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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1982 Gibson Victory MVX

Greeting! Every once and a while an unusual guitar comes in for repair and we all gather round to ooh and ahh. This 1982 Gibson Victory MVX in twilight blue is no exception. These were built by Gibson, in both the Kalamazoo and Nashville factories, from 1981-1984. The guitars were constructed with solid maple body and necks, so there’s quite a bit of heft to this axe. The MVX stands for “Multi-Voice 10” which refers to to it’s electronics layout. This guitar was fitted with 3 humbucker pickups (the center pickup is stacked), a 5 way switch, master volume and tone, and a master coil tap for all 3 pickups. Basically, this guitar is capable of 5 humbucker positions and 5 single coil positions, thus the X in the name.

One of the best features of the Victory is the body and headstock shape. This guitar was definitely a stretch for the Gibson company as they were trying to appeal to the early 80’s shredder craze. So very cool.

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New Hours

We have new hours at Leading Tone. We are moving our by appointment day from Thursday to Tuesday. Meaning we will be open regular hours on Thursday and if you want to stop by on Tuesday just give a call to the shop 206-523-8663 and make sure someone is here.

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1973 Telecaster Refret

Greetings from the Leading Tone repair bench! We’ve been continuing our run of cool Telecasters coming in the shop for setup and repair. This 1973 butterscotch example is no exception. This is certainly a players instrument with all the wear and mojo any Tele lover would kill for. In addition, this instrument is in completely original condition, literally down to the fretwire, which is fairly rare for this vintage of an electric guitar. This instrument came into the shop for an evaluation and seeing how worn the frets were, we decided to go forward and install a new set of frets. So with out further ado…let’s jump in.

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Introducing Naughty Little Monkey Guitars & Ukuleles

Leading Tone is pleased to announce the arrival of Naughty Little Monkey guitars and ukuleles. Naughty Little Monkey instruments are handcrafted in Olympia, WA by luthier Will Eikleberry. Will is a graduate of the Summit School of Lutherie in British Columbia and honed his skills at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company before setting up his own shop. Will builds a wide variety of stringed instruments including professional quality flattop guitars and ukuleles in addition to his line of cigar box instruments.

Don’t let the 3/4 size of this L-0 style guitar fool you. This instrument sings with a full and well balanced voice. This guitar boasts solid mahogany top, back, sides, and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and is adorned with tortoise binding. The scale length is a modest 23″ which still allows for comfortable playing.

This cigar box concert ukulele is a truly unique instrument and they have been gaining quite a bit of popularity recently. This instrument sports a handcarved maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, quality geared tuners, and…grommets! The best feature of this ukulele is the handmade piezo pickup system which allows the player to experiment with plugging in. Will builds a full line of these cigar box instruments including tin can resonator guitars to fretless 3 string ukuleles. This certainly is an instrument for the musician who has everything!

This tenor Ukulele is a beautiful piece. This ukulele was built with very nice solid mahogany for the top, back, sides, and neck. The headstock overlay and fingerboard on this example are made from maple and it has a 17″ scale length. This instrument has a full and robust sound and is a pleasure to play.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the shop and try out a Naughty Little Monkey instrument. You won’t be disappointed!

 

 

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Making a compensated bone saddle

Greetings from the Leading Tone repair bench. We get lots of requests for installing compensated bone saddles in steel string acoustic guitars. The bone saddles sound much more articulate than the plastic material commonly used on today’s guitars, not to mention they also play in tune. In this blog post we’ll go over the basic steps of shaping and fitting a compensated bone saddle. So let’s get started.

Step 1: The first step is pull a bone saddle blank and cut it to length so that it will match the saddle slot of the bridge in question.

Step 2: Once the saddle blank has been cut to length, the saddle blank is carefully sanded to match the width of the saddle slot using a flat sanding stone. It is extremely important that the saddle when fit is a slip fit which eliminates issues with leaning, compensation, and under saddle pickup systems.

Step 3: Now that the saddle is ready to shape, the radius is first sanded into the blank followed by carving the rough compensation into the saddle. The compensation is determined by several factors including bridge location, saddle slot angle, and string gauge. The basic formula for locating the strings in regards to the saddle is to add 1/16″ to the scale length under the high E string and then pivot the saddle from that point back towards the low E at a ratio of 1/8″ for every 3″ of saddle length.

Step 4: The roughed out saddle is ready to install and to set the final action. In this photo you can see the compensation carved into the saddle. When setting up the guitar and adjusting the saddle height, the excess material is removed from the bottom of the saddle. Once the saddle is completed it is buffed and polished in preparation for the final installation.

Step 5: The completed compensated saddle!

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Leading Tone Custom 5E3 Amp Build

Greetings! We recently completed a custom 5E3 amplifier for a customer and we couldn’t have been happier with the results. The Fender 5E3 amp, commonly referred to as a Fender Deluxe is a very simple and common amp know for it’s simple design, ease of use, and superb tone. This customized version of the 5E3 amp was built with the finest components available including Mercury Magnetics ‘Tone Clone’ transformers, oil filled Mod capacitors (labelled with the Leading Tone V05 Hot Oil labels) , and robust turret board construction. Here’s a shot of the installed turret board:

Here’s a shot of the completed chassis before installing in the cabinet:

Once completed the amp came to rest is a custom made narrow face pine cabinet with a 12″ C12N Jensen speaker. The results were amazing. A lightweight amp with a classic look and incredible tone.

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