Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Roger O'Donnell Interview

One of my concert highlights of 2006 was seeing Roger O'Donnell(former keyboardist of The Cure) at Spaceland. Armed with two Moog Voyagers and an Apple laptop, Roger recreated songs off of his solo album "The Truth In Me" with vocals from the talented Erin Lang. I implore you to pick up "The Truth In Me" as well as his remix album "Half Truths" (featuring The Album Leaf and Dntel). I was very fortunate to get some time to chat with Roger and ask him a bunch of synthesizer related questions that went down like this..

AC:Hi Roger! How is it going?


AC: Thanks so much for taking the time to do an interview for Amateurchemist.com. What was your first synthesizer?

RO: I think and I am pretty sure it was a Wasp. Yes, the Wasp. I loved it even though it didn't have a real keyboard.

AC:You still have it or used it on anything?

RO: It was all I could afford and no I sold it. I can't remember when I sold it and for what ... but its long gone.

AC: I imagine you wish you still had it?

RO: In those days I didn't have any money, so I had to sell stuff to get new stuff. Yes, I wish I still had it and my first electric piano, a Hohner Pianet. I still have my Fender Rhodes from 1977. I recently had it restored.

AC: What is your favorite synth and why? ( I assume the Moog Voyager?)

RO: Yes, the Voyager has a very special place in my heart and it came to me at a very important time when i was still in the Cure and wondering why I was making music anymore. What we were doing had very little to do with creativity then I discovered this instrument that gave me my own voice. It took me back to why i loved playing music and writing and performing.

AC: I agree that your Moog playing stands out.

RO: Thanks Andrew.

AC: What synths stood out for him over time?

RO: I have found it very easy to express myself with the Voyager, the Mini Moog, Prophet 5, Prophet VS and the Korg M1. Then we got into samplers and forgot how to use synthesizers but happily we have had a renaissance with Moog and Dave Smith.

AC: How about Modular synths? Have you dabbled into that?

RO: No, not really. I would like a Buchla.

AC: Me too. Let me find a spare 15,000 USD!

RO: Although at the NAMM show in 20006 Dave Smith's stand was next to Buchla's and he said he could make any sound they could on an Evolver!

AC: Wow! Dave Smith does make some amazing products.

RO: He is also a very cool guy.

AC: Are you going to NAMM 2008?

RO: I doubt it. It gave me a headache for about a week when I went in 06. It was nice to finally meet everyone from Moog though.

AC: How long have you worked with Dave Smith?

RO: I got in touch in 2004, but back in the 80's I was a regular visitor at Sequential Circuits. He was never around though. I saw the Prophet VS as a prototype. I remember how excited everyone was about it.

AC: I am sure you wanted to take one for a "test drive".

RO: Yeah, I never got to beta test anything. I still have my Prophet VS. I just got the virtual version and its quite nice actually and a lot easier to use in my digital only studio.

AC: How about some of the virtual versions? How do they measure up? ie M1, Minimoog?

RO: I haven't tried them. I am not a big fan of virtual instruments, but couldn't resist the VS. I didn't know there was an M1. That would be cool, but I only ever used one sound out of mine.

AC: Which sound?

RO: The fretless bass. I loved that sound.

AC: What are some of the songs that feature the fretless bass?

RO: A lot on my first solo album. I don't think you could get away with it now. Check out http//www.rogerodonnell.com/keys.html. There is a snippet of the fretless on one of the sound files.

AC: Is your first solo album(Grey Clouds, Red Sky) still available?

Ro: I have a few under the couch but it sounds so '90s and midi. It is really dated badly.

AC: You say that like its a bad thing?

RO: Unlike The Truth In Me.. which I think has a timeless feel to it.

AC: Tell me about 99x of 10, Any upcoming releases or new bands?

RO: Yes, We have just released an EP by one of the bands. Dead Waiter - Broken Beats. Its really nice. Not sure what kind of release it will be but itunes at first.

AC: Have you used any guitar pedals on your synthesizers? Which ones?

RO: I have a Roland wah pedal which has distortion built in. I used that on the album and also on the last Cure album. I run the Voyager through it it sounds so much like a guitar it fooled the guitar tech with the band.

AC: Nice! I loved your remix of Rock My Boat originally by Dntel. What is your approach to remixing?

RO: Hmm..Well I usually only use the vocal track. In Jimmy Tamborello's case though I used the drum track. He is one of the best drum programmers around. I was actually pretty intimidated doing a Dntel remix. Usually, I just try and make the song sound like I wrote it, that is how I approach remixing.

AC: Jimmy Tamborello and Jimmy Lavalle from the Album Leaf are both excellent drum programmers.

RO: I really respect Jimmy Tamborello and he totally inspires me. I like Jimmy Lavalle a lot as well.

AC: I have seen The Album leaf at least 6 times and they blow me away every time.

RO: I did a show with them in Brooklyn in November I think .

AC: You primarily use the Voyager for the remixes then?

RO: Yes and I just got a Machine Drum which I love. I watched the studio video on Jimmy Tamborello's web site and decided I need everything that he has got. Ha ha.

AC: What was your touring setup for The Cure in terms of keyboards?

RO: I had a Kurzweil pc88 mother keyboard with an xp50 on top and a rack full of samplers and modules e4, proteus 200.

AC: Any chances of another tour? Maybe with Album Leaf or Dntel/Postal Service?

RO: Not likely. I was offered the Tortoise tour but the label wouldn't pay tour support.

AC: Darn!

RO: That would have been cool they are one of my favourite bands.

AC: Any artists you would like to work with/collarborate?

RO: I would like to do more with Jimmy Tamborello. I would give my right arm to work with Bjork.

AC: You need your arm to play keys...remember.

RO: Ha.

AC: What is your approach to writing songs?

RO: I just sit down and start playing. 90% is crap though. I am going through a phase of sounding like mid 80s stevie wonder!

AC: Stevie rules though!

RO: I hear ya. I know I love it but ...

AC: Do you record all the time when you play?

RO: Most of the time. I just spent the weekend painting my studio and I rewired it all again. I also got one of my voyagers back from Moog they souped it up.

AC: Any modifications?

RO: It plays amazingly they put the new after touch circuitry in and very very fined tuned it so that it responds like no synth I have ever played. Amos is the man, its also now got red backlighting with the new silent technology and the 5 banks of memory so its pretty cool all in all.

AC: You have to send me a picture of it so I can post it with the interview! How is Erin Lang's album coming along?

Photo Courtesy of Roger O'Donnell (Note: Fender Rhodes in the background)

RO: We finished mixing in Germany at the end of april its now on its way to the labels.

AC: Thanks so much Roger. When you tour again.. I will be there for sure. Did you record any shows from the tour?

RO: No, I should have. I have some good video footage from San Francisco.

AC: I should have recorded more from the Spaceland show. Next time I will bring the video camera!

Thanks again to Roger O'Donnell for taking the time for this interview!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Albert Hammond Jr. at the House of Blues Sunset

I can't remember the last time I was the House of Blues in Hollywood. I prefer to go to the House of Blues in Anaheim because its closer and the parking is free. House of Blues shows suck because they use a security wand to make sure you don't bring in a camera. In light of all of the above, I soldiered out to Hollywood to check out another show by Albert Hammond Jr. His debut album is a sunny slab of pop tunes that sounds good on a Sunday morning driving down the coast.

The Dead Trees from the way of Cambridge, Massachusetts started the night off right. I hadn't heard of them before but they played a good set. It reminded me of Pavement when they did their slower country tinged songs. They have released an EP "Fort Minor" which I should have purchased in retrospect. I particularly enjoyed their songs "Television" and "Shelter" which are both featured on their myspace page.

The opening vocoder vocals of "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk blared over the speaker system as Albert Hammond Jr. and his band walked on stage. His new album "Yours to Keep" clocks in at a blazing 39 minutes which he stretched out into an hour and change set that left the crowd cheering for more. Albert was still using his trademark Olympic White Fender Stratocaster along with his two Jekyll and Hyde overdrive pedals. Steve Schlitz (Guitars) was rocking a Fender Jazzmaster. As much as I enjoy seeing Albert Hammond Jr. live, I hope he can let Steve get back to his day job of fronting the band Longwave. I really enjoyed their last album "There's A Fire". Albert closed the set with a mini destruction of the stage and told the crowd that he had no songs left as they cheered for more.

Albert Hammond Jr. Setlist for the House Of Blues Sunset
"Everyone Gets A Star"
"In Transit"
"Call An Ambulance"
"Cartoon Music For Superheroes"
"Bright Young Thing"
"Blue Skies"
"Postal Blowfish"
"Hard To Live In The City"

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

KROQ Weenie Roast at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

If it wasn't for Kevin & Bean, I probably would never listen to KROQ. I would rather listen to my ipod or littleradio.com. KROQ still has enough pull to amass a strong lineup for their annual Weenie Roast summer show.

I was lucky enough to secure a seat for the show and decided not to push my luck in sneaking a camera into the venue. My seat was far enough that I couldn't get good pictures anyways.

Plain White T's opened the sidestage festivities. The kids seem to have liked them. I wasn't that impressed.

I was honestly surprised Peter, Bjorn & John even made it on this bill. I can't tell you if KROQ even plays them but I was excited that they were there. I was also the only person singing along to all the songs. I wasn't surprised when I started to hear people yelling, "Play the whistle song!". Peter was dancing around the stage and giving it his all to win over the crowd. Peter had a capo on the 2nd fret as he rocked the harmonica during "Paris 2004". I was surprised again when Victoria Bergsman came out to sing "Young Folks". They played over their 30 minute allotted set time by about 10 minutes to my delight.

Peter, Bjorn & John setlist
"Let's Call It Off"
"The Chills"
"Start To Melt"
"Paris 2004"
"Young Folks" with Victoria Bergsman from the Concretes
"Objects of My Affection"
"Up Against The Wall"

Silversun Pickups were next and even fuzz maestro Brian Aubert(Guitars/Vocals) commented about how good the Peter, Bjorn & John set was. The sound was muddy for the beginning of the Silversun Pickups set but cleared up after a few songs. They played selections from "Carnavas" which included two of my favorite songs "Dream at Tempo 119" and "Common Reactor". They have been touring behind "Carnavas" for quite some time and I will be anxiously awaiting their next release.

Tim Armstrong and 20 people closed up the side stage. I liked Rancid back in the day. "And Out Come of The Wolves" was a really good album. It was not much of a solo show as he brought out Rancid guitarist Lars Fredericksen for "Ruby Soho" and "Time Bomb". I did pick up his solo album but still haven't had enough time to give a proper spin.

Tiger Army opened the main stage with their rockabily punk. I know they opened up a ton of shows for Morrissey a few years ago. I have to give credit to Jeff Roffredo for his excellent stand-Up bass skills. Their new album "Music From Regions Beyond" comes out June 5th.

Rise Against came out with their fiery political punk rock. They were on Fat Wreck Chords back in the day which boosts their stock in my book. I was impressed with Tim McIlrath's vocals. He really did a great job belting out the lyrics as well playing his white Gibson Les Paul. I haven't listened to much punk lately but I got a renewed enthusiasm after seeing them play. I will see them again when they play with Lagwagon and Strung Out at the Long Beach Arena. Both Lagwagon and Strung Out were two of my favorite punk bands back in the day.

The opening synth line of "Swollen Summer" cranked out and the Bravery got the crowd rocking. They did a great job of alternating new songs and old songs. Their new album "The Sun and The Moon" just came out and sounds excellent. Even though the new album doesn't feature as many synth lines as the first, I think they will do well with this album. John Conway still had his Virus synth and a Rhodes electric piano on stage.

Bravery setlist
"Swollen Summer"
"Time Won't Let Me Go"
"An Honest Mistake"
"Every Word From Your Mouth Is A Knife In My Ear"
"Bad Sun"

Besides "Infected", I don't think I have heard a Bad Religion song on KROQ in years. Bad Religion are one of my favorite punk bands. Their hyper literate brand of thinking man punk rock is extremely catchy. I was fortunate enough to interview Brian Baker(Minor Threat,Dag Nasty,Junkyard) back in the day during the "Grey Race" tour. Did you know Brian Baker was going to be the touring guitarist for REM before he got the offer for Bad Religion? I may have to republish that interview when I get a chance. Some songs they played were "American Jesus", "21st Century Digital Boy", "Infected" and "Struck A Nerve". I was not to familar with the new songs but I will check out their new album when it comes out.

Queens of the Stone Age stole the show in my opinion. I always appreciated the heavy riffs of Kyuss and automatically liked Queens of the Stone Age when they came out. I used to see them all the time at the Troubadour. Josh Homme(Guitars/Vocals) has worked on his singing and has improved with each album. Their new song "Sick, Sick, Sick" is stunning with an impressive breakdown riff. In a few degrees of separation, Troy Van Leeuwen used to be the touring guitarist of Failure. I gave Josh huge points for incorporating song lyrics of "I Want A New Drug" by Huey Lewis & The News into "Feel Good Hit of the Summer". Their new album Era Vulgaris should be out soon. They will be at the Orange County Fair bringing the rock to the O.C.

Queens of the Stone Age Setlist
"Feel Good Hit Of The Summer"
"No One Knows"
"3's & 7's"
"In My Head"
"Little Sister"
"The Lost Art of Keeping Secret"
"Sick, Sick, Sick"
"Go With The Flow"
"Song For The Dead"

The sun had not fully set for Interpol. It is difficult to enjoy Interpol's moody atmospheric music in the mid evening. They still managed to pull off a good set that unfortunately ended with a blown guitar amp during the apex of "PDA". I still am very impressed with "The Heinrich Maneuver" and its angular guitar lines. When You see Interpol live, one can detect a greater sense of urgency and desperation in the performance of their songs. I am really looking forward to the new album.

Interpol Setlist
"Obstacle 1"
"Slow Hands"
"The Heinrich Maneuver"

Social Distortion provided another cornerstone in the history of punk rock as Mike Ness(Guitars/Vocals) and the boys cranked out some classic tunes. Mike Ness was center stage with his Gibson Les Paul Gold top singing in top form with his trademark graveley voice. Social Distortion is coming out with a greatest hits album soon which I highly recommend if you are unfamiliar with their work. If you want to be super cool, watch the documentary "Another State of Mind" which features the early years of Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, and Minor Threat.

Social Distortion Setlist
"Reach For The Sky"
"Prison Bound"
"Under My Thumb"
"Bad Luck"
"Mommy's Little Monster"
"Ball and Chain"
"Far Behind"
"Story of My Life"
"Ring of Fire"

The Killers were a no show due to Brandon Flower's bronchitis. I recommend a course of Levaquin 500mg once a day for 10 days.

I am a fan of the first two Korn albums but feel that some of their later work has not been up to par. They are pioneers of the seven string guitar and charted some new territory when they came out. I thought they were copying Slipknot when I saw two extra percussionists on stage but then realized the joke was on me when I spotted Joey Jordinson of Slipknot filling in for David Silveria on drums. I was pleasantly surprised how tight their performance was. They also had Clint Lowery(ex-Sevendust) on back up guitar. They played all of their heavy and fast songs which made time go by really quick. Some highlights from their set included "Good God", "Blind" and "Coming Undone".

Linkin Park closed out the night with selections from Meteora and Hybrid Theory. Joseph Hahn (DJ/Turntables) had about 10 M-Audio Trigger fingers mounted on a stand that he used maybe once. Mike Shinoda(Guitars/Vocals) showed off his toughness when he played a Pink Hello Kitty Fender Squier Stratocaster on stage. I still haven't listened to much of their new album "Minutes to Midnight" but I will check it out later. The old hits sounded good such as "Breaking The Habit", "Crawling", "One Step Closer", and "Numb". They shamelessly plugged their Project Revolution Tour that doesn't sound too interesting except they managed to get Placebo on the bill.

Overall, It is tough to beat 12 hours of music but I don't know how my friend ended up going to the 91x Fest the next day because I was exhausted.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ken Andrews at the Belly Up

I think everyone knows that the Belly Up in Solana Beach is one of my favorite venues. I also think everyone knows that Ken Andrews is one of my favorite artists. The combination of both were outstanding as Ken Andrews performed for a FM 94.9 sponsored "About The Music series". I missed most of Buckfast Superbee who happen to be a local San Diego band that plays quite a bit in the area. It sounded like a power pop punk band when I was at the bar.

First Wave Hello came up next and delievered a fine set. I have been listening to their album "The Lord & It's Penguin" in between a lot of Ken Andrews and the Failure Essentials double disc CD. As I described before, they play an excellent blend of space rock that is reminiscent of Failure, Hum, and the angular guitar work of Burning Airlines. I particularly like the duel keyboard players that would add ambient effects and synth basslines to the dueling guitar work. Some tracks I would recommend are "Everything Automatic", "Falling Apart" and "Lay Down".

One of the cool things on Ken Andrews website is that it lists his recording policy. He allows the audiotaping of his shows. I decided to invest in a Zoom H4 digital recorder. This show was tape worthy as I captured 94% of the show on a 2gb SD card in 96kHz. Ken was a man of his word as he had the Mu-Tron Octave Divider pedal on stage coupled with his Boss GT-3 multi effect pedal. The show started with a blistering version of "Undone". The first surprise of the night was when Ken mentioned that he forced the members of First Wave Hello(the backing band) to learn "Something" off of the first Failure album. The second surprise was when Ken debuted "Revolution" off of his On album "Make Believe". The setlist was a veritable career greatest hits as Ken covered a lot of albums. The band and Ken sounded great which was verified upon multiple playbacks of my recordings. I strongly recommend you pick up "Secrets of the Lost Satellite". I have problems picking a favorite song because every song sounds great. I also strongly recommend you email amchemistcontest(at)gmail.com for your chance to win a Ken Andrews autographed lithograph. One grand prize winner will receive a special "Secret" bonus prize. Don't delay, enter today!

Ken Andrews setlist for the Belly Up (5/17/2007)
"Secret Things"
"Up or Down"
"Write Your Story"
"C'mon Collapse"
"Soluble Words"
"Sergeant Politeness"
"Absent Stars"
"In Your Way"
"Stuck On You"
"The Nurse Who Loved Me"

Patrick Wolf at the Troubadour

One has to possess a little talent if you have released 3 albums by the age of 26. Patrick Wolf has talent in spades. He displayed these talents as he won over the a packed house at the Troubadour.

No Bra opened up the evening with a stripped down performance. I mean that literally. The front row was a little surprised by the shirtless performer. No Bra played a derivative mix of electro shock dance pop. The performance reminded me of Peaches but not nearly as entertaining or as catchy. It seemed a little contrived.


Pity Party got the party started with their spastic guitar lines augmented with some dark synth basslines cranked out by Heisenflei on her Yamaha DX7 as she drummed along. M (Guitars/Vocals) had his Big Muff pedal cranked as he doled out fuzzy guitar lines. I remembered most of the songs that they had played when I saw them previously open for the Silversun Pickups a month ago. I forgot to pick up their EP but will catch them again. They will be playing with the Raveonettes at the Echo and down in San Diego at the Casbah in early June.

Patrick Wolf sauntered onto the stage and picked up his ukulele to a large ovation and opened with "Wolf Song". Patrick Wolf showcased some of his musical talents as he switched between violin, piano and ukulele effortlessly. One disappointment was that a theremin was onstage but not used. Patrick's band consisted of a double bass on stage as well as a violin player, drummer, and a keyboardist. I enjoyed the violin work combined with some of the electronic programming because it reminded me of The Album Leaf. The crowd seemed to have enjoyed every moment of the show. I was not as enthusiastic for some reason. Patrick is talented but I need to familiarize myself with more of his work to formulate a better opinion. I did enjoy "Accident or Emergency" though. He plans to play with a full orchestra in London in November which should be interesting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ken Andrews iChat Interview


As I mentioned in my review of his Troubadour show, Ken Andrews doesn't need an introduction. If you were alive in the '90s and played guitar, Failure was on your radar screen and was one of your favorite bands. Ken Andrews continues his tradition of stellar songwriting with his solo album Secrets of The Lost Satellites. I was lucky enough to catch him via ichat. Here is how it went down...

AC: Thank you so much for taking the time to do an interview for Amateurchemist.com. I am going to see Jesus & The Mary reunion tour tonight and was wondering have you ever been offered to do a Failure reunion tour?

KA: No, promoters haven’t reached out to us. I think most of them know we are not really equipped to do that at this point. A couple of agents have suggested it. Its nothing I see happening in the immediate future. I never say never to anything.

AC: One of the great purchases I made at the Troubadour was the Failure Essentials double disc set. The money was worth it in the liner notes, which were great, describing each song. What was the driving force behind that?

KA: The driving force behind it was the requests from the fans. After we released the Failure Golden DVD, people were like is there anything else? Please release something else. We opened up the boxes again and tried to look and see what was in there. That is where Essentials came from.

AC: Is there anything else in the vaults for Year of The Rabbit and On?

KA: Yes, there is. I haven’t figured out how to present it yet. There is a bunch of other stuff. I have been focused on the solo record. I haven’t had time to do anything else. I think there will be future stuff.

AC: The new album Secret of the Lost Satellites is great. One of the cool things about the solo album is that Tim Dow and Jeff Garber (Year of the Rabbit) were credited for “In Your Way”. Did they do some other songs that didn’t make the album?

KA: Tim, Jeff and I had jammed the beginnings of that song as Year of The Rabbit. I was looking for songs on my hard drive to finish and I found that one. I liked Tim’s drumming on it a lot. I changed the chords around. I basically kept Tim’s drum performance and Jeff’s guitar and changed my guitar part around a little bit and added bass and did vocals. It’s a pseudo Year of the Rabbit song but not really. When we were doing Year of The Rabbit we would finish everything as a band.

AC: It definitely has that Year of The Rabbit vibe.

KA: It does. Tim’s drumming is so distinctive and so is Jeff’s guitar playing.

AC: What records have inspired you in the past and present and what makes you identify with some of those records?

KA: You are talking about 25 years of music. I break it up into periods. There was the period that got me interested in music. The ‘80s hard rock stuff like the first couple of Van Halen records, and AC/Dc but I was interested in New Wave (Cars/Gary Numan). As I started learning how to play guitar I got interested in darker music like The Cure and Bauhaus. After I started playing music and writing my own songs it hard for me to tell what bands have influenced me. I am always trying to do something that is different from other people. I don’t really know for sure what people can pick out. It is interesting to me. I know what I listen to, and I hear it coming through sometimes but it seems like it is easier for people outside to evaluate that then myself. I am to inside the bubble.

AC: Are there any artists that you look up to today?

KA: If I had to pick two of the top of my head, I would say Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor. They have such a huge body of work now and almost all of it I think is really good and really important to the history of rock music. They are different but similar in a way. They have been around for a while and been through quite a few sound changes too within their careers. I kind of identify with them a little bit.

AC: Have you listened to Year Zero?

KA: Yes. I am listening to it this week. I like it. I definitely like it. I think its cool. I am glad he didn’t wait so long this time.

AC: It is interesting with his use of synthesizers and analog modular synths that he used on the album.

KA: He is a sound design expert. Even if you don’t like his songs you can listen to the album for the sound design alone.

AC: From a mixing standpoint for you, I assume it is something you try to model as well.

KA: I don’t do a lot of A/B’ing while I am mixing stuff, I tried it in the past but you end up with not as good of a mix. You have to find out what is best for the song and what exploits the song and the song’s strength mix wise. I think when I am listening to other albums some of their overall tone and some of the technique seeps in but I try not to actually reference anything when I am mixing my own stuff.

AC: One of my favorite albums you mixed was the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Album (Take Them On, On Your Own). Any cool memories or musical tidbits that you recall?

KA: That was a really difficult record to work on actually. Those guys are very particular. They were challenged by the whole experience of trying to getting the record to sound they wanted it to sound. That record by normal standards should have taken 2 weeks to mix but it ended up taking six. I was the third or fourth mixer that had tried to mix it. It was a long arduous process. But I hope they were happy at the end of it. They have a strange way of working. They record it all themselves in their apartment. The sounds they record are extreme. To a certain extent there is not a whole lot of latitude you have when you are mixing it. It is what it is. Sometimes they wanted to go beyond or in a different direction then what was recorded. That is when we found the process to get a little frustrating sometimes.

AC: Are there some favorite guitar pedals that you like to use live and in the studio?

KA: In Failure, I had this giant rack that I used to cart around on tour that had 20 or something pedals inside of it. All inside this really deep switching system. It was really cool but when it broke down it was a nightmare. To chase down where the problem was there were about 300 cables in the back of it.

AC: Do you remember some of the twenty pedals?

KA: Oh, Yeah I am looking at them right now in my studio. I still have them. I took my rack apart and have them spread out on a table so I can easily use any of the pedals when I am recording. For live, I use the Boss GT-3. It probably sounds 80-90% as good as the all the real pedals I have. But what it lacks in perfect sound quality it makes up for in convenience and reliability. It works every time. There is one pedal though that I am going to use on the upcoming shows. I can’t find a pedal that sounds anything close to this pedal. It’s an octave divider pedal. It creates another note to what you are playing but an octave down. This has a sound to it. It’s really weird.

AC: It adds a harmonic to it?

KA: Yeah. The way it tracks. Anytime you have a pedal that’s making a harmony to the note you are playing. The quality of the tracking (the ability to know what note you are playing and figure that out. That is the sound of the pedal. How well it tracks. It never tracks perfect. Sometimes you don’t want it to track perfect. That is what I like about this pedal. It doesn’t track perfect. The way it doesn’t track has a really gnarly sound to it. I don’t know what it is about this pedal. It is awesome. It is a Mu-Tron Octave Divider. They were made in the ‘60s. When I got this one, it was considered vintage in the early 90s and they cost $100-$200. I saw one on ebay for 500 bucks. I won’t give it up. It’s the one pedal that no other pedal has come close to.

AC: It seems like a lot of your work you loved the octave shifts and harmonizers.

KA: The Whammy pedal I used a lot for an octave up. That sounds goods for an octave up. The octave down sounds okay. The Year of the Rabbit I would say half of Jeff’s guitar parts had the whammy pedal on with an octave up. It was a sound we were into. We used quite a bit on Fantastic Planet. It is a sound I am really familiar with.

AC: Any other key components in the 20 pedal rack?

KA: I have a Moogerfooger Delay that is awesome because the delay is so dark and fat sounding. The rest is pretty normal. Boss Digital Delay and Pro Co Rat stuff.

AC: Is there a dream collaboration for you either to produce or mix?

KA: There are so many. I would love to collaborate with Thom Yorke or Trent Reznor. I don’t even know on what level I would want to work with them. It would be cool for them to work on my stuff because their stuff sounds so good to me the way it is I really don’t want to mess it up. It would be cool for them to produce me. That is what I am more interested in now. I haven’t worked with everyone I want to work with as a producer or mixer but I can imagine what it would be like having done a bit of stuff. A lot of the stuff I really like. I am not jonesing to work on it because I think I will take it to the next level. I already think it is pretty awesome. I would like to work with those guys either them working on my stuff or in a couple of months I will be working on Los Angeles Digital Noise Academy (LADNA) project.

AC: Tell me about the LADNA Project.

KA: The progress has really slowed down to almost nothing right now. A lot people have gotten busy doing other things. Primarily including myself. I am the key motivator getting people to do stuff and making sure everyone is aware of what’s going on. There will probably be a LADNA record before there is another Ken Andrews record. I have already contributed quite a bit. I am already singing lead vocals on two songs. I really don’t want sing on more then two or three tops. I want to have a lot of different singers. I want a ton of different people doing all sorts of stuff. The main thing I will be focusing on will be getting new people to join and trying to talk to some of my favorite musicians who I am not friends into joining. It’s a major goal of mine.

AC: What does the project entail?

KA: A lot of people know how the Postal Service works. Especially since their name explains it. One of the guys would build up a musical track and send to the singer in the mail on a disk. He then would load it into his computer and do the vocals and send it back. My project LADNA is similar in that all the collaboration isn’t really done with people in the same room. It is more complicated in the sense its not just 2 people but 30 people. There are 18 or 19 people who have actually contributed something already. There are 30 people who have signed up. Before this first record comes out I won’t be surprised if there is 40 or more people contributing on tracks. Instead of doing it by disk and through the mail we do it by a server where we have folders.

AC: Digidelivery?

KA: If you want to get technical. It is much simpler than that. We work with high res mp3s. There are a bunch of folders on the server. One says, “initial ideas, songs in progress, almost finished, completed songs, lyrics and art ideas. If you are a member, you go up there, and you start downloading mp3's of initial ideas or songs in progress, if you find one you like, and you think you can add something, you download it, you start a new session or document in a high res file format, like 24 bit/ 48k, you import the mp3, which basically converts the mp3 into that high res format, you're doing your individual work in high res, you add your "thing", and you make a quick bounce down a bit with your thing added, convert that back into an mp3 and post that back up. So basically everything that's on the server is mp3's so that people can quickly download something just to listen to it to see what it is, rather than downloading full big-ass file. Once the song is done or approaching done then I contact all the people who worked on it and I get them to send me their individual high res files and I make a master session that has the high res and then I do a high res mix of it and master it. The mp3's never end up on the record. They are just reference tracks.

AC: Right, Wow.

KA: It's just been a blast, I haven't worked on it for a few months, but when I was working on it, it was one of the coolest projects ever because you can put up something that's super raw and then come back a month later and all these cool people have turned it into a song. It's really addictive.

AC: Is their any potential for a remix album for secrets of the lost satellites?

Follow this link: www.dinosaurfightrecords.com/remix

AC: Couple last questions for you. Is there a quintessential song that you've written that typifies you? This is THE song that explains who you are? Does that make sense?

KA: The question makes sense, I just don't know if there is THAT song. If that song does exist, I'm not sure that I would be the person who would know it. Like most artists, I'm always into the last song that I worked on.

AC: right, right.

KA: You've got to stay excited about your new stuff.

AC: One the cool things when you did "In Your Way" for FM 94.9 you had the whole pro Tools Mbox setup. I was very curious to see what you think the impact of home recording and pro tools will be?

KA: I don't think it’s later on. Its already has had a huge impact. At least in Los Angeles all the mid level recording studios have been almost wiped out by pro tools and home recording. Recording industry wise its pretty much a revolution. There are so many different levels of it too. Hobbyists who really into it. It’s very inexpensive to have a home recording setup now. All the way up to people like me who have what amounts to a full on studio in my back house. For me, it’s huge. I don't know if its changed the way I make music or the way I write songs. But it’s certainly affected the convenience of working on a lot of different projects all at the same time. I have my own studio because of Pro Tools. Because I don't have to have a giant console and a big tape machine and two guys to keep it all running, you can have a computer and a bunch of other gear that you see at a recording studio to. You don't need the whole thing that you used to need. I don't know if that has made music worse because anyone can make a record. People listen to what they listen to. If people want to listen to American Idol stuff, they do. And they like it.

AC: So you said it doesn't change the way you write a song? Do you have a specific process of how you write a song? Do you grab a guitar? Will you hear a piano line in your head? How do songs surface?

KA: For me, it’s different. I purposely try and make it different almost every time because if it comes about the same exact way the chances of it being very similar to your previous stuff is greater so I find that by starting ideas or at least changing them up. For instance, sometimes I feel like doing a song in 7/8 and have a weird drumbeat. I will come into my studio with that as a starting point concept. I will just sit down and program a beat. I will listen to the beat and then all of a sudden a bass line will pop into my head and I kind of build up a song track by track like that. Other times I will be sitting around playing acoustic guitar and I will stumble on a chord progression that I really haven't stumbled upon before and it will catch my ear and I might end up writing a whole song just on acoustic guitar and vocals. It just really depends. On the new record I would say probably a third of the songs were written acoustic guitar and vocals first. The rest were done on a track-by-track process but not necessarily starting on the drums. Maybe a few of them. Some are starting with a guitar riff or a synth riff.

AC: May 17th you will be back at the Belly Up doing another show with First Wave Hello. Any more tour plans?

KA: We are looking at the possibility of a fall tour. I won't know for sure for another week or two.

AC: It was great to see you up there. Thank you again for taking the time out. I will be there May 17th. I know you have plenty of stuff to work on. Thanks again.

KA: Thank You.

Thanks again to Ken Andrews and Lisa at Dinosaur Fight Records. I received 5 Ken Andrews signed Secret of the Lost Satellites Lithographs that I will dispatch to my loyal readers. Please email amchemistcontest(at)gmail.com with the subject line of Ken Andrews contest and list your favorite song on Secrets of the Lost Satellites. The deadline for submission is on June 15th. Good Luck!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wolfmother at the Grove of Anaheim

It was Guitar Hero night at the Grove in Anaheim. Both Wolfmother and Burning Brides are featured on the Guitar Hero video game. It is an extremely addicting video game, but nothing beats the real thing as far as I am concerned.

I didn't hear who was going to open for Wolfmother until I called the Grove to find out that Burning Brides were opening. I hadn't seen the Burning Brides in years but remembered they rocked. I saw them long time ago when they played with Chevelle at the Chain Reaction in Anaheim. I also saw them open for Perfect Circle in 2004. They came out rocking with their guitar hero track "Heart Full of Black". Dmitri Coats(Vocals/Guitars) was rocking his custom Motor Ave Lemans guitar. It looks like a cross between a Gibson SG and a Mosrite. Its stunning looks were trumped by the buzzsaw riffs that Dmitri was throwing down. Melanie Coats(Bass) was running around stage playing some sick bass grooves. Their overall sound is in the realm of Queens of The Stone Age with sprinkles of Nirvana moments. I was excited to pick up their new cd "Hang Love". It was good to see them back on stage bringing the rock to the masses.

Wolfmother took the audience into another "Dimension" with Andrew Stockdale(Vocals/Guitars) cranking out the metal on his Gibson ES-335. Since Wolfmother has only one album, they extended a lot of the songs into jam sessions. Wolfmother seems to have fully embraced its Led Zeppelin roots. This was evident during "White Unicorn" when Andrew busted out a shiny Gibson Doubleneck like Jimmy Paige. Unforunately Chris Ross's (Bass/Organ) sponsorship with Rickenbacker must have ended because he was using a Fender Bass. The songs didn't seem to have that sharp biting low end that they usually have. I attribute this to the lack of the Rickenbacker. Chris's organ playing was still superb and I spotted a Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man strapped to his organ. Wolfmother was excellent and have gained more confidence since I last saw them at the Palladium. Andrew was strutting around stage and interacting with the crowd. I guess winning a Grammy can do that. One thing I noticed about Wolfmother was their songwriting. They start with a catchy riff and will deviate for a bit off of the riff but always come back in time to the main hook of the song. I guess that is why their music is termed "Groove Metal". Assuming that they ever stop touring, we may get a sophomore album from them.

Wolfmother Setlist for The Grove of Anaheim (5/9/07)
"Apple Tree"
"White Unicorn"
"Love Train"
"Where Eagles Have Been"
"Pleased To Meet You"
"Mind's Eye"
"Joker and The Thief"

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Wiltern

I knew this was going to be a great show before it even started due to the fact I found street parking by the Wiltern. I was also excited that I could take pictures during the show and not get hassled by the powers that be.

In transit between San Diego and Los Angeles, The Black Angels cd magically dropped in price by five dollars. I decided to congratulate The Black Angels on this decision and purchase a copy. The Black Angels played another strong set that went smoother this time around. I recognized the songs this time around and the sound was mixed nicely. Since I was up closer, I was mesmerized by the appearance of a Rogue Electric Sitar that the band was using. It definitely added a huge psychedelic edge to their sound. I will see them at the cozy Troubadour in a few weeks.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) appeared onstage to a large ovation from its adopted hometown. Robert Levon Been (Bass,Vocals) remarked that it was the largest headlining sellout crowd that they have played. They started off with "Took Out A Loan" from Baby 81 and the rock show had begun. Nick Jago (Drums) kicked down a disco beat coupled with a propulsive driving guitar riff of "Berlin". The band had more energy onstage and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I was excited to hear "Heart + Soul" again but was pleasantly surprised when Robert started the fuzz bomb bass line of "Stop" instead. Peter Hayes (Guitars/Vocals) was killing it on the harmonica during "Ain't No Easy Way". "Mercy" was fantastic as Robert had requested that the lights to be switched off as he strummed away on his Gibson Acoustic. Peter's massive guitar sound was dominant again running through his Fender Band Master amp heads. They ended their set with a shimmery rendition of "All You Do Is Talk" which was peppered with Peter's weeping guitar lines. Robert also made someone's life complete as he handed out his Gibson Hollowbody Bass. I was on the wrong side of the pit. I guess I would have been rewarded if I played bass.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Setlist for the Wiltern (5/8/2007)
"Took out a Loan"
"Spread Your Love"
"Lien on Your Dreams"
"Weapon of Choice"
"Whatever Happened To My Rock & Roll"
"Red Eyes and Tears"
"Not What You Wanted"
"666 Conducer"
"Need Some Air"
"American X"
"Fault line"
"Devil's Waitin'"
"Ain't No Easy Way"
"All You Do Is Talk"

Monday, May 07, 2007

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the House of Blues San Diego

Cell phone photos courtesy of MK. Unfortunately, the House of Blues has a blanket no camera policy.

I am really getting familiar with the drive down the 405 to San Diego. I won't even mention how bad gas prices are these days.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was first described as a Jesus & The Mary Chain ripoff on their first album. I say its a huge compliment and thought their first album was brilliant. Their second album "Take Them On, On Your Own" was equally impressive (mixed by Ken Andrews) and sounded just as fiery as their first. I originally wasn't too enthused about "Howl", but eventually came around to appreciate it. Baby 81 is a nice amalgamation of their prior work and will be in the top albums of 2007.

The Black Angels opened the set with their droney, moody rock. It reminded me of the moody moments of Darker My Love, Stone Roses, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It was interesting to note that their logo is a picture of the woman on the cover of the Smiths live album "Rank". I spotted a Fulltone Tape Echo machine on stage along with a twelve string Rickenbacker lefty guitar. The songs got better progressively through the set. The set would probably have been better if I had the cd and was acquainted with their work. I was disappointed that their cd was $15, especially since Black Rebel Motorcycle Club had their cd for $10. Check them out at the Troubadour on June 1st.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club(BRMC) came out firing on all cylinders with "Took Out A Loan". Peter Hayes(Vocals/Guitars) has a massive guitar sound live which featured 4 Fender amplifiers and cabinets. He was running an elaborate switching system that hid all of his guitar pedals. Robert Levon Been (Bass/Vocals) was killing it on his Gibson Hollowbody bass. "Lien on Your Dreams" had a smoking guitar solo by Peter Haynes. My friend who had never seen BRMC before said that "Heart + Soul" rocked extremely hard. I agreed wholeheartedly. Peter busted out the trombone for "Promise". "Whatever Happened To My Rock & Roll" featured Peter using a capo on the 5th fret. I was extremely pleased to hear "Mercy" which is a b-side from Howl. Robert had some problems though as his guitar cut out mid song. Peter and Robert also switched instruments "Need Some Air" and "American X". They closed the set with one of my favorite tracks off of Baby 81 "All You Do Is Talk". With their set clocking in at almost 2 hours and twenty songs, I quickly realized why I went to San Diego.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club setlist for the House of Blues San Diego (5/6/07)
"Took out a Loan"
"Spread Your Love"
"Lien on Your Dreams"
"Heart + Soul"
"Weapon of Choice"
"Red Eyes and Tears"
"Not What You Wanted"
"666 Conducer"
"Whatever Happened To My Rock & Roll"
"Need Some Air"
"American X"
"Fault line"
"Devil's Waitin'"
"Ain't No Easy Way"
"All You Do Is Talk"