We Review the Best Amplifiers for Heavy Metal

best amps for heavy metal

Back in the late 1960’s, rock music began going into many different directions. However, one of the new movements stood out and has, later on, evolved into a genre of its own.

Usually considered to be its inventors, Black Sabbath pioneered heavy metal along with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, and a few other bands who rose to fame during the 1970s.

black sabbath 1969

The sinister-sounding guitar riffs and intricate lead sections were enhanced by a huge distorted guitar sound.

Although it was a bit difficult to achieve a great distorted tone back in the day, companies slowly began making great pedals and amplifiers that eventually became of great importance to the genre.

In case you’re trying to achieve some seriously sinister tones, here are some of the best amplifiers for heavy metal that you should check out.

Table of Contents:

Let’s get into it!


Diezel VH4

Diezel VH4

This particular amp became somewhat famous among metal tone lovers after Adam Jones of Tool began using it. Although he uses the “Blueface” version of the VH4, the ones you can buy today are pretty similar. Of course, these are all really expensive amps, but what you get is worth it.

Featuring a peculiar looking front panel, this is an amp with four channels with individual controls and includes four 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section, as well as four JJ KT77 tubes in the power amp section.

Aside from a presence knob that can often be found on other amps, the VH4 also has a “Deep” feature that allows more shaping in the low-end spectrum.

Here’s a video demo of the Diezel VH4 100W 4-channel Tube Head by Sweetwater Sound.

Up next…the Randall Thrasher.


Randall Thrasher

randall thrasher

Randall is a company known for its high gain metal amps, and the Thrasher 120-watt head is most certainly one of their best products. With its two channels and different parameters, you have solid control over the high gain tones. The addition of the gain boost switch is also very welcome.

Overall, as its name suggests, the Thrasher is designed for the classic thrash metal tones and can achieve both mid-range-heavy and scooped tones. Although its drive works well, Thrasher’s clean channel has some great potential if you want to use specific distortion pedals.

Here’s a video demo of the Randall Thrasher by Joey Concepcion.

Up next…the Peavey 6505 Plus.


Peavey 6505 Plus

Peavey 6505 Plus

Of course, there’s no way to avoid Peavey on a list like this one. Within the huge arsenal they built over the years, we would like to single out 6505 Plus amp head with its 120 watts of power, “Rhythm” and “Lead” channels, and separate detailed controls for both of these.

What’s interesting here is that you have pre and post gain controls for specific tone shaping as well as presence and resonance knobs for each of the individual channels.

The “Rhythm” channel also features “Bright” and “Crunch” modes that allow some sparkling clean and specifically overdriven tones. With these, you can even do more than just metal, making it a bit of a diverse product.

Here’s a video demo of the Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo by Peavey themselves.

Up next…the Friedman Amplification BE-100.


Friedman Amplification BE-100

Friedman Amplification BE-100

Looking at this amp, it’s pretty clear that the model is inspired by some of those vintage British hard rock and metal amps from the 1970s and the 1980s. With the configuration of four 12AX7 and four EL34 tubes, you can expect some of the classic rock and classic metal tones and can even dive into some serious high gain territories.

While the amp is designed for some older metal, it can also satisfy some modern tone tastes. In addition to standard knobs, there are a few switches on it that can further help you define lead and clean tones. There are even different voicing options and the “bright” feature for those sparkling tones.

Here’s a video demo of the Friedman BE100 Tube Amp by Sweetwater Sound.

Up next…the Marshall JVM410H.


Marshall JVM410H

JVM410H-large

While we’re at it, Marshall deserves a mention on the list of the best amps for heavy metal. The company’s JVM410H is an interesting piece since it adds the functionality and tonal spectrum to the classic British vibe that these amps are known for.

All of the four channels ñ Clean, Crunch, OD1, and OD2 – have detailed controls for some serious tone shaping. Whatever is the guitar that you’re playing, you can get anything from sparkling cleans to crunchy bluesy tones, all the way to screaming metal leads.

However, despite its versatility, the JVM410H is specifically designed for some seriously heavy tones.

Here’s a video demo of the Marshall JVM 410H by Guitar Interactive.

Up next…the Orange Brent Hinds Terror.


Orange Brent Hinds Terror

BrentHTerror-large

Speaking about metal, there’s one pretty interesting piece done in cooperation between Orange Amplification and the modern guitar champion, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. Nicknamed Terror, this 15-watt amp head certainly justifies its name.

However, Orange amps are usually designed for those with specific tastes as the high gain tones often get a bit fuzzy. Of course, this is in no way a bad thing, but it should be noted that they’re designated for those who like stoner metal or the early Sabbath vibes.

Aside from its simple layout, this little tube-driven monster has power attenuation. The full power of 15 watts will be enough for gigs and rehearsals, but 7-watt, 1-watt, and 0.5-watt options come in handy for practice sessions and home use.

Here’s a video demo of the Orange Brent Hinds Terror by Riffs, Beards & Gear.

Up next…the PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti.


PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti

MT15H-large

Aside from the signature guitars with the company, Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge has a signature Paul Reed Smith amp called MT 15. Featuring relatively lower power output, there’s an abundance of tones that you can get with the MT 15 and its clean and lead channels.

But what’s so great about this one is that it can deliver quality tones even in the highest gain settings. You won’t have any issues with those blurry or muddy tones and even some chords will manage to sound good played through the MT 15. Also, there’s a power soak option that delivers 7 watts.

Here’s a demo of the PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti Signature Amp from Anderton’s Music Co.

Up next…the MESA/Boogie Triple Rectifier.


MESA/Boogie Triple Rectifier

Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier

Many would argue that Mesa Boogie is the best amp brand for metal. While this is open for discussion, we’re most certainly aware of why this is the case. After all, Mesa Boogie made the famous Triple Rectifier, known for some of the most brutal tones of all time.

While there’s an abundance of things that you can do with its three channels and all the knobs and switches, it became famous for its use in heavy metal music. The 150 watts of sheer power will simply blow you away, no matter the specific tones you’re trying to dial in.

Here’s a video demo of the MESA/Boogie Rectifier by Ola Englund


Conclusion

Heavy metal is more than just a guitar tone – it’s a state of mind.  But if you happen to have both going for you, plus some lightning-fast fingers, you’ll be unstoppable.  Let us know if there’s some amps you know of that belong on this list that we missed, we always enjoy hearing from you!

Thanks for reading!

We Review the Best Amplifiers for Rock Music

rock face
 

Ever since its inception in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, rock music was first among all the other genres to push the boundaries and bring something new.

And it was up to the guitar players to do their best to shock the people by showing them what their instruments can do.

The constant struggle to achieve the heavy tone eventually led to the complete innovation within the genre, ultimately giving birth to heavy metal and all of its sub-genres.

sabbath1970

But the main thing always remains – if you want to play rock music, you need to know that the standards are high and that you have to have a good tone.

This means you need a solid guitar, solid pedals, and a solid amp. With all this in mind, we will be digging deep into the world of guitar gear and finding the best amps for rock music.

Table of Contents:

Let’s get into it!


Boss Katana 100

boss katana 100 watt guitar amplifier black

After all these years, tube amps are still generally regarded as the best amps for pretty much any genre. However, some prefer to use solid-state amps, not only because of their lower prices but also due to their distinct tones. And that’s especially the case with rock music.

Boss introduced the new series of products in 2016, solid-state amps called Katana. Among the few variations, all of which are great, Katana 100 stands out. This 100-watt amplifier can deliver some seriously tight tones with pretty surprising quality for a solid-state piece.

There are five different amp models on it, a 3-band EQ, additional effects, two channels, one 12-inch speaker, FX loop, and power attenuation for 50 watts and 0.5 watts. The inclusion of power attenuation is kind of unusual for a solid-state amp, but it certainly gives some versatile options here.

Here is a video demo of the Boss Katana 100 by Anderton’s Music Co.

Up next, the Peavy Bandit 112…


Peavey Bandit 112

Peavey Bandit 112 amp

Peavey Bandit amps are another cheaper alternative that still manages to deliver some solid tones. Although solid-state, the Bandit 112 implements the so-called TransTube technology that manages to imitate the tone quality and dynamic response of classic tube amps.

The overall output power is 80 watts and the amp features one 12-inch speaker. There are two channels – one clean and one lead – both of which work with two separate outputs ñ high gain and low gain. This way, you’re able to use the amp normally if your guitar has high output pickups.

The lead channel gets pretty interesting with different voicing options and separate controls for pre and post gain. Despite its relatively lower price, this amp works great for some solid rock tones.

Here’s a video demo of the Peavy Bandit 112 by Willy Booger.

Up next…the Orange Rocker 15 Terror.


Orange Rocker 15 Terror

Orange Rocker 15 Terror

If you’re looking to buy a tube amp, know that 15 watts can be more than enough if the amp is good. This is the case with Rocker 15 Terror by Orange.

The company has built its reputation over the years for building some of the best amps for rock and metal tones over the years. With Rocker 15 Terror amp head, we realize why there’s all the praise for Orange as it is a two-channel amp with a simple layout and loads of possibilities that can deliver some serious rock and metal tones.

It features three 12AX7 tubes and one 12AT7 tube in the preamp, while the power section holds two EL84s.

At full potential, you can feel its sheer power and that raw high gain that still manages not to sound too muddy even at higher settings. There’s also power attenuation for 7 watts, 1 watt, and even 0.5 watts for some late-night bedroom practice sessions.

It’s a straightforward rock tube amp and worth every penny.

Here’s a review of the Orange Rocker 15 Terror Amp by Guitar Interactive.

Up next, the Vox AC30C2…


Vox AC30C2

vox ac30c2

There’s barely any other amp model out there that as famous as the good old Vox AC30. First introduced way back in 1958, the model is still being made to this day, with the tone staying pretty much close to the original but delivering some new modern features.

This 30-watt amplifier has two channels, two Celestion G12M Greenback 12-inch speakers, and four different inputs ñ high and low gain both for normal and top boost modes. As for the tubes, there are three 12AX7s in the preamp and 4 EL84s in the power section, the standard configuration for British-style amps.

Overall, this amp delivers a lot of solid tones but is largely popular for classic rock and hard rock tones. It can get bright and a bit heavy on the high-end spectrum, but that’s something that a lot of guitar players are looking for. Also, it rocks that beautiful classic Vox design.

Here’s a demo of the Vox AC30 by Dave Devlin Music.

Up next, the Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200…


Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200

Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200

German-based amp manufacturers Hughes & Kettner are well-known for making solid amps and other products with some of the fullest, thickest, and most powerful tones. But just when we thought they can’t surprise us after great amp series like Switchblade or Tubemeister, we get the Black Spirit 200 amp head.

This extremely powerful 200-watt amp has four channels on it ñ clean, crunch, lead, and ultra ñ all of which can be tweaked in countless different ways to suit player’s needs.

Being a tube amp, it’s surprising to know that you can get those full tones even with the master volume even on the lower settings. Besides, there’s power attenuation for 20-watt and even 2-watt modes.

As if this wasn’t enough, it has an abundance of amp models and a DI output to go straight into the mix.

Here’s a demo of the Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200 by Ola Englund.

Up next…the MESA/Boogie Mark V.


MESA/Boogie Mark V

Mesa Boogie Mark V

Mesa Boogie is pretty much a standard go-to brand for rock musicians. On their Mark V model, they further developed what they did on their old amps, like the legendary IIC+.

Bear in mind that it’s not cheap and that it’s designed for professionals. But the abundance of options and the mind-blowing tone is worth it.

Three channels with separate EQ’s and voicing controls, 90 watts with 10- and 45-watt options, and even an additional independent switchable 5-band graphic EQ to add more flavor for special lead or rhythm sections.

This amp is a pure beast and something that you should check out.

Here’s a demo of the Mesa Boogie Mark V by MESA/Boogie.

Up next…some experts give their take on the question at hand.


Guitar Shop Picks

We spoke to Jim Deitzel from Cottonwood Music Emporium in Costa Mesa, California, to see if he had any favourite amps for rock he wanted to recommend. 

Jim says: “The Divided by13 BTR23 is a great amp for rock. It sports KT88 which rock, has a push/pull volume for extra gain.  It works perfectly with pedals and just kills.”

Good one!


Conclusion

If you are a musician and your goal is to play rock music, these are each amplifiers that you should at least take into consideration, before deciding what amp you really want to go with. 

Amps like these may sound great out of the gate, but there’s always new tricks to learn.  Let us know what you consider to be the best amp for rock music in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Bang Bang Bar Band Talks Twin Peaks – An Interview with Au Revoir Simone’s Heather D’Angelo

au revoire simone twin peaks

As a fan of Twin Peaks, and specifically the music the show has produced over the years, Season 3 had me wondering, like many fans, about some of the musical acts that were featured at the Bang Bang Bar (commonly referred to as the Roadhouse).  Many of these performers were indie acts, with a few exceptions. 

The full list of musical performers who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during Season 3 include: Chromatics, The Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, Nine Inch Nails, Hudson Mohawke, Rebekah del Rio, Moby, Lissie, The Veils, Eddie Vedder, and Julee Cruise.

The Twin Peaks Season 3 Soundtrack expands on the above list with many other tracks from the show, with the overall musical effect of the entire track list being that of a tour de force.

twin peaks season 3 soundtrack

The music of Twin Peaks has always been exceptional, with the main theme song written by Angelo Badalamenti even winning a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance back in 1991.

music from twin peaks angelo badalamenti

The music of Twin Peaks remains unique.  In this article, I had the chance to interview one of the members of Au Revoir Simone, Heather D’Angelo, now a Bang Bang Bar band alum, and ask her about her own personal Twin Peaks experience. (skip to the interview)

But first, a bit of context…

About The Bang Bang Bar (The Roadhouse)

twin peaks bang bang bar

In Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2, the Roadhouse was established as a location on the show that fit into the nuanced plot written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and would tie into the overall arc of the show sporadically, with drama between the shows’ characters playing out there from time to time.  

The concept of the “Bang Bang Bar”, as it was referred to as more so in Season 3, was also the show’s musical center in seasons 1 and 2.  However, Julee Cruise and her band were the only act we see play there during the first two seasons.

As viewers, we can only assume that Julee Cruise was only one act of many to pass through there, but we never get to see any other acts play.  Perhaps this is something Lynch sought to correct in this latest season of Twin Peaks.

During the first two seasons, Julee appears there several times throughout the entire run of the show (including the movie prequel, “Fire Walk With Me”), playing her soft, angelic music juxtaposed against some dark, depraved drama taking place in the plot, creating a juxtaposition of both tranquility mixed with violence – an unsettling combination to be sure.

With the Roadhouse being such a seedy juncture in the Twin Peaks world, the idea of such a pure and unfettered sound of one such as Julee Cruise performing in such a dark place was and still is an unlikely proposition.

Fast forward 25 years…

25 years later twin peaks

Enter: Twin Peaks, Season 3

Enter Twin Peaks: Season 3 (The Return), aired in 2017.  The plot picks up almost literally 25 years after the finale of Season 2, where Cooper becomes possessed by Bob and delivers his famous line: “How’s Annie?”

This final episode (called “Beyond Life and Death”) to a beloved TV series was not the ending many fans were hoping for, but that’s the way director David Lynch chose to end the show, when this final episode of Season 2 first aired on June 10, 1991.

The reasons for this ending to Season 2 were perplexing to fans, but no less perplexing than the entire run of the show itself up until that point, really. 

Still, while hardcore Lynch fans always appreciate a good Lynch-ian twist, more casual (and probably less fanatical for absurdist cinema) fans of the show were left with mild cases of PTSD from watching their beloved Cooper become possessed by the ultimate evil, and then: roll credits.

Perhaps it had something to do with David Lynch not directing the majority of Season 2, and walking away from the show until the final episode, where he comes back with the express purpose to, in his own special way, put an end to the show he started.

As has been reported by various sources (ie. Vanity Fair), David Lynch hates Season 2 more than anyone else could, with the tousle-haired cinematic maverick having been quoted publicly as saying it flat out “sucked”.

david lynch smoking

Fans would have to wait until 2017 when Season 3 of Twin Peaks finally reached airwaves to see how things would get resolved, and many were likely hopeful that such a gut-wrenching finale would indeed see some sort of satisfying resolution, once Season 3 finally concluded. 

Fans of Twin Peaks might have thought a positive outcome to be particularly imminent, considering this was David’s chance to right any directorial and plot-related wrongs done to the show throughout Season 2.

Well, did he?  To answer this question would take us well beyond the scope of this article, and so at this time, let’s now return to the topic of…The Bang Bang Bar, and the music we hear there throughout Season 3.

Back To The Bang Bang

One thing that seemingly had not changed much in the world of Twin Peaks was the Bang Bang Bar.

bang bang bar exterior

In the world of Twin Peaks: Season 3, it was still the place in Twin Peaks where various seedy drama and nefarious subplots play out.  But this time around, we’re treated to a variety of diverse musical acts.

It was as if the Bang Bang Bar was perhaps doing better business these days, busily booking more bands, and becoming an increasingly hipper place to be, which we, the viewers, we privy to seeing who would turn up week to week. For nostalgic fans, Julee Cruise and James Hurley both come back to the Bang Bang Bar to perform.  

Otherwise, we were treated to some fresh faces at the good old Twin Peaks Roadhouse.

Cue: Au Revoir Simone, playing their tune, “A Violent Yet Flammable World”, from Season 3: Episode 9.

Au Revoir Simone

Some of the choices for bands who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Season 3 seemed to be more in line with the world of Twin Peaks that fans know, while other performers were more unexpected.  

Au Revoir Simone, who perform on two episodes of the entire Season 3 run of the show , were at once a fitting, and yet somewhat unusual, choice.

au revoire simone

Why fitting?  Well, here we have, not 1, but 3 silky-voiced chanteuses playing ethereal, melancholic music in a slow, pulsating manner.  This is enough, perhaps, to qualify them as a good fit for the rather happening, and yet fictional, venue.

Why unusual?  It seems that in the intervening years between Seasons 2 and 3 of Twin Peaks, the always and forever-to-be stuck-in-the-past environs of the show have been forced to admit that yes, even in a seemingly timeless setting, time is passing. 

Hence, Au Revoir Simone have their synths in tow, and there is no particular attention drawn to their synthpop nature.  Perhaps now Twin Peaks is a world that has caught up to as far as the 1980’s, rather than being a throwback to the ’50’s or ’60’s.  

(The interview begins…)

Interview with Heather D’Angelo of Au Revoir Simone

heather d'angelo

It seems that curiosity got the better of me.  I felt the need to reach out to the bands who played at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Twin Peaks: Season 3, in order to satisfy my fan-boyish urge to know more about these bands, and how they managed to appear on the show.

And so, here is my conversation with Heather D’Angelo, who is one third of Au Revoir Simone, discussing the bands’ appearance on the show and how it all came to pass.  Enjoy!


When did you start writing music?

Au Revoir Simone started out as a cover band, actually, working on covers of 80’s and 90’s songs from different genres.  We were just doing this for fun, as friends getting together and seeing how it went. 

Back in the early 2000’s, we (Annie Hart, Erika Forster, and I) used to jam together, when we were all living in Brooklyn, and decided to form an all-girl keyboard band, since all of us played keyboards and we thought that all of us playing synths would be pretty entertaining. Eventually, each of us was armed with multiple synths – sometimes we’d have 9 going at once!

As far as our covers went, it turned out that our covers were too idiosyncratic to be just covers – they had their own sound – so that gave us the notion to start doing our own songs.  And it all began there!

Eventually, we got enough material together for a little EP called Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation.

Weirdly enough, a Japanese label and a British label picked up the EP, but we didn’t get any attention in the US – no one cared.

Funny thing was that the Japanese label had an english name – Rallye, and the English label had a Japanese-sounding name – Moshi Moshi

Moshi Moshi already were a well known indie label in England at this point, with bands like Hot Chip on their roster.  They were the ones that kind of operate on a new level, by saying “Ok, you guys are going to work with this PR company, etc.”, giving us tips on how to be a bit more professional.

So how did these labels come across your music, which then lead to your encounter with David Lynch?

They became aware of us through an indie music blog from the early days of the internet.

My good friend, Matthew Perpetua, is like the godfather of the music blogs. I think he actually had the very first music blog out there on the web in the late 90’s, called Fluxblog. There may have been one other one at the time, as these things tend to pop up in the zeitgeist at around the same time, but he was definitely one of the first.

Fluxblog was very popular for indie music and Moshi Moshi used to read his blog. Matthew used to write about our band when we first started, as he was a big fan of synthpop, and indie acts, and so Moshi Moshi read one of his features on us.

Steven Bass and Michael McClatchey then got a hold of our EP, which, at the time, was something we were screen printing ourselves in Annie’s bedroom and trying to distribute ourselves.

By the time we got to our first actual mature album, The Bird of Music, that was put out by both Rallye and Moshi Moshi, which had proper artwork and distribution. 

Listen to The Bird of Music on Spotify

The Bird of Music is what eventually ended up in the hands of David Lynch in 2007.

How did that come about?

There was a really cool event going on at Barnes & Noble in New York for some time, where they’d promote an author and then pair that author up with a band. 

A music supervisor for Barnes & Noble would seek out a band that they felt would match the author, and the author would do a reading from their new book, and a band would play during the reading, or between chapters.  It was pretty cool.

The music supervisor at Barnes & Nobles was trying to get us to do one of these events for some time, but it wasn’t working out, as we were always on tour, or the timing just wasn’t right.

But one day the music supervisor called and told us that David Lynch was promoting a new book, at the time, called Catching the Big Fish, and she thought that our music would pair really well with his work. 

catching the big fish

The book was about meditation, and she thought we could play some of our more dreamy material.

So we said “yeah”, because this time it worked with our schedules, and plus, it sounded really cool, so we did it!

But it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for David’s sound supervisor, Dean Hurley, hadn’t heard our music, liked it, and passed it on to David, who also liked it.

So, we then met David at the actual Barnes and Noble event, where we played, and he read from his book.

(cue: a  short clip from that show in 2007)

This was the beginning of your collaboration…which would have been about 10 years before Twin Peaks: Season 3 aired.

Yes.  Back in 2007.

That’s pretty cool that you encountered him that way.  His output is very varied, so to connect with him on a book reading is very cool.  Were you aware of all of these things that he does at the time?  For example, the books, the albums, the artwork, and so forth.

We were aware of him, generally speaking, but we didn’t know just how many things he was involved with. 

The event at Barnes & Noble was amazing.  That particular location of Barnes & Noble was something else – it was huge, like 4 or 5 storeys, and jam packed with people.  Just a massive, massive, MASSIVE building.

And when he was there, it was unbelievable – every floor, just shoulder to shoulder people, all trying to catch a glimpse of him.

For those who weren’t on the top floor, there was kind of a play-by-play being piped through their sound system, like one big listening party, and everyone was there just soaking it up.  It was then that we clued in to just how huge his fanbase actually is.

Were you into his stuff prior to this show?

Yeah, I really liked Blue Velvet, and his movies in general, but I wasn’t really a fanatic.  Same with Annie and Erika – we just knew of him, as most people do.  I had not watched Twin Peaks, though.  It just never crossed my radar.  I guess I was just too young.

I didn’t catch the show when it came out either, but a friend of mine recommended I watch Twin Peaks when I was in high school, so around ’95, as he thought it would be up my alley, and it was.  Had you seen any of his other movies?

Some of them.  I saw Mulholland Drive, which I enjoyed, and I was going to watch Inland Empire, but a friend of mine saw it and he was so traumatized by it, I didn’t really feel like watching it.

Yeah, Lynch seems to be very good at making very unsettling films that confuse and disturb people, as well as anticipating peoples’ expectations (especially fans) and then defying them.  I couldn’t make it through Inland Empire either!  That’s why I was wondering how Season 3 of Twin Peaks was going to turn out, considering his work seemed to be getting progressively more abstract.

Well, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with David several times over the years, since 2007, and so we were getting comfortable trusting his creative and aesthetic choices.  For instance, we worked with him on a retrospective he did for his work in Paris at the Foundation Cartier.

(cue: video clip from that exhibition)

(interview…continued) He had rebuilt a setting from Eraserhead at the gallery, and we were to perform in this setting.  So, he managed to incorporate our music into this production, and we were like, “Hell yeah!” and so we did it, and it was great!

Another time he invited us to play at Silencio, his private club in Paris.  Again, this is a beautiful club with a red-draped stage, and he was gracious enough to invite us into his world, which we have always been more than happy to do.

(cue: Llorando scene, from Mullholand Drive, filmed at Silencio)

(back to the interview…)

Over the years, we’ve remained friends, and would visit him in L.A., checking in from time to time.  He’s been very encouraging, incredibly sweet, and a great mentor to us. 

Prior to the return of Twin Peaks, he was mentioning it would be good to work on something together, and we thought that would be great, although we weren’t counting on it. 

We knew that historically, David has worked with Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti, and so we weren’t really expecting to work on any major projects with him, per se.  He seemed to have his inner circle of collaborators, and so we thought it was nice of him to suggest a collaboration, but, again, we weren’t expecting anything.

But then, we got the call from Dean Hurley, David’s longtime musical collaborator, who informed us that David was going to re-launch Twin Peaks, and was seeking out bands to be part of the show, and he was hoping we’d take part.  Before we knew it, we’d said “yes” and we were part of the production.

We’d never really worked with David before in terms of being part of one of his movies, and so we didn’t really know what we were in for.

None of Au Revoir Simone were actors, but we flew to L.A., and we arrived at this house, that looked like a community center from the outside, and we found that they had recreated, in minute detail, the Bang Bang Bar.  It was like, “Oh my god, I’m in the Roadhouse!”  Even though, outside it was hot and sweaty, this set made you believe you were in the Pacific north west, like Washington state.  It was insane!

There were extras everywhere, and everyone was dressed up like it was the ’90’s.  There were a few other bands there, like the Chromatics, and the Cactus Blossoms, who were playing that day.

We had no idea what was going on.  We didn’t know who was playing, or when, or how to dress.  We had no guidance of what to wear, which was particularly odd because the fashion of Twin Peaks is so particular.  We didn’t know which decade we were supposed to appear to be from.  ’80’s? ’90’s? Now?  Rock stars, or not?  We didn’t know.  We decided to just go with a “classic” look.  

We knew he was going to ask us to do two of our songs, which we did.  It was lip synched.  This wasn’t like Saturday Night Live.  We performed our songs, it didn’t take too long, and then we left.  Time passed, we didn’t hear anything at first.  Eventually, we heard from David, and he said “Great job!”, so we thought “Great!”

We were still very confused as to how this would all play out.  We still didn’t know if he was going to be using the footage of us playing, or just use our recordings on the soundtrack.  Would it be both songs, one song?  Just a snippet?  

We didn’t see how any of it turned out until the show aired.  Eventually, we were told to keep our eyes open for Episodes 4 and 9.  We saw it on TV like everyone else.

(cue: band playing their song, “Lark”, from their album, “The Bird of Music”, during Season 3: Episode 4 of Twin Peaks.

(back to the interview…)

For both episodes, I had Twin Peaks’ parties in San Francisco, but I told my friends that if I didn’t show up on screen, not to be surprised.  We weren’t promised anything, so then when we did appear, and we had a fair bit of screen time, I was shocked!

Both songs were edited, but that made sense, for the purpose of the episode sequencing.  Still, it was entirely a surprise that we even made it on the show at all!

I guess you didn’t get to sit down and watch the “dailies”, huh?

No, we are not from the film industry, so that didn’t even occur to us.  There wasn’t even hair and make-up, so how we presented ourselves was completely up to us.  Had there been a hair dangling in the wrong spot, I don’t know if David would have brought it up or not.  It all happened so fast. 

We had been on photo shoots before, where people fussed over our appearance a lot more than this instance.  So that’s surprising, that we were now committed to tape for an iconic show like Twin Peaks, which will be seen by our children and children’s children, and we weren’t really prepped in any way for this.  I just knew that we were performing, and David was there, behind the camera, capturing every bead of sweat.

Was the lip synching difficult?  What kind of direction did he give you?

We weren’t given any direction, so we just tried to channel our best collective Julee Cruise vibe.  We had basic instructions as to when to start lip synching, and that was about it.  

You were saying there were other bands there at that point?

We saw some of the other bands, but we didn’t really see too many other bands.  For the most part, we were just in and out.  We heard there was a shoot for the other bands on another day, but we weren’t there for that.  

Are any of you particularly influenced by Julee Cruise, what with the hushed, angelic vocals, and all that?  Were you told to emulate her in any way for the show?

No, not at all.  We are fans of hers, for sure – especially Erika – but there was no mention of us sounding like her, or us trying to sound like her.

Our influences are Stereolab, Bjork, Pavement, Air…Broadcast is a huge influence.  I personally am very into Air and Stereolab.

Pavement, really?

Definitely, I love Pavement.  

Are you guys formally trained musically in any way?

No, we’re all self-taught.

How do you come up with your songs, as a band?

We all have input in each others songs, although usually, someone writes a song, initially, and brings it in.  That’s when we begin to shape the songs to fit Au Revoir Simone.  Nothing is really off limits for discussion, and it ends up being an equal process in the end.  No one has more representation in the band – it’s equal parts all three of us.

No creative differences?  Wow, nice.

There are differences, but as a trio, there can always be a critical voice if someone is strongly against something, and we like it that way.  We can push and pull the songs until we are all happy with the result, but it’s not always easy to come to a consensus.  For instance, if someone doesn’t like a bassline, or some other musical element, we talk about it, until we can all agree on something.

How do you feel now that you are on the Lynch fan radar?  Do you consider yourself to be on that radar?

Yes, we are aware that his fans are now paying more attention to us, with many of them being very passionate.  It’s cool.  

And how has that balanced out with your entire fanbase overall?

Well, our old school fans are the best!  Like, if ever there’s any sort of hardcore Twin Peaks fans who don’t approve of us for some reason, our old school fans will jump to our defence.  It doesn’t happen much, and besides, that’s just how it is on Youtube.  People debate all the time.  For instance, why did we get picked for the soundtrack and not some other “dreamy” sounding pop band?  Maybe someone more like Julee Cruise should have been picked, some might say.  All in all, everyone has their own opinion.  We encourage discussion, and we appreciate different views.

Fair enough.  Did you bump into any other cast members at all while you were there filming?  I happened to watch some interview with Kyle MacLachlan, where he said that he didn’t even see any of the show until it was on the air, or really knew what was going to happen overall?  Kind of amazing, since he was basically the show’s star.

It doesn’t surprise me.  There’s an element of secrecy to all of this.  Plus, I think that everything was shot individually.  We didn’t really interact with the cast very much.

Did you talk to Mark Frost (Twin Peaks co-creator) at all?

twin peaks mark frost

No, I didn’t.  

So you never read any of this Twin Peaks books – The Final Dossier or The Secret History of Twin Peaks?

the secret world of twin peaks

No, I’ve just heard of them.  Haven’t read them yet.

They’re interesting, if you are into the sort of “bigger picture” of Twin Peaks, and the mythology and sort of subterfuge that goes into the show.  They act as companion pieces, and they’re really cool if a fan wants to dive deeper into that world, as they let you in on some of the more secretive elements.  For any fans out there, I’d totally recommend them!  But anyway, what happened after Season 3 wrapped up.  What changed for Au Revoir Simone?

I have seen David twice since the show aired.  One at the Festival of Disruption in Brooklyn, and another time back in L.A., after Season 3 had aired.  When I saw him last, I had just watched all of the episodes of Season 3 and I had a million questions that I wanted to ask him.  So it was hard to not geek out on Twin Peaks and ask him lots of questions.  I did get a few things out of him, but generally, we didn’t talk about that much. 

I did, however, mention to him how much I loved Episode 8, as it was so groundbreaking and probably the best thing to be aired on television ever.  I had a chance to dork out with Dean Hurley, but he really doesn’t have the inside scoop on Twin Peaks either.  No one but David and Mark know the whole story.  It’s always fun to speculate, though.

How did you feel about the ending of Season 3?

I liked it.  I am a fan of cliffhangers, though.  Besides, if you expect anything by David to wrap up with a neat little bow, you’ll probably be disappointed. So I didn’t expect the show to end in any neat and tidy way.  Which it didn’t.   

twin peaks season 3 ending


(interview end…) 

Check out Heather’s new fragrance line – Carta

Check out a list of all the music used in Twin Peaks: Season 3

Celestion Ten 30 Guitar Speaker Review

 

Finding a good guitar tone comes down to many things. You will need a good guitar, a good amp and a good set of guitar pedals if that is what you like to use. If not, the first two items should do the trick. This sounds about right? You can go one step further.

What most guitar players tend to forget is that the speakers in their amps or guitar cabs are important as well. These are what give your tone that specific color.

If there is one brand of speaker manufacturers out there who has gained a lot of trust from the community over the years, it is Celestion.

Today we are going to look at one of their entry level speakers – the Celestion Ten 30 – and talk about how it can improve your tone.

Lets see why Billy Gibbons and so many other legends trust Celestion with their tone.


Celestion Ten 30 Review

Feature Pick

Celestion Ten 30 8 Ohm 10-Inch 30-Watt Guitar Speaker

Buy On Amazon

The story of Celestion is a long one and includes a whole lot of chapters. They started out at the very beginning of the 20th century and have almost a hundred years of speaker manufacturing behind them.

When you show up with that kind of experience and knowledge, the market is bound to react one way or another. Being a British brand, Celestion’s journey to the legendary levels of popularity began when Marshall started using their speakers in their cabs.

Here’s the thing, though. Celestions don’t come in every guitar amp. In fact, you rarely find them these days if you take Marshall and Vox out of the equation.

So how do you access that awesome sound without owning these brands of amps? Simple, just get yourself a set of Celestion speakers.

Since most of their Greenbacks and similar 12 inch units tend to be quite expensive, we have decided to show you something that is much more attainable for most guitar players. Celestion Ten 30 is a great speaker that won’t break your bank account.


Design and Features

When it comes to design, there is nothing too outstanding about Ten 30. Celestion has used their standard steel harness which has been proven to be a good choice in the past.

One benefit of taking that route is the fact that the diameter of the harness as well as the position of the holes matches most standard cabinets.

The only thing to consider is that this is a 10″ unit so it won’t fit into a cab designed for 12″ drivers without some modification. With that said, the build quality of the harness is great.

This is the type of setup that reduces, or should we say eliminates any movement or wiggling once mounted. What that translates to is low vibration and low noise during use.

The magnet itself is a standard Celestion ceramic unit. This particular model is a 8 Ohm version, although a 16 Ohm is also available. Naturally, you would get the one that matches your amp.

When it comes to the frequency range Ten 30 covers, you are looking at 85-5000Hz range. As you can probably tell it digs into the lows quite well.


Performance

With all that said, lets talk about how this thing sounds. After all, that is what matters the most in the end. In an effort to be as unbiased as possible, lets just say that it sounds like a true Celestion.

That doesn’t mean that there are no flaws to this particular design. One of the things Celestion speakers are known for is their warmth. We won’t say that Ten 30 lacks that warmth completely but it is also nowhere near as warm as a vintage Greenback.

On the other hand, you would expect as much considering the sheer price differential between these two speakers. The overall sonic profile tends to be biased towards mids and trebles.

That much is proven simply by looking at the frequency response charts.

The real question is what kind of real world consequences does all of this have? Before we go any further lets just put this out there. If your amp is a budget one, putting one or two of these in there will give you a proper boost in performance.

That is just a fact of the matter. Pushing such a setup with a good overdrive pedal will yield a very recognizable tone. Even though this is an entry level Celestion, it still has the combined heritage of many generations of Greenbacks and other legendary speakers behind it.

What we are trying to say is that in the midst of that overdrive tone, you will easily recognize that true Celestion grit which many of us have learned to appreciate.

In case you are leaning more towards a clean sound, this speaker will still offer a great performance. Despite its inherent lack of warmth, Celestion Ten 30 is easily warmer than most factory speakers being installed in modern amps.

In a way, a set of Celestion Ten 30s is a great way of familiarizing yourself with the brand and learning just what kind of tone is possible should you decide to go for one of the more expensive models in their offer. In that context, Ten 30 is a really great choice.

 


Feature Picks

 

Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Fender Acoustasonic 15 – 15 Watt Acoustic Guitar Amplifier

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Marshall Code 50-50-Watt 1X12″ Digital Combo Amp

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Blackstar Electric Guitar Mini Amplifier, Black (Fly3)

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Orange Amps Electric Guitar Power Amplifier,

 

Buy On Amazon

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day the whole deal behind Celestion Ten 30 is pretty cut and dry. There is no arguing that it is a budget speaker. However, it is also a full blooded Celestion.

If you are looking to upgrade your tone and you’re all out of ideas, getting this bad boy could be the solution you were looking for. The performance it offers is more than acceptable considering its price.

As a matter of fact it is one of the best bang for the buck deals you will find in the 10″ class at the moment. Fortunately for us Celestion is not the type of brand to pump up the price of their products solely based on their brand name.

How to Make Vaporwave Music Videos Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Are you looking to invoke nostalgia for the pop-culture of the past? Need a music video to match your new vaporwave tune?

Maybe you just want an introduction into aesthetic design. Look no further.  Today we take you through the whole process of how you can make your own vaporwave video using Adobe Premiere Pro. Check it out!

Oh BTW, here’s what our music video will look like, more or less, once we’re done:

Explanation:

We’re going to take gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game (although feel free to apply this to your favourite Simpsons episode) and split it into its red, green, and blue channels, like so…

We will offset those colour channels and then apply a VHS-tape warping effect to make it look like you recorded the footage 30 years ago.

Step 1: Obtaining Footage

Install a Youtube video downloader add-on onto your Firefox or Chrome browser.

Then, download gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game.

Download this VHS overlay while you’re at it: 

Step 2: Splitting The Layers

  1. Import your 8-bit footage and your VHS overlay into Premiere.
  2. Drag your 8-bit footage onto your timeline.
  3. Make sure you have 4 tracks by right-clicking on the blank space above your tracks and clicking “Add Tracks…”
  4. Unlink your audio from your 8-bit footage by right-clicking on it in the timeline and selecting “Unlink”
  5. Click on your audio clip in your timeline and press delete to get rid of it.

Your timeline should look like this:

Now we’re going to do a colour glitch effect.

Explanation: Every image on your computer is made by combining red, green, and blue in various amounts. We are going to separate the red, green, and blue channels of our gameplay footage.

Hold alt and click + drag the video up onto the V2 track. When you alt+click+drag, you’re duplicating your video track. Duplicate the track once more onto V3.

Click on the effects tab. Search for “rgb”. Select “Color Balance (RGB)”. Drag “Color Balance (RGB)” onto each one of your 3 tracks.

Since you’ve dragged the effect onto your video clips, you will now have a “Color Balance (RGB)” option in your Effect Controls window (top-left window of Premiere).

Click the video on your V3 track to select it and, in your Effect Control window, click the arrow to the left of “Color Balance (RGB)” to expand its options.

You’ll see a “Red”, “Green”, and “Blue” option. The idea here is that you want V3 to be only the red channel, V2 to be only the green channel, and V1 to be only the blue channel.

That means, for V3, click the number to the right of the ‘Red’ channel, type in ‘100’, then type in ‘0’ for the ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’ channels.

Finally, set the ‘Blend Mode’ of each track to ‘Screen’.

Your video layers are now set up, just go into the “Motion” tab of your Effect Control window and offset the ‘x’ and ‘y’ of each layer until you get a separation that you’re happy with.

You can change the ‘x’ and ‘y’ easily by clicking and dragging left and right on the values in your Effect Control window.

Step 3: Adding VHS Tracking

At this point, adding the VHS tracking video should be a breeze. Drag your “VHS Bad Tracking Overlay” from your Media Browser panel onto V4 so that it’s above all your other clips.

Right click on the clip and ‘unlink’ it from its audio, then click on its audio track and press ‘delete’ on your keyboard to get rid of its audio.

Select your VHS clip on V4 and, in its Effect Control window, set its Blending Mode to ‘Screen’. Setting its blending mode to screen will get rid of the black in the video and make it look like your footage underneath is genuinely glitching on an old VHS tape.

If your VHS tracking clip is too short, you can copy and paste it within the Timeline to extend it.

But be careful: Premiere will paste into whatever track is highlighted blue, so make sure V3, V2, and V1 are deselected, then select V4.

Now that the V4 track is highlighted, select the VHS clip, ctrl+C, press ‘down’ on your arrow keys until your timeline marker is at the end of your VHS clip (pressing ‘up’ will send the marker back to the start of the previous clip), then press ctrl+V to paste it.

At this point, you’ll want to import any audio you want in your video and drag it onto one of your empty audio layers (A1, A2, A3, or A4).

Part 4: Export as MP4

Go to File -> Export -> Media…

Your export window will open.

Change your ‘format’ to ‘H.264’. This will compress your video and let you save as an mp4 video file.

You can leave most of these settings to default. Hit “Match Source” just to make sure.

At the bottom of this window you may notice your ‘Estimated File Size’. If your estimated file size is too large, you can go into ‘Bitrate Settings’ in your ‘Video’ tab and reduce the ‘Target Bitrate’ until your Estimated File Size is something more manageable for you.

You may want to reduce the ‘Maximum Bitrate’ along with it. Keep in mind, reducing the video bitrate also reduces the overall quality of your video.

Once you’re happy with the Estimated File Size, click Export and Premiere will start rendering your video out to a file you can upload to Youtube.

Part 5:  aesthetic Text

If you want vaporwave-style characters in your Youtube title, go to https://lingojam.com/VaporwaveTextGenerator, type in your title, and convert it to full-width characters. Then just copy + paste them into your Youtube title.

You’re all done! Hit play, sit back, and remember a time long gone.

What Is Electropop Music? Characteristics, History, Popular Artists, and More

Electropop, as a musical genre, has existed since electronic synthesizer-based music fused with pop music to create a new genre that is now widely known as electropop. 

In other words, if your music has synthetic elements, and yet aims to be popular, it could be considered “electropop”. 

But this is too simple an explanation – let’s dig a little deeper and explore the history, some of the characteristics, and popular artists working in the genre right now.


History of Electropop Music

The genre found its footing in the 1980’s with all sorts of electronics-based pop bands who were finding mainstream success, such as New Order, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, A Flock Of Seagulls, Aha, Soft Cell, Simple Minds, Erasure, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Depeche Mode, and countless others.  Back then, it was known as synth pop. 

Remember this classic synth pop song from The Breakfast Club Soundtrack – Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me)?

There was no “electro pop” label around this time in the early to mid-80’s, but there was electro-punk music.  However, “electro-punk” I believe referred to groups like Suicide, maybe Devo, and even early Human League. 

The whole “electro” label just wasn’t used widely yet during the 80’s, they apparently liked the word “synth” better. 

My guess is that “electro” still reminded people of electric instruments, which were already widely in use, so they needed to differentiate.  Who’s “they”?  The writers who wrote for music periodicals, of course.  Rolling Stone, NME, etc. 


Influencers of Electropop

The bands that influenced all of these new synth-based pop music were far more progressive in nature than what amounts to electropop today – back then, it was synth pioneers like Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, even Pink Floyd and Bowie – these were some of the very earliest synth-based songwriters who experimented with the technology and became widely known as masters of that technology before anyone else.

Here’s Jean-Michel Jarre, with Oxygene, Pt. 4 – a song that came out well before even synth pop emerged in the 1980’s.

Synth-based pop music artists, who started their careers in the 1970’s, and who were really hitting it big by the mid-80’s, showed us that electronic pop music could become just as widely accepted as many of the larger rock bands of the day. 

The rise of synth pop was surely to the dismay of some rock bands and out of touch record company execs at the time, who didn’t want to have to deal with a whole new batch of weirdos wielding instruments that didn’t look very exciting (futuristic pianos), and people that moved in a more “unnatural” way.

A good example of this new type of “weird” music could be summed up with a band like Devo, who looked more like geeks and dweebs than any type of typical rock star. 

However, if you were around in the ’80’s, you knew that movies by the likes of director John Hughes and others were presenting social outcasts in a new light. 

It was “revenge of the nerds” out there, folks, and all sorts of people who were formerly cast aside were starting to become more generally accepted in society.  Life imitates art, they say. 

This clip from the Revenge of the Nerds movie shows the influence of electronic pop bands at the time on popular movies, which were seen in theatres and on video cassette by millions throughout North America.

With synth pop on the rise, and its more fringe elements starting to align with the concerns of Western society, the music loving public was now willing to accept synth-based music as a legitimate form of music, just as they had accepted rhythm and blues before that into the cultural lexicon.


Synth Pop’s Mass Appeal 

In terms of why synths caught on in the first place, I think that once the prices dropped for certain synths, which were, prior to the early 80’s, too expensive for most musicians to afford – well, these now slightly affordable synths eventually were within reach of more “normal” people, and more and more musicians started using them for songwriting purposes. 

That’s when synth pop / electro-pop bands started to surface, as people got a hold of the synths needed to make the music. 

Here’s a popular synth pop track from the time, which many of you might remember – Take On Me by A-ha.

I’ll throw in a personal anecdote at this time to corroborate some of this information I’ve been saying.  In 1984, when I was 7 and in Grade 3 here in Canada, I remember we had an assembly in the gym where a number of synth pop bands came to our school and played synthesizer music for us. 

I believe they came from the high schools, and it was just an event to show us smaller kids what was happening in the world outside.  All these teenagers had weird hair (ie. mohawks, hair dye, giant rat tails and mullets), and played various types of keyboards that looked like pianos but didn’t SOUND like pianos at all.  I remember being slightly confused, but very impressed. 

The point is, by the mid-80’s, kids were getting synths for Christmas and were putting their piano lessons to use by forming synth pop bands, some of whom had just watched movies like The Breakfast Club.

As the 80’s progressed, synth pop bands around the country started hauling these large synths out on stage for live performances, and that’s when critics took note that bands started looking and acting different, being quite suspicious of these bands at first. 

After all, most concert goers and editorial writers only knew rock ‘n’ roll for the longest time, and had yet to catch up with the paradigm shift that a large part of society had already experienced. 

These stuffed shirts and yuppie types who were accustomed to things being a certain way all the time, certainly weren’t ready for people like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper – these total freaks that were also female, to boot!  Scary!

For some people, having their daughter take after Madonna was their worst nightmare.  Still applies today!

As mentioned, “electropop” as a descriptive term for a style of music still hadn’t been born yet, and the terms around this time were synth pop, new wave, and electro punk.  Even Madonna, who was one of the biggest musical stars ever by the end of the ’80’s, was still referred to as a pop artist, if anything. 

Also around this time (mid-80’s), hip hop was beginning to develop out of New York, with artists like Afrika Bambaata, and it too was based mostly on electronic elements with some help from Mr. James Brown.

Still, no genre of music was really being referred to as electropop at the time, as it was still filtering its way into the deepest levels of society. 

By the 1990’s, “pop” was a common way to describe a lot of music that was in the charts.  If it wasn’t rock, it was pop, unless it was jazz, or blues, or something else. 

In fact, if memory serves, all of the electronic music that was being written in the ’90’s and was considered groundbreaking such as Underworld, Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin, Orbital, etc. 

Their music was called just that – broadly labelled as electronic music, and was still considered a fringe element along with the venues in which electronic music was played – raves, festivals, dark clubs, and such.  Even though these types of events were becoming far less fringe and more appealing to the masses.

In retrospect, this, of course, was the rise of DJ culture, and as such, most rock people and even people who were accepting of synth pop in the ’80’s wasn’t exactly prepared to accept rave culture into their homes.  That is, until they had to because it was just too damn popular to ignore any longer.


Electropop

If you ask me, electropop didn’t become a specially used term until the 2000’s, when all of the electronic music and all of the pop music finally merged to create a single definable style with certain characteristics.

Artists like Lady Gaga, Calvin Harris, Ke$ha, Hardwell, and The Chainsmokers have been dominating the charts now for years and their music could easily fall under the umbrella term of electropop, even though their music would also naturally fall into other sub-genres as well.

Let’s have a look at and a listen to perhaps the queen of electropop – Lady Gaga, from back in 2008 when she performed on Ellen.

To define electropop, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and yet it sort of is.  It is a style of music that is often heavy on synths, but avoids certain cliches that a genre like synthwave might embrace.  For instance, electropop is modern, without being retro-futuristic if that makes any sense. 

To explain, a similar genre like synthwave music harkens back to the days of synth pop and retro electronic sounds from the 60’s / 70’s / 80’s, typically of the progressive variety.  Electropop, on the other hand, is music made for this moment, is influenced by all sorts of world music styles but especially hip hop, and doesn’t rely on any sort of dystopian futurism for it’s stylistic cues. 

Which means, electropop isn’t usually very dirty production-wise or overly dark or sinister theme-wise.  Rather, the themes of electropop tend to be more eternal – love lost and found, and more relatable themes of that sort.

Check out this classic Calvin Harris track from 2009 called I’m Not Alone.  It has some guitar, yes, but it also builds around some epic synths, making the whole production sound huge.

Electropop now is like synth pop was, or pop music in general always has been – meant to be timeless.  Instead of using a lot of standard rock instrumentation (which it reserves the right to if it wants), electropop music itself can be built up with synths so long as the synths aren’t too retro-sounding. 

They can be retro, but not past say, the late 90’s, or it gets into that territory of 80’s synth pop which is does try to consciously avoid, I think. 

I would say that the synths used in electropop music sometimes has to play down their synth leads, due to the inclusion of vocals, whereas more experimental styles of electronic music don’t have the pop vocal performance to worry about as much (my highly generalized take on things, I know).

While electropop has been described as robotic and artificial by some (in terms of production, if nothing else), electropop music still manages to dominate most pop radio stations today, as electropop artists tend to write songs specifically to be catchy and have mainstream appeal. 

Other similar genres to electropop will opt for a more underground appeal, which serves to legitimize them more with certain fanbases, whereas electropop always goes for the largest audience possible, because it is “pop”, after all. 

Cue “Fireflies” by Owl City.

That said, the genre can still be experimental music in nature if it so chooses, as it is perpetually trying to be cutting edge and modern, attracting the slickest producers in the game, as well as some of the most talented artists in music right now. 

And, at the same time as it tries to be cutting edge, many detractors of electropop will claim that the genre is to music as the Twinkie is to nutrition – as in, devoid of any real value due to it’s assembly line production style.  In the end, all views are subjective, and tastes obviously differ from person to person.  

Like it or not, electropop is a dominant force in music today because it is one of the remaining musical genres where the success level can still be huge, as evidenced by artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Owl City, Passion Pit, and others. 

And, with the accessibility of recording software and hardware, it is easier than ever for an artist to write an electropop song by themselves with no help from anyone, and make it sound like it was written by a million-dollar producer.  So, what are you waiting for?  Go do it.  If the Owl City guy can do it, why can’t you?

What Is Synthwave Music? History, Characteristics, Artists, and More!

Music these days has splintered off into a thousand and one sub-genres.  Who can keep track?  Me, I guess.  With the genre known as synthwave, there is the added complication of there being two different incarnations, with one appearing in the late 1970’s and lasting for another decade or so, and the other being much more recent, starting in the 2000’s and continuing to this day.

If you are new to synthwave, we will try to describe the difference between the two genres, and clarify what exactly synthwave is now. But first, we’ll dip into the history of the genre.

History of Synthwave

What synthwave is and what it was are basically two different things.  The original genre of synthwave was also called synth-pop or sometimes electropunk.  It was never really called synthwave actually, or even “synth wave”, specifically.  If I recall correctly, it was referred to as synth pop, but some writers may have called it synth wave at some point.  For our intents here, we will distinguish between the first wave being called synth wave (note the space), and then the second and most recent incarnation being synthwave.  Get it?

Before we go further, here’s a taste of some old school synth wave from one of my favourite 80’s movies, the 1981 John Carpenter classic, Escape from New York with Kurt Russell starring as Snake Plissken as…ah, look it up if you feel like it.

Escape from New York doesn’t exactly “embody” the genre of synth wave aka synth pop, but no one song or soundtrack does. 

The essential premise of the original wave of synth-based music, under the umbrella term of synth pop (but was not really synth pop at all), is that it involved any music that contained a lot of synths, was used for a sci fi or action movie soundtrack, and combined it with a type of futurism, with the result being a type of music that best used for scoring films and video games. 

Synth pop was part of this “wave” of synth-based music, but synthwave, or what would become synthwave nowadays, was sort of an undefined type of synth music that was becoming popular due to the proliferation of the technology, plus the types of movies and games that were permeating pop culture at the time.  Speaking of pop culture, I remember in 1987 when Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was in theatres, and this song, called “Oh Yeah” by Yello, came on the screen at the end.  By this point, you knew (or can see in retrospect, at least) that pop music and offbeat experimental electronic music had finally melded into one.  

Influencers

Who influenced the first coming of synth wave?  Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, and Vangelis are some of the essential first wave synth proponents from the ’70’s, not to mention all of the retro gaming music composers like Rob Hubbard, Matt Gray, and countless other old school retro video gaming music gods.  

These guys had their roots in classical, jazz, and prog rock, so they weren’t exactly mainstream hitmakers.  In fact, they weren’t part of the mainstream at all, although their sound was so powerful that it attracted new fans left and right.  

There were still most often vocals in these original synth wave songs that became hits in the 80’s, like any other pop song of the day, but often songs had no vocals to highlight the soundtrack nature of some of the songs, as shown in the above examples for instance.  It was always a dichotomy, with some songs going straight for the pop jugular, and others being steeped in obscure references and progressive music from the past.  

Here’s a synth pop song with vocals that was aiming for mass appeal, from classic synth pop band Depeche Mode.

In many cases both the bands who performed synth wave, in the manner that people still play it today, represented “the future” in one way or another, either performing as robots, cyborgs, (ie. Kraftwerk) or some type of futurist (often dystopian). 

Of course, if they were more on the new romantic side of things, they might just be sharp dressed individuals with some type of distinctive “look”.  Hair was always something to check out on these artists.  Think Duran Duran circa 1984.  They still had guitars, but synth was a big part of their sound and they went on to be one of the biggest bands the world has ever known.

Here is a band that informed the original synth pop bands a great deal – the legendary Kraftwerk.  This was back before they really modelled their look after dystopian futurism, in 1975.  They went on to call it “machine music”.

Divergence of Synth Pop and Synthwave

It is also worth noting that when it comes to categorizing music in general, the acts that were considered “synth” groups in this original period of the 70’s/80’s were more so labelled as such by music journalists who were having a hard a time figuring out what to refer to these new and different bands as in music magazines. 

Music industry people had never seen bands like these before, nor were they familiar with synths in general, so no one really knew what to call these types of groups.  Should they be called synth pop, new wave, synth wave, electro punk?  Synth pop, to my knowledge, was the prevailing term of synth-based bands at the time.  Synthwave, as we now know it, was still at this time more of a loose concept than a formal term, and embodied the more experimental aspects of synth pop.

 Here is the group, Yazoo (AKA Yaz), with their hit, “Only You”, written by synth master Vince Clarke.  Undoubtedly synth pop.

The bands themselves didn’t always refer to themselves by any such label, ie. “synth pop”, or anything else at the time.  That said, once the term synth pop had caught on, bands realized they could benefit by billing themselves as such, and so they did later on, once the term had been firmly entrenched in mass culture as a whole.

Many of these synth-based acts, while reaching their peak in the 1980’s, still started their careers in the 1970’s, when synthesizers were becoming more accessible to musicians by virtue of slightly lower prices at music stores. 

What Is Synthwave Now Vs Then?

The relatively “new” breed of synthwave music is not really referring to the old guard of acts who once embodied the genre like Depeche Mode, and the rest.  Synthwave (no space this time) began in the early 2000’s, and, like the synth pop of old, certain tracks were instrumental only, while others feature vocals prominently.  This has never been the deciding feature of the genre.

Let’s kick this section off with some Mitch Murder and his classic track, “Remember When”, which flashes back to the ’80’s and some of the great nostalgic memories from movies of that time including E.T., the Karate Kid, the Breakfast Club, and more.

Modern synthwave, while it does sometimes target mainstream listeners, generally is more of an underground self-aware type of affair, with only a select group of listeners who care about old movies, video games, and synth pop caring about very much. 

That said, while its crowd is currently somewhat selective, I think it is also fair to say that synthwave has elements that appear in all forms of modern popular music in terms of radio hits nowadays, because most radio hits love to incorporate synths more now than ever into their song arrangements. Still, this type of music would now be considered electropop, not synthwave.  

Regardless of which demographic it is aimed at, this new form of the genre takes everything that happened in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, including video games, movie soundtracks by famed directors like John Hughes and John Carpenter, and, of course, the original bands that inspired the name (pop, experimental, or otherwise), and mash it into one glorious cocktail of sounds to give us what is the essence of “synthwave” now. 

Let’s have a listen to the track Ghost Dancers Slay Together, by Perturbator, which definitely throws back to some serious old school vibes featuring a dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic.

It was in the 80’s that the music business and fans as well realized how much they loved the sound of dystopian futurism, and it became bigger in some ways than anyone might ever have dreamed. 

Not to name drop Depeche Mode again, but in recent years their world tours have generated more money than almost anyone else, and even though they typically are thought of as synth pop, they too have strong synthwave elements – go figure.  

The new synthwave really makes no bones about where it comes from – it honours the past while also playing with it, then serves to experiment and forge new ground where it can.  It is not a limited genre, but, like all genres, it follows certain trends and cliches which everyone loves and are tried and true.

Equipment Used in Synthwave

The driving principle behind the music described as synthwave now is – surprise – using lots of synths.  Whether it’s an actual analog synthesizer, or a VST (Virtual Studio Techology) which replicates old school synth sounds, synthwave tracks generally feature these sounds, as well as synth drums.  Big, evil basslines are also found in synthwave music, courtesy of the right analog gear or particularly juicy VST’s. 

Retro elements from old video games and movies are definitely taken advantage of as well, in the form of certain familiar tropes.  At the same time as the music has a retro feel, it uses modern production to update the sounds which, in their original incarnation, may have been more contained and sparsely produced, can now be blown up to sound huge and, more suitable for today’s larger than life global culture.  Since synth users were always considered more geeky than their rock guitar playing counter parts, it is no surprise that they seem to have a better insight into musical production, if I may generalize.

Check out this epic track by Gunship, called Art3mis & Parzival, which successfully combines all the elements that make synthwave what it is – dystopian futurism, retro gaming, soundtrack music, but it combines it with more modern elements as well.

Another element of synthwave today is the “open source” nature of the sounds themselves.  Creators of certain tracks are apt to share various patches with other creators in order to create certain sounds.  This, in a way, makes the “sound” or “effect” the star just as much as the artist.  Because, once artists become aware of a particular patch as being a good one, the community will rally around it and actively mention it and promote it.

But synthwave is now more than just music.  It is also wrapped up in culture itself, with synthwave style art also being somewhat definable.  Just drop by any platform that features a visual component (instagram, etc), and you’re bound to see some synthwave style artworks.

Unfortunately for those of us who would like to keep things simple, the rabbit hole that is synthwave goes far deeper than just simply defining the genre and being done with it.  Synthwave grows tentacles in the forms of sub-genres like vapourwave, futuresynth, retrowave, and outrun, to name but a few sub-genres. 

If you were a kid in the ’80’s, you might know “outrun” as Outrun, a popular driving video game.  Yeah, it’s that, but it’s also a genre now too, thanks to the 2013 album by Kavinsky that produced fast-paced synth music perfect for driving. 

Speaking of synth-driven driving music, the successful 2011 movie Drive, featuring Ryan Gosling, also helped to bring synthwave to the fore.

Today, it’s shows like Stranger Things and the 2017 version of Blade Runner that have helped to keep synthwave popular.

Another feature of synthwave music that is particular to these times is the fact that it is self-produced, and is effectively an underground movement.

With platforms like Bandcamp, Youtube, and Soundcloud being huge incubators for new ideas, they tend to draw in synthwave artists because there is no barrier between the artist and releasing their work to the public.  And these days, you never know what will be popular next, although many artists are content to exist in their dark little corner of the web as well, as not all artists crave the adulation of the masses.

We hope this clears things up a little bit as to what synthwave is all about.  

Interview with Sarah Jane Curran of The Violet Stones

Today I spoke with Sarah Jane Curran, an alternative rocker and lead singer for the band The Violet Stones out of Sydney, Australia.  I came across her music recently on Youtube (where she goes by Sarah Jane Music) and was impressed at all of the material on there, from original songs she’s written herself and with her band, as well as vlogs, live cuts, and a ton of cool covers of everyone’s favourite grunge rock classics (including weird B-sides and deep cuts).

Not only is Sarah a talented songwriter, but she can sing and pull off a number of different styles.  Her channel is gaining momentum as I guess people like me stumble across her looking up old and new grunge style rock and metal, and her following grows as her band The Violet Stones do more gigs across Australia.  A new album is also in the works.  Here is our conversation which touches on a number of topics from this to that (and even *that*).  Hope you dig it!

YC: Hey Sarah, how’s it going tonight?

SJM: It’s going pretty good thanks!

YC: Cool cool.  So how’s the Australian music scene these days?

SJM: I don’t really have anything to compare it to honestly but I’ve just started playing around the scene last year and I think it is struggling a bit (mostly around the Sydney area). Although with bigger artists, I think it’s pretty good but it’s harder for smaller acts to get a following around here.

YC: Who’s big there now that everyone loves from the rock world…ermm.. Jet?

SJM: haha I don’t really hear about them tbh. But there’s this one band in particular called Tired Lion and they’re probably one of my favourite bands at the moment but they’re from Perth & I watched them gain more and more people at their shows every time they come back and they have a pretty decent following in every state I think.

SJM: Other bands that are big are bands like Violent Soho & Dune Rats. I guess that’s the sort of genre that is dominating the ‘alternative’ music scene at the moment. (Heavily influenced by grunge).

YC:  Silverchair are done right? They’re like classic rock now i guess.. but they’re like a year younger than me so I remember when they came out I was like who are these little geeks?  That was the second wave of grunge… post Cobain

SJM: haha the early Silverchair albums are probably a huge influence of Australian ‘grunge’. I’ve seen soooo many bands trying to be them

YC: And meanwhile they just wanted to be Helmet

SJM: If they were still around I’m sure they’d be one of the biggest bands here

YC: I think they were always slightly misunderstood in that they were more like Helmet than Nirvana but people just saw them as a mini Nirvana in the 90s

SJM: Yeah I never thought they sounded too similar to Nirvana but that’s what they’re sort of known for (for being the Australian Nirvana). My dad calls them ‘Nirvana in Pajamas’ hahahha

YC: awww.. cute.  they’re a solid band.. I heard Daniel’s solo album and i thought it was half decent, even though it was like not rock at all as i recall.  First few albums were pretty ass kicking.  So your band.. is playing shows and such?

SJM: I actually saw Daniel Johns live! Yeah we are playing shows, and actually in the middle of recording our first album

YC: Daniel has a killer voice and rocks some mean riffs…anyway…How’s that going? I’m listening to Sheets of Denial.. pretty good for a demo…

SJM: It’s going pretty good, we’re getting our name out slowly amongst the Sydney scene. Thanks!

YC: I mean it sounds like not really a demo…how did you record that one?

SJM: We practice with an electric drum kit and plug our guitars straight into a console and it comes out into headphones that we all wear (so basically we can practice without making a lot of noise). And that demo was actually made I think the night we made the song, cause we record the songs so that we remember what we did ?

YC: Yeah. i can relate.. it’s easy to forget stuff…so wait that song has electronic drums?  nahh

SJM: yeah it was recorded on an electric kit haha

YC: so what made you want to learn like 8 million covers?

SJM: hahah I guess in my early teens when I was just getting into Nirvana I decided to learn a lot of the songs cause you know, being able to play your favourite songs is pretty cool. So I did that and my friends and family were encouraging me to post them on youtube and I eventually did and people actually wanted more! I still post them because I guess it forces me to still learn songs even if I don’t feel like it and I guess it’s good for me to listen and try out new things with the covers

YC: lol yeah that makes sense…i mean having people pay attention helps motivation

SJM: yeah definitely hahah

YC: i’ve learned a lot of covers, but i can’t seem to get up the motivation to post them on my channel…i just post originals that no one listens to ? but you probably are aware that youtube’s algorithm kind of craves the stuff you’re doing.. ie. covers of famous songs…that’s how i came across you i think.. i was randomly looking up people covering Alice in Chains songs…

SJM: hahah yeah it really sucks how no one really cares that much about originals unless you’re already known for something else. Yeah, I guess thats part of the reason I do them still.  Cause of course I don’t wanna always wanna do covers, I much rather play my own songs

YC: i’m in a band with a guy that actually despises doing covers. like, i’d be game to be in a covers band if it was cool covers.  but he’s got a real hate for covers bands. cause it pushes original bands out of venues. he has a point i think

SJM: Yeah and theres a real market for cover bands over here.

YC: but people want covers…it pays the bar’s bills and shit

SJM: Yeah guess so, but it sucks. It’s really a hard market to break through in with your original music

YC: but your channel seems to be doing really well from what i can tell

SJM: Doing better than I ever expected like I had no idea what I did right

YC: well i do internet marketing for a living, so i know what i think you’re doing right

SJM: what did I do right then? hahah

YC: well…for one, youtube likes consistency. so you keep doing the same thing in the same format and that’s something youtube likes .. or like, the robots that control youtube. most people are unbelievably retarded and inconsistent

SJM: hahah yeah i knew that consistency was important, thats why I try upload once a week

YC: google / youtube likes to see a really consistent thing happening.. same look, same room, person, blah blah

SJM: ah cool thats good to know

YC: like if you’re too scatterbrained, and everything looks crazily different, youtube will be like “sorry bro”…it’s just like a theme, and also you’re not pissing off the family friendly part of the algorithm…and you’re a girl

SJM: True

YC: so the millions of freaks out there like girls as a rule…i’m not trying to say anything sexist lol but i mean.. it’s not my fault the world is sexist ? there’s probably some marketing thing where people trust girls more or something

SJM: No I know what you mean and I totally agree like I think people can’t get over the fact that a girl is singing and playing guitar on a System of a Down song. I think like 80% of my audience are dudes as well. think thats what my youtube stats say

YC: yeah.. it makes sense. well the other thing is musicians are notorious for not understanding marketing. it’s just not part of their mentality. so for instance the fact you can even interpret youtube stats .. or even know they exist. people in bands could give a fuck about that shit and when they do look at it, they don’t know what the fuck to make of it, and musicians from older generations are double screwed cause they just don’t get technology as it is today

SJM: hahah I think I’m very on top of things and very organized. Like I keep my band in order and I used to be the only one posted anything to our facebook page (they’ve started contributing more recently). my dads one of those people who doesn’t understand how to advertise or anything. 

YC: yeah my band has a FB page but even i hate using it

 

SJM: it gets tiring but Facebooks been pretty good for my band. but I don’t think it does much for my youtube channel besides advertising and such

YC: i think it’s cool you have a really well rounded social media thing going on.. even on your youtube, you have the vlogs too, originals, covers, live shit

YC: it’s basically a sign that you and your band have your shit together

SJM: hahah I guess so

YC: so who are your biggest influences? i guess you’re big into Nirvana

SJM: yeah well I don’t really listen to them much now, but they’re basically my roots

YC: you’re covering b-sides and whatnot.. so not like.. average fan of Nevermind type thing. i notice with Nirvana you kind of sing the stuff he screams

SJM: um yeah. It’s because I can’t scream at the moment. I really want to though

YC: well you have the kind of voice that might get wrecked if you scream your lungs out

SJM: yeah I have tried and every time I do it, my throat hurts and thats not suppose to happen. But I got really into Korn recently..And other bands System of a down, Incubus, Hole, Foo Fighters, Tired Lion.

 

 

YC: how do you go about learning a korn song?

SJM: well its way more difficult since the guitarist use a 7 string so I basically find the tabs and have to transpose it into a way I can play it in standard

YC: yeah i was thinkin.. this isn’t standard. Who are some of your favourite players? like.. did you learn Korn because you’re obsessed with Fieldy? Fieldy crush?

SJM: haha nope I have a young Jonathon Davis crush. nah but I really love their songs and melodies and how its still heavy

YC: ah i see.. yeah chicks dig Jonathon

YC: I see your Cranberries cover got some traction eh

SJM: It did only after Dolores death though

YC: right.. yeah. who’s your fav guitar player at the moment?

SJM: I don’t really have favourite guitar players to be honest. I focus more on people’s ability to write songs and melodies

 

YC: yeah i feel ya on that.. it’s more about songs. so to tie it back to your album for a sec, when’s it gonna be done?

SJM: the bands album?

YC: yeah..

SJM: Should be done by the end of the year. We’re doing it diy so it doesnt really have a deadline or anything

YC: is there kind of a goal you have with this album? ie make it the heaviest fucking album of all time

SJM: We just want to get our stuff out there and have something to give to people when they ask us if we have an album or EP. Like we get asked after gigs often if we have anything released and we have to say no

YC: man.. you have nothing? for someone who records so much shit and does so much youtube, you should at least have something…….

SJM: That’s what we’re doing now hahah I guess because we didn’t know how we were gonna go about it like we’re broke and so we needed to find a cheaper option to record and we found it eventually. and we have demos and stuff out, enough to keep people somewhat interested

YC: so what do you give people? a USB? with demos? or nothing

SJM: Nah we don’t give them anything, they can just check out stuff online if they really wanted to

YC: hm well then!  one more question – what are you recording stuff with ie. software?

SJM: We’re using Sonar X1. Basically my dads helping us out a lot with this and we’re just using what he has. We recorded the drums in a church and we had to set up everything from scratch and that was very interesting haha

YC: So you’re tracking things one by one, not doing live off the floor. that’s cool though, sounds like fun

SJM: nah we don’t have the set up for that and yeah it’s kinda good not having a deadline but also we just want it done. we kinda just want this album out of the way so we can start our next one because we like the new songs a lot more. just gotta do guitars, vocals and the mixing/mastering.

YC: Awesome.  well it was cool to talk to ya.  thanks for taking the time

SJM: yeah dude, thanks for the chat!

What Clean Boost Pedal Does John Mayer Use? – Keeley Katana Clean Boost Pedal Review

If you look at the state of music industry today, you will see that old school rock is slowly crawling its way back into the mainstream. John Mayer is undoubtedly one of the major contributors to this phenomenon.

Even though his music can hardly be categorized strictly as rock, the point still stands. One of the reasons why this is the case is Mayer’s ability to use modern equipment in order to bring back that retro tone.

His gear selection includes a number of awesome pedals, one which is Keeley Katana Clean Boost. Today we are going to check out this bad boy and see just why it is considered to be one of the best, if not the the best clean boost pedal out there.

Keeley Katana Clean Boost Review

Feature Pick

Keeley Katana Pre Amp Guitar Effect Pedal

Buy On Amazon

Clean boost pedals are definitely not the most popular piece of kit these days. For the most part, people are far more interested in using overdrives or even distortions over clean boost.

However, there is a substantial number of guitar players who are sticking with boost pedals in general. After all there is nothing better than pushing the amp so hard it starts biting.

That is something clean boosts do best. Keeley’s Katana offers slightly more than that, though. Even so, whenever it is mentioned the first question that gets asked is why would someone pay that kind of money for a boost pedal?

The answer is simple, because the pedal is insanely good. While there are certainly some tricks to using a clean boost stompbox, it can really make a difference in how your entire rig sounds.

Design

Katana is about as humble as the weapon it was named after. There is nothing flashy about this pedal. You are looking at a standard die cast chassis that features a very clean look.

The finish is snow white and the only thing that breaks up its monotony is the Katana title as well as the Keeley logo at the bottom. In all honesty, that simplicity of design makes pretty attractive.

On a more practical note, you won’t have issues packing this pedal into any pedalboard. all of the ports are exactly where you want them to be. When it comes to durability and build quality, we couldn’t find a single flaw.

These pedals are hand made in USA, making them more than capable of withstanding the horrors of daily use. Just like John Mayer, you shouldn’t run into any issues should you decide to take out your Keeley Katana onstage.

Features

The simplicity of its aesthetics expands to the features as well. There is only one knob on the entire pedal and a footswitch. The knob is used to determine the amount of boost you are adding into the signal.

However, it is a push-pull knob. Once you pull it out, it becomes more aggressive. More on that in the next segment. The real beauty of this pedal is hidden below the surface.

Keeley has designed a very clean and insanely transparent voltage doubling circuit. If you look closely, the pedal operates on the standard 9V power, however the circuit inside doubles that value meaning that you are actually working with 18V.

That translates to massive headroom that is every bit as transparent as you need it to be.

Performance

The performance of Keeley’s Katana clean boost is hard to criticize. Everything about the pedal is just great.

Once you link it into your signal chain, you won’t notice it is there until you punch that switch. Even with no boost applied, your signal remains unchanged.

Naturally, when we are dealing with higher end pedals such as this one, true bypass is a must. However, not all of them offer this level of transparency.

The amount of boost Katana delivers is impressive. When you reach for more, you will always get it. Pulling the knob really amps up the boost, which is designed to be used with your amp’s dirty channel.

If you happen to have a good tube amp, or a fairly decent one, Keeley Katana will really push it to its limits. Even so, there are numerous ways you can use this pedal.

Being a clean boost package, you can add some spark to your clean channel without having to worry about tone discoloration or anything similar.

Then again, if you are hunting for a bit of overdrive, there’s enough gain in this circuitry to give you that as well. Keeley’s pedals are always a treat to play around with, but this one is on a whole new level of awesome.

While we might be a little subjective here, we will say that Katana is probably the best clean boost pedal you can score at the moment.

Conclusion

John Mayer’s affinity towards simple effects has left a mark on what we currently consider to be the standard when it comes to tone shaping.

Keeley’s Katana was around for a very long time, but it is arguable that the newly found interest many have for these pedals, has brought it back to the spotlight.

Now, we should address the elephant in the room. This pedal isn’t really cheap. It’s not overly expensive as some guitar effects pedals are, but being a clean boost makes it seem that way to many.

We are going to simply say that it is absolutely worth the investment. Reasons for this are numerous.

We can even put aside the fact that it is a hand made piece of gear and that it is produced domestically in US. Even with that out of the way, it is still worth the price.

For us, it’s all about that transparent boost, tonnes of gain that is easy to handle and most importantly, its clean nature. Where most pedals add a lot but also take something away, Keeley’s Katana only adds.

It doesn’t take away anything from the tone. That a pretty good deal in our book.

What Overdrive Pedal Does John Mayer Use? – Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOFSET Boost Pedal Review

 

There is no doubt that John Mayer is one of the best guitar players in the world right now. He has reached the level many absolute legends of rock reside. While trying to figure out his key to success, we’ve come up with a layered answer. On one hand, his raw skill is undoubtedly what put him into focus, however his ability to fine tune his tone has a lot to do with his success as well. On that note, his pedal board is definitely full of surprises. One such surprise is the Fulltone Fulldrive 2 overdrive pedal. Today we are going to take a closer look at this thing and see what kind of performance it has to offer.

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Review

Feature Pick

Fulltone Fulldrive2 Mosfet Overdrive/Boost Pedal

Buy On Amazon

Fulltone’s Fulldrive 2 overdrive is anything but a regular overdrive pedal. That much is obvious from the moment you see the pedal. Instead of taking the same old route, Fulltone opted out for something different. Instead of just designing an overdrive pedal, they went with a two stage package. In other words, you have two gain stages to play with, making the Fulldrive 2 a very interesting pedal to say the least. While such a performance profile may not be interesting to all, John Mayer has definitely found it compatible with his needs. Without further ado, lets get into the review itself.

Design

One thing that Fulltone knows how to do is vintage styling. Fulldrive 2 looks like something that was made in the  ’80s or even before. We are talking steel plate chassis that has that old school slant towards the user. The finish and graphic design also add to our conclusion. Fulltone went with an all blue design where the only things breaking the monotony are the white labels and model designation. It is as simple as it gets. One of the more logical questions is how durable this pedal is? For all intents and purposes, it is a tank. Fulltone is fully aware of the quality requirements most active users are looking for, and are designing their pedals accordingly. You can put the Fulldrive 2 through the regular hell that is stage use and it will come out the other end without a scratch. The only downside to this overall design would be mounting the pedal on the pedalboard. With wide units such as this one, you really need to be aware of the space and positioning. Same goes for cable management. All of I/O ports are in the back of the pedal instead of the sides, making daisy chains a bit difficult, but not impossible.

Features

When it comes to features, there’s plenty to talk about. Lets start by listing the controls. Going from left to right we have Volume, Tone, Overdrive and finally Boost. There are also two switches, one that is labeled CompCut/FM/Vintage and one that’s  labeled Mosfet/Standard. First switch is pretty interesting. CompCut mode adds a bit of compression to the tone while FM flattens out the mids. Standard mode is where you get boosted mids and is probably the closest to a default overdrive setting. Second switch allows you to choose between the standard Fulltone sound and a new Mosfet signature.

You will also notice that there are two footswitches at the bottom. One is your standard bypass switch while the one labeled Boost does engages the second gain stage. That is more or less it in term of features. Fulltone didn’t go all freaky with controls, making the Fulldrive 2 a very easy pedal to use. We definitely appreciate that. Naturally, you will need to get all of the tone shaping done by using other pedals in your signal chain.

Performance

The performance of Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is interesting to say the least. With two gain stages you can cater the heat to suit a vast variety of tone profiles. In its very core, Fulldrive 2 has many signatures of a boosted Tube Screamer. It is aggressive near the top, but not so much in the bottom end. Actually, you won’t find much of a bottom end to begin with. Mids are easily manipulated and adjusted thanks to the available mode selection. What defines the Fulldrive 2 is its ability to offer a vast intensity range. It can be a blunt tool but also a scalpel if you really want to get down and dirty with your guitar tone. We have found that Mosfet mode offers the best color of tone, especially if you are into more intense overdrive. When not in use, Fulldrive 2 is pretty silent. You won’t find many issues regarding noise. After all, Fulltone’s circuitry is on the better side of the industry.

Conclusion

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 man not be the most orthodox overdrive on the market, but that is exactly what makes it so attractive. Sure, it’s a Tube Screamer in its very core, but a different one. With all the modes included, an additional boost stage and a relatively hot output, Fulldrive 2 is definitely a capable tool to have. Now lets mention the best part. The way Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is priced makes it one of the best deals on the market at the moment. It is an absolute bargain compared to the performance it offers.

Speaking of tangible performance, John Mayer has pushed his Fulldrive 2 to the extreme and you can hear the results for yourself. By doing so, he has proven just how much juice you can squeeze out from one of these. Additionally, the pedal has been field tested by one of the best guitar players in the world. That alone means a lot. Whether you are trying to replicate Mayer’s tone or you are just looking for a good overdrive, Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is a model we can easily stand behind. It is simply that good.