing, playing the guitar laid flat on his lap and pressing directly down on the fretboard rather than gripping the neck from behind (now, on another matter, there is often-used photo of an old bluesman sitting on a chair with his hand placed on the front of the fretboard and I have been looking for a copy of this and the name of the player for some time… apparently no one is sure if this is really how he played the guitar or just what he did in the photo… a free copy of 8 Legs To Hold You for anyone who can help me out).

Jeff deserves mention on the blog for the large impact his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and particularly the arpeggiated riff he played, had on me and my guitar playing buddies… it became a standard when a guitar was picked as much as the intro to Sweet Child O' Mine, Back in Black and Sunshine Of Your Love (we never did really play Stairway to Heaven). Oddly this didn't translate in to curiosity about any of his original music.

Anyway, apparently the cancer never really gave him a rest and he died from it at 41 having had several operations, and plenty of treatment, for it throughout his life… which makes me think he must have been quite young when While My Guitar Gently Weeps came out.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Max is back

The word on the street is that Max Merritt, Squid Ink's shwarmi, who must spend every second day on dialysis for a rare kidney condition, has slipped away from his doctors and made the long journey from LA to be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame this evening at the Melbourne Town Hall. What a guy.

Merritt has not ruled out getting on stage and playing with the Meteors. Tickets are still available for the ceremony so you have the the chance to get yourself a piece of that merseybeat surfpop with its unrelenting dance beat and his fine, gravelly voice.

Labels: , ,