If you play guitar, you’re a musician. And if you also write your own music, you’re an artist. It doesn’t have anything to do with how much money you make or how famous you are. We live in a time that honors that title, which is a huge leap for our society. Since I was a kid, I’d heard tales of handwringing parents who, when confronted with their child’s desire to become an artist of any kind, advised against it—pleading with their children to get a “proper” education, or at least have a backup plan. Painters, poets, sculptors, and writers were often portrayed as starving, wretched outcasts who died penniless. The exceptions who succeeded financially were few, and not usually musicians.
So how did the perception of an artist’s life go from certain squalor to being a career path? My guess is that as the visibility and economics of artistry blossomed, artists took their careers more seriously, and the public’s perception of them shifted in kind.
The poet Arthur Rimbaud, admired by the likes of Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan, famously spoke of making himself a seer by breaking moral rules and societal norms, fostering a mental state in which he could create work that inspired his audience. This sort of idealized debauchery was a template for artists centuries before Charlie Parker or Hank Williams. Artists often say that they are driven to create, and of this I have no doubt. But there are those who live “the life” and those who also see art as a profession—and know the difference.
Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton attired in full costume—golf shirts and pastel trousers.
An illustration of this is the mythology of the heavy metal life. I first began working with the members of Judas Priest in the early 1980s. Despite more than a decade of playing music professionally and dealing with touring bands of all stripes, I approached my first meeting with them with some trepidation. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton attired in full costume—golf shirts and pastel trousers. As if in a parallel universe, these monsters of rock asked politely if I could secure a tee time for them at a local golf club. Later, when designing guitars for their Fuel for Life tour, I met with the band along with their set and costume designers to coordinate the group’s stage look. We pored over colorful leather swatches and dozens of metal stud samples. This is not to say that the band didn’t love their music, but that they realized the first word in the phrase show business is … well, you get the picture.
Many great artists are not recognized or remunerated in their own lifetime. But today, enough creators have become wealthy and fawned upon by the media, helping to offset the images of Rimbaud, William Faulkner, or Jackson Pollock surrounded by empty whiskey bottles. Similarly, as painters, writers, and musicians have become more famous for their net worth than their alcohol and drug consumption, the artist’s career choice has taken its place besides professional athletes and business entrepreneurs. Of course, the modern-day image of sober and respectable musicians like Keith Richards and his writing partner, Sir Mick, hasn’t hurt the shift in attitudes towards musicians. It’s not rare to hear chefs, actors, and quarterbacks referred to as rock stars. It wasn’t that long ago that athletes and musicians were in opposite political and lifestyle corners.
The push to legalize cannabis in America is another sign that previously taboo behaviors are now acceptably mainstream. Coded drug references used to be the musician’s bailiwick, but that too has gone mainstream. In 1968, Steppenwolf’s John Kay sang “the dealer is a man with the love grass in his hand,” but now you can just walk into the dispensary and use your Apple Pay. This takes the edge off a wide swath of the outlaw lyric pool.Nonconformist behavior, once the domain of artists, is now everywhere. In fact, you can turn on Netflix any time and see stories of normal people behaving as badly or worse than Mötley Crüe. Although there will always be casualties in the art world, the public at large now sees the glamour and commerce more than the debauchery, and I think that’s good. If history tells us anything it’s that fashion changes and attitudes shift, but right now I’m enjoying the acceptance of artists of all kinds in our world. It’s wonderful that every child with a box of paints is encouraged to create, and parents don’t deride their children for listing “artist” as their career goal. Although honestly, it’s good to have a backup plan.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.