Mauz from Kicker had this interesting paperweight laying around the shop for awhile over at Monolith Press, where I work my day job. Turns out, it used to make noise. This was a remnant of the eighties, a Gallien-Krueger GK 400RG in all its solid-state and rack-mountable glory. It had its own crusty history as the amp for Geoff Evans from Skaven followed by Mauz when he recorded guitar for Dystopia’s “The Aftermath.” It also had a history of blowing up and some questionable, tweaky repairs with non-spec parts.
Mauz asked if I would take a looksy, so it went from a paperweight at the shop to a paperweight in my room. I wasn’t jumping at the chance to work on it. Fixing solid-state amps is a bitch. There’s so many little things that could be wrong or blown and you can’t always see it. You actually have to be smart… or you can blindly test everything a gazillion times until you get it right. So, yeah, testing everything it is.
or, Strategic Harmony Interference Elimination and Lead Defense.
Guitar pickups are electro-magnetic transducers that use changing magnetic fields to induce pulses of alternating current electricity from a coil of copper wire at voltages reproducing audible sine wave frequencies in relation to an absolute ground. I think. Sometimes I prefer the definition as proposed by Messrs. Dope and J; magnets are a “miracle.” Unfortunately, the latter definition does nothing to help understand why my bass might be buzzing like a bee chainsawing an alarm clock when the FOH sound guy turns the lights on and off. There’s two ways to solve the problem. One, you can learn to play the chainsaw.
Or two, you can shield your guitar. Truth be told, it should probably be shielded from you: throwing it around, spilling beer on it, bleeding on it… and by “you” I mean “me.” But the shielding I refer to will protect that precious guitar signal of malodorous melodies from the buzzing bullshit of the outside world.
Sean was nice enough to give me a guitar to use for demoing songs as we write a new record. It was a Halo guitar. I don’t know much about the company, but I’ve had to do some re-working in a few questionable construction issues to get this one up to snuff. One thing that sucked is the cable jack. It was the barrel style. Frankly, they’re total bullshit.
See the tines you can bend back into shape when it loses grip on a plug? No, you don’t, because they don’t exist. These things are notorious for breaking down and needing replacement. I’d had to replace one of Dan’s on the last tour we did in America. Basically, they’re longer, so I guess they’re used to avoid doing a good routing job on a guitar body. The nice people at Halo glued theirs in with wood putty, so that made replacement a non-cinch. I had to rip the fucker out.
Wow, that is something I thought I’d never see… a NEW Ampeg V-4B. While I was doing a search for something else related to my OLD V-4B, I came across the press that this month, Ampeg has re-introduced my favorite all time bass amp back into their line-up. Ain’t she a beaut!
It’s funny that they’ve recreated the V-4B, as the original was a guitar amp. They added the B when bass players started using it, changed a few caps, and ditched the reverb. As a guitar amp, it ruled, but as a bass amp, it surprisingly ruled even harder.
Impaled’s first national tour was with Nile in the year 2000. Nile controlled a bunch of oogey-boogey Egyptial style samples from a PC tower on stage. I was sure they played Tetris between songs to relax. On another tour with Origin, we thought they’d upped the D.I.Y. by burning a CD with samples on it to play through a Sony Discman, the height of technology. Then came the iPod: relatively cheap, small, and it worked pretty good. For Impaled, Jason hooked up a series of samples and would walk back to his amp to push the “forward” button. I did the same thing a few years later while touring with GWAR. I thought, “There must be a better way.” And there is. But I had to invent it.
Well, I didn’t actually invent shit. I did put together a bunch of other already invented shit in what I think is a pretty novel way. The iSewage uNot incorporates an iPod, a DI box, a stereo-summing circuit, and a momentary foot switch. A musician can control an iPod with his foot for use as a sampler while playing music. Apple plugged in all the technology you need to make it happen, but they forgot to include the instructions.
I had gotten about half way through a really great post for this week over the last few days, but disaster struck. My Ampeg V-4B went SNAFU. I smelled something smoking at practice. I thought it was my strings from some awesome bass licks. Nope, I had a tube red plating in the back if my amp. It was about to blow. I turned everything off and had to figure this shit out. I had a show in Canada to play and no back up amp!
Over the next couple days, I checked shit out. I tested all the tube socket voltages with the tubes out, in case it was feeding my tubes too much voltage or not draining enough. This is dangerous territory here and not for the inexperienced. We’re talking leads getting 560V. That will kill you. Long story short, everything tested fine. So, WTF?
Musical instruments, good ones, are often compared to one’s children. Well, how many children are thrown in a case, plucked, hammered on, plugged into, or hanged? Don’t answer that. (Please, really, don’t.) Without these precious musical items, though, it’s hard to call oneself a musician. That is, lest ye fortunate to have the talent of Susan Boyle (hopefully not the face). My favorite, my child, my baby, my fifth limb… my B.C. Rich Ironbird. This thing is a mother fucker.
It’s an American made (or at least assembled, I dunno) classic, with the big “R” inlay on the headstock indicating its origin in the land of the free. Birthed sometime around THIRTY FUCKING YEARS AGO, it’s got neck-through construction, a rosewood fretboard, and a simple one-knob configuration. Because metal don’t need a fucking tone knob. I scored it over a decade ago at a used-music shop in San Jose for a meager $300, during a period where “metal” was a dirty word and Prodigy was the band of the future (where are they know?). It’s been with me on countless tours and tons of recordings.
Somewhere in the ’90s, everything became disposable and cheap. NAFTA made lives disposable and cheap. Reality shows made art disposable and cheap. Music companies made their gear disposable and cheap. I have not the inclination to make the philosophical leap as to why. What I do have is a good example of this. SLM Music, who owned the Ampeg name in the ’90s, put out the worst version of an Ampeg 8×10, the “Classic” 810E cabinet. It has eight 10″ speakers and is based on the original winning design from the ’70s. They are made so poorly with shit wood, however, they are often left to rot rather than fix. Well, I said fuck that. One of these fell into my hands, crumbling and falling apart. I brought it back to life.
When I dragged this out of the apartment from the folks who bestowed it on me, it was missing the bottom entirely. It had the prerequisite tolex rips of every punk rocker’s cab. The baffle board rocked back and forth and could bust your fingers. It was missing a speaker. I rebuilt the bottom, replaced the speaker, and the cab served me well on a few tours. When I sold my Ampeg SVT-2Pro to my bud Brian from Merdoso and formerly of Stormcrow, I offered the cab as part of the deal so long as he covered the expense of a heavy-duty restoration so I could have some fun making the monstrosity punk-proof. And fun I had.