My first full guitar build: Semi-hollow body

So, after some promising but lackluster results with my attempt to refinish a damaged Ibanez G10 guitar I figured why not go whole hog and do one from the ground up? To add a ton to the degree of complexity, I decided to go with a semi-hollow body guitar for full build number one. To further add to the difficulty, I chose to dye the wood grain rather than paint over it. Because seriously, when you’re learning to ski, are you going to learn more on the Bunny Slopes or on K12? (and kudos to anyone who got that reference without clicking the link.

So I ordered up a kit and set to finishing it. The body looked like this coming out of the box:
The front had a beautiful grain that I figured I’d be able to finish without much of an issue. Seriously, it looked like I could just throw some blonde (or an equally light-colored) stain on it, lacquer it, and call it a day. That wasn’t my intention though. I bought this specifically to build for my oldest brother, Dennis, for Christmas. The guitar he is currently playing is a semi-hollow body one that I bought for him when I was about sixteen, and that is a damn long time ago. It is showing signs of age, and I thought he might like an upgrade. I was initially pleased with how good the grain on this one looked, because I figured it would be pretty damn easy.

Nope.

The front of the guitar was a beautiful piece of wood in a butterfly cut, which made for a wonderful grain and some awesome symmetry. The back, on the other hand, looked like this. Since it is a sort of hybrid of acoustic and electric, the front appears to look more acoustic, while the back looks like an electric. That means that it is made of some nasty-ass basswood. More than that, the thought appeared to be ‘fuck the grain, just glue some shit together’. At least that’s what it looks like. I assure you that it looks every bit as bad as this photo (and probably worse). That was disappointing.

But since I figured I’d be able to get an easy home run out of the front, I started finishing the back first. I figured I couldn’t paint it, since I was only going to be dying the front, which meant I’d have to dye the back as well. This turned out to be a PROCESS.

I have to admit that after laying down the first coat of dye (I should mention that I’m using Keda Dyes for the entire finish. Mixed more or less as suggested) I was skeptical that I’d be able to pull this build off. After the first coat (which is still wet in the photo) it looked more or less like I’d taken a magic marker and ran it over the back a bunch of times. I think that may be my way of saying that I thought it looked pretty shitty. You can totally click through that image to see it in larger scale, though I wouldn’t suggest it.

But, after sanding back the black and laying down a coat of dark blue, it started to come around:

Those pictures were taken at the same time but from different angles and with different lighting. The dye was still a bit wet at the time, but I found it odd that one angle showed it a deep blue while the other angle hinted at it being almost purple.

Once it dried, the back began to give off a more even color regardless of the direction of the light. I sanded it back once more, dyed it once more (dark blue) and then layered it with about three coats of spray lacquer. The final result looked like this:

Not exactly the color I was hoping for, but there are enough interesting things going on in the cheap, basswood grain that it still looks totally finished (scroll up a couple photos to that first image of the back if you don’t believe me). The back came out pretty darn good.

Once I’d caressed the ass of this guitar to the point that I was happy, I had to start working the front. That was not such an easy process. I first thought I was going to do a sunburst pattern. Yeah, not so much. Here is the result of the first coat of stain toward that:

You’ll no doubt note the exceptional attention to detail as the dark blue around the edges very gradually fades to the light blue in the center. It’s like a gradient that’s using the full 256 million color capability of modern computers. Goddam seamless is what it was. A perfect sunburst pattern, but done in blue!

Yeah, even I wasn’t believing that bullshit and I tried really hard to believe it. To be fair, I knew it would be pretty stark with the first passing and I would lightly sand it back. I’d then cover it with lighter coats of just the light blue until it got to the point where the transition was seamless. I think I could have pulled that off, but I had to give up on the idea because … At the bottom of the photo (if you were holding the guitar to be playing it, it would be just above the top ‘F hole’. There are several areas the dye just wouldn’t penetrate. My assumption is that there was some sort of glue or solvent still present that the dye simply couldn’t touch. Regardless of why, I knew I couldn’t continue with the sunburst finish.

So I sanded the whole thing back. Not to bare wood, but enough that the light and dark blue no longer appeared to be separate colors. It took a lot of sanding, and I don’t have photos of it along that particular path, but once I’d sanded it back a reasonable amount, I layered the entire front in dark blue. And here is the result:

Yep.

I put about a dozen arrows on that image to highlight the flaws, but they in no way point to ALL the flaws. The thing was fucked even after sanding it back and laying down a new coat of dye. It was just that bad (which is all my fault for not sanding enough in the first place. The surface looked so good to begin with that I started with 220 grit and worked my may to 600 grit. I never considered that I might need a coarse sanding).

The next step was unquestionably the most difficult part (mentally) of the entire process. I had to admit that I was never going to finish the project without basically starting over. I put some 90 grit paper on my orbital sander and, with a tear of regret, destroyed my masterpiece. I took care to sand heavily in the problem areas, but tried to go light in the unaffected areas. I also made sure to leave areas of blue amidst the fully sanded area with the hopes that the contrast would pay off later. After an hour or so (the first half with 90 grit, then 20 minutes with 150 grit, and another 10 with 300 grit) this is what I had:

While I’m not going to take the time to highlight every one of the problem areas again, you will note that I sanded all of the problem areas back to bare wood (a few of which I did highlight. Bear in mind that I was using wood DYE so there was no way to get it back to bare wood). Anyways, here is a photo pointing out a few areas I sanded back to wood while leaving other areas a much darker blue:

I want to note that I spent a lot of time making sure this sanding phase left light and dark areas. It was only when I had to sand the whole thing back that I decided I was going to call the project “Blue Velvet”. I hoped that leaving enough light and dark areas would allow me to pull off that effect in the end.

The good news is that my sanding worked out great. Here it is after a couple coats of dark blue dye and a bit of time to dry:

That is a pretty accurate photo of its state at the time. Probably the most accurate photo of any yet posted. The waves of color came out really well, but there was no … what? Pop? Luster? Sheen? I don’t know. It just lacked something.

When I began this project, I decided that I wasn’t going to finish the front with any sort of lacquer. Instead, I was going to finish it exclusively with Birchwood Casey’s Tru Oil. I arrived at that decision after reading tons of reviews and recommendations about finishing a semi-hollow guitar. Tru-Oil, they say, dries in such a way that it will add luster with each thin coat. The result of that will be that after 20 or 30 coats (and I easily put 50 coats on the front of this thing) each coat will dry differently and give the finish something approaching iridescence. Yeah, I was skeptical too. But after rubbing in a coat of Tur-Oil every half hour that I was awake over the course of two or three days, the finish really started to pop.

Here are a couple images of the final product (the dye and Tru-Oil was completely dry by the time I took these photos):


After all the time spent dying and Tru-Oil’ing this thing (it was definitely dozens of hours and probably hundreds) I was very pleased with just how well it came out. I did buy the gold pickups, gold bridge hardware, and gold knobs aftermarket (the kit came with silver accessories and different colored knobs). And trying to finesse all of those things into place through the f-holes on the guitar was extremely trying. Thankfully there are a lot of youtube videos to help you through wiring a semi-hollow guitar. What there aren’t a lot of youtube videos of is what to do when you try to finish a guitar and part of it simply won’t accept wood stain. I limped through it pretty well, but I wish I had been vain enough to video the process. I think you’d have to agree that from the photos at the top of the page to the photos on the bottom, I really nailed this one.

As a final note, The Fret Wire (the place I bought my guitar kit) featured MY GUITAR BUILD -dubbed ‘Blue Velvet’– on their website on January 2, 2017. So it may not be me blowing my own horn when I say the final product looks pretty damn good.

Questionable survey choices at Carnival

Since I’m getting older, and thus far estranged from the demographic being targeted by most consumer surveys, I like to take them when offered. My goal is to make sure that those in the 18-39 demographic have to put up with the same bullshit I did when I was part of the cash cow group: Make sure they have to listen to music they don’t like, see entertainers they have never heard of, deluge them with ads for investment firms they are still two decades away from caring about, and that kind of thing. When I was taking a recent survey after returning from a cruise though, I found that Carnival takes it a step further than even I would have. Here are the options presented for what kind of music you enjoy:

carnival

I don’t claim to have my finger on the pulse of current popular music or culture, but Jesus Christ.

I’m not familiar enough with country to know about the choices there. I think Carrie Underwood might be fairly current? Toby Keith and Brookes & Dunn are probably still shitting out albums that fall just below mediocre, as country acts tend to do that for decades after they had their hit. I guess they may all be current in that way.

But a couple of the other choices are full-on WTF.

I don’t think anyone listed on girls vs. boys bands (and why vs.?) has had a record since like the late 90’s -barring some reunion, quick-cash bullshit. I think Boys 2 Men might still be touring in support of the CooleyHighHarmony album (or the more popular reissue of it, at any rate). Hell, if I had an album that sold 9 million copies in the U.S., I’d milk that shit until the day I died. But is anyone really going to check that box on a survey? Even without listening to this kind of music (as far as you know), I would think that they could have put something more current in the list. Hanson was a thing for a while, and I think they are still touring. The Jonas Brothers were hugely popular for a decade or so before they got a little too old and ugly to make anyone’s heart (or anything else) throb. One Direction is currently bringing me within inches of suicide every time I’m within a hundred yards of a shopping mall… I will give them a pass on the girl bands portion though, because I can’t name any more current.

Of course the biggest issue with the selections is obviously the Rap/Hip Hop. Kris Kross, Doug E. Fresh, and Vanilla Ice all came and went while I was still in high school –twenty-five fucking years ago. I don’t think any of them had even a minor hit after about 1992. Chris “Kriss Kross Daddy Mac Mac Daddy” Kelley died in 2013 and hasn’t yet succeeded in pulling off the release-a-bunch-of-new-albums-posthumously thing that Tupac was so good at (and Tupac would have been a more current act to put on their list of rappers, despite being dead for the last decade). Kriss Kross also loses points for never releasing an album called the Kriss Kross Kollection, which would have been cool as hell.

Doug E. Fresh had his hit in 1985. It was the very definition of a flash in the pan. Since this song was recorded with the much more popular Slick Rick, you can’t even really call Doug E. Fresh a one-hit-wonder. More like a half-a-hit-wonder. But half a hit, thirty years ago, is enough to make it onto Carnival’s list of Rap/Hip Hop acts!

caiFinally, Vanilla Ice. Seriously? He stole his high-top fade from Kid ‘n Play and the hook from his only hit from Queen and David Bowie. Sure, he put a lot of seventh-grade asses on the gymnasium dance floor in 1990, but he was hardly a rap or hip-hop act. Yeah, sure, he put out other albums and has managed to stay in the public eye (as recently as February 2015 when he was arrested for burglary and grand theft). He was also fucking Madonna, back when that was a good thing (prior to Dennis Rodman destroying her for all men in 1994. I’m not talking about size either. Maybe he’s hung like a donkey and totally destroyed her. Who knows? Answer: No one. Would you stick your junk into something Dennis Rodman did?) He also put out one of the shittiest movies of all time. Cool As Ice sat at 0% fresh on Rottentomatoes.com for several years before this douchebag gave it a 5/5 with a 20 word review, ending in “Ice Rules!”. I’m not saying Vanilla Ice sucked his dick to get that review, but I’m also not saying that he didn’t (maybe Robert Matthew Van Winkle did). As shitty as the movie was though, I’m glad he made it. It has some of the most memorable one-liners I’ve seen in a movie review. A few examples:

“So bad that it’s borderline fascinating.” -Mike McGranaghan (Aisle Seat)

“Having established that he can’t rap or dance, Vanilla Ice now adds acting to his resume — call it the tri-imperfecta of pop.” -Richard Harrington (Washington Post)

“This one is absolutely pricless in its awfulness.” Scott Weinberg (efilmcritic)

I know some would say, “well, then, where’s your movie, smartass?” The answer to that is that I had the good sense not to make one (I also didn’t have the opportunity, budget, or desire). Something I bet Vanilla Ice wishes he had back in 1991, when Carnival put together the survey question that I had to answer in 2015.

Destiny’s Bastard Son

Founding members of the metal band Destiny’s Bastard Son(DBS) have agreed in a principle to a one-time reunion/farewell concert in July 2014. Shadowtwin.com was able to secure an exclusive interviews with both Donnie Burgess and Ryan Goldhammer about the upcoming concert, a small portion of which you can see here:

ST.com: “So, Ryan, what brings about the sudden talk of a reunion/farewell concert?”

Ryan: You’ll never get me lucky charms!!! [Ryan runs to the next room and hides behind the sofa]

ST.com: “Donnie, there is speculation that this concert may be more about the money than the music. What do you say to that?”
Donnie:
“Well no shit. We haven’t put out a record, hell even a single song since, well, ever really. We just looked at this as a quick way to score a huge sack of cash.”

ST.com: “Regarding the lack of any studio albums… Some critics have argued that DBS doesn’t qualify as a “band” since they have never released any music. Would one of you card to respond?”
Ryan:
“I’ll respond to that.” [he pauses for 20-30 seconds] “They’re magically delicious!” [he again retreats to the other room and hides behind the sofa]
Donnie:“If I may… DBS has never been about the music, we have always been about a clever name creating false recognition -really just straight ripping off another group. When we came up with the name back in ’98 or ’99 we knew that we would never have to write a song to sell out stadiums, and to date we haven’t.”

ST.com:”Haven’t written a song or haven’t sold out a stadium?”
Donnie:“We’re here to talk about the future, not the past.”

ST.com:”Donnie, much has been made of your highly publicized battle with mediocrity. The critics say that there’s no way a second-rate guitarist can propel this band to stardom. How do you respond to that?”
Donnie:“Perhaps one second-rate guitarist can’t, but we have two [Burgess motions to the sofa in the other room; Ryan quickly ducks behind it]! And if two isn’t enough we will add another one… and another… We will just keep adding second-rate musicians until the group is so big people have to take notice, it worked for Earth, Wind & Fire.”

ST.com:”Your answers are so crass, it seems you’re not too concerned with offending or alienating people…”
Donnie:“Look, we’re not here to talk about music, we’re here to talk about reuniting long enough to grab that huge sack of cash and run. If you ask questions on that subject I could certainly give you a more polished answer.”

ST.com:”Fair enough. What do you plan to do with the huge sack of cash?”
Ryan:“I’m going to use my share to buy a small island of the coast of Tanzania… I’ll build a huge castle with a mote, pitfalls, secret passages, booby traps… Then me lucky charms will finally be safe!”
Donnie:Lottery tickets. Quickest investment on the planet. I’m going to put all my money into the powerball.


Stay tuned to Shadowtwin.com for this interview in its entirety and updates on the proposed July 2014 DBS reunion/farewell concert.

Amusing Videos

I have just finished converting the last of my old webpages to WordPress.  The total page count was 441, which I thought was a little bit low for every page I have posted since January 2004, but it must be right.  Hell, I haven’t been posting much of anything lately, in fact I have only about 10 posts since January of 2008!

While trudging through the content of all those old pages, I did happen across a few things that I had completely forgotten about.  The first is Pandora. This is basically a radio station with a 30 second commercial every 15 minutes or so. You tell it a song or band that you really like and it will start picking out songs and artists similar to that. If you like what it is playing give it a thumbs up, if not give it a thumbs down. It will then find more songs and artists like that one, and on and on. I remember liking this a lot when I first started using it years ago, but giving up on it because I was crippled with a 56k modem connection that made the songs break up pretty bad. Now I am getting back into it. Even though my mp3 library has some 82hours of music on it, I find that I am getting pretty tired of hearing the same stuff all the time, and Pandora likes to throw in something I have never heard of from time to time. It’s a bit refreshing to hear something new now and then.

Cartoons I’d Like to Fuck (C.I.L.F):

This is a pretty damn funny song. I remember laughing out loud, alone, in real life the first time I heard it. I posted it previously, but it is worth putting up again.

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny:

This is another amusing song/video that I posted about some time ago.  It is also elol-able enough to warrant a second posting.

This last one is a group called “Tripod” that has a wonderful love song.  They do love their video games:

I strongly recommend that no one else click anything prior to mid 2005 in my archives.  I did take a few things away from going back through them though, the videos above, for instance.  I also realized that the old posts weren’t nearly as bad as I remembered them, at least once they were set into the new format.  Amazing how the visual presentation can make them seem less like they were written by a retarded three-year-old who was very sleepy while writing.

PC and music

My recent small flurry of website related activity seems to have stopped almost as quickly as it started. I got the pages that I wanted to reformatted, and started on a couple of the features that I had been thinking about for a while, and then my Laptop crashed.

There are two extremely annoying aspects to the Laptop crash. The first is that it was just after we got back from vacation, and aside from the photos that I have posted on the Vacation Photos page (in vastly reduced size and quality), I had no backups of the images that I lost. A total of roughly 300 pictures, from vacation photos to pets, just gone. Damn it. The other annoying aspect was the loss of all the programs I use for the website: Leech FTP, Screen Hunter (image saving program, saves pictures to file with a click of keyboard button), Audacity (music editing), and numerous others. Some of those are easy to pick up again, just a click through download.com, but others I was using older freeware versions instead of new trial versions so I could have full functionality. Those are harder to come by, and usually require going through a seedy website and praying you come out of it without a virus (much like picking up a hooker on Van Buren). And I didn’t want to waste the time doing that on the Laptop since the crash, coupled with heat issues had cemented in my mind that I needed to get a new PC anyway.

I ended up getting a new PC from NewEgg. If you have read my page in that past, you know that I like them so much I am practically a spokesman for the company. The last time I bought a computer I stuck with a name I knew. This time, before I even went to shop for one, I knew that I was going to try a PC built specifically for gaming. Either a CyberPower PC or an iBuyPower machine. Both of these have an entry level price that is roughly the same as an entry level eMachine or a Compaq, but they are (theoretically) built for gaming. The one I chose this time was a CyberPower PC.

The CyberPower was my second choice. I had actually already put one from iBuyPower into my cart and went through the payment process, but due to a changing zip code my order was put on hold. Three days later it still hadn’t processed so I cancelled the order. By that time the machine that I wanted had sold out, so I went to plan b. The CyberPower machine I chose came with a 2.9ghz processor, 4gigs of RAM (upgradeable to 16gigs), a 1gig GeForce 9500 video card, and integrated 5.1 surround. I ordered an additional 4 gigs of RAM (to upgrade myself) and got the whole setup for just a shade over 600 dollars. And boy am I ever glad that I chose to go with a name I hadn’t heard of.

The tower is huge, but that is pretty much my only complaint about the system. When I fired it up for the first time and got to the desktop I was ecstatic to see that there were no icons there. The machine came equipped with 64bit Windows Vista and nothing else! This was a huge plus for me, though I could see how it could be a minus for someone who actually uses anti-virus software. The thing about anti-virus software is that it has always bogged down my machine so much that the tiny amount of security it provided (let’s face it, I have been on the internet for 15 years, I know how to keep myself virus free) isn’t worth sacrificing the performance. Honestly, I think the anti-virus software does more to harm the system by constantly running and updating, keeping you from running programs -even windows update won’t run under some of the bigger names-, than the actual viruses they are meant to protect against. In addition to the lack of anti-virus, there were also no trial software offers for AoL, NetZero, MSN, and all that other crap that usually clutters up a new machine. In fact while looking through the start menu, the only trial offer I could find was Microsoft Office. There were only a recycle bin and two other icons on the desktop, neither of which necessarily needed to be removed. The lack of third party software is why my next PC purchase will definitely be from these guys.

I do have one petty bitch about the machine though. For reasons unknown the 5.1 surround that it comes pre-installed with has all of the tools turned off. Instead of having an audio manager with an equalizer and such, the only thing it shows when you click on the “Via HD Audio Deck” is the ability to change the input/output assignments of the audio ports on the tower. It took me a lot of toying around to find out that if you go into the control panel and get into the sounds settings, under the advanced tab there is an equalizer option (which has presets that sound so terrible and tinny that they are of 0 use to anyone) which I was able to use to get it to sound great -but not through headphones. I am not sure if the headphone issue is my hardware or a software issue though, so I will hold back my tirade on that bit of it for now.

So in order to set the equalizer, I needed to get some samples of different types of music onto the machine. I have an external hard drive networked here in the, well, let’s call it an office, that all the pcs have access to, so I copied the library here. I started tweaking the settings while playing different styles of music until I got to where it sounded great for the Heroic Power Metal that I seem to listen to the most, and it still sounds good for the more popular Rock and Metal that makes up the rest of the library.

While I was copying the entire library from the external drive, I realized that my taste in music has changed quite a bit over the last decade. I used to listen to almost exclusively death/thrash metal, but that has been slowly evolving to where I now enjoy melodic stuff more. I still like the music to be in-your-face and pounding, but with death metal getting ever more bestial in the lyrics (the sound, not the content), and me with no particular desire to listen to the Cookie Monster doing death metal, I have been gravitating to the other type of music that seems so prevalent now: Heavy Music with a woman doing harmony over it.

I heard a song by the band Luna Mortis a couple of months ago, but wasn’t able to find the album online until recently. This is just the type of thing I am talking about, but with a twist. The music is heavy, but the vocals on this one range from beautiful and melodic to just a hint of the cookie monster-esque death metal that turned me off to death metal in the first place. For unknown reasons it doesn’t bother me in these songs, perhaps since there is actual singing to compliment it? That well could be, as I also like the band Bullet For My Valentine, who also have normal vocals mixed in with the Jaba the Hut chorus. Here is a sample of the song “Ruin” from Luna Mortis’ album The Absence




I chose that song because it was a good example of the mix of lyrical styles, not because it is one of the better songs on the album. In fact, I think it is probably one of my least favorite songs, but it typifies the style in a small sample far better than any of the other songs do. Now even I can’t listen to this style of music exclusively, but mixed in with a library old Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, and newer, popular rock and metal, it fits nicely.

And speaking of newer, popular rock, I can’t stop listening to Halestorm, even though every time I find myself enjoying it I want to kick my own ass. They are another band with a female vocalist, but very clearly trying desperately to be mainstream. All of the songs are three minutes long, they all have very easy to remember hooks for the chorus, and let’s face it, if you have a penis, you can’t help but want to bang the singer. She does display some amazing vocals in a couple of the songs, but every time I started trying to find an example of that to sample, I just ended up scrapping it and going back to this:





That is the beginning of I Get Off from their self-titled album. I don’t know what it is that keeps me coming back to that song. Perhaps it is the sexual deviant in me finding some comfort in a woman finally admitting that she knows that she is being watched when she is undressing near the window, and that she is doing it exactly for that reason. Which is great for me, since it just gives me a visual of a sexy, sultry woman in a teddy, posing near a window. But I could certainly see how a more delusional sexual deviant could take this as license to stop jerking off outside her window and go in to get him some. I have no doubt in my mind that within a year this song will be cited as a mitigating factor for some pervert raping someone. Just hopefully not Lzzy Hale, ’cause the visual doesn’t currently work for me if the woman teasing me is dead -that is an entirely different song.

Audio editing

Since I have been playing WoW so much less of late, I find that I have had some time to work on a couple of website related projects that I have been putting off for, oh, let’s call it 4 years. If you stopped by my page in 2005, then again yesterday, you would have noticed that my navbar (everything to the left of the body here) has remained unchanged for that entire time (and you would also have a freakishly good memory). Since converting to the blogger script way back when, I have to update my blogger template to change any of that. Of course when I do that anything that is already over there is just gone unless I take the time to archive it. What I have been working on all day is just that: archiving the Music Lost to History.

I had to trudge through all my pre-blogger posts to find as many of the songs I had featured there as possible, and was a bit irritated that the links to samples of the songs were now all broken. So I decided to figure out how to do the samples myself. First I had to figure out how to embed them. Of course I know the standard HTML functions for embedding .wav files, however since a 1 minute wave file weighs in at about 11megs, I wanted to try to get a slightly smaller format. That was when I found out that a standard MP3 can’t be embedded unless the user (you) has a third party plugin to play it. I also found out that the third party plugin that had been in use for Firefox browsers has been blacklisted for allowing remote code execution. So I had to find another way.

A bit of hunting around on google found me a number of audio embeds, but the thing they all had in common was that the source was stored on their server. These are available from Google, Yahoo, MSN, pretty much any name that you can quickly link to anything internet related. Since the actual source is stored on their server, it is subject to being moved/renamed/changed without warning, thus leaving all my links just as dead as they currently were, so that was straight out the window. Most of these players are running in Shockwave Flash though, so I started searching for shockwave audio embeds rather than MP3 embeds and soon found myself at this site, which was offering just what I wanted: A source that I upload to my own directory for embedding the files. Bonus is that it is so lightweight and hides away (mostly) when not in use, and is easily resizable. Here is a sample:


So now that I was able to embed it, I had to find a way to edit the MP3’s so that -hopefully- I won’t get any angry emails from the record companies. I am going on the logic that if I am only offering a small sample of the song I am more likely increasing their revenue (by forcing readers to seek out the MP3 and pay for a download) than advocating piracy. I don’t know anyone that has an MP3 library filled with about a minute’s worth of each song at the very least.

In the past I have used Goldwave for my audio editing needs. At least I have tried to. Since I lack any post-graduate work in audio engineering, I am barely able to figure out how to make it do a damn thing. I’m sure it is extremely versatile (hell it has to be with that intimidating wall of sliders and buttons), but I’ve no inclination to become a sound engineer just to sample a song. Thankfully I happened across Audacity.

Audacity is great for what I am doing. The intimidating wall of sliders and buttons are neatly stored in drop-down menus so I don’t have to look at them. There was a minor situation involving being able to extract my edited songs as MP3’s, which required downloading a “Lame.DLL” encoder, but that went fairly smoothly. Now I am able to open up the song, slide the bars to the section I want to sample, extract it as MP3 and upload it. It only takes a minute to get all this done (a huge plus since I am so lazy), so I have no excuse not to do it.

If I would have known how easy it would be to find the tools I needed to complete this project I would have done it years ago. There are so many programs and applications available for just about any task you can imagine now, it boggles the mind. When I first set up this site I had a problem finding applications like this, and if I even could find them they were ridiculously complicated to use. I’m glad to see that so much of this stuff is so readily available now. Perhaps it will motivate me to take care of a few other things I’ve been meaning to do here…I still haven’t changed the rest of my navbar since 2005, for instance.

More dungeon, more metal

With my posting schedule having dwindled down to nothing, I am always amazed when I check the site mail and find that there are still people reading, and that they still care to send me email. What is more surprising is the topic that is generating that email: Music.

I don’t know a damn thing about music. Sure I can play the guitar (not as good as I could back when I practiced for hours on end every day, but I still have the gear just in case I get the call from Metallica..), but my musical tastes are, at best, questionable. The Dungeon Metal that I wrote about in the last post, and one some time earlier, generated more feedback than anything I have written here that wasn’t poker related. There are two possibilities here: 1) There are a lot more people who like this type of music than I had ever thought. 2) There are only a few people who like this type of music, so few that they found my site because there are no other sites talking about it. While I refuse to believe the latter -can anyone seriously be coming to my site for actual information?- it is almost as difficult to believe the former.

Spending in excess of two hours in a car every day really gives me the opportunity to listen to a lot of music. The first few weeks I just listened to cds, but after I had worn out just about everything in my collection, the wife added me to her Sirius Radio account. There are dozens of stations on there dedicated to Rock, and many different types of it. I am partial to Octane, which plays mostly new Metal, mixed in with some classic Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, and the such, but when a band that I don’t care for comes on (System of a Down, for instance) I venture to other stations. Mostly Hair Nation (big hair bands rock!) and Hard Attack. I can’t listen to either of those stations for long though; I hate the growling, cookie-monster-esque voices of most of the bands on Hard Attack, and one can only take about so much Bon Jovi. During those times when I am listening, however, I do occasionally hear a band that I like, that I had never heard of previously. And since I had to listen to hours of mediocre crap to get to these few shining gems, I am really doing you a service by pointing them out here.

A lot of the times when I do hear a band that I like, it never merits a post here. Some of the bands, Forced Entry and Dark Angel come immediately to mind, are bands that I should have heard back in the early 90s, but for some reason missed. Since they aren’t putting out albums anymore, I don’t see a reason to tell anyone about them. The ones I put up here are currently putting out music, or at least currently enough that they have an album released within the last year or so. The one that I discovered today though has about 30 cds in the last 10 years, how the hell had I never heard of Nightwish?

These guys are like the Dungeon Metal I love so much, but take it to another level. The music is really fast, the beats are awesome, you can certainly bang your head to it… But, and I am sure I am going to lose some of you here, there is actual singing. I am not talking about a gruff sounding man barking out lyrics, or words for the sake not being an instrumental, I am talking about full-on, almost operatic singing. Looking for an example on Youtube, I found this version of Kinslayer(which is laid over clips from Silent Hill, and looks pretty good IMHO).

I understand that this isn’t the music for everyone, but if you have listened to any of the other Dungeon Metal I have posted and enjoyed it even a little bit, and if you haven’t heard any Nightwish, go listen now. You won’t be disappointed.

Dungeon Metal!

I have always liked what I refer to as “dungeon metal”. I have never seen anyone else refer to it as such, but when I listen to old Yngwie Malmsteen that is still what I think of. This type of music was huge in the late 80s and into the early 90s, but I hadn’t really heard a lot of it lately.

I happened to catch a Dragonforce video on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball (I thought they canceled that when grunge and hip hop pushed metal into the underground in the mid 90’s), and downloaded a couple of albums. Pretty good stuff. The guitarwork is excellent, the beat is fast, but the vocals are mixed so loud that they really take away from the song. In this type of music, the vocals are really irrelevant IMHO, the less you hear of them the better. This guy’s voice in particular sours me, it is just too … I dunno … happy maybe? Not looking for growling here, but it really shouldn’t sound the like the vocal track could be taken as is and laid over an Irish Spring commercial. Like I say, the music is awesome, and the vocals aren’t really that bad, but I can’t just sit and listen to it, mostly because of the vocals.

Last night I happened to hear a song by Symphony X on Sirius satellite radio, and was curious enough to look at some song samples from recent albums. This is exactly the kind of music I am talking about. The one I linked above is heavier than most of their stuff, but it sounds great. Probably a more representative song would be Paradise Lost (the vocals are mixed pretty heavy in that as well, but you get the idea). The music is awesome, and the vocals just add another layer to it. It could almost be classical music if you were to take away the distortion -which is pretty much what I am looking for.

I’m sure this isn’t the type of music for everyone, but if you really like the musical side of some of the great Metallica songs, particularly the instrumentals, you should check these guys out. They write excellent melodies and the songs flow smoothly. Not so overly loud as to be deafening (again, IMHO), but heavy enough to be rock. Sort of like an opera without the the falsetto vocals and done in English. Some songs are relaxing, some are invigorating, and I have yet to hear one that I just dislike.

And coming from me, that is something.

C.I.L.F.

I heard a humorous song on the radio that I wanted to share with you all. Of course the radio doesn’t lend itself to linkage in web pages, so I found a video (of sorts) of it on you tube. It seems that I am not the only one who found Jessica Rabbit just a little bit too hot. Check it out, but be warned it is certainly NSFW.


Turning you onto music I haven’t even heard yet!

A couple of bands that I have heard of recently, though I haven’t heard enough of them to really make claims about their greatness: Room 13 and The Showdown (those are links where you can actually hear some of the music, though neither appear to be “official websites).

The Showdown’s song Head Down has been getting some airplay on Sirius Satellite, and unlike most new music out, it hasn’t been getting beaten to death with a 4x an hour rotation. In fact I only hear the song once every few days, and when I hear it, it always leaves me wanting to hear another song. It is not nearly as heavy as most of the music that I like, but the guitar is awesome and the songs are short and to the point. They hit me sort of like Nickelback did; I never dreamed of buying their album, but when I found that I was turning up my radio for 5 different Nickelback songs (I didn’t know what songs Nickelback did at the time) I went ahead and got the album. This is the same way. I wouldn’t have imagined that I would actually be buying the album, but I have the available songs (from their website) on my mp3 player, and I find that I crank it up when they come on. Unfortunately, I have yet to see the album in stores, and my mp3 downloading service of choice doesn’t have either of their albums available yet. Definitely a release that I am looking forward to.

Also to note, The Showdown has a cover of the song Carry on Wayward Son on one of their albums. If you have been to my site when I was talking about music, you likely know that I generally despise remakes of classic songs. As it stands, I think only Disturbed’s song Land of Confusion has actually gotten a thumb’s up from me as far as remakes go. The Showdown’s is falling into that territory as well. It is impossible to quantify why I think this remake is alright while I think others are crap, it is totally subjective. If I can listen to it without thinking that someone, somewhere is crying about their song being destroyed OR if they take a song that I didn’t really like and make me listen to it, thumbs up. This one is a bit of both. They didn’t destroy the source material Evanescence style, they didn’t remake an 80’s synth hit Marilyn Manson style, they took a song that was great a couple of decades ago and made it sound current again. Which, when I think about it, is basically the same reason I liked Land of Confusion.

Room 13 is the latest band of Aliester Wytch. He was the lead guitarist for Eisenblakk when I got to know Dwight (the singer) back in the nineties. Aliester is the reason I really started playing guitar. Well, I played guitar before I met him, but he is the reason I started trying to learn how to play well. I started playing Jackson Charvel guitars because of him (I still do to this day, though I also play a Jackson Kelly for ease of fretting in the second octave), I started using guitar picks that were in excess of 1.2 millimeters because of him (most people call them bass picks when they see them, since not a lot of guitarists use picks so thick. You break a lot more strings with thicker picks, but the attack comes through a lot more with a thicker pick -it is like hitting a piano key harder; with a thin pick, it is only going to hit so hard before the pick bends, with a thick pick, it is like hitting the string with a brick. It never bends, so the harder you hit, the louder it gets. Not sure if this is why he used the picks, but that is why I continue to use them.), I idolized him as a musician. I always enjoyed his solo albums more than the Eisenblakk albums though, because I loved his voice, and he didn’t sing on Eisenblakk’s albums (except backing vocals). It is only fitting that he is the singer for the new band.

I haven’t heard enough of Room 13’s music yet to say whether it is something that will be in my mp3 rotation a year from now, but I figured I would throw out a link. Now if I could just convince Aliester to remake his songs Evil Speak and Vampire Lust, then it would surely be there (his solo albums were done in a home studio, and left a lot of room for improvement on recording and mixing -probably a limitation of the hardware at his disposal). I have to admit that nostalgia is probably playing at least a bit of a role in listening to the new work, but check it out anyway, for the voice if nothing else.

And speaking of voices…

Megadeth‘s new album, United Abominations is releasing on the 15th of May. I have heard a couple of tracks from the new album. Gears of War and Sleepwalker are exactly the kind of in-your-face shredding that the last two bands I talked about aren’t. A double-bassed, double-picking frenzy that makes you want to beat your dog. Of course as a rational adult, I don’t beat my dog; I pretend my car is a tank and take on all comers!

I was really stoked about Megadeth’s last album, but kind of soured to the preachy, Creed-like lyrics of a couple of the songs. This album has (at least the songs I have heard) gotten away from that. Of course I know that if you know anything about Metal, you already have this release date circled on your calendar. In fact I had no intention of mentioning it at all… Until my inner voice started calling me a pussy for posting about a couple of bands that do not actually “make my ears bleed”.

Now if my inner voice is done measuring his figurative penis, I am going to get back to listening to The Showdown -as my pc is the only place I can until such time as I find the album in stores.