The 2020’s

Long day in the studioAnother decade and I’ve given up noticing time. I realise one day at a time is enough and use it whilst you can. And the beard continues to flourish. I’ll be adding to this chapter as time passes, hopefully for a good while yet

I went back to valves in a big way for stage and studio guitar rigs towards the end of the Last Decade. I re-valved all of my amps etc. (it was good for Watford Valves but bad for my wallet) including my Vox AC10 Twin (now there’s a rare beast), my Orange Graphic 120 and a few other Studio Guitar Mesa Rackboutique amps and pre-amps.

I have relocated by Mesa Boogie TriAxis and 2:90 rig into a (semi) permanent housing in the studio where it is always on hand, coupled up with my Axon Guitar Synth and a Fantom XR synth module. The rig works with a pair of wonderfully transparent Digitech GSP1101 FX units which eliminates the need for the ‘temperamental four cable method’ and it’s associated noise generation (other outboards are available but IMO add more cost than value given the options down the signal chain). The amp outputs go through a pair of Palmer Load boxes. The preamp, digital and MIDI outputs go into my Focusrite digital interface and then to the DAW. I also use Impulse Response modules of my various live speaker cabinet combinations (plus a few more I have gathered over the years) to temper or parallel the Load box signals. That’s one highly flexible guitar source there before you consider the guitar synth dimension. The trick here is to have reproducibility and that comes in spades from the digital memories of the TriAxis coupled to the outboards by MIDI. Win-win as they say.

So what’s happened with the Vox and The Orange and the other juicy bits of gear I hear you cry? (Yeah right). It would really have been a waste to service them up and then cupboard them again. Of course, I do use them for rehearsal and jam sessions (but that’s becoming less frequent nowadays). The AC10 Twin is loud enough for just about anything. It competes well in the same space as a Marshall 100W combo and is small enough to mike up if needed. I’d forgotten how great it sounded (and the new valves helped a lot). Perfect with a Tube Screamer and CryBaby; I’m just an old fashioned guitarist at heart. I couple the Orange with either Fane or Celestion loaded 4x12s or Eminence loaded 2x12s For a bigger live sound as required.

Studio KemperOf course it would be perfection to be able to use them in my home studio environment without peeling the wallpaper off in the rest of the house, or having to add far too much ballast to the infrastructure to sound proof fully. Well I bit the bullet and acquired a Kemper Modelling Amp to see if the hype was right. My son was already a great proponent of them. I spent a fair time capturing profiles of my Vox and Orange gear (loads of mics/positions, different settings on the amps etc.) to build up a library of sounds.

Capturing the sounds of the TriAxis was incredibly simple, no mics or amps and speakers, it just needed the preamp output routing into the Kemper and then capture the contents by flicking through the memory. Two versions, one using the preamp output which is an untreated ‘pre power amp stage’ full range signal which needs an amp/speaker combination to be usably (or IR), the second being the studio output which has a speaker emulation applied to it by the Triaxis. I have to say, the results were stunning. With the setup I have in the studio the performance of A/B comparison is literally just flicking a digital switch. I truly cannot tell a difference. I am afraid I honestly think these ‘purists’ (most of whom either haven’t owned a Kemper, or are bedroom musicians at best) that assert they can hear a difference because their ears are so much more acute that ours, are probably deluded by their inbuilt prejudice. (I have probably got them running around with their frocks in the air now - so be it...)

What is more (and this is the thing I was mainly concerned about), the way the Profiler responds to guitar volume variation is so similar to the source amp that it satisfies all of my requirements. You roll off the guitar, the amp cleans up and the tone of the guitar varies exactly as expected.

Gotta say I am now a fan and no apologies for that. Another big win is how it has certainly speeded up my studio workflow. I can dial in whatever amp speaker combo I need from the software Rig Manager, tweak it as required on the PC and hit record. As long as you also record a ‘Direct Out’ guitar signal, reamping is simplicity itself, lossless (due to SPDIF) and immediately A/B comparable. Added bonus, if you want a sound that is not in your personal sound library, there is a huge user base of profiles, commercial and otherwise.  

Alan Ibbotson at the End of The WorldAt the end of ‘19/beginning of ‘20 I produced Al’s album ‘Alan Ibbotson At The End of The World’ and released it on Rising Records for him. Another tour de force of Original Folk from him and well worth the effort and a listen. There are indications that there may be another project in the pipeline with him in the future but in a different genre. Watch this space.


After The FireThe Phoenix Rising based project which was in the pipe, was forced to take a different direction. So ‘After The Fire’ remains a complete studio album and features versions of Danny’s original drum lines, but reinterpreted (and in part re-imagined) by Clatterfoot, with bass from Session Pete and vocals from Mick Shedd. We attempted to reproduce the original vocals of Jack, but he was the first to admit that due to the toll taken by the passing years that was no longer going to happen. The Head BangerWe are now in the process on final production and mixing. This is now effectively a Pig'n'aif album which is only fair given that this is where the majority of the material came from, and is now effectively ‘The Music of Phoenix Rising’. Again watch this space.

The Pig’n’aif project rolls on undiminished. There are the Musicalis Grumpiosa and Electronicalis in various stages of production. There is a third rock-based album gathering basic tracks and arrangements. A number of video projects are started to accompany them and to highlight tracks from previous albums such as The Jester... Thinks...

Stolen Moments Video - click to playI have just put together and released a video to accompany the track ‘Stolen Moments’ taken from the ‘The Jester... Thinks...’ album. It is one of my favourite tracks and shows off a guitar solo that I am immensely proud of. It is lyrical, emotional, varied and expressive (even though I say it myself) and I enjoy listening to it each time I play it. Check it out here and let me know what you think.

ElectronicalisThe album ‘Electronicalis’ is in final production. It is an Electronica-style album which visits ‘synthland’ alongside the guitar and guitar synths. (Good old MIDI - where would we be without it?) This finishes off a large number of tracks I have had kicking around unfinished since the late 80’s and the ToshRollo period, along with a piano based symphonic production. Again prog-based and very varied.

Musicalis GrumpiosaRollin' and Tumblin' The humorous rock based album that I started writing initially during the ChinWig period, under the working title of Grumpy Old Music, is now to be released as ‘Musicalis Grumpiosa’. It is a ‘Pig’n’aif’ album and is in final production prior to mixdown. We have competed tracks in the can, one featuring Mel’s voice, as well as others featuring Mick Shedd. The pressure is on again.

And then there’s the graphics and video stuff I’m fiddling with... Still not finished the novel
but I’ll get round to that shortly...

More later...


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