Tenacious D in San Francisco

What a killer show. When people are in the pit moshing to acoustic guitar’s you know that kicks ass!

The struggle is real

I have no idea why I sit in my home studio and do nothing. There’s no ideas or concepts in the pipeline, this just seems like writers block. in 2010 I had a desire to just work by myself, I had never really done that before other than writing songs to bring in here and there.

After almost 10 years of that I think I simply am burned out of working alone in a studio. My best friend has played with a very well known band and is an amazing drummer. I decided to form up something with him since we hang out all the time and get along. We’re both from Los Angeles so he’s just the quintessential LA musician which is why I think we get along so well.

We both live in a small collage town in the north west. Finding a place to rehearse was a nightmare. In LA there’s a rehearsal facility in almost every part of the city, here there wasn’t one until 4 years ago. The one that was built is far too expensive and it took 8 months to get in but we’re finally in. The struggle is real no question about it.

Building a passive attenuator

I purchased that quite large 150 Watt point to point hand wired Bugera 1960 guitar amplifier. I’ve posted a few short blogs about the amp. I certainly had to wait long enough to get it from Musicians Friend but that’s another story. After seeing (or should I say hearing) Matt Pike play a vintage single channel Marshall at the Sleep show on 4/20/2015 at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, I was hooked on that single channel Marshall tone. It was a sight to behold and witness!

You can still purchase the Marshal 100 Watt super lead reissue but they are $3500-ish. That’s rockstar money. I had looked for an alternative since that show, I found it about a year ago when a friend told me about the Bugera 1960 infinium. I’m not a stranger to the brand, I have a vintage 22 that’s my go to gig and jam amp. It’s loud all hell, a little too loud and it’s really good at taking pedals on the front end. I paid $250 out the door at GC years ago for this little amp and have hauled it all over in 2 different states. My buddy Chris nicknamed that amp “Mo money Mo problems.”

When I started looking at specs for the 1960 I was blown away. It is truly point to point wired, this is the inside of the chassis:

I’ve had my shiny new amp in a friends commercial studios live room and a large rehearsal space in the last 2 weeks, it’s loud! I’ve owned both Marshall and Carvin heads before, none were as loud as this amp. Unfortunately it’s far too loud for my house, but I would love to play the amp at home and do some recording with it. I need an attenuator, DI box and / or speaker emulator of some kind.

My Goals are as follows in order of importance:
• Bring the amps high volume sizzle to a reasonable live speaker volume.
• Create a DI environment so I can record the amp direct.
• Speaker emulation and sound manipulation.

Another blogger I follow named Chuck (who I don’t know but writes great articles for musicians) is looking into the bipolar other aspect of this. He’s looking at using amplifiers to record direct. That is not my main goal but a secondary goal that’s a priority. You can read his article on DI and impulsive amplification here at Chucks Guitar Geekery!

The products I’m searching for are not very abundant. Many attenuators I’ve looked out simply pull -20 DB with a switch. -20 DB will not be nearly enough for this head, not even close. The other issue I am seeing is a decent reactive attenuator is pricey. They range from the $250-ish to $1295 price point. Most I’ve seen online are not attenuators first but DI and speaker emulation. That’s making this project even more elusive.

What’s available:

Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box street price is $1295 as is the new Boss WAZA . The last time I saw Nuno he was using a UA Ox amp, his tone was spot on. Once again $1200 is rockstar money far out of what I am willing to budget. Rivera, Two Notes and Radial make models in the $400 to $600 price range. That’s still really pricy without being able to test drive one but I do like the UA Ox amp, a lot!

Bugera actually makes a passive unit for $99 but passive is not what I’m really interested in, or is it? When I did some research into passive attenuators I found there wasn’t much to them. Most are just two 1/4” input jacks and a 100k pot.

I have all of those parts in the man cave with the exception of an enclosure. I ordered an enclosure from Parts Express that was supposed to be here yesterday. With the snow storms blowing through my state have been I doubt it will arrive anytime before Saturday.

The two things that I feel like I am accomplishing with this project are: One, not spending a ton of money on something I have zero experience with. Any musician can tell their G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) stories, some worse than others. Two, keeping it D.I.Y. is always fun, challenging and cost effective. I will share here when I’m done putting it together.

The Kiss end of the road was clearly the end of the last tour

This isn’t the kind of thing I usually write but I had a serious Face Palm moment at the Kiss show in Portland last Friday. Since the music industry model changed a whole lot in 2003-ish concert tickets have become pricy. There’s only a few bands I’m going to drop $300 or $400 on for a show. Tool hell yes, Rush, yeah I did but Kiss? No, I would not pay $400 for a Kiss show without Ace Frehley….. But my girlfriend would!

My birthday was last weekend so the show was a really nice gift. My Girlfriend is a talented musician, singer, piano payer and violinist who knows her craft well. The tickets were on the floor of the Moda Center about the middle of that space. They opened with Detroit Rock City and literally one minute into the song she grabbed me and said is Paul Really singing? I had already realized Paul was Lip Syncing and I was shocked. 

Not only was Paul singing to a backtrack, the AV team didn’t try in the least to hide it. Closeups of Paul Stanley on the video monitor miles away from the microphone singing in complete pitch. All night long he would look down at his guitar neck to change cords sometimes with his mouth closed. It was obvious!

The sad thing was as we left not only were people taking about how Paul was Lip Syncing, but how the merch booths had little or no lines. The booths were packed before the show. I was going to buy a Tee but after that show no chance. Even more peculiar was my Girlfriend who had seen kiss 11 times didn’t buy a thing. 

We both felt that the whole show was a complete farce. Don’t get me wrong I have never seen props in any Rock Show like the end of the road. It was fake as heck though, it was really bogus and inauthentic. If you’re planning on dropping big money on this tour I would check out the YouTube videos first. It should have been billed as the fictitious four takes your money. 

 

Bugera 1960 Infinium Part Duex

 

Since I last shared regarding the Bugera 1960 Infinium price increase new and nice developments have occurred. Guitar Center / Musicians Friend rolled back their pricing to last year retail. I have to admit, I pulled the trigger and expect the 1960 to arrive near my birthday.

Listen here as to why I’m so obsessed with this Marshal Plexi Clone:




Does MarinerSoftware.com actually have any employees?

I am saddened to report that Mariner Software has officially left me without any support on a new product PERIOD. My first purchase from Mariner Software I date at around 2002, I have been a customer for 16 plus years. As I had previously mentioned I was having issues with journaling software I have used daily for some time, the now infamous MacJournal. 

I purchased their iOS MacJournal app around a month ago. When I decided to sync it up with my MacBook’s MacJournal it quickly turned into a train wreck. Not only did the Journals not import from iOS it deleted many entries on the MacBook. I use this software for everything from Personal Journals, Blog entries, to do lists etc. It actually worked very well for that for many years and I was a very happy client.

I email Mariner  support from their website and say Yo mates WTH? They actually respond “Yeah the developer tried to make that sync work with drop box a while ago here’s a KB.” I respond I’m more concerned with the Journals that I lost during the sync, can we work that problem please? Crickets, nothing. I respond several times via email asking for an update, no returned message. This goes on for weeks. 

I was so unhappy with being shut out of any help for weeks I finally did something i’ve never ever done before, I flamed them on social media. I really disliked doing that. I’ve never purchased software from a well known vendor that dropped off the face of the earth like Mariner Software has. I really didn’t know what to do, I’ve never had any trouble with support in 16 years. Mariner Software advises “we sent that on to the developer some time ago, we will send this again.” That was 6 days ago, no response at all. 

The moral of the story here kids is DO NOT BUY SOFTWARE FROM marinersoftware.com 

Ramping up the creative process

I had to very abruptly move this last summer. I moved back into my old neighborhood after being gone for 3 years which had changed for the worse. I could not stay there and feel safe any longer. I had a heroin addict OD on my front lawn and the neighborhood had turned into a den of drug dealers. All my friends except one family had moved away.

This really threw a curve ball into putting together my creative space. I am now at a point where I have a space in my home but it needs a lot of work especially sound reinforcement. That is going to be pricy and I’m thinking maybe I should just mix my projects elsewhere. The room I have available is like an reverb chamber, it’s so wet in here I feel like I need a hoodie on my head.

As I ramp up for the rest of winter and spring I am having to rethink my process from A to Z. Not because I want to, because some of the technologies I was using 3 years ago have changed and much so for the worse.

One of these technologies is MacJournal, my go to daily writer for over a decade. MacJournal has been a train wreck since i installed it on my new Macbook Pro. It looses journals entries during sync from the iOS app (Which I just shelled out more money for) and Dan Schimpf the author does not seem to support it any longer. It’s a shame because it was such a fantastic piece of software. Sadly his website has a copyright year of 2016 in the footer, the sign of slow software Vaporware and yet it has an SSL certificate. Very odd indeed.

The Distributor Mariner Software doesn’t even try to support the product. Back when people actually used MacJournal Mariner would hand off Tier II requests to the developer Dan Schimpf, not so now. It’s just no longer supported at all it seems.

I looking for a suitable replacement I have quickly come to the conclusion that there isn’t one. Day One seems to be the leader in Journaling software, I have been using the iOS version on my iPad pro for a few years but rarely. When reviewing the MAC OS app for purchase it quickly became a fucking joke. Everything is stored on their cloud with zero flexibility for backups in the new version, at least not that I can find.

Day One also has a subscription revenue model, that model is garbage. The subscription model is nothing but an avenue to increase top line revenue at the end users expense. At $35 US per year it’s a bloody joke, what’s next? It looks as though Journey may be my only alternative. I am downloading the trial today, if it doesn’t hit it out of the park in the first hour I am going back to word. At least I will know where my content is.

The next mode of technology I had to replace was MasterWriter which I have also used for more than a decade. For writing song lyrics and basic charts MasterWriter was the best tool out there for years. Then they also got greedy and went to a subscription model like Day One Journal did. I have been down this road in my daytime gig, it’s not something I am willing to spend personal finances on.

I did find a replacement, I don’t know how well it’s going to work out for me but it wasn’t expensive. After a few nights of chatting with other writers on some of the boards most of the MasterWriter community moved to a program called TuneSmith. I’m not sure if this is a viable replacement yet, I figure I will know more in a few weeks.