Electrical Guitar Company & Cartographer Amps

Long time, no speak, friends of my nerdery. January was a very, very busy month. I all but stopped making pedals due to band, recording, and of course day job commitments. the heavy lifting has passed. Now, let me play catch up on some of the stuff that did happen.

On February 5th, after about six months of waiting, my Electrical Guitar Company “Custom 500” arrived.

Yes that is an aluminum neck and fretboard. In fact the neck goes all the way through the body and the bridge bolts directly into the neck. Here is the guitar with the body removed.

You can see more and hi-res photos here.

This is just an amazing instrument. Rather than type a whole new description, I’ll just copy what I wrote to the builder.

The sound is amazing! On tour in late 2007 I played Rich’s all aluminum offset one, and then Colin from Fun Ender’s guitar. The feel wigged me out at first, but after about 10 minutes I just couldn’t put them down. I never played them plugged in, though.

On Saturday I got to plug it in. A few friends who were practicing down the hall came by to check it out. The range of tones available is very diverse. The RW/RP of the pickups is a great bonus. Mainly, though, what everyone noticed what the immediacy of the response. I never got that before when playing the guitars unplugged. The think I’m telling my friends is that it has the attack of a Tele, but the level drops off less for the
sustain. It’s like a Fender response with more sustain, or a Gibson response without the weak, mushy attack . It’s just a totally unique ADSR curve (synth term)

The other thing I told my friends is that it kind of sounds like an angrier, more responsive version of my Ric 360.

The pickups, holy shit! they sound great, yeah, but I had my amp running at full tilt, standing right in front of it, and there was no squeal at all. I couldn’t get microphonic feedback at all. So great!

So yeah, I’m blown away. Fit, finish, sound; I played it all weekend in every little open moment.

So yes, new favorite guitar by far.

I also finally settled on my Cartographer amp setup. I finished the Traynor. I left the tone caps the way they were, but I redid the phase inverter circuit to classic Marshall values. Instead of a 2-12, I managed to grab an inexpensive but good 4-12 from my friend Jeremy. the other amp is half of my old bass amp from Replicator. It looks very intimidating.

That’s the full catchup. Look for more building and repairing soon.

The First-World Suffering of Infinite Possibilities

I’m lucky. I could list a massive number of ways in which I’m lucky, but this is a journal of my gear and audio projects, so I’m going to wade into the shallow end and apply this only to the pre-defined subject.

So, to start again. I’m lucky. I have a large amount of nice gear. Over the course of 20 years of playing guitar and 10 years of fiddling with amps, I’ve gathered a nice collection of stuff I’ve always wanted. I have the original Blackface Fender, restored on my own. I have numerous guitars that make my friends drool. I have plenty of effects. I have a couple extra, useful, awesome tiny amps. I have a solid bass, a rad bass preamp I built myself, and two amazing bass cabs. I have a sparkle-covered drum kit. I can get amazing sounds and ugly sounds, and cover most all of the bases.

So why can’t I just make music for a while? Why do I always go back to wanting to build something different, or re-defining my guitar setup, or trying out some new device? For instance, yesterday I went for about a two mile walk, and for most of the time I was thinking about my Cartographer amp. I realized that I was pushing towards the aesthetic and sound of Shellac’s amps. I thought I was being silly. I kept telling myself (as if I was a separate person), “You have the skill to make anything you want, to create something for yourself that works elegantly and awesomely for its purpose. What do you do? What do you make?”

I waffled between the amp I was planning in the last post, or re-working my existing gear to work for me, and then just making music. I wondered, “Do I need more stuff? Do I have a compulsion?” Like I’ve said, I admire bands who pick their palette and then stick to it. I really don’t want to acquire stuff for the sake of having stuff. In fact, I often have the urge to purge my gear.

Well, if I have to answer myself, I give the answer “Gear is Fun.” For instance, I don’t actually use one of my Fuzzy Bunny pedals in any of my bands, but I think it’s a neat pedal, and I enjoy building them and selling them to my friends. Just like when some bands form and dream about their costumes or playing the big hall in town, I dream about what gear I’ll be using, and what sounds I can make with my pre-defined gear. The problem though is that I usually have the means to make it happen, so I start the project and my time and resources get stretched more and more thin. I’ve not played guitar with another person since the last Cartographer show, and the next GvsG practice is not ’til mid December, yet I’ve spent a large amount of time contemplating my guitar gear.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just feel silly. I feel silly for being confused by what I want to use, and I feel silly for caring so much, and I feel silly for not being as grateful as I am for what I do own. A big part of making the pedals is knowing that people think it’s cool to own something that I built. There is an element of ego to it, as well as an element of wanting to be the guy who helps his friends get what they want. I just have this picture of my head of being on stage with my weirdo amp which I conceived and built, playing insane music, and generally seeming awesome or confusing.

So how do I get there? What is the first step? What really matters, and what is just bullshit?