Blog

INTERVIEW: CERYS MATTHEWS

This week I had the honour of catching up with singer, songwriter, author and broadcaster Cerys Matthews to discuss her solo career, Catatonia, Radio 6 and “The Good Life Experience”.

GS:     With the recent success of Welsh Language Music Day reaching over 3 million people, firstly I'd like to ask if there are any up and coming artists you think have the potential to become the next big thing from Wales?

CM:     I don’t like to discern between old or new, and right now, I can’t get enough of Llio Rhydderch, who’s been around a while, but isn’t widely known enough in my mind…she is a triple harp player, such an intuitive player, it’s like listening to Miles Davis or someone of that musicality.

GS:     When writing new material yourself, do you have a go-to instrument when you begin the creative process?

CM:    I have a Martin triple 0 acoustic guitar that's been my workhorse both for writing and touring for many years. Neil Young gifted it to me when we signed to his Vapor Records label in the 90s. It responds well, it doesn’t make a fuss, it’s small and so easy to handle, and it’s beautifully warm sounding.     

GS:     Do you have a favourite guitar?, One you can’t leave home without? 

CM:    I have a vintage 'The Gibson’ which they think is from 1931 (The Gibson is what's printed in handwriting style on the head stock), so light you can hardly believe it. But so old, and so fragile, that it stays at home with me where I can look after it.

GS:    Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?

CM:    I’m like a jack of all and master of none; I started collecting recorders when I was 5, then went on to flute, then finally settled with oboe. I make noises with harmonicas, and play the piano, but it’s guitar I return to again and again.  

GS:     Have you had any music tuition or are you a self taught musician?

CM:     I started my obsession when a recorder was put in my hand at school when I was 5. It snowballed from there, collecting all sorts of recorders, treble, bass tenor, fife and sopranino, then taught myself guitar, started trying to write songs, and then started having a few piano lessons. I didn’t study music in secondary school, but went off to Spain at 18 to learn more about Flamenco and by then had also started collecting records from musicians I loved. Mississippi John Hurt, Snooks Eaglin, Dylan etc as well as song books from around the globe to learn traditional songs from all over.    

GS:     Did you always want to be a musician or did you ever have any other career aspirations?

CM:    I always wanted to be a musician, didn’t always think it might happen.  

GS:     It’s been a few years since you last recorded and released an album, are you planning on releasing any new material during 2017?

CM:    I’ll release an album at some point in the future, it’s percolating at the moment. Until then, I so enjoy sharing my love of music on my Sunday show I programme each week for BBC 6 Music and the BBC World Service show I host. It's a total joy for me to choose an entire 3 hour show each week. It feels quite creative so it keeps me totally happy musically speaking, and a world away from the pressures and time sacrifices of touring.   

GS:     The bulk of your solo material has been released via Rainbow City Recordings, could you tell us a little more about the label?

CM:    It’s become ‘Marvels of the Universe’ by now, but I set it up so that I could record and release music when I wanted to.  It worked out wonderfully, I wish I'd done it years ago, and encourage other artists to do so.  I also release other peoples music now too e.g. Ghazalaw - a Welsh Indian project weaving Ghazals and old Welsh verse .   

GS:     How involved in the production side of things are you when working on a new record? Do you get involved in the mixing and mastering process? 

CM:    I’m totally involved from start to finish, and have done so since the beginning, including Catatonia time too. I love the process, coming up with the structure for the songs, arrangements, hook lines, and instrumentation, as well of course as writing the chord pattern, main melodies and lyrics and finally the sound of the mix and master, order of songs and presentation.

GS:    With all the current reunion tours featuring bands from the 90’s, do you see Catatonia ever reforming for a tour or possible new album in the future?

CM:    No

GS:    What have been the highlights for you during your musical career to date?

CM:    Meeting fellow musicians, music fans and record label folk: Mulatu Astatke, Herb Alpert, Allen Toussaint, Jac Holzman, Jack Bruce, James Burton...singing with Larry Adler, Tom Jones and David Honeyboy Edwards...also add singing with a brass band in New Orleans...

GS:    You have collaborated with many artists in the past including Sir Tom Jones and Space, Do you have an artist you would love to collaborate with in the future?

CM:    Christy Moore.   

GS:    You have many talents from singing, guitarist, author, broadcaster, to festival organiser. Is there a particular role you enjoy the most?

CM:    Programming radio, and playing this great music, all era all genres, all languages, to a like-minded curious and intelligent, if hungover ;) audience live each Sunday (10am-1pm) has got to rate as one of the best jobs in the world.

GS:    How do you balance your time between your professional career and your family life?

CM:    The same as most working women, I get it done, and am glad that I have the right to choose.   

GS:     Since 2014, yourself, Steve Abbott, Charlie Gladstone and Caroline Gladstone have been involved in creating the ever growing popular outdoor festival ‘The Good Life Experience’. How did it all start? 

CM:    We wanted a festival where the punter wasn’t just a way of milking money. Away from corporate pressures, we wanted to create a place where people could come and get new ideas, feel inspired, try their hand at new things, skills, craft beer, pit cooking, abseiling down trees, coracle racing, whatever floated their boats really.  It’s all hand picked stuff across a range of interests: books, food, great outdoors, exploring, science, wild swimming, music of course, cider making, honey whiskey, all sorts of crafts and free vintage fair rides. We wanted to make it a deal as we saw festivals were so expensive, and not always perfectly programmed nor particularly interesting in experiences you can try, skills learnt and memories made.    

GS:    What is your vision for the festival in the future?

CM:    More fires, more music, more beer, more books, more philosophy, more pot cooking, more tree climbing, more debate, more coracle races and more hoe downs…

 

GS:    Cerys, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to guitarschool22.co.uk today. It’s been an honour and it has been really interesting to hear how you shape and mould your songs. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2017 and for the future!

 

This years 'Good Life Experience' festival will be held on September 15th, 16th and 17th 2017 in Hawarden Flintshire, just 8 minutes drive from Chester. For your tickets visit https://www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk/ 

Published May 20017 by guitarschool22.co.uk  

GET THE NOEL GALLAGHER TONE

Following Oasis singer/songwriter and lead guitarist Noel Gallagher for over two decades, I have always taken an interest in the instruments and technical gear he is using. Today, Noel's pedal board is extensive, with his current rig costing in excess of £6000. However, back in the 1990's it was a different story. In this article I unveil the guitars, effects and amplifiers Noel used to create that huge stadium rock tone that inspired a generation and explain how to achieve his sound on a budget.

This Mancunian Brit Pop legend has always looked his most comfortable on stage. Cast your mind back to Main Road, Manchester in 1996, minus a laminated walking map you'd be forgiven for thinking Noel was about to join a ramblers society. He enters the stage wearing a navy blue and olive green Berghaus cagoule with matching green cargo pants. He seems elated and wastes no time in raising the expectation level as he greets the crowd before reaching for his custom made Union Jack hollow body guitar, the Epiphone Sheraton. This now famous guitar had always intrigued me with its Sheraton headstock and its Riviera bridge, something I searched for in guitar shops up and down the country for years to no avail.

In the early days Noel always seemed to sport a hollow body guitar. The first ever live footage I saw was the 1994 show at Southend Cliffs Pavilion, where he played a wine red Epiphone Casino. The Casino was ever present at those early shows, and it was always Epiphone guitars Noel was playing. He used to boast they were every bit as good as the more expensive Gibson models.  These days, however, it's rare you'll see him with an Epiphone guitar in his hands.

It's his early 90's tone I am focusing on here. In the Definitely Maybe years, Noel’s pedal board consisted of these three, now iconic guitar pedals: a Vox V847 Wah, a Boss DD-3 Delay pedal and the mighty Ibanez TS-9.

The VOX V874 is based on the specifications of the original pedal developed by VOX in the '60’s.  The V874 Wah-Wah offers guitarists the same legendary tone with the addition of AC power capability and a buffered input jack for preserving the unprocessed guitar tone when the pedal is not engaged. The pedal’s inductor has undergone a redesign to be closer in specification to the original VOX wah inductors, for improved dynamics and tone.

The BOSS DD-3 is a compact delay pedal with superb sound quality and features. It provides 3 delay time modes, and a delay time control for quick adjustment of exact delay time between 12.5ms - 800ms. The pedal also has a hold function that repeats delay sound indefinitely for
interesting effects

The IBANEZ TS-9 Tube Screamer is a reissue that's just like the original in so many ways. Same housing, same famous seasick-green paint, and the same crankin' overdrive that made the original one of the all-time classic pedals. Guitar Player called it the best.  Plug it in.  Crank it up.  You'll hear what all the fuss is about.

The amplifiers Noel used in this specific era of his career were predominantly Marshall. The JCM and Bluesbreaker range always stood proudly on stage behind the musician as he bellowed out those huge anthems. Whilst these valve amplifiers can be expensive to buy and costly to maintain, we recommend the more affordable Marshall MG range. You can pick up a Marshall MG15 combo for around £90, perfect for the bedroom musician. If you need something with a little more volume in the practice room, Marshall also provide these amplifiers in a 30, 50 and 100 watt model. The VOX V874 pedals are still available at the time of writing this article, and are on sale at around £80 - £90.  The Boss DD-3 has been discontinued by the company. Fear not though, as Boss always re-brand their range adding new features to their products along the way. Today’s current model is the Boss DD-7, retailing at around £135. The Ibanez TS-9 is still available from all good guitar stores and is currently selling for around £130.    

As Noel’s playing matured, so did his sound, and by 1995 things were starting to change. Drummer Tony McCarroll had been replaced by Alan White for the (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? sessions. In 1997 the band’s third album release  Be Here Now became the fastest-selling album in UK chart history. It saw thousands of people camping outside record shops up and down the country, with the hope of being the first to get their hands on the album. The creative process at this time seemed to be changing for Noel too, as he started to experiment with different amplifiers and pedals. With this his pedal board started to grow. Twenty years on, his current rig for the highly anticipated 2017 High Flying Birds release has been custom made by Gig Rig. Noel’s new album is due out towards the end of 2017. With rival brother Liam releasing his debut album As You Were later this year, it promises to be a very busy year for the Gallagher brothers and a very interesting one for the fans too.

 

April 2017

Mixolydian Masterclass: Play Like BB King, Slash, Joe Pass and many more...

Over the coming months I will be offering all of our intermediate and advanced students the opportunity to work on a Mixolydian masterclass. This will feature 10 individual thought provoking lessons. Together we will explore the works of iconic guitarists, these being; BB King, Slash, Brent Mason, Joe Pass, Junior Marvin, Tony Rice, Ry Cooder and Brian Setzer. Covering a variety of genres including Blues, Rock, Jazz and Rockabilly. These lessons will be arranged to improve your knowledge of music theory, the use of the Mixolydian model scale and improve playing techniques such as speed, fret board accuracy, string bending, vibrato, hammer ons and pull offs.

In part one, exercise one, we look at a blues style rhythm using the famous wha wha pedal made by Jim Dunlop. If you don’t own one of these pedals don’t worry, it is still possible to complete the exercise without one. To accompany the blues style rhythm achieved in exercise one, exercise two will follow on to focus on the lead guitar style of the mighty blues legend BB King. King had a unique playing style that has been well documented over the years. Further exercises in the other genres and artists will then follow.

I hope you all enjoy this series and grow fond of a genre you may never of thought you’d have liked in the past. 

 

Mark

November 2016

INTERVIEW: CATHERINE ANNE DAVIES AKA THE ANCHORESS

Recently I caught up with award winning singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and author Catherine Anne Davies aka The Anchoress. To discuss her debut album, 'Confessions of A Romance Novelist', working with Paul Draper and the future.

GS: Being a multi-instrumentalist, firstly I'd like to ask which instrument you first started playing and what age you were when you began writing your own music?

CAD: The first instrument that I started playing was the flute, which I took to studying quite seriously from about the age of 8. I ended up playing in orchestras until I picked up my sister's guitar around the age of 14 and almost immediately started writing songs at the same time. Teaching myself to play different instruments and writing have always gone hand in hand really. 

GS: Do you have a go-to instrument when you begin to write a song?

CAD: It depends what phase I am going through. There can be months when I only write on the piano. There were years when I only wrote on the guitar, too. At the moment I'm actually writing a fair bit in the studio which is an entirely different process altogether, where the song might emerge from more electronic elements, loops, etc. 

GS: Do you have a favourite guitar, one you can’t leave home without?

CAD: I've been on the road for nearly the past 2 years with the beautiful Gibson J165. Because it's a small body acoustic it's been the perfect touring guitar. Very comfortable to play, compact, but tonally as hefty as the J200. 

GS: Have you had any music tuition or are you completely self-taught on all instruments?

CAD: I could read music before I could read and I had "proper" lessons for about 7 years on the flute, including music theory. I'm entirely self-taught on the guitar and piano though. I think once you've picked up one instrument, it's fairy easy to transfer that knowledge onto another one though. 

GS: Which artists have been inspirational to you becoming a musician?

CAD: My biggest inspirations are probably those that have seized complete authorial and artistic control: Kate Bush, David Bowie, Prince. There's a common thread that runs through all of my favourite albums and that's about the singular vision and total control the artists had in releasing their creative visions. That's been very important to me throughout the process of making my album: something I probably would not have been able to retain in a major label system.

GS: Your album Confessions of A Romance Novelist was released in January 2016, and has been voted one of ‘The Best of The Year So Far’ by HMV. It also has received great reviews from MOJO, GQ, Prog, The Sunday Times, and TheObserver. Are you happy with the way the album has beenreceived up to now?

CAD: To be honest I tend to avoid reading reviews. It's impossible to avoid completely and it's great, of course, when people "get" what you've been aiming for. But for me, the thing I enjoy is being in the studio and making records.

GS: The album was co-produced by yourself and PaulDraper formally of Mansun. How did you two meet andbegin working together?

CAD: We first met after Paul emailed me after hearing some of my home recordings. We recorded a couple of my songs but for various reasons it didn't pan out at the time. We kept in touch and eventually started working on what would become the album a few years ago. It's turned into a great ongoing creative partnership: I've just co-written half of his solo album with him and we are busy working away on finishing ‘Spooky Action’ before I start up on the next Anchoress record.

GS: Where was the album recorded, mixed, and mastered?

CAD: The album was recorded at (the now defunct) Sofa Sound in Acton, Stanley House, and my old flat in Blackheath. It was mixed by Cenzo Townshend at Decoy Studios and P. Dub at The Loft and mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge.

GS: I’ve seen you many times online editing drums and various other instrument tracks using Pro Tools. Where did you learn how to use the program and do you use any other DAW?

CAD: I started out using a multitrack and eventually shifted over to Logic before graduating onto Pro Tools. I learnt how to use it from a mixture of teaching myself and learning "on the job" in the studio. I still sometimes shift back over to Logic if the track feels like it needs writing a little more in the box but I tend to use Pro Tools in the main now.

GS: The arrangements on the album are very well worked, how many different instruments did you play on the record?

CAD: I think I lost count after a while... I certainly raided my collection of eBay acquisitions during the making of the album. As well as the usual suspects of piano, guitar, etc. There's also some flute, omnichord, accordion, and glockenspiel on there.

GS: Earlier you mentioned you had co-written some tracks for the forthcoming Paul Draper album. Did you contribute to Paul’s debut single ‘Feeling My Heart Run Slow’?

CAD: I've written 7 tracks for Paul's solo project and also been assisting with the engineering of the record as well as playing synths, piano, and additional vocals.

GS: You are currently on a run of live shows that has seen you play The Focus Wales Festival in Wrexham to the Great Escape Festival in Brighton where you headlined the BBC Introducing stage. How did that feel?

CAD: We had a great run of live shows over the summer, culminating in playing the Bowers & Wilkins stage at Womad which was an incredible experience. It was quite a challenge to try and bring the album to life with a 5 piece band but it was really memorable to travel around the UK meeting so many people who've enjoyed the album. I'll be playing one final show this winter at Kings Place in London on December 17th before drawing a line under the Confessions album.

GS: When not performing as a solo artist you have been spending time playing keyboards touring with Simple Minds. How did that happen?

CAD: I play live keys and guitars with Simple Minds, as well as contributing vocals. The whole thing came about after collaborating with Jim Kerr for the Dark Flowers project. The producer Paul Statham was the connecting figure for the Dark Flowers project, which I co-wrote 4 songs for (and was also where I first met Jim from Simple Minds).

GS: You have already begun writing the follow up to ‘Confessions’ and have even chosen producer Bernard Butler of Suede, what made you choose Bernard for the next record?

CAD: I've actually been working with Bernard sporadically over the past few years while I was making Confessions, so chronologically speaking what we've been doing is already fairly developed in terms of being recorded. However, what we've been recording together will probably not be a followup to Confessions so much as a tangential offshoot but it's still a work in progress at the moment, so it's impossible to say definitively. I don't really like to pin things down until they're finished. The next Anchoress album is something I've already begun recording though, alongside continuing to write for and work on Paul's solo album. All these things are being juggled simultaneously and one will pop to the surface before the others!

GS: When can we expect to hear something from the new record?

CAD: I'll probably play a couple of new songs at the show in December. Sometimes it's really helpful to developing an arrangement to bring the songs to life in a live setting before committing them to record.

GS: Do you think it is essential for an artist to be signed to a major label to make their way in the music industry these days or do you think it can be done on a smaller label or even independently?

CAD: My manager works with an artist signed to a major and the sense I get from him is that it is no easier, apart from the perspective of having bigger budgets to spend on marketing. With an independent or small label you just have to be more creative with the ways in which you can grow your audience, and develop the patience to let it happen more organically.

GS: Catherine thank you so much for taking the time to talk to guitarschool22.co.uk today. It’s been an honour and has been really interesting to hear how you shape and mould your songs. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2016 and for the future!


INTERVIEW: Billy Bibby (Former Catfish and the Bottlemen)

This week I sat down with founding member and former lead guitarist of Catfish and the Bottlemen, Billy Bibby to discuss the past, present and the future. Uncovering Bibby’s guitar rig, we find out how he creates that explosive sound that rips the roof off venues wherever he plays. Fresh off the back of his first UK tour with his new band ‘The Wry Smiles’, Bibby is as excited as ever for what the future holds for him as he looks forward and continues his journey within the music industry.

Billy, How are you feeling after just completing your first ever UK tour with your new band The Wry Smiles?

I'm feeling great after the first UK tour with my boys. I obviously had a few questions that I wanted answering but I knew soon that we had something good going on and the tour went from strength to strength. Overall I just wanted to enjoy it, be professional and try start building up a good fan base. I think we did that, and I'm excited for the next one that we have already started planning before the last one finished.

How different is it to now be the frontman of your own band?

It is different as you have to in a way be the captain like you would if you were captain of the football team and lead everyone else by example, and try and make sure that you have that presence to make the crowd feel comfortable when your up there on stage. Not many frontmen hide away from the action and I think it's important that you don't do that if you can. That's the main difference. Being in the spotlight and trying to deal with that pressure. I think I'm doing OK. Ha.

What were your particular highlights from the show’s you have just completed?

Manchester and Chester were very busy which was brilliant seeing people singing the songs already. All the gigs were great though and although it wasn't exactly a great moment a highlight was definitely breaking down and whilst waiting for the AA a stranger took us in and we had a beer and watched the rugby whilst waitin’. We really appreciated that cos it was fucking cold!!

You have played in venue’s all over the world, do you prefer a large venue or the smaller intermate ones?

To me it doesn't really matter about small or large venue. It's atmosphere and character that makes a good venue. If a crowd are enjoying themselves and the sound is good then that makes the venue. We played a tiny little place in Edinburgh called sneaky Pete's and it was a great gig as the atmosphere was great so that makes it for me. The crowd make the venue what it is. Don't get me wrong it's a great feeling going on a big stage and hearing your music how you'd never normally hear it as its on such a big scale but in general I love a venue on experiences I've had there be it big or small.

Is there a particular venue on the circuit that is a favourite for you to play?

 I think for the amount of great times I've had there it has to be Telfords Warehouse in Chester, Always get looked after, Always a good crowd, Always a good gig, So I’d have to say there.

 You recently released your debut EP ‘Bide Your Time’, it‘s been well recieved on Radio X and BBC Radio Wales as well as many other stations. How long did it take you to write and record the four tracks?

I wrote the tracks fairly quickly. Before I even had a band, I learnt and recorded most parts for the demo versions. So when the band came in they added little bits of their own twist to the songs and we recorded them over a few months, but only a six days overall of that was in the studio spread out over the couple of months so it didn't take long at all really. I'm not a prolific writer, but I try and make sure each song has been thought through carefully and executed properly so that it has a genuine impression on people as the public aren’t stupid. They can see through a song that's been rushed or isn't heartfelt so I try and make each one real.
‘Waiting For You’ and ‘Don’t Fall’ are particular favourites of mine, Where do you pull the inspiration for your songwriting from?

Glad you like them. Ermmm all sorts of experiences, not necessarily one experience to one song it can be things put together and fortunately being on the road for near enough 9 years has made for a lot of experiences so there's a lot to write about. If I'm struggling I don't force it. I shelf it and come back to it later. I never have a problem writing a catchy song, I just sometimes have to work on the lyrics. That's the hard part. But I know when it's right, so I just have to get to that moment.

Where did you record the EP and who produced, mixed and mastered the tracks?

The EP was recorded in penmaenmawr with Russ Hayes who did the early catfish EPs with us. He also mixed and mastered it. Russ is an extremely talented producer who is also probably the best musician I've ever met too. He can literally play everything. I'm very lucky to be able to call on Russ to help do the EP and future singles and records with him and he hasn't quite got the recognition he deserves with it yet.

Do you see the other band members contributing to the writing in the future or will you continue to craft the songs alone?

I think they are more than capable as two of the lads already have songwriting experience so it's a possibility in the future yes.

With vinyl and cassettes coming back into fashion massively at the moment, do you have any plans for a vinyl or even a cassette release this year?

 I'd like to do a vinyl release on either the next single or one after so that's also a definite possibility yes. Even though it's not financially the best move for the band at this moment in time I think it's important to think about the fans and what they want, and like you said they are becoming more and more popular now so it makes sense to do it.

Growing up, who most inspired you to pick up the guitar and write your own songs?

Early on it was strange because I didn't know any modern bands really. Elvis Presley, and my first guitar hero was Hank Marvin from the shadows.

Which artist would you most like to collaborate with and why?

I'd have to say Noel Gallagher springs to mind because he's one person I love and think he's achieved the highest level of success in the game, so to do something with him I think we'd create a masterpiece together. If I was wanting to maybe take a slightly different approach on a song I'd maybe go for Eminem. To me he is untouchable in his lyrics and even though the music is very different it'd be interesting to work with someone that meticulous and audacious.

At the last gig I attended I noticed you’d changed your electric guitar, is there a particular reason for changing from the white Fender Stratocaster you used whilst in your old band Catfish and the Bottlemen or did you just fancy a change?

 New era, new weapon. Plus I just love the sound of the semi hollow electric with the humbucker pickups in it so I've got a farida electric like a kind of Sheraton style, and I actually bought a Sheraton 2 like a red wine colour. Lovely guitars and sound great with the new stuff. And my epiphone ej200 acoustic with that big bass tone. For a cheaper guitar it makes a great noise in a live environment, but I prefer my Taylor 110ce for recording the acoustic. Can't beat the natural tone from that guitar.

What about your amplifier, are you still using Fender or has that changed too?

 I have changed that too. I found an ampeg reverbrocket which I love. The tone on both is clean and distortion is the best I've ever experienced, and one of my favourite guitar players sounds is Matt Followills from Kings of Leon so I now have his Amp and a Sheraton 2 which he also uses so I'm copying him haha.

Nice amp! What year is it and where did you find one of those?

 It's a 90s reissue, But still hard to find, on eBay it was

What originally made you choose the white Fender Startocaster as your main guitar when you startedout? Was it for it’s look or it’s tone?

 I basically bought it cos i liked the look of it at the time. I was only 18 so it was more about the looks back then than the sound!! I still have that guitar though. We've had some good times together

The thing that I myself, and I’m guessing every other guitarist want’s to know, is how you create that huge explosive sound you’ve got going on, talk me through your pedal board?

Eerrmm it's a tough one really. I don’t have any particular secret for getting that sound I just crank up the gain, put a touch more bass on than one might usually and on the pedals. I use an ibanez tube screamer which is also pretty much full on, also a holy grail which I control with my foot to turn levels up and down as the songs in progress and a cheap behringer reverb pedal also. It's got this space reverb that I love and it just makes the whole sound thicker and meatier. Plus in catfish I had a boss phaser pedal and a boss octave pedal and that's all really. Nothing too major

Do you use the Ibanez TS9 or TS808?

 It's a TS9 mate and its a reissue I presume.

Is there a particular pedal you couldn’t live without?

 Either the tube screamer or holy grail, Them two are my faves.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

 When we signed our first record contract with communion was a brilliant highlight as our hard work was starting to becoming recognised and that makes it all worth while. Actually, being able to set up my own band and tour with new lads, and with the help of a handful of people, pull off a great first UK tour was also a major highlight in my career. It brought a lot of satisfaction, and more importantly I've been happy since it started.

We discussed the possibility of a vinyl release later in the year which I’m sure will make all your the fans very happy but what other ambitions do you have for the new band for the rest of 2016 and the future?

 It's simple really, just book in more tours and hopefully release a new single in the next month and a new EP at the back end of the year. Just got to try and repeat and keep plugging away so that next year we'll have done a lot of the ground work and we can build on from that

How do you stay grounded?

 I guess everyone's different, but I've just been brought up well, and have respect for everyone, no matter how successful one may get. Everyone is an equal, so I remember that and try to just be who I am and will never change that.

Who in your opinion is the all time guitar legend?

Overall I'd have to say Mark Knopfler. He's a melodic guitarist but with great skill as well and an unusual style. For me he's the man.

And what advice would you have for a young aspiring musician that is just starting out, or even just learning to play guitar?

Advice..... I would just say stick with it, and when shit starts to get serious, whether you be a solo artists or in a band just remember why you got into it. Because you enjoy it and it makes you happy. The day that stops is the day you might as well pack in it. That's the advice I'd give any young musicians bands etc.

It seems the importance of signing a record deal is becoming less and less these days with there being so many ways for an artist to distribute and promote their music online. Are you planning on signing to a record label at this point or will you continue to release your songs independently for the time being?

That's a tough question to answer because yes, these days you can release your own music and put some reasonable force behind it without the help from a label, but I wouldn't say it's definitely the way to go. A great example of a band doing it that way and doing it successfully are The Sherlock's. They have a good fan base now around the UK and have agents and management etc helping them but they seem to be doing a lot of it themselves. A label can help give you more exposure but it can also take away some of your freedom to make decisions quickly and without the opinions of loads of different people. So for now I'm happy doing it independently but that doesn't mean to say I wouldn't sign to a label.

Finally, how does it feel to have been awarded a gold disc for your contribution towards Catfish and the Bottlemen's debut album 'The Balcony'?

It's a great feeling. I'm proud of it and it shows recognition for something achieved. But I don't want it to stop. I want even more with this band and I will get it.

Billy thank you so much for talking to guitarschool22.co.uk today. It’s been an honour and has been really interesting to hear how you shape and mould your tone. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2016 and for the future!

Photography by Desh Kapur

A Decade of Guitar Teaching, Awards and Students Achievements

As I sit and reflect over the past 10 years at Guitar School it seems quite surreal. A decade has passed by so quickly. Both my students and myself have achieved so much in this time. Some of the personal highlights for me have been watching students progress into musicians, achieving the 'Experienced Tutor' status from the RGT and also being given the 'Excellence Wales Award' for my work within the community for Dementia sufferers. I am currently the only guitar teacher within a 20 mile radius of Deeside, Chester and Liverpool to be given the ‘Experienced Tutor’ status for my teaching.. A status that is only awarded to successful guitar teachers and one that recognises the efforts of both my students and myself.. So as I am very proud of myself, I am also very proud of my students, as without them, this would not of been possible.

Whilst it is not a compulsory requirement for a student to sit their grades at Guitar School, I have always thought the London College of Music syllabus to be the best and most structured way for a student to learn to play guitar. Students here currently hold a 99.8% pass rate at Distinction level ranging from Preliminary Grade all the way through to Diploma level, which is an amazing statistic over a 10 year period. Many of my students have gone on to form bands, become solo artists, study music technology and production at Leeds, Chester, Bangor and Wrexham university's. Whilst others have gone on to become music teachers themselves. I look forward to teaching many more of you in the coming years.

There is no greater feeling for a teacher than to see a student start learning guitar as a hobby, mature and write and produce their own original material. Creating sounds and songs that didn't exist prior to a session is absolutely captivating and inspiring. One particular student I love to work with is Joshua Shaw. At the age of 8, Josh and I started working together, 9 years on Josh is currently studying for his Grade 8 guitar exam, writing and producing is own original songs and backing tracks and also studying music production at Chester College. A fine young musician with a very promising future. I am currently working on an Alternative Backing track with Josh that I will post up on our site and send out to our mailing list subscribers free of charge once it's finished. Sign up here - www.guitarschool22.co.uk and follow the sign up option, it's FREE!

In 2012 I was awarded the Flintshire Excellence of Wales award for my community work providing music therapy sessions for Dementia sufferers across Flintshire. Aside from teaching, the work I do for memory sufferers is extremely rewarding and something I really enjoy doing and wish to continue as long as possible. Dementia is an extremely frustrating and upsetting illness both for the sufferer and for their families. Many touching letters of thanks have been sent to me over the years which confirm my belief in the work myself in conjunction with Flintshire County Council are doing within our community to help Dementia sufferers and their families.

As I look towards the next decade I want to continue with my teaching, the music therapy sessions and also concentrate more on the recording side of things both for my own original songs and my talented students tracks too. If you would like to start learning guitar, ukulele, piano or music creation or production, or would just like some free TAB's to help you learn some tunes, sign up to our mailing list and I'll be happy to assist you. Here's to the next decade!

Mark

March 2016

Guitar Legends, Classic Tones and Guitar & Amp Combo’s

Throughout 2016 I will be taking an in depth look at some of the greatest guitarists of all time. Their songs, albums, instruments, amplifiers and effect pedals will all come under the microscope as we look at how they shaped and moulded their distinctive sounds.

Guitar legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Slash, David Gilmour and Tom Morello are just a few of the musicians I plan to feature throughout the year. To
accompany the Guitar Legends series, I will be providing full band backing tracks along with full transcriptions of the tracks. All written out in guitar TAB giving you the
opportunity to explore their tones and learn the songs from start to finish. From the very first note played, every riff, lick, solo and chord will be uncovered.

With such an ambitious feature, for me there was only one guitar legend to begin with. Jimi Hendrix was a master of the guitar. During March 2016 I will be taking a look at his iconic track 'Hey Joe'. This track has a distinctive guitar intro, a classic chord structure, a chromatic bass run and a great guitar solo. Plenty to get your teeth into, regardless of your guitar playing ability. 

During the late 1960’s, The Jimi Hendrix Experience captivated audiences with their
psychedelic, hard rock sound. And went on to release three studio albums. Eric Clapton once said after seeing Jimi play guitar for the first time, he locked himself in a room for six month’s practicing the guitar to try and become as good as Jimi. 

Jimi is often pictured with his now famous white Fender Stratocaster with reverse
headstock. This, combined with his tube amplifiers and a custom made fuzz pedal, made for him by Roger Mayer, all contribute to that lovely fuzz, blues tone you hear on his records and live performances. Whilst many of us can't afford the same guitar rig that Jimi used, I will be showing you how to get close to his tone by using your current guitar set up without breaking the bank!

Keep rockin’

Mark

February 2016

ABRSM, LCM, RGT Guitar & Piano Exams and our Focus for 2016

Happy New Year to all of our students and subscribers, new and old! As I sit and reflect on the previous year at Guitar School, I really can't believe how quickly the time has passed. We have achieved so much together over the last 12 months. Our students achieved many
Distinctions and Merits in their guitar and piano exams. Whilst I achieved some good results in the studio, working on backing tracks and a selection of acoustic cover versions of some well known songs for my YouTube channel. You can check out the following acoustic covers here by pasting the following links into your browser:

Catfish and the Bottlemen ‘Hourglass’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkFToU2xAN4

Oasis ‘Fade Away’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW6GfGpWTwU

In my first blog of the new year, I thought I'd look ahead at 2016 as I highlight my main focus for the year ahead. Much emphases will be looking at the ABRSM, LCM, RGT
Syllabus in acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, rock guitar, ukulele and piano
playing. At this point, I would like to stress the importance of practicing for these exams in your own time at home, thus helping you to achieve the level of musicianship required to enable you to achieve good pass rates in the examinations. 

There will be three opportunities to sit the guitar and piano examinations this year with the last dates for exam entries in the UK being as follows: Spring 2016 - 1st February, Summer 2016 - 1st May, Winter 2016 - 1st October. As always I will try and enter as many students as possible throughout 2016, with the hope of a record breaking year for the number of students entered. If you are not currently working towards a syllabus and would like to start, please let me know ASAP and we will get started. For our advanced students we will be looking at some famous guitar solo’s whilst we try and put some speed
techniques into your playing to enable you to conquer those mammoth guitar parts.

In edition to the exams I would also like to make recording a large focus point this year, as I aim to record as many students performances as possible. I will be offering a FREE mixing and mastering service to all our students that wish to record their tracks, students will be able to record whilst in lessons so there will be no extra studio recording fees endured. I will also be teaching the art of home recording whilst the student records their performance so they will be able to achieve good results from their recording sessions at home. I myself will also be recording as many tracks as I have the time for and releasing them through my YouTube and Soundcloud channels. If you haven't already please follow all social media pages here to be the first to hear the tracks as they are released -

 
www.youtube.com/user/markellwood22
www.facebook.com/guitarschooluk
www.twitter.com/guitarschooluk
www.facebook.com/somethingaboutthegirl
https://soundcloud.com/something-about-the-girl  

All said, it looks like another crazy busy year for us all here at Guitar School......Are you ready!? I can't wait to get started! :)

FREE GUITAR BACKING TRACK AND HOME RECORDING

During September and October 2015 I have been hard at work writing, recording and producing a brand new backing track for you to practice your lead guitar playing. The track features a Jazz/Blues style in the key of C Major/A Minor. You can download or play the track directly from our website via the DOWNLOADS page from the scroll bar above. Use the track to practice your melodic shaping and phrasing using the C Major, C Pentatonic Major, A Natural Minor,
A Pentatonic Minor, C Blues or any of the model scales within the key of C Major. If you are not a Guitar School student and do not have access to such scales, please feel free to email me and I will forward you the scale sheets for you to work on. 

Working on the track has given me the bug for recording again. And over the past few weeks I began working on a set of acoustic cover versions, which I plan on uploading to my YouTube channel. Recently purchasing a pair of original Yamaha NS-10M monitors combined with our studio KRK Rokit 6’s to help with the mixing, I hope to have a really professional product at the end of this process.

It’s been a long time since I have uploaded a YouTube cover. I have never been comfortable with recording songs via an iPhone, or uploading, due to it’s poor quality audio and video features.
With this in mind, I set about recording the acoustic guitar parts via an external condenser
microphone to obtain a more professional sound. Home recording doesn’t have to be an          expensive process these days. If you need any guidance on equipment or techniques, I am more than happy to advise you on the essentials you’ll need to create your very own home recording studio. 

The run up to Christmas will see a slight refurbishment of the home studio. This will enable it to  become a much more usable space for recording. Adding vintage synths, vocal pre-amps,
acoustic sound absorbers and base traps to help with the quality of productions for our recording artists in the future.

If you have a song, spoken word or musical idea you would like to record, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I love to work on new and exciting projects.

Keep rockin’

Mark 

6 NEW GUITAR TAB’s INCLUDING GREEN DAY AND THE BEATLES

Throughout August 2015 I have been keeping busy transcribing tracks into guitar TAB for my guitar, bass and ukulele students. Managing to transcribe a mammoth 6 songs in total. Tracks included Green Day ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’, The Beatles ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Day Tripper’, Kings Of Leon ‘Sex On Fire’,and also Johnny Cash ‘I Walk The Line’ and ‘Hurt’. I feel it is very important to cover a wide variety of styles into my lessons whilst introducing as many different genres as I can to my students. This enables them learn more about the history of music, as well as teaching the student how to play the songs they know and love. Whilst showcasing the songs to my students, I used an array of guitar effect pedals from the
Digitech and Boss range, many of which can be found on the shop page of our website, under the shop, guitar accessories and pedals page.

During September 2015 I plan to transcribe at least three more guitar TAB’s. These will be Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Love Walked In’ by Thunder and also ‘Homesick’ by the hugely popular Indie rock outfit Catfish and the Bottlemen. Cutting down the transcriptions to just 3 this month will also allow me time to finish a backing track I started last month. The track has been recorded at 100bpm and features a Jazz style rhythm. The lead guitar at the start of the track has a Blues style example of guitar playing. 
The backing track and lead playing example will all be finished and ready for you to work on by late September. You will be able to download the full
track free of charge from my website.

And finally If there is a particular track or style you would like me to work on or you‘d just like some help or advise please drop by and say hello via the contact options on my website. You don’t have to be a Guitar School
student to benefit from my transcriptions or lesson example backing tracks.  Bye for now...

Mark

Pages

  • ABRSM
  • B.C. Rich
  • Blackstar
  • Boss Guitar
  • Cruiser by Crafter
  • Dunlop
  • Electro - Harmonix
  • Epiphone
  • Ernie Ball
  • ESP
  • Fender
  • Gibson
  • Gretsch
  • Hagstrum
  • Hofner
  • Hudson
  • Ibanez
  • IK Multimedia
  • Jackson
  • LCM
  • Line6
  • Marshall
  • Martin
  • Orange
  • PRS Guitars
  • Rickenbacker
  • Rock School
  • Roland
  • Rosetti
  • Santos Martinez
  • Session Pro
  • Takamine
  • Tanglewood
  • Taylor Quality Guitars
  • Trinity Guildhall
  • Vintage
  • Vox
  • Washburn
  • Westfield
  • Yamaha Guitars

Footer Webform

Signup for offers & news

Guitar Lessons Facebook