|May 24, 2013 | White Zombie
High quality reissues of the early White Zombie shirts, and some new ones too. And vinyl! And other stuff!!
High quality reissues of the early White Zombie shirts, and some new ones too. And vinyl! And other stuff!!
Yangon, Myanmar. I said ” OH SHIT! “ pretty loud. This is a big, noisy city, so nobody heard. I would have been too shy ten years ago, but not now, and , anyway, I look like a big scary Viking to these people. I roll up and start taking pictures of this guy, who is, of course, completely mystified. ( Look at the dude. I’m sorry, dude. )
I just got here last night, and I haven’t even learned to say ” thank you ” or ” can I have the bill, please? ” in Burmese, so, after I’d taken a couple of photos, I pointed at his shirt, and then I pointed at myself, and I said, ” that’s me, that’s my band ” in English. It was all I could do, and I knew he wouldn’t understand, and I knew there was no way to explain it. He looked around at all the other people cooking on the street and laughed and shrugged. It would be cool if he had one of the albums and looked at it tonight and said, ” Oh “.
This track totally slipped my mind til 2 weeks ago when I ran into Keith Morris in Austin TX and saw him front his current band ( OFF!, which looked like this ). Ruined Eye was the group I put together to record Land Of Treason ( the original is the third track on the Germs’ only album, 1979′s (GI) ) for Germs ( Tribute ) : A Small Circle Of Friends in 1996.
Ruined Eye : Land Of Treason
VOX : Keith Morris ( Black Flag, Circle Jerks )
GTR : Dave Navarro ( you know who Dave Navarro is )
GTR : J.Yuenger
Bass : Sean Yseult
Richard Avedon, Brandenburg Gate #1, Berlin, New Year’s Eve, 1989. I was in Berlin a week before this, during White Zombie’s first tour of Europe, a freezing, grueling, but vastly interesting affair. We spent Christmas alone in a room in a berlin club, and everyone in the band was sick but me, but we did manage to make it to the wall, where people from East Germany were streaming through for the first time. On this same tour, we played in Ljubljana and Zagreb, then part of Communist Yugoslavia, and we slept in an old slaughterhouse ( and I mean in a room with drains for blood ) in Hamburg, and we were on the last ferry allowed to cross the English channel in the worst storm in 10 years ( we arrived to find uprooted trees and overturned trucks .. and the show got canceled ), and we played in a Socialist squat in a giant old aircraft factory in Italy and a farmhouse in Switzerland and a military academy under a portrait of Marshal Tito and .. you can’t make this stuff up.
Records are back in a big way, they keep telling us, and it’s true : vinyl shops are not anymore solely the lonely domain of old dudes who spend their days dreamily recounting the Zappa/ Uriah Heep gig they saw in ’74, but of enthusiastic kids looking for scratchy soul 45s, limited edition pressings of European black metal albums, underground noise cassettes. I collect records myself, and although I did largely give in to the idea that CDs were here to stay ( I distinctly remember someone showing me the first compact disc I’d ever seen in 1989, so I think of the CD era as being from ’89 to about 2005, with near-total obsolescence coming around 2008 ), there was always music I wanted to listen to that wasn’t available on any format but vinyl. In fact, one of the very first things I bought myself when White Zombie started to do well was a Technics SL-1200MKII turntable, which cost me something like $399. That was crazy, extravagant money at the time, and I had a real “ Damn! I earned this!! “ feeling about it. I still use that same 1200, and it still makes me happy. Sometimes, before I put a record on, I pick it up. The thing weighs 25 lbs., and I find the weight reassuring.
All of the artists I’ve worked with lately have recorded with the intention, first and foremost, of making records. They want hand-screened matte cardboard covers, and they want heavyweight colored vinyl. They will, of course, offer the tracks for download, but that’s really an afterthought, because, quite frankly, where’s the fun? It’s just .. air, which becomes a tiny, hard-to-find part of your iTunes library, which you will mostly ignore until your hard drive wears out and you lose everything. Have you backed up your mp3 collection recently? I didn’t think so.
I still buy CDs, occasionally, because I like to have a hard copy. The CD itself is trash, a fragile thing that holds the data, but sometimes people put a little thought into the packaging, and the result can be an object worth owning. Usually not, though, and if a disc comes in a jewel case, I throw the case away and put the booklet and CD in a paper envelope, which takes up 1/3 the space and doesn’t have those little plastic teeth that always break. God, I’ve always hated jewel cases. If I think a band can sell CDs ( which depends on the popularity of the artist, but also on the age group of the fans ), I will recommend that they make as short a run as possible ( disc manufacturers are falling all over themselves to stay in business, and making as few as 100 can now be slightly profitable, if you can shift them ) – if they sell, great, and if they don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Still, hearing your band back on a CD, or over the internet, can’t begin to compare with what used to be milestones for musicians : hearing yourself on the radio for the first time, and, especially, dropping the needle on a record that you made.
And now, this : here’s a 45rpm 12″ ( best fidelity! ) from Star & Dagger, which is Sean Yseult’s new band. Side A’s got In My Blood, a track from their forthcoming album, and side B has Stories and S&D’s take on Out Of Focus, the Blue Cheer psycho-blues stomper, both of which were recorded by me. This is a pretty cool item – limited to 500 copies, with a fully illustrated inner sleeve and clear / blood-red vinyl. Some of the discs, like my copy, shown below, have a sort of ” blood pooling on the bathroom floor ” effect, while others will have more of a ” crime scene splatter ” look. You can order a copy from New Orleans’ Last Hurrah records, which is here.
These sessions were hassle-free : a tight band, and lots of guitars, specifically Dava’s 1974 Gibson SG. Also in use are my 1978 Marshall head, Marshall cab ( stock, except I replaced two of the greenbacks with G12-65s .. you’ve heard this cabinet before, on Fu Manchu’s The Action Is Go LP ), and my Big Muff, pot-dated to 1980. I have several of these pedals, including a ” ram’s head ” model, but I refer to this particular one as The Killer Fuckin’ Death Big Muff. Finally, this : on Stories, that’s my loopy, rubber-bandy fuzz solo that fades in around 2:57. They handed me a guitar and said, ” here, play on this “, which I did, not thinking much about it, but as soon as people started to hear the track, I got a lot of comments like, ” This is the first time you and Sean have played together since White Zombie — dude, that’s huge! ”
01. Star & Dagger : Out Of Focus
02. Star & Dagger : Stories
Shooting a spot for Brazilian MTV with horror master Coffin Joe in his São Paulo lair, January, 1996. I hacked off most of the length of my dreads, which had been long enough that I could put them in my pants pockets, the night before we flew down there. My chief memory of this experience is that Coffin Joe had very long, yellow fingernails, with which he smoked long cigarettes. Benson & Hedges menthols, I think.
As fotografias eo texto não devem tocar!
As fotografias não devem tocar!
As fotografias não devem tocar!
Since you asked, a lot, here’s my White Zombie early guitar timeline :
Guitar #1. Gibson Firebird : purchased for $200 at the south side Guitar Center, Chicago, in 1986. At some point it had been stripped of its finish and covered with white latex house paint, its metal parts were corroded, and it had been played a LOT. The serial number was long gone, but it had trapezoid fret markers, full-size humbuckers, banjo tuners, extra-thin headstock, and it came with its original case – black tolex, white logo, purple velvet interior – so, a 1972-1979 Firebird V.
At that time, electric guitars weren’t really collectible unless they were rare variants (I remember that there were certain Fenders which had a particular cachet ; custom colors with matching headstocks were desirable, as were Jazzmasters and Jazz Basses with block inlays and reverse maple necks.), had originally been very fancy and expensive, or were particularly good players. Les Pauls could push an amp the hardest, especially if you raised the pickups as far as they would go, so those were good. Everything else was just an old guitar, which you could buy at a pawn shop. Look at photos of bands from the 80s ; rockabilly guys had beautiful old Gretsches, which nobody else wanted. Metal players routed out 1960s Stratocasters to install locking tremolo systems and active pickups.
This guitar, while it looked like it had been stored in a basement in Manila (or underwater, possibly), was within my meager budget, and it had that voodoo quality that you learn to recognize after you’ve been playing for a while : you can pick up a guitar, and by the heft and balance of it, the way it feels in your hands, the way the wood resonates when you tap it — you just know when you’ve got a good one. You don’t have to plug it in. You don’t even have to play a note.
I tossed all the hardware except the pickups and tuners (I know, I know, but remember, that stuff wasn’t worth anything in 1986), stripped the latex off, and spent days carefully applying thin coats of dark blue spray paint. I got a new black pickguard, chrome tailpiece and tune-o-matic bridge, knurled chrome knobs, and I had it all put together at a little guitar store in my neighborhood (I cringe, now, to think of how I used to bug the guys who worked there, but what else was there to do? All the boys and girls who want to be in bands still do the same thing) and it looked great, triggering a collective ooooh every time I took it out. It sounded great, and it was unbelievably easy to play. A keeper.
I moved to New York at the end of 1987, sat out the following year (worked, took the bus, failed to meet anyone who wanted to start a band, wrote long letters to dispersed friends, went to CBGB by myself), and joined White Zombie in the beginning of 1989. I quickly acquired a more suitable pointy-headstock-and-locking-tremolo guitar (see Guitar #2), but the Firebird served as my on-stage spare through early 1990, when the headstock snapped on the way back from our first European tour.
1990-91 : we played shows, hustled, got signed, recorded La Sexorcisto, moved to Los Angeles. We brought what we could fit in the van, which, outside of (functioning) gear, wasn’t much. Our friend Damien (the character in the Thunderkiss video in long johns and skull mask, that’s Damien) lived with his grandparents in a big apartment in Brooklyn, where he let me store my meager stuff – the Firebird, a few crates of LPs, some books. The building burned down a couple of months later, destroying everything. As far as I know, there is no surviving photograph of that guitar, either in its original blue/black/chrome incarnation, or after Rob and Sean covered it in glittery/prismatic silver, red, and green flames.
Guitar #2. Charvel 6 : known to fans as the STP guitar, or, 666 guitar.
Basically a made-in-Japan version of a Jackson soloist. It has a faintly clunky, slightly miniature quality that an actual U.S.A Jackson doesn’t, but it is totally playable. Features include neck-through construction, bound neck and headstock, Jackson-licensed Floyd Rose (with a snap-in whammy bar that you were sure to lose), Jackson humbucker and two singles (everybody who bought one of these replaced them). It came with a funny silver plastic case that looked like a NASA equipment container.
In February 1989, right after I joined the band, Sam Ash (or was it Manny’s?) on 48th St. got a big shipment of these and blew them out for $350. Sean and I went up there together and I bought one, and she bought the matching Charvel bass. Now that I think about it, half the bands around then in NYC (Prong, Biohazard, Lunachicks, and more) had one of these on-sale model 6s, or some other inexpensive Charvel. At that time, people didn’t want Gibsons or Fenders, which seemed old fashioned, or cheap garage-band guitars, which everybody appreciated but which were strictly for display. They wanted high-functioning heavy metal guitars, hot-rod parts strats, pointy headstocks. Install a better pickup, cover your guitar with stickers, get your strings good and stretched-out the night before the gig. Go!
There’s not much to say about this one, except that it was solid, a workhorse, sounded pretty good, and was my main guitar from my first show with WZ through my first tour (USA, Summer 1989), second tour (Europe, Winter 1989-1990), recording of La Sexorcisto, and the first half or so of the tour for that album. I didn’t do anything to it except drop an EMG 81 into the bridge and an EMG single into the neck (I left the middle rout empty) - there were mini on/off switches for each pickup, which I thought was dumb, so I installed a Gibson-style 3-way selector. I’ve been asked many times if the White Zombie logo on the headstock is a custom inlay. It’s a sticker, and the question always surprises me, because I had no more access, at that time, to a skilled luthier than I did to a spaceship.
A funny thing about a guitar with a locking tremolo system is that it will often stay in tune better than one with a standard stop-tailpiece (how d’you like that G string, Gibson players?). However, restringing is a drawn-out, even stressful ordeal (you get used to it, but it sucks) and the bridge sometimes requires a daily bit of adjustment to perform really well. I didn’t have a guitar tech until much later, and I didn’t have access to the wealth of information available today about every aspect of guitar maintenance – and I sure didn’t know much about set-up and intonation ; I just wanted the thing to be stable and play in tune, so I put a block behind the trem – actually a piece of hard rubber, so you could pull back just a tiny bit, but basically just dive forward. In 1992, we played MTV host Riki Rachtman’s birthday party at The Palace in Hollywood, as did Pantera. They used our gear because their stuff was somewhere else, and Darrell couldn’t do any of his signature whammy-squeal-harmonic tricks with my guitar, which I’m sure seemed like a toy to him. He reacted with characteristic good humor, but kept catching my eye with a “What the FUCK am I supposed to do with this thing?” look. There’s a photo, somewhere.
What stands out in my mind about that period is how much I didn’t know about my gear, which I was using every day, traveling with, depending on. My Firebird broke in the cargo hold of an airplane because I had no idea you’re supposed to loosen a guitar’s strings when flying. The first time I played in L.A., my Charvel 6 mysteriously stopped working and I had to finish the set with the Firebird (which sounded pretty good, actually). The next day, I was .. to put it lightly, concerned, and L7′s Jennifer Finch, who was kindly showing us around, said, “Well, when’s the last time you changed the battery?” — I was like, “There’s a .. battery?” – I had no idea what ‘active pickup’ meant. In the studio, during the recording of La Sexorcisto, the tubes in my JCM-800 started to glow superhot and then the amp blew — Oh no, what have I done to this thing? Producer Andy Wallace said, “When’s the last time you changed your tubes?” — I had no idea tubes don’t last indefinitely. You can hear a marked difference in tone between the songs on the album recorded pre-and-post amplifier meltdown. Thunderkiss ’65, appropriately, features the sound of a Marshall that’s about to explode.
Guitar #3. The WZ guitar : the guitar from the Thunderkiss ’65 video, subject of much speculation, email, and more than one drunken late-night phone call. Lent to the Hard Rock Cafe in the 1990s, finally purchased by them in the 2000s. Spotted in various locations around the world.
This, in a photo I found on Flickr :
In early 1990, the cracking of the Firebird’s headstock forced me to get serious about finding a spare. It would need to be a metal guitar, with a Floyd, but being able to afford something like that, used, even, was out of the question. The Kramer Focus body I’d gotten from my friend Chris for $30 two years previous was an option. On the back of the photo below, which Chris sent me soon after I left Chicago, he wrote (under the banner “Feeling homesick yet?”) : “More about Kramer : I feel some words of praise for Mr.Floyd Rose are in order. Even though the headstock broke off months ago, the guitar is still in tune and playable!”
I met Chris through the Chicago hardcore scene, and during the period where my contemporaries and I were drifting away from punk, then leaving it behind entirely, then scattering to go to college, work, or off to something else, we were inseparable. We both dropped out of school at the same time. I lent him my guitar, which he proceeded to learn how to play better than I could in about 6 weeks. He got me a job at the photo lab where he worked (the contraband-containing metal Kodak film can, see it?), which allowed me to save up enough money – so I thought – to move to NYC. We consumed music voraciously (not only Metallica, Slayer, Venom, the metal bands we were obsessed with, but everything - notice the Residents LP), which we listened to on cheap turntables through big 3-way speakers made of chipboard. Here are guitars (the broken Kramer, to the left, and an early 80s Hamer Special, a common sight in Illinois pawn shops then), and several items that are particularly evocative of the era ; shelves made from stolen milk crates, empty Augsburger bottles, guitar tab books.
I collected some really excellent prismatic hot rod stickers at swap meets (unless we had to get somewhere fast, we always pulled the van over and went to flea markets), which I plastered on the Kramer and sealed down with a layer of urethane. I bought a neck from the ESP shop on 48th St., begged and borrowed other parts, and cobbled everything together. I got an EMG pickup and pots and installed them myself (my first attempt at doing my own soldering), not that I knew how, but I copied the wiring from my Charvel, and it worked. The assembled guitar didn’t intonate correctly, and thus was never quite in tune, and my main guitar hardly ever broke strings (I mean, like, never) so I probably only played it once or twice on stage, although it did make an appearance in some early experiments with tuning down in 1992-93. The guitar tracks on La Sexorcisto are 99% the same set-up : Charvel 6 → Pro-Co Rat → Marshall, but I did use the WZ guitar, which had a twangier sound, for some leads and overdubs : for example, check out the little tri-tone symphony that happens in Starface from 3:24 to 3:40.
As for Chris, he stayed in Chicago and formed a band which was about as different from mine as possible. Trenchmouth ( I did a vinyl-grab of a track I particularly like back in February, which is here) were an indie – that meant something, then – group who evolved from a muscular postpunk sound (think Dischord Records, kind of) into something else that I really can’t pigeonhole : a trippy, dub-inflected, acience fiction vibe that was groovy yet angular (I know that’s not saying anything, I guess you’ll just have to go listen to them). This was the grunge era, yet they were spiffy guys who somehow kept their suits presentable on van tours. I ran into them from time to time. They slept on my floor once, in L.A., and they played me heavy dub and electronic records, music totally outside of my experience. Today, in a widening of divergent paths, Chris, who I talk to occasionally, is a chemistry professor.
Iowa, 1995. I was not very good at being a rock star : after soundcheck, when I should have been chatting up chicks or looking for drugs, I was walking the empty streets taking pictures of abandoned buildings. I was a weird kid.
Postscript : A couple of emails from people who were at this show have prompted me to think more about it. Another thing that happened that afternoon was that I was getting coffee, and an angry old guy in janitor clothes ( you know, Dickies in pale green, the ones you have to go to the uniform store to get? I had a pair of those pants which were actually pretty slim - very rare – and I treasured them. The gas station jacket/ work clothes/ Dickies thing looks totally 90s now, but I still appreciate custodial fashion ) handed me a summons. A previous gig in Davenport ( Q: White Zombie played in Davenport, Iowa more than once? A: Yes indeed. Des Moines and Cedar Rapids too! ), at a beautifully restored old theater, resulted in fans destroying some of the seats — and from what I could gather, the theater ( or just this guy, I don’t know ) was trying to hold us responsible. Of course, this is arrant bullshit, security being the promoter’s responsibility. Besides, who the fuck puts on a metal show in a nice place?
This was the appropriate venue for an evening of aggressive music. There was nothing there to hurt but yourself. Fantastic. Insane.
I was pretty surprised, and I couldn’t think of anything to say. The angry old guy spun on his heels and left, and I looked around at the people in the coffee shop, who smiled and shrugged. Later, when I showed the summons to our tour manager, he told me ( apparently having had some experience with this sort of thing, I didn’t ask ) that one should never accept any kind of summons, subpoena,etc. if one can help it, acceptance being something like an admission of guilt. Then we laughed and tore it up. You’ll notice that musicians who are on tour often have a detached, subtly amused air about them, especially if they’re out there for long periods of time. When you’ve been on the road for a year, and you’ve got a year to go, everybody who lives in one place seems odd, every interaction is surreal, and nothing really matters except the next show, and the next, and the next one after that. I miss it, and I don’t.
So much email, so many questions. One thing many people want to know is if I still have my WZ guitars. Of course, they’re all right here. I sold 3 of them, instruments I didn’t really play live or in the studio, to the Hard Rock ( one of which seems to be particularly interesting to people so I’m planning a story about it ), but here are the other, whatever, twenty.
That’s right – I set a guitar on fire and smashed it. In fact, I’ve gotten to do that twice. Breaking a guitar is harder than it looks.
Hey, so, Sean continues her I’m In The Band book signing tour tonight – Monday, April 4th – at Quimby’s, 1845 W.North Ave. ( come on, Chicago people, I know you know where Quimby’s is — it’s the coolest bookstore in the history of bookstores ) at 7pm .. then, Tuesday April 5th, she’ll be doing a DJ set/ party/ book signing at Delilah’s, 2771 N.Lincoln Ave. There’s going to be a giveaway of rare WZ items – I heard tell of vinyl LPs!
This record came up the other day in conversation with an old friend – it’s a fairly obscure DC hardcore 7″, the band’s only release, and he and I bought it from Ian Mackaye when Minor Threat played in Chicago on April 29th, 1983. I dug this stuff a lot back then – it fits pretty firmly in with the DC sound of the day ( I think the general tone here is quite similar to Faith’s Subject To Change ), although Jason Carmer’s heavy Telecaster switches things up a bit, as does the use of effects and atypical instrumentation. I remember thinking that Death Of A Friend was wayyyy out there, which goes to show how conservative a lot of us hardcore kids actually were.
Fun White Zombie fact : see the head in the lower right corner of the cover shot, behind the person who’s taking a picture? That’s Sean Yseult. This was a 1982 gig in Raleigh NC that she attended 2 days before moving to New York. The opener was Buckwheat’s Army, who would later become known as Corrosion Of Conformity.
01. Double-O : You’ve Lost
02. Double-O : Is It Better
03. Double-O : Grey To Black
04. Double-O : Death Of A Friend
05. Double-O : There’s No Reasoning
So, one night during the tour when the Ramones opened for my band ( yes, that sounds strange to me too, but the fact remains ), I got to be The Pinhead, hand the Gabba Gabba Hey sign to Joey, and dance around on stage.
I was looking at this amazing collection of photographs taken at New York City hardcore shows in the mid 1980s and I got really nostalgic, which is funny, since I wasn’t there. I thought I recognized the singer in the shot below as Rik Slave, who now fronts Rock City Morgue and who I’ve recorded many times. I showed him the picture, and he said ” Yeah, that’s me. Everybody in that photo is dead, but me. “. I always wished I’d grown up in NYC, but, you know, maybe it’s better that I didn’t.
01. The Kretins : Mercy Of The Lord
02. The Kretins : Fortune Teller
Fun White Zombie fact : The photo on the cover of The Kretins’ 1984 7″ was taken by Sean Yseult.
Hey y’all, friendly postcard from Vegas. Early 90s.
Monsters Of Rock, Castle Donington, UK * 1995. The good : we played a quality set, sold more merch than Slayer ( in your face!! ), got to watch Metallica from right under their shoes in the snake pit, and I spent the day shooting the shit with Kirk Hammet, Slash, and etc. and etc. — the notgood : I left my laminates at the hotel, my lanyard with every single one I’d gotten since 1992. This is very bad form ( ask a roadie or a tour manager ), and something I just don’t do, but jet lag, ugh. Lisa Johnson dislikes this photo because I was heavily backlit and the light was all wrong when she shot it, necessitating much burning/ dodging by the printer, but, disregarding the technical, it’s pretty goddamn good. JUMP.
Here’s a mid/ late-90s photo of my 1994 Ibanez IC500 Iceman ( referred to by fans as the Right On! guitar ), the Japanese factory-made set-neck guitar that I recorded all the ” Drop C# ” ( low to high, C#, G#, C#, F#, A#, D# ) tunes on Astro Creep : 2000 with ( Creature Of The Wheel, Real Solution #9, the rhythm parts for More Human Than Human, etc. ). I also played it in the More Human video.
There’s an article here that features some photos of this model as it came from the factory, and you can see that the body and neck aren’t modified in any way. The first thing I did was toss the pickguard, of course. The bridge and tailpiece are standard-issue, as are the tuners, although these guitars came with white plastic tuner knobs and there are chrome ones here — I can’t say for sure, but the Ibanez custom shop had a stock of vintage parts that I raided from time to time, and these may be NOS knobs from the 70s. Anyway, I think the chrome looks a lot cooler.
The bridge pickup is a Seymour Duncan Custom, and the neck’s a Duncan 59 – my standard setup at that time. I’d read an interview with Eddie Van Halen in a guitar mag where he explained his idea that anchoring pickups directly into a guitar’s wood body ( as opposed to mounting them in a pickguard or plastic pickup rings ) results in more tone, or harmonic richness, or something — which sounded plausible to me, so I had the guys at Ibanez ( specifically this guy, who is a wizard with all things stringed ) do that. I don’t really know if it makes much difference, but it gives a guitar a utilitarian, ” chopped ” look that I dig. I had all of my guitars wired with push/ pull coil-tap pots. Since I was 99.98% of the time playing loud, grinding heavy metal, such a thing might seem a little silly, but it’s a high-performance/ all-the-options feature that I like to have if I can. All of the rhythm guitars on Astro-Creep were played with the bridge pickup, volume and tone knobs on 10, but the are some lead and textural parts that were done with various humbucking/ single-coil combinations.
The More Human Than Human video shoot. Note #1 : We rented an old Kustom tuck n’ roll blue sparkle-vinyl amp as a prop, and I plugged it in and discovered that it was in full working order. I brought cables and pedals with me because I have a pathological dislike of videos where the band is pretending to play but don’t have their instruments plugged in — don’t ask, I don’t know, that’s just me. Anyway, video shoots are long, and they are boring, but at least I was able to play guitar to amuse myself. The two pedals you see here are a Roland AF-60 Bee Gee fuzz, and an original MXR script logo Blue Box – both were manufactured around 1975. Note #2 : Rob and I both showed up that day wearing old Sam Hain t-shirts. Weird, right? Also in the photo : my custom shop-made ICJ100WZ, and a selection of Ultraman toys given to me by kids in Japan.
Studio trick : in an effort to get a heavier tone, I took a D-string from a pack of Sean’s bass strings ( we both used Dean Markley Blue Steels, and I still do : that ” cryogenically frozen ” deal seems like bullshit, but they do, in fact, sound a little better .. and they wear out faster. Choose your battle. ) and used it for a bottom string. I had to notch out the slot on the nut a little, but that fat bass string actually did give the guitar a slightly more substantial sound. Also, If I was trying to do a part where my sound wasn’t working and something completely different was needed, I would patch my entire rig into one of her Ampeg SVTs – several lead parts on the album were recorded that way.
Back in the early 90s, you could still find vintage, unused stickers of the biker-skull-devil-blacklight-headshop type, and I covered everything I owned with them. I don’t remember where I got the 1970s Right On! bumper sticker, probably at a flea market .. the DROP DEAD one, I think, came with a zine – I don’t remember which, possibly Jim Goad’s Answer Me! ( that sounds about right, right?) ? There’s also one of these, which I got from this excellent store.
In the mid-90s, I was approached by Guitar World magazine to write a monthly column. I was taken by the idea insofar as I wondered if I could pull it off, but columns in guitar mags are about how to play stuff on the guitar ..which I am, evidence to the contrary, not very interested in. A crazy new sound? Awesome, you’ve got my attention. A dangerous band with matching guitars and a singer who’s pacing like a caged animal? Okay, yeah. Music I’d be absolutely incapable of making? Sure, let’s go. Learning to play other peoples’ solos note-for-note or teaching people mine? Not so much. While I might admire the skill of a speed-shredding virtuoso player, it is in passing and in the same way that I’d admire someone with an aptitude for long-distance running, or mimicry, or speed-typing.
What I decided to do was write nothing about how to play guitar. Back then, you could take lessons or buy Mel Bay books ( or do what I did, which is to spend hours and hours listening to records and trying to keep up ) but there was no practical guide for what to do once you’d figured a few things out and were ready to go jam with other people. Unless there was someone to teach you how to be in a band, you learned everything the hard way – doing it, gaining experience, and making lots of mistakes. Those were very different times : I wrote most of the pieces out longhand on a tour bus and faxed them in from a truck stop or a gig or wherever, and I never really knew if anyone was reading the thing at all — but I’ve been hearing from people who got a lot out of the column, and many of them have been asking if there’s any way to read it again ( to which I’ve been like, ‘I don’t know, eBay?’ ) – and now there is. All 21 columns are transcribed here.