Thursday, July 29, 2010

Flu shocker

Before coming down with a nasty shockwave flu late in the afternoon yesterday, I went on another walk with my excellent and gracious host Heather, to explore the parts of town immediately east and north of her home.

Here are some images from along the way, including the amazing work of her friend Gwen, who makes immaculately detailed and beautiful 'wedding cake toppers' from card, and also the community gardens on top of the hill, overlooking Santa Monica's airport.

Meanwhile, I'm resting up, basically sleeping and feeling sore today, waiting for this flu to pass so I can get stuck into things again. Heather's lovely fella, Glasgow, has a bike set up for me, all ready to go.. so I've just gotta rest up for now and get back in the saddle..

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

City of Angels / around Venice Beach

The first things I can make out from the plane, besides the strangely familiar sprawl of buildings beneath the smoggy haze cradled in the Hollywood hills, are the tops of palm trees lining the roads - the familiarity of these, and so many features of LA, is the most striking thing about being here for the first time - a bit like experiencing something from a dream that's so familiar it makes you feel you've maybe lived that life once before already, in a parallel universe.. or in a movie, perhaps.. in this case, it's the all pervading parallel world of Californian culture, passed on down through all those TV shows and movies, and the books and the music, new and old, and even the old "Thrasher" skateboard magazines from the 80's...

For me, growing up at least partly under the inspirational guidance of Eric "EJ" Dorian, a childhood mate of my older brother "Oop", I was initially introduced to the skateboarding fold at age nine or so (circa 1987) and I went right in for it pretty hard from there, over the next year or so.

Somewhere on the periphery of developing the actual skills of balance and dexterity involved (not to mention the physically mauling rites of passage involved with coming off the board) there was the subliminal understanding that being a skater was about a whole bunch of other cool shit that was just as important. One thing I learned, whether EJ overtly meant to teach it to me or not, was that there wasn't just a right way or a wrong way of doing things, but there was also simply "my own way" and that my natural way of moving would inadvertently, and unavoidably, have an intrinsically inimitable style to it. I could fight against this or push it and explore it. So skateboarding became somewhat like laying down strips of creative expression, in movement, over the surfaces of the world in a very physically engaging way - great stuff for a 9 or 10 year old lad.

Thinking back on it now, I'd say that it was these kinds of experiences - often with the guiding presence of EJ there on the sidelines - just doing his thing ahead of me, making gnarly pronouncements of encouragement to a smaller younger fellow suburban kid in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne - that opened up the way for me to follow up the same types of creative possibilities in music, which is what ultimately took over from the skateboarding obsession for me. I never really felt any great deal of natural adeptness or talent for either skateboarding or music, but I have always found it constantly rewards in equal measure to the energy directed into it.

Beautiful passionfruit flower in bloom. Magnifique!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Orange "CrudBox" Project guitar

I bought this guitar, a few years ago now, from a bric-a-brac and bonzai shop in North Fitzroy.

It's an interesting beast, as it seems to have been home-made, in a slightly rudimentary fashion, cobbled together from a mixture of assorted old parts, based loosely on the famous Fender Telecaster outline. The neck seems to be taken from an old affordable 60's Japanese made guitar, the body seems to be made from some basic building timber - perhaps pine - chiseled out roughly for the pickups and electronics, and painted a nice shade of orange, with funky pickguard shaped and fashioned to suit. The pickups were both originally taken from a German "Hofner" electric guitar from the 70's, making me think that this was probably put together some time during that decade, from whatever parts could be scrounged. I have seen one vaguely similar guitar since, which makes me wonder if the creator was messing around with a few different ideas back in the day, perhaps even with a dream of going into manufacturing his own line one day. Who knows?

One of the problems when I received the guitar, is that the bridge pickup was DOA. I took the pickup cover off and had a look inside at the wiring, but there was no obvious point I could see where the fine wires had snapped or come loose from the winding, so I'm presuming it's a break somewhere deeper down in the coil. Might need a complete rewind. I tried out the neck pickup in the bridge position, but it's got a bit of a dull sound, indicating these are pretty lo-fi pickups anyway. My hope is that, with a few strategic tweaks during the repair/remodeling process, the pickup could be rewound to give a clearer, more present tonal response too. Might be a job ideally suited to Seymour Duncan and the folks over there in Santa Barbara, if I can make it up that way when I embark on my maiden voyage to the States next month!

In the meantime, I installed a basic Tele-style bridge pickup in the guitar, which actually sounds pretty great - though it's out-of-phase with the neck pickup, and is held in place with foam and little twigs of wood to keep it in the right position!

Other tweaks I made were to move the very basic vibrato bridge back towards the base of the guitar and add a Rickenbacker-style saddle. This gave me the best of both worlds - provision for adjusting the intonation (and height) at this point, and also a good match for the narrow neck width of this guitar, which must be the same as the old smaller scale Rickenbackers.

My other homemade custom electric guitars:

Some Hofner links, and info on the Hofner pickups:

Details of the various pickups and electronics used over the years:

Here you can see that my pickup is called the TYPE 513:

and here you can see the internal construction of this style of pickup:

Some general info on Hofner products:

Collecting Hofners:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Boat Anchor Productions

Inspired by the skillful ingenuity and rugged work-a-day build quality of early recording and broadcast equipment, I'm on the trail of all such items (now getting on toward relic status) to set-up my own production facility. The plan is for these older tube-laden heavyweights to compliment a selection of other retro and modern components (from 1930's ribbon mic's, to the ubiquitus silicon chip computing power common across all platforms today), providing a toolkit of useful and inspiring sound-shaping implements for quality production over various styles.

This is a photo from one of the old ABC studios in Australia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My custom homemade guitars

"Three-Piece Custom"

This is one of my first experiments, which began when I was about 16 and my friend, Richard Sleep, burn his old "Ranger" Strat, in an ode to his hero Jimi Hendrix, and even proceeded to cut it up with an axe! I used the lower bout, with the control cavity routing, and some other parts, to start piecing together my own custom. Over the course of many years, it got a nice new neck (and final assembly) from Stewart Male, in Lilydale.
He helped come up with the "three-piece" name, and suggested it's like a divided-up pizza with many different flavours all on the one base!

Really, it's like a Strat, with the final three-way pickup selection being:
Neck: Duncan P90, Middle: misc RW/RP, Bridge: Duncan "Broadcaster" Lead.


I started this guitar right around the same time as the Three-Piece Custom, above, but I started with a solid piece of maple, which my dad helped me with, from the local wood mill. It was initially twice as think, with chunkier horns and body shape, but I trimmed it back over time to allow better access to the upper frets, and decrease the weight.

Pickups I ended up with here are a vintage "Wide-Range" Seth Lover Tele humbucker from the 70's, which gives a nice brash and mid range tone, and a "Velvet Hammer" split true single coil humbucker at neck, which gives awesome rich, clean tones in parallel or series settings.