Day Three (July, 29 2007)
I slammed a couple Red Bulls first thing Sunday Morning and dragged myself back to the convention center. Nearly as soon as I arrived to the Austin Convention Center on Sunday, I sighted local metal godfather Jason McMaster in a faded Michael Schenker Group t-shirt. Having just interviewed his long time axe slinger Paul Lidel the previous night, I decided to catch up with Jason as well….
On what Jason McMaster has been up to lately…
“We (Broken Teeth) leave for a tour next week. We got a new record out, it’s more of the same you would expect from us….rock n’roll played with fire! It’s no different than what we do live, we’re mean rock n’ roll. We’re also gonna start writing a brand spankin’ new record around January. I’ve also been trying to get a gig put together for my Judas Priest tribute band Sad Wings, we only do that about twice a year anyway.”
On the status of Watchtower…
“There’s a small batch of songs sitting on my nightstand that need vocals on them, they’re pretty much just in demo form, and I’m real, real busy and Ron Jarzombek is real, real busy and it’s not really up to me at this point, but it depends who you talk to. I wanna be excited about the Watchtower material, and I’m just not that excited about the material they gave me.”
On Broken Teeth playing the Milwaukee Metalfest…
“We played this year, it was shitty. There was no one there, the headliners they had scheduled were bailing, there was a lack of promotion, you know, I don’t know….it was my first time. I was very shocked when I got there, I was like “Where is everybody?” I think God Forbid and Skinlab were the supposed headliners and I think those bands played for like 50-60 people, in a giant, giant bad ass facility, with great PA, great lighting….massive fucking rock show. We played for about 15 people.”
After talking with Jason McMaster I headed towards the GHS/Rocktron exhibitor’s booth. The night before I had watched Rusty Cooley deliver a blistering set of outstanding guitar playing using the Rocktron Prophesy II that he happens to have a preset on and I wanted to get an upclose look at this rack mountable piece of primo gear myself. I visited the GHS/Rocktron booth several times during NAMM and on Sunday I finally got a chance to talk with Ben Cole, the National Sales Manger for GHS/Rocktron….
“The Rocktron Prophesy II’s main selling points is that it is a pre amp first, the pre amp is certainly one of the finest available on the market here. There are four main pre amps, going from clean Texas Blues, to some pretty crunchy heavy metal tones. You have 128 presets, plus 128 more programmable presets, so the whole unit is really versatile. It’s not about amp modeling it’s about establishing your own tone.”
“It has a cool range of tones, it runs on two Motorola processors, lightning fast changing from one preset to the next there’ll be no lag time. It has XLR out for recording, it’s the industry standard for guitar pre-amps!”
“As far as guitar amplifiers, we have everything solid state amplifiers up to Vendetta tube heads. We now have a 160 watt solid state head, we have a 50 watt amp that is one of our biggest sellers, the street price on this is below $200.00, it has chorus, reverb built in, and if you unplug the speakers you can run a 4×12 cabinet with it.”
“The Banshee Talkbox is our #1 selling Rocktron product, guitar players have to have their distortion pedals, their chorus pedals, their wah-wah pedals, and their talkbox. It’s become the fourth accessories all guitar players need to have in their toybox.”
I really appreciated Ben taking the time to visit with me, he was among the busiest people I saw at NAMM. Everyone had the same idea as me it seemed, to check out the Prophesy II. After checking out the GHS/Rocktron booth I spotted the Tronical USA booth that was exhibiting the new Powertune system. I had remembered reading about this product from an interview Uli Jon Roth did that was posted on blabbermouth.
The Powertune system is like a volume knob on your guitar, only instead of being numbered 1-10 it has letters representing different guitar tunings. A little blue LED light lines up with the desired tuning and voila! your guitar is in tune and ready for the attack. I talked with Robert Pearson, president of US operations for Powertune, and he shared some cool Uli stories with me. One story involved Uli inviting Robert to dinner, Robert was too tired and sadly declined only to later find out the other dinner guest was Yngwie J. Malmsteen! (I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting of the minds.)
I started heading over towards the massive Ibanez guitar exhibit, but stopped to chat with another metal looking dude. He had long hair and tattoos and reminded me of Glen Benton of Deicide, he was actually Rick Drago, lead guitarist for the New York heavy metal band Cirkus From Hell.
“Cirkus From Hell is blues based, with some classical influence, I’m the guitarist in the band, I’m endorsed by Minarik Guitars around the corner. We have one album out and a single on Perris Records.”
“The scene in New York is not good, it sucks…..all the good clubs are gone, they all closed. We’re planning on going out on the road in October with a band called Raising Cain, I’m not sure who else.”
“My influences are so from one side to another, from now maybe Pantera and Zombie, blues….even stuff back from the 1940′s.”
After speaking with Rick, I did complete my mission of making it over to see the Ibanez exhibit. The Ibanez had row upon vertical row of beautiful, shiny heavy metal styled guitars….one of the nicest exhibits at Summer NAMM. I spoke with Jon Romanowski the National Sales Manager for Ibanez and he filled me in on what metalheads can expect this year from Ibanez….
“We got a couple things going on specifically targeted at the metal guitarist, we got the XPC 700 in black, we actually released a flip flop color in January of 2007, we got a gloss black color that will be available in September. We’ve got five new RG guitars with PG designed pickups, we have our Artic Frost finish that comes in silver, red and gold….also we got our new Japanese prestige guitar RGR1570, it comes in Suede Black, the texture actually feels like suede, and last but not least we have two new modeling amplifiers one is our MIMX150 it’s our 150 watt guitar amp modeling amplifier and the MIMX65 which is a 112 combo.”
Right across from the Ibanez booth was Roland’s exhibitor area where a flashy guitarist was demonstrating some Roland products. This guy was really amazing on the guitar, his name was Robert Marcello and some of you might know him as the guitar player from Danger Danger.
On what Danger Danger is up to in 2007…
“We’re still out there rockin’ you know, we have a new album in the works, we’ll see when it will be ready but, hopefully some time next year or late this year.”
What will the new album will be called?
“I have no idea. It’s not called “I have No Idea” I just have no idea what it’s gonna be called.”
Is any town in particular on the road where the girls like to get extra “Naughty Naughty”?
“All cities, I think all girls, when they hear the classic metal, they all like to get Naughty Naughty.”
What does Robert Marcello has on his Ipod right now?
“A lot of 70′s KISS of course Destroyer, Love Gun, Rock N’ Roll Over, a lot of Judas Priest, Ashlee Simpson believe it or not, and a lot of Rolling Stones.”
(Here we go again)….Maiden vs. Priest?
“Oh, Priest! In a second, they’re both great, I mean, they’ve both sold a bazillion more records than I ever will probably, they’re both great, but for me personally, I’ve always been more of a Priest fan.”
On Robert Marcello’s solo career…
“I have my first solo cd due out later this year on MTM records out of Germany, they do a lot of the 80′s bands they did the latest Warrant album, they do a lot of that and….it’s a vocal rock record, it’s very much in the Danger Danger vein, you know the 80′s melodic rock, you know the stuff people call overproduced? I’m a big Def Leppard fan so it’s sorta in that style. I’m really proud of it, it’s got a lot of guitar on it, it’s a vocal record but I think a lot of guitar fans will like it as well. It’s not at all like the neo-classical stuff, it’s just straight ahead rock n’ roll.”
On being Swedish…
“I’m Swedish, but I live in Columbus, Ohio. I grew up in Stockholm. Hammerfall from Gothenburg are great. I love Hammerfall, it’s like really good, classic old school metal, they do it really, really well. They make me proud to be Swedish! The metal scene is really big in Sweden, there’s a lot of great bands over there, I mean, a lot of the stuff’s real heavy, I mean, I’m a little more of a sissy guy, I like a little more mellow stuff, but a lot of great bands come from Sweden.”
After chatting with Robert Robert Marcello Marcello from Danger Danger, I ended my Summer NAMM conquest at the Sabian Exhibit. Sabian was launching the new 22″ Carmine Appice Vintage Ride Cymbal, as well as a 20″ Neil Peart Paragon Diamondback Chinese Cymbal. Stacey Montgomery-Clark from Sabian was able to provide me with some useful information on these beautiful cymbals!
“The Carmine Appice cymbal is a medium-heavy, low-profile model with a vintage-style bell, and has been limited to 200 pieces. It has a traditional-sized bell, and is hammered and fully lathed with traditional wide-blade lathing. This model is available exclusively in Natural Finish.”
“The Paragon Diamondback, is a thin, highly responsive model featuring a wide-flanged circumference punctuated by industrial cotter pins holding a total of four jingles that vibrate when the cymbal is struck. To increase the sound, the jingles are positioned in the shallow of the flange so they vibrate on both the bow and the edge, while a single rivet is positioned between each of the four jingle placements. As with all Paragon models, the Diamondback combines various hammering and lathing styles including a hand hammered bell. Jumbo-sized HHX dimpling is applied specifically to the bow and lip after the lathing process in an effort to lower the fundamental pitch of the cymbal and give it a dark tone.”
All in all, this had been quite an eventful weekend. When the exhibitors started tearing down the exhibits I became a little saddened. For those of you who visited Disneyland as a small child, I’d liken it to the feeling you get leaving the amusement park. My NAMM coverage was not comprehensive at all, I just provided my personal highlights of the three day convention. There was also a “World’s Fastest Drummer” competition, an industry only Battle of The Bands, other great brands like Krank, Diamond Amplification, and Warrior guitars who I would have liked to chat with if I was afforded more time, but sadly such is life.
At the same time, I was able to see and learn about a plethora of gear to die for, made some new friends and had some interesting interviews. I’d like to share with you some links for all of the people I was lucky enough to chat with!