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DiMarzio John Petrucci signature Illuminator bridge – review

Lone Phantom - 5 hours 20 min ago

John_Petrucci_c-2013-L-DiMarzioJohn Petrucci has used a wide range of pickups over the years, and even been given a signature set, the DiMarzio Crunch Lab bridge and Liquifire neck. These have been very popular with guitar players all over the world. But John decided that he wanted a different sound when recording the last Dream Theater album.

The Illuminator bridge and Illuminator neck are the new signature models that John created with DiMarzio. In this review I’m looking at the bridge model.

With a ceramic magnet, and a DC resistance of 10.56 KOhm, the Illuminator bridge model follows in a line of recent DiMarzio creations that are high output and low resistance. The EQ range of 5.5 (bass) , 5.5 (mids) and 5 (treble) gives the Illuminator bridge a nice balanced tonal setup, which should work great for a variety of guitars. John was after an increased mid-range hump and to bump the highs and tighten the lows a little over the Crunch Lab.

I loaded the Illuminator bridge into my 2003 Ibanez RG 450 LTD, with basswood body, maple neck/rosewood fretboard, and Edge Pro bridge loaded up with a Killer Guitar Components brass sustain block. As usual I tested the Illuminator bridge through my Blackstar HT-5 head, running into a 1×12″ cabinet loaded with a Celestion Vintage 30.

Starting off on the dirty channel, the Illuminator bridge provided a very full, balanced tone. It has a raw crunch that is reminiscent of a classic PAF style pickup, while still within the modern realm. The Illuminator bridge has a really open sound thanks to its moderate resistance, and a hard hitting attack thanks to its tight low end provided by the ceramic magnet. Unlike some higher output pickups the Illuminator bridge doesn’t get all fizzy on the high end. Power chords very sound muscular and have a real punch to them. Some very heavy sounds can be conjured without having to dial in too much distortion.

IlluminatorLoadedRG450The Illuminator 6 has a great deal of clarity and presence that allows it to really sing. Complex chords ring out with every note clearly making its mark. There is a real dynamic quality to the Illuminators too. Pick or strum softly and the volume and tone roll back a little, dig in and the tone ramps right back up with more punch and presence.

Switching over to lead duties and the Illuminator bridge becomes like a scalpel, ready to cut through the mix. It’s tight low end and full balanced tone ensures that it doesn’t get too thin or shrill on the higher end of the fretboard. There are plenty of harmonic overtones that pop out when playing, which only get more prevalent as the gain goes up, making natural and artificial harmonics easy to find and utilise.

Over on the clean channel the Illuminator bridge is very bold and brash sounding pickup. Chords sound muscular and are on the verge of breakup when hit hard. The tone is fairly bright and quite balanced, but may be a bit full on for ‘proper’ clean tones. Roll the guitar’s volume knob back a little and the tone hit’s a sweet spot with a warmer edge and almost Tele like spank when doing single note work.

Splitting the Illuminator bridge with the neck model takes you closer to Strat territory with a pretty bright quacky tone that works great for funky and bluesy stuff. The split setting also works brilliantly for those clean metal sections using some subtle chorus effect.

Overall the DiMarzio Illuminator bridge is an incredibly versatile pickup that will cover a wide range of rock and metal styles. It won’t do a strictly clean sound without rolling the guitar’s volume back a little, but pairing it with a suitable neck pickup and perhaps splitting the coils will give you everything else you need, and even give you the ability to create some pretty convincing funk, blues, and probably even country tones. If you are looking for a bridge pickup that can dish out heavy muscular rhythm tones, and sharp leads without getting too mushy then definitely check out the DiMarzio Illuminator bridge.

Categories: General Interest

REVIEW: Adelaide International Guitar Festival

I Heart Guitar - 6 hours 30 min ago

The Adelaide International Guitar Festival is a unique monolith on the Australian guitar landscape. More like the great European festivals in terms of its approach rather than a G3-like celebration of electric guitar power, it pays homage to the instrument by celebrating the broad palette of sounds it’s capable of, with particular emphasis on world-class virtuoso guitarists outside of the well-trodden rock realm – while also drawing in some of the best that the rock guitar world has to offer too. Over the years the event has included the likes of Ralph Towner, Jorma Kaukonen, The Assad Duo, Pepe Romero, The Atlantics, Richard Clapton, David Lindley, Kaki King, Vernon Reid, Bob Brozman, Xavier Rudd, Adrian Belew, Hoodoo Gurus, The Derek Trucks Band, Lior, Troy Cassar-Daley, The Party Boys, Slava Grigoryan, Ash Grunwald, Grinspoon, Guy Pratt, Manuel Barrueco, Yamandú Costa, Dhafer Youssef, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Christa Hughes, Ben Fink, Karin Schaupp, Oscar Guzmán, Tommy Emmanuel, Jeff Lang and many, many more. This year’s event featured a great assortment of guitarists from a wide range of genres. My girlfriend is from Adelaide and we thought it would be fun to make a huge road trip out of it (stopping at lots of fun tourist stops along the way for the benefit of our 7-year-old… who am I kidding, I just really wanted to see the Big Lobster), so here are my highlights:

Debashish Bhattacharya. An absolute master of Indian classical music, which he performs on a collection of unique instruments including his ‘Trinity of Guitars’ – his lap-slide chaturangui, 14-stringed gandharvi and the anandi, a four-string slide ukulele. Debashish also used a Gibson Super 400 which had belonged to his guru Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra. Accompanied by Subashish and Anandi Bhattacharya on percussion and vocals respectively, the performance was hypnotic, soulful and utterly captivating. It’s tempting to look for links between Debashish’s slide guitar sound and the blues that we’re probably more used to hearing, but ultimately this style of music has an extremely long, nuanced legacy and is a world unto itself. Debashish’s humour, both verbally and within his playful musical interactions with Subashish and Anandi, was utterly endearing.

Chris Finnen and Phil Manning’s performance was a great one-two punch of legendary Aussie guitarists (well, Finnen wasn’t born here but moved here when he was young). Manning opened with an acoustic set featuring some blues classics before Finnen joined him with his slightly Indian-influenced slide guitar, before taking over with an electric set (later joined by Manning). Finnen’s tone, phrasing and knack for ear-catching tricks (harmonics, wah-wah, weird noises) was spellbinding. Truly one of the greats. While Finnen and Manning played “Hey Joe,” Debashish and band strolled in and stood next to my, where I eavesdropped (okay, they had to yell so I had no choice) on them commenting on how great and natural both guitarists were.

The Festival Gala featured the Australian String Quartet performing Boccherini’s “Quintetto No. 4 Fandango” with Pepe Romero; Slava Grigoryan performing (careful how you say this) “The Garden of Forking Paths,” which was written for him and the string quartet by Shaun Rigney and inspired by Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges; and the Máximo Pujol Trio playing Pujol’s own suite for strings, guitar and bandoneon, “Luminosa de Buenos Aires.” The evening began with the 23-strong Aurora Guitar Ensemble playing a set of playful compositions under the guidance of Dr Paul Svoboda. Grigoriyan’s performance was more meditative and textural than we’re probably more used to hearing him (my grandma-in-law didn’t like it, sorry Slava!); Romero demonstrated his complete mastery of rhythm and phrasing; and Pujol’s Pizzola-inspired piece was an inspiring, multi-layered, exhilarating ride and one of the highlights of the festival.

On the final night of the festival I caught Stochelo Rosenberg Trio. The night was again kicked off by the Aurora Guitar Ensemble augmented with local Adelaide players to create the 80+ member Adelaide Guitar Festival Orchestra, joined at the end by Slava and Leonard Grigoriyan. Svoboda and his crew should be applauded for giving so many guitarists such an amazing experience of playing for such a big audience, and choosing and arranging such varied and fun material. It was probably an odd pairing, given Stochelo’s world-class virtuoso gypsy jazz skills offsetting the more direct, measured pace of the Adelaide Guitar Festival Orchestra’s set. Rosenberg and his new trio (featuring the incredible Sébastien Giniaux on second guitar) ripped through a set of amazing gypsy jazz tunes, including quite a few Django Reinhardt numbers, pushing each other to higher and higher levels of virtuosity. Rosenberg’s performance was exactly what I needed to see at the end of the festival: an incredible musical experience in its own right as well as motivation to get home (after a stop at the Naracoorte Caves, because underground chambers full of fossils are totally metal), pick up my guitar and play.

Categories: General Interest

Sébastien Giniaux. Whoa.

I Heart Guitar - 7 hours 17 min ago

Categories: General Interest

Lloyd Spiegel with Tim Burnham Live @ Pony

I Heart Guitar - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 19:05

Lloyd Spiegel with Tim Burnham Live in the Studio at Pony Music for Guitar Gods and Masterpieces. Enjoy!

Categories: General Interest

Ooh! Jackson Swirl and Tigerstripe DK2M Pros!

I Heart Guitar - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:52

Jackson Swirl

Check out what Jackson Guitars posted on their Instagram: a pair of DK2M Pro models, one with a green swirl finish and one with a Tigerstripe vibe. Jackson says these will be coming this fall to an authorised dealer near you.

Categories: General Interest

Migma hollow-body

Guitarz - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 14:39

It's been too long since I last shown a Migma guitar here - the odd twin company of more famous East-German Musima. This hollow-body model has their trademark strangely shaped pickguard, extra long whammy bar and sound-holes for which I guess there is no descriptive name (feel free to propose one!)  

Bertram D

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Categories: General Interest

Is That Fret Slot Deep Enough?

More than once I had found myself perplexed by a fret that would not gracefully seat itself completely in a fret slot. More often than not the problem was the slot being too shallow for the tang on the fretwire. I saw the slots to an appropriate depth when making a dulcimer fingerboard but by […]

The post Is That Fret Slot Deep Enough? appeared first on Doug Berch.

Pure Pop Records To Move

I Heart Guitar - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 23:10

Pure Pop RecordsI don’t often post about stuff that’s super-local here, since I Heart Guitar has readers from all over the place, but Pure Pop Records is a place that’s quite near and dear to my heart: a record store with a comfortable, homey vibe and a great supporter of live music. Today they’ve announced that they’ll be moving on from their longtime home in Barkly St, St Kilda following a long-running battle against noise level regulations (as St Kilda residents will know, all it takes is one grouchy new resident to move in to a long-established live music area, make a complaint, and decimate an entire creative ecosystem…), but Pure Pop will find a new location. Below is the message that was sent out:

Good afternoon my beloved Pure Popsters

Here we are. After all the trials and tribulations of the last 9 years
here at 221 Barkly Street it has come to an end – for this location at least.

Rumours and speculations have been flying thick and fast about the future of Pure Pop Records and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to set the record straight. The reason is that in the past I’ve sent out progress reports and had the rug pulled out or new obstacles placed in front of me.

This time I wanted to be sure that I could tell you all where we’re at and what we’re doing about it

Case in point….

I sent an email out to brickbuyers a couple of months ago outlining that everything was set and ready to go. Planning permit issued, finance approved, architectural drawings done and ready for submission for a building permit (which was assured by council as they had worked in consultation with the architects and acoustic engineers). All we needed was the signature on the plans by the owner of the building before submission. I was then told by the landlord that he would not allow the renovation to take place. He has refused to give a reason for this decision. I was absolutely devastated. I have fought tooth and nail at great financial and emotional expense for years and to encounter this just as I was nearing the finish has been quite heartbreaking. The only thing he would tell me is that “All along I never said yes”

Now bear in mind that the landlord was aware of our plans every step of the way. It was nearly three years ago that the council informed us that we would have to soundproof the rear courtyard or cease having live music. From the start I have consulted with him, taking in his suggestions and informing him of my progress.

He was told that we had to enclose and soundproof the area – he didn’t object. He was told that we had to demolish the existing stage that was there when we moved in – he didn’t object. He was told that we were applying for a planning permit with the council to do the renovation – he didn’t object. He was told that we were starting a huge fundraising campaign to pay for the renovation – he didn’t object. He asked to meet with the architect to go over the plans, which we did. Myself and the architect went to the landlord’s house and noted the changes he wanted made to the plans, which we then made – he didn’t object.

A week later he called and said that he wasn’t going to give permission for the renovation,
with the line “I never said yes.” I am exploring my legal position in regards to the recovery of funds spent with his tacit approval, no matter what he says, on the renovation of his property.

I have put it in the hands of solicitors (working pro bono) and they have kindly told me they’ll look at it thoroughly and leave me to do what I have to do to……

…….it took a week or so for me to find any sort of silver lining in this situation.

Luckily I had put off the signing of a lease extension until after the building permit was issued. That means Pure Pop can get out of theses premises by August 31 without breaking a lease.

So that’s what Pure Pop is going to do. The search is on for new premises. I have already looked at a few places and rejected them for a number of reasons – nearby residents, too small, too big, zoned for retail not hospitality, etc, etc – but the search continues.

All of the plaques for the brickbuyers have been made and engraved. They’ve been sitting here at the store just waiting to be put up on the new wall for a year now. All it means is that they’ll be going up on a different wall.

So Pure Pop Records will be leaving 221 Barkly Street, closing the doors here on August 17.
Up until then, everything is on sale, not only our collection of CDs and vinyl, but fridges, CD racks, sandwich press, glass washer, everything!

We will also continue to have gigs right up until we close.

The last week here is going to be huge. We will be bringing back many of the regular performers who have not only entertained us over the years but have become firm and loyal friends of all of us at Pure Pop. Stay tuned for news of the lineup.

I will be continuing to put on shows at other venues as “Pure Pop Presents…” while on the search for the new venue.

Lastly, I ask that if you guys in your travels around the area see any vacant spaces, please drop me a line. I may have already checked it out but chances are I might not have.

Please don’t grieve over losing Pure Pop.
No one has lost Pure Pop except the landlord of 221 Barkly Street

We will return!

Categories: General Interest

REVIEW: Gibson 2014 Les Paul Standard

I Heart Guitar - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 18:49

Gibson Les Paul StandardDon’t let the name throw ya: the Gibson Les Paul Standard of 2014 is a very different guitar to a 1959 Les Paul Standard, the guitar that launches a million riffs. But in a way the use of the name here makes perfect sense: there are all sorts of design enhancements on the 2014 Standard which represent what a guitar can be in 2014, rather than 1959, in terms of tone, playability and tuning stability, and Gibson has seen fit to apply the Standard name to this new evolution of the instrument. So what exactly is so different? 

For starters, the Les Paul Standard’s mahogany body is given Gibson’s Modern Weight Relief treatment, a series of strategically-drilled holes which tame the Les Paul’s traditionally back-bothering weight down to more manageable levels. The top is made of Maple (and there are three levels available: Standard, Standard Plus and Standard Premium), and the neck is mahogany with a rosewood fretboard and 22 cryogenically frozen frets.

The first obvious concession to updated playability is the asymmetrical ‘60s Slim Taper neck (which is more of a teardrop-shaped profile than a regular ‘60s Slim Taper neck) and a compound radius fretboard which goes from curvy and chord-friendly at the lower frets to flatter and more bendable at the higher frets.

The pickups are a pair of Alnico 5-loaded Gibson BurstBucker Pro humbuckers, and the two volume and two tone controls have push-pull switches which give you single coil options for each pickup, a phase switch for haunting, hollow, liquid twin-pickup tones, and a ‘Pure Bypass’ switch which sends the bridge pickup signal directly to the output jack for maximum power, instead of going through volume and tone pots which rob the signal of a bit of guts. Oh and the Standard features Min-ETune self-tuning technology, which is natural and unobtrusive, giving you all sorts of instant tuning options both stock and custom right there at the press of a button.

We all know what a great humbucker-loaded Les Paul sounds like and the Burstbucker Pros deliver it in abundance: warm, punchy bridge tones, rich sustaining neck tones and plenty of sustain. So the real surprises here are the single coil and out-of-phase settings, which really open the guitar up to become the ultimate studio tool. The out-of-phase mode in particular really shines: it’s almost like a fixed-wah-wah tone or a carefully voiced parametric EQ, and it’s capable of some very expressive, articulate sounds whether played clean or dirty. And the Min-ETune system lets you instantly go from standard to dropped and altered tunings, or to simply adjust your tuning between songs in a much more efficient way than the old Robot Guitar system.

This is pretty much the ultimate Les Paul in terms of tone, giving you everything from classic vintage sounds to modern, up-to-the-minute textures. This really does set a new standard for what a Les Paul can be, so the more you play it, the more the name makes sense. If you want something more like a ’59, try the Les Paul Traditional, which keeps many of those classic specs alive. But if you want a guitar made for now, check the Standard out.


Categories: General Interest

Jam Alongside Guthrie Govan’s Signature Tracks

Charvel Guitars - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 07:41

Working with Jam Track Central, the great Guthrie Govan has just released an instructional program that can teach you some of his trickiest tracks.

Watch Govan play snippets of the songs “Plucky Seven,” “Man Alive” and “Five to Three” and try to play along with him in the video after the jump.

Categories: Manufacturers

Venezuelan Waltz #1 – Antonio Lauro

Acoustic Snapshots - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 15:03

Guitar Lessons from Totally Guitars

The Venezuelan Waltzes by Antonio Lauro really grabbed me when I was playing classical guitar a little more seriously, back in the late 1970′s. I have recently resurrected them and have been playing them on the steel-string guitar. This really gives them a different character and feel that I hope you enjoy.

Waltz #1 (Tatiana) is not as popular or famous as #2 or #3 but includes many of the interesting techniques and harmonies of the others.

Categories: Acoustics

Vintage Guitars

Guitar Lifestyle - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:34

I think we are in an age where some of the finest, most consistent guitars are being made both in factories and by individual makers. For this reason, while I’ve thought vintage guitars were intriguing, I’ve never really bought into the hype that they are worth, in some cases, 100 times more than a new guitar of “equal” specs.

The truth is, though, I had never played any truly vintage guitars until recently. I’ve now played a few vintage guitars, and I realize that there’s a little more to it than hype.

What I’ve found is that there does appear to be something special about a good vintage guitar. I played through a couple of examples from Gibson and Fender and was surprised about how they felt. It’s hard to put into words exactly what was different about them, but there’s definitely something about them, whether it’s vibe or wood that has aged or something else. It’s probably a lot of things.

To give a specific example, I was able to play a 1963 Strat that was really beat up, with various modifications. The body looked like it had been dragged behind a car. However, the neck felt better than any neck I’ve ever played before. It was well worn and extremely comfortable. The body was very resonant and had a nice attack to it. There are some guitars that when you play them just feel right. This guitar was like that.

That’s not to say that all vintage guitars are great. There are certainly some duds, just like there are some duds being made today. When I was playing the Strat a few weeks ago, I also played through about five different 50s era Telecasters. I didn’t like any of them. One was very heavy, and the rest just lacked whatever it was that the Strat had.

However, when you find a good one, there’s a little extra vibe to them that new guitars don’t seem to have. Again, it’s hard to explain what it is. There’s also something special about playing a guitar that has a lot of history. It’s fun to imagine where the guitar has been and what stories it could tell.

Unfortunately, most vintage instruments are priced out of the range of normal people. It’s hard to find a 60s Strat or a 50s Telecaster that is below $10,000, and you certainly aren’t going to find a vintage Les Paul that regular players can afford.

For that reason, I’m glad that the factories and boutique builders of today are producing such high quality instruments at relatively low prices making them accessible to most of us. Even the import guitars are much better than they were just 10 or 15 years ago. There are nice guitars being made at just about any price point.

However, if you ever have a chance to play a vintage guitar, I think you’ll find what I’ve found: No matter how nice a new guitar is, there’s a vibe and feeling in a good vintage guitar that a new guitar can’t replicate.

Categories: General Interest

The Blackfires Guitarist Anthony Mullin – The Art of Being Persistent!

Guitar International - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 04:51

By: Robert Cavuoto

BLACKFIRES-1.GRAMERCY.6.14.FourFIN-011With band members from around the globe including the U.K., Russia, Spain, Uruguay and New York, The Blackfires truly are an international and inspirational band. They’re not only making great rock music with a new vibe, but also extremely well educated.

With members touting a PhD with degrees from Oxford and Columbia, trained in philology, and film-making. The list goes on.

Leading this band of international pirates is Andrey “Cheggi” Chegodaev, with a soulful voice akin to Robert Plant and Ian Gillian with captivating onstage antics.

On guitar is the charismatic Englishman Anthony Mullin, who has jammed with the of Brad Whitford, Joe Perry, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, and Orianthi among other superb guitarists.

His ties with Aerosmith helped secure an opening spot at a recent Aerosmith show in Moscow, when the rockers were on their Let Rock Rule tour, boasting other opening acts such as the likes of Rival Sons and Slash on all North American dates.

Also on guitar is Spanish born Hector Marin who has a more schooled approach to delivering intricate leads and rhythms, that are in the realms of Iron Maiden & Thin Lizzy.

Then there’s Grasebo Doe from Uruguay who’s a rock-solid rock bass player. Rounding out the band is drummer Joe Mitch from America or more accurately New York City! His stick action tends to be a secret weapon in the arsenal of The Blackfires.

With their EP Live from The Cutting Room already out and a second full length CD due to be released this Fall, the band has been drawing attention from some notable music heavy weights like Aerosmith and California Breed, Glenn Hughes’ and Jason Bonham’s new band.

Having caught their act at a recent gig opening for California Breed (on their second show ever) I arranged an interview with guitarist Anthony Mullin. Anthony offered Guitar International an update on the band and what we can expect from the group in the near future.

Cheggi also called to give us a few more ideas as to what’s happening with The Blackfires.


Robert Cavuoto: Tell me a little about the band’s origins?

Cheggi: We started the band in 2011/12 when I came to New York from Moscow to pursue a music career. To organize a great band is always a challenge, especially in a new country, with no connections.

So, I posted an ad on Craigslist that read something like: “I’m a frontman, whoever wants to conquer a world with me, jump on board”. I got a response from a drummer. Later he confessed to me, that he only replied to the ad to find out who the “psycho” was that thought he could conquer the world. [Laughing]

Later, a friend of the drummer who played bass also joined. All we needed was a charismatic guitar player. I searched through the Internet and found Anthony Mullin’s profile on a social networking site called Bandmix.com.

Unfortunately, Bandmix only provides an obscure email address and makes you pay for their service to get the email. So I added all the possible email options like yahoo.com, gmail.com etcetera.

I didn’t get a response for a month. When Anthony did reply, I thought it was a sign! I didn’t even know who he was, but I knew he was gonna be in the band. Later Anthony brought his friend to the band as a second guitarist. That’s how it all started.

Anthony Mullin: I didn’t realize Bandmix had obscured my contact info and wondered why no one was sending me emails.

When I got one I was happy, but I was late replying as I had some other auditions lined up. I listened to Cheggi’s vocals and was very very impressed. As my obsessive mind tends to do, I thought “Okay, but everyone puts their best foot forward online – I have to hear him live.” S

So we arranged a jam and that’s where Cheggi brought a drummer, who brought his brother’s band’s bass player. Cheggi asked if I knew Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n Roll”. I was floored that he could pull off Robert Plant like that. That was it for me. I brought my mate to the next rehearsal for the much needed second guitarist spot.


Fast forward through many gigs and in 2012, tensions had risen about the band’s direction, song-writing, and the same old clichéd bullshit that you hear about. Cheggi and I really wanted to carry on as a band, but my friend on guitar eventually chose to leave. But not before firing our drummer. Then the bassist left with him to focus on non-music related work.

Cheggi and I spent most of 2013 auditioning for three new band members, which was pretty stressful. In order to keep the dream alive we played acoustic shows. During that time it was great to see fans coming out and supporting us, it really meant a lot to us.

The solution came late 2013, when Cheggi had reconnected with a drummer, Joe Mitch, from when he first moved to New York City. I thought of a guitarist friend, Hector Marin, whom I met when I first moved to New York City in 2008.

We then invited them both to play and Hector brought his Uruguayan friend, Grasebo Doe, to play bass. We liked the sound and that was it.

Robert: How do you define your music and how do you want it to be classified?

Anthony Mullin: That’s a difficult question, but I think the answer lies somewhere in the “rock” genre for want of a better term.

We’d want to be defined as a rock band, yet appreciated for our idiosyncrasies.

Our music is an amalgamation of all of our influences. I love the blues, Cheggi loves classic rock and opera, Joe is all about Queen, so our harmonies reflect that.

Hector has a degree in music theory and composition and can bring classical elements, while Grasebo loves heavier bands and loves riffs with plenty of low end. I suppose it’s a gestalt of rock that’s reminiscent, but also has a new sound.

Robert: Where do you get your inspiration from when writing songs?

Anthony Mullin: For me, ideas just come to mind when I’m doing something other than music. If I see something, or hear somebody saying a phrase, I often use that as a starting point. I think any experience can be inspirational – good, bad, and mundane.

On rare occasions I can hear fleshed out melodies to songs in my head. I’ll go to my guitar and play what I hear. It happened once while on the phone to my Mum so I had to call her back. I couldn’t pay attention to the conversation.

Aside from that, difficult times in my life have been inspirational like a break-up or a particularly heavy weekend propping up the bar.

Robert: What has the highlight of launching The Blackfires?

Anthony Mullin: Finding this new line-up. I really was grateful to Joe, Hector, and Grasebo for coming in and not only having great musical abilities, but being excited about the project.

For lifting Cheggi and I up when our stamina had waned. It’s difficult to be excited after something suddenly implodes that you thought was going well. I suppose another highlight was opening for Aerosmith in Cheggi’s hometown of Moscow at the Olympic Stadium.

As if that wasn’t enough, the week after being asked by Live Nation to be main support for Glenn Hughes’s California Breed at The Gramercy Theater in New York. We were over the moon. I think we still are.


Robert: What was it like opening for Aerosmith and California Breed?

Anthony Mullin: I moved to New York City to attend Columbia for my PhD. That got me a visa, but at the same time I had plans to start a band.

On a train back from Boston of all places, I ran into none other than Brad Whitford and Eric Johnson. We all chatted on the way into the city and I ended up going to their Hendrix Experience show.

Over the next few years Brad and I stayed in touch and I went to some of their summer shows. A couple of times he even spoke to Steven about The Blackfires. Then early this year I was out in Vegas and got to jam with Joe Perry, which sort of strengthened our relations.

We heard about their show in Moscow and that got my wheels spinning. I asked Cheggi to put feelers out in Moscow and it turns out he ended up knowing someone connected to the promoter for the Russian Aero shows.

We bothered them about including us as a potential opener when they pitched bands to Aerosmith, to which they agreed but assured us there were no guarantees. Then it ended up happening. Short answer: right place and right time, and many phone calls and emails bothering people with your unknown band. [Laughing]

As for California Breed, Live Nation got in touch with our drummer and said they had an opening slot and wanted to know if we would be interested. We said we were and that was that. Ideal coming off the Aerosmith show, which was only a week prior.

Robert: So, persistency pays off! What was it like to play for so many people?

Anthony Mullin: It was a dream come true, plus a mixture of a lot of emotions – excitement, anxiety, and self-doubt. It was surreal.

Approaching the stadium I felt what I imagine slaves felt approaching the Roman coliseum, I felt small. Once I saw the Olympic stadium I thought “Okay it’s happening, it’s go time.”

We didn’t get as much of a sound check, so that added to the anxiety. Even before the first song the crowd was roaring.

Once we dug into that first song there was no looking back. The crowd was giving off so much energy and responding to us that I have to say it’s the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on.

Girls in the front row even threw flowers – which never hurts. I think for Cheggi it was even more of a plus coming to his hometown. The prodigal son returned, with the proof that dreams can be realized [he’d left a good job in football journalism to come and sing in NYC]. Both his parents and my dad were there too, so there was a feeling of pride to do that in front of them.


Robert: Any favorite memories or stories you can share of that Aero show?

Anthony Mullin: I have two that standout. Having my dad there to watch was huge since he’s been a massive supporter of my music. He bought me my first guitar, so without him I’m not sure I’d have gotten into music.

Also chatting with Brad – who’s been a huge influence on my playing – before going onstage really was magic. I’ve known him for years now, but to have him waiting there as the house lights went down saying “Good luck have a great show, I’ll be watching from the side here,” these are the moments you live for. Also I reckon there’s no better talisman than before playing the biggest gig of your life so far.

Robert: What’s next for touring?

This summer we will likely be going to Philly, perhaps Boston and Washington D.C.

At the very end of August we’ll be heading to North Carolina to play with some other rock bands. That will coincide with finishing the next CD. Also we just heard from the Gibson Guitar showroom here in New York City, who are having us come in to record an acoustic session.

We’re also arranging a headlining gig at The Gramercy Theatre, which is nice. We love that venue.

Robert: Tell us about the songwriting process for the band? Did each member contribute to the writing of your current release – Live from The Cutting Room?

Anthony Mullin: Live from The Cutting Room is from the previous iteration of The Blackfires, but the songwriting process there was similar to what it is now. All members contributed which is a great thing.

Currently, we are recording our second release which we hope will be a full length CD released this autumn. Everyone has written both lyrics and music for it. Joe came in with a couple of songs almost finished. Hector had a song he’d written which we all liked. Cheggi and I had a couple from our acoustic sessions. The rest came organically through jamming in the studio or fleshing out someone’s riff.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Robert: What do you want fans to take away from your music?

Anthony Mullin: In general I want them to enjoy it and themselves whilst listening to it, if that’s not too much to ask.

I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously, but at the same time we are advocates for rock as a genre and a movement. For getting out there and making music. It’s been a long time but we feel like the music industry scene is seeing rock come back to the forefront, a paradigm shift if you will.

We were chatting with Glenn Hughes backstage at Gramercy, the gig you saw, and he was saying the same thing, that he feels rock is coming back.

The time is ripe for change. Their record just got to number one in the U.K., so he’s taking that as a good sign, as he should.

Also the date we played with Aerosmith is part of their Let Rock Rule Tour, so the message is out there and we want to help spread it. Along those lines, I’m sure you’ve heard of Rival Sons – they also opened for Aerosmith in May.

I was reading an interview with Scott Holiday recently and he said, “That people are aching for rock n roll and that the pendulum is swinging back”. I agree with him and want us to be part of it.

Also having people realize how much work has gone on behind closed doors to deliver the music. A fan in Russia recently told Cheggi that after seeing us open for Aerosmith and realizing our dream, that he too can realize his.

If someone listens to our music and gets inspired like that or to start playing, or take their playing out of the bedroom, even just smile to themselves in enjoyment, then to me that’s a great thing.

Let’s all think back to what made us want to play or what we loved about rock or music in general. I don’t know…pick a song by Queen, Zeppelin, GNR – not an exhaustive list, obviously – but there were elements that got through to you.

Robert: Any favorite songs on the CD?

Anthony Mullin: For me it’s probably “Gambit”. There’s plenty of variety in the song which keeps things interesting, both playing and listening-wise.

There’s a dark intro verse which turns into a lighter, more melodic sound by the chorus. I like that contrast, I reckon it adds to the romantic imagery that Cheggi is singing about. I also like the lead I came up with in the end, as well as getting to trade-off and harmonize with Hector who kicks arse on that song.

Coincidentally, Brad Whitford likes it too, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.

Robert: How did you come up with your name?

Anthony Mullin: When we all met, we each thought that Cheggi looked like Jack Sparrow. He was saying he liked the idea of pirates and so we went with that theme when trying to name our band.

At one point we had Blackbeard’s ship “Queen Anne’s Revenge” as a potential name. From there I got to thinking about pirate flags with the skull and cross bones as a logo. I’ve always liked black as a color, and it’s used in rock obviously a fair bit, as is fire.

I think it all came together from there. We wanted something that sounds rock n’ roll and memorable. I think we succeeded. Glenn Hughes said he liked the name, so we’re happy with that.

Robert: What does success look like to you?

Anthony Mullin: I think success for me is mixture of being persistent toward your goals and then seeing some of them realized. I say some, as even the most successful people still have some failures.

Success is having the motivation, guile, and wherewithal to try toward what you want out of life. Hopefully you achieve the goal or some semblance of it. Even if you don’t, at least you tried.

I forget the quote “the only failure is to have never tried at all” something like that. The success then in those situations might be trying your approach or forging a new path you didn’t even think of beforehand.

Categories: Classical

Guitar Power Episode 1 featuring Tosin Abasi

Guitar Noize - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 03:15

Presented by D’Addario and Rolling Stone Young Guns, Guitar Power is a new series hosted by Matt Sweeney. In each episode, Matt will sit and chat with an up-and-coming guitarist to discuss their influences, technique, gear, and approach. In Episode 1 Matt chats with Animals As Leaders front man Tosin Abasi.

The post Guitar Power Episode 1 featuring Tosin Abasi appeared first on Guitar Noize.

Categories: General Interest

Capo Touch

Guitar Lifestyle - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 10:00

Capo is my favorite music slow downer application, and developer Chris Liscio has released a new version of the app for both Mac and iOS. If you’re not familiar with this type of app, it allows you to slow down music from your iTunes library without changing pitch, which is very helpful when trying to learn a song.

What I like about Capo is its clean, beautiful design and its feature set. The new version of Capo for iOS, called Capo touch, features Chord Intelligence, which is a feature that attempts to automatically detect and display the chords being played in a song.

Here are the details of the new release:

Capo touch features Chord Intelligence—now also available on the Mac with Capo 3.1—that delivers improved chord detection accuracy and a wider chord detection vocabulary.

What’s New in Capo touch?

  • Fully automatic chord detection with Capo’s brand new Chord Intelligence engine
  • Guitar chord box display with quick selection of alternate ways to play a chord
  • Automatic beat detection with bar/beat display for easy region looping and metronome count-off for practice
  • Seamless integration with iTunes to access your music library
  • Landscape view, easy scrolling, touch zooming, and other user interface improvements
  • Independent speed and pitch controls to listen to fast licks slowly or change the key of any song
  • Excellent sound quality even when played considerably slower
  • iCloud Sync between all your devices (Mac and iOS)
Categories: General Interest

Drop High D Tuning for Slide

Learning Guitar Now - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:04

The first thing you may be asking when you see this post is, “What the heck is Drop High D Tuning?”

Well you have probably heard of Drop D Tuning where you tune the Low E string a whole step down to D. So I decided to reverse that and you’ll have Drop High D. Drop High D tunes the High E String a whole step down to D while keeping the low string an E.

I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, but I’m sure it’s been done before. If you try to Google Drop High D Tuning, you will probably find nothing as I just made the term up.

Drop D Tuning – E A D G B E

Drop High D Tuning – E A D G B D

So why would I ever want to use this tuning?

Think of it like this.

You’re going to play a show or maybe you want to go to a jam session. You only have one guitar or you only want to bring one guitar.

You might want to play some slide as well as some standard fretting licks. This tuning makes this easier to accomplish than re-tuning multiple strings back and forth.

Now I’m not saying to abandon Open E or Open G Tuning, but this will give you another option. I enjoy learning new things and while I love Open E, Open G, and Standard Tuning for slide, I really enjoy trying to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Drop High D Tuning only requires that you tune the High E string to D which is pretty easy to accomplish between songs. When you’re ready to move back to standard playing, then just tune that one string back. Simple!

It also allows you to play all the chords you know in standard tuning ( minus the high d string of course ), and get some cool Open G sounds as well due to the G B and D on the bottom 3 strings. This interval combination ( 1, 3, and 5 ) also occurs in Open E Tuning on the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings. In Open E that would be E, G#, and B. Same Intervals so some of your open e tuning licks can be played as well with a little change in your visualization.

This is kind of like combining two worlds together in my opinion to have something that has multiple uses. I also think it makes for a very unique sound and I’m all about developing your own slide guitar style.

Another thing I like is that by only tuning down one string, it doesn’t cause a lot of tension on the neck like Open E Tuning does. Open E Tuning will be harder to play regular licks on if you don’t adjust the action and truss rod to your liking.

This Drop High D Tuning should not mess with anything very much due to only the re-tuning of only one string. Open G Tuning de-tunes many strings, so unless you’re using a heavier gauge string, the strings could become slinky and fret out a lot unless you adjust it for the tuning.

These problems don’t really exist when you’re using Drop High D. I’m currently using .011s for playing on my Strat and by de-tuning just that one string, it will also make the guitar just a bit slinkier but not much.

Watch the Video

Gear Used for this Demo

Fender 1966 Vibrolux


Weber Mini Mass

Let me know what you think of this tuning below. Do you think you would want to experiment with this tuning?

The post Drop High D Tuning for Slide appeared first on The Learning Guitar Now Blog: Blues Guitar Lessons.

Categories: Learning and Lessons

Summer NAMM 2014: Hogjim Pik Tik Guitar Pick Holder

Guitar Lifestyle - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 07:00


One of the interesting new products I saw at Summer NAMM this past week was a product by Hogjim called the Pik Tik:

Hogjim’s Pik Tik is a patented pick holder that allows a guitarist to seamlessly transition between fingerpicking and strumming.   The Pik Tik adheres to the guitar pick guard by suction, allowing a pick to be held perpendicular to the guitar’s surface.  Whether you insert the pick one millimeter or the full five millimeters, it will remain secure.  The Pik Tik can be removed after playing or remain on the guitar as a pick holder; either way it will not damage the surface.

With the ability to improve a guitarist’s skill set, the Pik Tik is both practical and functional.  It offers a quick and easy way to master the technique of transitioning from finger-style to flat-picking. This skill, which previously took years to master, can now be learned in a matter of days.

It’s an interesting concept that could prove to be very useful to players who frequently change between fingerpicking and playing with a pick. The device easily suctions onto a guitar’s pick guard and provides a place to put your pick when you want to play finger style.

The Pik Tik is normally $9.99, but they’re offering a NAMM show discount of 20% using the code NAMM2014 if you purchase directly from Hogjim.

Categories: General Interest

Roeller’s Custom Guitars – The Crusader

Guitar Noize - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 05:30

Roeller Crusader
Roeller’s Custom Guitars recently completed this guitar called the “Crusader” (for obvious reasons). The guitar started out life as a Schecter 7 String which Brett Roeller carved, hand painted and refinished.


For more info on Roeller’s Custom Guitars check out their website at http://roellerscustomguitars.com/.


The post Roeller’s Custom Guitars – The Crusader appeared first on Guitar Noize.

Categories: General Interest

The Charvel build project – part 6

Lone Phantom - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 03:51

The Charvel build project updates have been very quiet as of late. To get you up to speed, In the three months since I last provided an update on the Charvel build project I have sprayed clear coat on the body, and left it to cure. Two weeks ago I decided it was probably about time to get onto finishing up the body and putting the guitar together.

First up was wet sanding the guitar. I picked up a range of wet sanding paper, from 400 grit through to 2000, and let it soak overnight in a container of soapy water. The next morning I got started on sorting out the orange peel and couple of runs that were on the body with the 400 grit.

Unfortunately, very early on I realised that the clear coat was not nearly as robust as I needed it to be for a guitar body. Some simple tapping on objects was leaving dents in the clear coat. I was quite disheartened by this as I had spent so much time working on the guitar body, and for the clear to not work out was extremely frustrating. I don’t currently have the time or money to try and rectify it right now, so I just decided to give the body a quick once over with the sand paper and cutting compound and put it together. There’s still plenty of orange peel and scratches in the clear, but it’s not noticeable unless you look close up in the light.

Later on I’ll redo the clear coat when I have the time and the money to do so. But for now I’m just going to enjoy playing it. Check out the pictures below:

Charvel01 Charvel02 Charvel03 Charvel04 Charvel05

And here are a couple of shots that really show how bad the clear is. I hope at the end of the year that I’ll be able to rectify it.

Charvel06 Charvel07

The guitar is loaded up with the Floyd Rose from a Charvel Pro Mod series guitar and Killer Guitar Components 37mm Floyd Rose® Original brass tremolo block since the stock 32mm one was too short for the cavity. I also have a Killer Guitar Components Killer brass neck plate, which is a very nice touch.

The pickups are my customised Seymour Duncan Custom Shop IM1 in the bridge and Seymour Duncan Little ’59 for Strat in the neck. The IM1 sounds brilliant, although that might go back into my Strat build project guitar, which currently houses a Seymour Duncan Perpetual Burn Jason Becker signature humbucker that I’m testing for review on the Seymour Duncan blog. I originally got a Full Shred bridge for the project, and that may very well go in soon.

The guitar plays brilliantly. I was able to get some crazy low action with a shim in the neck pocket, and the only thing left to do is adjust the truss rod once I get a 4mm ball end t handle allen key that I have on order. I’ll try and get a quick YouTube demo of the guitar sorted soon.

Categories: General Interest

Joe Bonamassa “Different Shades of Blue”

Guitar Lifestyle - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 18:32

Joe Bonamassa has released details about his upcoming album, which is titled Different Shades of Blue, and he has also released the first video for the album:

The album will be released on September 23 and will feature all original material:

“It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in the writing on an entire album. So I decided I wanted to make a completely original blues album,” said Bonamassa.

“I’ve really had to push myself to make everything I do better than the last project. I know the fans expect it. And I feel like I owe it to the fans to give them an original record after all these years.”

Categories: General Interest


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by Dr. Radut