A Temporary Setback

I hate to make this announcement but the time has come that we need to move out of our current space. There are a lot of reasons that I won’t go into but the biggest reason is a landlord that refuses to keep the building in good repair. As many of you know I have been looking for a new retail space for over a year and have been unable to find that perfect spot. Until I can find a new retail space we will be operating out of a small office in Laurelhurst just about a mile away. The new address is 3626 NE 45th St Suite 304, Seattle, WA 98105, our phone number will be the same and we will be open by appointment only. We will continue growing our pedal and mod kit business while still offering amp repair and mods, as well as some guitar work (electronics, restring, etc) but until we have a new retail space we recommend Matthew Tolley for major repair, fretwork, and setup.

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Chris’s Christmas Wishlist

Remember when you were a kid and you waited half an hour in line at the mall to sit in some strange bearded man’s lap and told him all your secret desires? Well, you all are going to be the bearded man to my secret desires. That’s weird. Let’s move on and forget that happened.

What do you want for Christmas? I want a pony but that has little to do with a guitar blog, so here are the top three things off my guitar related wish list.

1. Gretsch 6120 Eddie Cochran Signature Model Eddie CochranGuitar

Eddie is probably the most influential guitar player in rockabilly and he had exacting desires when it came to his guitar. He made the big orange Gretch the rockabilly guitar and famously swapped the Dynasonic single coil pickup in the neck position with a Gibson P90 for a unique sound that set him apart. A couple years ago, Gretch released the Eddie Cochran Tribute model, which was ‘reliced’ to be an exact copy of Eddie’s guitar down to the scratches and pole-piece positioning. It also sported a $10,000 MSRP price tag. I chose to put the Signature model on my list for three reasons: First, it has a $3,800 MSRP ($2,000 street) price, which is still way out of my budget but is not unheard of. Second, it isn’t pre-aged which means every scratch and ding will be mine, a piece of the story I make with the guitar. Third, the Tribute model has a fixed-arm Bigsby vibrato, which is cool in that it is what Eddie used, but it isn’t very practical. The Signature model has an arm that swivels out of the way if needed.

2. Gretsch 6156 Playboy AmpGretsch Playboy Amp

Ok, so I’m a bit of a Gretsch fanboy. I realize this and acknowledge that it is a personality flaw, but I prefer to think of it as a quirk that I know what I like and I stick with it. Anyway, the Gretsch Playboy amp is one of two or three amps that were in Gretsch’s product catalog a couple years ago. It was the little brother of the bunch at 15 watts, but that is more than enough power for anything I do musically these days. It’s a pretty straight forward amp with a single channel and a tremolo, my favorite setup on an amp. The simplicity of the circuit is highlighted even more by the fact that these amps were hand made by Victoria Amps, a boutique amp manufacturer that focuses on vintage circuits and highest quality. Plus, it has a really cool looking cabinet.

3. The Nocturne Brain Atomic Brain preamp pedal Atomic Brain

Tavo is a really cool guy who makes really cool pedals with specific goals in mind. When he developed the Brain Seltzer pedal, he based it on the preamp circuit of the Roland RE-301 Space Echo to be used before a delay and add the slight edge to the sound. The Atomic Brain takes that edge and takes it even further, adding a fair amount of grit and overdrive. The Abby switch is a boost which adds volume and even more overdrive. It seems like a cool ‘always on’ kind of effect that can add just a touch of character to the guitar’s tone. Tavo also does limited runs of various hot-rod colors ranging from iridescent neon greens to sparkle blues.

Bonus Stocking Stuffer: Hufschmid Guitars Acrylic Dark Drop Pick

Hufschmid Picks$30 for a pick? Seriously? Yep. I found out about these guys during my last bout of obsession with metal music. I like my picks to be pretty thick for better control and these are definitely thick. Hand carved in Switzerland, the shape is supposed to increase comfort and decrease hand fatigue while playing. I also think they look cool.

Now that you’ve seen what I want, what’s on your list? A tweed Bassman? A hand carved archtop? Maybe even one of the Fromel Electronics pedals we make here in the store? Tell us all about it!

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

Starting today, Leading Tone will be closing at 6:00pm instead of 6:30pm. This makes our hours of operation 11:00am to 6:00pm Mon, Wed-Sat; Tuesdays by appointment; Closed Sundays.

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Get to Know Us!: David’s Top Ten Guitar Players

Though it was tough to narrow it down to just ten as there are just too many great players that I love and listen to that have influenced me in some way… but for what it’s worth, here’s my list and brief explanation for my Top Ten Guitarists:

Jim Kanas

10. Ethan Bott – I’ve always admired and respected him for his guitar prowess and he’s also a great teacher. Creative and complex in his theory and approach – he makes it look easy!

9. Jim Kanas – My guitar teacher for the first three years of my guitar life. He was (and still is) an incredible guitarist and knew exactly how to nurture my strengths and encouraged me to be the guitarist I am today.

8. Trey Spruance – Amazing player with the sweetest clean tone ever! His work on Mr. Bungle’s first album and ‘California’ still amazes me.

Trey Spruance

7. Joe Perry – The first five Aerosmith records are killer and Joe’s riffs were always fun to learn and play. Brad Whitford and him definitely paved the way for guys like Slash and Izzy.

6. Slash and Izzy Stradlin – In 1987, they brought the cool back to guitar and popular rock music in general. I spent countless days and nights as a 16-year-old learning ‘Appetite’ from start to finish on both guitar and drums!

5. Jimmy Page – Huge influence on me early on. I still play many of his riffs most every time I pick up a guitar!

4. David Gilmour – Incredible ability to play the perfect note every time. Never too flashy, always just right!

Lyle Workman

3. Lyle Workman – Amazing player with sweet tone and feel. He always used cool phrasing with unique choices of notes, most notably with Frank Black during the mid-late 90′s.

2. Jimi Hendrix – I’ve always aspired to be as cool and soulful on the guitar as Jimi and though I may not be, he will always remain a heavy influence on me, especially during my early formative years as a teenage guitarist.

Eddie Van Halen

1. Eddie Van Halen – The guy who started it all for me. When I was 11 or so, I heard Van Halen’s first record and his guitar playing, especially on “Eruption” blew me away! It was all over after that. I will never be as great as him but I’m okay with that! The first five VH records remain in my all-time favorite list.

There are so many others like Jeff Beck, Brett Kingman, Angus Young, George Lynch, Nick Zinner, Brian Setzer, Stephen Malkmus, Rivers Cuomo, Will Ray, John Jorgenson, Eric Clapton, George Harrison just to name a few… that could have easily made this list for me but there just isn’t enough time or space for them all!

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Get to Know Us!: Chris Mulder’s Top Ten Guitar Players

Howdy folks! If you remember from my first “Get To Know Us!” post, my favorite style of music is rockabilly. New or old, if the guitar is twangy and the jeans are cuffed, I’ll probably dig it. Here is my top 10 guitar players (today, ask me tomorrow and it will probably be different, as is the nature of top 10 lists), and as you’ll see, half of them are rockabilly guys.

Marc Ribot

10. Marc Ribot – Mr. Ribot is a prolific jazz player, but he’s on my list because of his work with Tom Waits. He’s played on Tom Waits albums since Rain Dogs in 1985. Required listening: “Jockey Full of Bourbon”, “Cold Water”

9. Jonsi – Not the first to put a bow to a guitar, Jonsi took that idea and came up with a sound beyond what I though possible with just a guitar and some reverb. Seeing Sigur Ros live was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Required listening: “Svefn-g-englar”, “Festival”

8. Keith Merrow – I don’t normally go for the virtuoso style metal playing. Generally I find that kind of music offensive. Merrow is a YouTube musician from Portland, OR who plays instrumental metal and skirts that virtuoso line sometimes, but his riffs are so amazing. Also, watching his videos makes my brain hurt trying to figure out how he plays so fast and accurately. Required listening: “Pillars of Creation”, “Andromeda” and “Andromeda II”

7. Django Reinhardt – Need I say more? Two fingers paralyzed on his fretting hand and he still played better than pretty much anyone had or has since. Amazing. Required listening: “Ultrafox”, “Tiger Rag”. Required viewing: “Sweet and Lowdown”

Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley

6. Scotty Moore – Elvis Presley’s guitar player behind the big gold Gibson ES-295. Elvis would not have the King of Rock and Roll without Scotty’s guitar work. Required listening: “Just Because”, “”I Got a Woman”

5. Cliff Gallup – The guitar behind Gene Vincent. Seriously amazing note choices. His solos are deceptively complicated and his rhythm work is perfect. Required listening: “Race with the Devil”, “Red Bluejeans and a Ponytail”

4. Eddie Cochran – The father of modern rockabilly. His influence, along with Gene Vincent’s, can be heard in Brian Setzer, JD McPherson, Reverend Horton Heat, and many amazing rock and roll or rockabilly musicians. Required listening: “C’mon Everybody”, “Twenty-Flight Rock”

3. Luther Perkins – “Well, Waylon, whatever you’re looking for, I’ve already found.” This quote from Walk the Line pretty much sums up Luther’s style and what I like so much about it. Whenever anyone tries to play any of his guitar parts they always make them more complicated, but that always seems to make them worse. Luther’s charm is in his simplicity and confidence. Required listening: “Get Rhythm”, “Folsom Prison Blues”

2. Brad Paisley – Mr. Paisley (Yes, as far as I can tell that is his real name) is a modern country player, but don’t let that distract you from his amazing guitar skills. He has a jazz background which shines through and makes his melody choices amazing. I love his use of a ‘g bender,’ which he has installed on pretty much all of his guitars. Also, anyone who can rock a paisley Telecaster has to be pretty darn cool. Required listening: “I’m Still a Guy”, “Two Feet of Topsoil”

Brian Setzer

1. Brian Setzer – I know, I know… He’s the obvious choice for rockabilly guitar legend, but his recording blow me away every time I listen to them. Also, he brought rockabilly back into popular culture not once but twice with The Stray Cats and The Brian Setzer Orchestra (you can argue that the orchestra isn’t rockabilly, but it is pretty darn awesome!). Required listening: “Fishnet Stockings”, “Trouble Train”

What about you? We’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my choices? What other songs would you recommend for required listening??

(All images courtesy of Wikipedia or ScottyMoore.net)

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We Launched a Kickstarter to Re-Vamp Our Pedal Line

If you haven’t heard, we are revamping our pedal line. We are adding some new features and just generally making them more rugged. In order to fund this project, we started a Kickstarter campaign. Check it out, watch the video, make a pledge for a pedal and get a sweet t-shirt and sticker!

Check out the Kickstarter here!

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Get to Know Us! Part 4: John Fromel on Albums

This week we finally get to hear from the man, the myth, the legend: John Fromel himself.

The business started in 2008 when I started building pedals and mod kits in my garage. The business quickly grew and my wife wanted the garage back. In 2010 I found this awesome space just a few blocks from my house that was perfect for making the pedals and as a bonus has a retail front, perfect for a neighborhood music store. Way back in the day (late 80’s and early 90’s), I worked for Guitar Center in a number of roles ranging from computer geek to retail management and artist relations. Fast forward to 1999, I started a career in real estate; it was awesome until 2008. Most of our regulars know that owning Leading Tone is my fun job and being a realtor is my real job. I can say without hesitation that I have the best crew anyone could ask for and when I am out selling houses I never worry about the shop being run excellently. I hope to always have this shop and when I retire from real estate, this will be what I do.

What was your first musical instrument?

A 1972 Fender Telecaster all original with the case. I had no idea how cool that guitar was at the time. What I really wanted was a Charvel Model 5, but they were $700, and I got the Tele for $350, which I sold 3 years later for $350. My first amp was a silver face Princeton Reverb. Like an idiot, I got rid of that amp in a partial trade for a Charvel Model 5 and a KMD solid state 2×12 combo. For all reading this, I do know how much of an epic fail that move was.

Tell us about an album that has influenced you a lot.

The Beatles self-titled (White Album). I even like the songs that suck on that album. In my humble opinion, there is not much rock or pop music that does not have some influence (intentional or not) from the Beatles.

What album are you listening to on repeat these days?

Honestly, nothing. In the car, I listen to NPR. The iPod at the house is usually on random and consists of about 70% kids music. Here at the shop I relinquish control of the music to the crew (currently listening to some metal band that is fronted by Cookie Monster on Vocals), and Chris just switched to Skynard?

What album do you think more people should listen to?

It’s a tie between Everything from Tones on Tail and Etiquette of Violence by David J. I doubt many people are even aware of these two works. Tones on Tail was a spinoff/project band with Bauhaus members Daniel Ash (guitars, vocals), Kevin Haskins (drums), and Bauhaus roadie Glen Campling (bass). They never released any full length LP’s just singles and EP’s. Everything is a compilation of literally everything they recorded in Studio and one live track cover of Heartbreak Hotel. David J is the older brother of Kevin Haskins most noted as the bass player in Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, Etiquette of Violence recorded in 1983 is a mellow acoustic album with incredible lyrics. Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins later formed Love and Rockets.

What is your preferred format (vinyl, CD, mp3, etc.)?

I remember as a young teen taking the bus down to Neil’s Records with my friends to spend our allowance on some new vinyl. Taking it back to the house and going through the ritual of opening the album, reading the lyrics, hoping for some bonus material (stickers/posters, etc), then listening with my friends as loud as possible before our parents got home from work. It was a beautiful ritual between friends that does not and cannot exist now.

How do you discover new albums?

Mostly here in the shop listening to what the guys bring in for the house music.

What’s the best flavor of ice cream?

Pistachio that is not died green and has lots of salty pistachios.

Finally, give us your top ten albums of all time.

Not in any order…..

 

Bauhaus – In the Flat Field

The Cult – Love

Jimi Hendrix – Axis Bold as Love

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing Shocking

Rush – Moving Pictures

Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

Led Zeppelin – IV

Neil Young – Unplugged

Pearl Jam – Ten

The Beatles – Self Titled (White Album)

 

 

 

 

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Get to Know Us! Part 3: Matthew Tolley on Albums

Matthew is the house luthier and fretted instrument technician at Leading Tone. Matthew has been designing, building, repairing, and restoring fretted musical instruments for over 13 years. After graduating from the Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie, Matthew went on to work professionally with some very well respected boutique instrument builders, designers, and players. His expertise is quite broad and varied covering everything from proper period correct restoration and instrument repair techniques to programming of industrial CNC machines and turning centers. In addition to his time spent at Leading Tone, Matthew also builds custom archtop guitars and mandolins in his personal shop located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, Tolley Stringed Instruments.

What was your first musical instrument?

My first instrument was a Vielle a Roué (hurdy gurdy) which my father made for me when I was about 3-4 years old. I got my first guitar when I was about 5 years old and it was also built my father. That’s me in the photo as a young lad with my (then) new custom guitar!

Tell us about an album that has influenced you a lot.

It was a mixtape made for me by my musicology professor, Michael Farley. This tape had cuts by B.B. King, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi John Hurt among others. It was an eye opening experience for me as it was the first time I had heard any of these artists.

What album are you listening to on repeat these days?

I’ve been spending a good deal of time listening to the box set The Story of Jamaican Music. I’ve also been enjoying singles by Desmond Dekker and the Aces and the Africa’s Blood album by Lee Perry and the Upsetters.

What album do you think more people should listen to?

The Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza.

What is your preferred format (vinyl, CD, mp3, etc.)?

I prefer vinyl especially 7” singles.

How do you discover new albums?

Usually it’s my research into what I’m currently listening to that leads to my new album or artist discoveries.

What’s the best flavor of ice cream?

If I had to pick only one…Strawberry.

Finally, give us your top ten albums of all time.

In no particular order:

  1. Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
  2. Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Charles Mingus
  3. Live Duet Recordings 1963-1980, Bill Monroe and Doc Watson
  4. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Wu-Tang Clan
  5. The Afro Eurasian Eclipse, Duke Ellington Orchestra
  6. Live In Palma, Dervish
  7. Brainfreeze, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist
  8. The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, Wes Montgomery
  9. Damaged, Black Flag
  10. Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding

 

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Get to Know Us! Part 2: David Curtis on Albums

David is the buying, selling, trading, in-store and online sales guy with nearly 30 years of guitar playing experience and over 10 years of music retail sales experience. He loves making deals and long-lasting relationships with happy customers. With over 20 years of performing and recording experience, David continues to write and record as a one-man-band under the name Deep Sea Soliloquy as well as doing audio/video production for gear and pedal demos.

What was your first musical instrument?

My first instrument was a $20 Harmony acoustic guitar from the 1984 Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog. My second instrument was a Hondo Les Paul copy and an old Gibson 2×12 combo amp that I bought from my cousin for $50. You didn’t ask but I wanted to share!

Tell us about an album that has influenced you a lot.

Van Halen I. My brother turned me on to this album when I was about 11 and Eddie’s guitar playing rocked my world and changed my life forever. It made me want to play the guitar, grow my hair long and smoke cigarettes! He is still my No.1 favorite guitar player.

What album are you listening to on repeat these days?

Awolnation – Megalithic Symphony.

What album do you think more people should listen to?

Mr. Bungle – California.

What is your preferred format (vinyl, CD, mp3, etc.)?

I love my enormous vinyl collection but I prefer the convenience and sonic quality of CDs.

How do you discover new albums?

In the past, XM and Sirius Satellite Radio have been amazing at turning me on to new music I might not have heard of otherwise. Now it’s hit or miss with KEXP or various online sources.

What’s the best flavor of ice cream?

Coffee ice cream in the form of a shake.

Finally, give us your top ten albums of all time.

  1. Van Halen – I through 1984 (I couldn’t pick just one)
  2. The Beatles – Revolver
  3. Mr. Bungle
  4. Vampire Weekend
  5. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
  6. Frank Black & the Catholics
  7. Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold as Love
  8. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
  9. Violent Femmes
  10. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks…
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Get to Know Us! Part 1: Chris Mulder on Albums

Chris and his Ibanez Artcore were featured in a post a while back

This is the first installment of a new series of posts where we get to know the folks that work at Leading Tone. We’ll ask them a series of questions on a particular topic with some random ones thrown in just for fun. First up is Chris:

Chris is the shipping/receiving, amp/pedal modding, anything-else-around-the-shop-that-needs-to-get-done guy here at Leading Tone. He’s also the shop rockabilly and country fan (as well as a closet metal-head). He got his first guitar when he was twelve or thirteen and after not being interested in it for a time in junior high and high school, he’s been keeping up his chops for the last eight or nine years. He’s done Bob Dylan covers and rockabilly church music as well as playing rhythm guitar for a short time in the local hillbilly rock and roll band The Hilltones.

Let’s begin with the interview!

What was your first musical instrument?

My first guitar was given to me by my dad when I was twelve or thirteen. It was an all laminate 3/4 size classical style guitar. I took that thing to high school nearly everyday for a while. I put steel strings on it at one point, which caused it to start falling apart. The back was lifting near the heel, so I taped it together with masking tape. I also put a giant American flag sticker on the back at one point and later decided I didn’t want it on there anymore and tried to peel it off. Now there is just a bunch of sticker residue and half an American flag left.

Eventually, I stopped playing it and brought it to my first gig playing Bob Dylan covers at a cafe. I had everyone who was there, whether I knew them or not, sign it. It’s now a piece of my history that I can look back on and the musical journey I’ve taken in my life.

Tell us about an album that has influenced you a lot.

The album that influenced me the most was probably Bringing it All Back Home by Bob Dylan. That was the first Bob Dylan album I got and it was the beginning of a long obsession. From that moment, I went more than six months listening to nothing but Bob Dylan. I now own nearly every album Bob Dylan has ever put out. I think my obsession came from a mixture of Bob Dylan’s music being relatively simple to learn on a guitar as well as the so-specific-it’s-ambiguous nature of his lyrics.

I don’t think I could pick a favorite song, but I love the beginning of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” when the band missed it’s cue and Bob Dylan breaks into laughter. But as soon as he starts again the band is on top of it and come in swinging. You can just hear Bob Dylan having a good time with a bunch of friends in the studio, but when it’s go time they can bring all the skill needed.

Of course, I can’t talk about influential albums without mentioning The Amazing Crowns’ (Formerly The Amazing Royal Crowns) self titled debut album, which was the first rockabilly album I got.

What album are you listening to on repeat these days?

The album I have on repeat right now is With Oden On Our Side by Amon Amarth. Amon Amarth is a Swedish death metal band that gets their name from J.R.R. Tolkien lore and writes songs about viking legends. I love the guitar parts (tuned down to B standard, of course) and the overall heavyness of the music. The thing I like about this album in particular is that there are no moments of finger-tapping wankiness. The guitar parts are played extremely skillfully but they are kept relatively simple, which I appreciate.

What album do you think more people should listen to?

The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake. So few people know about this band, which is a shame. They are amazing and deserve as much recognition as they can get.

What is your preferred format (vinyl, CD, mp3, etc.)?

I tend to listen to music almost exclusively in my iPhone these days, but I do appreciate the way vinyl sounds. I have a small collection of vinyl that I break out when I want to have a music listening experience.

How do you discover new albums?

Often times through friends’ recommendations. I try to stay away from services like Pandora even though I have found some good stuff there. I sometimes do research online on types of music, and I found a lot of my rockabilly music collection that way.

What’s the best flavor of ice cream?

Extreme Moose Tracks. Mmmm…. chocolate.

Finally, give us your top ten albums of all time.

In no particular order:

  1. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
  2. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan
  3. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash
  4. Small Change, Tom Waits
  5. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, Brand New
  6. Dictionary of Soul, Otis Redding
  7. The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album, Eddie Cochran
  8. 5th Gear, Brad Paisley
  9. The Blue Album, Weezer
  10. Smoke ‘em If You Got ‘em, Reverend Horton Heat
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