Review and pics by Robert Williams
The NAMM show is an industry only conference for music retailers, one of the biggest music related conventions in the world, 2nd only to the Frankfurt Musikmesse, so I’m told. Music retailers come from all around the world to make connections and network with their peers, showcase their new products, and attend NAMM classes that teach industry secrets on how to improve business for music retailers.
I have read about the NAMM show for years now, and always wanted a chance to cover what is an absolute dream for a heavy metal fan. Imagine being inside a large convention center, surrounded by beautiful guitars, drums, keyboards, amplifiers, cabinets and so much more. Bumping into famous heavy metal artists at NAMM is not uncommon, but it is the Anaheim, CA show in the winter that truly is the largest and most star studded.
When I was presented with the opportunity to attend NAMM’s scaled down, slower more relaxed pace Summer NAMM show, in Austin, Texas, I jumped at the chance. Read on, and you will be taken along for my three day Summer NAMM experience, an experience that will feature highlights of the hottest gear hitting the market, told by the representatives of the biggest companies, interviews with Rusty Cooley, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Paul Lidel & Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) Robert Marcello (Danger Danger) and more.
Day One (July 27, 2007)
The first day of the 2007 Summer NAMM conference I arrived at the convention center and my first stop was the Allegro Rainbow booth. Allegro Rainbow is a company that is making a name for themselves by making the chore of learning music fun. The product that Allegro Rainbow was launching at Summer NAMM is called Piano Wizard, a fail safe guide to learning the piano formatted in an easy to use video game. There is a keyboard at the top of your monitor or television screen that has the piano keys highlighted in different colors, cartoon objects work their way from the bottom of the screen to the multi colored keys at the top and the user follows the objects on their physical keyboard, which is labeled identically as their virtual keyboard. David Sipple, President of Piano Wizard, was kind of enough to give me a demo and chat with me.
“Our companies mission statement is universal music literacy, many of us don’t have the time to practice anymore, we don’t make the time to practice anymore because there is so much instant gratification competing for our time and money and interests, and music is not one of those instant things…practice is the great equalizer, and we are making practicing enjoyable for the user regardless of age or experience.”
“The two most common comparisons people make to us is Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, but our real differentiator is we are teaching the skill of playing a real instrument right from step one. There has never been anything like it.”
“This August we will release “I Can Play Guitar” through Mattell, hopefully by the beginning of next year we will have the software version for Windows and Mac – we are also working on a MIDI guitar.”
Next up, I continued on my path of checking out innovative musical instruction companies and paid a visit to Rock House Method, an up and coming instructional DVD company with an interactive website for guitarists and bass players. I was excited to have the chance to visit with my guitar instructor John McCarthy from my Rock House Advanced Metal DVD I purchased last year at Guitar Center. John filled me in on all things Rock House…
“We have a new DVD coming out called “Modes to Mystify” it’s about using modes and applying them to playing. A lot of the programs out there show you what the modes are, but they make them almost confusing, we make it into a simple easy to understand, easy to use format. We’ll give you a progression to play over the modes, we show you what rhythms correspond with each mode, and you’ll be able to learn and play them real quick. It’s applied learning, you learn it and then you’ll know how to use it”
“Another program we are working on is making lessons for video ipods or media players, where we have super close-ups of the fingering techniques because the screen is so small, and guitarists can take their lessons anywhere they want.”
“We just finished filming two metal instructional DVD’s with Marc Rizzo (Soulfly) We’ve also got Rob Arnold from Chimaira onboard with us, we’ve been talking to Matt Heafy from Trivium and of course Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom about working with us as well. We are trying to get the new breed of metal players, but of course we still have legendary players like Leo Nocentelli and Dave Ellefson (formerly of Megadeth) who did two DVD’s with us.”
After talking to Rock House Method I stepped outside to get some fresh air and I saw a fellow longhair in a faded 80’s Judas Priest concert tee. I walked up and introduced myself, and after talking for about five minutes I soon realized that this guy knew his metal. Yes, this was an advanced metal listener, much like the kind that haunt the Metal-Rules.com forums. He knew his power, death, thrash, black and traditional.
His name was Kenny and him and his friend Willis were at NAMM landing endorsements for their band Die By Day, who is based out of Seattle. Later in the day I stopped by they’re hotel and previewed songs off of they’re upcoming album and talked heavy metal with them.
“We’ve opened up for Metal Church, Epica, and Therion.” Bass player Kenny Bender told me between bites of pepperoni pizza and sips of Heineken.
“The Metal Church show we played our music ensued a full scale bar riot upstairs. We had paramedics, the police were there, people were leaving with bloody faces, we didn’t know about it until after the show. We saw a bunch of people leaving with blood on them. It was crazy.” Drummer Willis Mathiasen adds.
“The entire set Metal Church was standing on the side (of the stage) watching us and actually head banging and looking at us and giving us the metal face and the horns and we were like ‘we love you guys!’ ”
Die By Day is currently a three piece, the cd they are playing me was recorded as a four piece. They’re brand of metal is that of the classic dual lead guitar assault, blended with a really solid rhythm section and traditional style vocals. I got a chance to interview a lot of bands I had never heard of at NAMM, but this band was my personal pick of the lot.
Back at the convention center I stopped by the AKAI Professional and had a chance to chat with Greg Stein the director of marketing for NuMark, Alesis and AKAI.
“We have a bunch of new things happening here at the show, under the Alesis brand we have the “I MultiMix 9R”. It’s a great mixer and the unique thing about it is it’s a 9 channel mixer that has an iPod dock on it. So for someone that wants to play back audio, maybe add some other things in there, what a great product.”
“Also under the Alesis brand we have a “DM5 Pro Kit” it is a full blown drum kit, that retails for 599, it has everything you need to get going. “(The Alesis Professional DM5 module contains 540 sounds and 21 programmable drum sets recorded in 48kHz, true stereo, with ambient effects in a single rack space module)
“Let’s talk about AKAI a little bit, we have the new MPK 49, which is a keyboard controller with an MPC style controller built into it, I think there’s a wide variety of different people looking to have a controller that has access to that MPC feel while still being able to play keyboard and create bass lines and do all sorts of other melodic style sequencing, recording what have you.”
“We have some smart freaking engineers. We have great products, but we’re always looking to improve and offer our customer the right products at the right price.”
Greg Stein was a real nice host, introducing me to his product specialist Eric McGregor who took me on a guided tour of all of the current Alesis, Akai and Numark products. I’d like to thank them for they’re hospitality.
That wraps up my highlights for day one, please read on for day two and I’ll fill you in on my visits with G# Guitars from Norway, Line 6, and there’ll be interviews with Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Paul Lidel of Dangerous Toys and Adrenaline Factor and guitar sensation Rusty Cooley of Outworld!