synchronicity and the Vox AC 50

[audio:fanciful.mp3]

During my long lasting search for genuine 60’s sounds I experienced several cases of synchronicity: first a friend of mine purchased an original 1967 Fender Stratocaster guitar, which is an absolute rarity, and I was so lucky to receive the request to restore it. Many of the sound tracks on this blog were played on this very special guitar. Mind you, 1967 was the year of psychedelic music!

Few weeks later an acquaintance told me he owned a real old amplifier plus a speaker cabinet, but he was forced to store it in the attic for lack of space in his house. I could have it assembled in my studio, if I liked to. Of course I liked to!

It turned out to be a Vox AC 50, equipment also used by The Beatles, and its manufacturing date must be around 1965. It was in a rather bad condition, the speaker cones rotten, and all the knobs on the amplifier crackling for slack joints. Much more repair work was required than I could accomplish.

But just around the time when I was pondering what to do, I met an old friend from school, whose job was exactly repairing amplifiers! Could anybody be as fortunate as me?

Sparing you the details, after multiple efforts I ended up having just the authentic equipment for my future creative plans without paying that much for it. The power of the universe had colluded to provide what I needed – that’s what it felt like. So for me this is not about technical facts and such – it’s about synchronicity. And smell.

Smell? Well, the so-called vintage equipment has a smell of its own, known as a fact among vintage freaks. And it’s true. Like incense, there is an inspiring smell of old wood and spices in my studio, reminding me of the vibration of a distant past. The amplifier spreads its perfume all over my room whenever it’s switched on.

Sound? Oh, I forgot: the stack sounds fantastic, not with any guitar and depending on the situation, but I’d definitely miss something without it.

guitar & gear: what you see is what you hear

subir

[audio:mandobird.mp3]

This little improvisation on an instrument I actually am no master of made me feel “longing for the sea”. Or, as one might put it, “long time no sea” – which is true for me, living in southern Germany far from all oceans. On my search for an illustration I stumbled over an old photograph, taken in Brazil many years ago on a two month’s trip with my wife.

There’s something written on the picture in Portuguese: subir. When I thought of it’s meaning, I suddenly felt it all become much more intense and heading for what I hoped to convey. “Subir” is “ascend”. Look, listen, and feel sense and direction in it.

guitar & gear: no guitar, since it’s kind of a mandolin that looks like an electric guitar. Naturally my son’s favorite tool for his playing the guitar hero – which of course he copied from me.

The Psychedelic Mandala

[audio:krass.mp3]

Would psychedelia and zen (or whatever connotations these two may carry) go together in any way? – I wondered, I feared, I pondered.

Before starting this project, at times I really felt insecure, or was afraid to become too grandiose about the synthesis of two seemingly disparate matters intended here.

But then it occurred to me that at least within one person this very synthesis already existed – in me. If it’s possible for me to understand, it should be possible for others, too.

What I still found missing was a distinct sign on the material plane – a symbol. I tried to paint one (though it’s completely amateurish), simply coloring patterns from a book about Mandalas. So may I introduce to you –

The Psychedelic Mandala! (or a strange wheel of fortune)

Musically, I also dare to post a more edgy improvisation here (which is quite natural to me and fits the concept – but it’s not meditative!). I gave it the German name “krass”, meaning extreme or harsh or stark. There are a few passages where the vehicle seems to veer off the road, but soon gets back on track again.

Although these may be considered flaws, and although there’s a crackling noise whose origin is a mystery to me, I personally like this “krass”. But I had to overcome my tendency to put it aside and spare you…

Well, some might enjoy it anyway.

Guitar & gear: Gibson Les Paul Special, Vox AC 50, BSM Treble booster, Crackling Demon

bass solo

[audio:bass1.mp3]

A bass solo is what you usually realize has happened when it’s over, and the rest of the band joins in again. To be witnessed in Jazz caverns, or, on record, back in the hippie days: even the drummer and the bass player were allowed to solo, sometimes during the same song (overly democratic as these times used to be).

Most of the time a bass solo is so low (in both senses), many people only perceive the lowering of the overall volume…

But this little piece of music here is different, since there are no other instruments. So if you notice there’s music, you notice the bass solo.

bass & gear: Gibson EB3 bass, SWR SM 400 amplifier

Of course I wore my long hair wig when playing this!

peony

[audio:peony.mp3]

While I fall in love with all of nature blossoming out in springtime, I know all too well about its vulnerability and delight gets slightly blurred with concern.

guitar & gear: tacoma acoustic

water lily

[audio:waterlily.mp3]

guitar & gear: Gibson Les Paul Special, Gerd Schulte Phaser, Vox ToneLab SE

drugs and psychedelic music

In public opinion, psychedelic music or what is called “psychedelia” (totality of art forms related to psychedelic experience including light shows), is strongly associated with the use of illegal drugs.

Concerning art as a universal expression of all human aspects, this is too narrow a view.

Psychedelia are always just an imitation of certain states of mind. These may well be experienced without the use of drugs. Although, historically, there has been a vivid connection during the Sixties, when musicians started to take LSD or the like in order to expand their consciousnesses – whatever this might have included.

I myself have been completely clean and sober (how boring!) when starting this project and will stay so; although I do not lack experience. But as for the music, that’s not the point.

Meditation seems to be a much better means to achieve deeper states of mind – albeit requiring more effort.

lydian

[audio:lydian.mp3]

musically spoken, lydian is a mode
emotionally spoken, lydian is a mood

guitar & gear: ’67 stratocaster, ’65 VOX AC 50, BSM treblebooster

twilight

[audio:twilight.mp3]

guitar & gear: Gibson Les Paul Special, Gerd Schulte Phaser, Vox ToneLab SE

guitars talking

I’ve heard people suspect a one-man-show like this to be a display of egocentrical narcism, or, even worse, autism.

I hope you don’t share this view.

Concerning music, opinions are strong that it is a communicative art meant to be performed together with other people and in front of others.

Although the possibilities to record and to listen to music via new media have expanded on a large scale over the last decades, and the above mentioned is not necessarily a dogma anymore, it is what I get to hear from many people around, especially if they are musicians themselves.

To be on one’s own when making art is considered quite normal with writers or painters – not with actors and dancers, of course, but apparently also not with musicians.

I find myself to be inclined towards the first of these two camps (maybe I’m virtually a painter of sounds), and although I’ve played a lot of music with other people in my life, it feels quite natural for me to improvise or compose on my own. And I don’t feel lonely at it.

And that’s because it’s not only me involved there.

Not only me playing. Not only me improvising.

I would not go as far as to speak of “channeling”, but really, at least my guitars whom I deeply love, are talking to me.

Or talking through me. I believe they are creatures of their own right and their own mind. On days when I can tune in to what they are to play, I better not think and just let the flow do the playing.

On the contrary, there are days when I’m stressed and tense, and it’s only me playing. Then the music becomes poor, distracted, unfocused and disturbed by wilful decisions that do nothing better than interrupt the flow.

So what’s the use of talking about narcism, merely because there’s just one player here?
I hate those days when it’s only me playing! On the occasions when I’m successfully recording, I try to get the vibes of my guitar, either caressing or plucking the strings hard – but always in a way to get something special out of my instrument, a vibration inhabiting it that’s destined to be translated into music.

Maybe it also helped that I did some modifications on my guitars, making them a bit more “my own”, but after all it doesn’t matter why. I simply feel glad to be able to do this. I’m certainly not the world’s most skilled guitar player – but who needs still more technique and speed? I can do with what I’m able to do, mistakes make me smile.

I’m delighted and feel privileged to experience a majority of days when it’s more than just me strumming along. I don’t know what or who it is, but I hope I can convey some aspects of “our music” to you. Clearly it has nothing to do at all with what you hear on the radio, but at least it’s authentic and spontaneous.