Gossip, chit-chat, bitching and backchat from the 'Biz. It's all here
First we had the Hot Licks audio cassettes and now the video, all inglorious technicolour right in your own home. A logical step. There wasn't a great deal wrong with the audio cassettes (except it could become quite expensive to follow a whole course of tapes) but the video series takes you one step further — you can actually see the pain on Arlen Roth's face as he illustrates yet another apparently impossible bend. The lads at Labtek see me as a bit of a country twanger hence the choice of review sample (Hot Country Lead) so after a plate of beans, and a quick burn up round the wilds of Blackheath in my Chevvy (I must get those doors fixed), I dusted off the Telecaster and was ready y'all for a lessun with Arlun.
First impressions a re that Mr Roth is an exceedingly clever bastard, but we knew that already from the audio tapes; what we see now is a rather nondescript American proving that not only is he adept at fingering his Tele he can also explain exactly what he's doing. The perfect tutor? Not quite. Where the tape falls down is not on content so much as presentation. Firstly the video runs for about one hour, and there's no let up during that time (pause button apart), no structure to the lessons. I was feeling demoralised about halfway through — simply because there was too much to take in. A better idea would be to section the video up under the titles it covers Basic Scales, Chickin Pickin etc, so a student could focus their attention more specifically.
Musical notation and tablature is also shown on the screen where a lick is being learnt, a good idea except the quality of graphics is a little low-tech — just black on blue — and certain chord names are not clear. Surely a handout with these licks notated could be included so a student can workfrom both the video and off paper if required?
On the plus side, the content is excellent and you can't help but learn something. Ol' Arl takes us through basic country scales, bluegrass, false harmonics, steel effects, right-hand pick and finger techniques, in-chord bends and 'claw' styles all interspersed with 'name' licks, "This is the way Clarence White did it" etc. The important thing to remember however is that this video isn't for beginners. Really, the title 'Hot Country' tells it all and although Mr Roth might start with very basic scales the main bulk of the material requires the student to have some basic or even competant grasp of the instrument: In no way can it be called a programmed learning package. However anyone who's interested in this type of playing should definitely take a look, if nothing else it'll make you realise what a way you have to go before you reach the standard of Arlen Roth.
'Hot Licks' videos are being distributed by Labtek International, the neat thing being that they'll be available for hire from selected music shops for only £5.00 per week. Other titles at present include: Learning Rock and H.M. Guitar, Advanced Rock and Lead Guitar, Chicago Blues Guitar and Slide Guitar all featuring Arlen Roth. Bass players are catered for with a special John Entwhistle Master Class and more titles will undoubtedly follow. For further information contact Labtek International, (Contact Details). CH-H
The man in the center of our piccy is Nigel Burroughs, lucky winner of our December '85 issue Akai competition. And what is he clutching so closely to his breast? None other than the rather wonderful Akai S612 polyphonic sampler, which together with attendant disc drive, he'll be lugging off to his native Bristol, there to do 'Japan-ish' style sounds with it in his band Pola. ('Not a pop band,' claimed lucious, pouting Nigel when pressed by this reporter.) Basking in the reflected glory are David Caulfield of Akai UK, and our very own editor, the elfin Tony Horkins. TR
Masterclasses, drum-clinics and the like have been with us for some time now, but similar events for bass players have been few and far between. Bass tuition is available, but there has been little or nothing to compare with the more specialised course available in the States.
However, Easter weekend saw something of a first for this country in the form of The Bass Weekend, an event organised by The Bass Centre, the London shop that has become something of a Mecca for bass players in the last few years. For the princely sum of sixty pounds each, one hundred and twenty bassists were promised a two-day course of lectures and recitals at the Nomis rehearsal complex.
The first thing that I noticed when I arrived at Nomis was a generally friendly and informal atmosphere, especially welcome after the rather unpleasant weather outside! The Bass Weekend had taken over four rooms for lectures (four classes of thirty students), a larger hall for group activities and a more open area for relaxation, refreshments and the chance to examine the products of several companies who had taken an interest in the event. Dynacord, Peavey, Yamaha, Staccato and Rotosound all had gear on display, Trace-Elliot had provided amplification for all the rooms and there were representatives from still more companies with giveaways and competition prizes for the students.
If the list of companies was impressive, then the list of guests read like a Who's-Who of Rock, with performances, demonstrations and discussions featuring John Entwhistle, Neil Murrey, Pino Palladino and many others. I was particularly impressed by Jonas Hellborg's solo spot, which included the most stunning display of melodic slap playing that I've ever heard! After his performance, I asked him for his opinion of the Weekend:
"It's an excellent idea. It's something that was bound to happen and I think it's something that will happen more and more."
In fact, everybody that I talked to expressed a similar opinion. The students themselves, who included Mark King's brother and a gentleman who had come from Norway especially for the event, all said that it was well worth the money, that they had enjoyed themselves and that they had learned a great deal. Bass Centre boss, Barry Moorhouse, told me that he was already looking towards next year, with a view to organising Bass Weekends on an annual basis.
All in all, the event was judged a great idea and a big success. As a bassist myself, I found very little reason to disagree with that, apart from one student's worry that there was so much to take in, that he would never be able to remember it all! BASS
Have they got a fuzzbox? And are they going to use it? The answer to both these questions is vehement yes; the fuzzbox at issue, "oh, over a foot long, a really old thing. I can't tell you what it's called, coz all the paint's rubbed off, but we do use it on all our songs."
Fielding the answers to these burning questions is Mags, one-quarter of perhaps the freshest, brightest real pop band to emerge from the indie scene this year. The lucid if lengthily-named We've Got a Fuzzbox And We're Going to Use It, formed in June last year at one days notice, to play support to a friend's band in their native Birmingham. The fact that neither Mags, her sister Jo, nor their schoolfriends Vix and Tina could actually play anything didn't seem to matter very much, as Mag explains:
"We had about two hours for rehearsal before the gig, played three songs, amazingly awfully — and got an encore!"
Gluttons for punishment, their friends in the other band invited W.G.A.F.A.W.G.T.U.I. (trips off the tongue, doesn't it?) back for a second gig the following week, and That, as they say in the best photoromances, was when It Happened:
"This bloke come up to us afterwards and said would we like to make a record."
"And we had hysterics for about ten minutes. I mean, we didn't think he could be serious..."
But he was. The result, a four-track EP on Vindaloo records (distributed by Rough Trade) is currently riding high in the indie charts, and may yet go higher still. Listen to it's beguiling mixture of upful vocals and grunge-thrash backing ('Kind of like the B-52's meet the Passions' someone observed recently), and you can begin to understand why.
With a mini-tour of Belgium, Germany and Holland in the offing, and a second single due for release now ("But we haven't written it yet, so I can't tell you what it's going to be called") W.G blah, blah, blah, have come a long way in a short time. It's been fun up till now, but pretty soon the gals'll have to get serious, or get out. Already, reviews of their chaotic gigs have began to carp at their 'unprofessionalism' of the band (whatever that means). Are they ready for the pressure? Can they avoid being shoe-horned into some girly-band cliche, as has befallen the likes of Banarama and The Belle Stars before them? Will they learn to play their instruments? "Well, our playing's getting a lot better anyway, coz we've only got a few songs and we do 'em over and over again... As far as everything happening so fast, I sometimes find myself in a studio or whatever, and think 'What exactly are we doing?'... We've already come much further than I ever thought we would. I s'pose I'll have to give up my job in the dole office..."
How about the other thing, though. Are you going to wake up one morning and find that you've been turned into this weeks fluffy sex object — in spite of your best intentions? In spite of the feminism of the lyrics to XX Sex on the EP?
"I don't think so! I can't really imagine myself being a fluffy sex object — I mean, have you seen the clothes we wear? We dress to clash. My sister Jo wears flares! Alright, we've got legs, and don't mind showing them, but I think people understand we're taking the piss out of all this glamour thing."
Maybe, maybe. Mags and her mates are as yet innocents abroad in the bandit country of Pop; a lot of mistakes might yet be made; but they're learning fast.
Any last words to the Nation, Mags?
"Yeah — I want everyone to go out now and buy the 12" remix of the single, OK?"
Ok. As I said, they're learning fast. TR
How to play drums by James Blades and Johnny Dean (Elm Tree books, £5.95) is quite the most informative drum tutor book I've come across since I was a kid. It's concise, and really does attack the complex subject of drums and drumming thoroughly and cheerfully.
The book starts with four easy to understand pages on musical notation, to give you the necessary grounding you'll need to play the exercises. The next section deals with the kit itself; explaining its development, along with tips on tuning, damping, head and stick selection, etcetera. Cymbals have their own category, and selection, identification and repair are all covered. The hardware segment includes: cleaning, care and choice, as well as the proper heights to set the of the kit. (I would have liked to see just a little more info on optimum stool and snare drum positioning.) Studio set up is also covered as well as kit positioning in situ. It's important to be able to see your music and the M.D. at the same time. In fact studio work is dealt with pretty well. The authors explore headphones, mike positioning, E.Q., overdubbing, click tracks, and tuning, as well as how to play in that environment.
A large chunk of the book is devoted to technique and the actual 'nuts and bolts' of drumming. This starts off as you'd expect with the all-important rudiments, and finishes with some pretty advanced, but still playable stuff. Towards the end of the book, there's an interesting section dealing with the so called 'Toys' of the percussion world: instruments of ethnic origin from Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. All very clear and complete with line drawings and notation.
How to play drums also gives a useful insight into Orchestral Percussion. The origin of these 'respectable' instruments is discussed with a section on improving your ear. Tuned instruments are also included with hints, examples, notation and pitch.
The book's authors are not exactly unknown in the world of music, James Blades being perhaps the most knowledgable and enthusiastic drum savant. It was he who was responsible for the wartime victory signal, and for teaching many percussionists (including Carl Palmer) at the Royal College. Johnny Dean is, and always has been an 'in demand' drummer and percussionist as well as an inventor, most recently of Premier's Project One recording snare-drum. Both men obviously know their subject inside out, so I'm loathe to finish up by describing this an an 'old fashioned' drum tutor book. That for some reason seems to denigrate it. No, what we actually have here is an up to date drum book with inherent values which, to my knowledge haven't been seen in a tutor for quite some time. A goldmine for beginners, and even 'pros' could learn a thing or two from it. BH
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