Friday, October 23, 2009

Washing The Trailer

The band's f-ing trailer has been living in my garage since March, taking up all the extra space and making my workbench and powertools distant memories.

Years of filth were allowed to accumulate on it (intentionally) as a theft deterrent, and I can't fault the reasoning.
A clean trailer looks like it might have some good shit inside that's worth stealing. A band or DJ logo on the side practically guarantees a cut-off lock.

My position is that if it isn't in my garage it's on the way to a club where it's quickly emptied. When it sits alone in the parking lot there's nothing to steal.
Mainly, I just got tired of having to change my shirt every time I bumped into it, which happened a LOT since there's just no way to avoid it in my packed garage.

So I took it to the car wash, and brought a ladder.
My phone (LG EnV2) is the only camera I have that fits in a pocket, so that was part of the plan from the start.

One of my favorite phone pics ever.
If your monitor is calibrated you can even tell that the foam bubbles are pink.

Another side of this is pride--I got tired of driving around in public with such a filthy follower.
After replacing the tail lights and all of the wiring, adding safety chains and a new jack, installing a new lock system, and sweeping out years of dirt and hair, I thought the poor thing deserved a bath.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bassic Repairs

An old Ibanez bass showed up at my house tossed in the back of a pickup truck with no case.
It had crapped-out many years ago, but was remembered fondly.

There was no cover plate on the back, just duct tape protecting the wiring and keeping the battery from falling out. Step 1 was selecting a solvent that would get rid of tape spooge without damaging the finish, then scrub the bass clean of beer, sweat, and essence of whore.
Step 2 was to dive into her spaghetti guts and figure out why she was mute and slightly retarded.
I won't bore you with the details because it's tedious work I'd rather forget.
Newer instruments have a drop-in circuit board that takes care of everything, but then I wouldn't have a chance in hell of even diagnosing the problem let alone fixing it.
Computer chipz aren't friendly to us old-school soldering gun & hammer types.

Step 3 was finding some plastic and fabricating a new back cover.
For a paying customer I would have gone out and bought some, but on this project my budget was zero so I used an EXIT sign scrounged from a dumpster for a previous project.
After cutting it to shape with an ExActo knife and sanding it down to fit (a bitch!) I drilled and countersunk the screw holes, painted the backside white, and glued a layer of aluminum foil to it for RFI rejection. You can see where there's some Ibanez foil tape to transfer ground connection to the plate in the 1st pic.

Step 4 was to find the correct allen wrench and adjust a steel truss-rod inside the neck. After letting the neck "settle" for a day I adjusted it again, then went to work on the bridge to fine-tune the action (string height).

Step 5 = Intonation.
Depending on how high the strings are and what gauge/tension strings you prefer, the bridge saddles have to be moved to shorten or lengthen the vibrating length of each string so it will play in-tune all the way up your neck.
Steps 4 & 5 are an interrelated balancing act that must be performed periodically, and any time you change string gauge or even brand.
Many musicians haven't a clue how to do this, and the ones who also can't afford to pay a professional to do it for them will forever suffer from that "garage band" sound.
You've heard what I'm talking about--chords sound a little "odd" and despite tuning between every song none of the instruments in the band agree on what exactly constitutes a G#. Yuck!
I taught myself these skills when I was 14 and have made a few bucks on the side over the decades since.
It's also a good way to spend quality time with a lot of different instruments and learn their secrets.

I brought the newly Zzakk'd bass to the next gig, and I thought it sounded much better than the one I've been listening to for 19 months.
Longer sustain, no dead notes (F#), less muddy/more even tone.
After one set I was waiting for the old bass to come out of it's case, but it didn't happen.

At the end of the night I was asked to put this one in the case and leave the other one naked.
The photo above is from the next gig and Miz Ibanez Roja again handled the whole night and in fact the other bass was left at home, so I guess my efforts were successful.
Since I prefer this one's sound and will have to listen to it for 24+ hours a month, I'm very happy that the owner is happy.

BTW, I would have charged anyone else $75-100 for the work but I consider stuff like this part of my job.
Yet another step towards being irreplaceable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rockstar Academy

You could do a lot worse than take career advice from Michael Morales.
After all, he's had a hit record.
(A cover of What I Like About You by The Romantics. Repeat--a cover).

And he's a Grammy winning producer, for...I don't know.
Probably a Latin Grammy.

And he's done time for extortion, related to his brother or cousin or somebody running for governor. Blackmailed the opposition and got caught.
State prison teaches you many useful skills.

But the name Rockstar Academy really turns me off.
People love to use that word way too much to suit me.
Some 12 year old kid sings a song and knows three chords, and proud mommy calls them a rockstar.
An 18 year old joins a band and plays a backyard party, they call themselves a rockstar.
But after 29 years in the music business, including several years leading bands that played in front of huge crowds I have never once thought I was one.

Let me break it down:
Bono = Rockstar
Jonas Brothers = Not

Jimmy Page = Rockstar
Miley Cyrus = Not

Gene Simmons = Rockstar
Michael Morales = Not

Slash = Rockstar
Axl Rose = Not

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shirts And Shoes

How you leave is entirely up to you.
Topless, barefoot, and pregnant would be a good guess.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

You've GOT To Be Kidding!

It's a freaking handtruck.
Two little wheels, some steel tubing, and a flat bit that you scootch under heavy things to move them around using the advantage of leverage.
NOT FOR HIGHWAY USE has got to be the silliest warning label I've seen in 2009.

People who hurt themselves doing dumb shit and then sue should be whipped in public.
What happens to their lawyers, I'll leave open to comments.