Friday, April 04, 2008

Carvin out some Rock

As I mentioned earlier, I'm back into rock mode with a new band, Los Estimulantes. 3 practices so far and I have to say it's pretty promising. Dave, Marty and I have pretty good band telepathy after playing in the State Flowers together and in some goofy side-projects like the English Muffins. Ben is a super-quick study on lead guitar, so it's been pretty easy to come up with some decent sounding music.

We've been jamming on different ideas that we come up with on the spot and I've been bringing in some old and new songs of mine. Ben showed us one of his songs last practice and it was a pretty fun groove. I'm still not sure what we'll sound like, but I identified what I'd like to shoot for. I've been thinking about some kind of mix between Cheap Trick and Pink Floyd. Weird, huh?

I guess what I want is to indulge my 2 favorite types of music: short, catchy, guitar-pop songs and long repetitive droney instrumental jams. I love those long noise/groove songs that Yo La Tengo does from time to time. Pink Floyd does that as well, but also has the trippy psychedelic sound effects and weird noise that I love so much - and played for 2 years in King Black Acid. And Ben is such a good guitarist that I think we'll actually be able to pull that off. But, what I tend to write best are short little pop ditties like Guided By Voices or the Kinks. And somehow I think mixing these 2 sort of opposite things together could be really cool. Or totally suck ass.

I'm really enjoying playing guitar again, after playing bass in the last few projects I was involved with. I think I'm a better bass player than guitarist, but I think I'm a pretty decent rhythm player. When I played that acoustic set in New Orleans last year, some serious rocker friends (who had never really seen me play guitar) told me that I was playing really good rhythm guitar - which kind of gave me some confidence.

I've never, ever been able to play good solos and I can't finger pick all that well, but I think I have a really good idea of dynamics and rhythm. I think my ability is like a 3 out of 10, but my understanding of how to make good music is like an 8. Which is kind of weird. I guess it comes down to this - if you have minimal ability, but good taste and intuition, you can really offer a lot to a band...

Will I ever learn to play a good guitar solo? Who knows. It's funny, because in the State Flowers, both Corrina and I played lead. And people would often think on our recordings that the other person was playing the solo. In other words, I play "like a girl". And Corrina plays like a huge mountain of a man. It's pretty funny - I was all plinky, plinky, and Corrina would just rip out these wild bendy leads, it was really great.

I sold a lot of gear over the last 10 years, including my 1977 Telecaster. Oh well, it was either that or get evicted. So when we started this new project, I didn't have an electric guitar. Or I didn't think I did. After perusing some sites and stores I realized that to get a halfway decent guitar would be at least 500 bucks, which just wasn't really in the cards. But then, I remembered the guitar I bought when I was in high school - my first electric guitar, purchased in 1980 or so. It was a Carvin and I bought it out of a catalog. It had fallen out of favor with me, because a Carvin was just so NOT rock. I was all into Fenders and Rickenbackers, there was no way I was going to play some cheesy guitar that metal guys and smooth jazz guys were into.

But, for the hell of it, I dug it out. And I have to say - I kinda liked the way it looked. It was all black, for one. And it didn't have any obvious dated design flaws like a pointy headstock. I took it to the always reliable12th Fret to get it cleaned up and back into shape, since I hadn't seriously played it in 20 years.

I remember I took it to the recording sessions for the State Flowers album 10 years ago (!), because I thought it might be fun to play it on the record. I showed it to Tony, our producer, and I said, "Hey, this is my first guitar. I thought it'd be cool to play it on like one song. What do you think?" He took one look at it and said, "No." And that was it. Classic Tony. We've become friends over the years, I really need to give him shit about that.

Well, I plugged that Carvin into my Fender Deluxe amp in our first practice 2 weeks ago and it sounded great. Really full and heavy-sounding. I think it sounds better than my old Tele, and it's easier to play. I'm glad I could resurrect the Carvin from it's early grave. My next task is to see what all those knobs do.


Brewcaster said...

Oh man, I was throwing away a musicians friend catalog the other day and started wondering if Carvin still made gear. I had a solid state amp from them in my young years, it was terrible. But their guitars looked to be pretty nice.

Cheers to you rocking. "The Club is open" (I miss GBV)

Pete Best said...

I was so cluesless back in the day, so I'm glad it actually worked out. On the other hand, I ordered some pickups from Carvin for my bass guitar back then and years later I realized they were guitar pickups.