Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Website Facelift

Swing by and check out the new look of Tonebender.net

We've added some new products and features and will be adding even more over the coming months so check back often!

Sunday, November 09, 2008


This one is a re-visit to a web-board post I made in early 2006, held back out of respect for the innocent victims...It's time has come =)


We’ve been trying to get more door head-count for our original power trio that gigs these 4-5 band shows in LA so we can get the better time slots and not always play last (closing time). Our singer/guitarist is a pretty good car-salesman and has booked some decent gigs and came up with an idea after chatting with some 80s hair-band rocker chick on MySpace to let her sing one song in our set.

She had talked it up how she would bring a bunch of “her people” to the gig which is what we were after. She also stated that she had a couple of deals in the works for her own singing promotion that would mean some “industry folks” and a video cameraman would be there to see her perform. Bonus as far as we’re concerned. We checked out her site and saw that she looked OK and wore skimpy outfits, another bonus. Close inspection of the shots by yours truly had me a little skeptical as to her age, but hell I’m old so I’ve got no room to talk, especially if this broad produces half of what she’s talking about.

We have her booked to come to the last half hour of our practice in North Hollywood on the Wednesday before Friday’s gig. She wants to sing a cover of a Stones tune that is really easy and we practice it twice before she shows up. Now she comes in and while it’s 11:30am and I know that rock & roll folks are still sleeping in this town, she’s a little more than just tired looking. This girl has some miles on her. Again so do I so I act nice. She sings her song a total of 4 times though with us and of course as usual we’re too loud in the practice studio so it was hard to be too critical of her singing and our guitarist sang with her so the drummer and I just focused on keeping the tune tight.

As we were leaving I mentioned that “you know that we’re on late…” and she started freaking out a little about how all her people would be there at 10:30 and that we needed to play earlier. We said we’d ask the promoter but knew that it wasn’t going to happen. I come to find out later that she had not been mis-led by our guitarist , but is just friggin nuts…After she split we discussed that she might not show up and that’d be OK if it happened and we’d just do our normal thing and have fun as usual.

I listen to the CD we recorded at practice on the drive home as usual and notice that this girl can’t sing. Not a lick. I email the rest of the guys and send an MP3 of the song to them. We have a couple of laughs about it and decide that we’ll still let her “sit-in” for her big song – but that the guitarist would back off the mic and let her hang herself in front of “ her people”, That‘s if she shows up at all, which we all doubt at this point. Friday night – West Hollywood – The Cat Club on Sunset Strip – 5 bands, we’re on last (12:30 – 2am) and they are running 20-25 minutes late by the third band. They have a backline so I only have to bring my bass.

I’m there with the drummer for about a half hour and notice our guitarist’s case is there. He’s in the back area with our guest singer listening to her freak out over when we’re playing and talking about all “her people” that were there. This girl has to be pushing 40+ and is wearing a long coat over lingere/boostiere and has her hair in some big scary red arrangement that looked a little like the big red monster with the sneakers in the old BugsBunny cartoons. A half gallon of makeup and something that smelled odd. I counted 3-4 folks that looked like they were with her. No video camera. If the 3 people I saw were “industry folks” I’ll eat my hat. Well, she proceeds to annoy anyone connected with the show for the next 2 hours and wind herself up tighter than a $2 watch. I stay clear of her until I’m approached and asked if we can at least do her song first in our set. No problem, Sketchy-Girl!

When the 4th band finally wraps it up we’re now at 1am and we start to set up while they tear down with the usual “too many folks on stage together bumping and such”. Our drummer takes a full 10 minutes each time since he swaps all the cymbals, the snare and the bass pedal which is pretty standard for most experienced drummers. The guitarist and myself tune up, adjust the amps and we’re ready to go and wait for the drummer. Singer-Chick is about to spin through the roof and when the promoter’s gofer asks us how many minutes before we’re ready, the drummer replies “5 minutes”. “I DON’T HAVE 5 MINUTES! “ yells our “Special Guest” and I reply “There’s the door…” She either doesn’t hear me or chooses to ignore me and has her buddy hop up on stage and announce her through the PA – not us, just her “on her Southern California Tour” or something to that effect.

The drummer screws the last 2 cymbals on just as the guitarist hits the opening 4 bars of the song and we all fall in just like we planned it that way. She finishes her song and her buddy says something else in the PA and we blast into our regular set firing on all 8 cylinders and tear the place up. We see her and “her people” run out the door halfway through our first song, SEE YA!

We play a good set and tear down laughing about what had just happened. The guitarist said he wanted to kill her. The drummer said he’d help. I just kept laughing. A friend of the guitarist came up to him and said “The band was good, you sucked” which just had me laughing even harder since I didn’t know at first that they knew each other. We now have a good classic story to tell which this band needed since we’ve only been together for 6 months and we’re too old for stories like “We were so wasted we almost drove Jimmy’s daddy’s truck over the cliff with all out gear in the back with Larry and some chick”. This one will suffice for now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On The GAS...

Reposted from a Steely Dan website and originally from Guitar Player Magazine. Enjoy.

G.A.S. by Walter Becker

I have decided to break my long standing editorial silence to draw the attention of the musical community at large and guitar players and guitar owners in particular to a grave situation whose tragic dimension is constantly expanding and is in fact threatening to engulf us all. Picture this: I am in the family room of a well appointed home in the North Hollywood area of the San Fernando Valley which is the neighborhood favored by many if not most of the top studios players in the L.A. basin.

Every third house on this block belongs to a session player and contains a demo studio full of midi gear. This is the home of well known and endlessly talented picker of long acquaintance who for obvious reasons must remain nameless. The gent in question is a devoted husband and a doting father, but right now there is no family in the family room; there's no room for the family in the family room.

All horizontal surfaces are covered by guitars - acoustics, electrics, lap steels, old ones, new ones, weird little ukulelelike things with no proper names - and, as I sit strumming the last treasure to be produced for my delectation, my pal disappears out of the room asking if he'd ever showed me his Delvecchio which I gather is some sort of Brazilian rosewood dobro- and mind you this roomful of strings and frets are only the ones that he has sitting around the house and ALMOST NEVER USES AT THE GIG -

Or consider this: I'm working at a studio in town with another well known session cat who has had roughly the same readily identifiable and winning sound for the last twelve years or so - but I've noticed that he never shows up for a call with the same guitar twice - true, they all sound about the same but for some reason these excellent sounding (and looking) axes are constantly falling out of favor and being replaced by sonically indistinguishable ones - and further probing reveals that each one of these guitars has been extensively modified and remodified using the latest space age (or is it now post space age) materials and techniques ("this bridge here is made of unobtanium - so rare you can't get any of it anywhere"), only to be rejected and discarded AFTER TWO WEEKS OR LESS- What's up with these guys?

It's called G.A.S. - Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. You undoubtedly know someone who has it. Reading this rag, you probably have it yourself. Or will have it someday soon or would like to have it. You may think it's cool. But it's not cool. Not anymore. How many Strats do you need to be happy? How many Strat copies, each extensively modified to be able to produce the variations in tone that once would have required maybe four different guitars? How many knobs and switches does that Strat need?

Consider this: I am settling up my account for yet another mod to my custom semi solid all Koa Strat clone with the rewound Fender low impedance hum canceling pickups and the Pau Ferro neck, at the shop of a well-known luthier-to-the-stars type guy who says to me, "Stick around, Buzzard should be through any time now - he comes in every Saturday about this time to drop off and pick up guitars -" word is out that Buzzard is going to be the Poster Boy for G.A.S. this year- and now it's Guitar Modification Syndrome, a dangerous complication to the original syndrome, that seems in more advanced cases to be doing most of the damage.

In fact I am told by said luthier (one of several who work on Buzzard's and my guitars, since evidently no one luthier can create an ax that will satisfy our jaded sensibilities) that the Buzzard recently returned with a freshly modified guitar that he had impulsively hacked up with a butter knife or some other semiblunt instrument, in a crude and spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to Modify the Modifications - and this THE DAY AFTER HE GOT THE GUITAR OUT OF THE SHOP -

The horror stories could fill this whole magazine (not a bad idea) but what matters most at this time of crisis is, What can be done to stamp out this menace before it makes YOUR life a living hell? Here are a couple of ideas which should be reviewed by any sufferer on the brink of yet another G.A.S. attack:

1. Consider for a moment the karmic implications of owning all those guitars. Picture yourself dragging your ass through eternity with all those guitars strapped to your back. In hardshell cases, not gig bags.

2. Who's gonna tune those buggers? Who's gonna change the strings? (this won't work for guys who are buying and selling with great frequency, i.e., if you don't keep them long enough to change the strings)

3. Imagine that your wife finds out how many guitars you actually have ("Is that another new guitar?" "Oh, no, honey - this one's about twenty five years old!")

4. Pretend you are a clarinet player - how many clarinets do you own?

5. Ask yourself: would I like to be thought of and remembered as a guitar player or as a guitar owner?

6. Imagine that you are in whatever vintage guitar shop you visit frequently and are dealing with the owner of the shop. He is of course severely stricken with G.A.S. Now imagine that you are taking on his personality,with each new purchase you become more and more like him. This one exercise, done properly, will do more to stem the tide of new G.A.S. sufferers than anything else I can think of right now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big Guys

No, not big like me (XXLXT), big musically. Not just well known - They put out a big, far-reaching sound.

Some big guys are playing my stuff. They didn't ask for it, I kinda pushed it on them. I have felt recently that some of my builds have hit a tone spot that I was looking for personally. I felt that I needed to share some of this secret.

An opportunity came up when a nationally, well actually world-wide known group, came to town last November. I'm a big fan of theirs and wondered if they'd look over a guitar from a local builder before the show. I played my cards right and was rewarded with one of the guitarists playing my Telecaster for 5 tunes that night including the 2 encore songs. I got to hang with them after the show and discover what a neat and gracious group they were. Regular guys with the same love of music and of course the gear that we all must continue to search for as it is part of our passion with the music.

The player refused to take my custom home with him, graciously avoiding what I'm sure he thought I'd regret as an overwhelmed fan trying to be a big-shot. I had no problem either way, he was just too nice.

I had talked with the bassist first and mentioned that I had a new bass just about done that would promise the much sought after "woody tone of tones". He went along with my gear talk, his eyes somewhat sparkling with the same gearhead enthusiasm that I had, and said this to me:

"You think I need better tone?" Well, no. His was right. I loved the sound he got from his rig. A Fender Jazz bass into an Ampeg stack. It was VERY close to what I'd been searching for. I was surprised at that combo getting that sound. Maybe, he knew something I didn't? Hmmm...
Anyway he was a hoot to talk to and very nice. I hoped that I didn't offend him with the offer of possibly having a better, or at least different bass for him to try sometime.

This spring I got the opportunity to hand off the Tele and the new P-bass to their stage manager. Another giant among men and musicians. He makes the guys mentioned above sound as good as they do. It's a lot of work and he seems to have it down to a science.

He gave the instruments to the band members to demo. I started seeing them pop up on peoples' Flickr and Photobucket pages when they posted concert pics. VERY cool. I've gotten some reactions from the guitarist and I'm waiting to talk to the bassist. They are very busy touring and I'm very patient.

Hopefully I can post some of their reviews here in the near future. Just know that I'm enjoying the hell out of this. I love playing my builds and I have some of my stuff in a lot of folks hands. All of you that play my stuff - your opinions really matter, whether you're in a big famous group or playing in the garage. Thanks for your input over the past 9 years. I'm having a blast.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it."

- P.J. O' Rourke

Friday, April 18, 2008

Drunk Freebird Guy (revisited)

Drunk Freebird Guy (DFG) - Real Person or Urban Legend?

His beginnings are unclear. He may have been around in other forms over the years, yelling for “The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B”, but the most popular and visible version seems to have had a comeback in the last ten to twenty years as Drunk Freebird Guy.

He is the guy, usually slight of build, donning a mullet hair style ala Joe Dirt, sleeveless Skynyrd t-shirt or the Kmart version (The South Will Rise Again with Confederate flag or Richard Petty), dirty white Reebok or LA Gear hightop sneakers, stained torn-kneed levis and of course a plastic cup of beer in one hand.

He appears at your local bar gig, already quite buzzed, with a smoke hanging off his bottom lip and a big smile on his face as he yells “hey” to you and everyone else he sees there. His partner, at least when he first gets there, is Speedin’ Dancin’ Skank. She will take her top off at least three times tonight on the dance floor and appear twice on the stage with the band looking for a tambourine.

DFG has a brother, cousin, room-mate or uncle that is in a band, was in a band, is forming a band, or wears a bandana. You know this because he’s told you at every break and while helping you load in as he carried the same mic stand back and forth to your van while you set up.

He is a singer but plays a little “geetar” too. He’ll show you later as he knocks yours over while he points at it and misjudges the distance to it. He will give you his phone number on a scrap of paper from an old receipt found in the parking lot. It will be six digits.

He loves your band, your van/truck/car, your amp rig, your guitar, you and three people that are standing near the stage who neither you or he knows. He loves beer, beer with a shooter, some more shooters and shootin’ beer.

He loves Freebird and all things close to Freebird. Sweet Home Alabama will do in a pinch. Any Skynyrd, Allman Bros, Charlie Daniels, and the like will set him off. He yells for Freebird. “Thanks Buddy, We’ll get to it, I promise” you reply. This is the part where it will get ugly unless you plan on playing a 15 minute version as the next song. He will keep yelling for it.

He will get smacked in the face by Speedin’ Dancin’ Skank (SDS) and spill most of his beer on some bystanders. He’ll come back from the bar with a refill and maybe one for you - his bro’ on the geetar, spilling it on your amp. He will back up from the stage as your friends start to close in on him, first with his hands up saying “chill out dudes, just wanna hear the ’Bird…” He will suddenly go into his Elvis/Jackie Chan karate stance and then sorta half collapse onto the floor.
He will get up quickly saying “It’s cool, I’m OK, It’s cool…”

You play Freebird. He is in some sort of trance for most of it. Dances through the last part, the jam. At the end you notice he’s just vomited on himself and two other bar patrons. The bouncers are leading him to the door as he yells to you “ I love you guys…”
SDS is out back with two out of town fellers, she may or may not have shoes on at this point and her top is on inside-out.

IF DFG is still on the premises when you load out, he will stumble to your vehicle and hold that one mic stand and tell you that he just saw a great band in a bar near there. Of course that was you but he’s not in a “remembering the details” mode right now so you let him ramble and steer clear of the barf-breath.

As you drive away you see him wave and stumble off to a rusty F100 pickup at the other end of the parking lot where he’ll sleep until morning or when the truck’s owner wakes him up before then.

In conclusion - DFG can be short or tall, but tends to be medium. He can be thin or fat, be tends to be a little mal-nourished most of the time. He is almost always loud, possibly a little hard of hearing. He is drunk. He is your biggest fan as long as you play the ’Bird.

He is somewhat like Santa. What I mean by this is that he can be sighted in Raleigh North Carolina, Bakersfield California and Meridian Mississippi, all in the same night. He is spreading the gospel according to Lynyrd. He is Drunk Freebird Guy. Look for him at your next gig, you now know who he is.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another One We Like...

This lady is on the gas. Just found her on MySpace this week and really like her. Check her out here . The music is great, she has some really good musicians playing with her, and her guitar work is very nice as well. The vocals are haunting. There's a link on her page to another site where you can buy the music. Tonebender Approved!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Rising Star

This guy is going somewhere in the music biz. He's a sharp dude. Seems to be focused on the dream. He's Matthew Moon and you'll like his music. A Berklee School of Music grad and a young veteran of the Colorado music scene, he's recently re-located to southern California and he's one hot musical commodity. Check out some of his stuff here at http://www.myspace.com/matthewmoon
Add him to your friends list and check out when he'll be appearing in your neck 'o the woods!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Musician's Adversity and Grace

Last night I was witness to a couple of things about the music business that I thought I'd share.

I had the pleasure of being backstage for a band that was a big worldwide hit in the 90s and made a reappearance in 2001. They hit the stage over the last 7 years like they never left it. Just as good, if not better, and their fan base never stops growing. They are very successful musicians and have "made it" as we like to say. It's at this point in my story that I've decided that their identity is not important now that I've set the stage so to speak.

The gig was outdoors under a giant truss supported canopy, but even so the concert was rained out - nowhere for the crowd to keep dry and more bad weather moving in. I met the drummer of the band for the first time and was immediately taken by his hospitality while he was getting his personal gear squared away for breakdown and packing up. He is not the original drummer of the group, but has been since the 2001 regroup. He rocks hard.

The band recently switched agencies for booking and representation to a large VERY well known company. Their new rep showed up while I was talking the the drummer. "Hi, I'm looking for (insert famous band name here)." To which the drummer replied "I'm the drummer (insert his name here), who are you?" "I'm with (famous agency) and I'm the band's new rep." The rep then asks, " How long have YOU been with the group?". The drummer smiles and without missing a beat says "Seven years, I'm (drummer's name again)". And shakes the rep's hand.

The new rep is an older gentleman, like myself (sigh). He looks very distracted. "Where can I find (insert group's road manager's name) ?" The drummer points him out and the rep says a couple of things about his kids play the drums and guitars, and then he hustles off after the busy road manager. The drummer and I continue the bullsh!t session on gear and music and I meet his buddy, a great up and coming artist who's just as gracious as his friend. (more on him in another post)

Here's what I got from this scene:

First, the drummer is very successful, but still must deal with industry (and probably fans) that don't know who he is in this band and recognise him as the group's drummer. Not a fill-in hired gun. He handled the situation so graciously and without a hint of ego-trip that it just blew me away. We have all worked around and continue to run into the ego-maniacs in this biz that would have been in a fit over the lack of respect that he'd just been shown. It didn't even phase him.

Second, industry folks for VERY big, well known agencies still couldn't put in 30 minutes of research into the very product (the band and it's members) that they will be representing and making money from. Honestly, the rep seemed like a nice guy and the incident described above was not intentionally disrespectful, just REALLY sloppy. I've heard stories from musician buddies and their friends about how crappy the industry is to artists, but this was me seeing just a quick peek at how sloppy and processed it can be.

Lastly, I learned a little from the two musicians I met last night. They have that look in their eyes. That look of music waiting to pour out. The genuine interest in others like themselves and the manners and intellect to deal with those in their field that just don't understand. Remember that there will always be those that don't understand why you play an instrument and have to let the music out. It's not always their fault, perhaps they should be pitied in a way, for they are missing so much.

It's all on a big wheel...

~ tonebender

Stephen Colbert on Bass Players

Stephen Colbert on Bass Players:

"It's like you made a poorly worded deal with the devil to be a rock star. Instead of fame, fortune and groupies, you stand in the shadows plucking one note for ninety minutes while the lead singer picks out a trio of co-eds from the front row for a post-show pansexual trapeze act. Even worse, you're expected to room with the drummer."