Friday, December 18, 2009


Hey, today is my birthday! Yay me!! I have chosen this auspicious occasion to make a very big announcement…

MASTERMIND has signed with LION MUSIC (Finland) to release the long awaited INSOMNIA album!! The album will be released on February 19th 2010. Featuring Tracy McShane (vocals), myself (guitars, synths, bass), my brother Rich (drums), and Jens Johansson (keyboards), I am really happy to finally see this album get released properly.

Read more here:

Visit for more information about the release.

Happy birthday indeed! A wonderful way to start a new year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Strings on Fire update

I was pleased to see I made the first cut in the Strings on Firecontest. Like I've said before, I don't take these contests seriously in the competitive sense and certainly don't consider myself a state-of-the-art shredder, but it feels nice anyway. Cool.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Firebird Strings On Fire

Another take of the Strings On Fire track (see previous entry) playing what else? The mighty Gibson Firebird V... there's nothing else like it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Strings On Fire

Here's another video for Truth In Shredding. I don't take the contest aspect of it too seriously, but enjoy the challenge of playing over the unfamiliar. Kind of rough & tumble... I just got home from a bar gig and decided to give it a shot before the deadline, so in just under the wire. If it wasn't for the last minute nothing would get done. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Early Mastermind albums

The early Mastermind albums are now streaming at If you aren't familiar with these I encourage you to go listen. Progressive rock power trio with lots of blazing guitar & guitar synthesizers. Enjoy!


MASTERMIND Volume Two "Brainstorm"

My playing & writing has evolved over the years, but I think these recordings have stood the test of time. As you might expect, all the guitar is my '68 Gibson SG and Marshall JCM800. More to come!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Shred this...

I made this video for Truth in Shredding which is a guitar-centric web site run by a fellow named Laurie Monk. It's for a guitar contest called "Shred this..." where a bunch of guys (and girls) play over a simple backing track and strut their stuff. The winner gets some kind of prize and bragging rights... maybe even a trophy!? lol ;) Actually, it's really mostly about networking, but it's a fun idea anyway.

I've never entered a talent contest before for a plethora of reasons... so I looked at it as more of a challenge than a competition. Being involved with a community of guitarists seemed like a nice idea and I thought 'well, if I'm so cool I should be able to do this'... I also thought it would be a good way to launch my new youtube channel, or at least have something up on it for now anyway (, so here it is, shred this....

My real goal was to see if I could make some kind of video with the limited means available to me... i/e no video camera, so I rigged up a webcam and gave it a go. Some of the other entries are obviously overdubbed or punched in and that's not *truth* in shredding as I see it, but I don't think there are actually any rules. I just plugged into my little Fender Champ and played straight thru, so it is what it is... me & my guitar in the wee hours, a little buzzed, and tired of dicking around with computers. But I had to make the deadline! Yes, I'm something of a slacker... if it wasn't for the last minute nothing would get done.

As for shredding... I never really liked that term but have come to accept it in the vernacular. There are some interesting entries from what I've seen, then a slew of Satri-vai-howe type stuff. Pretty much what I think of when I hear the word shredding. I prefer a more natural stream of consciousness 'I-don't-practice-scales-all-day' kind of playing and was never big on two hand tapping, or what Frank Zappa referred to as "stunt guitar". I also like a more natural guitar sound with just a bit of tube grit and a touch of reverb. I just play a guitar like it was originally meant to be played... old skool. It is interesting to note I didn't see many other Gibson players. Mostly Ibanez & Strats.

Anyway, it's a cool website with lots of guitar info, news, links, and players. The Shred This Competition is a good clean fun way to draw some attention to the site, so check it out.

ps1: Bb at the end of the video refers to the key of B-flat, *not* a guitar friendly key. That might explain the dodgy bits. :P

ps2: thanks to Cheryl the flute mistress for inspiring the webcam idea and posting often enough to get me off my butt.

ps3: if anyone wants to donate a digital video camera you'd see a lot more video from me! Seriously... just a thought. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Session work

A few months ago I mentioned on the Mastermind blog I was up for for some studio collaborations. Studio production and recording is my day job so to speak, and outside of Mastermind I must've recorded and mixed a thousand bands in various studios including my own over the past few decades. Now with the internet it's possible to work with people in distant places, so being somewhat behind the bleeding edge I am just now getting 'round to that sort of thing. Hooray for the interwebs! Here are some projects I've worked on recently...

First up, a guitar solo I did for keyboard wiz kid Fab Muratori in Italy, aka Fab Shiver, on his tune called Streams. A nice mellow, new agey track, but with some smokin' soloing from both myself and Fab... a little bit in the vein of Mastermind's Excelsior! perhaps. That may sound contradictory, but somehow it works. I like it and hope to be working with Fab again in the future. Go have a listen.

I just finished some mixing, editing, and guitar work for Luna Jade, a fantastic female singer in Florida. Here she's posted some preview clips of her tune called A Symphony of Angels as mixed by yours truly. The editing involved was simply shortening and extending the track for radio or DJ use, but the composition and music is all Luna. I added some rhythm guitar as I heard it and a bit of a solo on the extended mix which turned out really nice. A fantastic tune, did I mention Luna can really sing? Go check her out.

Currently I'm working on a few tracks for other artists (along with my own music) and I'll post links when they become available. If you would like to have me mix, master, produce, or play on one of your projects, get in touch and let's see what we can work out. My fees are quite reasonable and I enjoy taking on an interesting challenge.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's that time of year again

Truss rod adjustment time. It comes around twice a year in the Spring and Fall. Now the rainy season has been upon us for a few weeks the effects are starting to appear. I first noticed my long scale bass buzzing around the lower frets. Next, the Firebird was buzzing on the open D string and first fret. No coincidence as these two have the longest, slimmest necks of all my instruments. I haven't played either for a little while so the change seemed to come on somewhat dramatically. Huh?! WTF? Oh right... it's been raining for two weeks. I learned to recognized this effect early on in my guitar playing career, but it is still a pain in the butt if you pick up a guitar to play and there's a bzzzzz that wasn't there a few days ago.

The reason for this is humidity of course. As it becomes consistently higher like it does near the Jersey shore (oppressively humid in the warm season), the wood in the neck and fingerboard begins to swell giving the neck a slight backward bow causing the strings to lengthen and lower. On my instruments with beefier 50's style necks like the SG Special and Melody Maker, the effect is less immediate. Even though my old '68 SG has quite a narrow neck, it is not as shallow as the slim 60's profile of the Firebird, so it may not need adjustment for a while. Haven't played the 335 in a week or so, but I'm sure it will be affected soon being a slim 60's profile.

To the seasoned player all this surely comes as no surprise, but for the less experienced, you may just pick up your axe one day and go "huh? It played fine yesterday, wtf?" If your action is high you may never experience string buzzing, but it will affect your intonation regardless of the action. Since Gibson guitars have mahogany necks they may be more sensitive to humidity than hard maple necks which have tighter grain, thwarting humidity more effectively (I would imagine, you'd have to ask a Fender player).

For some, making a truss rod adjustment themselves is unthinkable and prefer to take their axe to a pro for an adjustment. It really isn't that difficult! If you're even slightly serious about playing, you should learn this stuff. Also, when the truss rod is adjusted, quite often you'll need to tweak your bridge height and intonation as well. Although you would think in theory if the neck is tweaked back into position, the rest would fall back into place, that's not always the case. These adjustments are simple as well once you know how to do them. I would love to have a full time guitar tech to deal with this stuff, but not being the case I have always done all my own guitar work.

To offer some advice from my experience, just be careful and go slowly. It often takes 12 to 24 hours for a truss rod tweak to take effect, so don't over do it! I usually find a quarter turn of the nut is enough, but on newer guitars which seem more susceptible to humidity changes, you may need a full half turn. But do it in two stages to be sure you don't go too far... quarter turn looser, maybe another quarter turn the next day if need be.

If you are traveling or use your guitar in a lot of different places, sometimes you need to adjust more often. For years I just left the truss rod cover off of my SG and tweaked it as often as needed... but that is ugly I suppose and I've become more conscious of that in these times of vintage guitars and their 'purity' lol... be careful not to lose the little cover screws, they're a pain in the butt to find on the carpet and a hassle to get proper replacements.

On a side note, Gibson guitars are a joy to adjust with a full size nut on the truss rod end. Asian imports (and Fenders) have allen key adjustments which are a royal pain... firstly, just finding the proper size allen wrench is a challenge (since different brands use different sizes) and, they are very easy to strip out. If your truss rod nut is really tight, chances are a steel wrench will easily strip out the soft brass bolt rendering it useless. Nightmare! Gibson TR nuts have greater surface area for a socket to grasp, sockets are more readily available in the average tool kit than metric allen keys (tho' you should carry one with your guitar), so yet another reason for my Gibson preference (Orville Gibson invented the truss rod FYI).

To wrap this up, obviously in the Fall the opposite is true. As things dry out and your guitars are living in a drier, heated environment, the wood shrinks and you need to tighten the truss rod as the neck begins its bow forward. The symptoms of this are higher action and the intonation going out. Back to tweaking, I have recordings to make!

Remember: righty tighty (Fall), lefty loosey (Spring)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kjaerhus VST plugins

Just a little tip for folks using VST plugins for digital recording. I use lots of them and have tried a million more it seems. I download all the free ones I can find to try out when I can find the time, but quite honestly most of them suck. For most people Waves is the gold standard of plugins and they do make some great (expensive) stuff, but I've never been totally happy with any of their compressors.

In all honesty *nothing* can replace a good hardware compressor IMO no matter how well it models an LA2 or 1176 etc... hell, even a cheap dbx 266 sounds better than most plugin compressors to my ears! But digital is here to stay so it is what it is.

Recently I've been trying out the FREE Kjaerhus Classic compressor and EQ and I have to say I really like the way they sound. Very smooth and analog... makes me wonder what their retail releases sound like. Anyway, try them out for yourself, you may be pleasantly surprised, I know I was...

ps: for Windows OS only.

Happy mixing!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stayin' alive!

Without a doubt playing music is what keeps me alive, and not doing it... put me in the hospital. Seriously. Between everyone's schedules, work and other obligations my plugged in time in real time has been severely limited the last couple of months and sitting at the PC recording bits alone is NOT the same thing at all.

I jammed out a couple nights this week and I feel f*cking great! It's a rejuvenating tonic of the highest potency. So my immediate goals are to get all this media stuff done ASAP. All of it, from recording to mixing to editing video to laying out album art, all of it is more sitting sitting sitting at the computer and THAT my friends, will kill you. Or it will me anyway. I gotta get his stuff done, turn OFF the pc's, grab a guitar and turn it up to eleven. If I can't get my people to do it, I am heading out to find more people to play with... so towards that end I am game for anything interesting anyone may propose that will keep me plugged in and playing. Get in touch!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gibson prices part 2

hey I just read that Gibson has lowered the prices of new SG's big time! Seems they priced themselves right out of the marketplace so they're now about 28% lower. I guess they read my blog! Greedy bastards. ;) So, in turn, hopefully used prices will drop as well. Good news for real musicians... Gibson SG new prices

Saturday, May 9, 2009

In the hospital

Friday morning around 9:30AM my heart began racing then went into Atrial fibrillation... those who know me know this has happened before, but this time the speed of the heartbeat freaked me out so I called 911 and an ambulance took me to Virtua Memorial where I still am.

After I got some sleep the A-fib stopped... now I am waiting for a cardiac evaluation then OUT of here I hope. I wanted to go see Dave Larue last night but missed that... I can't remember any of my other passwords like Twitter etc, and can't see the screen here as it's halfway across the room with small fonts! But wanted to let people know where I disappeared to.... I have my cell on me if you want to call. Will report back when I get out.

Friday, May 1, 2009

On the death of excitement

No that this has much to do with music, but when I heard of GM discontinuing the Pontiac brand I was a little sad. I suppose it is a reflection of our times, the recent Pontiac line had nothing to do with the original concept... GTO, Grand Prix, Trans Am, etc. In the 60's Pontiac built - quoting Pontiac ad man Jim Wagner - "excitement!"

Excitement indeed! I learned how to drive on my parents '67 LeMans Sprint Six and let me tell you something, that was a real automobile!! A straight 6 OHC with four on the floor, this was the little brother to the mighty GTO and made my teen years something to remember!

[ 1967 Pontiac LeMans Sprint ]

Wagner goes on to say "all these little boys in men’s jobs come along, and come up with insanely stupid ‘G’ names" ... and a product that had little or nothing to do with the original idea. So another bit of inspired history disappears into the mega-profit (and loss) world of 21st Century capitalism. I will always have my memories.

I suppose this does relate to music in a way... with real rock 'n' roll having been absorbed by multinational mega corporations decades ago and made for MTV marketing, where is the excitement in new music? If you have a clue I wish you would give me a hint. Just like the new cars being made today, excitement has been mass produced into everything is the same bland tasteless disposable nothingness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Gibson prices

It's no secret I am a fan of Gibson guitars both old and new, but the retail prices of new Gibson's has finally entered the realm of the totally ridiculous. $899 for a new faded SG special? Get real... I got a sweet deal on mine in '06 from a buddy at Guitar Center and paid $450 for it new which I thought was semi-reasonable. The actual GC price at the time was $579 in a gig bag which even then I thought was pretty high for an instrument with a five piece body.

Since I don't like new Gibson cases I picked up a vintage 1970 Gibson case on Craigslist for $80 which was a steal. I prefer the slim profile of the old cases and hate cases that balloon out at the headstock, it just looks so goofy. I figured out why it was so cheap tho' when I got it home, it stunk of mildew and I had to rip out all the cloth and reupholster it. Did a great job if I do say so myself. Anyway...

I wanted an SG I could bang around at gigs and not worry about like I do with my '68. The faded is a nice guitar, it really is! But to get it to sound decent I had to swap the pickups for '57 Classics (another $100 on ebay) and I put Grovers on so I have about $600 into it. Now I wish I had sprung for the Standard as I am really missing binding & inlays. Out of curiosity I started poking around and found new SG Standards (still with shite 490/498 pups) have shot up to $1,649!!! Geez.

On the flip side of the coin, it seems used prices aren't climbing as fast... probably because nobody has any money to spend, but I fear getting a guitar off ebay sight unseen. Gibson QC is notoriously inconsistent and quite a few newer SG's I've played had necks like baseball bats. Real clunkers. Not to mention dealing with people on ebay. So I will keep an eye open for a deal. I doubt I can get more than $550 for the special - I am holding on to the case - but I see them go for $500-$550 all the time w/ the Gibson HSC.

BTW my original SG Standard cost $225 w/case back in 1968 so the dollar is worth roughly 15% of what is was back then. Even so, this inflation calculator shows the new price should be about $1,375. The funny (sad) thing is, if I want a new SG closer to my old one I'd have to go for the '61 reissue which costs $1,999... so it may be a while.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Classic Mastermind video

Uploaded some classic Mastermind clips on youtube this weekend...

Check out the Mastermind classic playlist

I needed a mental break from recording so got into some video. Watching this stuff reminded me of what I enjoyed about the earlier material and I expect Mastermind will be getting back to some new stuff in a similar vein. More to come!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Three Les Pauls

I've never been a fan of the Les Paul guitar... not that I don't love the sound, I do. Several of my all time favorite guitar recordings were made with Les Pauls!* I just never liked the feel of them... too heavy, oddly balanced, awkward to play sitting down, tough to play the upper register, pickup switch too far out of the way. It just wasn't me. Plus the image of Jimmy Page playing one down around his knees always annoyed the crap out of me... but I digress. I am not alone in shying away from the Les Paul, the line was discontinued a few years after it was introduced due to lack of sales and the SG was introduced to address all the above issues. But then in 1966 Eric Clapton played one on the Bluesbreaker's "Beano" album and their popularity exploded. That album was the defining moment of the Gibson/Marshall sound... and that Gibson was a Les Paul. Even so, I never wanted one.

Tonight a friend who is something of a guitar trader brought over three Les Pauls for me to check out, a Waren Haines signature model, a custom shop '58 reissue, and the 50th Anniversary model. He also brought over a nice little Fargen 2x12 amp. I played them all at various levels though both the Fargen & my JCM800 Marshall, carefully A-B'ing one against the other in different registers and volume settings, occasionally picking up the SG, 335 or Firebird to mix it up, switching amps etc, and I gotta say I really do like the sound of them. The Warren Haines model was my favorite, perhaps because it was loaded with WCR pickups, I'm not really sure. It sounded best when the little pre-amp inside was bypassed and I would describe the sound as being more detailed than the others, bright & clear yet full at the same time. The pre-amp seemed to kill the detail.

The 50th Anniversary was my next favorite, with Burstbuckers it was bright & clear but not quite as full sounding. The '58 reissue didn't have the clear voice of the other two and was a bit midrangy although they all had a basic similar sonic quality. It may be the pickup differences, I don't know. The WCR pickups seem to have something special going on. In conclusion I have to say I still don't like the feel of them for all the reasons I listed above (not to mention being ridiculously over-priced) but damn, they sure sound sweet. Maybe there will be a Les Paul in my future at some point. Yeah I think I could deal with that. Santa are you listening?

* Favorite Les Paul recordings:
Beano, Fresh Cream, The Inner Mounting Flame

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Assembling an album

Lots of people make recordings and present them in many ways. Sometimes they are random collections of recorded material just tossed up online somewhere. When I start writing & recording it usually evolves quickly into having an album in mind. A cohesive collection of tunes destined to be grouped together as a whole. I have had it said to me many times that Mastermind albums flow well and tend to sound best as a whole. That is no accident. My new solo work has also evolved into a collection that seems quite cohesive to me and sounds like an "album". How this whole guitar album idea came about I will get into later, but it's not what you might think and not really what I thought I'd be doing next, but do it I did.

Right now I am working out the final running order. Even though the songs were conceptualized to be together early on, the reality of running order is sometimes tough to work out. I want an emotional ebb & flow of course, but mixing up keys and tempos is also vital to creating an engaging album. Some songs end in a very resolved fashion, some feel more open ended like you are waiting for more, so what follows what can be critical to how a song hits you. I can think of many albums where running order is so embedded in my brain it feels funny hearing a song without its immediate relative. Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker - Living Loving Maid" comes to mind right off.

A conceptual idea I am applying to this album is to think of it as a good old fashioned vinyl LP with two sides. Each nearly equal length "side" has its own flow and feels quite satisfying as a group, yet all together on a single CD it also flows well as a whole. To achieve this a little juggling is required. Anyway, in light of the previous blog, here it is April 1st, 2009 and I can say I have finished a new album. I am guessing it will take a few months to get it out there, but it feels good to have completed something brand spankin' new!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Aries - new beginnings

What do you know, today is Eric Clapton's 65th birthday. I suppose when I was a kid the thought of Eric (and the other musical icons of the day) being 65 year old men never crossed my mind. Yet here we are. Clapton is an Aries which really seems to define him in many ways. The word associated with Aries is "self" and judging from the Aries folk I have known, self is certainly what seems to preoccupy their thoughts and actions. Hmm... oddly, this fire sign is considered highly compatible with another fire sign, Sagittarius... which is me! So Eric, you wanna jam sometime? That would be fun.

Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac and a "cardinal" sign (from the Latin 'hinge') marking the beginning of the new Zodiac year. I was thinking about this not because of Eric, but because the particular dates of March 31st - April 1st in Aries have marked the beginnings, and sometimes the end, of some significant events & relationships in my life. Without going into the sordid details of past events, this struck me today because just last night I finished mixing the final track of my forthcoming instrumental guitar solo album. This is definitely a significant hinge event as I see it. Something totally new!

Of course from finishing a recording to getting it released as a product takes some time and when we move into the next season of earthy Taurus that's when the grunt work will take place I imagine. So hang on just a while longer and let's see if I can't get this thing released fairly quickly. I am quite pleased with the results! It's been a while since I've spewed forth any brand new music. Now it's on to design & packaging. Also, now this little project of mine is wrapping up I can start focusing on new Mastermind. New beginnings indeed.

Oh... and happy birthday Eric!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yet another blog page...

Hi folks! Read the about me section here to get an idea why I have started this blog page. Sure I have plenty of other places to sound off, the Mastermind blog, MySpace, Facebook, but here I can just sort of pontificate without the mental noise of so many people in my head... not that I don't love them all! But it gets to be overwhelming at times so this is my quiet place. Also, I don't have to do any maintenance on this thing which makes it a lot easier to deal with. Anyway....

I have been working on some instrumental guitar music that will soon manifest itself as a solo album, so here is where I will be discussing that along with other music & guitar tidbits as they come to me. Not that I am all that interesting or that my imaginary audience really cares at this point, but sometimes just blurting it out (i/e blogging) helps me sort things out in my own mind. Considering the gazillion blogs out there another one probably won't hurt anything. :)