Music Production

and all that noise...
Can you guess the mystery guitar?
No Love Lost - Collaborations
Favorite Guitarists - Favorite Bassists
Favorite Drummers

My Own Private Studio

Sure it's small... a whole FOUR TRACKS!!! But it's also a pretty nifty system. This is my child...my Yamaha MT120S. It pipes straight into my stereo system through the RCA stereo outs so that I have a decent way to judge how the mix will sound. I use my GSP21 as the outboard effects unit on vocals and percussives. All in all, it's a fairly efficient package.

The guitar is a entry level Yamaha SE300. I also have a Yamaha RX5 drum machine and a Yamaha BB200 bass. This isn't for any special love of Yamaha, mind you, but simply because I know a lot of people who want to get rid of stuff 'cos they either have money problems or own too much stuff that they don't use. The four track is the only thing that I bought new.

As far as processing goes, I've got a Digitech GSP21Pro...way early in that series. I adore it. It's lasted me for years and even though the dynamic range isn't quite up to my needs now, it's a solid and flexible unit. I also have the first generation Zoom 9002 micro multi-effects unit...horrible. As for pedals, I still have my Ibanez DS-1 distortion, one of the most flexible and coolest sounding distortions I've ever used. My prize is my Mu-Tron III. Totally weird effects have issued forth from that bad boy...but it's a total battery whore. Too bad I don't have the AC adapter.

I have several amps, including a Peavey Audtion Chorus and another Peavey on extended loan to Tim Michael...what's it been, two years now? Three? The A.C. is a fine little amp fully capable of blasting your skull apart...deceptive. Then I've got a Crate bass amp...a total piece of garbage. The amp I'm most proud of is a mid-70s Gibson 4-12 that I picked up for $50 that is in desperate need of an overhaul. It needs a ground attached, new caps, new pots, work done on the spring reverb, and a bunch of other stough. But it was cheap and I've gotten a bit of use out of it. Overall, however, I don't like to use amps to record or to play through. Usually I go direct into my GSP21 and run that into the aux inputs on my stereo receiver via a 1/4" stereo to dual RCA adapter. I get a far cleaner sound and can switch to headphones instantly without any problem. It's also in matched stereo already. Plus the GSP21 has several "amp simulators" (basically programmable frontline equalization...) that can tailor the sound somewhat. To all those guitarists who bag on going direct or not going through an amp - don't know it 'til you're tried it. It's more reliable and you get cleaner results.

As far as mics go, I've got a pair of Shure SM-57s... still one of the best all-purpose mics on the market after nearly twenty years. Then I've got a crappy Shure SM-588sb... a few steps below the 58. My favorite mic, however, is my Sennheiser MD421. It's a great, great, great piece. Like the Gibson amp, however, it needs to be refurbished (beyond my abilities.)

Guitars

I've never bought a guitar new, and every guitar I own has been modified to some extent. The SE300 has been rewired and had a new middle pickup put in. The BB200 has had an EMG pickup installed and been regrounded and resoldered and had strap locks installed. Little things. Then there's Frankenstein... an early seventies Teisco Del Rey that I picked up for $25 in high school. I sawed the body down a good bit and filled in the cavity with maple and (get this) Bondo auto body filler. Then I put an oak cap on top of all that and repainted it. The headstock got shaved down and I stained the fretboard as well. I installed Grover tuning machines, a Seymour Duncan PAF, all new electronics, and a telecaster style bridge with individual string adjustment. One pickup, one volume, one tone...just about as simple as it gets. Surprisingly, it sounds really great and plays beautifully. For some reason I really like the neck. But all the lacquer has decided to start peeling off of it (I chinced out) and the 1/4" plug has come unsoldered and out of socket from abuse. It's not pretty to look at anymore, but I still love the damn thing. That was only the beginning, however.

I've never really cared for many of the guitars on the market. The ones I have lusted after have always been out of my price range... I'm talking about Hamer Sunbursts, PRS Standards, Music Man Silhouettes, and Yamaha Weddingtons. So I came up with the clever idea of building my own. Crazy! I'd been literally lusting over parts out of the Warmoth catalog for years and finally went crazy and ordered a solid hard rock maple LPS body (similar to the original 1959 Les Paul Special or the PRS body style) and a 24 fret, 24 3/4" scale Gibson style neck. I had it routed for neck and bridge humbuckers and a single coil middle. I then ordered a Carvin M22N Jazz style pickup for the neck, a Seymour Duncan JB for the bridge, and the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails for the middle: that's right, guitar fans, a three humbucker set-up. The Hot Rails is a double coil pickup that only takes up the size of a single...it's also got some of the hottest distortion and sustain on the market. The electronics scheme is custom designed to permit any combination of the pickups to be selected, with various selections of single coil operation and phase switching. I've also got full copper shielding to install in the control cavity. All the hardware is gold, including a fully adjustable fixed bridge, Les Paul style keystone tuning machines, a Les Paul style jack plate, and Schaller strap locks. I ordered the neck with no front inlays, but have bleached the rosewood the full width of the neck to mark positions instead. Then I put almond colored trim on the sides of the fret board. I think the neck will be left plain rather than stained, but the headstock face has been painted black. I handcarved the face of the guitar with an indentation on the lower cutaway and angles in the hips. The face has been sprayed a luscious shade of purplish-red (as opposed to cherry or fire engine red) so that they grain of the wood just barely shows through. A side gap is left without stain so that the natural color of the wood is visible and appears very much like body binding. Then the guitar was backed with satin black paint. It's very similar to the way the PRS high end guitars are painted, although I didn't know that when I thought about doing it. All in all it's a sexy guitar... Alas, it is not complete. I'm taking my time with it. The lacquer is going to take a long time to completely apply and I didn't chince out on it this time around. Then I'm going to have the neck set and adjusted by a professional luthier. The electronics I will do, but they'll all be on circuit boards to avoid confusion and mistakes. If you can't tell, I love this thing. I've been conspiring its creation for years now, and it shall come to be soon! For the money I've paid just in parts so far, however, I probably should have just picked up a Hamer or PRS...

Drums

Ok, so I play the drums, too. It all started in high school when Scott Moomaw of Proteen Records needed some cash to go to prom. So he did the smart thing... he sold off his brother's drum kit. I got it for about $175 or so. A five piece Royce kit with a Ludwig snare and Camber hats and crash-ride. Not quite a real kit, but a decent one to learn on. My parents were not thrilled. Neither were my neighbors. Scotty's were, though. Oh well....

So then my friend Adam needed to get rid of the kit that was taking up space in his rental house. He told me about his dilemma outside the movies one night. I offered him all the money in my wallet for it. He said ok. So I handed him the $8.00 I had and he went and bought some popcorn and a soda in exchange for a Gretsch five piece kit in great condition. No metal, but who cares? It's a decent kit. I guess that's my luck.

I went out to visit brother Dan Parris in Colorado in 1994. While there, I went to a drum shop on Pearl St. in Boulder and saw one of the coolest kits I'd ever seen. This kit had no shells!!! Just rims! I tried it out and it didn't sound half bad... it rang a little, but nothing a little tape couldn't fix. And it packed up into the size less than half the depth of a bass drum! I was tripping out on it... of course I didn't have $1000 for the five piece kit with triggers and head unit. What a silly bunt! Ever since, I've lusted after that kit: the Purecussion NE series. Gorgeous stuff...perfect for gigging.

While playing in NoLL, I primarily used Jeff's set up, which was Tama electric pads triggering a Yamaha RM50 head (there's that Yamaha connection again... gimme an endorsement!) But I got really sick of the pads... kinda like hitting concrete. So I went nuts and picked up a Gibraltar rack w/cymbal booms. Then I sawed the Royce kit in half so the shell depth of each unit was just enough to facilitate double head mounting w/staggered posts. I then mounted all of them to the rack, with the 15" floor tom on a stand fastened to the leg of the rack. Very compact footprint, very simple setup. I couldn't quite figure out how to attach the snare to the rack, but I've since found out about snare baskets. Really quite an efficient way of setting it up.

Since moving to NC, I've reduced it even more. I took a boom stand and attached the dual tom mount from my Gretsch kit to it with a 3-way clamp. Then I put a straight stand in the final section of the clamp. All that goes in front of the bass drum. My ride cymbal is attached to the boom and goes to the right. The 12" tom goes in front of the snare. My china splash fits onto an L-mount clamped to the second tom arm. The hats and snare are as normal and the 15" tom is mounted to the right on a snare stand. The whole kit fits into the trunk of a car easily... beautiful. It's a four piece kit with a ride, a crash ride, a china splash, a crash, and hats. Currently it's being silenced with Sound Offs to keep my nieghbors from killing me.

My cymbals are quite an odd collection. My baby is my Zildjian A 20" Custom Ping Ride. Then I've got a Zildjian Scimitar 18" Crash/Ride, a Sabian Pro 8" China Splash (tasty! And cheap!), and two 20" crashes (made by Camber and Zyn.) The hats are Camber...not great, but finally aging well after constant abuse. My bass pedal is a Tama Iron Cobra HP90P...very smooth and responsive. I can almost keep up with it now. I now swear by Promark sticks, usually 707 nylon ball tips taped on the shank and where I hold them. They're durable as hell: I played one set of sticks for over six months without them breaking...I had Vic Firths break on me in one night. I also use Promark Jazz sticks and collapsible nylon brushes.

"So what kind of music does he play?"

Excellent question! I often ask myself this, too. Well, check my favorite guitarists section to find out who most influences me on guitar. Do I sound like them? No... I'm not quite that good. But you can hear bits of Fripp, Marr, and Mould in some of my stuff. I don't mean to copy, but it just happens when you get those songs stuck in your head. I'm a distortion addict, but I also admire a gentle chorus sound and some lush reverb. I also play with delay quite a bit. I have an odd habit of trying to weed out any consistencies in my style. I still don't know why this is. I guess I'm afraid of limiting myself. I try to keep a variety of abilities and styles in there to keep from over specializing. I find myself refusing standard structures, but using them in the end anyway just to get the damn songs on tape. So judging from how I play guitar, I guess I play in that elusive alternative genre... and I really hate that term. Alternative to what? I don't know... It keeps options open for me. But I don't play straight ahead hard rock or metal. No country or blues either...they're just such tired forms. A lot of the time it's just a riff that comes into my head or hands. I run with that. Or a bass line. These are the ways I start to assemble whatever songs that come up.

I've got notebooks full of lyrics and ideas, but rarely do I ever work an old lyric into a new song. I just haven't taken the time to go back and work on some of the older ideas. Lyrics come easy, but the great lyrics that stand up against the "next-day reading" are few. A lot of them are totally disposable. Lyricists I admire are Pete Sinfield, Richard W. Palmer-James, and Adrian Belew of King Crimson, Neil Peart of Rush, Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Bob Mould, Roger Waters, Morrissey, Bowie, and Peter Gabriel. The lyrics I admire are those which strike a vein of curiousity and inspire thought or random suggestion. I also really enjoy trying to work out double meanings or seeming nonsense. Anger, bitterness, betrayal, depression... these are all things that fuel me. I get so wrapped up in feeling sorry for myself that I can concentrate on writing these things. I like to enjoy the pleasant moments for what they are and not spoil them by trying to work or do such odd things as writing.

Ok, more pictures will work their way on here. I've got working shots of my guitar in progress (with new work done to the neck and body!) and will get a few shots of my drum kit up. It's a rather unique setup. 'til then, hang tight, eh!