My new album “Flowers” will be coming out shortly, and as the process nears an end, you can follow my Instagram page for some sneak peeks and updates. Not to mention a lot of other content to compliment the material on this blog.
I have recently begun a 30 days, 30 albums challenge, in the hope that somehow it will help me mix and master my new album, which I hope to complete in the same period.
I’m only a few days in, but I strongly recommend the challenge. It’s only by doing something like this that I remember just how little time I manage to devote to actually listening to music, and just how much I actually enjoy it. So if you feel like you need a similar epiphany, it’s an easy way (I gather the rules don’t necessarily state that the days have to be consecutive).
I’m going to keep this site updated with the list as I go, and you can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/lapelcelery/ if you want to keep track of what I’m listening to in a more visually appealing way… Maybe you’ll get some ideas of your own!
Finally, below is a sample of the pre-master copy of the first track from the new, upcoming album “Flowers”. Enjoy!
Last month, I posted a short entry talking about Andy Fairweather Low’s Humbucker Stratocasters, and frankly I’ve been more and more a fan of his work and in particular his extremely idiosyncratic guitar playing. So I thought a similar guitar would be an interesting project.
Earlier this week, I received the parts in the mail to complete the project and since the routing procedure I had to perform was a little out of the ordinary for a home job, I thought I’d do a short post on it.
To begin with, I had a black Jimmy Vaughan signature Strat, and a fitting tremolo hanging around, originally intended to take some gold lace sensors.
Needless to say, when I decided on humbuckers instead, the routing wasn’t exactly perfect to accommodate them, so a little woodwork was required.
I decided to use a small handheld belt sander, to get into the small cavity of the route, without risking any cosmetic damage to the rest of the body.
It’s easy enough to remove small ‘slices’ of wood from the center to the edge of the route (also possible to do it much more time-efficiently, but arguably with more risk using a chisel), and open up the entire section.
In the end, I opted for a ‘swimming-pool’ style route because the pickups were yet to arrive and I wasn’t sure of the exact spacing of the custom pickguard.
I installed the tremolo and the neck and finally, a couple of weeks later, the pickguard showed up in the post. Pre-wired and custom designed to my request by Sigler Music and their 920d custom shop*
One snag in the plan was the humbucker mounting.
These particular humbuckers are Seymour Duncan Antiquities, in my opinion, the most pleasant sounding (non-custom wound) humbuckers on the market, harking back to theose ideal vintage Les Paul tones.
That said, they’re designed to be mounted in a Les Paul, and a LP has a deeper route for the mounts than a standard Strat.
My solution, as you can see, was to clip off the deep screw-tips, which leaves the pickups at the perfect depth on the bottom of the route. Of course, If you were feeling brave, you could always drill some deeper holes in the body for the screws, but personally, I’d not be comfortable drilling that close to the tremolo cavity.
As it turns out, I ended up raising the pickups quite a lot anyway, so there remains a substantial portion of screw for adjustment.
Finally, all was mounted perfectly (humbuckers supplying the nice change of not having to attach the ground wires to the trem claw and shielding paint), and after some new strings, it was time for that all-important first photo!
And that all-important first song:
* You can find the ‘Sigler Music‘ page of loaded pickguard options at:
They’re a fantastic company, and have always been more than willing to accommodate any requests I’ve had at extremely affordable prices.
Years after the fact, I have finally gotten around to uploading my video diary for our 2012 tour to YouTube. If you like seeing a jet lagged band pass out on public transport or annoy each other with a camera, you’re in for a treat.
If you’re more into the music, you can skip to part 9 to see us at Seaside Lounge recording studios, Brooklyn, recording our 2012 EP “Anywhere Else”
One of my personal favourite bands in recent years has been The Shins, in no small part due to the amazing talent of frontman James Mercer.
As well as being, in my opinion, one of the finest lyricists of his, or any, generation, Mercer is a very gifted songwriter and skilled multi-instrumentalist.
Although the lead guitar sounds of the Shins often belong to Dave Hernandez and his Guild S-100, or lately Jessica Dobson and her Fender Elvis Costello signature Jazzmaster (below), Mercer is heavily associated with his own guitars, and they make up an important part of his personal sound, as well as the soundscapes of the Shins records.
Gibson Les Paul Special.
This has been James’ main guitar for the past few years and tours with The Shins, starting in 2007. A double-cutaway Les Paul Special. Likely a modern reissue from the early 2000’s judging by the body dimensions, pickup spacing and Tune-O-Matic + wraparound bridge combination.
This example is in TV yellow, a colour reportedly developed by Gibson because it looked white on black-and-white TV, without causing the camera glare their white finishes did!
On comedian Marc Maron’s podcast WTF with Marc Maron, James talked about loving the sound of P90 pickups, a fact many of his guitar selections support.
Heavily used by James for a long time.
“Recently I’ve learned that James has an equal fondness for both his Les Paul Junior (I believe that’s what it is) and his Guild Starfire. Possibly troubling to him.” – Joe Plummer (Shins drummer), ‘Drowned in Sound’ interview*
The “Les Paul Junior” to which he refers may be a mistaken reference to the LP Special, or it may refer to some of the following…
James’ main acoustic guitar. He has used this guitar on countless Radio and TV appearances, solo shows in support of Shins albums, and with Broken Bells.
Harmony Silvertone Stratotone.
The first guitar James ever bought with his own money.
During an appearance on 360 sessions **, James gave a small tour of his home studio, and showed some of his guitars. I cannot identify the guitar on the right, though other images of it show that the heastock bears a sticker which reads “Del Rock”, but the one on the left is a Harmony Silvertone, which I have heard referred to as both a Jupiter and a Stratotone. The bridge is non-original (and very similar to one I talked about in an earlier post about Elvis Costello’s Jazzmasters), and interestingly enough, although Jessica Dobson played a similar silvertone on tour with the Shins, it didn’t have this bridge (this can also be seen in the same 360 sessions.)
Les Paul Special.
Owned by James and used as his main guitar for a while, before being essentially replaced by the yellow double-cut in 2007. This is a single cut, in a red finish. It can be seen in a lot of 2006 appearances with The Shins, as well as the video clip for ‘Saint Simon’. Photos of Mercer’s studio in Portland in 2016 seem to suggest he still owns this guitar.
Green Vintage Airline.
‘This is an old Airline guitar that I got at a pawn shop in Albuquerque for 40 bucks. I think I tried to talk the guy down even lower, but he was like “Come on man, it’s 40 bucks.” It was a very cheap guitar. It was designed for kids to… ruin basically. And it sounds great. ‘ – James Mercer, 360 Sessions: The Shins .
There are a few images of this one in James’ home studio, and he’s been using it on tour with Broken Bells.
Then there are some oddities. Guitars with pictorial evidence that James has used, but which don’t necessarily seem to have belonged to him.
Gibson Les Paul Junior.
All footage and photos of James using this guitar seems to come from the same session for KEXP radio, so it could well be a borrowed instrument, but it does seem to foreshadow the double-cut special in TV yellow which he would acquire later. And remember Joe Plummer’s quote about the Les Paul Junior from earlier? Maybe there’s more to this one than pictorial evidence suggests.
Gibson SG Special.
All the images of James playing this SG seem to date (by clothes) to the same concert, so I presume it was borrowed, perhaps after a broken string.
Again, this guitar seems to have only been used at the one performance. I don’t recognise the band either, so perhaps it is another instance of borrowing.
In any case, the guitar appears to be a heavily reliced Fender Telecaster to 50’s specs in butterscotch blonde with a single ply black scratchplate.
At the time of writing, The Shins Instagram has been full of images from new recording sessions, so the future looks exciting!
* You can find the interview at http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4144596-the-shins–introducing-the-band
Well, I finally got around to posting a bunch of demos for my next couple of albums to YouTube. You can find them on my channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2Rf1XWTgkHEsyU3h793kMQ
Here’s my personal favourite, written to a beat and written around lyrics that came first, both pretty unusual practices for me.
“We’re nothing more than tinker’s toys, drawn up from a chart.
Wind us up and let us go. Watch us fall apart.”
In his career as one of the most reputable session guitarists in the world*, Andy Fairweather Low has used many different guitars. From the late eighties/early nineties, as a part of Eric Clapton’s (and in 1991, George Harrison’s) band, he used Eric Clapton signature guitars with Lace Sensors almost exclusively, but he has since stated in interviews
“I never got on with the lace sensor pickups. I found some old humbuckers and actually, some new P90s. I like the sound they make.”
I have yet to see any evidence of his P90 guitars, but for a long period beginning in the late nineties, he was often seen with some Eric Clapton Strat’s, heavily modified with these Humbuckers.
There is little more to be said about these guitars, except that he appears to have had at least five different versions, two each in Black and Olympic White, fitted with either one or two Humbuckers, and a red version with three, as seen at the ‘Concert for George’ .
For anyone interested in seeing and hearing his Black Strat in action, check out his amazing solo in ‘Money’ from Roger Waters’ ‘In the Flesh – Live’ DVD.
*Andy has played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby, The Band, Richard and Linda Thompson, Dave Gilmour, The Who and Pete Townshend, BB King, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Jimmy Page, Ronnie Lane, Linda Ronstadt, Roddy Frame, Emmylou Harris, Joe Satriani, the Bee Gees, Jeff Beck, The Impressions, Lonnie Donegan, Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, David Sanborn, Benmont Tench, Warren Zevon, Charlie Watts, Mary J. Blige, Dave Edmunds, Georgie Fame, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Rush, Phil Collins, Van Morrison, Gerry Rafferty, Chris Rea, Buddy Guy, Chris Barber, Jackson Browne, Bill Wyman and Sheryl Crow, amongst others.