Blog, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter

Goodbye to the Maw Band



Brian Maw and I decided to part ways this weekend. It’s too bad. I loved playing with the Maw/Preston/Hunter trio. But Brian wanted to put a different band together–a more conventional rock band, as opposed to the decidedly unconventional trio–and the fact that I had to travel 2250 miles every time the band had a gig made the whole thing very difficult for everyone. So it’s over. The EP project I announced last week is going forward, but there won’t be harmonica on it. Brian wants a record that represents the new sound of the band, and the band’s new sound lacks harmonica.

Like I said: too bad. But as Donald O’Connor said just after being fired in “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Thanks! Now I can start starving and write my symphony.” I have other projects in the works, and I’m looking forward to working on them.

Good luck to Brian, and goodbye to the Maw Band.

Blog, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter

Unforced Error of the Day; Or, How I (Almost) Fried My RP255

I’m going to be delayed delivering tracks to Brian Maw for the new EP. This afternoon I was setting up to record some tracks for the EP in my hotel room in London. I brought my Digitech RP255 to London with me for that very purpose. I plugged the wall socket converter for the UK into the wall, then plugged the RP into the converter.
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Blog, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter, Upcoming Performances

Preparing to record my first EP with Brian Maw

Brian Maw is going into the studio in Idaho Falls this weekend to record some tunes for a new EP. I’m waiting for the mp3s so I can lay down the harmonica tracks in my home studio.

One of the first couple of songs will be “So Sweet,” the very rough live recording of which I posted to this site not long ago. I will almost certainly use the same approach I used on the live recording, i.e. the same yearning, bluesy motifs played through
my CHAMPB patch from the new v16 Huntersounds patch set for the Digitech RP 250/255/350/355.

I also have the luxury of being able to try other approaches, too, if I want to, and I suppose I do, even though I think that ultimately it’s most important to put down something that shows people what the band really sounds like. In other words, I guess I want to make sure that whatever I put on this track can be played live, which of course would not exclude changing the sounds I’m running on the RP355 at any given point in the song.

Recording is so much fun (when it’s not a giant problem)! I’m really looking forward to this stuff. We plan to have the EP available for sale in May 2013, so stay tuned to this blog!

Blog, Hunter's Music, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter

New Year’s Eve was incredible…

snapshot-2I played the Sandpiper in Pocatello, ID with Brian Maw on New Year’s Eve, and it was a blast. But it was also different from what I expected, like I had 5 minutes to set up instead of 30, so I didn’t get a chance to plug my recording gear in.

As I cynically expected, the gig was a total blast–just the kind of thing you really want to record. Oh well. (You can hear some of the gigs we did manage to record by clicking here to see all the posts about this band.) The band on this night consisted of Brian on guitars and vocals, Eli Preston on Djembe, and me on harmonicas. We were in close quarters on the bandstand, and we made the most of it with lots of attention devoted to each other. The playing was generally inspired–you’ll just have to take my word for it. I put the harp into more roles than I ever had before with this group, like adding an electro bass line to “Force Field,” a recent club hit and one of our covers. The audience was attentive as well, which was great–at one point I changed the rhythm on the harp, and I saw people in the audience change their dancing, moving in time with the harp line. That’s something I haven’t experienced in a while, and it was cool to see.

I am playing harmonica with this band in a different way than I ever have before. I feel completely free to explore anything I can do with the harmonica, the looper, and the Digitech RP355, and I have absolute confidence in the range of sounds at my command. I know I can produce fresh, compelling sounds when I need them, and use them to make the songs we play feel utterly new to our audiences. I feel absolutely unconstrained by traditional harp styles; I can call on them when I need to without being trapped inside the roles that those sounds and styles imply. With the RP355 and my patches, I have amazing colors available to me, and I have a license to use them all.

So there you go. Great New Year’s! And looking forward to a great new year, with more great gigs with Brian Maw and more work on my solo material. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and Happy New Year to you!

Blog, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter, Upcoming Performances

The dog ate my homework and other Idaho tales

Winter Storm Euclid wrecked my plans for a double gig on Dec. 28 in Alta and Jackson, WY. I got out of bed at 2 AM on Dec. 27 to drive to the airport, but alas–my flight was cancelled, and no other way to get from Connecticut to Idaho in a day.

I made it out to Idaho yesterday, Dec. 29, and all systems are go for my New Year’s Eve gig with The Maw Band from 10 PM to 1 AM at the Sandpiper in Pocatello, ID. If you’re not too bummed out from missing me at the Trap Bar and the Tavern Square Bar on Dec. 28, come by and party with us into 2013.

Blog, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter, Upcoming Performances

Back to Idaho for gigs in December

I’m heading back to Idaho after Christmas for gigs with The Maw Band. So far we’re booked to play the Trap Bar at Grand Targhee on the afternoon of Dec. 28, followed by a gig at the Town Square Tavern Bar in Jackson starting at 10 PM that night. For New Year’s Eve, we’ll be at the Bridge Restaurant in Pocatello, ID, a very enjoyable venue (as you can see from the picture–you do see the picture, right?). See you at all three locations, I’m sure, given that Idaho is so conveniently located for post-Christmas partying (if you’re in Idaho to start, that is)…

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Audio/Video, Blog, Hunter's Effects, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter, Recommended Artists & Recordings, Recorded Performances (live and otherwise)

Great performance, distorted recording: “So Sweet” with Brian Maw, Nov 16 2012

The quality of the recording attached to this post is not very high, but the performance is killer. This is me playing a Special 20 C harp through my Audix Fireball mic into my Digitech RP355 running a Champ amp model patch, and from there straight to the PA. The harmonica part was improvised, and I had never played the piece in this way, with this sound and laidback feel. In my head I heard really simple lines with lots of emotion (meaning lots of attention to dynamics and vibrato), and I played it pretty much that way. (It’s easy to play what you hear when you slow things down–you can get very intentional when you’re not playing catch-up with a fast stream of ideas.) The sound is pure amped blues, and through the PA it’s big, with plenty of detail in every sound, no matter how intimate or broad. (I played the same song with a rotary speaker patch the very next night, and it didn’t sound anywhere near as emotionally intense.) The piece was recorded at a gig with The Maw Band at the Timberline, Victor, ID, on Nov. 16 2012, and of course the composition is by Brian Maw (and is copyrighted, all rights reserved).

“So Sweet” by Brian Maw LIVE 20121116 160 kbps

I posted this piece, warts and all, to make the point that the RP all by itself produces big, beautiful amped blues sounds. And this is indeed a beautiful sound, good enough for most players to consider using it all night long. (But why do that when you’ve got an RP full of great sounds?) If you want to make these sounds yourself, check out my patch set for Digitech RP.

Audio/Video, Blog, Hunter's Effects, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter, Recommended Artists & Recordings

RP Tip #20: When you open the door to new sounds, new roles for the harp come too (clips included!)

I played three gigs last week with The Maw Band in Idaho, and of course I used the RP355 on all of them. I recorded all the shows on audio and video, and I’ve already started putting some of those recordings up on this site, as you can see below. (Lots of stuff to go through…) Here’s one of the big messages I hear on the recordings: harmonica is a lot more exciting when you use the RP to change up the sound.

A lot of the players who buy my patch sets for Digitech RP are looking for something to replace their traditional harp amp–a tube amp that weighs somewhere between 25 and 50 pounds (give or take) and makes one great sound. The RP can do that, of course. I use mine for straight-up amped blues, and it sounds great. (Check out Steve Baker’s traditional harp sounds in this video. Take a listen to this live recording of me playing heavy blue harp on Brian Maw’s piece Lost in You too. The recording is rough, but the harp is clearly straight out of Chicago. In case there was any remaining doubt, let it go: the RP does the job on amped blues.) But using the RP only for traditional amped blues harp sounds is a lost opportunity. You can change the sound of the harp dramatically with an RP, and when you do that, you can also change the role of the harp in the band.

I play a lot of harmonica with Brian Maw’s band. By that I mean that I play almost as much as a guitar player would, song by song. I couldn’t do that with a traditional harp sound. I’d bore myself and the audience pretty quick, because there just isn’t enough variation in the sound of a traditional harp rig to sustain anyone’s interest in that kind of continuous accompaniment. But with the RP, I can change my sound drastically from song to song, or within a song. And every time I change my sound, I change the role of the harp in the band.

One of the pieces I play with Maw is “I Shot The Sheriff”, and I use two sounds in that piece: an autowah sound that lets me do lots of funky things with chords, and a rotary speaker sound that lets me play organ parts. (I play this piece on a Lee Oskar Natural Minor in G, so there are lots of chords available.) I use the autowah on the verses and my solo, and the organ on the choruses and to back the guitar. With both sounds working for me, I can play more or less continuously throughout the song, and it never gets boring. Here’s an excerpt from the performance on Saturday Nov. 17 at the Bridge in Pocatello, Idaho that shows both sounds:
I Shot the Sheriff EXCERPT

Harmonica players don’t usually introduce a new and dramatically different color on every tune they play on a gig. To a large extent, that’s because traditional harp gear won’t let you do that–what you get from the amp and the mic is pretty much the same every time you turn the rig on. A multi-FX box like the RP changes all that. When you first get the RP, you might be tempted to use it merely to replace your traditional harp rig, so you can get a similar sound in a much more portable package. But these things can do SO much more.

Here’s another very cool sound I use with the Maw repertoire, in this case on a piece of Brian’s titled “Ride.” It was recorded live at the same gig at the Bridge, with the harp coming through a Fender Twin Reverb amp model with a low octave double and a wah-wah. This amp model has a loud, clear tone, and with the low octave double it makes a big, tough sound that has enough clarity to cut through a dense mix. The wah-wah and the octave double also make it sound very guitar-ish, because that’s the instrument (and the range) most people associate with a wah. (The piece is played in 3rd position on a standard-tuned diatonic; notice how much heavier the wah sounds in the bottom octave.)

This harp sound completely changes the role of the harp and the sound of the band, putting both on the heavier side of rock. Not bad for acoustic guitar and harmonica…
Brian Maw: Ride EXCERPT

Finally, here’s a full-length recording of Brian Maw’s “Buried In Me,” a very emotional song. The harmonica on this piece is a Hohner CX12 chromatic, played through a Digitech RP355 patch that uses a 4th-down pitch double with a Matchless amp model. This patch completely transforms the chromatic harp into something between a horn section and a synthesizer.
Brian Maw: Buried in Me (128 kbps)

I suggest that anyone who has my patch set make a point of dialing up some patch you’ve never used before on your very next gig. You may be surprised at how much it changes the way you think and play. If you don’t already have an RP and my patch set, and you want to make sounds like this, what are you waiting for?

Blog, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter, Upcoming Performances

Three Performances in Idaho with Brian Maw Nov. 16-18!

I’m going out to Idaho this week to play three gigs with Brian Maw on Nov. 16, 17, and 18. I’m really looking forward to these gigs; I’ll be performing with Brian on guitars and vocals, Eli Preston on percussion, and Bernie McBurnski on bass, with Grant Hendren on sax at the Timberline gig on Nov. 16.

The details are as follows:

Timberline Bar & Grill
Victor, ID, US
9:00pm FRI NOV 16

The Bridge Restaurant
Pocatello, ID, US
6:30pm SAT NOV 17

Idaho Falls, ID, US
5:00pm SUN NOV 18

I’ll see you there.

Blog, Hunter's Music, MPH: Maw/Preston/Hunter

Back in CT, gigging with MPH in Idaho on 22 September

I arrived back in CT about an hour or so ago, late Sunday night. I’ve already made arrangements to play the Oktoberfest in Victor ID with MPH (Brian Maw, Eli Preston, and me) on Saturday 22 September at 2 PM. See you there! Between now and then, me and the boys in MPH got a lot of thinking and playing to do.

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