Chill Out DJ Mix by Cecil Grey
Inspired by a special DJ appearance for an underground NYC fashion showcase with Sefirah Fierce Designs, Cecil Grey guides us through a dreamlike excursion through hidden alleyways where dusky speakeasies, red velvet bordellos, and eccentric carnival performers stealthily stalk beneath the shadows. This seductive chill out mix is pure sound noire. Visit KnightsofPan.com for booking & info.
[Cover photo by House of Inoue]
The FlopHouse of Hearts opens its doors to all the Electric Nomads out there …
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ H O U S E of H E A R T S ♥ ♥ ♥
presents ~ HoH 7: HOUSE of HOBOS ~
JON MARGULIES (http://www.heatercore.net)
- founder of HoboTech and Ableton wizard!
MORPHOUS (Thunder Gumbo)
plus HoH residents
FRIAR TUCK (D1S0RIENT, http://thegoodfriar.com)
AYESHA ADAMO (Knights of Pan, http://knightsofpan.com)
11pm-7am — Brooklyn Urban Sanctuary.
As always, RSVP for address and keep it on the DL.
$10 before 1am, $15 thereafter
My awareness of the art (aka, the obsession) of guitar tone initially began after hearing Jimmy Page’s work with Led Zeppelin during my teenage years.
The subtle tones recorded on those albums were exquisite. The range from clean, to overdrive, to raunchy fuzz… it was tasteful and moderate, compared to what was playing on the radio in the late 80’s. There seemed to be a quality to these classic rock guitar tones from the 70’s that I admired and strived to recreate. Page’s was organic, even downright messy, but it was so complex and unique.
The first song I learned on guitar was Led Zeppelin’s Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman). But as I played the main riff from that tune over and over, on my Strat copy with the latest solid-state distortion pedal and amp, I began to wonder why my guitar tone didn’t sound at all like the original recordings.
Then there was the time we auditioned a new guitar player for my high school band. He arrived, pushing a vintage 100W Marshall Plexi half-stack amp up the drive way. He switched it to standby and let it warm up a minute. Then he simply strummed an open E-major chord… Wow, PURE GOLD. I’d never heard anything like it. Even the cassettes and LPs that featured this legendary amp could not capture the intricate nuances of its heavenly tone.
I began to wonder… Could there be some type of arcane knowledge of music equipment that I was yet uninitiated in? Had I blindly accepted a false prophecy about my brand new digital “all-in-one” guitar effects box from the marketing hype amongst the glossy pages of Guitar Player Magazine?
As I eventually explored the realm of vintage gear, I soon discovered that this was indeed true. It wasn’t the fact that the gear was nostalgic or collectible – it was the fact that these amps and effect pedals came from an era when they were instruments in themselves, tuned by expert craftsmen and given a life of their own that was just as individual as a handmade violin.
Unfortunately, sometime after the 70’s this craftmanship was traded for mass-produced knockoffs that required no setup and very little maintenance. In the words of the modern manufacturers, the vintage tube amps of that era were regarded as old world veterans with irritable bipolar disorders.
Now, when looking into a particular artist’s signature sound, it’s important to consider that they may hvea used different equipment in the studio than they did live on stage. Some setups are just impractical for live sound, and might cause a nightmare in feedback or bottoming out when played at maximum volume.
This is certainly the case with Jimmy Page. He’s been highly secretive about his studio techniques, but there are extensive notes theories about his studio and live gear rigs that have surfaced over the years. I’ll try to piece together what information is available, and what has been confirmed by my own personal experience in the studio and on stage.
Tone #1: That Twangy Fuzz Lead
The early Zep recordings are my personal favorites. Songs like Dazed and Confused, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, and Bring It On Home feature that extra biting lead guitar honk that probably his most signature tone.
Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love (1969)
At this time, Jimmy’s main guitar was a 1959 Fender Telecaster, which is a rather bright sounding guitar with lots of attack. The single coil pickups are not very loud, and susceptible to excessive hum at high gain, compared to the later humbuckers. These were relatively cheap guitars. Bolt on neck, flat body, and a whammy bar contraption that looks like a can opener. This famous Tele’ also sported a psychedelic dragon painted on the front, which can be seen in some of his early TV appearances.
To beef up the tone, he may have used a touch of a 2 knob Tonebender MKII fuzz pedal, which can be spotted in some of his early performances with Led Zeppelin. When trying to hunt down an original of this guitar effects pedal, the its history gets a little confusing. The same circuit design was used for several different brands, and the same brand would even change the circuit design without changing the name. Thus, you really have to look inside to see what you have, when buying a vintage one. The beauty of this pedal, however, is its simplicity. Many of these were soldered point-to-point, and used very few parts.
The key component in these pedals are the now-discontinued vintage germanium transistors. These parts will often vary in quality, so some testing is required to select the right ones that will work best together. The most sought after transistor for the MKII is the Mullard OC81D. However it’s only a subtle difference from the standard OC75 – something that only a true tone geek will likely notice. The ideal transistor choice will go from clean to dirty just from strumming softer or harder, or rolling the volume knob on your guitar. This allows another dimension to your playing that cannot be replicated with silicon transistors. The germanium also gives a pleasing, more organic tone to the fuzz effect.
The most likely contender for Jimmy’s early recording amp was the Supro Thunderbolt made by Valco in Chicago. This is a relatively small cheap tube amp that put out about 25W. However the great thing about a low-watt amp is that you can make it moan and sputter at relatively low levels. This amp has a particular roaring overdrive tone that’s rather nasty. This is probably due to most of the overdrive happening in the output tubes (as opposed to the preamps in most high-gain amps).
The original Supro amp circuit used a tube rectifier which gives a bit of “sag” to the tone. This is like another subtle volume envelope that responds to your picking attack and volume. The result is more texture to the lead tone, and feels more organic. Tube rectifiers are sometimes preferred by lead guitarists (Angus Young for example), but solid state rectifiers (such as the 100W Marshalls) are often used by rhythm because of the tighter “bottom end” for chunky riffs at high volume.
Tone #2: The Magic Bow
Anyone who has seen Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same will remember the point where Page is slapping his guitar with his violin bow and then pointing outwards – in time with the delay.
Jimmy Page started playing his guitar with a violin bow while he was still in the Yardbirds. He later switched to his famous Gibson Les Paul, which was customized to allow easier movement with the bow. With a flat neckboard, you can only play the top E and bottom E. Jimmy had his sanded down to create an arc, which allowed the bow to reach the rest of the strings individually.
* If you want to experiment with this, remember that the particles of resin that coat the hairs of the violin bow will spray all around the area it touches the strings. It’ll come off, but it’s quite sticky and requires a cleaner that won’t damage your guitar’s finish. Probably not an concern if you have a full time guitar tech
The echo effect for this sound was a Maestro Echoplex tape delay. It’s a primitive delay that uses a magnetic cassette tape loop to record and then play back the signal. These eventually stretch and need to be replaced, which can make it difficult to restore nowadays. However, the effect is very organic, and even has a little bit of a natural warble. The high frequencies are also rounded off each time it delays, so you can make out the dry guitar signal better.
The other two ingredients for this far out effect were a Vox wah wah pedal, and a phaser (possibly an MXR Phase 90) for a little extra added seasoning.
Tone #3: Live Stage
Led Zeppelin live was quite a different beast. The most well known video clips (probably The Song Remains the Same and Royal Albert Hall, 1970 DVDs) show Jimmy Page playing his sunburst Gibson Les Paul through a late 60’s-early 70’s 100W Marshall Plexi. His 4×12 speaker cabinets were said to be filled with Celestion G12H speakers.
His live amps were most likely modified. The most commonly cited mod is his switch to larger KT88 tubes in his Marshall for more volume. He was also known to use custom Hiwatt amps.
His on-stage rig may or may not have included a Tonebender effect pedal, since having too many layers of distortion can start to sound muddy at high volume. He may have instead used a germanium treble booster, or just plugged directly into the amp.
However, the biggest secret to Jimmy Page’s live stage sound was in his guitar.
Keep in mind that Page was the only guitarist in the band, and they had a wide spectrum of guitar sounds from song to song. Enter: “the Jimmy Page mod”.
This was a simple but ingenious mod on his guitar that split the double coil humbuckers on his Gibson Les Paul so that they could be switched to single coil (Telecaster-sounding), humbucker (beefy Les Paul tone), single/parallel, and in or out of phase (super-twang). Thus, his single guitar could recreate the basic tones of several models of guitars — even while in the middle of a song.
To do this his guitar tech replaced the volume and tone knobs on his guitar with push-pull pots. These were simple switches that allowed all these configurations to be made by pushing or pulling on the guitar knobs, which could be easily done mid-solo on stage.
“That’s Interesting, But How Can I Capture This Sound?”
IMO, unless you have a stadium-sized budget (over $10k to start) for your guitar rig, your best bet are DIY kits and a little elbow grease.
If you can play Stairway to Heaven on your guitar, then its likely that, with a little practice, you can learn to use a soldering iron while following some simple directions.
The best DIY project to start with are effects pedals. They’re cheap and relatively safe. I highly recommend Build Your Own Clone kits. They make an MKII Tonebender clone that will get you very close to Page’s box.
Next, if you have a two-humbucker guitar – like a Gibson Les Paul or SG – try this Jimmy Page mod. The push-pull pots can be purchased at most online guitar tech shops. You’ll need split coil humbuckers with separate lead for each coil. It will also require you to gut your guitar, so I wouldn’t try this on your original ‘59 Paul if you’re concerned about the resale value. It also takes some finesse to get in there without damaging the finish or woodwork, so do so at your own risk. You can also do this with toggle switches if you have a guitar with a hollow pick guard.
Finally, if you are insanely obsessed with your guitar tone and want to experience the ultimate DIY project, why not try building your very own 100-Watt Marshall Plexi clone with one of MetroAmp’s excellent amp kits? They sound so close to the originals — even more so than the new Marshal Plexi “reissues”. Plus, there is nothing in the world like the feeling of playing one of these knowing that you built the thing from scratch.
More recently, Watts Tube Audio has offered a DIY kit of the Supro amp as well.
Note: Mucking around with tube amps can be dangerous. Do plenty of research before you try building or repairing one of these on your own. The voltages inside these tube amps reach into the lethal range. They require a level of concentration and focus that, unfortunately, many musicians lack.
But then again… who said the perfect guitar tone was safe?
…A stately pleasure-dome decree.
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery…
1983… this LP 4ever in my <3
Innovative use of the Akai APC-40 for Ableton Live. “Using Poligomé from Monome apps and MaxMSP Monomulator patch from Trackteam Audio.”
Gina X Performance – Nice Mover
This 1979 German electropop classic has remained in the playlists of Euro dance DJs since the day its release, but not so well known in the States. A leap ahead of its time in originality and production, Nice Mover has a timeless quality about it. A collaboration between vocalist/performer Gina Kikoine and Zeus B. Held, their first album (of the same name) is packed full of campy/sexy/catchy/electronic/disco tunes like this one.
Tech / Progressive House DJ Mix by Ayesha Adamo
Ayesha Adamo takes us on an hour-long ascension beyond the veil of the mundane with her new forward-moving tech and progressive house DJ mix, “Exaltation”. The beat never dies, as you’re enveloped in esoteric melodies that move you to sway in time with the tick-tock of the universal clock. Close your eyes, and dance like no one’s watching… Includes the new Boryka release, Only For Tonight (Jquintel Club Dub) featuring guest vocals by Ayesha. For more info and booking, visit DJAyesha.com.
Psychobud – Psychobud – Sighs
With a deceptively British new wave sound, this Orange County punk band released a single EP in 1984 that managed to stand the test of time. I was certain this band was defunct & out-of-print, but lo and behold, they do have a MySpace page with their music catalog for sale (digital download).