Tone of Life

By Ronny North

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to judge many guitar contests over the years that feature players of all skill levels. The thing that I have noticed, more often than not, is that the novice players tend to have a thin tone, and it is usually way too distorted. My thoughts are, that with experience, your ear becomes more refined, and you develop your own sound as time goes on (some better than others but totally subjective to the individual).

Image: Karen Barrezueta

I have realized that as the years go by I use less and less gain, and my tone gets better and better. I used to have the gain on 10, and these days its backed off to 6 or 7. In the studio it’s backed off way more than that. I’ve noticed that less gain on the guitar will actually sound bigger and will jump out better in the mix. The guys in AC/DC definitely had that figured out.Those guitars are hardly distorted at all but still sound huge.

My second theory is that a players touch gets more refined as he develops his style. As in most things as they get more comfortable playing they relax their touch and don’t push down so hard thus making the instrument sound a little smoother. I also play golf and a pro golfer barely squeezes the club at all when he swings. He holds on just enough to keep the club in his hands. That being said, when I’m having an off day on the golf course, one of the first things I do is lighten up my grip and usually that helps me get it together. Obviously, this is just my general observation, but worth considering.

Now go out there and play guitar!

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Starting Monday with the Mekons

By Charlie Matthews

The Mekons are often described as post-punk, cow-punk or alt country. Formed in 1977, they are one of the longest-running and most prolific of the first-wave British punk rock bands. hailing from Leeds, in the UK, they are now based out of Chicago.

Image: The Mekons

Spotlight On Whitney

By Charlie Matthews

American indie-rock band from Chicago.

They are lyrical, introspective, layered, and melodic. Whitney sounds like summer in a commercial, even when their songs are sad. Check 'em out!

Whitney is:
Max Kakacek -guitar
Julien Ehrlich -drums, vocals
Ziyad Asrar - keyboards
Will Miller - trumpet
And an apparently ever changing cast of characters from the indie world!

Image: Whitney


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Spotlight On Set Phasers To Prog

By Jamie Pittenger

Instrumental, progressive music from Vancouver B.C. Canada

Set Phasers to Prog is:
Matt Smith on Guitar
Tim Warwick on Guitar
Shawn Moran on Bass
Dave Evans on Drums

Melodic, with unruly timing, these musicians throw it all out there with perfect unabashed style. Set Phasers To Prog not only have the talent behind the instruments, they also have instant stage charisma. So next time you're out searching for a new sound give this band a listen.

Image: Set Phasers To Prog


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The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

By Annie Filer

The Smashing Pumpkins
American Alternative rock band, Chicago-based, formed in 1988
Siamese Dream - Length 62.16
2nd Studio Album
Genres: Alternative Rock, Grunge, Psychedelic rock, Alternative metal
Label Release: July 27, 1993 on Virgin Records
Producer: Butch Vig, Billy Corgan

Siamese Dream is widely regarded one of the best albums of the 1990’s and the best albums of all times. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it number 362 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Image: Billy Corgan

Siamese Dreams
The recording of this album was fraught with dysfunction, pain and drugs – the band relocated to Triclops Studios in Marietta, Ga for the album sessions, in hopes to keep away from friends and familiar distractions. It took four months to record and it did help cut off Jimmy Chamberlin from his regular drug connects. As a group, the band was dysfunctional at best and truthfully it’s remarkable that they made it through their creative process to create such an influential and revolutionary album.

This is the album that moved them from college Indie band to breakthrough “mainstream” grunge/Alt rock band. Everyone knew who they were and they were in keeping with the Grunge scene royalty.

Listening to this album, I agree with other people’s opinions that The Smashing Pumpkins may have really transcended what Grunge stood for at that time. They had the remarkable talent to mix multiple musical genres that went far beyond they typical grunge band I am familiar with (please note that I am NOT an expert on grunge music). They took risks that paid off. They somehow got through their dysfunction and created an alternative classic this is recognized by fan and expert alike.

“Today” is the quintessential song of the album (to me anyway). It’s really about Corgan’s worst day of his life – a death in his family and the break-up with his girlfriend.  But I’d dare you to find someone who doesn’t sing along with the song and is not touched by the lyrics – although sad, there is hope and promise in the future in those lyrics. Corgan said something to the effect that this song could have been his anthem, but luckily for us it is not – but I do think that this might be the sad psalm for a generation of singers, musicians and/or performers who do die too early

Interesting Factoid:
After The Smashing Pumpkins boke up, Billy Corgan began working with New Order and can be heard on their album, "Get Ready". Corgan recorded backup vocals for the song “Turn My Way” and toured with the band while they were promoting the album. New Order is one of Corgan’s core musical influences.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan - lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, bass guitar, string arrangements, production, mixing
James Iha -  lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals
D’arcy Wretzky - bass guitar (credited), backing vocals
Jimmy Chamberlin - drums

Additional personnel
Mike Mills – piano on “soma”
Eric Remschneider – string arrangements and cello on “Disarm” and “Luna”
David Ragsdale – string arrangements and violin on “Disarm” and “Luna”

Technical staff
Butch Vig – production, engineering, mixing, string arrangements
Jeff Tomei – engineering
Tim Holbrook – special technical engineering
Howie Weinberg – mastering
Alan Moulder - mixing
Len Peltier – sleeve art direction
Steve J. Gerdes – sleeve design
Melodie McDaniel – sleeve photography
Bob Ludwig – mastering (2011)

Track Listings
"Cherub Rock" – 4:58
“Quiet” – 3:41
“Today” – 3:19
“Hummer” – 6:57
“Rocket” – 4:06
“Disarm” – 3:17
“Soma’ – 6:39 , Corgan and James Iha
“Geek U.S.A.” – 5:13
“Mayonaise” – 5:50, Corgan and James Iha
“Spaceboy” – 4:28
“Silverfuck” – 8:43
“Sweet Sweet” – 1:38
“Luna” – 3:20

The Singles from Siamese Dream
Cherub Rock – released July 13, 1993
Today – released September 30, 1993
Disarm – released March 22, 1994
Rocket – Released 1994

Starting Monday With The Sundays

By Charlie Matthews

Jumping back to the '90s this morning and checking out The Sundays.

The Sundays are:
Harriet Wheeler - Vocals
David Gavurin - Guitar
Paul Brindley - Bass
Patrick Hannan - Drums

Image: The Sundays