FRED STUCKY

FredStucky1.0 – What is it about rock & roll that makes people feel good?

For me its the feeling I got when I heard Lou Reed “Walk On The Wild Side” on the radio when i was a boy has never really gone away. It made me love rock so much. I was probably 8 or 9. The song was so exotic. Such a trip far from my world. I was so hooked on this thing that came out of the radio. “Jumpin Jack Flash” on an AM transistor radio in Philly in the early 70’s was pretty magical.

So its escape and energy and fantasy and freedom for 3-6 minutes when tuned in. That feeling is hard to beat.

2.0 – How did you catch the roots bug?
As a kid. I heard Jerry Reed singing “Amos Moses” on the school bus for a few months. The song just pulled me in.  A little later “Tumbling Dice” was a hit. I knew I loved these songs and tones. The way they melded country and blues and their souls all together. It was clear to me they had something, some magic,  that no one I knew had. I wanted it.  It took a while but I melded them all to my satisfaction.

Also–In the early to mid 70’s all I listened to in my fathers old Jeep were 8 track tapes of, Willie Nelson live, Ernest Tubb, Charley Pride, And Hank Williams.

3.0 – Is there an artist that sets the barometer for you today?

Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and the mid period Rolling Stones

They wrote songs so honestly.  “Swinging Doors” what a brutal song. “Black Rose” is hard to top. “Let It bleed” is an amazing release as is “Beggars Banquet”.

The Stones from that 69-73 period is hard to get around. I think all of my songs have a taste of “Torn and Frayed” in them.

4.0 – Your new GAS MONEY disc Untethered is incredibly authentic, is that function of maturity now as a band?

Thank you.

I think just did not care how honest and sincere I was. It was my goal to get it right like Merle Haggard done on his classics. Every song is a true story on Untethered. With that it was easy to to be free to let the songs come to life.

I was also very tuned into the detail of the pedal steel and acoustic guitars. The levels and accents of both made it sound the way it does. All of this comes with getting older and being more patient and relaxed.

Many things on this recording were done on the spot in the studio. It was very organic you might say. And with that I let go and let people do what they do best. Very rewarding.

Untethered5.0 – What did it take to get the sound you were looking for on the record?

I knew it in my head.

I had a clear vision of what it was I wanted and but at the same time it was not letting that idea take control. The Stones song “Let It Bleed” and that LP  was the basis for the entire release production wise. The instrument selection along the way was fun too. Some of my old guitars & mandolins & banjo’s would just step right up and say this song is my song.  I then focused on the acoustic track and the snare.

6.0 – What took so long for the sophomore effort to the debut, 22 Dollars?

I had a family. My Son was born right after 22 Dollars came out. We had a daughter two years later. So life was busy for me just that simple. In  2011 we moved from an old stone house built in 1926 to a new townhouse.  No house maintenance and the kids being older was a real treat. The songs just poured out that summer.

7.0 – What’s your attitude when it comes to your gear live and/or in the studio?

Simplicity and tone.

My live gear is very basic. 59′ Grestch 6120, 58′ Fender tweed deluxe amp and a early 70’s Echoplex. That’s it.

The studio is a real treat. I have been collecting vintage instruments since the mid 80’s when I was in college. Nothing is more fun than bringing these old guitars, mandolins, banjos, steels and amps to life. I want them all to be used and to sing. Let the instruments do their job. I’m just strumming.

8.0 – How does a song usually start for you, with a riff? a title? a progression?

Typically its a title or a key line in a song and I build on that. The song “Every Empty Bottle” was originally called “Reinvent The Feel”. I came up with that line one night in my garage and wrote it on the side of a box with a sharpie pen. I looked up at that box for over a year. Then I used the phrase in the song. The idea of reinventing a feel stuck with me. The song wrote itself after that.

“High water” was written during the hurricane we had in august of 2011. The amount of rain was used as a parallel to a past romance I had. The song just spun naturally out with using the vision of a big flood and a tough breakup. The riff was much more rock as I was using barre chords. I changed the feel using the first position voicing.

9.0 – Is it true rockabilly is a way of life where, if you don’t buy in full-on, you are an outsider?

I have always been somewhat of an outsider with the rockabilly scene. Gas Money was described once as The Replacements of Rockabilly“. We have never really been embraced as a rockabilly band per se. Nor did I want to be.  We play lots of rockabilly but there was something a little wrong about the way we played it in the 90’s.

I have a deep love for rockabilly and I always will. The shit that comes along with the music however is somewhat silly. I have had an odd relationship with the genre for a long time. The music is magic but the scene surrounding it makes me a bit uneasy. Those big rockabilly shows are like Halloween parties.

Playing live now however we do three sets of classic honky tonk and rockabilly. The bars and clubs we play are interested in dancing and drinking not original music. We don’t get paid playing our tunes. The classics are really fun and ya know who else in Philly is playing George Jones “You’re Still On My Mind” with a pedal steel player on a sat night. No one. I think in a way it helped my song writing with playing classic honky tonk songs.

10.0 – Is it possible that certain guitars may contain magical properties?

It is true. I have a few pre-war Gibson flat tops,  50’s Gretsch hollow-bodies as well as some pre-war Gibson mandolins and banjos. Each one really is unique and has its own voice and character. As a player I can pick up a guitar at a friends house or at a vintage guitar show and just “feel” it.  Especially the pre-war mandolins and banjos. They want to talk and just don’t get out like they used to. yeah old wood is magic without a doubt. It’s intoxicating if you get hooked on it.

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TIM BURNS w/ AVENUE N GUITARS

When did your fascination with guitars begin and Is it curable? I recall as a kid having an interest in guitars long before I knew how to play one. I have a vivid memory of dragging my poor mom into a music store and gawking at a hanging row of shiny new Gibson Firebird’s. There is a disease associated with guitar lust. It’s commonly referred to as GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome). So far I have not heard of a cure.

Do you still listen to the same players that turned you on as a kid?  Absolutely! You never quit learning from your mentors. It’s like watching a favorite movie 100 times and every time catching something you didn’t notice before. To this day I’m always fascinated listening to Jimmy Page, Brian May, Freddie King, etc.

What was the first guitar you ever owned? do you still have it?  Ok, disregarding the plastic banjo (prop) I had for my first public performance at around age 4, my first guitar was a lovely Hohner dreadnought, you know, the $99 variety. It had a skinny neck and never would tune properly. The coolest thing about it was the faux denim chip board case it came in. After all, it was the early ’70’s, baby. I gave that guitar to a student sometime in the late ’80’s. I was trading guitar lessons for kick boxing training.

It seems as if your timing and location were right on the money: how is Wicker Park treating you guys today?  Wicker Park is still one of the most vibrant and artistic communities in Chicago. I think we fit in here well. It has a great central location relative to the rest of the city. Good public trans., etc. Close to some good clubs, too. We see a lot of local and touring musician’s. Our starting time could have been better (right at the beginning of the economy bubble burst), but we’ve made the best of it.

How do you feel Avenue N Guitars is different than other musical equipment retailers in Chicago?  Certainly there are other great ma and pa music stores in the Chicagoland area, but, and this may sound cliche, I think the one thing that sets us apart is at the heart of it, we really do care about music and the people that make it and play it. Our main goal is to support that. We don’t have any gimmicks here, no slick sales pitches. We stand by everything we do. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a long and intimate history with vintage guitars and that market not to mention our guitar and amp service dept’s are one of the best kept secrets in Chicago.

How do you turn a walk-in new customer into a repeat offender? Again, by expressing our concern, going that extra yardage and providing the best customer service we possibly can.

How has the internet, ebay and the like impacted the guitar biz over the last decade? Huge impact. eBay has made a big dent in competition for small retailers. On the other hand it is useful for sales and a handy price comparison tool. Having a website can also be a great sales tool even if only used as advertising. A lot of people have developed retail businesses solely on eBay and websites. The ones that hustle have done very well although ebay sales have slipped over the last few years with the economy the way it is. Overall, the internet has been a game changer and mostly for the best, however, it’s not without negatives for small retailers. For example, it’s nearly immpossible to compete with corporate giants such as GC who not only sell on their own websites at grossly discounted prices (because that can buy from vendors in bulk at great discounts), but also sell on other internet sites they own as well such as American Music Supply, Music 123 and Musician’s Friend to name just a few.

Who do you think are making the best new electrics on the market today? any hot tips? The best new electrics, of course, come from the hands of custom builders and generally with a premium price. If we’re talking the big dogs (Gibson, Fender, etc.) and mass production, it’s hard to say. There has been a lot of scrambling going on it recent years. All the big companies keep producing more and more new models in every possible price point. In doing so, I feel they keep slipping further and further away from their roots as quality guitar makers. They seem to have no clue about their own history. Integrity and quality has long ago taken a back seat to profit margin. My question is this: if you are going to spend $3000 of your hard earned money on that Les Paul Custom you always wanted, would you buy the brand new plastic looking CNC machine made one or the cool old vintage one?

What’s is the strangest request you have received from a customer?  As a tip for good service, I once had a customer ask if I wanted to ‘light one up’ right at the front counter of the store. It was about one in the afternoon and the store was full of customers.

Should smashing guitars be made legal too?  For some guitars it definitely should be legal!

JOHN NORRIS

1.0 – How did you get your start in the music business?

I played with bands in the late 1970s/early 80s in Ireland, wound up in Hamburg, Germany in the mid 80s and started working as a crew member on tours. I toured with a variety of acts including Devo, Rory Gallagher, Nick Cave, Einstürzende Neubauten

2.0 – Peterson has quite a long and rich history, when did you first become aware of them and how did you ultimately become involved with the brand?

I used Peterson strobe tuners on the road always, no self-respecting roadie should be without one. All my peers used them. The challenges onstage during a show are many and varied, and you need to arm yourself with the very best tools to excel. Sometimes I see guys trying to get by with a needle/LED tuner and struggling with things like tuning acoustic instruments in deafening conditions, which is no problem with a mechanical strobe. It’s just about having the right tools for the job. I started repairing the older models for colleagues and through contact over the years with the factory in Chicago, built up a relationship with Peterson that led to the offer of a job in the U.S. a dozen years ago.

3.0 – The Who’s-Who of real touring artists know Peterson is the gold standard,  is it difficult finding ways to bring that message to new, less established musicians?

It can be harder because of the nature of the product; a tuner is a functional piece of gear. There are those who value an effects pedal like a chorus or delay more than a high end tuner, but they forget that tuning is crucial. It’s the building blocks of tone, because harmonic content is a vital part of tone, and the only way to influence it is by tuning as precisely as possible.

4.0 – Do you find it ironic that most of the early live recordings of folks like Hendrix & Zeppelin are often grossly out-of tune?

People sometimes say that but it’s not entirely true, people don’t realize that strobe tuners have been around since the mid-1930s and it was the advent of recording and the “Talkies”, not Rock ‘n’ Roll which spurred interest in tuning properly, by that I mean the first time attention was paid to overtones and harmonic content.

Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and even the Sex Pistols and the Ramones  had strobe tuners in their arsenal of gear.

In those days when actual Rock Stars walked the Earth maybe they didn’t always use them or were maybe too out of it to do so! Nevertheless, those artists did have an innate sense of what is “in tune”.

Being “in tune” is also open to interpretation, dissonance is as much of a sonic tool as consonance is, listen to any epic guitar solo and it is peppered (and sweetened!) with both. The trick is to be aware of which is which and why.

5.0 – In terms of live concerts, what’s the hairiest artist-related situation you have ever had to deal with? 

Let’s see, dismantling part of a building in Moscow in order to “procure” instruments (scrap metal) for German industrial noise band Einstürzende Neubauten with the KGB style officials breathing down my neck or maybe doing a gig with a scantily clad Nina Hagen in a maximum security prison would probably count.

6.0 – I imagine you have fielded strange requests from artists over the years as a roadie and at Peterson? 

As an ex-roadie my lips are sealed (Ancient Order of The Road forbids it :-).

At Peterson, plenty of strange requests, a tuner for chemical silos to indicate how much material was left inside (existing systems are apparently not very good!).

A request for a tuner for suspension bridge tensioning (!)

Tuning the Peterson Bottle Organ.

At the recent Royal Diamond Jubilee in the UK, the eight bells adorning the prow of the Queens barge were tuned using a Peterson Strobe Tuner.

7.0 – You have quite a guitar collection, any favorites you could never part with?

I have a 1977 Gurian JM that I’m very fond of, and a 1956 Gibson LG1 that’s got quite a charm to it, I also have a couple of ‘70s Guild twelve string guitar that I like. At Peterson, we use a wide range of instruments when creating our sweetened tuning presets and we often include our own personal instruments.

8.0 – If you could program Star Trek’s Holodeck with a couple concert settings you lived, what would the menu look like?

Leipzig, Germany Oct 25th 1989: On tour through East Germany (or GDR as it was known then), with a bunch of artists. The lead singer of one of the bands coyly wishes the audience “all the best for the future”, and is met with silence, then one handclap, then two, then three, erupting into a standing ovation. A few days later, the Berlin Wall falls.

Hamburg, Germany March 31st 1990:  Standing beside Jerry Lee Lewis after delivering the “piano du jour” for him to warm up on, when Jerry Lee says “boys, this is a fine piano, some day when I got the money, I’m gonna buy me one o’ these”. My crew buddy Jed glances at the stacks of dollars in the room which JLL insisted he be paid in and pipes up “the money lying around here would do fine as a down payment”. Happily we got out alive without JLL taking umbrage.

Hamburg, Germany Oct 24th 1990:  Dizzy Gillespie sits down beside me at the back of the stage by the dimmers, looks at the band, looks at me and says “Ain’t that a heck of a band?” It was his own band who he often allowed to “stretch out” by leaving the stage to them, a generous guy.

Paris, France 18th Dec 1992 Rory Gallagher playing up a storm, blows his amps up, which trips a circuit breaker taking out the entire PA. Rory switches to acoustic guitar and plays unamplified to a hushed crowd, until some unfortunate individual exits the restrooms via the very squeaky door, cue the entire crowd looking around to see who the heretic was!

Osaka, Japan July 8th 1993:  Explaining to a frightened stage manager that no, I didn’t need any hi octane fuel to power the tuned jet turbine used on the set of Einstürzende Neubauten and no, we didn’t need to set the stage on fire like last time……………

9.0 – How do you feel about the auto-tuning phenomenon?

I think it has its place, but there are so many people using it without any knowledge of or regard for proper intonation and temperament theory (you cannot tune everything as you would a guitar) and that’s why it sounds so artificial even when used sparingly. If you’ve ever tried to make a keyboard sound like a horn section, the same problem arises.

I can always hear it, it’s very easy to detect and differentiate from naturally in-tune recordings.

I guess I should say I’m more a fan of the preventative (tune and intonate properly when recording) rather than the curative (fix it later).

10.0 – Sound analysis is crucial in testing architectural stability for the world’s most ambitious structures and it has been postulated that sound was the secret to the building of the pyramids; is sound the most powerful force in the universe?

I would say that sound is all pervasive.