Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Salam Aidilfitri

To all Muslim guitar fanatics out there: Salam Eid-Ul Fitr. How time flies...

Simple enjoyment

I've been playing with the above set-up for nearly a week. It's amp-free, totally devoid of any tube-enhancing ear candy but more importantly, it remains attractive. There are many ways to acquire a favoured tone, it's just that some people think certain employments are more righteous than the rest.

Monday, September 29, 2008

EHX Big Muff (Russian)

I'm not a fuzz fan despite owning a few pedals; I don't use them in isolation (on days when my drive is fuzzy) but boosting it with a distortion unit. Before Duncan's Lava Box came along, I always rely on my Russian Big Muff for more definition. Ironically, those of us who prefer a fuzz unit would be attracted to the ill-definition but not me...

A quick peek into the Russian's innard reveals a very simple circuit at work. It is then the component difference (from its American counterpart) which account for the tonal difference. And, em... maybe much of the void in there accounts for that as well...

Sunday, September 28, 2008


This year especially, I made an effort to check out the various black metal acts from the lesser known European region. The band Sanguis (pic) is Austrian.

Ascension, the band's latest offering, is in my active playlist not that the offerings are exceptional but these lads are obviously from the blast-beats-not-obligatory camp. It is rather challenging to slow down one's tempo when it comes to BM, without people tagging you as a doom act.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thomas who?

You won't know Thomas Blug unless you are into Fender or Hughes & Kettner. Well, to many of us guitar dweebs, when it comes to all things shred-worthy & melodic, Neil Zaza would come to mind but you'd do well to check Mr. Blug out. He uses a battered '61 Strat (worth USD400K in the mean time...) to maximum effect, conjuring some very tasteful tunes & unbelieveable heaviness at times.

Make that crunchy

I've not been on intense distortion lately. The crunch channel of my Marshall JVM is rather underutilized mainly because it sounds rather unikeable with the (Ibanez) TS7. I hooked up my (BOSS) DS-1 to it for a different distortion voicing but the outcome isn't quite enticing so out comes a forgotten gadget; my (MXR) Distortion +. Unlike its orange BOSS counterpart, the Distortion + has more grizzle & this greatly contributes towards saturation which I prefer. The combination manifests a very British voicing which doesn't require excessive fretting to achieve that punch.

Monday, September 22, 2008

FF: Fear is the Mindkiller

Flashback '90s: It's the decade of anti-guitar heroes, proponents of the instrument claimed they were better off not showing what they could really do with the instrument. So be it.
Come to think of it, this decade tested my patience because I am the type who look forward to guitar excess but many established acts seemed to agree with the flavour of the moment. The band Fear Factory, back in 1993, filled their lull time by releasing a re-mix album, Fear is the Mindkiller. I'm not one who's big on re-mixes as the essence of the songs are tempered with; it's something I don't quite appreciate. However, I am a fan of guitarist Dino Cezares who, like the rest, shunned solos but the temptation of hearing his guitar works was quite irresistable.
The dweebs who remixed the selected tracks from Soul of a New Machine to become Fear is the Mindkiller are no other than Front Line Assembly's Bill Leeb & Rhys Fuber. I was really taken aback after hearing what was put forth; some disco tracks laced with adrenaline overdose. However, the 6 tracks in this album are some of the best tamperings I've come across namely because it was done in good taste. Leeb & Fuber did well to retain the FF vibe & not moving out of context. It retained the fan-base, to say the least.

Ibanez J-Custom + Duncans

There are 2 new J-Custom models in the market right now; the RG8420 (pic) & the RG8470.

It is interesting to note the RG8420 featuring a pair of Seymour Duncan pickups (Jazz/ Custom 5) while the RG8470 has DiMarzios. I'm not one to applaud the Duncan inclusion excessively but hats off to Ibanez for giving us an alternative. Now, if the J-Customs could be made readily avialable here...

Anticipations: Satyricon

I'm anticipating this release by Satyricon, due 3rd Nov...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chinese irony

I don't know if the White Rabbit sweets I ate (excessively during my childhood) are responsible for some memory loss & unexplaianable eccentricities I manifest, as these sweets are tainted with formalin... (currently withdrawn from the shelves in many shops). This is one of the contemporary dangers of buying Chinese edibles...

...but the world still shuns superb, poison-free, Chinese crafted guitars due to the reputation of MIC products in general.

AEBA: Kodex V

This black metal act hails from Germany, not quite obvious from the pic above, but now you know...

Kodex V is a good release, no doubt, but fans of Shemhamforash (prior release) would be somewhat let down by the pace of the aforementioned album. There are down-tempo stuff which are very much Khold-esque but the band does well to not make this the primary offering here. Also, there are lots of solos in the mix.

Gibson LP: Joe Bonamassa

Not to be outdone by the recent Fender signature models, Gibson has the Joe Bonamassa model in its ranks. It's a great looking guitar to begin with; note how the wrap over stringing is maintained by the manufacturer (as practised by JB himself) but the 2 different type of control knobs used here, is acquired taste.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Distortion R Us...

These are all the distortion units I own bearing the 'Distortion' tag on them. They aren't excessively intense, just enough to out-drive an overdrive but nothing excessive to be worthy of a metal-type assault:
  • Visual Sound: Son of Hyde
  • BOSS: DS-1
  • ARTEC: Soloist Distortion
  • MXR: Distortion +
  • Toadworks: Mr. Ed
  • Seymour Duncan: Power Grid
PS: Elmo is not a distortion unit...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Artec: Vintage Power Wah

People keep asking me, hey, which wah pedal do you fancy? I have a simple answer: None. I find wah pedals annoying as it doesn't supplement my playing needs (which is basically playing very fast with an obscene amount of distortion). Wah units sound best under clean settings, which I seldom indulge in. Anyway, I currently own 2 wah units, this Artec Vintage Power Wah is one of them. Why I bothered with this one:
  • simply sounds fantastic; neither too muffled nor excessively trebly
  • potless operation, lesser chances of breaking breakdown

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fender: Kenny Wayne Shepherd signature

Lately, I notice Fender's ardent inclusion of signature models with a vintage-modern fusion. You've read about the Billy Corgan model, the latest addition here is the Kenny Wayne Shepherd strat.
Cult followers of KWS would find this racing stripe finish rather sacriligious but be informed that it's only one of the several colour options offered by the manufacturer.
The vintage take:
  • Vintage-type tuners
  • 6-point sync vibrato bridge
  • 21 frets

The modern take:

  • Graph Tech string saddles (KWS has a set of the black String Savers in his original guitar but the manufacturer decides to keep the hue flushed with the bridge on this one)
  • 12" radius


Was watching CSI last night, fancy hearing SRV's Pride & Joy in the background...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gibson BFG: Yet another revision...

Yes, that's another new humbucker in my Gibson BFG- Bare Knuckles' War Pig.

I have nothing against the previous humbucker in there, Duncan's Alternative 8 is a fantastic pickup especially for high gain/ intense drive purposes but the BFG is inherently bright sounding due to its chambered body. The reason the War Pig is now the resident pickup there is because it doesn't let down in the distortion aspect while maintaining a commanding low-end response. Please do not go away believing the War Pig is a bass-inclined pickup, it's just a better performer when one is reliant on the lower frequencies.

Bare Knuckle pickups hail from England & they aren't cheap- the War Pig you see hear costs me $300+/- (yup, it's obscene). In general, a pair of Bare Knuckles pickups could easily get you a new guitar. It's not about higher pricing being equivalent to better tone either, the War Pig isn't the end-all search for the ultimate, drive-inclined humbucker, in fact, it only sounds nice in my BFG, as compared to other guitars I own.

PS: Thanks, Master Beez, for another fine installation!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Art Metal

This is very much the collaborative product of 2 instrument titans; Jonas Hellborg (bass) & Mattias Ia Eklundh (guitar). Fans in search of an all-out shred instrumental offering would be let down by the controlled inputs of both musicians. It's not just about knowing how to play & playing it impossibly for the world to hear but the 'Art' in the the title is there for a reason. Eklundh's trademark guitar snarl is in tact but as mentioned, the technical playing is employed very tastefully to preserve the release as an art form. Mr. Hellborg's bass here is very commanding but note how restraint was in use so nothing gets out of hand to defeat the album's appeal.
I particularly like how the metal aspects are dished out in the guitar riffs, mainly. Eklundh's tone is a little fuzzy here compared to his Freak Kitchen releases but its other-wordly nature continues to captivate us guitar dweebs.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Celebrated fake: Slash's '59 Les Paul

When GnR exploded in the '80s, Slash was always seen with his Gibson LP pictured above (circa Appetite for Destruction); to the unsuspecting, it's unquestionably the real deal but in truth, it's a fake (ok... it's a 'copy' to put it politely to you Slash/ LP purists- no offence, I own LPs too) as documented by Guitar World magazine (above).

Slash favoured LP copies made by luthier, Kris Derrig, who copied the '59 LP to immaculate accuracy. However, he also played copies made by Max Baranet at the same time so it's still unclear who was responsible for this celebrated fake.

So do we pay due respect to copycats who manifest their sage-like expertise in replicating popular models as mentioned above, or should we despise them for defiling intelectual properties?

Even here in Singapore, people feel better having Fender decals on their Frankenstein, project Strat-type guitars. We must be careful when displaying established brand names on our tinker products; we could be paying tribute to a great label through a bona fide association when there are legal implications to our actions.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

LTD: JH200

Another great value-for-money LTD guitar in store currently- Jeff Hanneman's JH200.
Product availability: Davis GMC
List: $800

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ibanez: SA2020 (disct'd)

This is another Korean Ibanez Prestige (SA2020) model that I own. Every time I mention it to friends, it begs this question: Why spend too much money on a Korean guitar?

I recently had the following mods done for this guitar:

  • Remove: default DiMarzio/ IBZ pickups, Instal: DiMarzio Breed (n) & X2N (b)
  • Remove: 5-way pickup selector switch, Instal: 3-way selector + coil split push-pull switch
  • Remove: default control knobs, Instal: locking chrome knobs
  • Remove: default capacitor, Instal: Orange Drop capacitor

The guitar's neck is quite the attraction for me; note how the body's lacquer coating ends at the guitar's set neck area. The neck's rear is totally lacquer free, a super smooth satin feel to be precise.

The guitar also comes with a set of Gotoh tuners but the plastic buttons is acquired taste.

To a certain extent, spending too much on a Korean guitar is not a prudent practice. Despite the 'Prestige' tag, this guitar would not command a high re-sale value but I'm not one to purchase an instrument with a re-sale consideration as priority. I bought this SA2020 because it sounds good, displays praise-worthy craftsmanship & it supplements my playing very well.

I'm not a keen fan of DiMarzio pickups but I've decided to have them in this guitar anyway; it's a psychological challenge on a personal note- if one likes the tone then the brand name should not matter.

  • The X2N bridge pickup is one the manufacturer's very high output pickup. This is perfect for all things angry, distortion inclined & black metal; that's my playing staple & the X2N fits the bill.
  • The Breed neck humbucker is from another world with regards to its bridge counterpart but it gives me what I need; something PAF-like without sounding lacking when it comes to high gain/ drive situation. It's something that won't let me down when there is a need for clean tones. No, I didn't buy it because of Steve Vai...
  • Both pickups sound splendid in split mode


My Duncan P-Rails is finally in! Waiting for a Trembucking Full Shred & these'll be in one of my Ibanez guitars...

Billy Sheehan Yamaha BB bass

Remember I recently highlighted Billy Sheehan's new Yamaha BB-type bass?

Upon further sleuthing, it seems that this isn't Sheehan's first foray with the BB bass as evident in the Rotosound ad above, which was like in the '80s...

Matthew Sweet: Altered Beast

Yes, I'm still digging into my forgotten CD collection, sealed & put away in the abyss of my store room but I'm enjoying every moment re-discovering some of the ones I bought during the grunge-infested 1990s. One of the most enjoyable, guitar-laden album is the above Matthew Sweet release, Altered Beast.

Matthew Sweet is one of the best vocalist in my books; someone who doesn't try too hard to impress & working within his own vocal range. I first saw a music video of a song (can't remember which one) from Altered Beast during a late night MTV show & got hooked. The melody is simple yet unforgettable; this is definitely the trait of a good song & Matthew Sweet can definitely write good songs, he's not a one-hit wonder.

However, what impressed me the most were the guitar works of Mr. Sweet's recording guitar player, Richard Lloyd (the other recording guitarist in Altered Beast was Robert Quine) who was from the seminal 70s band Television (the other guitar lad in Television is Tom Verlaine). Lloyd isn't a shredder by any means but his solos contain enough impact for guitar dweebs to sit up & listen. If you are a fan of Dinosaur Jr's J. Mascis, you'd enjoy what Richard Lloyd dished out during his Television days.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ibanez: Disct'd 2007 models

Here's a list of all discontinued 2007 solid body Ibanez models (most regretable discontinuation: the SZ series *bummer*):

  • Prestige RG2620
  • PrstigeRG1520G (featuring Roland GK pickup)
  • RGT42
  • RGR320
  • GRG220
  • GRG150
  • GRG121 (one of the best, no-nonsense Gio models I've come across)
  • GRX20


  • Prestige S4170 (neck-through construction)


  • Prestige SA2160
  • SA220
  • GSA60

SZ: Entire range




  • All ARC models
  • ART100
  • GAX70


  • IC400
  • JTK2

Signature series

  • JEM-JR
  • PGM3
  • AT300 (Andy Timmons will continue to play his Ibanez models but he's not tied down by any endorser agreements)
  • MMM1 Baritone (Mike Mushok is with PRS WEF 2008)

Re-sale prices

You bought a Gibson LP guitar only to discover that it's not your thing, you've fallen for the hype... now you know better. It's still in immaculate condition, having owned it for merely 3 days, you decided to sell it away for $4,400 after paying $4,800 for it.
The situation sounds too familiar especially after we trawl through guitar classifieds, people are parting with their very new acquisition at a very small price difference believing it's a justified loss margin. I'm just illustrating the situation using a Gibson scenario, it could very well be other brand names.
It is interesting to know that in the after-market, Gibson & Fender command the strongest re-sale price- 70% of its purchase/ receipt figure (surprise!), regardless of how old it is (vintage/ collectibles aside, of course). This would mean, a $1K Fender, would be worth (a guitar's worth is not equal to an agreed selling price which might be higher/ lower than the former) $700 should the owner decide to sell it away the day after he purchased it. It would mean that a 'very new' guitar does not necessarily command a higher re-sale tag by virtue of time spent with its current owner, the fact that it's owned greatly diminishes its worth.
Perhaps this would shed some light as to why nobody's quite interested in your 2-day old (for instance), Made-in-Japan Ibanez guitar (no offence Ibanez fans- I own many Ibanez guitars...) which you are willing to part for $900 (you bought it for $1K). Swallow some pride, re-think your offer.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Beneath the paint

You might have seen this pic before, allegedly, it's a Gibson guitar, some dweeb stripped the paint off his instrument & saw this beneath the glorious finish- bad workmanship as evident.
This is not an attempt to be derisive of the Gibson brand name; for goodness sake, I own Gibson guitars (also, it isn't final as to whether it's really a Gibson). The implication here is, what you can't see won't harm you but once discovered, it's a cause for vehemence, especially after paying a fortune for the instrument.

LTD: Miguel & Hamilton

2 more LTD Signature guitars are now available at Davis GMC:
  • Travis Miguel model (Artreyu)
  • Page Hamilton model (Helmet)

Both were conceived to give imposing responses to high octane drive/ distortion. If you wish for an all out distortion assault, the EMG equipped Travis Miguel model would be your cup of tea. the Page Hamilto model on the other hand would reward those who do not like their drive too abrasive in the top end; the reason those DiMarzios are in there. Both guitars are brilliant in their own turf but the latter guitar possess a more curvacious body design which makes playing quite tranquilizing. These Korean guitars are superbly crafted at World Music Factory, the same production hands responsible for the respectable PRS SE models, as well as selected Ibanez Prestige units.

  • Product availability: Davis GMC
    List: $1,600 (both guitars)

When Dad's not looking (Part 4)

I saw Dad hooking up his pedals & gave it a go myself; it's really an easy task- plug in + plug out; that's all there is to it. I'd volunteer my services next time... but this Marshall Guvnor + pedal is a little tough.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

DiMarzio/ IBZ humbucker

If you bought an Ibanez Prestige guitar, chances are, you own this humbucker- it's a DiMarzio/ IBZ pickup.

Skeptics, cynics & the disillusioned alike, often dismiss this pickup as an Eastern knock-off, something made under the DiMarzio label elsewhere, most probably produced by forced labour in the dark, inaccessible caves in the jungle of Borneo but a quick check reveals a 100% American DiMarzio product (as this is a bridge model, you'd note the 'F' marking at the top of the base-plate indicating the pole-pieces spacing for this model). As to which specific model was used, it's actually a specialized unit made for Ibanez by the pickup manufacturer.

Marshall mini stack: Red edition

I was at BEEZ's yesterday, as evident above, he has the red edition of the mini stack for interested parties. There are no tonal differences between this one & the regular black edition. Selling fast, check with Beez if there are any more left. Also, this is a limited edition release as indicated at the rear panel of the amp head.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Upgrade: Guitar vs Amp

Would you buy a spanking new guitar...

...or a new amp, should you have a sizeable amount of cash & would like to 'upgrade'?

  • I've talked to some people lately who are facing this dilemma; they could acquire either item but not both. In this case, I'd urge you to consider your situation & assess your needs. You need to look at what you have; how pathetic are your amp & guitar, which is the greater culprit?
  • If you think you need a revision in tone, you should invest in a new amp. Simply put, a $50K guitar sounds pathetic through a fundamental practice unit, but a $500 guitar would have you smiling if you plug it into the right amp (my right, isn't your right, do keep this in mind). I believe, before one buys a guitar, if it's within your financial means, get the one that you really like, the one you'd keep on playing regardless of the countless pedal addition or the number of amps you plug it into. This way, future upgrading plans would mean your guitar is the least likely factor of your unhappiness.
  • From a personal stance, this is perhaps why the number of amps I own are limited as oppossed to the number of guitars; I'm very happy with what I hear from my Marshall & Sound Drive amps. The different guitars I plug into these amps provide a differentiated enjoyment of the same, likeable, tone. That's how it is thusfar.

SMV: Thunder

3 bass legends in a single release- this is something I won't miss. It's mersmerizing stuff from start to end. It's also one of those albums which would make you feel excessively rotten in view of your pathetic bass skills compared to what's on offer here. Do not be deceived by the aggressive title, this is one of the best easy listening release this side of planet technical bass.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Dwellers of the Twilight: Grey

Do you recognize the above duo? Of course not, if you do, you are seriously ill. You might be under substance abuse too. Anyway, meet Dwellers of the Twilight (members would only want the world to know them as Human #1 & Human #2), the French duo currently peddling black metal with apt assistance from machines & softwares.

Are they detractors from the genre's essence in a desperate attempt to appease the mainstream? If you take time to listen to their maiden release, Grey (above), you'd know it's anything but a sell out. Fans who are put off by the latest DHG avant garde black metal need not worry of a duplicate. The partners here are more than adept in plying the genre's fundamentals, we'd wonder why only the French would dare tread such grounds. Which other French band is currently enjoying notoriety while osmosizing black metal of artistic degree, you ask? Deathspell Omega.