Wednesday Dose of Soul: “Truck Turner” – Isaac Hayes

SolidGoldFX Funkzilla Review

The auto-wah, touch-wah/envelope filter is a bit of a niche effect. Die-hard rockers and funkmeisters always seem to go for the clunky, full-size Vox or Dunlop wahs, and there are no shortage of those and their imitators to go around. I could never get the hang of constantly working a pedal with my foot while having to focus on what my hands were (supposed to be) doing. I canguyatone wr 2’t pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time, either. For the hopelessly uncoordinated who still want to get funky, a wah/filter effects pedal is a must-have. Since trading away my first Cry Baby after many thwarted attempts at playing “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” I’ve owned several of them. My first was a little purple Guyatone WR2 “Wah Rocker” that I bought used out of the window of a music store in Nashville for around $90, I think, in 2004. It was a very simple auto wah, with knobs for Threshold and Decay, and a bypass switch. Even an idiot like me could use it! Sadly, it disappeared somewhere along the long, winding and somewhat inebriatedly navigated road of my semi-professional music career. At this very moment it’s probably being used as a door stop in the ladies’ bathroom at a truck stop somewhere between Richmond and Bristol, VA. Enjoy your second life, my tiny purple friend!

My next companion in the funk wars was the dutifully named Modtone Funk Filter. With three knobs, which included settings for low pass, mid pass, and high pass filters, it was more tweakable, if less actually ‘funky’ than the Guyatone. Still, it had a thick tone, especially in the ‘mp’ setting, that fattened up single string riffs and give an interesting punch to my brief solo breaks. Unlike the Guyatone, which was an auto-wah (the sweep of the filter — what’s controlled by the pedal on a “big” wah pedal — is automatic, and controlled by a speed, or in the case of the WR2, a “Decay” knob), the MFF is a touch-wah or classic envelope filter: it responds to the signal going in, and an “attack” control gauges how sensitive the filters affect is to your playing dynamics.

Speaking of breaks, the Modtone is now broken. The 9V input assembly cracked (that’s weird, I know!) but that was a simple enough, straight-forward fix: $1 for a new power jack and some soldering time. However, I am not the world’s most deft electrical tinkerer; when attaching the new 9V assemble (which worked!), I also seemed to have dripped some solder or got something too hot — in any case, now it powers up, but doesn’t work. It will probably take awhile before I can trace down all the components that will need to be replaced in order to fix what I unfixed when I was fixing. No worries, though, as it joins yet another broken Modtone pedal in my “I’ll get around to it” box which I will probably cannibalize for parts.

Which leads me, finally, to the SolidGoldFX Funkzilla, which I borrowed when I recently re-upped my subscription Pedal Genie. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, it’s like Netflix for guitar pedals. You pay a monthly subscription fee, create a “wish list,” and they send you a pedal from that list. Keep it as long as you like; when you are ready to return it, put your pedal back in the provided box, and email the kind folks at Pedal Genie to request a mailing label. They will shoot it to you via email; tape it onto the padded flat rate envelope they sent along inside your pedal order, seal the boxed-up pedal into the envelope, and drop it in the mail. As soon as they receive it at the Pedal Genie office, they will send you another pedal on your list. It’s cool, and convenient, and a great way to try out unusual and/or boutique pedals before actually dropping $200-300 on one. I’ve gotten a Caroline Kilobyte, a Strymon Lex, an EHX B9 Organ Machine, a Tech21 Fuzz/Boost, and, now, the SolidGoldFx Funkzilla. Of all these, the Funkzilla has been my favorite, and it’s the only one I’ve been so enamored with that I’ve begun stalking it on Reverb and eBay. They are still running in the low $200’s, even for a used one!funkzilla pedal

The Funkzilla is more than just an auto-wah or filter effect; the ease of use, tweakability, and overall design make it almost an instrument itself. Billed as the “ultimate filter pedal,” the device comes in a sparkly purple rectangular enclosure; with its white knobs and white “Electric Company” style lettering, I was immediately struck by how ‘funky’ this pedal looked. While the rows of knobs and switches made my brain hurt a little, I decided to plug and play before searching online for a manual. It didn’t take long at all to figure out how the controls worked and to get busy using the various settings for musical inspiration.

The Funkzilla is basically a two-function monster. There’s Tap mode, which utilizes the Speed, Mode, and Depth knobs, as well as switches to select among three wave-forms, repeat-multipliers (1, 2, or 4), and >dir< which controls the “direction” of the filter’s sweep in both modes. I’d liken the Funkzilla’s Tap to an extremely tweakable Tremolo; the Mode knob gives you several different rhythmic “chopping” patterns to select from, and their character and speed are easily shaped by the aforementioned knobs, the ‘tap’ button, the wave-form selector or the multiplier switch. I could’ve spent hours playing around with just half of the pedal’s functions, but what I was looking for was the funk, so my quest continued.

Envelope mode is where you find the familiar filter effects lazy-footed guitarists are in search of — and this pedal certainly delivers. The Depth, Frequency and Attack knobs are active in this mode, and allow you to contour the filter to mimic a wide range of sound shapes, from a spanky quack to very musical, talkbox-sounding vowel sounds. And the >dir< feature really comes alive in this Envelope mode. I’d never imagined that reversing the filter sweep would do much more than muddy the initial input signal, but the effect was something nearly akin to a Slow Gear volume swell. For something I would’ve considered superfluous before trying this pedal out, the >dir< feature is one of the things that really sets this pedal apart from the pack.

My gigging experience with the Funkzilla was a very positive one. I put it after my EHX Soul Food overdrive, basically in the middle of my pedal chain. (BTW I know most sources say to put a Wah before an overdrive, fuzz or boost, but I actually prefer the ‘darker’ results of distortion going through the filter, instead of the other way around.)  I stuck exclusively with Envelope mode, as I felt that I’d need more time to really get a handle on Tap mode before I could use it effectively.  Even using only half the pedal, I found the results exciting and inspirational, both for rhythm and some solo passages. I had to do very little tweaking during the show, and was pleased to see that the purple sparkle of the pedal, contrasting with the white knobs and white labeling, made onstage, low-light knob twiddling easier. So, the funky color is both a stylish choice and a practical one. I don’t currently have an expression pedal that I could use to test the effect’s functionality with the added interface, but I imagine it would add even greater flexibility and increase the possibilities for live exploration and invention.

I don’t have a rating system for gear reviews — should I have one? — but if I did, I’d give the SolidGoldFX Funkzilla two thumbs up, four guitar picks, five gold stars, etc. My only knock would be the cost, but my experience with guitar effects is that you often get what you pay for, and the Funkzilla, even at $250 new (and still $200-225 used), packs a lot of value into that funky purple box!

Standard Responses to Online Stupidity

russellwriter:

Excellent rejoinders against The Dumb!

Originally posted on Whatever:

Dear Citizens of the Internet: 

From time to time, in your ordinary exercise of the delights of the online world, you may find yourself accosted by clods. These oafish louts crave your time and attention, but in point of fact, life is short and you have better things to do.

For you, I have created this helpful numbered list of standard responses to online stupidity. When accosted, send the twit here to read the specific numbered response(s) relevant to them. Saves you time; alerts them they’re a jerk, and this is all the response they rate.

Use and enjoy.

  1. I don’t care what you think.
  2. I didn’t ask you.
  3. No doubt you thought that was terribly clever.
  4. You’ve attempted logic. Not all attempts succeed.
  5. One should not have that many errors in that few characters.
  6. Either your educators have failed you, or you have failed them.
  7. I see you’ve invited me to an argument. I decline.
  8. It…

View original 61 more words

Cups, You’re Gonna Miss Me: Evolution of a Song

I was doing some research for a song I’m working on that may mention Macey Springs, VA and reference the Carter Family, and encountered this blog  article: Cups, You’re Gonna Miss Me: Evolution of a Song.

The history of this particular ear-worm goes way back, probably even past the Carters, but A.P.’s name is still in the credits.

via Cups, You’re Gonna Miss Me: Evolution of a Song.

G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) Relief

ShopWhile the extended weekend/ice-enforced stay-cation of this past week has not been a boon to my songwriting and recording, as I’d hoped (my fault for lack of focus; the kids’ fault for, well, being kids and not leaving me alone!), it has helped me make a bit of a dent in my extraneous musical gear inventory. In the past three months or so I’ve been going through a serious gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) phase. While it was always with the stated intention of finding deals on gear I could refurbish, play and tinker with, then re-sell, I’d been doing more playing than I had re-selling. Along the way I’ve learned a good deal more about guitars and electronic effects, what tools I need in order to fix them, and the importance of reading user manuals. (Maybe one day I will write a piece about all the ‘for parts or repair’ gear I’ve encountered for which ‘repairing’ meant ‘reading the damn manual and following directions.’)

In any case, my Reverb “shop” is fairly well stocked right now. Check it out, if you are curious.

Shop My Store on Reverb

 

Stomp Box Fever #1

So, lately I’ve been on kind of a pedal kick. Since I’ve decided to go back to using a smaller amp — a fond farewell to my Vox AC15 and a big hello to my new purple Vox AC4 (and also to a black 2005 Bad Cat Mini Cat, which I’m still thinking of selling — I just feel so decadent owning three guitar amps … I’m counting the little Fender G-DEC I have, too) — I appear to be making up the difference by acquiring pedals as well as adding old pedals back to my effects chain. Not only am I buying and selling stomp boxes via Reverb and eBay — I’ve bought three, sold three — but I just joined and received my first pedal from Pedal Genie, which is like a Netflix (or Neckflix) for guitar pedals. I got a Caroline Kilobyte, which is supposed to create all sorts of crazy-cool lo-fi sounds. I’m hoping to hook it up early tomorrow morning and wake up the sleepyheads upstairs!

As of right now, my pedal board is rocking a Boss TU-2 chromatic tuner (thanks to Jared Bentley), a Modtone Funk Filter Enveloper (basically an auto-wah), a Visual Sound Garage Tone Drivetrain (an overdrive modeled on my old fave, the Reverend Drivetrain II pedal, used mainly for chunky rhythm), an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food overdrive (mainly for leads),  Visual Sound H2O stereo chorus/delay, and a Mooer Micro-DI with a built-in 4 x 12 cabinet simulator. I’m using the H2O as a delay and signal splitter so that one effects send goes to the amp, while the other goes to the DI and then into the PA board. The little 4-watt Vox then acts as my stage monitor, which I can adjust without affecting the signal that’s going to the board, as the sound man will be working with the signal coming through the pedals and then the DI/cab simulator.

I bought a Caline Pedal Power 5 to eliminate the need for multiple wall-warts or batteries, but it’s much noisier than I expected. I’m going to try a few different configurations and see if that helps, but I still have a one-spot with a multi-plug that I could use. The Caline was supposed to be quieter as it supposedly has isolated circuits for each power output … but it sure doesn’t sound like it.

I’d like to get a good Tremolo and a good Reverb pedal. The only real downside of the Vox AC4 is that it doesn’t have the AC15’s awesome built-in tremolo and reverb. I tend to use tremolo quite a bit, so I’m definitely going to need that … and where would guitarists be with reeve? In any case, I’m torn right now between getting one pedal that is both, like a Strymon Flint or a VHT Melo-Verb — or two separate ones, like an E-H Holy Grail  (reverb) nd a Z-Vex Sonar (tremolo).

Other than getting the humming power supply problem out of the way and the order/configuration of the pedals set, I’m hoping that I can eventually try out a Wampler Thirty Something between the H2O and the DI to see if I can improve my tone through the PA. This pedal, designed by Wampler with the help of Queen’s Brian May, is supposed to be pretty close to a Vox AC30. They are pricey, though, so I’m hoping I can try one out through Pedal Genie before I shell out the big bucks for it.

Well, that’s enough of my nerdy guitar blathering. If you are a guitarist or musical experimenter or any sort, check out some the links above.

Cookie Dough fundraiser for University School!

Hate to bug you, but …

I’m helping my daughter, Luli, who is now in First Grade, sell cookie dough as part of a fundraiser for University School — they are hoping to fund some additions to their playground. If you’d like to help out, you can do so by purchasing a tub of cookie dough (see information below), which will be delivered in about a month by a semi-toothless munchkin who looks similar to this:

Luli Glasses

We’re not collecting any money now, just taking orders, so if you’d like to place an order, just fill out the form below and indicate your choice, flavor, and amount. I will email you back to confirm your choices and give you a total cost. Please email me at robertasburyrussell@gmail.com with any questions you have about the products!

Orders are due this Friday (Aug. 2), and the cookies/treats should be in around the end of August, first of September!

Many thanks,

Rob

Enjoy delicious cookies any time of the year!

Dough is made from the finest ingredients.

Packed and shipped in re-useable tubs that weigh approximately 2.7 pounds.

Each tub of cookie dough will make approximately 90, 1/2 oz. cookies.

Cookie dough can be refrigerated for 6 months or frozen for 1 year. It is shelf stable at room temperature for 21 days. Dough can be thawed and refrozen.

Cookie dough is available in the following flavors:

Chunky Chocolate Chip – $16
Peanut Butter – $15
Sugar – $16
Snickerdoodle – $16 (it’s just a cinnamon sugar cookie — what a misleading name!)
Oatmeal Raisin – $16
Triple Chocolate – $16
M&M Candies – $16
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut – $16
Caramel Pecan Chocolate Chip – $16
Lemon Drop- $16
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup- $16
White Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry – $16

 

Pics below the form

Pics of the cookies, to make you hungry …

walnut chip, reese's, etc.

walnut chip, reese’s, etc.

Trip Chox & Oatmeal

Trip Chox & Oatmeal

M&M, macadamia

M&M, macadamia

various cookies

various cookies

choc chunk

choc chunk

Remembering Lou Reed

It’s been a few weeks since the passing of Lou Reed, and I’ve been meaning to write a bit about what he meant to me. When I think of Lou, and VU, I think about …

> Finding an eight-track tape in a bargain bin at Howard Brothers’ department store in Jefferson City, TN when I was 13 (or 14)? It was the last gasp of the eight-track world, and loads of good stuff was to be had for cheap. But the best thing I scored that day was a tan-colored tape with a black and white picture of two men in gas masks on the front. It was labeled The Velvet Underground: Archetypes, but it was actually White Light/White Heat, the second Velvets album. That was my first taste of Lou and VU, and it was extremely strange. My friend John and I played it over and over again, particularly “Sister Ray” and “The Gift” (where you could pan the stereo all the way to the right and just hear John Cale’s dead-pan reading of the story of poor Waldo Jeffers, pan it to the right and you could hear the band at their experimental-rock weirdest).

> Learning Lou’s melody guitar part to “Ride into the Sun” from Another VU  so we could play it at a variety show over at West High School in Morristown; I was 17. Definitely a highlight of my young life when the solo came and John stomped on his fuzz box and that crappy Fender Mustang of his blasted through that old Peavey amp.

> Bonding with Robert Alfonso, who’d soon become my best friend and songwriting compadre, over covers of “Femme Fatale,” “Sunday Morning,” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” and hearing Berlin (especially “The Kids”) for the first time in the kitchen of his tiny “house” on Earnest Street in Johnson City. I was 19.

… and, EVERY time I played “Sweet Jane”/”Rock and Roll” with RRSL. Too many times to count, too much fun to ever forget.

Thank you, Mr. Reed. Thank you for everything!

reed

You can find a good bio/obit here on the Rolling Stone site, if you are looking for more info on Lou Reed and his music.

Check Out the JV Squad & Symphony Rags!

If you haven’t already, please listen to and follow some of my favorite people (and musicians) in two great regional bands: the JV Squad and Symphony Rags.

If you know me, you know that Vanessa Bentley from JV Squad and Brandon Story from Symphony Rags and I go way back — back to the 90’s with the Rent Boys and the Bystanders.  In addition RRSL used to gig frequently with Jared Bentley’s (JV) bands and Megan Gregory (Symphony) plays fiddle and sings on the first RRSL record, I Think We’re Gonna Be Alright.

Some great music and video from both bands are below:

“Falling Leaves” from Symphony Rags

JV Squad live on WETS-FM

Symphony Rags will be at the Down Home in Johnson City on Thursday, October 10th (8 pm show).

Simmons, Russell, Lee & Lee – The Down Home, Sat. July 28th

On Saturday, July 28th, Johnson City’s legendary Down Home listening room will play host to a sampling of songwriters from across Tennessee. Stephen Simmons, based in Nashville, Rob Russell, based in Johnson City, and Knoxville-based Tim & Susan Lee will take the stage to perform original tunes that demonstrate each writer’s unique perspective on life, love, and the South.

Stephen Simmons is touring in support of The Big Show, his sixth record. His previous works (Last Call, Drink Ring Jesus, Something In Between, The Blame’s On U.S. and Girls) have found him compared to the likes of Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams, John Prine and Tom Petty. The Big Show also owes a debt to that songwriting pantheon, but also includes influences as diverse as Van Morrison, Tom Waits and the acclaimed HBO series Carnivàle. Above all, The Big Show is an event––a showcase for a seasoned singer-songwriter who’s got stories, insights and melodies that are unique yet available to all. Step right up.

Joining Stephen on The Big Show is his longtime producer and ringmaster Eric Fritsch (Sheryl Crow, Scott Miller), who also plays guitar and Hammond organ on some tracks. Other cast members include bassists Dave Jacques (John Prine, Shelby Lynne) and Tim Marks (Taylor Swift, Will Hoge), drummers Matt Crouse (Sheryl Crow, Michelle Wright) and Paul Griffith (k.d. lang, Todd Snider), keyboardist Jen Gunderman (The Jayhawks), steel guitar player Alex McCollough (The Wrights) and guitarist Dave Coleman (The Coal Men). Stephen and Eric matched this crew with songs best suited to each individual’s playing style. Other tracks feature Stephen alone, accompanied only by a beat-up Guild acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Put them all together and it’s The Big Show, a high-flying sonic marvel designed to thrill, wonder, delight and astonish. For more information, check out http://www.stephensimmonsmusic.com.

As two-thirds of Knoxville, Tennessee, band the Tim Lee 3, Tim and Susan Lee sing, write songs and play rock n’ roll with drummer Chris Bratta. Maryville Daily Times music editor referred to the band’s sound as, “like Crazy Horse and X in a drunken jam.” As a duo, the Lees take those same songs (many from their previous TL3 releases) and rearrange them to create a different mood, emphasizing the lyrics and vocal interplay over volume and intensity (they’ve been known to add a cellist and a mandolin player to their acoustic guitar/vocals duo).

“With the band, it’s all about the sound,” Susan Lee said. “But with the duo, it’s more about the songs.”

Added Tim: “We’re playing the same songs, but we’re sort of showing their flexibility and letting them stand more on their own.” At present, the Tim Lee 3 is working on a new release for early 2013 at studios in Knoxville, Austin and Tucson. For more information, visit www.timleethree.com.

Johnson City-based singer/songwriter Rob Russell has kept a bit of a low profile since putting Rob Russell & the Sore Losers on hiatus in September, 2011, but the time has freed him up to write a batch of new songs and begin thinking about a new recording project. “Around the same time that the band was slowing down, I found myself writing songs that fit a more acoustic approach,” Russell said. “I was playing with my little ‘side band’ The Bleeding Heart Show, doing mostly covers, and I was definitely influenced by that line up – acoustic bass, guitar, mandolin, and close harmonies.” It’s been over a year since Russell has brought his music to Knoxville, and he looks forward to seeing old friends and winning over new converts to his own style of ‘Appalachian Rock and Roll.’ For more information, visit www.robrussellmusic.com.

This show will also be shown live on Concert Window. Wherever you are in the world, you can tune in! You can purchase online tickets for $3 any time the day of the show at www.concertwindow.com/downhome. The show will not be taped, but you can watch it live in High Definition. Payment can be made using PayPal or a credit/debit card.

The Down Home is located at 300 W. Main St. in Johnson City. Cover charge is $12, and the music begins at 9 p.m. For additional information, contact The Down Home at 423-929-9822 or visit their website, www.downhome.com.

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