I hate active electronics. It’s not that they don’t serve a purpose, they just don’t serve a purpose for me. I play death metal and run everything through distortion, so actives are pretty pointless. I’m not looking for clarity in tone, I’m overdriving everything. Unfortunately, any new gear seems to be marketed with active preamps and pickups and a bunch of bullshit that’s going to fail on me. Such was the case with my OTHERWISE excellent LTD GB-4 bass guitar.
We went on tour in October of 2021 and this bass failed on me two separate times live (and in front of some lovely looking people i was trying to impress). The GB-4 comes with a Seymour Duncan STC-3M3 active tone circuit to compliment the passive Seymour Duncan SSB-4 soapbar humbuckers and it also eats batteries like a mother fucker. Once we’d figured that out after it died on me twice on stage, i was replacing batteries every 4-5 days. Also on stage, something happened to the active treble and bass combo knob, and i had to tape it in place so it wouldn’t crackle. Embarassing. I was done with it. This bullshit active electronics package was going to be ripped out and I was going to piss all over it.
A friend picked up this classic Acoustic Model 220 solid-state amp for cheap. It did not work. She figured it was worth the gamble of $50 to buy a non-functioning amp and see if she knew someone who could fix it. The call went up on Facebook for anyone willing to take a look and I answered it.
She had two amps, actually, for me to take a look at. The other was an Acoustic 370, another great piece of solid-state hardware. That one was easy; it had a cracked solder weld and was easily patched. This one was a little trickier. Considering the age of the amp, though, it was still easy and a testament to how durable these old solid-states really are.
This was a continuation of an idea from a very old post. I created a foot-switchable iPod controller for myself that incorporated a DI for easy sample playing on stage. A lot of people really liked it. One such person was Justin who plays in the band Ulthar and Veil. He asked me to cobble a simple version together for him, so I did.
I call it an “iPhone controller” now because who the fuck uses an iPod these days. Do they even make them anymore? I have mine, but… well whatever, the function of the circuit accomplishes the same goal: one stomp makes it play/pause, two stomps makes it go forward, three stomps makes it go back. For fuller details on how to build one, check out the details of the old post. To see the guts of this simpler version, read on.
Membership has its privileges. I got a new LTD bass from ESP for playing in Exhumed. While I have a couple ESP basses, they are tuned to D for other bands. So, on the last Exhumed tour, I had to drag my old B.C. Rich Ironbird out of retirement because it was tuned to B standard (and looked cool). Exhumed is sponsored by ESP, though. That’s largely just because Matt Harvey is, like, you know… Matt Harvey. He pulled some strings and Tony at ESP made sure we’d all be repping proper for our upcoming tours.
Yeah, that’s the bass I chose. I like the body style a lot; it looks like a Fender P-bass and a Gibson Thunderbird got together and fucked. And yeah, I chose “seafoam” green, or as I like to call it, “doktor” green. Or as I also like to call it, “maybe this metal thing won’t pan out after playing for 26 years and I’d like something that wouldn’t look inappropriate covering dad-rock at a bar” green. In any case, it came tuned to E standard and I needed it in B. So in lieu of hiring someone to do it, I did my own down and dirty intonation on this bad boy.
In the ’60s and ’70s, it was not uncommon to find an extra power outlet on the back of your amp. I assume this was because live rock music was in its infancy and most theaters didn’t have a milk crate full of quad boxes and power strips to bring power to your multiple amps, reverb units, and bulky-ass Morley wah pedals. The extra outlet disappeared in the ’80s, which is a shame, because they can be so damn useful. I know, because my Ampeg V-4B and SVT have ones which I use all the time to plug in my pedals.
This is Sean’s Peavey XXX amp with an outlet I added. I did it because he likes to place his wireless on top of the amp and Sennheiser, in their infinite wisdom, made the power adapter cord 3′ long. It’s a pain in the ass to run an extension cord for a single DC power adapter, so the outlet makes things easier. I detailed how I did it in a post about fixing that amp. Another option is to get an IEC plug splitter like the one I wrote about before, but that’s just something extra to lose. Sean’s now got a signature Satriani XXX and he wanted it, too, to have the extra outlet. What a time to make a post dedicated to adding this long-lost convenience.
I spoke about doing this in my post on fixing up a Peavey VTM 120, but I didn’t take pictures. Well, after the ground pin fell out on my Ampeg V4-B, it was time to replace another power cord. This time, I took some pictures for anyone interested in taking on such a task.
This actually happened to me while on my last tour with Exhumed. It didn’t stop me from playing. A ground pin isn’t essential to a functioning amp. It’s a safety device, in case there’s a short within the amplifier, so the amp doesn’t conduct voltage into the user through the chassis. I took my chances on the road, but once I was home it was time to replace this safety feature.
The Peavey VTM 120 is [looks around to see who is listening] a great fucking amp. Don’t tell your friends, because you can still get ’em relatively cheap. It’s essentially a JCM 800 clone with a set of DIP switches “to avoid any Imperial entanglements.” Sebastian Phillips, my bandmate in Exhumed, swears so much by his that he has one for each coast. He even got our other guitfiddler, Matt Harvey, to get one as a back-up for his 5150 (or 6505… I can’t keep track).
Of course, even a good amp has a bad day. This trooper made it through a marathon six-week tour, but upped and quit on us the very last day. It just stopped turning on. Luckily, Matt had that back-up, so Sebastian didn’t lose his groove. I took the amp after we unpacked our shit and did my doktor thing.
The Varidrive by SIB! is a gnarly fully AC powered vacuum tube overdrive. It’s got a real analog growl, pushing that tube to the limits for real distortion.
For such a nicely engineered pedal, they forgot one thing: there’s zero indication when you’ve engaged the effect… I mean, other than screaming overdrive in your ears. But visually, ya got nothing, and during a hard core punk rock gig, it can sometimes be hard to tell. Luckily, SIB! already put an LED on their pedal to indicate it’s getting power. It’s not so hard to change that out for a bicolor LED to indicate power AND when the effect is engaged.