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Rig Rundown: Henry Kaiser's Five Times Surprise

A studio visit with the new gear-heavy improv/art-rock supergroup that includes Henry Kaiser, Andy West, and Anthony Pirog.

Andy West’s main bass is a 6-string custom made by Modulus Graphite founder Geoff Gould in San Francisco. It has a 5-string neck, for tighter spacing, which make it easier to cross between strings with a pick while playing fast lines. The neck is graphite, naturally, and it’s got EMG active humbucking pickups, which he’s been using since he was an early adopter of Steinberger basses, in 1979. The bridge humbucker has coil-splitting. He notes that while his bass has “infinite sounds, you end up using two or three sounds that you want.” His strings are medium gauge La Bella super-polished, so they have some flatwound characteristics. Green leather chair not included.

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With a team of experts on hand, we look at six workhorse vintage amps you can still find for around $1,000 or less.

If you survey the gear that shows up on stages and studios for long enough, you’ll spot some patterns in the kinds of guitar amplification players are using. There’s the rotating cast of backline badasses that do the bulk of the work cranking it out every day and night—we’re all looking at you, ’65 Deluxe Reverb reissue.

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Amazon Prime Day is here (July 16-17). Whether you're a veteran player or just picking up your first guitar, these are some bargains you don't want to miss. Check out more deals here! https://amzn.to/3LskPRV

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A technicolor swirl of distortion, drive, boost, and ferocious fuzz.

Summons a wealth of engaging, and often unique, boost, drive, distortion, and fuzz tones that deviate from common templates. Interactive controls.

Finding just-right tones, while rewarding, might demand patience from less assured and experienced drive-pedal users. Tone control could be more nuanced.

$199

Danelectro Nichols 1966
danelectro.com

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The Danelectro Nichols 1966, in spite of its simplicity, feels and sounds like a stompbox people will use in about a million different ways. Its creator, Steve Ridinger, who built the first version as an industrious Angeleno teen in 1966, modestly calls the China-made Nichols 1966 a cross between a fuzz and a distortion. And, at many settings, it is most certainly that.

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The author standing next to a Richardson gunstock lathe purchased from Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory. It was used to make six necks at a time at Gibson in the 1950s and 1960s.

Keep your head down and put in the work if you want to succeed in the gear-building business.

The accelerated commodification of musical instruments during the late 20th century conjures up visions of massive factories churning out violins, pianos, and, of course, fretted instruments. Even the venerable builders of the so-called “golden age” were not exactly the boutique luthier shops of our imagination.

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