On our travels... (14)
Once again, last night, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing quite possibly my favourite guitarist perform at close quarters… Mr Joey Landreth.
I know, ask me tomorrow and my favourite will be someone else, but right now the endless carousel of my ‘favourites’ is quite often leaning more towards Joey than other players. It may be a phase I’m going through, it may not be, but if it is a phase, it’s one that’s been going on for a couple of years now and I can’t see it stopping anytime soon.
Those who’ve not heard me talk about Joey before here is the obligatory backstory… I met him by chance a couple of NAMM’s ago when I was out partaking in a ‘couple of beers’ with the legend that is Andy Wood (insert name drop horn here) and he introduced me to “my man Joey”… It was dark and noisy in the bar so I turned to Andy and said “Is that Joey f$%&ing Landreth?” and he laughed and said “Yes sir!”. I proceeded to talk at Joey for about an hour and have since been to see him here in the UK every chance I get… And he never, ever disappoints.
Fortunately for us over here it’s never very far to travel to see great music, I live at the arse end of nowhere so people rarely come down this far, but in about an hour or so I can see great music (although truth be known, I hate travelling anywhere so I’m in grumpy mode when the tickets are released and they don’t come down here… but, moving swiftly on)… The venue was small, busy… standing room only – I would say no more than 140 people all packed in like a tightly packed box of Lego. I looked around the room and noticed 6 ‘That Pedal Show’, 4 ‘Fender’, 1 ‘Gibson’ and 2 ‘PRS’ shirts on display… Yep, the place was full of guitar players. Fortunately, we had arrived early so I got a small chance to catch up with Joey before the first act, who Joey described as “My drummer, Roman”… so, we thought that would be interesting, as I’ve never seen a drummer as a support act. Roman is not just a drummer. He is so much more. Sitting behind a piano we were treated to some masterful playing and a voice that was outstanding. High in register, so not only perfect for harmonies but on his own was the kind of voice that was absolutely mesmerizing. I would say Roman is picking up a lot of new fans on this tour, including us.
I’m sitting here trying to find superlatives about Joey and the band (Roman Clarke on drums and Meg Dolovich on bass) and I’m trying my hardest to not sound sycophantic, or overtly gushing, but there are times when you see an artist who is not at the start of their career, but most certainly still very much on the ascent, and you just know you are in the presence of something extremely special. I get the feeling that providing ‘this’ carries on as it already is, Joey Landreth will be held at the highest esteem by the wider population as he already is by the fanatical fans that are already following him.
I guess you are wondering why I am writing about this - as Joey is not one of our artists, he doesn’t use our gear but to be honest, you could say this is about me wanting to make as many people as possible aware of this monumental talent so you can see him now before the only chance you get is at festivals or bigger gigs. But, this piece is more about the guy we took up to the gig, a young musician from the small town I live in that I’ve been aware of for a while, just a name I knew from kids at the school and the small community we live in – although I was aware of him, we’d never met and not spoken to before.
He, Jake, contacted me through Facebook as he was desperate to get to the gig – he’d got himself a ticket and failed in his efforts to get his Dad to take him up – so he contacted me to ask if he could come up with us (myself and Lisa, my wife) - we said “Sure” but at the same time, feeling kinda weird as we were not knowing what to expect. I mean, we are both in our mid 40’s and the thought of spending around 3 hours in the car with a college kid in his late teens… what do we talk about? In the first few minutes he managed to blow away any worries I had as he was everything you expect an atypical teenager not to be. He is an articulate tone chaser, works like an animal in his job (He’s also in college studying music production) in order to buy the gear he GAS’s for, is exceptionally well read on gear, experienced in everything and could easily talk for hours on end about pickups, pedals, guitars, amps, valves and just about everything else related to gear. Also, from the videos I’ve seen he’s a great player and great singer. When you spend as much time as the marketing side of this business as I do you sometimes notice the divisions in the customer base and quite often a lot of the younger gearheads are very focused in their views, opinionated towards certain styles of music and the gear associated with them, but he was – is – an open book. Only interested in one thing – the quality of the product. Whether that be gear or what is going into his ears in terms of music, as long as it’s good, he’s good with it. Obviously, he leans in a certain direction with his musical tastes, but the way he was talking about old and new music alike, across many genres, was fantastic. He approaches music and gear with a wide-eyed wonderment that is so rare to see these days in anyone, let alone a teenager. So, those who knock millennials can think again as there are great young musicians out there who work hard for their craft and are so respectful for the wider aspect of the industry and the results of it… People like him give me a great feeling for the future of music and the guitar.
Back to Joey Landreth… had to happen really. What can I say, other than open up Spotify and listen to his music. If he’s playing anywhere near you, cancel whatever you have planned and go and see him. You won’t regret it. Joey is a man of such musical beauty you will walk away from the gig in a better place than when you entered. If you take the time to get in line and get to talk with him as well, you will probably walk away thinking either: 1: You wish you were married to him; 2: You wish your daughter was married to him; 3: You were him; or at the very least, 4: You had one of the four things he has in abundance… a rare talent for singing, a rare talent for playing the guitar, a rare talent for songwriting, and a rare talent for being the coolest and straight up nicest guy on the planet.
To be honest, if I didn’t love the man so much I’d probably be obliged to hate him for any one of those reasons listed above.
Anyway, enough about all this. This week I’m also off to see Adrian Legg, the acoustic master who can terrify any player from a distance of 100 yards and Kris Barras, the most exciting young blues player the UK has spawned since Matt Schofield (who was there last night who I walked straight into and exclaimed at high volume with much vulgar surprise something along the lines of “Good golly gosh, you’re that Matt Schofield chap aren’t you?” - but slightly more to the point).
Yeah, it’s a good week to be me. Here is a small clip of last night, I would have filmed more, but I didn't want to watch him on my phone, I wanted to see it all properly.
Here we go, another blog piece from me that has far too much waffle in about guitar players I like, please bear with me, it gets tone related toward the end! So, I had a rare treat last week – it’s not often an artist with the pedigree and reputation comes close to where I live, but this year appears to be bucking that trend… It started with Joey Landreth in February and in April I get Adrian Legg. Perfect.
As always, I’m going to bore you with the history (there is always a history, isn’t there?). I was blissfully unaware of Adrian the first time I saw him live, I was 19 (this was February 1993) and if it wasn’t Vai or Satch I didn’t give a crap. Acoustic players were pointless, they just strummed and I was right and if I was wrong I didn’t want to be right. So, I rocked up to see Satch on the Extremist Tour with my Brother and my mate Graeme full of excitement and ready to be transported away to fly in a blue dream (etc).
We got there a little early, took our seats and found out that there some bloke called Adrian Legg in support… Lights went down and this (what appeared to be a) little middle aged guy came out the curtain and sat in a chair on the stage with an Ovation and said “Hello”. My brain groaned and I sat there already bored of this man… And then he started playing. Within seconds I was converted, this guys was incredible. My socks were blown clean off… I’d never seen or heard anything like it. I was wrong about the acoustic guitar!
Fast forward to 2008 or so, Facebook was taking off and up in my feed came “Adrian Legg”, I looked, it was him, so I sent him a request and he accepted. This was before I started with Wampler so I had no reason to talk to him, didn’t want to be a fanboy so I just left him there, he would comment on my status now and then, I would on his (we are somewhat politically aligned and view a lot of things the same way), and it went on like that for ages… then I started with Wampler and we started to talk about tone. During these conversations I sent him a couple of my own pedals for him to try and he loved the Black ’65, he gigged it for years… then came the Faux Tape Echo and finally the Tumnus… With touring in the way he does everything is about size and weight so out reaching out to the mini market really appealed to him.
After all these years I’d never had the chance to see him perform again, he attended the only NAMM show I’ve not been too since 2012, a couple of dates in the UK didn’t line up but out of the blue he was booked in a town about 25 miles from me, in a glorious old church hall, so I snapped up a couple of tickets instantly.
I finally saw Adrian perform again last Saturday April 22nd 2017. Just over 24 years after the first and last time I saw him. I arrived just as he was about to start, sat with an old friend of mine who is a fan also, and we thoroughly enjoyed every second. I had asked Adrian to do my favourite song (if he could) a few weeks before and about 4 songs in, Mrs Jack’s Last Stand was played, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t tears.
During the break I wondered forward and I finally met the man I’d been a fan of all these years, the man who had changed my view on acoustic players, the man I could now call a friend thanks to the beauties of social networking. I got a friendly hug from Adrian Legg. Win!
Adrian’s tone and playing was exquisite all the way through, his guitar is not really an electric and not really an acoustic, with a magnetic pickup and piezos, mixed together at times. The Tumnus brings out the harmonics of both pickups beautifully, the lower mid hump (that we think is about 800-1k) just makes everything sound alive and ‘there’, right in front of you. When he kicked it in, the guitar appeared to jump out at you tonally, it was quite the experience to hear it played that way, not pushing another drive pedal, not pushing an amp, just making the guitar jump up and out. Once again, that little gold pedal surprised me. Kinda thinking we should market it as the worlds first 3D guitar pedal!
It's Wednesday afternoon and I'm just about back in the land of living after getting back from NAMM on Monday. It's a killer trip, both in the new cool way of saying it (please infer from 1990 onwards) and in the old, I'm knackered. Totally. 12,000 miles in 6 days, 3 18 hours days, lots of beers drank, hand shaken, too many notes played, too many burgers eaten and most importantly, too many hugs that will probably end up with me getting NAMMthrax (despite us having branded hand sanitiser on the booth).
I left home at 10am on Wednesday, only had to return twice to pick up stuff I'd forgotten and had a glorious drive through England to Heathrow airport. Cold, clear and crisp meant I had stunning views of this fine country all the way. No matter how many times I see it, Stonehenge is not to be taken lightly. As usual I met up with the legend that is Tom Quayle at the airport, this time he was flying with his Guitar Hour colleagues Dan Smith, Dave Brons and David Beebee. Travelling with us this year was Ibanez and Laney demo legend Lee Wrathe. Many laughs were had. Unusually I'd not seen Tom since last NAMM so we had a lot to catch up on, especially as in August him and Cheryl had a baby girl, Inara, and I had a lot of photos to get through :)
You know that the show is going to be a good one when you rock up to the hotel, dump your stuff and find your boss in the restaurant opposite the hotel already several pints deep into tomorrow's hangover. I had some catching up to do... As usual, we had to set the scene for the rest of the trip. So that means Brian's atrocious English accent had to be deployed and my feeble attempt at redneckery was dusted down. They are both so bad and so relentless it was no surprise that Amanda beats a hasty retreat every time we get going.
After 24 hours awake obviously my body would only give me 4 hours sleep so I stumbled into the show early and was delighted with the booth set up. Not only are we now fully esconsed into the larger booth area of Boutique Amps Distribution (no, they haven't bought us) but we are right in the middle of the golden area. Surrounded by Marshall, Martin, Seymour Duncan, Friedman and other stellar brands, it feels like we've really progressed in the last few years.
Taking control of playing duties this year was the wonderful Greg Marra, a lovely guy from the East Coast who is living the dream on the West Coast - endorsed by Ibanez and Fishman - a great player and an even better person. A true asset for us to have on the booth. With only Greg on playing and Brian, Amanda and yours truly working the booth it was bound to be a busy time, and it was.
This was the first time I'd been able to properly review and see the pedals after the rebrand last year and I must say, I am delighted with how everything came out. A lot of time and money was invested into manufacturing this year and to see the consistency and quality at this level was amazing, it's really obvious that we are stepping up and up each year. Kind of feels like we are entering the big league! Every morning I tried to be in early so I could properly play test each of the pedals through the amp as with the rebrand came a new manufacturing situation, so for my own peace of mind I had to make sure they were as I thought they were going to be. You all already know that they are, but I just had to be sure. I know, tough job isn't it, having to play all of those.
The Bravado was the star of the show for me. People were amazed at what we were throwing through it and it not cracking under the strain, in fact, most of the time the amps controls were set to high noon and it just sounded amazing with every pedal, no matter what level of gain or how they were all stupidly stacked, it just sounded incredible - it truly is the perfect pedal platform. I think it made a lot of fans over the weekend! I do hope you get to try one in store soon, I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
The best part of the show for me is the people - the people are hilarious. There are some classic LA types who look like they still haven't quite got round to celebrating the New Year of 1985 yet and are still loving 1984, people who don't have mirrors in their hourse, people outside who want to save my soul, people who want to talk to you for hours on end about input impedance, people who just want to hang and have their photo taken and people who just love great tone. The best bit though, it does have to be said, is that I have NAMM buddies who I only see once a year, from Frank Falbo to Robert Keeley. From Brian Haner to Seymour Duncan the list of people is so long I won't list it here, but safe to say I am proud to know each and every one of those lovely people and call them friends.
In case you are wondering about the title of this blog, only when you've been in a big room with 9000 booths and literally thousands and thousands of people walking around, nose in the NAMM app, looking for which celebrity they can get their picture taken with next it's like a massive game of Pokemon GO - I only wanted to destroy about 10 people and their phones when they kept walking into me.
Enduring memories about NAMM, listening to Andy Wood almost nailing "Pick It Apart" by Brent Mason at 10am from a standing start (impossible to play almost when you are fully warm), trolling Josh Scott when ever I saw him and Tom Quayle breaking his elbow in the terrible terrible weather. One to remember, that's for sure.
I have always been a huge Brad Paisley fan ever since I heard "Me Neither” from his first album. When I first started building pedals one of my huge goals was to work with him, with the ultimate goal of developing pedals specifically for him.
Around 2002-3 or so, Brad was in concert in my town and I had the idea to take a BOSS pedal that I had modified and throw it up on stage in the hope he'd get to play it maybe. At this time, his show was a little smaller then it is now and the venue allowed for people to come up towards the stage and take a picture during one of the songs. I snuck the pedal in my coat pocket and walked up to the stage and tossed it on the stage in front of him. He looked down at me, then at the pedal, then back at me and then looked straight over to his tech and motioned for him to come and get it. I later found out what that guitar tech’s name was (Zac Childs), found his contact information, and then got a hold of him and asked if Brad had a chance to play the pedal yet. Brad had and liked it so much they invited me out to a show the next time they were in town. I was so excited I couldn't stop smiling for days... And so this started off my relationship with Brad Paisley.
Over the years as I've got to know him and his band better it's been truly amazing experience. There's really nothing quite like the feeling of working with someone who you respect on a creative, emotional and musical level. To be able to build on that by creating guitar pedals especially for him that helps him to do what he does best even better, build effects that help inspire him to the write songs that inspire millions of people around the world is mind blowing.
A few days ago he was near me in Indianapolis so Amanda and I went out see him and we discussed doing some special projects together - A lot of very exciting things happening soon!
So, let's be straight about this, you want to know what gear Brad is currently using, so here goes! Brad is the type of guy that is a huge tone nut and loves switching things around and trying new things when chasing tones. He started using some Marshall Plexi's on the road (as you can see in the pictures) and since he uses a switcher he can switch in and out different amplifier heads as well as different cabinets. He can also switch any effect that he would like in at any time. Of course he has a ton of great guitars with him on the road including some beautiful old Fenders and of course those awesome hand built Crook Guitars. Over the last few years Brad has become more and more of a big fan of delay pedals, so he takes a ton out with him to try different types of delay for different things. In particular, he prefers a very clean digital style of delay for slapback, but really loves the ambience and atmosphere that different types of delay bring to him. Of course, he just loves using overdrive, distortion and fuzz in ways that you would not think would be indicative of country music. However, he gets very good tone out of his equipment and his tone is certainly identifiable to him no matter what he plays through! Here are a few pictures from before and during the show:
After 2 meals, a last second gate change causing us to miss a connecting flight in Dallas Texas, and 12 hours travel day later – we have arrived in Anaheim! A little tired – but had a great night’s sleep and the batteries are now recharged and we are ready to set up the booth. But first - a little breakfast - less I turn in to a diva. I'll leave y’all with this....
Feels good to be back writing! The last couple weeks are such a blur for everyone here at Wampler HQ! Between SXSW (South by South West), the Guitar Pedal Expo 2015 in LA, and moving in to a new building - we have been more than a little busy to say the least.
During the Guitar Pedal Expo our good friend Sean Pierce hosted a "Pedal Guru" (a panel of 6 current pedal builders) and picked their brain for an hour. Check out the discussion and go give Sean's youtube page/ social media and give it a like!
Suitcase unpacked: Check Gear back in the studio: Check Back to work: Check, check, and check
Just got back home from Summer NAMM in Nashville this week. What a great time! We saw all the usual suspects this year and had the chance to meet a lot of great new players as well! Saturday night, we were invited out to the Phil Bradbury (Little Walter Amps) VIP show at 3rd and Lindsley – to lay witness to some incredible talent. Big shout out to Brent Mason and Randy Kohrs who were unbelievably talented as always. Check back with our blog shortly for some great footage!
Even though we have just got back this week, we have already hit the ground running! We may or may not be working on something very special in the next few weeks here at Wampler Pedals – stay tuned!
Earlier this month Wampler Pedals visited the Dallas Guitar Show (May 2, 3, and 4th) for the first time. For those of you who have never been, it is celebration of all things guitar with fantastic great musical performances and some outstanding new and used/vintage gear for sale everywhere! Over the three days we were there, we met some fantastic new and inspiring musicians, as well as saw some familiar faces.
Musical performance highlights were Mr. Scary himself, George Lynch, performing with Derek St. Holmes belting out catch scratch fever, and of course the always very talented Johnny Winter showing us all what Texas blues is all about!
- Max Jeffrey