Friday, September 7, 2012

A luddite recommends..

For someone who has been playing in bands for over half their life, it's amazing how little I know about musical equipment.

I started playing guitar when I was approximately 8 years old. Partially by fluke now I realise, as my grandparents found an old guitar they'd bought my mother as a child which she'd never learned to play, and which I took an instant shine to. I took about 4 lessons and worked the rest out myself, usually from either trying to play along with music I liked or by studying pictures of other guitar players' fingers in magazines to see what they were doing with them. I'm a competent enough guitarist I guess, I'm not amazing, but I'm not awful. I feel comfortable with a guitar basically.

I'm not and never have been comfortable with amps, effects, or any of that other shite - largely because I could never afford anything beyond a cheap shitty combo amp until recently*.

Seriously, I was about 29 or 30 before I actually owned a head of my own, a second hand Sound City which gave up the ghost shortly after and which I've only gotten round to replacing this year with another knackered old second hand head - a delightfully garish 80s Peavy Butcher which the previous owner (my friend Eric from the mighty Putrefaction) was getting rid of at a stupidly cheap price. I've kind of gotten the effects pedal buzz over the last couple of years, possibly as having a decent job means I have a little more disposable income, but to be honest I normally use them more for noise making than guitar playing. I still can't for the life of me understand what a compressor does, or what I'd need an envelope filter for.

I spend a lot of (work) time browsing for cheap gadgets and gizmos on . I picked up a pedal board for €30 yesterday, a handy if slightly bulky one that comes in a carrying case, and comes complete with a bit of velcro to keep stuff on. It was one of those "wow, why didn't I do this years ago" moments..until I realised the concept of pedals having to be set up in a particular order. Really?You mean I should stick my distortion pedal in first and it won't sound as hissy? Why did no one tell me that before.

Anyhow.. all this talk of pedals and guitar nerdery and all that kinda thing reminds me: two of my favourite guitar nerds, not to mention two of my favourite human beings generally, are Chris and Dave from the Belfast band Slomatics. They know all kinds of crazy shit about equipment, how to use it, and how to make things sound huge - I'm pretty sure to the extent where they have custom made Matamps and stompboxes**.

Coincindentally, Slomatics have a new album that's just come out this week called "A Hocht" (Irish for "8" if you're wondering).

They've been plugging away for years and it's great to see them getting a bit more notice and being picked up by a decent, bigger indie label (Burning World, which I think is the label run by the guys who do Roadburn Festival). They're off on tour with Conan soon and are hitting Incubate Festival in Holland too, so go see them if you can - I can't recommend them enough. Check out a track from the album here and order it here on cd or here on vinyl if you're so inclined.

*partially also because I have an irrational fear of being electrocuted: I was on the recieving end of an electric shock that shut down the power in my house and knocked me unconcious when I was 17 while unplugging a badly wired Marshall combo amp.

**actually I have one too that my friend Moose made me. It's a Rat clone called "Das Grouch" that I use for Prison stuff. Moose can make you stuff to, go here

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