Sunday, January 27, 2013

NAMM, MANN!

NAMM. For a few years, I was in it. I was in the shit. Good men died, and bad men prospered. It was a jungle. The noise was deafening, and it left you with nightmares and the shakes.

But the merchants prospered. This article gets it pretty much right: A wonderful hell.

I miss it, and I miss lusting over gear and being pretty sure that if I just bought that sampler or that drum machine or that Fender Custom Shop Tone King Amp for $2,000 ($4600 in today's dollars) that of course, my art and career would totally take off.

That's never the case, but that doesn't stop an army of longhairs and wannabes and has-beens and the occasional "holy crap is that STEVE VAI?" from turning up at the show to marvel at the latest batch of noise makers, and pick up both promotional materials and 8 different infections diseases. As well as  every knob they can pry off of a piece of gear.

Yeah, I even worked at NAMM a couple times. Standing in a bootth, looking cool. I thought I'd been hired as a gear endorser, and showed up ready to meet my adoring public. Turned out my manager owed the vendor a favor for oneof  his other acts that had an endorsement deal, and "free labor" - specifically my free labor - was part of the deal.

I walked away that day a wiser and richer man. The vendor tipped me a hundo. And I tipped myself a pedal or two when they weren't looking. I would tell you what they were, but I only endorse gear when I'm paid! DRUMROLL! Thank you!

Anyhow. Yeah This Year's NAMM has some things I'm definitely intterested in, notably the new Prophet-12 synthesizer:

I (and pretty much everybody else) used a Prophet-5 back in the 80s. This is at LEAST 7 better. Plus it looks rad.

I'm also probably going to get one of these Fender VI reissues. Steve Kilbey from The Church played one on Priest = Aura and Robert Smith of The Cure used 'em a lot on Disintegration.



Go buy some records so I can afford this stuff, please!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Rock Life Tip: On Stolen Music Gear

Gear gets stolen. That happens a lot. Doesn't matter whether you're us, Sonic Youth, or Duran Duran (sorry guys, that keyboard is MINE now...)

I saw a band called XOXOXO a few years back while I was playing synth for Luxxury. On stage, this 3 piece had probably $20,000 of vintage synth gear. It was astounding. It took them a long time to load in. I saw a Moog Voyager, a Jupiter 6 or 8, and a bunch of other real analog synths. For a band that used a lot of sequences and backing tracks and MacBooks.

It didn't make sense to me - would have been smarter to bring cheaper virtual analog gear or use software on those computers. But I guess that doesn't look as cool or something.

If I were those guys, I would have been crazy worried about all that stuff getting stolen or broken or beered. Then gain, if I were those guys, I would have had great gear and been 20 something and WOOO WHO CARES ROCK AND ROLL!!!

Still, no matter how young and hot you are, that sinking feeling you get when you walk back to the van in the morning and see a broken window and/or door ajar is awful.

You can avoid this by not being lazy. Don't leave your gear unattended, ever. Don't leave it in the van overnight unless there is someone sleeping in the van or near the van. Load it out into whatever place you're staying. Yeah, it's heavy and yeah, you just played a kick-ass 60 minute set after waiting around for hours and now you're drunk and horny and it's 2 am. But do you really want to wake up tomorrow to no gear?

Good but rich musicians get insurance. Through ASCAP, for example, you can get full replacement insurance at a 1% annual premium (you tell them how much your gear is worth, then pay them 1%). That seems high until you realize they cover you for everything, more or less no questions asked.

Popular bands can get a roadie/thug to watch their gear. The pro here is these people usually work for no money. The con here is these people sometimes ARE cons. In every sense. Maybe they're casing you guys for one big score. Or maybe they're...obsessed...with you. And will talk to you. A lot. Regardless, it's one more farting bag of meat to shove in the van and eventually, you will want to leave them at the Denny's in Tempe, AZ.

A better solution would be some sort of tiny RFID thing that you stick INSIDE the gear. Hard to find, easy to detect with a reader. Vendors at shops could wave an RFID gun over the gear and see if it comes up on a list of stolen stuff or not. I guess I should say "ethical vendors", because there's always someone who will do the wrong thing.

A low-tech solution is to tape a business card inside the gear somewhere. Most thieves won't open up all the gear with a screwdriver to check for such a thing.

Unfortunately, none of these options will deter people from taking your gear in the first place.

My take has always been "don't take anything on the road you don't mind losing". The world is a scary and unpredictable place. Unless you're top-of-the-world level and you can hire a minder for your favorite instrument, don't leave home with it. Keep it safe and secure. Get a stunt guitar or double for it. You'll thank me later.

This has been another Rock Life Tip from Sid Luscious.