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Imad Mohabek: - My recordings were lost because of the war

 

Imad Mohabek



   I started playing guitar when I was eleven years old. I am self taught but later on I went to Aleppo Musical Institute, which is a private institute in Syria. I don’t know why I wanted to play the guitar. It was something within me. The guitar is an international machine that isn’t as well known in Syria as it is in other places. It is a limited scene for the guitar because of the quarter tones in Arabic music. But I have invented my own way of playing the guitar and reconstructed my guitars slightly. I am inspired by a lot of music. Everybody has their own way of playing.


   My family weren’t musicians when I was growing up, but my brother started playing the drums. By the time I was sixteen years old I wanted to be a professional musician, and started working towards making that happen. I joined a band called Comedas, and we played in private clubs on the weekends. It was my job for four years before I was called in for the military service, which you had to be in for two and a half years in my country. It broke the band up.


   When I got out of the army I couldn’t find work, so I moved to Greece, where I lived for nineteen years. There I worked as a professional decorator, until the financial crisis in Greece caused mass dismissals and also racism. They didn’t like Arabs. I moved back to Syria, but not long after that the war came in 2011, and not in the least to the region where I was. 


   I play by ear and compose music for myself. All the music that I have recorded over the years has been lost because of the war. I hope to be on a stage playing in the future, but so far I have not been given the chance.


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Oz Noy: - What bores me in music is copying



Oz Noy

 

 

I’m excited about the same things with music now as I was thirty years ago. I’m even a bit more excited by them now. If I wasn’t I would probably drop dead. Music is like air really. A lot of us would be dead without it. Our soul will die! It sounds a bit dramatic but it’s true. What bores me in music is copying. You have to copy when you study, but when artists copy that bores me.

 

 

 

Oz Noy ''Cissy Strut'' with Anton Fig, Will Lee, John Medeski and Ralph MacDonald

 


New York has changed a lot since I first came here. The music business crashed, and the same thing happened in New York too. It hit the city hard. New York is still the jazz center of the world, but the scene has changed. A lot of clubs have closed. And now it’s a pretty set reality. There is still good music, but a lot less of it in a lot less places. The only thing that got bigger is the Broadway shows. That’s great for Broadway but it’s not great for real music in my opinion cause Broadway is not music , its theater.


When I first came to New York I played jazz and rock. I was looking for a funk & Blues scene and I couldn’t find one. But the jazz scene just blew me away. New York is about jazz to my mind.

 

 

Oz Noy at The Iridium with Will Lee and Dave Weckl

 


I have made six records and I usually think of the next one already when I finish an album. I have music for another album usually while I’m done recording a record. I get a concept and start to look for ideas, then I play it live, and after a year or two I record. Right now though I don’t have a plan, after my 6th album. I have some ideas tho but not sure what I’ll do next.


As for my plans for the rest of the year I have a tour in Asia just now, having finished a tour of the US. After that I am going to make another instructional video.

 

 


Oz Noy

 


People ask about my pedal work. The most important thing to understand is it evolved through me writing my own music. I only use certain pedals. In a trio setting I need to fill out a lot of space. The pedal work came through me playing on a song, and it is about musical ideas. I’m not the kind of guy who plays with pedals at home, it is part of the music.

- Oz Noy

 

 

The latest release, ''Twisted Blues Vol 2'' (2014)

 

 


Oz Noy is a guitarist and composer, who started his career as a professional musician at the age of 13. A decade later he was one of the most successful musicians in his native Isreal. Noy relocated to New York in 1996. He has since released six albums and worked with Richard Bona, Chris Botti, Gavin DeGraw, Harry Belafonte, Cyndi Lauper, Clay Aiken, Akiko Yano, Wonder Girls, Toni Braxton, Phoebe Snow, Nile Rogers, Mike Clark, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Dave Weckl, Mike Manieri, John Patitucci, The East Village Opera Company, Roger Glover, Bill Evans, The Gil Evan Orchestra, Warren Hayes, The Allman Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Eric Johnson, Mike Stern, John Abercrombie, Steve Lukather, John Medeski, Don Was, Nelly Furtado, Natasha Bedingfield, Phillip Phillips, Andy Grammer, Angelique Kidjo, Matisyahu, Jennifer Hudson, Henry Butler, Gart Hudson, Don Henley, Patti Austin, Take 6, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, Phil Ramone, Paul Shaffer, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sting, Steve Perry, Allison Krauss Foreigner, Patty Smyth, Wiz Khalifa, Shelea, Jordin Sparks among others. Find out more HERE.

 



 

Plattan 2 THE PERFECT CLASSIC HEADPHONE

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Marcus Foster on living, breathing music and art

An article with Marcus Foster

Marcus Foster

An article with Marcus Foster



I listen to a lot of live records. I think it’s important to bring live elements into the recording process, the records I like have a lot of imperfections in, which makes the music sound exciting and raw. It’s about capturing a moment in time. Music should sound like something is living and breathing.


Marcus Foster ''Faint Stir Of Madness'' live


The reason why we are still so obsessed with the music from the 50’s and 60’s is because of the way the songs were recorded, not only was the songwriting really strong but the sound is so alive and that creates a timelessness. There are a lot of musicians that are interested in recording the ‘old school’ way but it’s a shame that we don’t hear it on the radio anymore. I can’t believe people like Sly & the family Stone were once at the top of the charts with albums like There’s a Riot Going On. That record sounds so good because it’s dirty. I hope that one day we can bring back that live, imperfect sound and make it popular again, it’s so important. Recently in the last few weeks I’ve been listening to a lot of Bo Diddley, Funkadelic and an album by Miles Davis called On The Corner The Complete Sessions.


Marcus Foster ''I Was Broken''


I haven’t released something in a while but last few tours I have done, I’ve recorded some live session stuff to give to people so they have something new to listen to. These recordings are like drawings or sketches for something to come. A director once used a bunch of demos I did for some movies so I guess they have some sort of value.



I am working on an album this year and I’m really excited about it. It’s very different to anything I’ve done, some of the songs a very dark and spooky but some are raw and soulful. I am hopefully going to record the album in the next few months and It will probably be released at the end of the year or beginning of next year.


Marcus Foster ''I Don't Mind'' live


I am also an artist. I have a studio in London and I’m just finishing my website which will be up soon and I hope to have an exhibition later this year as well. I am still working out the connections between art and music but I feel it’s also important not to know and just make things. As time goes on, you'll end with a large body of work, and there will be some strange sense to it all.

Marcus Foster


Marcus Foster ''Couldn't Love You More'' (John Martyn)



Marcus Foster is a singer-songwriter and artist, based in London. He is a Royal College of Art-graduate. He has released the album ''Nameless Path'' and the EP ''The Last House''. His music has been heard in the films ''$ 5 a day'' and ''Twilight''. Find out more HERE.




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A note from Laura Stevenson

A note from Laura Stevenson

Laura Stevenson



Music is the best way for me to communicate exactly how I feel. I need it and if I can share it with people and help them connect then that's an incredible feeling. 

Enjoy what you like and don't let tastemakers dictate what bands you should and shouldn't pay attention to. You'll miss out on a lot.

~ Laura Stevenson



Laura Stevenson performs ''Journey to the Center of the Earth'' from her album Wheel (2013).




Laura Stevenson is a singer-songwriter based in Long Island. Stevenson has released three albums, and is currently on a long tour in the States. Find out more HERE.



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Singer-songwriter Ben Caplan: - I piss music

An article with Ben Caplan

Ben Caplan

An article with Ben Caplan


I would not say that there is one specific thing that I want to communicate to people who like to listen to music. There are many things to say, and many ways to say them. For me, music is one of the most diverse mediums that we can communicate with.
 
In poetry or prosaic writing, the artist can play with many styles, but usually must commit to one genre if the artist is to produce one coherent work. The poet must choose one language, and limit themselves to those who speak or understand that language (though there are some great exceptions, like T.S. Elliot). The same is true of theatre and film. In music, yes, we must pick one language for lyrics (though there are some great exceptions, like Regina Spektor) but there is a vast world of musical dialects and tonal languages that the composer can play with. The timbres of instruments, from vibraphones to zithers or any guitar imaginable, each provide a unique voice and story.
Melodies and rhythms from different cultures and times can be blended.

There is so much space to be creative. There are so many stories to tell. There are so many voices to tell them with, and the language of each voice can be blended in harmony.
 


In my own writing, I try to communicate many things, but I suppose in the end, I lean heavily on what I consider the only two subjects of true universal significance: love and death. But there are many paths we make take to and from love. There are many roads we may travel to and from death. There are many stops along the way.
 
I encourage people who love listening to music to branch out beyond their normal boundaries. There are no excuses these days. The resources are unlimited. Go listen to music you don't understand.

Listen to music you don't like. If you don't like it, try to articulate why. Do you hate Hungarian zither music? Try to explain why. Do you hate Justin Bieber? Try to explain what it is about the music that you dislike. By developing the skill to articulate what you don't like, you can help to deepen your appreciation for the things you do like.



Music to me is like water. It sustains me. I need to sip from it every so often or I feel faint. I need to bath in it to keep my soul clean.
It flows over me. It does not flow out of me like a constant river, but if I drink enough of it, it comes back out. I sweat it out.
 
I piss music. It often stinks, and I flush most of it away, but it's always a relief to get it out.

Ben Caplan



Canadian multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, keyboards) and diverse singer-songwriter Ben Caplan performs with and without his band The Casuel Smokers. He has released the critically acclaimed album In The Time Of The Great Remembering. Find out more HERE.



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Alabamian blues- and Southern soul-man Chris Simmons shares his story

An article with Chris Simmons

 

Chris Simmons on stage

    An article with Chris Simmons. Photo Leigh Ann Edmonds


   I fell in love with guitars when I was about 11 years old or so. The sound of an electric guitar… the artistic beauty of the instrument and the way it makes everyone who puts one around their neck, instantly look and feel cooler.
    My first guitar was a cheap acoustic that my mom got for me at a yard sale.  I had been asking for drums for years but she got the guitar instead.  She said drums were too big, expensive and loud and I probably wouldn't stick with it anyway.  I at least wanted an electric guitar so I was miffed about it and didn't touch the guitar for six months. When I finally picked it up one day, it was an instant addiction. I would play for hours and hours every day. I was almost 13 years old then.  Not long after that, she got me my first electric guitar.
   I have a handful of guitars now. I have a Gibson chambered 58 Reissue Les Paul. It's got a big fat neck and the chambering makes it really lightweight and it also gives it a hint of hollow body tone. I have a couple Recording King acoustics. They are the small bodied, slot head style, like an old Martin. I have a custom strat and tele that I built for myself and also a Mark Mattos Custom Barnshaker.
   I love all my guitars but my two favorite guitars were actually gifts to me. I met my best friend, Dave Cothran, when we played little league baseball. He gave me his 1964 Gibson SG Junior a few years back.  He's more of an acoustic player so he didn't play it very much. It mostly stayed in the case, under his bed. I used to ask to borrow it every now and then, to record with it. It has a phenomenal tone that only an original P-90 pickup can deliver. It's one of those guitars that sounds great even if it's a little out of tune.   One day I asked to take it to use in the studio and he said ''Why don't you just take it with you and keep it?'' So I've been keeping it and loving it ever since.



   Shortly after I started playing with Leon Russell, he gave me a 1968 Gibson ES-345 that he got from Freddie King back when they worked together.  It had been sitting in its case, unplayed, for some time before he gave it to me. That's when I knew Leon must have liked me.  He said ''I think that Freddie would have wanted you to have it''.  What can you say to that?  The guitar has a lot of magic and mojo. I had it refretted and made a couple modifications to it, but they can all be reversed to original. I was afraid to change it or take it on the road to play it at first but now I take it everywhere I go as long as I'm not flying.


    I joined my first band just before I was 16. After that, I didn't really care about going to college anymore. I knew that I would have no use for it. I knew that I was going to be a musician. I just knew that I could do it. I can't explain that exactly, but I just knew. I play by ear. I learned chord shapes from Mel Bay books that came with that first cheap acoustic and figured out some scales on my own. I learned how to read music but I've never had a use for it.  I would describe myself as less of a musician and more a guitar manipulator. I just try to get the sound out of it that I want to hear.
    I was always a music fan. When I was 3 years old I wanted to be Elvis Presley. When I was 9 or so my family and moved from an all white country community to an integrated neighborhood. My friend from across the street introduced me to Michael Jackson, rap and hip hop and Prince.  I got into all that until I picked up a guitar. After that, I still liked Prince. He is an amazing guitar-player and entertainer. I became an AC/DC-fanatic in my teens, and through Angus Young I started exploring his influences and the roots of Rock n Roll. I found Chuck Berry. I was really turned on to his songwriting and showmanship. This exploration also led me to find some of my favorite bands and guitarists: Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, the Allman Brothers, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.
    I wrote my first song when I was 14. It was a melodramatic song in A minor that only teenage angst can produce. It wasn't very good, but you gotta start somewhere right? I do still have the piece of paper I wrote it on. I keep it in a box tucked in behind my high school diploma. Generally, I'm an inspiration driven song-writer… when the mood strikes. I keep something on hand to record on in case an idea pops in my head. As a dad these days, I often have to schedule my songwriting. I can usually come up with something during a scheduled time like that.
  

Chris Simmons on stage


   I dig all kinds of music and I like to write all kinds of songs. I site a wide range of inspirations. Clapton, Croce.. too many to list. I'd like to give the Bee Gees a mention. They existed into the disco era which was a kind of a lull for great music in the opinion of many… but if you really listen to them, I think you have to agree that they are wonderfully crafted songs. Lionel Richie is also one of my favorites. I was pleased to read somewhere that he also likes to write his songs predominantly when inspiration strikes, like me.. and he's from Alabama too!  ..Of course Leon Russell. There's a great song-writer. 
   I had moved to Texas and to start a band. I wasn't making enough money to pay the band very well so one of my guys, Zach Baker, started working for a booking agency for some extra cash. He became Leon's exclusive booking agent for 6 or 7 years. After I moved away from Austin, he called and asked if I would like to audition for Leon. I had to decline.  At that time I was in Los Angeles. I had committed to stay with my band for at least one year. I very much wanted to audition, but it didn't feel right to just jump out because a better opportunity had come up.  I almost instantly regretted the decision… but luckily, I got a second chance.  After I moved back to Alabama, the phone rang again. I couldn't say "YES PLEASE!" fast enough.
    In my time with Leon Russell, I experienced and learned so much!  I traveled the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. He co-wrote two songs with me.. one on each of my blues CD's. He even sang on one of them. He let me play a solo song during his show every night and he let me sell my CD's at his shows.  He didn't have to do any of that. He really helped me to start to make a name for myself and get my music into the hands and ears of people who obviously like good music! …and don't forget the Freddie King guitar!  I'll never tire of telling people about Leon.
   Music is a necessary part of life to me, like air and water.  I love to hear it and I love to create it and perform it.  I plan to write songs and play music for as long as I'm alive… and also get lots of new guitars.

Chris Simmons



Chris Simmons performing Robert Johnson's ''Walking Blues''.


Chris Simmons performing an acoustic version of his own ''Farewell For Now'' from his album Hallelujah Man.


Chris Simmons is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, who has released three albums to date. He spent five years as the guitarist in Leon Russell's band. Chris tours a lot, not in the least with his band Royal Blue. Find out more HERE.





Guitar-legend Mike Stern talks about his love and joy

Mike Stern

An article with Mike Stern. Photo Sandrine Lee

 

   If I could have a conversation with Johann Sebastian Bach I would ask him how he wrote all of that amazing music. He had like twenty kids or something. I would ask his wife ''What the hell is he up to?''. He wrote so much music, got so much done, it's insane.

I want to mention my wife, Leni Stern. She is the love of my life. We don't play concerts together because we prefer to stay married but we play music together all the time. She's a wonderful musician, very inspiring. We have been together for thirty-three years and she is my best friend.

I have about twenty black t-shirts with long sleeves. So when I look in my closet I think to myself ''Hmm, what am I going to wear today?''...

I am happy when I'm playing music. I get energy from other musicians by listening and watching them play. It's a great feeling. Music is a great place to put my energy. It keeps my mind off some of the other stuff in life that might not be so much fun

Maybe I'm just showing my joy in the music on stage a little bit more than others. Most people I know have a great time playing music.


Mike Stern

Photo Sandrine Lee


    On a very serious side music is food for the soul. I don't know what the hell I would do without it. There are times when I don't want to hear anything. At other times I hear music in everything, in the wind, in the traffic, in people talking. And I hear music in how people talk in different places, in India, Japan and throughout the world.

Guitarists ask me different stuff. Questions about equipment. Picks and strings. I ask other musicians about that stuff too. They ask how I get certain lines. I tell them that I listen a lot. I transcribe a lot of horn-players for example and try to come up with my own version of their lines, that is, not copy the licks but get the phrasings on the guitar.

I don't know when I knew what my sound was. It was something I heard in my head. I started out singing when I was little. My mom was a piano player, and she realized that I wanted to get into music. My sound is a less percussive sound and more of a legato sound.

The best way to find your own voice to me is to just play. It's a natural flow-process. Staying with certain things is a good idea. Perhaps someone is not the best guitarist in the world but he can still be the perfect guitarist for a specific act. A lot of musicians have their own voices though people don't necessarily hear it. I change what I do by learning new music. Always try to learn new music, it's endless.

It's an honor to have fans. Some people are musicians and maybe understand it more that I play horn lines for example. Of course I like that people are listening to my music and enjoy what they hear but I also like that people are just listening even if they don't like what they hear.


/Mike Stern


Mike Stern with Miles Davis


Mike Stern solo guitar+



Mike Stern with Eric Johnson in 2013



Mike Stern's legendary career includes work with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius and a very long list of the top players in jazz+. Stern has put countless amazing musical partnerships on stage, released a large number of solo-albums and received six Grammy-nominations to date for his work. In 2014 he plans to release an album-collaboration with Eric Johnson. Find out more HERE.



Amy Petty says no to televised talent competitions

An article with Amy Petty

 - Why I Won’t Be Auditioning for The Voice (Or Any Other Televised Talent Competition)


An article with Amy Petty



Tonight, I’m standing in a stranger’s living room, singing at a house concert.  I’m far from home and I don’t know anyone here but you’ve given me your time, your ear and your heart for two hours and by the end of the night, we know each other.  We are fulfilled and changed by the experiences of the evening and life is good.  We are moved, unexpectedly.

You approached me with tears in your eyes.  I was standing near the tissue box so I had the honor of handing one to you.  You told me what that one song meant to you, how it spoke exactly of an experience you’d had and that it meant the world to hear someone else felt the same way.

After a few moments of each of us trying to find the words, you said, “And you should audition for the The Voice!”  I smiled and laughed a bit and said thank you.  “I mean it,” you said, “you’re good enough!  You could win!  You could be famous!  Someday, you’ll make it and we’ll say we knew you when.”

I’ve come to realize that this is a huge compliment, maybe the biggest compliment that you could possibly offer.  You have just placed me in the company of some of the best singers you know of.  You believe in me.  You want me to have success and you want others to experience what you’ve experienced here tonight.  I’m flattered and humbled and grateful.

For many people, watching one of the myriad singing competitions on TV is a huge deal, like a cross between a soap opera and football, exciting and dramatic and entertaining, an epic battle with a winner declared at the end.  And you can be directly involved in the outcome.  After all, it’s up to you to vote your favorite into the next round.  And seriously, there is some pretty incredible talent on those shows, especially The Voice.  So I’m flattered that you consider me talented enough to vocally rumble in the ring on your favorite TV show.

But I’m absolutely not going to do that.  Here’s why:


1)  I’m not interested in ‘winning’ at singing. 

I sing for a living so in all honesty, I ALREADY win at singing.  How strange it would be to have a celebrity judge (who probably knows less about singing than I do) listen to me for 30 seconds and decide if I’m ‘good enough’.  I AM good enough to sing for a living because I’m doing it right now.

I sing for people, on purpose, at concerts and festivals and weddings and churches and bars.  I studied music in college and have a degree in classical voice.  I’m a singer/songwriter and I’m signed to a small and awesome record label.  I sing for a living and I sing for people and I sing for myself.  I totally win.


2)  I’m not really interested in being famous.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not opposed to being well known or to my songs being heard by the masses or to making enough money to buy my mom a decent washer and dryer.  But I have never been interested in achieving fame.  Fame usually has nothing to do with the music and it almost certainly has nothing to do with talent.

It’s hard to judge the success of a musician without using fame as a measuring stick.  But it can be pretty simple.  Am I singing?  Check.  Are people hearing it?  Check.  Is everyone happy/moved/inspired/dancing/thinking at the end?  Check.  Do I want to do it again tomorrow night?  Check.  That, my friend, is success.


3)  I don’t want to compete with other singers.

There are plenty of people out there taking advantage of musicians.  They want us to perform for free.  They want us to give them the rights to our music.  They want us to ‘pay to play’.  They want $2000 for introducing us to the guy who might use a song in a TV show.  We have enough obstacles out there.  We don’t need to be stumbling over each other, too.

One of the greatest joys in my life has been meeting and performing and collaborating with other singers and musicians around the country.  They are my tribe.  I love them and I want them to survive and thrive and make more of their amazing music.  I want to share the stage with them.  I want to high five the guy who is trying out a new song, even if he knows his performance wasn’t perfect.  I want to be blown away by that girl with the amazing voice and not worry that she might be better than me.  I want all of us to try new things, play new instruments and write new songs without wondering if the audience is going to vote us off.

I have had the pleasure of finding my tribe, some ships that have passed in the night and some who are docked in the same harbor.  There are hundreds of us.  Thousands of us.  And life is better when we’re for each other, not against.


4)  I want to help write a new definition of success for musicians. 

I will admit, it’s pretty awesome to flip on the TV and see someone you know singing their hearts out for the world to see.  I’ve had friends audition for almost every major singing competition, some making it to the finals, others not making it through the first round.  And just because that’s not the path for me doesn’t mean that’s not the path for them, so I support them whole-heartedly.

But on many occasions, I’ve seen them give up when they get home.  They didn’t win the singing competition so they decide to go to bar-tending school.  Looks like they won’t skyrocket to fame, so they change their course all together.  Some of the best singers I’ve ever heard are deflated because they lost out to a juggling dog.  All the eggs, one basket.

It takes time and hard work to achieve whatever it is that you consider success but you won’t regret it.  My life is full of music because I made choices along the way to ensure that it is.  I could have given up when I wasn’t a famous singer by the time I was 21 years old.  Oh, the things I would have missed.  Even if fame is the ultimate goal…take the road less traveled and enjoy the ride.
As my friend and executive producer Lauren Markow always says: “Even a bad day making music is better than a good day doing anything else”.  Right. On.


5)  Because tonight was PERFECT.

Who says that the best music in the world is made in front of a huge audience?

It’s not.  It’s made in small rooms.  It’s made by people you’ve never heard of.  It’s made when a musician is alone, writing a song, practicing, trying something new.  It’s made when a french horn and it’s player become one entity.  It’s made when your choir is rehearsing a week before the scheduled performance and everyone just clicks.  It’s made at the Saturday matinee performance when the lead soprano finally understands and fully becomes her character.  It’s made when I am singing one of my songs and I look up to see you, crying, nodding, completely present and I realize that I don’t even know what this song is about anymore.

So no, I’m not going to be auditioning for The Voice.  Because I would much rather be standing right here, singing in a stranger’s living room, seeing your face as I sing, handing you a tissue as you tell me how my songs moved you.  I am part of your experience and you are part of mine.  I am fulfilled and I am changed and I am moved that you are moved.  And this is what I want my life to be.  Welcome to the tribe.

I will forever treasure the compliment.
 

Amy Petty




Amy Petty has released three albums:

Mystery Keeps You 2008

House Of Doors 2010

Sycamore Tree 2011

Find out more about Amy and her work here: http://www.amypetty.com/

This her text was originally published on Amy Petty's blog.

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Ian Ethan Case on keeping a beautiful tone

An article with Ian Ethan Case

Ian Ethan Case

An article with Ian Ethan Case



KEEPING A BEAUTIFUL TONE WHILE DOING MANY THINGS AT ONCE

Well, that's definitely a goal and an ongoing endeavor for me, but so far I find that the more mental bandwidth I can dedicate to just listening (while playing), the better I can play, and that includes everything from time and intonation, to tone, to dynamics, to playing the right thing at the right time (and resting at the right time) and so much more. In terms of tone, it is definitely something I care a lot about and it's a challenge on the double-neck since it wasn't really designed for the ways I play it, so there isn't an existing set of instruments and related tools to help you sound good. If you play cello or piano or trumpet or sax or a normal guitar using normal technique, you automatically benefit from the hundreds of years of trial and error that have gone into perfecting those instruments and the decades of development of amplification systems for those instruments. I've had to start from scratch in some ways as far as all that goes, since no one else really plays the particular ways that I do. So it's taken several years and a lot of work to get things to sound halfway decent in terms of the equipment involved.

But as far as the actual playing part goes, I guess it's actually somewhat like that too - there isn't a really established knowledge base or system of learning the kind of stuff I'm doing, and if there was I'd probably be doing something else! So I just try to take joy in being extremely patient and putting hours in on little minute details when I'm trying to figure out what I need to do on the instrument in order to get a certain note of the melody to pop out a little more, or to keep a certain string from ringing on a certain chord when 1.5 of my hands is busy doing something else and the other half hand has to play 4 notes - things like that. If I have to slow WAY down and examine what's going on then I do. I'm always trying to match the sound in my head more closely, because the ideas that come tend to be a lot more perfect than the execution of them. So it just takes work and you have to really want it and care enough to put a ton of time into it - so that's what I'm doing to the best of my ability. 

When I started doing all the live looping, it was definitely a lot more to keep track of, and I think I sounded truly terrible for about three years. Just this year I've finally started to feel like it's sounding reasonably close to the way it should, reliably. I just had to learn some new skills so that I could run 6 loops and a bunch of other pedals with my feet while playing some pretty dense and technical stuff on two necks at once, or on the fretless guitar where you have to really give a lot of attention to intonation. Again there wasn't much of a template for how to do all that at once, but it just takes practice and caring enough to really want to do whatever it takes to make it go right and be able to pull it off live. In a way it's nothing compared to what a really good drummer does, using all 4 limbs at once, or an organist that comps with the left hand while doing a bass line with their feet and soloing with their right hand! The key for me is to hear it all as one thing in a way - being aware of each individual part but really hearing and feeling it as a single collective thing that makes total sense. Otherwise I don't think I could do it, or even play the double-neck without any looping.

Ian Ethan Case



Ian Ethan Case has studied at Berklee Collage of Music. He is a multi-instrumentalist, who got a lot of attention at NAMM in January 2013, where he made quite a few rethink the possibilities of the guitar, experiencing the many ways in which he brings his acoustic double-neck guitar to life. He has released the CD ''Into Open Land'' and more. He has recently performed with Jeremy Kittel (Turtle Island Quartet, Bela Fleck), Nathaniel Smith (Natalie MacMaster, Chris Thile), and Matt Kilmer (Lauryn Hill, Simon Shaheen), as well as with current and former members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.

Listen to the recordings of Ian Ethan Case here


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Meet Sarah Longfield

An article with Sarah Longfield

Sarah Longfield

An article with Sarah Longfield


   My interest in music began at a young age. I started piano lessons around the age of 8 and my desire to explore music continued to expand from there on out.  I took up the violin at 10, the flute at 11, then guitar at age 12 (which then led to drums/percussion, and cello).  As for my musical voice, I would have to say that it is a combination of all of the different styles and instruments that I have played to date, as well as influenced by the many different genres that fascinate me :)


  

   My decision to pursue being a solo artist started out as just a necessity.  I did not know many musicians at the time near me who were either free to start a band, or wanted to start a band.  So being left with no other choice I decided to try doing everything on my own.  This was all made possible by the awesome Keith Merrow.  He introduced me to home recording techniques (how to use various software, what tools I would need, how to mix etc.) and inspired me to take my writing more seriously. So if it were not for him, I probably wouldn't be doing what I am right now!  I do also have a band now called The Fine Constant, who currently play the songs I have written live :) They are all incredibly talented and we will be collaborating on the next album, which will be new for me! I am excited!

   One of the awesome things about being a solo artist is that when you are rewarded for your work, it feels incredibly gratifying because you know that you are where you are because of the work YOU put in.  Although the opposite is also true, if people do not like what you have created (and many are very vocal about that) you can't place blame on anyone else, you are at fault.  Which I actually think is a good thing, it forces you to grow and learn at a more rapid pace, and it helps to develop a thick skin towards insults/criticism.


Sarah Longfield


   My current guitar of choice would be one of my .Strandberg* Boden 8 strings, designed by Ola Strandberg.  They are incredibly ergonomic and comfortable to play, as well as being a bit smaller than the average 8 string, which is more fitting for me!  My favorite pickups are the EMG 57/66 8 string set, very full sounding, clear, tight and good for any genre! As for amps, I currently use an Axe Fx II for my recordings and live shows, but I have a Randall Thrasher on order that will soon be replacing the Axe Fx :)  

   Right now I am working on a new album for my solo project, writing a new album with my band, finishing up an album of electronic music that I have been sitting on for the past few months, and collaborating with my friend (and fellow female shredder) Annie Grunwald! I am also playing lots of live shows and preparing for the upcoming NAMM show in Anaheim! So I am very busy, but there is nothing I would rather be busy with than music :)


  

   The music scene where I live doesn't really cater to a variety of genres and musicians unfortunately.  It is difficult and not too many big bands make tour stops in my city for that very reason. There are not many big cities in Wisconsin, so my plan right now is to save up money that I make working, and then to move somewhere with more musicians and more venues (and maybe warmer weather?!)

Sarah Longfield



Sarah Longfield works as a solo performer and with the band The Fine Constant. She currently has five albums/ep:s available. Listen to more of her work HERE.

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Ian Ethan Case: - I think everyone has a unique voice

An article with Ian Ethan Case

Ian Ethan Case

An article with Ian Ethan Case



How it began


I grew up in a really rural area in New Hampshire, and later in the mountains and foothills in northern California, and there just weren't a ton of people around that I could find who were really serious about music, especially people that were my age that I had any contact with. I really wanted to play and get better all the time so I tried to figure things out the best I could on my own. I was kind of the only one in my family that lived and breathed music 24/7 but my older sister played classical piano for a while and my mom played some basic piano and sang, and my parents had a good record collection and a good stereo and also took me to a lot of concerts, everything from The Messiah and other classical stuff to local blues/rock concerts on the town green to really world-class Appalachian folk concerts. So I definitely grew up around music and loved all of it.

It's hard to say exactly where the banging-on-skippy-peanut-butter-cansturned into something you could actually call music, but I was always superinspired by just about any music I heard and really wanted to play whatever I heard, as well as make up my own stuff. I started taking Suzuki piano lessons when I was 5 years old and really drank that up and made good progress for 2years until they tried to teach me how to read sheet music, which I totally failed at and was bored and frustrated with. But even while I was taking pianolessons and learning Bach minuets and stuff, I spent as much or more time coming up with my own little songs, and my teacher was really supportive of that. I remember figuring out that all the black keys on the piano made apentatonic scale (though I had no idea it had a name) and I was more into that sound.

From there I got really into drums after I saw someone play at a recital, and later sax, guitar, and bass. My parents were generally very supportive but I always had to fight a little bit or prove myself in order to be allowed to pursue each instrument. I think it took two or three years of me playing on cardboard boxes before I was allowed to buy a snare drum with my saved up allowance, and then another year or two before I had a real drumset, which was a pretty cheap used set but I was thrilled with it and put hundreds of hours in on it, playing along to recordings mostly, although I did eventually take some lessons and work out of some books. I had some really good local teachers who really helped me along.



 

When I got into guitar I was way into blues stuff. I also started recording myself using a double-decktape recorder which had a microphone input, and figured out I could play along with myself and layer as many parts as I wanted by swapping the tape decks each time. So that gave me a chance to start to experiment with basic arrangements for a full "band" and try different compositional and arrangement ideas out. I've realized the live looping I'm doing now kind of started (forme) in a way with those early tape recordings, which sounded pretty horrible I'm sure but taught me a lot about layering parts together and listening andbeing conscious of a lot of parts at once. Eventually I got a 4-track recorder,and later a 16-track hard disk recorder. I was always composing and recording songs, a lot of the time on my own although I did have a few bands in highschool where we did all original stuff, in kind of a blues/funk/jazz realm.Eventually I got tired of only knowing how to play pentatonic stuff and wanted to know what Robben Ford and Mike Stern were doing with these other types of scales I was hearing which I couldn't figure out on my own, so that's when I finally started really taking lessons on guitar and learning theory, which eventually led to Berklee.

 

Inspiration

 

What music is,inspires me. I don't find a lot in this world that's more inspiring than that or makes me want to sort of "write" a song"about" some other thing. I think when people do that, they may think they are creating something and they make think it is about a person, place, or thing but I think in reality it never actually is. Music that is pure and unfiltered by human concepts, is something that I feel totally transcends just about everything in this world. I think love itself is the only thing that we know of that compares. I think that kind of real music is the clearest windowwe have into everything that's larger than ourselves, everything that's not material, everything that's permanent and timeless and REAL. All that"ethereal" stuff that sometimes people think of as being very floaty and imaginary or theoretical, but music is very tangible proof to me of thiswhole other world that is very real and very present, even if it's often ignored or not understood. And it's infinite, so the real excitement for me is getting to continually discover more and more of what's there, and to try and share that with people. It feels to me a lot like walking around on the 100+acres of woods that were behind my parents house growing up. You get to know certain areas and how different paths connect, but you're continually discovering new areas you've never been in before and seeing how those connect with everything you know about already. And then getting to do a concert or record something and share it with people feels kind of like taking someone by the hand and leading them down these different paths you've found, to show them what's there.

If there is anything other than music itself that inspires me, I would say it's the outdoors - I've spent a lot of time outdoors in remote areas and there's just something that feels inherently good about nature that hasn't been all messed with and abused by humans. I think there's a connection there somehow with instrumental music, in the sense that in both cases it's really about appreciating something that was already there when you got there, and was already as perfect as it's ever going to get.You can't do anything to make it better than it is.

That's how I feel about music.That's why I never think in terms of "writing" or "creating"a song. I think that whole concept is false. I've had very clear experiences where a song just comes out in one piece in a ridiculously short amount of timeand I didn't even know what happened - there was zero composition process. Youcan artificially combine some notes and get a sound that isn't bad, but I think the real stuff happens when you're able to perceive something that is already there, so to speak, and then it's just a matter of being as completely transparent to that as possible. A lot of times in our culture there's all this emphasis put on the performer themselves as if that's where it's coming from,but I think that's like looking at the fingerprints and dust on a window pane instead of looking through it to the beautiful view outside.

It's nice to hear from people after a concert when they really got that and connected with the actual music and it showed them something new or took them somewhere - not in a dreamy fake way, but in a way that actually makes a difference in their life at that moment in a very real way. And I guess that's the third thing that inspires me, or at least motivates me, is that I care about people, I care about the world, and I want to do what I do well so that it can hopefully bless people to the greatest extent possible. If there's anyone else out there who is at all like me and gets overwhelmed by stuff and has things they wrestle with or just really hard circumstances or hard thingsto deal with, then they sure need it! 

 


Ian Ethan Case



Teachings and Voice

 

I have been really fortunate to get to learn from quite a few really excellent musicians (Dave Ballou, Aaron Goldberg, Jamey Haddad, Glen Velez, Antonio Sanchez, Rajna Swaminathan, Adam Rogers, David Tronso, many others) and to have gotten to attend Berklee College of Music for a bit, but I would have to say that for the most part, music for me has always been a pretty individual journey. From the time I was very young up through the present I've certainly spent far, far more time exploring ideas on my own than I have taking lessons, being in a classroom, or even learning informally from other musicians. I tend to take along time to process information and understand it thoroughly, so maybe that'swhy I tend to keep something like a 600:1 ratio of "hours-spent-working-on-my-own" to "actual instruction."

In fact I'm not sure a term like "instruction" entirely applies to the things that really matter to me in music. There's certainly a big chunk of music theory knowledge on sort of a mechanical level that I think is pretty important and helpful to understand, and although that's definitely an ongoing journey for me as well, it did make a big difference for me getting to study that kind of stuff for about a year and a half with a great guitar teacher named Nokes Kelly and then for a few semesters at Berklee. I know I would havea much harder time saying the things I want to say, musically speaking, if Ididn't have that, so I'm really grateful to have gotten to learn what I have so far in that kind of category.

BUT, the most productive and important times for me have been the points at which I really ditched the whole mentality of "we know what music is, and this is how you do it" and just totally veered off the road into some big piece of territory that no one had told me anything about. A big turning point for me was realizing that my value to the universe had more to do with finding and developing something uniquely mine and sharing that with the world, rather than trying to get better at doing something that someone else already did that has already been done a million times.

So it was shortly after that, after I had decided to leave Berklee, that I started to approach the guitar in a different way, and even approach music in general in a different way. I sort of threw out any sense of the "rules" in terms of theory, genre, the role the guitar should and should not play etc. and became way more open to just doing whatever it took to get the right notes to happen (and by "right" I mean the stuff that I was hearing in my head.) And shortly into that process I happened to pick up a double-neck guitar in a store one day and in the first 6 seconds of playing that thing, it felt like the heavens opened; I felt like I had just entered this incredibly rich, exciting world of new possibilities which at the same time felt totally natural and totally right, almost familiar in a weird way, but simultaneously really new and fresh and very freeing. Something just resonated with me on a deep level and I knew all I wanted to do from then on was to really dig into that instrument and everything it had to show me about music. The double-necksuddenly gave me a functional way to incorporate everything I'd learned over the years on piano, drums, bass, guitar, and other instruments - it all sort of clicked all of a sudden and I had this way to better express the way I naturally heard things, which has led me to discovering new things as well.

So I would have to say, in terms of education vs. finding one's own voice, for me it was definitely important to learn some things from people who had figured out a lot more than I had, but it was equally important to then kind of "forget" all that and start to discover and work on what I could share that maybe no one else was exactlyputting out there yet. Finding the double-neck has turned out to be kind of like "ground zero" for me - where my thing really started to take a definite shape - but I also try to be really careful that whatever I'm playing doesn't just become all about me or my instrument, doesn't become a circus act. Everything I do is basically just to try and get the right notes to come outand to try and follow where the music itself feels like it wants to go.

I think everyone has a unique voice (even if they're not using it and haven't discovered it yet) because we all hear things our own way - we're all conscious of different things. So I think the trick is finding a way to let that out somehow. It can take a ton of work to develop the skills necessary for that stuff to come out clearly, powerfully, and beautifully, but I think that's really what it is - letting something that already exists be seen, figuratively speaking. The cool thing is it never ends and we can always make progress inbeing even more true to who we inherently are and being more receptive to the ideas that we all receive whether we're aware of them or not.

 

Multi-Instrumentalism

 

I think most people who learn to play an instrument well, actually know more about all instruments than people realize. I think that's because most of what makes a good musician has to do with music itself. Of course you have to always work to improve your technical ability on your instrument and that's important, but the real stuff is the ideas you're dealing with in music itself. It's stuff that's hard to put into words in a way that conveys any real meaning, but it's very specific and very tangible stuff.

In my case, due to the way I grew up without a lot of people to play with at first, and maybe just my own interest in the way things can fit together and work with each other, it almost forced me in a way to learn several different instruments. If I wanted to hear drums on a song I had come up with, I had to play them myself! Same with the other instruments I played. For years it seemed like I was torn in too many directions because I loved it all so much, but finally when I picked up that double-neck it all suddenly came together, and in hindsight, working on music via all those different instruments and composing and recording, was really the perfect thing for me to do and it was all really just learning more about what's there in music. It all connects, the more you look at it, so in a way everything reinforces itself - but I find at the sametime that the more I learn, the more new things present themselves for me to learn about that I don't have a hold on yet. I really love that music is literally infinite and it always leads you forward more and more, the more you put into it. 


These days I play a lot of kalimba and fretless guitar in addition to the double-neck, and all three of those are quite different from each other in terms of the kinds of things they lend themselves to and the physical aspects of playing them, so in terms of continued learning they definitely compliment eachother and show you things from different angles so to speak. And I do find that each instrument is like its own unique lens through which to explore music; each instrument leads me to different ideas, different musical worlds and different compositions.

Hopefully it all hangs together though as one big connected journey - that's my goal anyway, as a composer and performer, to hopefully show people a little more of the amazing diversity and new ideas that music is always revealing to us, andat the same time show how connected it all is. That's been my experience in music so far in my journey, so that's what I'm trying to share when I play for people.



The acoustic double-neck guitar

 

I actually don't know for sure exactly who first made an acoustic double-neck guitar, I think it may have been Alvarez or Takamine but they quickly stopped making them shortly after they started. Jimmy Page may have used one of the first double-necks ever made, for Stairway To Heaven back whenever that came out, (so I've heard anyway), although his was an electric and was really a totally different animal.


The double-neck I came across when I started was an Ovation 18-string acoustic. They only made them for a few years. I believe the idea was that you can look cool on stage, mainly, and the excuse for using the instrument was that you can easily and quickly switch between strumming the 12-string sound on the top neck and soloing on the 6-string neck on the bottom. When I first picked it up, and actully for the first year or two during which I developed the majority of my playing methods on it, I had never really seen anyone play a double-neck before, at least not in a way that validated the use of the instrument, to me anyway. So I was really approaching it with a totally clean slate and not even thinking of it as a guitar or a double-anything; I was (and continue to be) really only interested in treating it as its own thing, as one instrument, just like a piano is one instrument even though you use two hands to play it, and a drumset is one instrument even though there are different voices contained in that instrument. That's part of why it felt so natural for me, I think, just thinking of it as one instrument. And that has led me to so many new places musically and really given me a very intuitive way to translate into sound the things I'm hearing in my head.

The downside has been that the technology and construction of the instrument wasn't designed for the way I play so especially when it came to trying to amplify it for concerts, it was extremely difficult at first to get things to sound even remotely similar to the way it sounds unplugged which is how I practice and compose at home, and how I developed all my technique. I'm really grateful that LR Baggs has come out with some very innovative and effective, usable internal microphones which I've now got inside all of my double-necks and which really do a great job transmitting the real acoustic sound of the instrument. The double-necks have piezo pickups too, but 75% of the sound we use comes just from the internal mics. It's been a major lifesaver and finally people who are nice enough to come out to a concert are hearing the songs the way they're meant to sound! I'm also working with a really open-minded, ambitious, very innovative luthier here in Boston who is building a new type of double-neck which we designed together. It's been several years in the making and it looks like it's actually going to be finished in early 2014 so I am pretty excited about that - to finally have an instrument that was designed from the ground up for the very weird ways that I play, that will be huge!

 

The present and the future

2013 has turned out to be quite a thrilling year for me! In January I got to play at Muriel Anderson's All-Star Guitar Night at NAMM, which was the first night I got to play for 1400 people or so, and the first time I've ever gotten to be part of a concert that people like Victor Wooten, Robben Ford, Stanley Jordan, and Mimi Fox were playing at, so that was pretty exciting and fun. When that concert ended I literally ran to catch an airport shuttle, took a red-eye flight to Boston, got off the plane and went straight to another concert where I got to play a couple of my compositions with some current and former members of the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops (a great pianist and two string players).

I also got to do my first real high quality video showing some of the live looping stuff I'm doing these days, thanks to my friend Sid Ceaser in Nashua NH who is an incredible photographer (who I managed to convince to try his hand at shooting video...and he was pretty much world class at it right off the bat.) A lot of things have finally come together in terms of getting the technology stuff in a good place where it is doing what I need it to do - both the amplification of the instruments as well as the whole live looping rig. LR Baggs, Kyser, and PreSonus have all given me endorsements which I really really appreciate and it has been great getting to know some of the great people that make those companies run - not to mention how helpful their products have been, which I was already using anyway.

This fall I've gotten to do a nice string of concerts in the Northeast US and in California, including a couple where I got to play with my friend Motoshi Kosako who is pretty much the best jazz harpist in the world, and for those concerts we both got to play with two amazing musicians that I literally grew up listening to from the time I was about 8 years old: Michael Manring and Paul McCandless. I got to meet some other great musicians out there too and make so many other great connections. I also put my first trio together this year, after several years of mainly doing solo stuff, and that has been incredibly fun and musically rewarding. A couple weeks ago we got to play at the Boston Museum of Science in their new multi-million-dollar planetarium, which is like an IMAX theater on steroids with a 360-degree dome-shaped video screen that covers your entire peripheral vision, with a 10.1 sound system. The guys at the museum custom animated these absolutely mind-blowing computer-generated HD videos specifically for my compositions that I played that night, and we performed them live with the visuals synched to the live performance. We got a really good turnout and an enthusiastic response and they are having us back for a couple more of those concerts in January and April so that is one thing I'm looking forward to in 2014.

Primarily though I'm looking forward to finishing and releasing my first new double-neck album since 2008, which is going to be a double-disc album featuring all of the compositions that I've been doing live for the past few years, so it will be really great to finally be able to have that to offer people.

I'm also planning to do a live DVD out in Seattle with my friend Charley Voorhis who is another totally world-class video guy. I'm planning to tour everywhere in the country that I possibly can in the fall 2014, so I'm looking forward to playing a lot and getting to visit a lot of different places and see some new people and people I haven't seen in forever. Also, my new double-neck should be done in early/mid 2014 so that will be a game-changer for me, big time. Basically I'm just grateful to be on this whole big journey with music and I'm excited to keep on running forward and keep learning and discovering things and keep sharing what I'm doing with whoever wants to come check it out and be part of it. Bringing people together for concerts and enjoying this music collectively is the part that really makes it a total blast!


Ian Ethan Case


Ian Ethan Case has studied at Berklee Collage of Music. He is a multi-instrumentalist, who got a lot of attention at NAMM in January 2013, where he made quite a few rethink the possibilities of the guitar, experiencing the many ways in which he brings his acoustic double-neck guitar to life. He has released the CD ''Into Open Land'' and more. He has recently performed with Jeremy Kittel (Turtle Island Quartet, Bela Fleck), Nathaniel Smith (Natalie MacMaster, Chris Thile), and Matt Kilmer (Lauryn Hill, Simon Shaheen), as well as with current and former members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.

 

Listen to the recordings of Ian Ethan Case here.

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