The cluster bomb anarchy of guitarist Geordie Greep and bassist Cameron Picton balances their ultra-dynamic howl-and-purr sound.
Black Midi is a young, progressive outfit from the U.K., and their music is abrasive and outrageous. Except when it isn't.
"I hate stuff which is purposefully ugly or difficult or too obtuse or whatever you want to call it—where there's a conscious avoidance of consonance or melody," says guitarist and lead vocalist Geordie Greep. "We want to do stuff that's interesting and has loads of tension and drama, but also has the sweetness there, so the tension and the drama is much more effective. All the best music has that—where there's this crazy stuff happening, but there's also really nice stuff or conventional things going on. It's about the relativity of those two things."
"We wanted the quiet bits to be even quieter than they were on the first record," bassist Cameron Picton adds. "We wanted the loud bits to be even louder and crazier, and the nice bits to be even sweeter and softer."
So, yes, despite the hype—as well as their now-almost-legendary incendiary 2018 performance at a hostel in Iceland for KEXP—Black Midi has a sweet side. But it's sweetness with purpose that, when juxtaposed with heavier elements, brings out the tension and drama Greep is referring to. Those contrasts permeate their second album, Cavalcade, which follows their 2019 debut long-player, Schlagenheim. The new release's opening track, the fire-breathing "John L"—make sure to check out the song's perfectly choreographed accompanying video—is followed by "Marlene Dietrich," which oozes '70s velvety lounge jazz. And the King Crimson–meets–Man Man sounding "Hogwash and Balderdash" is paired with the breathy and airy "Ascending Forth." That diversity also plays out within the compositions "Slow" and "Dethroned." The upshot is, Black Midi's full-blooded music is not constant yelling. It takes you on a journey, and as you follow along it throws you for loop after loop.
But through-composed music and careful sequencing only tells part of the story, especially since Black Midi's roots are in almost endless jamming. "It just became about jamming, and we got stuck in a bit of a rut," Picton says. "We got the idea that the only way to write songs was through jamming, which was a weird thing. We said it in interviews, so it had to be true, but it wasn't really. We did it to fulfill the thing we said in interviews. Two of the new album's tracks are from a year's worth of jamming ["John L" and "Chondromalacia Patela"], and we were like, 'Oh shit, we've been jamming for a year and we've got two songs out of it.' We needed to think of a more productive way to write songs."
"I use a five-millimeter pick. When I was younger, I tried to play Gypsy jazz, and I heard that Django Reinhardt used a 5-millimeter pick."—Geordie Greep
"We were playing these longform, 20-minute tracks, which weren't even really songs," Greep adds. "They were just sound creations. When we started doing shows, we decided to write proper songs, and there were a few songs that were a lot more traditionally written. But for a while, we made songs by having the Can-style approach, where you jam out for ages and then take the best bits. We did that for the first album for the majority of the tunes. For Cavalcade, we've gone back to the more traditional songwriting approach. We were moving in that direction anyway. Almost half the album was already done before the whole coronavirus thing hit. The coronavirus just accelerated that change, really. It was inevitable."
In addition to taking a more pragmatic approach to songwriting, another big change when preparing for Cavalcade was that second guitarist, Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, took a hiatus from the band for personal reasons. Kwasniewski-Kelvin's departure had a major impact on their sound, as well as their songwriting. (Morgan Simpson remains as drummer.)
Illustration by Anthrox Studio
"When we did the first album—as well as for live performances—I always used a baritone guitar," Greep says. "The idea was that bass was the low end, Matt was on a regular guitar, and then the baritone I played was in the middle. It was an orchestral thing. But because Matt isn't a part of it this time around, I mainly just used a regular guitar. First of all, it was really nice to play the regular guitar again. It's a lot easier, and you're able to play proper chords. On baritone—or on any low instrument—when you play chords, or something like thirds lower down, they get completely lost. They start to sound out of tune or weird. Playing on the regular guitar and being able to do proper chord progressions in songs was refreshing and changed the music completely. On the first album, most of the music is monophonic. It was one chord droning away. We were doing different parts, but all on the one chord. But the music on Cavalcade is much more chord-progression based." Having a single guitarist also makes the music more spacious. "I've always liked bands where there would be a guitar solo without any rhythm guitar underneath, like in Rush. That was cool as well. That space made it interesting."
Geordie Greep's Gear
- Reverend Descent baritone
- Yamaha SA-60
- Fender Stratocaster
- Orange TH30 Combo
Strings and Picks
- Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom (.010–.052)
- Ernie Ball 6-String Baritone Slinky (.013–.072)
- Dunlop Primetone Classic Sharp Tip Pick 5.0 mm
- Boss GE-7B Bass Equalizer
- Boss CS-2 Compression Sustainer
- Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai
- Source Audio Ultrawave Multiband Processor
- Suhr Riot Distortion
- Keeley Bubble Tron Dynamic Flanger Phaser
Until the new album, Cavalcade, Greep's main stage guitar was his Reverend Descent baritone, so he could claim the space between original-line-up guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin and bassist Cameron Picton, at Greep's left here.
Photo by Debi Del Grande
Cameron Picton's Gear
- Rickenbacker 4003
- Eastwood Sidejack
- Orange AD30
- Ernie Ball Slinky (.050–.105)
- Dunlop .77 mm
- Empress Bass Compressor
- ZVEX Mastotron
- MASF Raptio
- Boss DD-6 Digital Delay
- HomeBrew Electronics THC Chorus
- DOD Meatbox Subsynth
- Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
Space, especially the long breaks in the hyper-tight, polyrhythmic, unison ensemble sections in songs like "John L," is another important tool the band uses to create a sense of tension and release. Although that's not always on purpose, and sometimes they're just doing it to keep the audience on their toes. "That bit in 'John L' … that's like King Crimson with the stops. That was a way to get a rhythm that we'll play that's, like, crazy in every set," Picton says. "A lot of it is loose and jammy, but we want to have one bit that is super-tight and with stupid changes. It's just a crazy rhythm and doing a constant beat."
Black Midi's complex rhythmic feel works in concert with their atonal, albeit accessible, approach to melody. At first listen, some of Greep's leads seem almost random, but that's not the case, and his concept is not as haphazard or avant-garde as you might think.
"I have quite a low concentration when it comes to traditional practice," Greep says about some of the more advanced harmonic concepts he's studied. "Stuff like that, I'll look into it for a few days, but my guitar playing really is just the blues scale—that and the major and minor scale. But I've never really thought of it in terms of scales. It's more that over time I'll slowly figure out what intervals I like, what ones I don't, which kinds of patterns I prefer, and which ones I don't. I've slowly built up a repository of riffs or patterns. In terms of any crazy scales, the only one I can think of that I consciously use is the octatonic scale [an eight-note scale that alternates between half-steps and whole steps]. I used that quite a lot on this album."
Clearly, careful attention to space, stark contrasts, dynamics, and composition were essential to the making of Cavalcade. Another key ingredient was tone, which, for Greep at least, comes from using a graphic EQ as an overdrive.
TIDBIT: Following their new modus operandi for songwriting, only two tunes on the new album grew out of jams. "We needed to think of a more productive way to write songs," says Cameron Picton.
"My main pedal on this album, which I used loads and loads and loads, is a Boss Bass Equalizer GE-7B that I got from eBay," he says. "It is a simple pedal and drives the amp in a nice way. When you hear people try to do an AC/DC or Black Sabbath sound, do you notice how they'll use too much distortion and it'll be too mushy? Yet on the stuff back then, you can hear the chords properly. That's because it is a loud amp, and it's not crazy stuff going on. This pedal retains that so you can play thick crazy chords—you can use a #11 or whatever—and yet you'll still be able to hear all the notes and it still has a nice sound. And that's my main drive sound."
Greep also has another trick up his sleeve. He uses enormous guitar picks. "I use a 5-millimeter pick," he says. Read that again. He doesn't mean a 0.5-millimeter guitar pick. He means a 5-millimeter guitar pick. "When I was younger, I tried to play Gypsy jazz, and I heard that Django Reinhardt used a 5-millimeter pick. I tried it out, and it makes it easier because it is such a bigger thing that you're holding. The dynamics are easier because you're not exerting as much stress between your thumb and finger. You can hold the pick lighter and play harder or lighter with less force. It's one of those things that sounds stupid, and then you try it and it is really cool. You play faster with it, too. It just gives you way more dexterity. I don't know how it works."
But, like seemingly everything else Black Midi does, it is unconventional. And you wouldn't expect it, but it does work.
black midi - bmbmbm (Hyundai Mercury Prize 2019)
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.