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Posted in Blog, Melbourne guitar Show News, Win    //    Post Date - August 7, 2019

Thanks to everyone who attended the 2019 Melbourne Guitar Show.

We had a few promotions running leading up to and during the show and we can now announce the winners:

Whammy Bar Wednesday promotion
Prize: Boss RC-1 Loop pedal
Winner: Marie A Veneziano, Glenroy

Online ticket promotion
Prize: Joe Bonamassa Meet and Greet tickets to his Melbourne show on September 23rd
Winner: Steve Richie, Highett

MGS 2019 Attendee survey
Prize: Vox Ac2 rhythm Desktop Amp
Winner: Scott Watkins

Thanks to Boss, Vox Australia and Joe Bonamassa

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Posted in Blog, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - August 1, 2019

In celebration of the release of the first EP Sunset Suburbia (Vol. I) out this week, Diesel is also hitting the road for an extensive tour beginning in October.
AND Diesel will be signing copies of the EP (available on vinyl too) at the
Melbourne Guitar Show Caulfield Racecourse Sunday August 4 at 11.45am Ground Floor Merch Area

Read our interview with Diesel HERE


Thursday 10 October
20 Years At The Brass Monkey
Brass Monkey | Cronulla, NSW Tickets on sale Monday 2nd September
* Solo show

Friday 11 October
Central Hotel | Shellharbour, NSW

Saturday 12 October
Manly Leagues Club | Manly, NSW

Friday 18 October
Entrance Leagues | Bateau Bay, NSW

Saturday 19 October
Wingham Akoostic Festival | Wingham Showground | Wingham, NSW

Friday 25 October
Gateway Hotel | Geelong, VIC

Saturday 26 October
York On Lilydale | Lilydale, VIC

Friday 1 November
The Juniors | Kingsford, NSW

Saturday 2 November
Hornsby RSL | Hornsby, NSW

Saturday 9 November
Bridgetown Blues Festival | Bridgetown, WA

Sunday 10 November
96FM Kickstart Summer Concert w/ Jimmy Barnes
Ascot Racetrack | Perth, WA

Friday 15 November
The Triffid | Brisbane, QLD

Saturday 16 November
Southport RSL | Gold Coast, QLD

Friday 22 November
The Gov | Adelaide, SA

Saturday 23 November
Get Your Blues On | Renmark Riverfront | Renmark, SA

Friday 29 November
Lizottes | Newcastle, NSW

Saturday 30 November
Lizottes | Newcastle, NSW

Friday 6 December
The Basement | Canberra, ACT

Saturday 7 December
Paddington RSL | Paddington, NSW

Friday 13 December
Lizottes | Newcastle, NSW

Saturday 14 December
Lizottes | Newcastle, NSW

• Sunset Suburbia (Vol. I) EP Out  through Bloodlines Aug 2


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Posted in Blog, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 31, 2019

Owen Ray is a Toowoomba based musician/guitar tech with over 50 years experience in the music business. Owen’s passion and specialty however is in the collection, restoring and sales of collectable vintage guitars, amps and memorabilia.

Many people who come to the Melbourne Guitar Show head straight to Owen Ray’s stand to see what rarities, treasures and curios he has in store. This year will be no exception, as you can see from the list below. Come on down to Stand #4 and check it out for yourself.

As founder and owner of two successful musical instrument stores, he was often invited and traveled to Europe and America to tour such factories as the Fender, Gibson, Music Man, G&L, Peavey, Rogers drums, Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer piano and organ and Rickenbacker factories. Owen, having once held the largest collection of Maton guitars in the world, has also toured the Maton factory many times. He has received recognition from Fender, Peavey and Ibanez for design development to these brands and proudly displays these awards in his office.

Owen has numerous photos of many industry greats he has met including Leo Fender, George Fullerton, Freddy Tavares, Tom Walker, Harold Rhodes, Les Paul, Ernie Ball, Jim Dunlop, F W Hall, Sam Hutton and many more. However, his favourite photo is of him and his son Stewart sitting with Leo Fender in Leo’s workshop a few weeks before Leo passed away. Owen was told it was the only photo allowed of Leo to be taken in the last five years of his life. After Leo’s death, Leo’s wife Phyllis presented Owen with a G&L guitar pendant that Leo had worn on his favorite coat lapel. Owen feels both honored and privilaged to have it and the memory of Leo.

Here’s some of what Owen will have on stand at the Melbourne Guitar Show this year

Ltd.Edit. Eureka. Number ! of only 50 made. New
Mini 12 string electric. signed by rock legends ,THE  SEARCHERS.
1964  Ibis sunburst with original case
Custom Shop   BUSH  BALLADEER.made by Andy Allen
Custom  Shop   BG 808  The Artisan
Ltd Edit.Carlisle  Number one of the limited run.
12 string electric Custom FB 1220.
Mini Diesel Custom 12 string with factory thin neck
60th Anniversary ,   EM 325C. Number ONE of only 60 made. Custom timbers.
Maton  Maxim F hole electric C 1959

Fender 40 th Anniversary  P Bass. New. 1992. unplayed
Hofner Original German Beatle Bass Vintage 63.
Ernie Ball 20 th Anniversary Bass Amazing quilt maple top 1996
EKO mod 1100 . 100% original with orig case.  Mint.
Fender 1951- 2001  Commemorative .New With cert,signed by owner of Fender.
Epiphone Thunderbird Bass Custom
Fender American Deluxe  Active P Bass Cherry SB .new   2005
Fender  50th Anniversary  P Bass  Ltd, Ed.
Fender Hot Rod P Bass.Ltd
B C Rich  Eagle  new.
Peavey Zodiac  EXP, Maple neck Special P.J.model

Fender  Strats , Telecasters .Duo Sonic.
Chandler USA .  Yamaha  and Gretsch

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Posted in Melbourne guitar Show News, Win    //    Post Date - July 31, 2019

Hey, while you’re at the Melbourne Guitar Show this weekend, tell us what you think of the show to go into the draw to win an awesome AC2 RhythmVOX Desktop Guitar Amp courtesy of Vox Australia.

Now with twice the output, and even more realistic look, the AC2 RhythmVOX allows you to bring iconic VOX tone with you anywhere you go!
Seek out the attendee survey details on the walls at the show, take a couple of minutes to offer your opinion and go into the draw!

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Posted in Artists, Interviews, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 29, 2019

Born in Florence, Italy, Sergio Ercole spent his early years in the Tuscan city where he first became enamored with the guitar. Inspired by his parents’ eclectic music tastes, Sergio had developed an interest in a wide range of music. Moving to Australia, his love for the fretted instrument grew and was steered in a classical guitar direction by a music teacher while at secondary school. Sergio went on to complete a Masters of Music at Melbourne University – studying under John Griffiths and taking masterclasses with world-renowned guitarist John Williams before taking further study in Italy with Oscar Ghiglia and Alirio Diaz. His talents are well respected within the music industry, performers including The Cat Empire, and Hollywood film writer and musician, Tim Davies have invited Sergio to collaborate with them on their albums and on stage. Sergio was also asked to compose and perform the title track for Frank Lotito’s romantic comedy Big Mamma’s Boy. Recent projects include working with the Grigoryan Brothers, Italian classical virtuoso Massimo Scattolin, and flamenco guitarist Valentino.  Over the last two years Sergio has performed at the Adelaide Guitar Festival, Peninsula Music Festival, Lorne Festival, the Murray River Music Festival, the Brunswick Beethoven Festival and the Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival. Sergio is currently Head of Guitar at Haileybury, and is also editor of and the Guitar Conversations podcast.

Sergio has performed at the Melbourne Guitar Show on several occasions and returns again this year to perform both in solo mode and also as part of Nick Charles’ acoustic guitar jam. Ahead of the guitar show, Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips spoke to Sergio about his music, his instruments and the guitar show.

Sergio, what are some of your earliest musical memories?
I remember first discovering the guitar. I was probably 4 or 5. I used to spend a lot of time with it on my lap, literally just plucking the strings on my dad’s really beaten up, dodgy classical guitar. That was when I was still living in Florence, so that and what my parents listened to. On one side there would be Wagner or Beethoven and then if my mum got hold of the record player, it was Bob Dylan or Cat Stevens, so I had this dichotomy of influences because my mum lived in New Orleans when she was a teenager in the 60s.

Who were some of the guitarists that inspired you when you got into the guitar a little more?
I started guitar when I was at school so really it was just through the school’s guitar program that I discovered more about guitar. Inititially it was a lot of the 80s repertoire. You know in the 80s guitar was king and there was so much music. When a song comes on the radio now and it is any riff from the 80s, I remember my guitar teacher teaching me that riff, it was very popular. Then I started listening to a lot of generic stuff, not necessarily classical stuff even though my parents had John Williams, Alirio Diaz, Segovia records. There was a bit of that going on in the background but really my attention was very much in the electric direction, so I was listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steve Vai and these crazy electric players. It was virtuosic. So that rock element is what was interesting to me in my teens years, then I had a classical teacher in year ten who encouraged me into a classical direction. Then I started listening to classical guitar, flamenco and things like that.

Teachers can be very important and inspiring. You are also a teacher. What are the main things you try to instill in your students?
What I feel my biggest job is in teaching guitar is to open up a world, like a portal into the world of the guitar. Once I open that up and its many facets, then hopefully I can engage the students. So that is my first job, to reveal the beauty and the variety and intrigue and magic of the guitar and then enough that they feel motivated for me to show them how to understand music and good technical fundamentals. If I can get good fundamental musicianship in there and some intrigue and a bit of a spark then I think the rest becomes much easier.

Tell me about your main guitar.
The guitar I am mainly using at the moment is a guitar I bought from a luthier in Seville when I was there two years ago. His name is Antonio Álvarez Bernal. It is actually a flamenco guitar but it is a flamenco guitar with classical overtones. It looks a bit like a classical but the internals are flamenco. It has a really punchy, crisp attack that I really love, especially in the basses but not too woofy. The trebles are also quite sparkly but I can produce some sweetness out of it as well, so I really enjoy that variety. Other guitars that I have are much more in the classical luthiery style, they have a bigger, concert sound, more air and body but at the expense of some of that crispiness that I like.

How important is the choice of strings that you use?
I go through phases. If it is a really good guitar … I don’t put cheap strings on it but I don’t pay massive amounts. D’Addario Pro Artes usually do he job. If I want extra punchiness in the trebles I might go titanium on the trebles, especially on the 3rd string. I might experiment with those sort of things. I’m not overly worried about it. I play often live and that’s like an extra layer of confusion to me. It comes down to the quality of the mic and the pickup.

What’s the hardest thing about mastering Spanish guitar?
Spanish guitar … if I was going to define it, is a sub-set of classical guitar and it is very romantic, expressive music but it also has to have a lot of rhythmic integrity. It is one of those styles of guitar where you need to understand timing implicitly and lyricism and phrasing implicitly and you begin to tell a story where you throw all of those things out the window. It is very much one of those things where you have to learn the lines and then just have fun with it. You have to have a very high level of technical and musical proficiency to make that work.

How do you generally record your guitar? How do you mic them up?
It is really difficult, I am still struggling with that. I was recently at a studio, Pughouse in Preston. He had a couple of really amazing mics, a ribbon mic and a very long mic that they used in the big band era. Often times the mics just pickup so much of the top end, you get a lot of the nail clicky sound. To be honest when I am playing, I don’t notice it but all of a sudden you stick a microphone in front of the guitar and start noticing all of this extra stuff that the mic is picking up that you don’t want in the mix. It is somewhere between miking and then doing some EQing. I have spoken to world famous guitarists who are very much into recording a very natural sound and then EQing the hell of it to make it sound like it does when you are not listening to it through a mic, if that makes sense? So I still haven’t actually conquered that challenge.

La Dolce Chitarra I believe is your latest release. Tell me about that album, the inspiration behind it etc.
It was a leap into the unknown which was writing my own music. I still record other people’s music but it’s a revolving process but that CD was very much about bringing the elements of classical and Latin together. I did that with some solo pieces but also with the help of a bass player and percussionist. It’s my cookbook of guitars bringing different elements together and experimenting with various textures, which might be from a flamenco direction or Brazilian or using classical or Italian elements. That was a few years ago now and the next album that is coming out will be like the next passage and that’s what I will be playing at the Melbourne Guitar Show… my latest recipes!

What are some of the most memorable gigs that you have played over your career?
I love playing at guitar festivals, so 2 years ago I was in Treviso and that was at he invitation of Andrea Vettoretti, who runs this really amazing festival in Italy. That was such a highlight playing to an Italian audience, being Italian. The Italians are such a music loving community and they just got it, so that was a real thrill. Playing at the Adelaide Guitar Festival, which I have done a number of times and in 2016 I was featured artist, which was great. You know … the limousine, you get picked up from the airport and everything is top shelf as far as venue and audience. I have done some gigs with The Cat Empire a few years ago, they are always memorable gigs playing at the Myer Music Bowl in front of 8,000 people. I also just love doing my shows at the Paris Cat which is an intimate audience but always a thrill to play to people who really fall in love with your music.

You have played the Melbourne Guitar Show before, what was your impression of the first MGS you attended?
It’s a hive of activity. Rob Walker is a bit of a master organiser in that he manages to bring in a variety of elements. Obviously there are a lot of guitars on stalls on display to bring people there to try but then the extra element of having virtuosos and amazing musicians at hand is I think, a really great thing to have in Melbourne. There is some chaos involved (laughs). I love the acoustic jam, where last time it was me, Doug DeVries, Nick Charles and a number of other incredible players in their own right, finding a common ground. I think that really sets the guitar show apart, bringing in that variety of styles. People can enjoy a real smorgasbord of guitar so that is a great thing for Melbourne to have.

What have you got planned for this year’s guitar show?
Again I will be playing a lot of new stuff, my own solo repertoire. I have adaptions of the pieces I play with my trio too. I like to think they test me technically as well, so pushing the boundaries a bit as well as being evocative. I always like to add some classical repertoire too, so I will be playing a couple of Scarlatti sonatas. A lot of the classical repertoire draws from the keyboard repertoire. These are actually keyboard pieces as Scarlatti wrote essentially for the harpsichord in the baroque era but he lived in Spain and like many Spanish keyboard composers, was very influenced by Spanish guitar.

Apart from the guitar show, what else have you got coming up?
I try not to think too far ahead but I have a really hectic schedule as head of guitar at Haileybury College and with my blog Performance-wise, I do a monthly gig at T’Gallant Winery on the Mornington Peninsula, a couple of shows at the Paris Cat in October and towards end of he year. I have a couple of side things that I also do, a solo recital, a few regional things, a concert in Marysville on 29th of September and then a gig in Clunes. I’ll also be finishing the album and getting that out and seeing what else presents itself.

Sergio Ercole plays the Melbourne Guitar Show on Sunday August 4 at 11.30am on the new Exclusively Acoustic Stage in the 1876 Bar on Level 2 and then joins Nick Charles in The World of Acoustic Guitar jam at 1.40pm on the Marsh Mezzanine stage.

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Posted in Blog, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 26, 2019

Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall appearing on the Fender stand

We’ve already announced a host of amazing artists who will be appearing at the Melbourne Guitar Show in either performance or clinic on the main stages but don’t forget there are heaps more artists performing and chatting on the exhibitors’ stands. One of the most fun things about the guitar show is the ’artist-spotting’ aspect, seeing accomplished musicians on stand and in the aisles that you never expected to see. Three exhibitors, Fender, CMC Music and Music Junction have given us a heads up and listed days and times for their on-stand artist appearances this year. You never know who you’re going to run into or experience in performance at the Melbourne Guitar Show but here’s a good start!


CMC Ernie Ball Stand 28-29
11:15am Nicholas Simonsen of ‘Caution: Thieves’
12:15pm James Pownall
1:30pm Darlinghurst Band
2:15pm The Omnific
4:15pm Emilio Kormanic

Fender Stand 53
1.15pm Jenna McDougall (Tonight Alive) – Acoustic Set

Charvel/Jackson Booth 53
3.15pm Jeremy Barnes – Sat 3:15pm – Playthrough

Music Junction/Achilles Amps
Dr Ric Wong
Ryan Lim
Kim Herrin

Dr Ric Wong
Ryan Lim
Kim Herrin

Dr Ric Wong
Ryan Lim
Kim Herrin

CMC Ernie Ball Stand 28-29
11:15am Nicholas Simonsen of ‘Caution: Thieves’
12:15pm The Omnific
2:15pm James Pownall
3:30pm Josh Ua & Daniel Lijnders

Fender Stand 53
2.30pm John Floreani (Trophy Eyes) – Acoustic Set

Jackson/Charvel Stand 53
12.30pm Chris Zoupa & Dean Wells (Teramaze)
2pm Josh Smith (Northlane) Meet’n’Greet

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Posted in Blog, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 25, 2019

You’ve spent the weekend watching some of Australia’s finest guitar talent, you’ve picked up your dream guitar bargain, seen a cool demo or two and thinking life couldn’t get any better… BUT … we always save the best until last .. the Triple M All Star Jam at 2.30pm on Sunday August 4th on the Whammy Bar stage is where you need to be!

Last year year saw Jack Jones, Brett Garsed, Shannon Bourne and many others trading licks together. This year, jam regulars Simon Hosford (Fair Warning, Vanessa Amorosi) and James Ryan (Kate Ceberano) have put together a stellar band consisting of Mal Eastick (Stars) Michael Spiby (The Badloves), Pete Robinson (Russell Morris, Electric Mary), Dennis Jones (USA), Mick Pealing (Stars), Roger McLachlan (LRB, Stars) on bass,  and we welcome up and comers Kathleen Halloran, Charlie Bedford, plus Marcus Ryan on drums …. and you never know who else might join the jam.

The traditional Triple M All-Star Jam at 2.30pm on Sunday August 4th on the Whammy Bar stage. Don’t miss it!

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Posted in Acoustic Guitars, Blog, Gear, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 24, 2019

Australian Musician chats with Braegen Russell from Timberline Harp Guitars Australia ahead of the Melbourne Guitar Show.

If you’re looking for something different at this year’s Melbourne Guitar Show, stop by Stand A14a on level one and check out Timberline Harp Guitars. Harp guitars are not a new concept, dating back to the 1800’s but chances are, you’ve never had the opportunity to play and hear one live.

Timberline Guitars builds highest quality, hand-made solid timber guitars for prices below where guitars of this quality had ever been sold before. Their mission is to produce premium quality acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars that will make you want to play … at prices you won’t believe.

Timberline use no laminates or composites – all of their guitars are solid wood and hand–finished to an exacting specification. We bring to players the quality of construction and materials that could until now be found only in instruments costing thousands of dollars.
Just take a look at the quality components used – Grover® brand deluxe gold sealed tuning machines, Tusq® saddles and nuts, real abalone and Mother of Pearl – ebony fingerboards and bridges.

The finest and most intricate pin-striping and detailing – not just on their limited edition or premium models, but on every guitar Timberline® makes.

Quality tone woods, solid construction and sound design are the hallmark of every Timberline guitar. Beautiful to hear and see and responsive to the player’s touch. Solid Rosewood and Mahogany bodies, solid Sitka, Engelmann Spruce or Pacific Red Cedar soundboards, Macassar Ebony fingerboards and bridges. And every Timberline is notable for gorgeous Abalone and/or Mother-of-Pearl detailing.

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Posted in Amplifiers, Gear, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 22, 2019

Australian Musician Spotlight: George Evans Custom Amplifiers.
Ground Level. Stand #42 Melbourne Guitar Show

By Eddy Lim

Guitarists are anomalies amongst the realm of musicians. We’re constantly searching for the next component to add to our signal chain in order to achieve our “dream tone” – and we have the bank statements to prove it. But most of the time, it simply ends up being a never-ending cycle of repetition.

Phil George and Tim Evans from George Evans Custom Amplifiers understand this sentiment completely. The company have a simple, singular mission: to produce quality, hand-built amplifiers that last a lifetime.

“We wanted to leave a legacy behind that no one else has achieved in Australia,” George says. “We wanted to build what we thought were the best amps out there – really versatile and extremely reliable amps. Something that you can take to a gig and even if everything else breaks, you’ve got a phenomenal baseline tone.” Evans agrees enthusiastically. “Our vision was to make some bloody good amplifiers!” he laughs. “That was our pure vision. It had nothing to do with money, it was purely to build some bloody good amps. Something to be proud of – and that’s it.”

Before the company’s inception, Evans was busy servicing amps and helming the esteemed Labsystems – a bass gear company he founded in 1986. As a touring musician, George was one of his regular clients, and the pair quickly became fast friends.
“I was always pretty inquisitive about different sorts of equipment,” explains George. “I’d always ask Tim about how I could get this tone or that sound, etcetera. We looked at a lot of different facets back then, but only really glossed over building our own amp at that stage.”
“And as you’d expect with certain clients, some of them you just connect with,” Evans adds. “Phil and I just became mates ever since.”

The conception of George Evans Amps began with George wanting a smaller amplifier for his more intimate gigs. Even when surrounded by a multitude of options, none of them seemed to tick the box for him. It wasn’t long till he proposed building a custom amplifier with Evans. However, the pair knew it was never going to be easy.
“When we first got together, I told Tim that I wanted to make a really nice combo,” George says. “I said to him ‘we should be able to do it, no problems!’ And Tim said: ‘Mate, if you think we can design something right off the bat that sounds good, you’ve got another thing coming.’”

“The complications in every design lies not in the design itself, but in the components,” explains Evans. “You can have a component that can work really well in one section, but simply doesn’t work in another. There’s a lot of variance that exists – and all of it critically affects the amp’s tone.”

“So, Tim and I put together a wish list and cherry picked the most feasible options for a smaller combo amp,” George continues. “But involving point-to-point hand-wiring, the old school way of building. We wanted to go back to the days of Fender and Marshall in the ‘60s; those vintage amps are still going strong today. In the same vein, we wanted to build something today that will still be running in 40-50 years’ time. We wanted recognisable, classic guitar tones, but not just another copy of a vintage amp.”

“We were looking for nothing short of perfection,” Evans adds. “We didn’t want just another guitar amp.”
It took several painstaking years of prototypes and revisions till the first George Evans amplifier was actually released. Much of the pair’s time was spent on auditioning individual components, ensuring everything they chose performed well with each other and lived up to their standards.

“It took years and years to finally get to a point where we were both actually happy,” George recalls. “We had to go through the whole thing over and over again from the ground up till we were both satisfied. The components we used and still use are all premium stuff. We can build a way cheaper amp simply by using cheaper components, but we refuse to do that. We’ve done the testing, and we know for a fact that these components we use sound better.”

“More importantly, it’s the philosophy behind it,” Evans interjects. “It’s not about which part is cheaper or more expensive – it’s about which one sounds the best. That’s really all there is to it.”
“But yeah, quite often the more expensive stuff sounds better,” George admits.

In 2008, the duo officially released their first amp – the Sonique 50. The 50-watt amplifier ran on four EL-34s, featuring two channels with a three-way gain selector switch for each. Both channels were further accentuated with a bright switch and boost option. To top it all off, an elegant laser-etched nameplate rested on its front panel. Slowly but surely, word began to spread about this custom-crafted beast. Interested customers began to show up at the George Evans workshop, and often left with a stunned smile on their face.

“There was no way we were going to send crap out into the world,” says Evans. “Labsystems had such great success and I’m very proud of it. George Evans had to live up to that reputation and now it’s really just gone above it.”

Other than the Sonique 50, George Evans Amplifiers also offer 30-watt and 22-watt models, which are all available in a single/dual speaker combo or head/cab configuration. If you’re dying to hear what they sound like – you’re in luck. George Evans Amps will be making a return to the Melbourne Guitar Show this year, where visitors will be able to demo their amplifiers and hear them in the flesh.

The 2019 Melbourne Guitar Show goes down on August 3-4 at the Caulfield Racecourse.
George Evans Amps are on Ground Level Stand #42.
Tickets are on sale now, so make sure you don’t miss out!

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Posted in Artists, Interviews, Melbourne guitar Show News    //    Post Date - July 21, 2019

Talented American studio guitar player, performer, songwriter, producer, engineer, recording artist and gear demonstrator, Keith Merrow is coming to Australia to perform a series of clinics for Schecter guitars, including two at the Melbourne Guitar Show. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips spoke to Keith prior to the tour.

Like most guitarists, Keith Merrow started out playing guitar in his bedroom. Also like many modern day guitar players, Keith began filming himself playing his music and uploading clips to YouTube. Fast forward to 2019 and Keith Merrow is now an established recording artist, including one release with his childhood guitar hero Jeff Loomis in a project called Conquering Dystopia. Schecter guitars has released several versions of Keith’s own signature guitar with more on the way, and his YouTube channel currently has over 18 million views. I wondered at what point did Keith first get blown away by how his YouTube clips were being received?
“That actually happened really early on,” he tells me. “I initially wasn’t even intending on being a YouTube guy or do anything on YouTube at all. I think the first time I was blown away by it was the first person who asked if they could buy or download my music. That totally floored me. It was one of those things where I didn’t expect any kind of reaction out of it. From very early on I was blown away and the bigger it got, it just felt surreal and I didn’t even know that it is now over 18 million and that blows me away right now.”

Rock ’n’ roll history is strewn with stories of decadence, such as wild parties in hotel pools or hot tubs ala David Lee Roth or Motley Crue. Keith Merrow has many pool and hot tub stories of his own but his are more of the maintenance kind, pertaining mainly to ohms and motor failures. You see just prior to creating music for a living, Keith was working with his pool contractor father in a pool supplies business. So does he know more about hot tubs or guitars?
“That’s a great question (laughs). These days I’d say definitely guitars. The hot tub thing, that’s a long story. My father was a pool contractor and I grew up working with him and worked in the pool supply industry to some extent and that what I was doing when I guess I was discovered. It’s been a decade and a half now since I messed with things like that so definitely guitars! You had to dig deep to find that one!”

Keith is now an internationally recognised recording artist, having released music with bands such as Conquering Dystopia and Alluvial, as well as acclaimed recordings under his own name, his most recent being Reading The Bones. It didn’t take long for the folks at Schecter to realise that Keith was becoming quite a presence in the progressive metal genre and they set out to work with him on his first signature guitar, the 7 string KM-7. Featuring an ebony fretboard, maple neck, glow in the dark side dot markers, Ultra Thin ‘C’ neck shape, arched top, swamp ash body and flamed maple top, with Seymour Duncan Nazgul and Sentient pickups, the KM-7 went on to become a popular selling guitar for Schecter. Keith’s current model is the KM-7 Mark III. Keith’s fascination with 7 string guitars first began almost two decades ago.
“I would say I first got into 7 strings probably around 2001 maybe 2000,” he recollects. “A lot of it just came from the fact that I was down-tuning six string guitars and I was sort of struggling with it. Trying to get down into the B, A range on a six string is sometimes a little bit tricky, although it’s a lot easier these days because the string options are better. I wanted a full range, standard E to E guitar but I also really liked the low B, low A range, so the answer to that was to just get both in a 7 string guitar. Initially it was that but what inspired me to tune that low and try and go with 7 string guitars were bands like Morbid Angel, Jeff Loomis with Nevermore, bands like that really pushed me in the direction of 7 string guitar.”

It’s always interesting to dissect the components of an artist’s signature guitar. Some are built from scratch, others are merely tweaks to an already established model in a range. I asked Keith what the starting point was for his signature guitar and what were the most important elements that they had to get right for him to be happy to put his name on it.
“They have actually got it right for many years for me but initially the goal with the KM7, the original version was to have custom shop specs on an import guitar at a price range that almost anybody could afford,” he states. “So as long as they got those things right I was happy. And they did, they definitely did. That first Mark1 guitar sold thousands of units and proved a point that it is possible to get custom shop style specs that people are really looking for in a guitar like that but at a price that people could handle. I think they nailed it for me right out of the gate and we’ve fine tuned it over the years to arrive at what it is now. In my opinion it is now a true signature guitar and it is everything that I have wanted in a guitar. Right off the bat when I first met the guys at Schecter, my main guy is Ryan Martin who is travelling with me to Australia, we just hit it off. We became friends really quickly and now he is one of my best buds. They are so easy to work with and have been so good to me over the years and it feels more like friends and family than they do a company I work with. We all work together and have common goals, common interests, we laugh and joke all the time and it is just a really good home for me when it comes to guitars. They have always encouraged me and motivated me to push myself and pushed me out there quite a bit.”

The original Schecter KM-7 model featured Seymour Duncan pickups, however recently Keith has been drawn to pickups made by Fishman.
“After working with other pickup companies over the years and helping to develop other pickups, I was introduced to Fishman. I tried their pickups and right off the bat I wasn’t actually sold on them,” he says. “It wasn’t until I was able to see their process for voicing pickups and then having the opportunity to voice my own pickups with them, when I was really sold. It totally blew my mind. The procedure for creating a guitar pickup and voicing it to the exact sound that you hear in your head is completely different to any other company out there and I was able to get that sound in my head very quickly and easily. They are so consistent that I can trust that it is going to be something that can be replicated over and over. Mainly it is the quality and the amount of focus that the company has and the amount of technology that they put into their products, that is really what sucked me in.”

And is he working with Schecter on anything new at the moment that he can tell us about?
“I am actually and I am not sure how much I can push out there because we have the 2020 guitar, which is currently in the prototype stage and it is a little bit different than the current model. It is still a Mark-III, it’s just tuned a little bit differently in terms of specs. I guess what I can say is that there is a new Mark-III coming and it is going to be a slightly lower price point than the current model.”

As mentioned earlier, Keith has collaborated with many other musicians on band recordings but it’s his solo projects that he’s really proud of. On his latest solo album Reading The Bones, Merrow manages to seamlessly blend ethereal ambience with hard edged, heavy metal power chords and sweet melodic note choices. I asked Keith where much of the inspiration for that music came from.
“That album took a while to make. My previous solo album was back in 2012. The songs on Reading The Bones are a culmination of the inspirations I have had over the last 4 or 5 years. A lot of the songs were written in different places, some as far away as Jordan in the Middle East, songs in Hawaii, all over the world. When it came time to compose and arrange everything and get the consistent vibe I wanted out of it, I went up into the forest and stayed in log cabin for a few weeks and polished it and got it the way I wanted it. So it was basically a lot of passion and a lot of travel that made those songs happen.”

Something that is always intriguing to me with artists who create instrumental music is to discover how they approach naming their tunes. It seems that Keith is quite methodical in regard to that task.
“Well the titles of the songs basically come about a couple of different ways,” he explains. “One way is that I think of some sort of scene or theme, I paint a picture in my head and then the song is like the score to that image or that theme. The music reflects the vibe that you are trying to portray in that scene. To a lot of people it won’t really have a whole lot of relevance but to me it is one of those things where I get creative in my own mind, paint a picture and then score music to that. A lot of the inspiration comes from different pieces of artwork or reading different books. There was a book I was reading during the creation of Reading The Bones, HP Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness and I got a lot of inspiration from that book in terms of imagery and titles and things like that. It is part of the creative process that isn’t super relevant to a lot of people but its hugely important to me in order to make those songs what they are.”

Keith first came to a lot of people’s attention when he recorded with Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis in Conquering Dystopia. The band hasn’t toured since 2014 and I wondered if that project could ever reappear in the future?
“It’s really hard to say whether Conquering Dystopia will tour in the future but I have a lot of confidence in making more music with them,” Keith tells us. “We have actually written more music since that last record. The issue with Conquering Dystopia is that everyone in the band is in another band and working a lot and traveling. To get all of us together at the same time to work on new material is like trying to align the stars manually. I don’t know about touring but I am pretty confident that there will be more music, whether that be an EP or full length I don’t know.”

Keith Merrow will be at the Melbourne Guitar Show on both Saturday August 3 and Sunday August 4, appearing in clinic for Schecter Guitars. It will be Keith’s first trip to Australia and he’s looking forward to catching up with old friends and making some new ones.
“I haven’t been before, it’s going to be my first time and it has been at the top of my list of places to visit for a really long time, so I am really excited about going out there. I have a friend named Peter Hodgson (who will be hosting the Meet The Players sessions at Cafe Corner) and he has told me a bit about it. When he heard I was coming he got really excited, so I am excited to be coming out and see some friendly faces. Really with this kind of thing, I just go with the flow and if people want to hear music, they’ll hear music. If they want to talk about guitar or career or life, I’m into that too. I’ll be playing some older songs that people seem to enjoy hearing and some new songs off Reading The Bones. It will be a bit of a mixture. I have a song from another project, Alluvial which I am no longer a part of but there’s a song that I really enjoy playing that I will bring out. Possibly also a Conquering Dystopia song if I can get it together in time.”

Keith’s Australian clinic dates for Schecter
AUG 3 – Melbourne Guitar Show (VIC)
AUG 4 – Melbourne Guitar Show (VIC)
AUG 6 – Cranbourne Music Lynbrook (VIC)
AUG 8 – Guitar Factory Parramatta (NSW)

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