Blues Jam with the Joyo Pedals

I ran the Joyo Pedals thru some more tests yesterday, and came up with a simple blues jam using the pedals.

The guitar is all recorded with my old Yamaha SJ-550 with Dimarzio Pickups (Super Distortion in the Bridge, Humbucker From Hell in the Neck) through my POD XTLive set on a "clean" Hiwatt 100 amp simulation.  Rhythm guitars are the Joyo Vintage Overdrive, first guitar solo is the Ultimate Drive with Vinatge Overdrive boosting it, second guitar solo is the US Dream with Vintage Overdrive.

Overall, these pedals work very well with single-note solos, and the rhythm guitar chords here that are just slightly broken up retain a great, tubey sound.

But … I find that these pedals do NOT sound good for a nice tight metal crunch rhythm guitar, like you would use for precise 16th riffs in Slayer or Metallica-style songs.  It just "feels" like there's a slight "tube sag" when I play this style of rhythm.  Thick, slow riffs like you would hear in heavy blues-rock or sludgy stoner rock and metal would sound great with these pedals.  They're very full and thick sounding.  The Ultimate Drive would especially match up well with old Black Sabbath, Sleep, Sunn O))), High On Fire, and the like.

The US Dream is a more "modern" sounding distortion, but I still can't quite get that tighter crunch with it.  When I run the Vintage Drive into it (the Andy Sneap trick), it sounds better, but there's a lot of hiss and noise when I stop playing, so sudden stops don't sound so great unless I'm also running a good noise gate after the pedals.

So I'm still working on my new sounds with these pedals.  When I record, I run thru the POD XTLive, which does have a very effective Noise Gate, but running live into an amp still produces a bunch of hiss, which I would guess you wouldn't really even notice playing loud with a full band in a club.

So anyway, here's the track I recorded, which also includes some rather sloppy Hammond Organ playing.


Mental Toss Flycoon

Finally uploaded my tribute To Frank Zappa (and a few more). This is a collection of Zappa cover tunes I've done over the years.  It was time to get them all in one place.  I hope I do the Maestro Zappa justice.

I also include a tribute the the Buffy/Angel TV Theme songs, Focus, and Beethoven.

My two personal favorites are Ink Ero Des and Orange County Lumbertruck Runs Over a Weasel. Ink Ero Des (Zappa's Inca Roads) is almost sad sounding, and OC Lumber truck has such a great, downright "uplifting" melody. Yeah, that's pretty weird for me, but there, I said it.

Here's to you, Frank. You are missed.

To go to the Download page, click HERE.

Please note that NO MONEY is to be exchanged at all for my versions of these songs.  Please buy the original Frank Zappa albums, and support the Zappa Family Trust to keep the music alive.


Momento Celeste - New Dimaension X song

Finally recorded a new Dimaension X song, using the new Joyo pedals and my 5-string Schecter guitar.

Here it is - "Momento Celeste"

Guitar is through the Joyo pedals and into the Line 6 POD XTLive.  Bass was through the Joyo Vintage Overdrive. The song is a bit mellow, but I wanted to do something a bit mellower the really test the pedals doing something more than just heavy metal. Believe me, I've still got plenty of metal up my sleeve.

More to come.

OH ... a few more things ... I finally uploaded the two Moroghor albums to the Internet Archive, so they are available from a nice, secure, and spam-free website.  The links are:




And unfortunately, just heard some band news.  Lou Reed died today, at the age of 71.


Here's the first Joyo audio samples

Well, here is the first sample recorded with my Joyo Pedals (Ultimate Drive, US Dream)
and my 5-string Schecter, tuned to D A D A D.

I went from the pedals directly to my POD XTLive, using the simulation of the Hiwatt 100 (set clean), and very little reverb.

The first part ("Kasmir") is all done with the Joyo Ultimate Drive pedal. (settings were Drive at about 9:30, Tone at about 2:00, Volume about 11:00). The next part (the song is "Losing Control" by my former band, Deadside Manor) is two guitar tracks of the Joyo US Dream (drive/Gain at about 1:00, Tone at 2:00, Volume at 12:00), and two guitar tracks of the Ultimate Drive (Gain at 11:30, Tone 3:00, Volume 11:00).

Bass also went through the Ultimate Drive, at the "Kashmir" settings, but maybe just a bit less Gain).

Drums are Big Mono Drums (Analogue Drum Samples).

All recorded in Reaper.

There is a bit of Phasing on the guitars in Kashmir (that's my Behringer VP1 Vintage Phaser, a clone of the Electro-Harmonix Small Stone. I have it before the drive pedals, not after).  That's about it.


D A D A E Tuning - a bit more variety?

Been fiddling with D A D A D, and I like it, but I do find that playing major and minor chords is difficult to do. Therefore, I might consider tuning the highest D up to E, revising this All-5ths tuning into a suspended 2nd tuning (similar to my D A D A D E).  It is now easy to make major and minor chords, by adding the note on the highest string, either up 1 or two frets from the "fully-barred" notes, but then you lose the full big power chord on all 5 strings (since the 5th string is now a different note).

Hmmmm, … gotta actually try playing with this to see what it sounds like.  

I also just ordered a few new pedals - a Joyo Ultimate Drive, a Joyo US Dream, and a Joyo Vintage Overdrive.  I'm just not quite as happy with the Behringer TM300 as I thought I would be.  It is most definitely a very accurate clone of the Sansamp GT2, but as with the GT2 and the original Classic Sansamp pedals, they just lack that nice crisp high-end "sparkle".  Their sound really seems to focus on the Mid-Range, and seems to tone down the crisp, trebly highs. Just not quite what I was looking for, but for $25 bucks, the TM300 is a perfectly adequate pedal if you don't want to fork over $150 for an actual Sansamp pedal.

The Joyo pedals are Chinese knock-offs of more famous and more expensive pedals.  The Vintage Drive is basically an Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer, the US Dream is a copy of the Suhr Riot high gain pedal, and the Ultimate Drive is a clone of the Fulltone OCD overdrive pedal. I've read generally good reviews of these pedal, especially considering the prices (each was just over $30, compared the the price of the "name-brand" pedals which are no less that $150 each, at least!)

In fact, Gearmanndude (look him up!) has compared the US Dream directly to the Suhr Riot pedal in his video reviews on YouTube, and the two pedals sound nearly identical to me. 

I'm really looking forward to getting these new toys.  Three new pedals still cost less than ONE of the name-brands.  Plus, I just need something new to hopefully inspire me to creat some new music.  Soon, folks. Hopefully, very soon.


California Vacation

The Vacation log
Fri 09.20 .... Travel day
Long flights, some turbulence,  but not bad ... nice hotel right on the San Diego Harbor Island peninsula ... went to Old Town ... kinda boring (yeah, I know it’s called “Old Town”, hence lots of “old stuff”), but the Old Town Mining Co. Restaurant was fantastic! Great burger, great beer ... a microbrew called Lightning Thunderweizen - nice citrus’y flavor, like a Sam Adams Summer Ale, but with more lemon flavor.
Nice walk along the peninsula, right across from Coronado Island and the Naval Base. 
Sat 09.21 ... San Diego Zoo
The zoo was HUGE. Lots of walking up and down ramps, etc. Tired, grumpy, hungry, thirsty, ... saw Pandas. Lots of animals. But just too much to try to see in one trip.
Little Italy for supper ... went to Filippis ... a ONE HOUR WAIT to get in. Not worth it. We all ordered WAY TOO MUCH, ... pizza was undercooked, a Bud Light made it “tolerable”. 
This place was rated "best pizza in San Diego". Bull. They evidently don't really know how to cook pizza in San Diego. You gotta “cook” it.  so the dough is a bit crispy, and the cheese has those nice bubbly, brown “highlights”. The restaurant was packed. I don’t know why.
Sun 09.22 ... Legoland
Fun, but more for kids. We did go on the mini-rollercoasters (my speed). Breyers Rocky Road 1-scoop was just the right size and "hit the spot."  Lunch was pretty good barbecue chicken & ribs that Sue and I split. Mini-land was cool.  Took lots of pics.
On the way, we found a store called “Nothing Bundt Cakes”.  Yup, Bundt Cakes.  That’s it.
Tried to go to the local deli for supper,  but it was closed (it is a Sunday).  Back to the hotel restaurant (which was going to be expensive) and I just wanted something cheap and SMALL. Maybe a salad.  Yeah, Sue and I split a big salad with grilled chicken. As it turned out, a former schoolmate of Kirk's works there, so he gave us all a discount.  Very nice!
The day ended much better than I thought. 
Mon 09.23  U.S. Midway / Coronado Island
Visited the Midway Battleship Museum, … lot’s of fighter planes, tours of the ships interior and operations, etc.  Pretty cool. Big. Huge boat.
Then off to the ferry across the bay to Coronado Island - lunch from Spyro Gyros (Greek sausage - very good), and visited the Hotel Del Coronado. Looks a lot like the Grand Floridian (which was based on this design). Obviously only the rich stay here (it’s at least $300 a night). Fancy.  Too Fancy. Opulent. Downstairs and around the back they have a whole “mini-mall” of shops with extremely overpriced items.  A small bag of chocolate covered almonds sells for $12. Seriously. A Rice-Krispies Square (which you can buy in any grocery store for a buck or so) is marked up to $5.  Not impressed. The rich can have it.
Tues 09.24  Balboa Park
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. ot sure why we even came here.  Lot’s of walking around, museums (each of which have a separate entrance fee of around $20 a person). We went to the Japanese Garden - $4 each to get in and walk around a Japanese Garden.  Yup.  That was it. Walked around a few other areas, but the maps are not well marked, and we had a $4 hot dog, and then my wife’s sister found an outdoor cafe. I was just beat after this trip, and went back to the hotel. Had a great roast beef sammich (yeah, I call ‘em “sammiches”!) from the deli/liquor store next door. 
I’m not a person who likes to go around and look at pretty flowers or plants.  We have flowers and plants in Massachusetts.  I can look out my own window and go “ooh”. Trees. Pretty. I don’t feel the need to fly 3000 miles to look at stuff I see right out my own window. This day was kind of a wash for me.
Wed 09.25 Drive to Anaheim - Disneyland
Hotel right across the street from Disneyland, so no driving, parking lots, etc. The Matterhorn was WAY TOO BUMPY, but Space Mountain was good. Haunted Mansion is decorated like “Nightmare Before Christmas”. Cute, but I’d like to see it normal. Indiana Jones ride was good. Yep, it’s Disney. Overpriced meals, snacks, drinks, etc. Whining tired kids, angry parents, standing in line after line, and so on. Yay Disney. 
Thursday 09.26  California Adventures (yeah Disney)
Cars ride.  Best. Thing. Here. Did it a few times.  Excellent ride. Very well designed. Highly recommended. Also did the California Screamin’ loop coaster. I survived. At night we watched the “World of Color” show. 2 hour wait, with a screaming kid right next to us. I mean it. Let me say it again. 2 hour wait, with a screaming kid right next to us. Seriously, why bring any kid under the age of 6 to Disney? And why is any kid screaming? You’re at frickin’ Disney! Shaddap and be HAPPY! Anyhoo, … interesting use of fountains, animation etc. Crescendo after crescendo. How many crescendos  can you have? Apparently lots of them. But the show was well done and enjoyable.
Friday 09.27 Hey Disney (again, yeah really)
More Disney. Yeah. More disney. Small World, Space Mountain, Train Ride around the park, etc. Tired out. I’m done.  But later we did to back to the Cars ride and do it again.  Best. Thing. There. Chocolate Soft-Serve ice-cream dipped in chocolate. Worth it.
Sat 09.28  the trip home
What can I say about a stop-over in Arizona, then another stop-over in Colorado, then home. I’ve now been to Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New York. Long trip. Glad it’s done. I think I’m retiring from travel forever, unless by some miracle (or brain damage) I decide to go somewhere. Not likely, though.


D A D A D - Once again with the Alternate Tunings!

I am bored with music, bored, bored, bored, bored, … and I really need some inspiration to pick up the 6-string again.  And I think revising it to a 5-string might be the magic button I need!  I like playing in alternate tunings, especially tunings that allow for big full-sounding chords.

So … I'm once again retuning the guitar to D A D A D and then just plain removing the high E string. The High A is a B string dropped down a full step, and the High D is an E string Dropped down a full step. Easy. No G string. (hah! that sounds naughty)

This tuning simplifies the fretboard immensely.  It's just the same notes across the fretboard.  A nice big fifth chord is just one finger across the whole fretboard, and you have the Root, 5th, higher root, then another 5th, and the highest Root note.  It's basically a normal barre chord, without the major or minor triad note.  So it's a very open sound, great for rock and metal where you have these great big chords ringing out.  Great for slide chords, too.

Harmony parts are easily worked out just by playing the same pattern but moving to the next string (or the next string for an octave). 

Sounds crazy, doesn't it!  Well, Devin Townsend almost exclusively played in C G C G C E for years (he now tunes that down to B F# B F# B D#), and Max Cavalera of Sepultura/Soulfly only has FOUR strings on his guitar, tuned to B F# B E (the lowest four strings on the guitar, tuned to Drop-B). 

And, for those of you loyal readers of this blog and my music for the past several years, I composed an entire album ("I Am Become Daevel" from 2008) on a guitar with only 4 strings on it (tuned to D A D G, basically Drop-D, bot no B or E strings). And several of my other albums have alternative tunings ("Light At the End of the Tunnel" is all C G C G C D, along with the first two songs of "fUTUREGRIND".  A bunch of parts from Burn Without Me's debut album were in C G D G B E. And SUNset TZUnami was in D A D A D E). Deadside Manor was all Drop-D, along with most of my other Dimaension X recordings.

So yeah, I'm one of those musicians who almost NEVER plays in standard tuning anyway, but D A D A D just seems to be an interesting break from the "norm".


My RPG Collection (from the ancient 1980's and beyond...)

I decided to upload a bunch of pictures of my collection of Role Playing games from the 1980's (and 1970's!) ... I posted all the pics at my Facebook page, but I'll only post a few here.

Basic D&D - "Holmes Bluebook" edition

Above is my first RPG purchase - I think I bought it in 1978 when I was 15 years old - it's the original Basic Dungeons and Dragons boxed set, with the Dave Holmes edited "Bluebook" rulebook. Where it all started for me.
AD&D Players Handbook (otherwise known as 1e)

 Here's the next thing I bought, probably in late 1978 - the original hardcover edition of the Players Manual - eventually becoming known as 1st Edition (of now 1e).  Than along came the Monster's Manual and Dungeon Masters guide.

This was what most folks my age are the most familiar with.  We all bought these three hardcover books back int he late 1970's, and this is what it all progressed from.  I never owned Chainmail, or any of the OD&D "wood grain" or "white box" original printings, just these.  In 1981 I bought the new boxed version of Basic and Expert D&D.
B/X D&D Moldvay Edition
These two booklets managed to simplify the Advanced System down for younger players.  Most of the hardcore gamers were not really in favor of this system, yet it did draw a number of younger players in with better layouts, illustrations, and much easier-to-understand rules. I didn't use it much, but I did use it as a reference quite a bit, just because it was easier to wade through than the big hardcover books. Nowadays, the new OSR game called Labyrinth Lords has taken this system and re-created it almost verbatim, but combining the two booklets into one simple rules set, with more of a "for adult gamers" feel. I do like the look and feel of Labyrinth Lords, but it took me a while to really get it.  I've been reading Swords & Wizardry, and actually used the S&W White Box edition to begin developing my own rules system and game setting.

I think my game system (of which I'm in the middle of developing THREE different games ...) is fast turning into a Setting, rather than a Rules System.  There are so many of the great OSR systems out there right now, based on the above games that I think adding another one would just be silly. I think I'll concentrate on the Leprosia Setting and its unique "quirks and flavors".

Okay . more pics of my collection?
Stormbringer (Chaosium Games, 1982)
TSR's Star Frontiers
TSR's Knights of Camelot

Star Trek, the RPG 
The Fantasy Trip (Steve Jackson Games)

Dragon Magazine - March 1981
 That'll do for now.


Leprosia meets Searchers of the Unkown

I've been reading up on more of the very "minimal" d20-based RPGS like Microlite20, and discovered one that's even lighter, yet still feels like OSR D and D - called Searchers of the Unknown. The whole basis for this game is that the creator (a gentleman by the name of Nicholas Dessaux) believed that the abbreviated stat blocks used to define monsters in old school games could also be used to define the heroes controlled by the players. In other words, In a typical old-school module's monster stats are listed like this: (AC6, MV9’, HD 1, hp 4, #AT1, 1d10 by halberd). The idea is that, if it’s enough for monsters, it should be enough for PCs as well.

The original game was only one page long, and the additional supplements which added races, magic, monsters, etc to the game were each also only one page long. In fact, the "expanded" version of the game, (SotU-Expanded) where the author basically compiled all of the basic supplements and arranged them into a single game is still only 30 pages long! The collection of all the supplements and revised versions of the original game (Searchers of the Unknown RPG Collection - 2012) is 68 pages. That's still shorter than most of the newer versions of D and D, Pathfinder, and a lot of the other RPG games.

Even though the Stat block is short, you can "flavor-up" your character with your own imagination, like we did waaaayyy back before DnD started adding "skills" and "feats" to their rules system, making a character sheet at least two pages long, with all kinds of unnecessary details that just add time and boredom to the game. 

Simpler is better, in my not very humble opinion. Melee/Wizard - The Fantasy Trip started out as a similar simple game - only two or three character stats, which then bloated itself into Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and Into the Labyrinth, which actually was the first RPG to take the useless step into adding "skills" to a character, and making the process way too long.  Then Steve Jackson abandoned that system to create GURPS, an even way more bloated rules system that requires a STAT rating for just-about-anything-you-can-possibly-do-including-blowing-your-nose-and-cleaning-behind-your-ears. As you can tell, I'm NOT a fan of these kinds of systems.

And the new version of FATE, which is supposedly considered to be a "lite" game is 302 pages long! And has a 2-sided character sheet with a lot of tiny lines on it for keeping details about your character's abilities.

Anyway ... the point of this blog post is ... I like Searchers of the Unknown. And I am basing one of the versions of my own game system directly off of it's rules setup. This will be called "Searchers of Leprosia". I'm still hashing it out ... it'll take a while, but hopefully I'll have it completed and ready to post soon.

...then on to the next rules system for Leprosia?


Leprosia - the RPG Setting

Instead of a singular game, I am probably going to design a game setting, or series of settings that can be used by a number of RPG systems.  I'll go into the details later, but for now, it's based on one of my older posts where I explain the fictional background of the story ideas behind my album, "Leprosia Doom."

Been reading a lot of different systems lately, and realize that I like and dislike various parts of each.

Barbarians of Lemuria - very simple and interesting, probably easy to run, but magic is wide open to interpretation, which could cause some trouble for GMs.  But such a simple and elegant game system.  Not to mention Barbarians of the Aftermath is also an interesting iteration of the game for a post-apocalyptic setting (which is where my Leprosia theme seems to fit...).  I'm also considering doing a full Conan/Hyborian Age hack for BoL, using info from the Hyborian Age website (www.hyboria.xoth.net).

Microlite20 - I like this a lot - gets right to the major points of D&D (I'm an old AD&D player - 1979 AD&D books!) simple monsters and combat, magic is point based instead of 1 spell per level.  I like the various "hacks" (Modern, Sword & Sorcery, ROBOTECH, more...).

Swords & Wizardry - Core Edition (and/or White Box Edition) - I like the incorporation of Ascending Armor Class, which make much more sense than those silly and convoluted charts from pre-3.0 ed. D&D.  A lighter (but not "rules-lite) verision of the things that made D&D interesting, but not convoluted.  No "feats" or skills BS.

Tunnels & Trolls (various versions) - another classic from the 1970's - I'm conflicted about this one - the combat system was frustrating, but had some interesting ideas.  Just needs some refinement, without over-complication, like using some kind ofa saving roll to hit, then do damage.

Legends of the Ancient World - a simplification of another old classic (The Fantasy Trip), which I think works as well or better than the bloated mess that became TFT.  Works very well as a "swords & sorcery" rules set (heroes and wizards - that's all, folks!) and is compatible with old TFT/Melee/Wizard Microquests.  I've always liked the original Melee/Wizard for it's simplicity.

FATE / FUDGE - I'm new to this system, and am still reading through the new FATE Core book.  Seems interesting, more story and character driven, probably where FU came from, which is even lighter (and I think I like better).  Games derived from FATE seem to be well-reviewed (Dresden Files, Legends of Anglerre, etc.).  It's supposedly a "lighter" system, but the FATE Core 3.0 book is 302 pages.  Once you know what you're doing, it's probably easy (since there's only a few charts to cover the basic FUDGE/FATE Dice Rolls), but there's a lot to learn initially. High learning curve.  I think I might favor FATE 2.0 better.  It's only 91 pages long.

I've also discovered a bunch of other game systems that I probably won't focus on, but I will mention, just to pique your interests:

There's so many game systems out there right now - it's hard to keep track, and to be honest, I haven't really actually played any RPGs in 25 years.  So much to do, and so little time ...


RPG in the works ... (or at least a setting ?)

I haven't played Dungoens and Dragons for about 25 years, but as you may have read below, I've become interested in the hobby again.  I've been reading about the newer series of post 3.5 D and D style games, and about the OGL which allows for using rules systems without major copyright violations, so ...

I'm thinking of developing my own Role-playing Game.  Lately, I've also been reading the original Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard back in the 1930's, and it has sparked an interest in the "sword and sorcery" genre, which seems to be undergoing it's own resurgence in the RPG world (see Barbarians of Lemuria, Broadsword, In A Wicked Age, Conan d20, Jaws of the Six Serpents, etc).  Players seem to be sick of the magic-heavy, "high-fantasy" worlds of Tolkien, Vance, and even George Lucas, where it seems like everybody and their cousin is a high-level elfin prince running around effortlessly hurling lightning bolts into helpless hordes of orcs and goblins, or merely waving their hand, and dozens of robot-guards drop into harmless clumps of metal.

Whatever happened to those days of gritty adventure, when sweaty men garbed only in loincloth and perhaps a chainmail vest, notched and bloodied broadsword (NOT longsword!) in calloused hand trod down the dank stone hallway seeking only treasure (to buy wine and wenches) and a good fight with a band of goblins?

Magic?  What about the magic?  In these adventures, magic was rare, powerful and often as dangerous to the user as it's target.  To gather such powers was a monumental task, taking years of research, gathering ancient tomes, artifacts and offering bloody sacrifices to the powers beyond.  These were black arts, not heady studies by naive young scholars who wanted to learn illusionary tricks for children's birthday parties.  And our heroes of these stories very rarely if ever used magic (Elric is a big exception).

Back to the game ... I plan on keeping it in the "rules-lite" category for now.  Probably starting with Microlite20, and adding and subtracting those elements which I believe will add the "sword and sorcery" flavor.

Or instead of a full game, maybe I want to create a new setting for Barbarians of Lemuria.  Instead of Lemuria or Hyboria, perhaps we are in the Fourth Age of Man from Tolkien, albient a more savage and gritty realization of that world... that would certainly simplify things, and I'm not sure I'm really up to the monumental task of writing the rules for an entire game structure.  Yeah, that makes more sense - a game setting that can easily be adapted to d20, M20, BoL, Mini-Six, TFT, etc.

Hmmm ... so much to do.


No time to do anything lately ...

not a new post so much, but just brainstorming - jotting some notes down ...

no time to do anything musically lately

hopefully soon my weekends will "free-up" a bit.

several things "in the can", but nothing completed.
(project/album names)
Celestial Shrine
Trance Ill Vain: Ian's Hungry
Die, Toaster Die

gotta do some solos, some wacky, jazz-fusiony basslines over active drums ... 'member the old days?

hmmmmm ... pretty uninteresting.

Well, like I said above, my weekends will be freed-up a bit soon (when my wife goes back to her seasonal weekend job), so I should begin to have plenty of time to get the guitars out again and start rippin'-it-up.

or maybe I'll just sit around and catch up on watching anime On Demand.