Welcome…

. . . to a blog about all the things you can do with — or to — a guitar. Topics: DIY, instruments, amps, effects, recording, software, technique, music history, music heresy.

Loopocalypse Day 11 (of 17): “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

In 1980 I was mainly listening to avant-garde classical music and post-punk. Even so, the darkness of this Joy Division classic scared me. But last year I heard the song on the Muzak at a Palm Springs grocery store, so I guess everything is okay now.

The guitar is a real weirdo: a Baldwin Virginian from the last ’60s or early ’70s. I scored it for $90 at Starving Musician in San Jose, where we’d sometimes play hooky when I was working at Guitar Player magazine. It’s got great Burns pickups. Burns had sold their brand to Baldwin, and off course, everything went to shit. Still, this is a cool instrument, which I usually tune down a few steps. I eventually learned that both Lenny Breau and Al Green’s Teenie Hodges played this model. Here’s a clip of me playing it with PJ Harvey at Glastonbury ’95.

Loopocalypse Day 10 (of 17): “Pandemonic Waltz”

I always feel a bit guilty playing this one, because it uses the one looping technique I’ve always tried to avoid: simply slathering one part on top of another till you have a damn racket, and then lurching to a halt. But hey.

The guitar is a Lowden 15E, a cool yet bargain-priced 12-string. Not that it sounds anything like a 12-string here. Here’s a more naturalistic demo.

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 9 (of 17): “Pumped Up Kicks”

Best pop song ever about a school shooting (and yes, that includes “I Don’t Like Mondays.”)

The guitar is my latest DIY experiment: A bunch of random Strat parts with magnificent Lollar Firebird pickups. I’ve built my Cult overdrive circuit into the guitar, and you hear it during the solo (though it doesn’t sound quite the same as it does through an analog amp). I recently made a side-by-side comparison video of these Firebirds and Lollar mini-humbuckers — two pickups that look quite similar, but which sound very different.

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 8 (of 17): “Disco Plato”

Plato credited the invention of disco to his mentor, Socrates. However, most modern historians and classics scholars believe the style originated with an earlier, unknown Athenian proto-philosopher.

The guitar is a Steelcaster built by my pal James Trussart. If you’re not familiar with his breathtaking work, stop now and visit his site. (If you’re going to NAMM 2019 in Anaheim, you can meet us both at the same time, since we’ll be sharing a booth.)

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 7 (of 17): “Lujon”

I’ve been obsessed with Henry Mancini’s music for decades. Here’s an example of his “tropical” exotica side.

My Mancini loved deepened after I joined Oranj Symphonette, a ’90s band founded by cellist Matt Brubeck (Dave’s son). It’s fascinating how accessible and catchy all his tunes are, even though you realized they’re incredibly weird and original once you look under the hood. You can hear those albums on YouTube. Plays Mancini includes only Mancini music (including a version of “Lujon” featuring our sorely missed friend Ralph Carney). The Oranj Album mixes Mancini with other retro sounds track themes.

Loopocalypse Day 6 (of 17): “Monospace”

Are you old enough to identify the sampled sound that starts at 01:25?

Here’s where my title comes from.

I’m playing my Resistocaster, a DIY instrument with Warmoth parts and Lollar Gold Foil pickups.

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 5 (of 17): “God Only Knows”

Was a prettier song ever written?

Admittedly, there’s only a smidgen of looping here. I usually play this without a looper, but it’s nice being able to grab that lovely falsetto line at 02:25.

The guitar is a Guild X-15 arch top from the ’90s. It’s had many pickups over the years. This one is a lovely Lollar Charlie Christian model.

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 4 (of 17): “Shake It Off”

I probably sound like I’m being ironic, but no — I really love this Taylor Swift song.

The Hello Kitty! Stratocaster was a gift from my lovely friend and bandmate Jane Wiedlin. I replaced the factory humbucker with a Duncan Phat Cat (sort of a humbucker-sized P-90). Again, no irony intended. I like Sanrio characters! (Especially Aggretsuko!)

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 3 (or 17): “Just Like Heaven”

Who amongst us does not love the Cure?

I got to interview Robert Smith for a Guitar Player cover story in 1992. It was one of funnest of the 1,000+ musician interviews I’ve conducted over the last few decades. Robert is brilliant, bitchy, and hilarious. We talked most of the night over too many drinks.

Years later I was recording with sociopath Courtney Love at Chateau Miraval in Provence, where the Cure recorded their Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me album, including “Just Like Heaven.” The studio manager recalled how Robert would quote Apollinaire and Verlaine around the dinner table. En francais, bien sûr.

The guitar is a 000-sized Lowden I’ve owned since the early ’90s and have used on many sessions and tours. It’s fun playing acoustic guitar with distortion and effects, as long as you give up on the idea of generating traditional acoustic tones.

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.

Loopocalypse Day 2 (of 17): “Thunderbeast Park”

For Day 2 of Loopocalypse, here’s an angst-ridden original featuring brutal bit-crushed distortion and Tesla coil samples.

Thunderbeast Park was an Oregon roadside tourist attraction with cheesy plaster dinosaurs. I think I visited here as a kid, though I’m not certain. At least I would have pleaded for us to stop on one of my family’s up-the-coast road trips. I often got my way, ’cause my folks liked this stuff too.

The guitar is my DIY Birdmaster. The pickups are unpotted Duncan/Bonnamassa PAFs — probably the best humbuckers I own.

Here’s an explanation of my live looping rig.