Living Colour guitarist talks new album, gear…

IT’S 1989, and the members of Living Colour are being interviewed backstage before another sold-out show. ‘Cult of Personality,’ the second single from their 1988 debut album, Vivid, has volleyed them into the spotlight, and months later the band is still adjusting to success and all it brings. Somewhere in the conversation, guitarist Vernon Reid takes a long look at rock and roll’s trajectory, from its blues roots into its second generation, while vocalist Corey Glover challenges the music industry and society at large, noting that Living Colour is “here to cut away the bullshit!”

It’s 2017, and Vernon Reid is being interview by telephone a few weeks before the release of Living Colour’s new album, Shade. Seeing it to fruition was a long, complicated process that began with a performance of Robert Johnson’s ‘Preachin’ Blues’ during a 2012 tribute concert at the Apollo Theatre, then ebbed and flowed through tour cycles, management changes, and the dynamic of four opinionated musicians. A preview was introduced last year with the band’s cover/interpretation of The Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Who Shot Ya,’ accompanied by a powerful video that takes on gun violence and racial profiling.

Almost 30 years have passed since the release of Vivid, and clearly there is weight in the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Reid, Glover, drummer Will Calhoun, and bassist Doug Wimbish are still cutting away the bullshit and tackling the hard topics. This time, they’re doing it with a rock-based album entrenched, albeit not always overtly, in its blues roots, while visiting a spectrum of genres.

GEARPHORIA: This album was a long time coming. Was there a sense of relief when it was finally done and you were looking at a definite release date?

VERNON: Yes. The process took longer than we thought it would, and getting everyone to agree on everything — on the takes, on the mastering — it took a while. Music has a life of its own. The process has a life of its own. You can be as disciplined as you want to be, and unexpected things just show themselves.

Read the rest of our visit with Vernon Reid here
Visit the Living Colour website here

Could a sub-$1,000 Carr amp be coming?

PITTSBORO, North Carolina is situated roughly 35 miles southwest of the Raleigh-Durham airport. The town of about 4,000 people boasts a large courthouse, its own failed local currency (called Plenty) and is a stone’s throw from the Haw River, which rises near Kernersville to the north and flows about 110 miles to where it joins with the Deep River to form the Cape Fear River. Nestled away in a deceptively large building in downtown Pittsboro is the headquarters of Carr Amplifiers.

The building itself spent time prior to Carr residency as a neon light factory, and even earlier — a chicken hatchery. The main room sports a high ceiling and several different work stations, including Steve Carr’s R&D table. This room is where the amp itself is brought to life — from raw chassis to tone machine. To one side there is a large rack of completed chassis, but these are not for completing and selling. These are copy amps to be used by the crew if they need a quick reminder regarding components, wiring, etc…

Next year, Carr will celebrate its 20th year in the amplifier business. The company was one of the early entrants in the second wave of boutique guitar amp manufacturers after brands like Matchless, Dr. Z and others had sort of paved the way in the then fledgling market.

“I starting playing music before high school in a little band,” recalls Carr. “It was that kind of start and just really loved it. And it became something, I kind of identified myself as a musician, I sort of tried to make it for about ten years, back in the late eighties early nineties. I was in a host of bands in Philly and then North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which at the time I moved here in ’87 had a pretty thriving alt music scene. But anyway, along that path just became more and more interested in the gear I was using. You know the amps, at first I didn’t know anything about them. After a while it was, oh I really enjoy playing this one. Why? You know, then I started reading up on old classic Fenders and Marshalls and luckily there was a guy named Rich Bogart in Chapel Hill who had a little tiny repair shop. He worked for IBM and repaired their big mainframes, it was like 1990 back when they were in a whole room and his job was kind of great, he was on call 24 hours a day, but also would not be called for two to three weeks at a time. So he set up this tube amp repair place and I would go hang out with him and that’s kind of where the technical side of it started for me. Just being exposed to these repairs and talking to him. And it went on from there, still playing in bands, still being interested in gear, still getting more and more kind of crazy about tone and focusing my tone. Buying and trading and selling gear, so much of it I wish I could get back, vintage guitars… you name it. Eventually I asked this guy Rich, can I be an apprentice for you an understudy or whatever? He was like no, I really don’t have time.”

Read the rest of our visit with Steve Carr here
Visit the Carr website here

Farrow ready, willing the second time around

MATTHEW FARROW has navigated these waters before. Back in the early 2000s, he was the circuit jockey behind Pharaoh Amps, which among other things had a successful run of pedal releases. So much so, that Farrow quit his day job to devote his full attention to his MI business. Pharaoh was a one-man shop in Raleigh that produced stomps like the Class A Boost, Jubilee Silver Overdrive and the Echo Jr. He was 24 years old.

“I got to the point where I could not keep up with the orders coming in,” recalls Farrow. “It happens to a lot of one-man pedal shops. I wasn’t real great at managing cash flow and I was basically at the point where I needed to hire somebody to keep building and getting stuff out and I was too afraid to do that. I didn’t want to be somebody’s boss. I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s rent. Then we got pregnant, I got a regular job and went back to school.”

Flash forward seven years and Farrow found himself playing bass in a thrash metal band with his sole foot-level accompaniment being a Line 6 M9. He was bent on teaching himself the intro to Metallica’s ‘Battery’. There are guitar harmonies over that, so Farrow planned to use the M9 looper for those.

“So I had this loop of the intro of ‘Battery’ stored,” says Farrow. “I go to band practice and play it and I look like an idiot. I have to turn the pitch shifter on and all this. What I really needed was a way to control the looper while in effects mode. So I’m reading the manual and there are all of these midi commands in there. I thought midi is not that hard. I can do midi… and my day job was designing imbedded systems. So I put together a little board and, alright, send a program change. I wrote a state machine to manage the looper states and I put it in a box with six footswitches and six LEDs. The same spacing as the M9.”

Read the rest of our visit with Alexander Pedals here
Visit the Alexander Pedals website here

Annual Nashville gear gathering continues growth

THE NATIONAL Association of Music Merchants’ (NAMM) summer soiree looks to be regaining its former footing after several years of softening attendance prior to its moving to the new Music City Center in 2015. According to the organizers, Summer NAMM welcomed 14,284 industry members to the show, a 2% increase from 2016. Of note, international attendees accounted for a growth of 14% over 2016, and nearly 28% growth over 2015.

The show counted 1,650 brands presented by 505 total exhibitors, comparable to 2016, but representing a 2% increase over 2015. Exhibitors included a dynamic mix of top-name makers in traditional MI including Fender, Gibson, Sabian, Peavy, Fishman, Martin, Eventide, Gator Cases, Hal Leonard, Gretsch, Boss, Yamaha, D’Addario, and a variety of pro audio companies were also on-hand including Avid, IK Multimedia, CAD Audio, Casio, PreSonus, Neutrik, Rupert Neve Designs, and many more.

“The pace of change is accelerating, and with it, never has it been more critical to long-term business success to work on your business rather than in it,” said Joe Lamond, NAMM president and CEO. “The three days of Summer NAMM offered our valued members the tools needed to nurture and grow their businesses through opportunities to cultivate new relationships, reaffirm existing ones and invest in their businesses through high-value educational opportunities.”

Read the rest of our Summer NAMM wrap-up here
Visit the NAMM website here

Issue #26 includes a shop tour feature with Reverend Guitars, an exclusive artist Q&A with singer/guitarist Matthew Sweet, reviews of the new gear from Pinter Instruments, EarthQuaker Devices, Old Blood Noise, Chemistry Design Werks and more…

Our exclusive shop tour with Reverend starts… here.
Check out the Sweetwater Gearfest wrap-up… here.
Our exclusive interview with Matthew Sweet is… here.
Our gear reviews, including a look at the Pinter Instruments SB1-C, start… here.

Happy reading!

The Gearphoria Crew

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