The Guitar Show 2017
The Guitar Show returns to Birmingham this weekend. The show is currently the UK’s largest guitar exhibition and is held at Bingley Hall, Birmingham, on the last weekend of February each year. Blackstar will be there in force with all the brands we represent, Alvarez, Auden, Dean Markley and Gordon Smith. Over the weekend there will also be performances from Blackstar artists including Ron Sayer, Joan of Arc and Krissy Matthews. For more information on the show visit http://www.theguitarshow.co.uk
After touring extensively and building up a loyal fanbase Counterfeit are ready to release their debut album, Together We Are Stronger on 17th March. All three guitarist in the band, Jamie Bower, Sam Bower and Tristan Marmont are Blackstar endorsees and we caught up with them to ask a few questions about the process of writing and recording the album, their Blackstar gear and their plans for the future.
- ‘Together We Are Stronger’ is due for release on March 17th. Could you tell us a little about the recording process?
It took us a total of 25 days to record the entirety of the record. Roughly 5 days for the drums, 12 days for the guitars and the rest was spent on miscellaneous recordings and vocals. Usually we went in with a fleshed out demo that we'd already played in a live setting, so most of the kinks had already been ironed out. We did however have one incomplete song that was finished halfway through the recording process. That song required a lot more attention and a different approach, but came out really strong in the end despite pushing us to the edge of our recording time.
- Where was it recorded?
We recorded the album at Broadfields Studio in Watford. A few other bits were done at VADA studios in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which included some live percussion tracks and a live recording.
- Who produced it?
Thomas Mitchener produced/engineered & mixed the record. He'd previously worked with the likes of Frank Carter, The Haunts & Dead! So we knew exactly the level of raw power and quality we were going to be able to achieve. Aside from being a talented recording engineer, he is such a kind accommodating person who really squeezed the best out of all of us, I don't think we could have found a more perfect fit for our debut record.
- What Blackstar equipment was used on the recording?
We used 2 types of Blackstar Amp/Cab combos, one was the HT Metal 100 with the angled 412A/B cabinet and the other was the Series One 1046L6 with the standard flat 412 cabinet. Each combo has their own niche. The Series One excels with the bright air/presence frequencies giving the guitar tone bite and grit, and the HT Metal 100 has these crisp, chunky, clean mids. Together, when balanced right in the mix they produce this monstrous meaty tone
- How does the writing process work within the band?
The writing process starts with myself (Jamie) at home thrashing chords out to a simple programmed drumbeat. What usually happens is I'll wake up early either with an impending sense of doom or a need to get something out of me. I'll know in my head how I want it to sound and feel before even thinking about chord structure. From there I'll sit for an hour or so furiously fighting with both my mind and my instrument until miraculously I have a verse and chorus. I'll then find a way to get from my verses to the chorus and then the bones are there. Normally I'll send a rough sketch over to the boys and see if they're digging it at lunch and if everyone likes it I'll continue to add parts until it's feeling more like a musical story rather than a botched collection of ideas. Once the bones are there I'll go to my notepad, which I tend to carry with me at all times, and flick through my most recent thoughts or single lines of text and see what fits to the song. I figure that if I'm feeling the need to write it's probably started a day or two before with me writing something down in my notepad and that then percolates into a desire to exorcise something from within. From there the song is half born and the rest of the boys come in and add their own unique flavour to the track or ideas / changes. It's really important to me that each member of this band adds their own touch to a track. After most of the guitar lines are sorted we then hand it over to Jimmy who'll throw some nuts beats down and it'll almost be ready. We tend to tweak and make changes right up until the last minute just to make sure it's representative of who we are as individuals as well as a band. And voila a song is born.
- You are on tour in Europe and the UK from March 23rd, where outside of the UK do you like to play the most/get the best reaction?
Germany and Italy are two stand out countries because of the turnout, but even the smaller countries we go to bring the same level of passion to our shows. Those small, up close and personal shows can get wild. Being able to see straight into peoples eyes is kinda scary, but it gives a stronger connection to the fans in comparison to a big 1,500 cap venue.
- Do you prefer playing live or being in the studio and why?
The band was born in the studio, but we feel much more at home sharing the stage with the fans, the music really lends itself to the live setting too. It's raw, fast and loud.
- What Blackstar equipment do you use on the road and how does it stand up to the riggers of touring?
We all use the same Blackstar gear on the road as we did in the studio. Jamie: Series One 1046L6 w/angled 412 cab, Tristan: HT Metal 100 w/angled 412 cab and Sam: Series One 1046L6 w/flat 412 cab. We created such a strong blend of guitars for the first tour and album that we've stuck with it for now, and will have the same set up for the tour in March/April. The gear we use needs to be able to not only withstand the rigours of touring (I.e loading in and out and transit) but also be able to hold up against a rather energetic live show. Blackstar amps provide us with both the sonic quality we want and also the durability needed to play our live show. They're loud and tough in both sound and resilience that for us is why we love them so much.
- What have you got planned for the future?
World domination, all roads lead to that same answer. We have a few festivals confirmed in England and Germany, with a bunch of others we're working on. It’s looking like it will be a busy summer for us!
Ihsahn - Complexity Festival
Longterm Blackstar endorsee and lord of black metal, Ihsahn, is headlining the Complexity Festival in Haarlem, Netherlands this week. Ihsahn, who is best known for his work with Norwegian black metal band Emperor, will be using a Series One 200 rig. Ihsahn will be in the UK to headline the Ritual Festival in April and then he will be playing a number of festivals across Europe with Emperor later in the year. For more information visit http://www.ihsahn.com
Richard Hawley - Brits Week 2017
This week Richard Hawley will be playing a special show at the Union Chapel as part of the War Child Brits Week. Richard is a longterm Blackstar endorsee and uses the Artisan 30 and Artisan 15 in the studio and on the stage. Richard also uses the Fly3 amp when performing his acoustic shows. Money raised by the show will aid War Child’s vital work to help children affected by war. For more information on the show and for your chance to donate visit https://www.warchild.org.uk
David Bowie Blackstar
Since the release of David Bowie’s album ‘Blackstar’ in 2016 there has been many rumours and theories surrounding the name of the album. It was Bowie’s twenty-fifth and final studio album as two days after its release the legendary artist sadly passed away. Francis Whately, director of the BBC documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years, when recently interviewed on Radio 6 Music, confirmed that the album was named after the Blackstar amp that was in the studio when the album was recorded. All at Blackstar were thrilled to hear this and are so proud to be involved in a small piece of David’s legacy. To hear the interview visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04ny4v5
The Heavy Fire Tour
All girl hard rock band from Scotland, The Amorettes, will be going on tour supporting Black Star Riders, Gun and Backyard Babies.
Both Gill from The Amorettes and Nicke Borg from Backyard Babies are Blackstar artists. Make sure you get down to one of the shows.
Firewind European Tour
Firewind are back on tour this month and will be playing fourteen shows across Europe and the UK. The tour is in support of their latest album “Immortals” which was released in January and is their eighth studio album. As well as this run the band will be playing a string of festival dates across Europe in the summer. Guitarist and long term Blackstar endorsee, Gus G, will be using his signature Blackfire 200 rig. For more information on the tour and for your chance to order the new album visit http://www.firewind.gr/
The NAMM Show 17
The NAMM 2017 show has just come to an end and this year over 95,000 people attended. Blackstar were there in full force and this year saw the launch of the Fly Bluetooth and the LT Echo 10 and 15. Signing on the booth were Blackstar endorsees Gus G, Kimberley from One Eyed Doll, Billy from Biohazard and Suzi Gardner from L7. To kick off the event and to help celebrate Blackstar’s 10th anniversary a special party was held at the Swing House rehearsal rooms in LA. Jared James Nichols performed with guest guitarists Gus G, Rudy Parris from the Voice USA and Sin Quirin from Ministry. A great start to what will be another huge year for Blackstar!
The Divine Comedy Tour 2017
Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy are back on tour this week starting with three sold out shows in Paris. The band will be playing across Europe and arriving in the UK in late February to play three nights at the London Palladium. The tour is in support of their latest critically acclaimed album ‘Foreverland’. The third single from the album, ’To The Rescue’ has just been released and the accompanying video was filmed during the bands 2016 tour. Check the link to see Neil and the band using their Series One 45 and Artist 30 amps https://youtu.be/FyH6bnt56mU
Agnostic Front Tour
The legendary Agnostic Front kick off another European tour this week and will be heading to the UK to play at The Underworld in Camden this weekend. Guitarist Craig Silverman uses a HT Metal 100 stack and had this to say about the amp, ”The HT Metal 100 is by far the best and most versatile amplifier I have ever owned. From clean to crunch to blistering high gain, no other amplifier even comes close”. For more information on the band and their current tour visit http://www.agnosticfront.com
Blackstar 10th Anniversary Party
To kick off this years NAMM and to celebrate Blackstar’s 10th anniversary we held a special event at Swing House studios in LA this week. A number of special guests were invited to celebrate what has been an amazing 10 years and to do it in style we had some of our endorsees entertaining the crowd. The artists including Jared James Nichols, Sin Quirin from Ministry and Gus G. If you are attending NAMM this year be sure to visit our booth #6440 in hall A to see the all exciting products we have on show.
The 2017 NAMM show in Anaheim takes place between the 19th and 22nd of January. It’s the worlds largest trade-only event for the music products industry and Blackstar will be there in full force and this year we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary. To celebrate in style we will have a number of top artists signing on the booth including Gus G and we will also be releasing some very exciting new products. If you are at the show then make sure you pay a visit to our booth #6440 in hall A. For all of you who can’t make the show then there will be a NAMM special live webcast on our Facebook page on the 19th at 2pm (GMT).
MMR Annual Dealers Choice Awards
Blackstar is proud to announce the presentation of the MMR Dealer’s Choice Award 2016 for the Amplifier Line of the Year. The award is voted for by US dealers and this year MMR readers were more actively involved than ever in the nomination process for brands and instruments/gear across all categories. MMR added “ Blackstar remains ahead of the pack and has firmly established itself as the “new classic” amp. Customers are singing the praises of Blackstar’s high quality, feature rich amps at reasonable prices.”
22 year old singer/songwriter Willow Robinson was born in Los Angeles and grew up between the Welsh Borders and London where he is now based. Uncovered by Alan McGee, the songwriter soon signed to his label in 2015. After playing a series of support slots with artists including The Jesus and Mary Chain and Killing Joke he released his debut single ‘Stones’ and ‘The Ocean Blue’ EP in 2016. Willow is now using an Artist 15 combo and looks set to take next year by storm.
Electronic rockers Vex Red have returned after a fourteen year absence. The band will be playing a hometown show this week at the West End Centre in Aldershot to celebrate the release of new single ‘Burn This Place’. Singer and guitarist Terry Abbott uses an Artist 15 combo. The band will be playing more shows across the UK in late January before announcing more live dates. For more information on the band visit http://www.vex.red/#hello