I spend much of my work time traveling and have come up with routines and rituals that help me make it through the journey relatively unscathed.
I'm writing this from yet another
characterless hotel room
where I will again lay my weary
head, keep my clothes in a bag,
and plant my guitar on the extra
bed for the next month. I spend
much of my work time traveling
and have come up with routines
and rituals that help me make
it through the journey relatively
unscathed. Although it's said the
worse vice is advice, here I go
with my road-dog travel tips.
1. Hotels are, by and large, disgusting.
You don't have to be a forensic scientist armed with a black light to know that most hotel rooms are basically one big petri dish, teeming with somebody else's funk. High volume, quick turnaround, and an overworked, underpaid and disgruntled staff makes for some nasty sleeping quarters. When first entering your rented digs, put on some rubber gloves if you have them, and throw that DNA-ridden bed comforter into the most remote corner of the room. Don't touch it again. If it's warm enough, do the same with those seldom-washed blankets and go sheets-only during your stay.
Speaking of sheets—though this may sound like a Howard Hughes level of mysophobia— take a quick look for bedbugs. They're oval in shape, brownish/ reddish in color, and tend to leave tiny black spots (yes, that's excrement) on linens and furniture. (Just typing this makes me a little queasy and itchy all at once.) Like Aerosmith after rehab, bedbugs have enjoyed a big comeback in the last few years, so it's not a bad idea to pull back the sheets and see what you find. Though I've never actually found bedbugs, I've had a few nauseating surprises waiting for me between the top and bottom sheets— including many curly hairs, a soiled condom, a Jugs magazine, and an empty bottle of Lewis & Clark vodka.
While on the subject of vodka, ever poured a drink into a hotel glass and thought, “Gee, this tastes odd?" That's because sometimes hotel glasses and coffee mugs aren't washed, but instead given a hefty shot of Windex and quick wipe. You'd be better off taking your chances with a random dirty glass than ingesting that poisonous cleaner. Stick to the hermetically sealed plastic cups and give that coffee maker and mug a good washing in the sink.
One last safety tip: Don't prop open your door, or open it to unexpected strangers. Kenneth Smith—a great player I toured with for years—got a knock on his hotel door one night, and opened it assuming it was a friend or bandmate. Instead, he was greeted by two armed men who forced their way in and robbed him at gunpoint. Kenneth is a big ol' boy who pounds the hell out of drums for a living, but he was powerless when confronted by drug-fueled, gun-toting nut jobs. It sounds a bit fantastic, but this stuff actually happens.
2. Pack light.
A wise man said that those things we cannot do without we do not possess—but rather they possess us. Traveling is a good opportunity to shake off the stuff that quite literally drags us down. I can go for weeks with one pair of jeans, one dress shirt, four t-shirts, shorts for working out, and ample socks and underwear. I pack almost nothing in the toiletry department—relying instead on free hotel amenities for razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
I use that ubiquitous free skin lotion in hotels as a combination hair gel/shaving cream/moisturizer. I also use airline baggage tags as a lint remover—just pull it off your bag handle, open it up and start dabbing that sticky glue side to the dog hair on your stage clothes.
3. Walk your guitar on the plane.
Although baggage tags are handy, you don't want them on your guitar case. Carry your guitar on and avoid having it get lost, broken or stolen before your gig. Airline employees will tell you it won't fit in the overhead, but it usually will. When they give you the gate-check tag—take it passively, thank them cordially, then covertly rip it off the guitar and hide it in your pocket as you walk down the ramp. Cram that guitar into the first semi-open overhead you find, and be a nuisance if you must by moving other people's bags around.
I take approximately 60 flights a year with a guitar, and with the exception of a big acoustic on a tiny commuter plane, my guitar always makes it up top. When boarding about 40 of those flights, a flight attendant will ask in a chipper, singsong voice, “Are you going to serenade us on the flight?" To which I reply in an equally happy, singsong tone, “Are you going to buy me a couple of drinks?" Sometimes that's good for a Bloody Mary or two.
4. Be good to your body.
Life on the road can turn the most regular person into a producer of hard pellets. To avoid crippling constipation, pack some Psyllium or Metamucil to ensure you get your roughage, and drink lots of water as flights desiccate your body tissues. And try to get some exercise, even if it's just a few jumping jacks in your filthy hotel room to keep things movin'.
5. When in Rome, enjoy and save your dough-re-mi.
If you tour out of the country at all, consider buying a magic- Jack—a device that turns your computer into a free international calling station. They cost around $40, with a $20 annual renewal fee. You could spend more than that on one hotel-room call from London to Hoboken.
Save more bread by packing plenty of strings, picks, capos and cables. All that stuff is wildly expensive when you leave the States and sometimes impossible to find, depending on how remote your destination.
If you're touring Europe, bring along Rick Steves' travel guides and work in some sightseeing between gigs. These books are loaded with great info and will help you make the most of your limited time and resources. Steves also has amazingly entertaining and informative free audio tours that you can download at home, put on your iPod and use as you travel.
Well, there it is musician traveler. Whether you're a complete xenophobe or a life-long gypsy, some of these tips may help you along your journey to the next gig.
John Bohlinger is
a Nashville-based guitarist
who works primarily
in TV and has recorded
and toured with over 30
major-label artists. His songs
and playing can be heard
in major motion pictures, on major-label
releases, and in literally hundreds of television
drops. Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger
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.