Our guest on today’s Fretboard Journal Podcast is Chris Young, founder of Union Tube & Transistor. Chris walks us through Union’s history, his current pedal lineup and the story behind his pedal collaboration with Jack White. We also hear about the time he gave a pedal to Tom Waits and about some of Union’s latest products, including their new Lab compressor pedal.
While Chris was in Seattle, we also took him to Johnny Sangster’s Crackle & Pop studio to do a quick video demo. Watch it on fretboardjournal.com.
The second installment of our interview with Zack Vex of Z.Vex Effects covers a lot of ground. Zack gives us an overview of Z.Vex’s current offerings, he then gives us his thoughts on the guitar effects industry today and he walks us through his latest invention, an all-new microphone that has to be heard to be believed. Plus a lot more...
Listen to part one of this two-hour interview here.
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On this week's podcast, we talk to Zack Vex of Z.Vex Effects. Over the last twenty-plus years, Zack has been at the forefront of the boutique pedal movement. But, as you'll hear during our lengthy interview, his love for electronics and science goes way beyond just guitar effects. Zack walks us through his childhood, his first guitar repairs and the early days of his now-flourishing company.
On next week's episode, we'll hear about Z.Vex today and some of Zack's most recent inventions including the Candelas Vibraphase and a brand new (and mind boggling) microphone.
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Musician Christian Lee Hutson is one of the most impressive young songwriters we've talked to in recent memory. On today's podcast, we talk to Chrstian about getting hooked on guitar (thanks to Nirvana), dropping out of high school to pursue music and his latest recording projects, including a forthcoming album featuring members of Dawes. We'll have videos of Christian at the Fretboard Journal coming soon. In the meantime, check out some of his music performances online to get a sense of his unique songwriting or catch him on tour opening for John Moreland.
This episode is sponsored by our friends at Retrofret Vintage Instruments.
On this week’s podcast, we talk to builder Todd Cambio of Fraulini Guitars. While a lot of guitarmakers focus on traditional Martin or Gibson-style instruments, Todd loves to focus on models built by more obscure vintage instrument brands, including Stella, Larson Bros., Lyon & Healy and Oscar Schmidt. During our talk, Todd talks to us about his start in lutherie and his love for early blues and 78 recordings. He then explains the research he did to recreate Lydia Mendoza’s 12-string guitar and his new attempt to create a replica of Lonnie Johnson’s 12-string guitar (both, it turns out, were originally built by San Antonio’s Acosta family). Cambio is equal parts luthier and history detective… it’s fascinating to hear how he cobbles together information and grainy photos to build some of these instruments. We hope you enjoy our talk.
Don't forget to leave us a review on iTunes. And use the discount code PODCAST when you check out at fretboardjournal.com to save an additional $5 off your order.
Sam Amidon is, quite simply, one of our favorite musicians. His visionary music is mesmerizing, he somehow melds traditional Appalachian folk with experimental music. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Sam about his music-filled childhood (his parents are folk singers Peter and Mary Alice Amidon) and his transition from being a professional traditional fiddler to a groundbreaking solo artist.
Sam tells us about his discovery of avant-garde music and free jazz, what it was like to get lessons from Leroy Jenkins and his time in the indie band Stars Like Fleas. He also discusses his collaboration with hero Bill Frisell (2014’s Lily-O), the energy he finds in primitive field recordings, why he wore a kung fu outfit to his first solo gig… and a lot more. Sam has had a fascinating musical journey and he walks us through it all.
Sam’s 2017 Nonesuch album, The Following Mountain, is his first recording to feature his own songs. We can’t recommend it enough.
Audio note: There’s some cell phone distortion in the first ten minutes of this call; it gets better as the conversation goes on. Stick with it.
For guitar collectors, Zeke Schein is best-known as the long-time salesman you see at Matt Umanov Guitars. What you may not know is that Zeke is also the guy who discovered what may very well be the third photo of Robert Johnson ever unearthed (an eBay find erroneously listed as a BB King photo).
Since purchasing that small photo over a decade ago, Schein has had quite a roller coaster ride. He went through hurdles to get the photo authenticated, he gave the rights to the Robert Johnson Estate and he’s witnessed his unlikely eBay find get reprinted in national magazines. He’s also faced the wrath of blues historians, some of whom rabidly dispute that this is in fact a shot of Johnson at all.
Zeke has written a new book entitled Portrait of a Phantom: The Story of Robert Johnson’s Lost Photograph. Though ostensibly about the discovery of this image, Zeke’s book is about a lot more, too. He writes about his love for the blues, his time at Umanov’s, the New York music scene and why some of us are so compelled to learn more about our music heroes. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Zeke about the photo, his career selling guitars at one of the world’s most famous stores and much more.
This episode of our podcast is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars.
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Our dear friend Bill Collings, founder of Collings Guitars & Mandolins, passed away on July 14, 2017 after a long battle with cancer.
We’re working on a tribute for Bill in the next issue of the Journal (and if you have any great Bill stories, we’d love to hear them). We also decided to share this talk he gave at the first Fretboard Summit in 2015. During this session, Bill was interviewed by Mark Stutman (Folkway Music). It was a lively, unfiltered chat full of laughs. We also fielded questions from the audience, talked about Waterloos and more.
RIP Bill. We’re going to miss our chats with you. –Jason
Twenty years ago, Lluís Gómez heard Banjo Paris Session, an album featuring the playing of Jean-Marie Redon and Bill Keith. It completely changed this Spanish musician's life. Gómez would go on to obsess over the five-string banjo, eventually tracking down lessons with Keith, Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick. These days, Gómez is considered the “Spanish King of the Five-String Banjo.” He’s a prolific performer, educator and music promoter, bringing a distinctly American music to new audiences in Europe. On this episode, he tells us about the state of banjo in Spain today, his excellent new record Dotze contes, the instruments that he loves and much more.
We are now shipping the Fretboard Journal #39. Use the coupon code PODCAST when you check out at fretboardjournal.com and get $5 off your order.
Lluís' site: http://www.lluisgomez.com/index-en.html
Today we’re talking to Jas Obrecht, acclaimed music journalist and editor. Jas is the author of the recently published anthology, Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music. The book is filled interviews Jas conducted with music icons such as Nick Lucas, Ry Cooder, “Pops” Staples, Ry Cooder and Jerry Garcia. He tells us a bit about how it came about, what these amazing interviews were like, his days working at Guitar Player and much more.
The Fretboard Journal’s 39th issue is now mailing. Use the coupon code PODCAST when you check out and you’ll save $5 off any subscription, just for being a FJ Podcast listener.
This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars.
Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music by Jas Obrecht (Amazon link)
Thirty years ago, luthier Dana Bourgeois (Bourgeois Guitars) and performer/vintage guitar dealer Eric Schoenberg teamed up to create a guitar that was at once both very traditional and very forward-thinking, the Schoenberg Soloist. The Soloist was Eric’s dream fingerstyle instrument – a traditionally-built Martin OM-style guitar built with a wider neck and a cutaway built into the body. On today’s podcast, we talk about the making of the Soloist and hear about the limited run of Soloist 30th Anniversary guitars that they’ve created. We also discover why Eric loves Martin necks from 1930; the tonal differences he hears between 12 and 14-fret guitars; and much more.
On this week’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to luthier Nate Wood, out of Springfield, Oregon. Nate regaled us with guitarmaking tales at last month’s La Conner Guitar Festival so we quickly hatched a plan to bring him on the show. Before launching his own guitar and guitar repair business (Stahman Guitars), Nate went to school at Roberto Venn and then honed his chops working for Ryan Thorell. His own inventive guitars are inspired by some of the funkier American guitar designs of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Nate is also a big fan of using reclaimed woods and eco-friendly materials.
This episode is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars.
The music of singer-songwriter Vikesh Kapoor has always defied logic. Here’s a 20-something artist—born in small town Pennsylvania to immigrants from India—who seems more inspired by Pete Seeger, John Jacob Niles and Woody Guthrie that any popular music from the last few decades. On today’s podcast, we talk to Kapoor about his upbringing, his influences and his favorite guitars.
Kapoor has a new single out, entitled “Down by the River.” “It was one of the first songs that I wrote and I never had it recorded in a way that I liked,” he says. Kapoor wrote it while inspired by Seeger’s “Dink’s Song” in essentially a day, right before his 23rd birthday.
We also talk about guitars, including the ‘70s Gibson J-50 Deluxe that Kapoor found in a local shop, almost by fate. It served as the primary songwriting instrument behind The Ballad of Willy Robbins [Kapoor’s 2013 album] and "Down by the River."
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Dying Breed Music. Kapoor’s new recording is available at all the usual digital music outlets and can also be purchased as a flexi-single from Mama Bird Recording Co.
As always, we hope you'll subscribe to the Fretboard Journal print edition. If you do, use the discount code PODCAST when you check out. And don't forget to leave us a review on iTunes. It takes a few seconds and helps expand our audience.
These week, we talk to acclaimed guitarmaker Mark Whitebook. In the 1970s, Whitebook had a cult following for his handmade guitars and a client list that included James Taylor, Carly Simon, Phil Keaggy and Clarence White. But in 1980, having built around 70 instruments total, Whitebook left the world of lutherie and pursued a career outside of the music industry.
Thirty five years later, Whitebook has returned to building instruments (he kept all of his original tools and equipment all of these years). During this two-hour long talk, we chat about his background, how he taught himself to build his first guitar (with help from Irving Sloane’s now legendary book on guitar construction), the Southern California guitar scene of the 1970s (including his time spent with David Russell Young and Chuck “The Duke of Pearl” Erikson) and how his dreadnought instruments stray from traditional Martin construction. We also learn just how hard it is to make a living building guitars. Whitebook is a near-mythical figure in the world of guitars; we hope you enjoy this exclusive chat.
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For our 150th episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast, we turn the tables: Luthier Meagan Wells (guest on episode #134) interviews Fretboard Journal publisher / editor Jason Verlinde. We talk about the origins of the Fretboard Journal magazine, Jason’s love affair with the musical saw, his favorite guitars, some of our most memorable video and interview sessions and a lot more. We hope you enjoy this little peek into the making of the FJ and all of our projects.
This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars.
Follow the Fretboard Journal via www.fretboardjournal.com. And, if you like our podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. And don't forget to subscribe to the print edition! Use the discount code PODCAST and you'll get $5 off just for listening to our show.
Minnesota’s Tom Nechville may very well be the closest thing the banjo world has to Leo Fender. For the last 30 years, he’s innovated the five-string banjo with revolutionary products like the Heli-Mount, the Cyclotronic Tone Ring and the Flux Capacitor. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Nechville about his inventions, his banjos (acoustic and electric) and some of the challenges of building forward-thinking products for a market that largely leans towards the traditional. Even if you’re not a banjo player, you’ll enjoy hearing about how Nechville found his calling in the world of fretted instruments and some of the R&D that he goes through with his instruments.
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This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars, which has its own fair share of banjos, along with guitars, basses, mandolins and more.
Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal Podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fretboard-journal-podcast/id394447340?mt=2
“I’ve always been into the older, cheaper Sears’ catalog-type guitars,” Nic Delisle of Island Instruments explains on this week’s podcast. That influence is clearly apparent when one looks at Island’s unique guitar lineup; you can see familiar Silvertone, Kay and Stratotone shapes but with refined hardware, ergonomics and pickups. During our talk, Delisle walks us through his numerous electric guitar models, explains his love for reclaimed materials (he recently made a guitar using reclaimed floorboards from the Boston Symphony Hall) and more. We also talk about the La Conner Guitar Festival, which took place May 12-14, 2017 in La Conner, Washington.
Want to become a professional luthier or repair person? Are you already a working in the field but want to up your game? If so, you’ll love this week’s podcast episode. We’re talking to luthier Bryan Galloup about his annual Northwoods Seminar, a four-day retreat where you can learn the finer points of guitarmaking and repair from some of the biggest names in the business, including Bob Taylor, Richard Hoover, Dan Erlewine, Andy Powers and others. This year’s event takes place August 21-24, 2017 and includes music performances by Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert. On the show, we also talk to Galloup about his Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair, his own guitar creations, the unique presentation he gave at our Fretboard Summit and more.
Galloup is one of many luthiers who will be on-hand at this year’s La Conner Guitar Festival, which takes place this weekend (May 12-14) in La Conner, Washington. The Fretboard Journal is proudly sponsoring this event. We hope to see you there.
Enjoying our podcast? Consider subscribing via iTunes and don’t forget to leave us a review.
Northwoods Seminar Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/409974032696325/
The first time Matt Hampton sought out to harvest Red spruce for guitar tops, he, quite simply, "searched Google Earth for dark patches on top of tall mountains." Matt and his brother Nate are now continuing the legacy started by Ted Davis and John Arnold and making a full-time living hunting down Adirondack red spruce for luthiers and larger-scale guitar manufacturers.
Matt describes the process and how one tree can yield up to 500 tops, their unlikely start in the world of guitarmaking, their relationship with John Arnold and more. He also busts a few myths about spruce. We also hear about the brothers’ quest to find quality domestic back and side tonewoods. It’s a fascinating story, they sound almost like the American Pickers of trees.
Watch the Brothers harvest a Red spruce tree here on YouTube.
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Today we’re talking to the one-and-only Ben Harper. Ben tells us about a very special guitar he just received from luthier John Monteleone. It's the first lap steel guitar that Monteleone has ever made, a guitar that John has dubbed a Radio City Special Deluxe (see pictures and video at fretboardjournal.com).
In addition to talking about the origin of his Monteleone guitar, we talk to Ben about his new Reverb store, some recent recording projects (including a session with jazz player Bruce Bishop) and a lot more.
Ben Harper's Official Site: http://www.benharper.com
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Lastly, this episode is sponsored by Retrofret, one of our favorite vintage instrument dealers in the country. Visit them online or at their Brooklyn showroom.
On today’s podcast, acclaimed luthiers Linda Manzer, David Wren and Tony Duggan-Smith gather around Manzer's kitchen table to talk to us about their new Group of Seven guitar project.
The Group of Seven consisted of Canadian landscape painters Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Franklin Carmichael, Frank Johnston, F.H. Varley and A.Y. Jackson. These seven artist friends were prolific through the 1920s and early '30s and are now considered highly influential.
Manzer saw similarities between the bond these seven legendary artists had and the one she shares with fellow luthiers and friends who studied under Jean Larrivee, decades ago. She decided to pay homage by having seven guitars built. Each luthier would focus on a different Group of Seven member.
The luthiers participating include Manzer, Sergi de Jonge, Duggan-Smith, Wren, George Gray, Grit Laskin and Jean Larrivée. The luthiers also built an eighth guitar as a group to pay tribute to painter Tom Thomson.
The project launches May 6, 2017 at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection outside of Toronto and the guitars will be on display through October in a room right next to the art that inspired them.
Andy Powers is a force of nature. He’s a gifted musician, an avid surfer and, of course, a stellar guitarmaker. As Andy tells us on this week’s podcast, he’s always had the guitarmaking bug. In fact, he attempted to build his first instrument when he was still in elementary school and, when he was barely a teenager, he had enough of a guitar repair business brewing that he earned himself a letter from the IRS.
As an adult, Powers had a bustling business building archtops, guitars, ukuleles and mandolins and doing restorations out of his Oceanside, California workshop when he decided to switch gears and become a full-time Taylor employee. At Taylor, Powers has tirelessly worked on new lines and improvements, including the Grand Orchestra model, revamping the 600 and 800 series lines of guitars, the new Academy series of instruments and the GS Mini-e Bass. During our chat, we talk about these models, the recruitment offer he received from Bob Taylor, the state of affairs when it comes to Taylor sourcing wood, his R&D process and much more.
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars in Brooklyn, New York.
On today’s podcast, we talk to Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett. Chris tells us about growing up in Santa Barbara; starting out on guitar; his early love for metal; how he landed the Foo Fighters gig; why he started playing Telecasters; and the making of his new solo country album, ‘West Coast Town.’ Chris also talks to us about his weekly podcast, ‘Walking the Floor,’ where he’s interviewed a wide array of artists including Marty Stuart, Bob Mould, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller and others.
Watch our video with Chris playing "Goodnight Little Rock" from the new album here.
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Tune in next week when we interview Andy Powers of Taylor Guitars. And don't forget to leave us a review on iTunes.
On this week’s podcast, we talk to Ethan Gruska (Belle Brigade) about his 2017 solo album, Slowmotionary. As Gruska tells it, he innocently recorded a handful of songs thinking they would serve as a sort of business card to remind musician pals that he could do session work for them. Little did he know he'd eventually synch up with producer Tony Berg, record an entire album steeped in ‘60s and ‘70s singer-songwriter sounds and end up releasing it on Sire records. Gruska talks to us about working with Berg on the project, Blake Mills (who plays guitar on the album's second track) and what it was like to co-write a song for John Legend ("Right by You" on Legend’s Darkness and Light). Though Gruska says “the guitar is a series of happy accidents for me,” he’s a stellar player. Watch our video with him playing “Reoccurring Dream” on fretboardjournal.com.
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is sponsored by Retrofret Guitars. Visit their website or Instagram and tell them the FJ sent you! http://retrofret.com
This week, we have a fun talk with Doug Kauer of Kauer Guitars, Titan Guitars and DRS racks. Doug tells us about how his family’s cabinetry business gave him the experience he needed to build instruments, why he utilizes CNC machines in his production facility and the unique business model behind the Titan line (an American-made electric guitar starting at $1300 with plenty of customization options).
This episode is brought to you by Dying Breed Music. Dying Breed has an amazing selection of Golden Era Martins, Gibsons and other instruments available: http://www.dyingbreedguitars.com