Outside The Studio – Boston: Boston

By Robert Kaiser

I know that the struggle can seem long, with never-ending difficulties.  It’s easy to believe that artists who have changed the music world came to success with relative ease.  Sometimes, it’s comforting to hear of a story that is (at least slightly) similar to your own . . . this may be one of those stories.  The tale begins in Tom Scholz’ childhood, where he studied classical piano at eight years old.  As he grew, his fascination and love for music moved him to teach himself the bass, drums and guitar.  When he was 22 years old, he started recording music that would eventually end up on his debut album: Boston.

Image: Boston

Scholz seemed to stay grounded, keeping an arguably realistic outlook on his future career in music.  He worked for the Polaroid Corporation, using his degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to make a living.  He dreamed of stardom, but he believed that his job as a product engineer is what would continue to pay the bills.  From his actions though, it seems clear that he wanted badly, nothing more than to share his music.  Many of his evenings, he could be found playing the keyboards for a variety of Boston based bar bands.  Quite a few of his nights, he could be found following his passion of writing and recording original music.  Through his keyboard playing, he met, and often played with Jim Masdea who would end up playing drums in Scholz’ first band, Mother’s Milk.

In 1970, Scholz and Masdea began working on recording their music with exacting standards.  Many songs were recorded over, and over again.  When singer Brad Delp was added to the band, the songs were recorded yet again.  Over the next three years, the group had amassed a solid collection of four songs to mail out to dozens of record companies.  Every company said no.  Things started to get really shaky for the band.  Brad Delp says “There was a period when I had to leave the band, because there just wasn't any money coming in . . . I had a wife and I had rent to pay and that kind of stuff.  So I had to leave the band . .”  About a year later, Tom called his old vocalist to enlist some help on a few new tracks.  In 1975, the last demo tape was created . . . finally, there was a small amount of interest at Epic Records.

Keep in mind, Scholz’ band was no longer playing live, at this point.  The entire effort was placed towards creating a great recording.  The band was in such a degraded state, that there were really only two people left, Scholz and Delp.  When Epic called, they requested a live audition to seal the record deal.  Scholz and Delp scrambled to fill the other three positions in order to play live, for the first time, during their record audition.  While waiting for Epic’s response, Schulz finished the last two demos of his new songs.  The newest song to the line-up: “More Than a Feeling” which was actually written over a five-year period.

Once the band earned a deal with Epic, the demo songs needed to be recorded again.  “. . [Epic] wanted a studio version exactly like the demo. Now, the only way that could be possibly done was if I played those parts just like I did on the demo . .”  Scholz found that the only solution to this request, was to re-record each of the tracks in his home studio.  So, he and his band went to work in the basement of a Boston apartment, again.  Scholz remembers, "The acoustic guitar on 'More Than a Feeling' was recorded using a $100 imported Yamaha 12-string guitar, through a dynamic [Electro-Voice RE-17] microphone, and the drums were recorded by a few Shure SM57s in a little tiny closet.”  For Schulz, it’s not about the equipment you have, it’s about the sound you get.  To that effect, Tom says "My only objective is to record the music in some way that it sounds good when it comes out of the other end of a CD player.  I don't think it's important enough to have a $2,000 microphone on your acoustic guitar; that's actually a pain in the ass."

The values we learn from Boston are not as much about the recording process, but they revolve around perseverance.  The six year period that Boston trekked through, might make them the longest awaited “overnight success” in history.   The band lost, and re-gained two-thirds of its line-up.  Boston was dedicated enough to perfecting its sound that they spent three years recording a four song demo.  They were turned away from dozens of record labels over a multi-year period.  They did, however, learn what worked, and they stuck to it.  Scholz says "I still record the same way I always did, the master goes to tape, and I mix in analog.”  We can’t stop pressing.  We can’t stop chasing our passions.  Find a way feed your dreams, and one day your dreams will feed you!

Resources:
Tom Scholz 
Tom Scholz Speaks With The Sierra Club
Boston (album)
Boston's Scholz engineers a rock dynasty
The Rock Man - Maximum Guitar
Tom Scholz Recalls the Making of 'Boston' and 'Don’t Look Back'
Heaven is a Reel-to-Reel Tape
Classic Tracks: "More Than a Feeling"  
Boston History

Packing For Summer NAMM

By Ronny North

Well, already time for Summer NAMM in Nashville again. Just seems like a few weeks ago that I did Winter NAMM. When planes are involved, it's always a challenge to do gigs when you need to take gear since you need to be concerned about luggage weight, and this trip I was only allowed one check in bag (I usually get two). I was also carrying on my backpack, which I keep aspirin, Dramamine, and a few other things just in case, and my gig bag. So this time I decided to try to fit everything into a smaller piece of luggage to try to save weight. You got to keep it under 50 pounds or they ding you for extra fees!

Image: Karen Barrezueta

Well, I dug out my small luggage and proceeded to load it up. Since it was going to be 300 degrees in Nashville, I decided to just take exactly what I was going to wear and just pack stuff that would be cool in the heat. First thing I packed was the gear. The pedalboard I would be using for my demos at the show and the cables to hook up everything and of course my guitar that I would be carrying on the plane in a gig bag. I then packed the 3 outfits I would be wearing daily in the show plus a few necessary other pieces of clothing and a few t-shirts, tank tops and a pair of shorts in case I had time to do something else in Nashville….if I had free time and as always, I never did. I then packed my toiletries and a few accessories including promo stuff to give away. Luckily I borrowed my girlfriend's scale so I could keep an eye on the weight and sure enough I was over by 5 pounds. I quickly ditched all but one pair of shoes and threw a few things out or moved them over to my carry on backpack and my gig bag. I then double checked my list to make sure I packed everything. It seemed that I did, but then realized I needed to bring a few more things.

Once again I was over weight. I've spent many times in the past moving stuff around in the luggage on the floor at the airport to make weight. I didn't feel up to it this time. I decided to ditch my hair dryer and borrow one in Nashville. My luggage was exactly 50 pounds. Now on to my gig bag. I had a few other things stashed in it to make sure I could make it through and did the same with my back pack. After that there’s the whole crossing your fingers that the flight attendants don't hassle you about bringing the gig bag to put in the overhead compartment on the plane. Well, luckily at LAX I had no problems. My luggage made it through without a hitch but as always TSA found something in my gig bag that looked suspicious. It was my promo CDs. Once they opened it up and saw what they were, I was good and boarded the plane without incident. A trick I've learned flying to gigs over the years is to tie one of my hoodies on my gig bag for the flight since you never knew how cold it was going to be on board and I usually fly in shorts. Well, on the flight up it was normal temperature so since I had my whole row to myself I laid across all the seats and used my hoodie as a pillow for the entire flight. It was awesome!

Once I unpacked in Nashville, I realized I did forget a few things but I improvised. I survived NAMM and all the crazy parties and most of all their 300 degree weather and before I knew it I was coming home. I had to make sure that I put everything exactly where it was when I came out originally especially since I didn't have the luxury of checking how heavy everything was this time with a scale. I did pick up a few things in the show, so I put it in my backpack and I did get a  bunch of music magazines. I love all the free magazines you get at NAMM. and, of course, they weigh a bit. I decided to put them in the gig bag with the guitar. When I arrived to check my bag at Nashville airport (at 5 am), I held my breath and watched as the lady at the check in counter checked me in and put my bag on the scale. It passed! I was definitely relieved. I survived the always slow Nashville TSA line just in time to walk right on the plane. As I sat in my seat, I took a deep breath and got comfortable.This time the plane was freezing, so I used my hoodie as a blanket so I didn't get hypothermia while I was sleeping during my flight home. Before I knew it ,I was at LAX, getting picked up by my girlfriend to go get some lunch at our local Mexican food restaurant.    

Moral of the story… when flying to a gig on a commercial airline, just take absolutely what you need and make a list to make sure you bring everything you need. Another Summer NAMM in the books!

Follow Ronny North here:

      

Interview – Verity White

By Charlie Matthews

I don’t really need to reach out to bands anymore for interviews. The blog is popular enough that the “in box” normally has a band request, or two, on any given day. But, over the past month or so, Verity White has been popping up in my social media feeds. I was starting to get used to seeing her pictures and finally decided to go check out some of her music and, wow, I was not let down. She can sing, and her band is on point.

 

Image: CK Goldiing

Verity just released an EP, Stripped Bare, and has an album coming out in September. She is definitely busy! And, although her EP is a bit on the softer side of pop-rock, the new album is going to showcase a more rock-n-roll version of Verity White. If the two singles she pre-released in the February are any indicator, the new album is going to be very cool!

Verity White was kind of hard for me to really nail down because there really isn’t a whole band here.  She is the band, and Alex White is the producer and a multi-instrumentalist. There isn’t really a full time band behind her yet, but if her schedule is any indication….that is going to have to change. If you are in or near Cheltenham, UK, do yourself a favor and go check her out!

Here is Verity White’s take on our not-so-standard interview:

How do you describe your music to people?
It’s always hard to describe your own much, but I THINK it sounds kinda like Stevie Nicks started working with Foo Fighters and Royal Blood… I’m open to other suggestions though!

Tell us about your local music scene.
The music scene in Cheltenham isn’t great as it’s a small town. To get to a good scene you need to travel to Bristol really, or further afield to London or Brighton. Generally there are a lot of places asking for covers bands and not for indie music, and if they do accept indie music, they usually want singer-songwriter background noise kinda stuff rather than a bouncy rock show!  However, we do have a few good local festivals that can help boost your fan base like 2000 Trees and Wychwood, and the few rock venues in the town put on some good all day events.

What’s the immediate future look like for your band? Tours, festivals, working with other bands, etc.
I’ve got an album in the works which should be out in September, and I’m working on dates with Tiger Lilly and Izzy Finn as we meet through this great networking event on twitter called #musichourUK. I actually ended up being the face/voice of their vlog series and have met some amazing people through that. Once my album is out, the plan is to work on more festivals and tour dates for 2018, so we can really get this thing off the ground! For now, though, I’m content working on the social media side of things and getting my name out there to all who will listen! I think that social media marketing for music has never been more important, and you’re taken much more seriously as an artist if you can show that you already have fans and engagement. Sites like Concert Window really help with this too, as you can gig online to anyone anywhere who wants to tune in, I’m planning on using that a lot more in the coming months, too, so keep an eye on my twitter! Excitedly I’ve been asked to appear on the Break the Business podcast this month, so we have an interview scheduled for that, and I’m really looking forward to talking with them about the new music industry and all the social media stuff I’ve been doing! Keep an eye out for that one!

What's your outlook on the record industry today?
The record industry needs to really turn itself on this head to get anywhere in today’s market. Why would an indie musician sign a deal for distribution when you can do this all so easily yourself? Why would they sign a deal for production when there are so many people who run home studios that are really, genuinely amazing at what they do? I think that unless you’re signing to a major label who are going to put a tonne of money behind you into PR and marketing, there’s kinda not a lot of point to it. You’re better off focusing on learning how to do things yourself, and keeping control of what you do, without getting into weird contracts that put you in debt! … and if you do have a bit of money, spend it on a good PR firm who can help push you to the right places.

What three bands are you listening to right now? Royal Blood - their latest album is amazing and I’m lucky to have tickets to see them in the Winter. What those guys do with just bass and drums in insane! I’m also I really loving a bit of old school Portishead right now, that album Dummy is a classic and a real summer staple for me. Finally, and always, Nine Inch Nails - Trent Reznor is a writing and production genius.

What is that one piece of equipment you can't live without?
I recently got some shure in-ear monitors and they are amazing. Totally save your voice from the ravages of trying to sing over a rock band so you can hear yourself through foldbacks. I love them.

Catch Verity White at these next few shows:
AUG 9th - Pitcher and Piano, Brighton
SEPT 7th - Hard Rock Cafe, London
SEP 12th - Hailsham FM Live Lounge (also broadcast live)

Follow Verity here:

    

 

Guitar Tech – Get The Cheap Guitar (part 2)

By Thad Shumaker 

Thad here from Shumaker Guitar Works for part 2 of making a cheap guitar awesome. This time I'm using a Squier Affinity Strat I picked up at a pawn shop for about 60 bucks. Squires are decent guitars right out of the box, as I discussed the last blog, but with a little time and a bit of money you can make them like no other.

Image: Shumaker Guitar Works

When I bought this guitar, it still had the original hang tags and everything with it, so it couldn't have been very old. I don't think it was ever played. I took it home, cleaned it up, put a good set of strings on it and played it for a bit. I decided it could be better than it already was. I got online and started looking for options as to what I could do to improve this guitar. I found Dragonfire pickups. They make a whole line of clone pickups, at about 1/3 the price of the big names. I chose their loaded Strat pickguard with 3 humbucker hot rails type pickups. This setup is unique in which it has individual pickup control and coil tapping. I can choose 1, 2 or all 3 pickups together running in or out of phase, for a myriad of sounds, and I can split the coils for that single coil sound as well. The whole setup, with the pick guard, cost me 69 bucks I believe.. 

Moving on to installation… First remove the strings, then unscrew the jack plate and the original pick guard. Squires have 2 screws inside that are ground screws for the shielding Faraday cage which also need removed. lastly, you have to remove the back cover to unsolder the bridge ground from the tremolo claw, and the 2 wires for the jack. You can then completely remove the stock pickguard with all the pickups attached.

Installing the new loaded pickguard is just the opposite of removal, but there's no ground screws for the shielding. Solder your jack wires, and your bridge ground to the tremolo claw. This will be the only soldering to do on the new loaded guard. Install the jack plate and new pick guard with the screws you took out of the old one. Next step, install a new set of strings, and set your pickup height. While I had the strings off I also installed a new tusq nut I had, and did a mild setup on the guitar.

Doing a side by side comparison of the guitar with the original all white pickguard and pickups and the new red pearloid guard, looks phenomenal! Now to plug it in. I play through my pedal board, and a 1977 peavey deuce tube amp. I set all eq's at noon with just a bit of reverb. My pedals of choice are my trusty 20 year old boss stereo chorus and a boss turbo overdrive. The sound difference from the stock single coils to the Dragonfires in single coil mode was huge. I then switched to humbucker mode, running the bridge only. Holy heavy metal bat man! These pickups sound great. Next I decided to run all 3 as humbuckers, and crank up the amp a bit. Talk about drive you out of the room raw power. I love these.

Image: Shumaker Guitar Works  

In conclusion, I have about 150 bucks into this Squire.  If you went to a shop and bought this guitar new you'd pay around 150 bucks for it. The Dragonfire pickups come not only in rails, but as single coils, p90's, H90's(p90 in humbucker size), regular humbuckers, high output humbuckers. Basically there's something for everyone and every style. If you're looking for a cheap but great upgrade to make your cheap guitar awesome, look them up on the web.  

Check out Dragon Guitars here!

Interview – Alabama Rose

By Charlie Matthews

Last week was kind of crazy for the blog. What started as a few people responding to a previously published blog post, turned into a wave of emails, phone calls, Facebook posts, and blog comments. It seems that the music scene in Birmingham is alive and well! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Image: Alabama Rose

One of the many bands that reached out to Station 219 was Alabama Rose. They are a female fronted rock band from Birmingham and they really wanted to add their two cents. So of course we gave them the opportunity to participate in the not-so-standard-interview. 

Alabama Rose is:
Alabama Rose - Lead Vocals
Collin Zuckerman - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Adam Blevins - Drums
Jacob Robertson - Bass

The Alabama Rose herself took a stab out our not-so-standard-interview this week!

How do you describe your music to people?
Our style can best be described as surf, soul, blues and psychedelic riffs with a bit of old west desperado twang.

Tell us about your local music scene.
Our local scene is incredible. I honestly can’t even count how many original bands we have performing locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally. We have an incredibly inclusive scene, with venues to support every circuit of band, from proper DIY venues and badass dive bars to multi-million dollar venues and more in-between. The people working each one of them are some of the best, most professional and hard-working people I’ve met anywhere in the country. We have a thriving original music market, an in-city record label called Communicating Vessels, who does (among MANY other things) their own SXSW showcases, several record stores, once of which regularly hosts album release shows for local, national and internationally touring bands (shoutout to SEASICK Records, we love you!!). We host multiple annual music festivals per year that bring thousands upon thousands of people to see original music (including local bands), and large annual food, beer, art and film festivals that also provide a wide audience for local original music. We have several local production teams, booking agencies, photographers, writers, screen printing companies and freelance artists that service the music scene here. Our local radio support for original, local music is wonderful, and we have more than one amazing live session series in Birmingham (thanks Spectrasonic and Monotonia!!). We have numerous music schools, a few of which have programs that build entire bands with their students, teach them how to play together, and get them on stage at some of our biggest venues in town. It’s really amazing to watch. We even have a camp just for young female musicians. All of the counselors and teachers for that camp are also females!! We’re home to some AMAZING gear makers, some of my favorite pedals are made right in Birmingham (323 Effects for the win!!). Our scene is diverse, supportive, and most importantly, STILL GROWING!! This place has great resources and bands can easily stand out here and not get lost in the noise. Anyone who wants to come be a part of the love we have for music here is more than welcome!!!

It is the weekend, who should we be checking out in your town?
Oh man, if you had enough time, here are some of the bands you definitely would NOT want to miss, all of which throw down incredibly hard: The Burning Peppermints (yall, check this band out immediately), The Future Primitives, Heath Green and the Makeshifters, THE DEXATEENS, A New Kind of Hero, Future Elevators, Royal and Toulouse, CAVALEN, HEXXUS, Nowhere Squares, Wray, GT, Lolly and the Pops, Creature Camp, Secret Midnight Band, Dirty Girl (man they rip so hard), Tragic City, Taylor Hunnicutt, Zach & Cheyloe, The Old Paints, if they’re not on tour definitely Banditos and/or St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Dirty Lungs (so so good), Lady Legs, Riverbend, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, The Goddamn Rights, Holy Youth, Me and My Knife, Captain Kudzu, The Essentialists, SKEPTIC?, Zenosyne, In Snow, Beitthemeans, Suburban Love Junkies, Lolas, Asphalt Crown, STONED COBRA (love so so much), Underland Express, The Green Seed, New Devils, Nerves Baddington , Early James and the Latest, Koralyst, NULL, AND MANY MORE. Every single one of these bands are so worth the time and money to see anywhere they are. There’s a lot of competition here as far as talent goes, even though we are a supportive community. You can usually guarantee that a Birmingham local is trying to bring something special when they play.

What’s the immediate future look like for your band? Tours, festivals, working with other bands, etc. 
We’ve had a busy year and are getting ready to head back to Nashville where we recorded our EP live last November. Our next goal is to write more material. We’re sitting on a full album already, but want to really explore the concepts of our LP, so we’re hyper focused on ripping the shit out of our next few shows, and then digging deep into our songwriting skills and creating something elaborate for our listeners and ourselves, then getting it out to people.

What's your outlook on the record industry today?
I think the record industry is really trying to evolve with the times, and some areas are a lot more up to par in that scope than others. Some labels are still very old-school and DIY oriented, some have mega resources to pump into artists and can literally change what people are listening to at-will. I really love labels who are run by smart music lovers and musicians themselves who want to invest in good music and hard working bands. There are a lot of factors to consider, from the way digital platforms are changing and how easy it is to access new music, the way vinyl is coming back, how bands can create and build their own brand and book their own tours without representation, so much more. All-in-all, I’m really optimistic about the record industry. There’s definitely fresh blood pumping through it.

What three bands are you listening to right now?
Been listening to a lot of Rolling Stones and ACDC lately, particularly watching live recordings from back in the day. I’m seeing Flamin’ Groovies in Nashville in a few months so I’ve been pumping a lot of that in anticipation.

What is that one piece of equipment you can't live without?
I’m a nerd for vintage microphones and perform live with a vintage SM57. I’d say that a good cable and a round bottom mic are about all I need personally, but I’m sure the rest of the band could geek out on this subject for days. Collin is partial to his Jazzmaster, Jacob plays a Warwick Jazzman and just got an EQD Fuzz Master General that we’re having a ton of fun with. Adam plays on a wood fiberglass Pearl kit that he got specifically for our blend of throw-back rock n roll. We’re all really partial to our current setup.

Follow Alabama Rose Here: 
        

Catch Alabama Rose at the Secret Stages Music Festival August 4th and 5th in Birmingham, Alabama!
 

Spotlight On Ben Wilshire

By Jamie Pittenger

Ben Wilshire is a Chapman guitar artist from the U.K.

Breaking from the normal and reaching a place that's not familiar is something every musician should do frequently.

With a seemingly never ending pool of talented guitarist, I dive in and listen to everything and absorb as much as i can and move on to the next watering hole.  Open up and see what's behind every door.

Image: Ben Wilshire

 

Small Venues, Massive Professionalism

By Carson Braymer,

    So I've been living in Austin for about six months now - six months that have very quickly flown by. While it's been incredible getting to explore and get to know my new town for these past few months, I haven't done much in the way of checking out other rad places in Texas. This past weekend, I had a rad opportunity to play in San Antonio with a group of dudes who play in a band called Teevee. The venue we played is called Limelight, a mega-vibey bar that boasted a large stage, righteous sound, and even a little backyard area attached to the green room so we had a safe spot to park the van.

Image: Erin Keller

    I met the guys in Teevee at their rehearsal space on the day of the show and helped load all of our gear into their van. I'd be playing bass for this show, so I was pretty stoked on the notion of getting to break out my old jazz bass and brush up on my low-end chops. Teevee has a fuzzy, reverb soaked sound driven by layers of texture, so playing bass in that setting was something I was really looking forward to. Getting to San Antonio from Austin took less than two hours after all the gear was loaded, and we arrived at Limelight a little after the first band finished.

    Upon arriving at the venue, we had one of the door guys unlock a back gate for us to pull our van into a small yard behind the bar. The small yard had a couple picnic tables where the members of the other bands were sitting and smoking, drinking Lone Star and talking about gear. Around the corner of the fenced area was the door to the greenroom, walls covered with band stickers and floor lined with old rugs and speaker cables. We got our drink tickets and watched the second band play, then unloaded our equipment for sound check.

    I hauled my '59 Bassman reissue and pedalboard through the greenroom and onto the stage, immediately greeted by a relaxed-yet-professional sound guy. I had my bass levels checked in about two minutes, and only a few minutes passed before everyone in the band had been leveled out and mixed. My biggest surprise was in how awesome the San Antonio crowd was - we played on a Sunday night to an almost full house. That's a really neat thing, regardless as to where you are or what kind of music you play. The twelve song set went great - no sound problems, no big mistakes. Limelight made playing their venue a ton of fun and extremely enjoyable. Everyone, down to the door guy, was pleasant. In an industry laden with an inclination for things to go wrong, it was extremely refreshing to play a show with a new band, in a new venue and feel NO stress.

    I'm looking forward to playing around Texas more. My experience in San Antonio left me really pumped to explore and create more opportunities to travel around the state. Limelight also set a stellar standard for small venues with massive professionalism, and Teevee was very kind to let me join them for a really fun show. Here's to looking forward and keeping the ball rolling, always. Keep an eye out for Teevee's second EP "Bask" later this July, and keep up with what's happening at Limelight via their website.

Check out Teevee here: