Posts Tagged ‘Zappa’

New Old Gear :: BOSS TW-1 T-Wah

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The BOSS TW-1 T-Wah (a.k.a. the Touch Wah on the earliest versions) is my latest guitar toy. I’ve wanted an auto-filter for ages, mainly for playing Inca Roads and other FZ mid-70s vibes, and remembered that Larry Carlton used the TW-1 for a while in the 80s. (Having since revisited the clip where he shows the TW-1 on his board, he actually says he uses it every two years, and not to buy one, which is exactly the kind of perverted recommendation/warning  that I like.)

I paid £55 for it on eBay, which I think is a pretty good deal for a MIJ BOSS pedal from Roland’s golden era (roughly 1978-85 in my estimation).

Powering vintage BOSS pedals

One slight annoyance about this and other old BOSS pedals is that they don’t use a standard PSA-type power supply. Apparently, the idea behind the power supply design was for you to daisy chain several pedals, so they are designed for an unregulated 12V input, and then step down the voltage internally so that there is plenty of juice for all the other pedals. So the pedal runs at 9V internally, has a connector for a 9V battery, but needs a 12V input.

If you plug in a 9V supply (as I have tried), you get a dim LED and the pedal doesn’t function quite fully as you’d like. After all, the 9V input is then running through the same stepdown circuit that was intended for the 12V input.

Elsewhere on the web it is stated that if you daisychain the pedal with other BOSS gear then you can use a normal 9V input as having a common ground will bypass the stepdown. I have tried this out and it is not true – I used the output from a TU-2 and the pedal behaved the same as if you plug a normal 9V input in. (Perhaps the output of the TU-2 is isolated from the input and the GND is not shared, therefore the stepdown is still engaged?)

Ultimately I connected the pedal to a 12V tap on my T-Rex Fuel Tank Chameleon and normal operation was restored (although there’s something wrong-feeling about plugging a BOSS pedal into a 12V supply).

Sounds

I’ve really enjoyed playing this pedal so far. I got it for playing leads à la Inca Roads, which it does very nicely, but have also found it to perform well for rhythm parts as well (and not just the furious-right-hand-funk people always demonstrate with this type of pedal).

Because the filter is triggered by attack, you can keep it closed by using the volume control on your guitar, which can act as a proxy for the peak control. This reduces the amount of gain you have, of course.

One cool effect I found is hitting a chord with the volume on your guitar set low (so as not to open the filter), and then rolling the volume slowly up to full. As the volume increases, the filter doesn’t open but the gain increases – because the filter is still closed it’s like rolling in a very deep, menacing texture. Something akin to the volume swells early on in Forty-Six and Two, but darker.

There is a big difference in the behaviour of the pedal with active pickups, and I imagine the same would be true of humbuckers.

The down/up switch on the pedal is a nice feature, but the ‘down’ setting sounds strange to my ears (and not in a good way). The settings I have fixed on are ‘up’, and both ‘peak’ and ‘sens’ set to 12:00.

Conclusion

Like Larry Carlton says, you’re not going to use this pedal all the time, but I have found myself reaching for it much more than I thought I would. Because it is an inherently dynamic effect, it forces you to play as such, controlling the filter with your picking. This is the best kind of practise: the kind you don’t realise you’re doing (i.e. the not completely life-suckingly dull version).

In the negative column, it’s very much not true-bypass, and having it in the signal chain sucks tone on par with older Electro-Harmonix gear, which is not something I normally expect from BOSS, even their non-true-bypass pedals. (To be clear, this is not a pedal geek allergy to anything that’s not true-bypass – it’s a real deal problem.)

In summary, the TW-1 is a vintage pedal that sounds good, unlocks some cool new playing techniques, and makes you think more carefully about pick dynamics. With that, and the fact that it’s not wildly more expensive than a new DS-1, I can forgive the power supply idiosyncrasies and tone suck. If you see one for cheap and fancy something a bit different, go nuts.

FZ :: Music vs War

“If ya wanna have a world of well performed orchestra music, you’re gonna have to spend the money to do it. Now, where ya gonna get the money? Well, you know, if you were to shut down some of these places that make tritium for nuclear warheads, which we don’t really need, you could have one hell of a musical culture in the United States just by shutting down … one! … of those facilities, which is making the environment polluted, and it is questionable whether we really need, we got plenty of nuclear warheads. We could blow up the world five times over right now. Why do we need to make more of this stuff? I’m baffled.”

FZ in 1989 – sounds like a win-win to me (source)

Music :: Kongor-ol Ondar / Dance Me This

Kongar-ol Ondar, the Tuvan throat singer who attended one of FZ’s 1993 music parties and got as close to mainstream culture as any throat singer had before (or since), died aged 51 last July following a brain haemorrhage. Frank’s fondness for and adoption of Tuvan styles in his later work is something that makes his untimely passing all the more upsetting — Dio Fa sets a pretty high bar for fusing the unusual with the unusual, and we are left only to imagine the possibilities.

In tribute to Ondar, the ZFT posted a Synclavier piece featuring his vocals to the ‘of consequence’ section of Zappa.com. There’s not much to go on aside from a hint dropped by the Idiot Bastard, but it’s very possible that this piece is from the legendary, unreleased Dance Me This album, and is likely (at least an excerpt from) ‘Calculus’, a piece executed with Synclavier software created by Todd Yvega designed to follow the Tuvan’s no-beat ‘free time’ rhythms.

A helpful person has uploaded the piece to YouTube, and it’s embedded below. Now if the ZFT could prioritise Dance Me This and The Rage and The Fury for release ahead of all the Roxy business (which has been going on for decades anyway), that’d make for a great 2014. Arf!

Pedals :: TWA Triskelion

Between my recent purchase of the BB Preamp, and the NAMM 2012 show yielding a deluge of YouTube clips of new and wonderful gear, I’ve fallen into a pedal craze. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent hours and hours on YouTube binges, checking out some cool and crazy stuff. And it was on one of these binges that I discovered the TWA Triskelion, which I am now absolutely dying to try out.

Last time I was shopping in Denmark Street, I asked the staff in a exclusively-FX store about a semi-mythical piece of kit from ’70s which was a favourite of FZ – the Systech Harmonic Energizer. (Also, the pedal with the coolest name ever.) The guy in the store hadn’t heard of it, sadly. I wasn’t surprised particularly – the odds of him having heard of it were pretty slim, and the odds of him having one in stock were way slimmer still. But hey, it’s always worth asking, right?

So, as you might imagine, when I discovered the TWA Triskelion I was pretty excited. This is a 21st-century, full-fat, beefed-up take on the original Systech designs from the ’70s – a crazy, sweepable parametric EQ with global- and frequency-boost controls. As it transpires, Dweezil runs three (!!!) of these pedals in his rig, specifically for Po-jama People, but also for adding some honk to other solos. Well, it retails for $350 and isn’t exactly the most versatile…or should I say broadly applicable of pedals, but this is what I’ve been cocking a Cry Baby to emulate since forever.

Firmly on the shopping list. Although I hate the LEDs.

Here’s some clips from YouTube of the Triskelion in action. The first couple demo some the pedal on its own and with an expression pedal, and the third features the Dweez talking about and playing the pedal.

 

 

 

Zappa :: Al Di Meola :: Ritz NYC November 1981

Incidentally, I’ve never heard anyone else plugged into one of Frank’s rigs before. Hyper cool upload.

FZ :: Christmas from Utopia

 

 

 

Dedication ::

 

Last night, I caught a link to the unveiling of the first Steve Jobs statue, a bronze affair unveiled yesterday in Hungary.

(I guess being single-minded, derided and adored in equal measure, and having a statue in eastern Europe are now par for the course in my estimation of genuine greatness.)

I just don’t feel the point of it. For anyone in the future who gives a fuck, my immediate thought, in a tweet:

Frank changed the way I hear every piece of music. Steve changed the way I perceive every digital product. That’s the legacy.

You don’t need a statue of someone like that. Their effect is already profound enough.

Reading List :: Tuesday 25th October 2011

The internet has done its level best to plaster passages from the Jobs biography all around over the last few days. Being it that I prefer to read the thing, y’know, as a book rather than in 250 word chunks of recycled SEO-fodder, I’ve been limiting my browsing over the past couple of days. It’s the same process that I go through after most WWDC keynotes, not wanting the surprise ruined.

I happened across a real diamond on YouTube over the weekend, a 7-part Zappa video entitled ‘The Lost Interview‘. It’s about an hour long but is in 10 minutes segments, so that’s a clip a day for just shy of a week. Frank hated interviews, but they were a necessary promotional mechanism for his various wares. This, however, was not a promotional appearance. According to Kill Ugly Radio, the footage was Frank’s talking-head contribution to a documentary about cultural change from 1960 onwards. It appears totally unedited, the source is unclear, and it is absolutely worth taking in the whole thing.

GTA Five has appeared on Rockstar‘s homepage. Apparently there will be a trailer in a couple of weeks, which is very exciting indeed, although the announcement has already added more $$$ to my video game shopping list for Q4 (MW3, Halo, MGS), which is not so great. Trying to find some more info on the game, I ended up getting sucked into a Wikipedia vortex reading about the first GTA instalment from the ’90s, looking back fondly on a childhood spent stealing cars and running over pedestrians. I was also reminded that GTA III will soon be released for my shiny new iPhone 4S, so I can steal cars and run people over anywhere I like!

Zappa :: Barcelona :: 1988

From the final tour. The full show, kindly uploaded to YouTube by user . Watching this right now, but obviously material like this requires immediate sharing. This is a high budget show: the horn section, the size of the band, the Synclavier in the middle of the stage…reminds me of seeing James Brown and Stevie Wonder, but with the mustard Strat, solos, humour, a conductor’s baton and all the rest. Awesome.

Zappa on the Business of Music

This comes via Andrew Greenaway on the Twitter and is the work of Carl King & others on YouTube.

Certainly a wonderful and very creative tribute, and the audio captures Frank at his best; I don’t think there’s any way you would contest a solid block of argument like this. Really fantastic visuals (and a great score).