The Audition

I caught a bit of X-Factor/ Pop Idol or Fame Academy or whatever the fuck its called the other night, I find the bit when the hapless fame hungry yet devoid of talent scumbags audition for Simon Cowell and co the most entertaining part of the whole show. If they are talentless and self dillusional, then they are usually all the more entertaining for it. If they have thick pushy and delusional parents who are going to belive Simon Cowell will pluck “our Kazza” out of her Chipshop and big earrings and into megastardom and a life of wealth then its just the icing on the cake.

Crap TV aside auditioning can be a fraught thing. There are many factors to consider and not just the X one;)

In my 20 years as a gigging guitarist, I’ve auditioned for quite a few bands. Some auditions have been more successful than others. I don’t know if these are handy tips or not…more a recollection of what went right and what went wrong.

1: Where is the Audition taking place? and what gear do I need

Usually for most bands its a rehearsal space, so you’ll need an amp or at least access to one. Most places usually let you hire/borrow one, but a quality amp is not always guaranteed. I’d also avoid taking along your full rig until you know the people a little better. This will also allow you to focus on the parts you need to learn rather than what echo or flange to use. The basics are best worked out as cleanly as possible IMHO. It will also enable the band to judge your ability more fairly rather than be distracted by your 10 channel super amp or the pedalboard you could land a Sea-Harrier on.

Also is the audition all night or just a 10 minute “Cattle Call”. If its the latter then you won’t have time to piss around.

Personally for my most recent auditions I bought along a Tech 21 Sansamp TRI AC pedal which has been a brilliant little device as it gives me an acceptable high quality tone no matter what piece of shit its plugged into. It also gets used as backup if my main amp goes down. A similar distortion/preamp device is perhaps a useful investment, Maybe even a multifx unit with just some good basic clean and dirty tones, as it will make you feel more comfortable with the tone coming out of the speakers, therefore you’ll relax more and probably play better. If you spend the first 35 minutes of your audition trying to get a good sound out of your amp then you’ll look like a twat and no one will hire you.

The two “Bedroom” (ahem) auditions I did were both for indie bands led by winsome and indie songwriters. In both cases a small practice amp was provided. Sometimes these can be entertaining just by observing someones living environment. I auditioned for a sensitive Singer Songwriter in 2000 at his Camden Flat and found my guitar playing disturbing a sleeping semi naked girl on his sofa, who then procceeded to manically clap along to the final track we tried while skinning up while forgetting to wear clothes. In the end it was a “dont call us” type scenario, but an entertaining afternoon nonetheless.

2: First Impressions

Often people will judge you quickly, on silly things like what you wear, what guitar you own and if you smell or have flies following you around. For example if you turn up at a heavy metal band audition dressed like Paul Weller or brandishing a Semi Hollow Jazz guitar then they will usually not be interested, unless its Queens of the Stone Age maybe.

Back in 2001 I had a bassist audition for the Stoner Rock band I was in, he was wearing shorts and a bemuda shirt. The rest of us were all in black….this guy looked like Timmy Mallet and despite having good gear and playing ability……we didn’t gel as people and he didn’t get the gig.

Its sad but instruments will also play their stylelistic part. After the 80′s rock band I was in folded I auditioned for several bands who all regarded me with suspicion as I was playing an Ibanez RG superstrat at the time. I soon worked out that they saw me as a “metal” guitarist and I quickly went out and bought amore traditional and less widdly 62 Strat re-issue.

3:Be prepaired

Nowadays with Myspaces and CD-R’s its easy to get a copy of a bands songs and learn up the parts. It usually helps if you’ve worked out some ideas of your own too. Some bands or songwriters get really arsy over any terretorial pissing on a guitar players parts. But most are usually happy for you to bring your own style to bear as long as its sympathetic with the material.

4:Ability & Style

I auditioned for a signed Hard Rock actin 2003, however the CD never arrived in the post from them, musically it was simple enough, but for one thing. Every song was in drop D. While I can play in drop D,its not my strongest suit as a guitar player. So on the heavier material, I felt as though I was just doubling the other guitarist and nothing more. Needless to say I didn’t get called back.

5: Personality

Bands are essentially a gang of dysfunctional people, so it helps if you can fit into that dynamic and find your own niche within it. Some bands are obsessed by image, others less so. I always think if you can feel comfortable working with people in a collaborative way then go for it. Sometimes mavericks and genius’ can be disturbed people. However I would be wary of stepping onstage with such people unless there was either a lot of glory or a big fat paycheck at the other end.

Also its worth looking at the dynamic of whats already there…….are the other members close…..are they happy…..do they look like they enjoy each others company???? Can you imagine being stuck in a van with them for 5 weeks at a time?

6: Goals

If they like what you do, then comes the tricky bit…..what are there goals? Is it just playing the local blues club once a month….or just a few covers at weddings. If its a band/solo artist playing original tunes. Then what are the goals and where is the band going…..you may be asked to commit a big chunk of your time, so its worth knowing whats expected of you before you sign on with them.

Echo….echo….echo…..ech…..ec….e……….o

Now even though I play guitar in a band associated with Shoegazing it may suprise you I hardly use any effects…..thats right, a wah wah for a bit of tone shaping, a Pro Co Rat II for solo’s and a bit of echo and thats it for me…..as many a Gourmet Chef would only use a few simple ingredients to cook with, in order to preserve the flavour of meat or fish. I follow suit and let the tone come from my fingers and the amp. Some guitarists I know sprinkle FX everywhere like Domino Pizza Chefs going mad…piling on dollops of Chorus/Flange and phasing to the point you can hardly hear the original note…..good luck to em, but its not for me.

However I do like a good Echo unit.

Probably the most successful FX pedal of the last decade has been the Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeller. For around £200.00 you got a great delay with a myriad of amazing echoes…………

Now I don’t buy into the idea that modelling works and I don’t think for a minute that the modelled tones of the Line 6 sound remotely like those of a Boss DD-3, Roland Space Echo or EHX Memory Man plus or anything else it claims to emulate.

However it doesn’t matter, the sounds themselves are very useable and the DL-4 has quickly found itself the mainstay of many a touring professional or weekend warriors pedalboard. I bought one myself in 2000 and aside from the tap/tempo button falling off somewhere outside the Buffalo Bar in Islington, ownership has generally been a hassle free experience.

Now recently I’ve found myself needing another delay unit as the nature of my bands music changes and we add to and consolidate the sound. I did try a Marshall Echohead a while back, which is amazing and incredibly cheaply priced, but it seemed a bit “classic rock” maybe.

I then bought a Boss-DD3 off Ebay last year,but it had a fault and I got a refund. It was 50 quid used and seemed ok. But heres my beef…..

Roland have just released the “Space Echo” as a COSM modelling pedal. It probably won’t sound like an Original RE-201 or 301 Space Echo but I bet it’ll be useable and have a range of delays to get you excited, yet there like £120.00 excluding mains adaptor and thats a lot of pedal for the money.

Boss DD-3′s are around £84 new. So for less than £40 more your getting twice the functionality and twice the pedal. It seems mad. Out in retail land there are loads of cheap affordable and excellent didgital delay units that all outspec the DD-3 in a heartbeat. Line 6, Digitech,Marshall, Yamaha etc….all have a delay pedal under or around £100…..so do people still actually buy the DD-3???? If so………….. Why???

I know its an evergreen classic used on many a hit record, but surely the time has come for Roland to make it really cheap like they have with the SD-1 Super Overdrive. Come on Roland, Time marches on…you make it in China now to save money…so bring the price down;)

Jeztone Pedalboard sometime in 2005

Happiness in Magazines

As I’m going to be moving soon I’ve decided to have a cull of the 300+ guitar magazines sitting on my bookcase at any one time. This has been most interesting as I’ve trawled through the lot of them deciding what to keep and what to send for recycling. I’ve unearthed some interesting facts I thought I’d share.

1: Tom Morello only has one pose for magazine covers…..it’s true!!! He’s always staring at you, pointing his fingers manically toward you as though he’s bursting out of the Magazine like some sort of twisted General Kitchener, whether its on the cover of Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World or GuitarPlayer he’s always giving this self conscious pose and it upsets me, he’s been to Harvard for fucks sake, don’t they teach you how to pose for magazine covers here, doesn’t he think we’ll notice…

2: Gary Moore: Ha ha poor sod, where there was once only brilliance……now….. he’s like the senile aunt of the guitar always putting his big foot in his mouth….one minute he’s saying he’s back to Rock, then the next minute he’s slagging Rock off and saying how he’s a proper bluesman, even though back in the 60′s he bought a Gibson Les Paul off a person who at the time was starting to display signs of a mental illness and then made £399,781.00 of profit from selling said guitar 30 years later. Then he threatened to sue the bloke who bought it off him….. Oh how my heart bleeds for you Gary! Your as much a bluesman as I am a Zen Buddhist in drag.

In last months Guitarist mag Gary said that someone his age shouldn’t be making Rock music anymore. Funnily enough in that same issue the album of the month was ‘Snakes & Arrows’ by Rush featuring the Rock guitar work of a certain 54 year old Alex Lifeson. Good old Alex just keeps on going and his credibility and influence seems to grow more each year, unlike a certain Mr Moore. I do wonder what Alex Lifeson, Dave Gilmour, Steve Lukather, Neil Schon, Michael Schenker, John Sykes, Edward Van Halen and the other members of perhaps the greatest generation of Rock guitarists make of such fucking stupid statements. Do they care??

3: Thin Lizzy, or whats left of them. It seems if Guitarist magazine is an article short, they will always always wheel out Scott Gorham…..the first 3 or 4 times this was interesting…..now it is fucking boring…. I know about Phil, the drinking, the fighting, the smack habits….how Scott stopped playing his Les Paul in the 80′s and now usues a Strat and how his Marshalls are modified by a guy in Chandlers…..I’ve read the same interview in different magazines so often in the last decade…..its commited to my memory forever…..this same rule applies to Lambchop and Brian May. Has anyone in future publishing got more than 10 numbers in their phonebook?

4: Gibson guitar reviews – Its amazing how the reviews text will always question the general cosmetic fit and finish of every guitar reviewed……yet they will always get high amounts of stars saying that even though the binding is falling off the neck and its 3 grand, it really is a bargain!!!! Honest Guv….

5: Oasis transcriptions……..why would anyone need any help learning such simplistic and unadventurous material, unless they were…..well…..thick. Can’t Guitarist Mag do a “special needs” edition one month to placate these poor desperate souls and give proper transcriptions the rest of the year?