There’s a pretty significant upgrade coming to this page before the winter is up. However, until then, let me continue my tradition of pointing out some things I saw at NAMM that caught my eye. This is by no means intended to be a complete rundown of the show, just a quick look at things that I personally could see in my own studio.
This year, I didn’t get a ton of time to run around the booths at NAMM and drool over various things. When I did, however, there weren’t actually that many things that I found droolworthy anyway, so I don’t feel so bad. I did find a few things that I know I’ll be coveting here in Ember Studios, however:
This was not a tremendously productive year for Ember After. That is mostly due to the ups and downs of life that we all go through. The World Spins EP that we began early this year didn’t quite get finished. We do have a few songs in the can, however, so I wanted to share one of them with you. This is called “Outrage,” and it’s my exploration of the “culture of outrage” that seems to have taken over our interwebs and brought everything to the boiling point. In some ways, I think that pretty much sums up 2014.
Onward to a fantastic 2015, and enjoy the track!
Ember Studios is equipped with a number of custom Koll Guitars. Saul Koll is an amazing builder, and I love working with him to create unique instruments, such as my beloved Koll “Sun Glide.” So as a fan of the gothy, atmospheric sounds from like The Cure, and the detuned metal sound of modern heavy bands, I was looking for a mash-up of the old Fender Bass VI , with modern, heavy rock appointments—and most importantly, left handed, and we came up with a hybrid beast we dubbed the “Gothcaster VI”
For the musicians out there, here are some specs for you:
- 28″ scale
- Korina body, Maple neck, ebony fingerboard
- Aluminum inlay and purfing
- Hipshot locking tuners
- Bare Knuckle Black Dog humbucker pickups
- Mastery Bridge
- Distressed nickel hardware
- Fender Bass VI strings (.24 – .84 gauge)
The guitar has a black satin finish, and a great silver/black “doghair” texture thanks to the silver grain filler that you can see more clearly in this body close up:
I really love the hardware controls on this instrument:
- Master volume and tone knobs
- Three-way mini-toggles for coil-split/off/humbucker per pickup
- Three-way toggle for “strangle” switch/out of circut/kill switch
The “strangle” switch is a high pass filter that cuts the bass and hollows out the tone like a notch filter. Back in the day it was used to get that “tick tac” bass sound, but under heavy crunch it sounds great, lending a far more “guitar” sound to the lower register.
Despite being longer than a standard guitar the instrument is surprisingly light and really balanced. The satin finish feels absolutely fantastic, especially on the back of the neck.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with the “Gothcaster VI,” and I look forward to recording it and integrating it into future Ember After tracks. Saul Koll is a wonderful and creative builder, and I’m thrilled he’s so willing to build these crazy, non-standard instruments!
Ember After has just finished its next single, and is working on another EP! But while you wait for that to drop, you can now listen to Ember After’s two previous releases, Grasping At Straws and The Misery EP, on Beats Music.
If you’re not familiar with Beats Music, I doubt you’ll want to sign up just to listen to Ember After. But if you are curious about it, they ofter a 14-day trial, and if you’re an AT&T Wireless subscriber, you can sign up for 3 months free. Enjoy!
It’s been quite a while since I updated this site, hasn’t it? Well, rest assured behind the scenes coolness is afoot—another EP is well underway with our first single already finished, a web refresh, etc. But part of the ramp up to cool stuff is to get back in the habit of letting you know what we’re up to, so here we are.
And speaking of cool stuff we were up to, another Winter NAMM show has come and gone, and with it hundreds of vendors displaying a plethora of new shiny designed to catch our attention and (they hope) our dollars. As ever, I’m not going to give you a complete rundown of everything new at NAMM, nor will I give complete reviews. Instead, I’m going to focus on just a few things that as an artist I saw that caught my eye.
I just saw another advertisement for a new “relic” guitar. This means that you’re buying a brand-spanking new guitar, but they chip and fade the finish and add scratches and dents for you:
And the kicker? These “designer guitars” are more expensive. Sometimes by thousands of dollars.
Every time I see ads for new guitars, it reminds me of a car trip I took when I was in college. I hopped into the back seat, wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans I’d owned for a long time. One of the girls looked at my knees and asked “did you buy those pants like that?” I looked at the threadbare thighs and the holes in the knees and thought she was kidding. “No, I just wore these out,” I told her. “Oh, I bought these like this,” she said. And I looked at her jeans and realized that she had a basically new pair of jeans with “designer holes” in them.
And that’s when I realized, I will never, ever understand fashion.
But my basic incredulousness is the same, if we’re talking about guitars or jeans: why would you pay for something to look ravaged by time? Those old “relic” guitars weren’t that way originally. The “lived in look” came from years of use and abuse. If you buy a guitar that already looks 30 years old when you buy it…how do you think it will look in 30 years?
Some people say that guitars that have been “worn” have a more “lived in” feel right out of the box. Well, maybe they do. But isn’t half the fun wearing it in yourself? I have some guitars with chips and wear and each represents many hours of use and joy, not simply my economic buying power.
Ultimately, of course, people can do whatever they want with their money, and if they want to buy something that looks like it’s been run over buy a truck they certainly can. I’d rather buy something that looks shiny and new, and then wear it down with my own hours of woodshedding and performing. This is just a trend/fad/style that I’m afraid I will never understand.
I’m back from the NAMM show. There are a ton of roundups all over the net, so I won’t bother with that. But like years past, I’ll note those specific things that I could see as part of Ember Studio. For those who aren’t as interested in music tech I’ll put my list of stuff behind a cut.
If you’re familiar with the music or music instrument industry, you know what NAMM is. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’ve written repeatedly about my relationship to, and participation in, the NAMM show. This year is no exception. Today, my coworkers from my publishing company arrive in Orange County, and tomorrow the meetings begin. As I’ve said before, if you are as enthralled with music, musicians, and music gear as I am, it’s like having a sweet tooth and meeting in a candy shop. Even if sitting in the meeting itself isn’t your favorite thing, the environment makes it that much nicer.
I might have time to blog the odd picture of something particularly cool, we’ll see. But if there’s radio silence until my meetings, dinners, and the inevitable drooling over gear is over, well, NAMM is why.
One of our musical icons and heroes is David Bowie. Bowie’s last album was 10 years ago. On tour, he was felled by health issues, and with very few sightings and no real interviews, he took the last decade off. Out of the blue, last night, on his 66th birthday, he released a single, Where Are We Now. It’s a haunting song with a haunting video that you can catch here.
Also announced on his website is a new album, The Next Day, to be released in March and already available for pre-order.
This album is a complete surprise to nearly everyone. I’m still wrapping my head around the single, but regardless of that I’m thrilled that Bowie is making more music, and it’s great to have a new release on the horizon!