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GLAD GUITARISTS CELEBRATE THEIR PASSION FOR ALL THINGS AXE-FX ON THE
HALLOWED GROUND OF THE WISSELOORD STUDIOS
CARL BERGMAN SETS IT OFF
The Dutchman Carl Bergman has been a Glad Guitarist for only four months, but was so impressed by his Axe-Fx II that he just had to share his enthusiasm with other like-minded people. Los Angeles, however, was simply too far away, so the only solution was to hold an Axe-Fest in Europe. And one glance at Carl’s pedal board is enough to tell you that he doesn’t do things by halves.
On 30th November 2013 the waiting (and a whole lot of organizing) came to an end. At around 10.30 am around 60 (pre-registered) users from all over Europe arrived at the hallowed ground of the Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, where bands and artists as diverse as Rammstein, Mick Jagger, ELO, Michael Jackson, Elton John, The Scorpions, The Police, Anouk, Peter Maffay and countless others have recorded albums. In short, a location that made an already highly comprehensive and professional programme twice as much fun.
HARRY MAES TURNS IT UP
Producer, guitar teacher and songwriter Harry Maes kicked things off and caused quite a few looks of amazement right from the word go. With a few of his own songs he set the bar for good tone extremely high – wow, that sounded good! He also unintentionally started off the ‘running gag’ of this Axe-Fest with his use of the Axe-Fx II’s ring modulator, possibly the least-used effect in the whole box - it ended up being used unusually frequently throughout the day. One particularly well-known character found this especially amusing:
Who the heck is Yek? We have answered this question comprehensively elsewhere, but just to remind you, Yek, alias Alexander van Engelen, has been an enthusiastic Axe-Fx user since… well, since the very beginning. And, like Carl, he’s not one to keep his enthusiasm quiet. Not only has he created the Axe-Fx Wiki and been elevated to the position of Forum Baron of the international Axe-Fx Forum for his constant helpful advice, but he is also one of a select circle of Beta Testers who are responsible for putting each new (and entirely free) Axe-Fx II firmware through its paces before Cliff releases it to us mere mortals. Who then could be better qualified to demonstrate the incredible capabilities residing inside the Axe-Fx II?
THE UNIVERSE IN ONE DAY
And Yek did his very best – his presentations on how to use the Axe-Fx II were very well prepared and covered a lot of ground: using the device with various different setups; creating presets and routing; Amp block parameters; demos of use with a real guitar cabinet vs. a FRFR monitor with cabinet IR; real-time control with internal and external controllers; demonstration of the Cab-Lab Software; and so on… There really was a lot of input, all of which was eagerly absorbed by the very appreciative audience. Nevertheless, more than scratching the surface was not really possible. Anyone who investigates the Axe-Fx II will soon realize that there is a whole parallel universe of possibilities to explore, and just one day for a whole universe? Pretty difficult! But it is also possible to keep things simple, as Jens Larsen showed:
THE SPIRIT OF JAZZ
What does a good jazz guitarist need? Not much. At least, not if he’s called Jens Larsen and puts life into every note he plays with his quartet Traeben. Learning about his philosophy of sound was a deeply humbling lesson: a good amp, a good cabinet and a good guitar – the rest comes from the guitarist’s fingers. Okay, now and again there was a little reverb and perhaps a bit of delay, and once or twice a bit of boost helped to heat up the tone a little, but that was it. In response to the audience’s question as to why he uses an Axe-Fx II, which is renowned for huge arsenal of sounds and effects, he replied that, of course, a Fender Twin would do the job too – with the volume turned up full it is, after all, a great-sounding amp.
A BETTER SOUNDING JAZZ AMP
But it’s also as loud as hell, weighs a ton and needs to be miked up, which inevitably leads to inconsistent tone. All of these points are things he can live quite happily without. The only thing he needs is uncompromisingly good, consistent tone that supports and inspires his playing. And the Axe-Fx II provides exactly that – in a small, light package and at any volume. It’s as simple as that. No more questions, but all the more enthusiastic applause after he finished playing one of his songs with no backing track, just his fantastic tone. Very impressive!
WORLD CLASS STUDIO
The hours were flying by but no one could think about getting something to eat when Frederic Gervais offered us a guided tour of the Wisseloord Studios. Everyone listened in awe to Frederic’s explanations and anecdotes from his many years of working in a world-class studio. Highly entertaining! And then all the equipment! Neve, Massenburg, Pultec and so on and so forth. An absolute gear paradise in a suite of acoustically perfect rooms that you would normally only be able to read about in magazines. It was truly breathtaking. The icing on the cake was listening to Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ on the 5.1 surround sound system in the main mixing room. The sound quality was unbelievable! This experience reminded us of Cliff Chase – the genius behind Fractal Audio Systems – who once mentioned that he loved hearing ‘his’ Axe-Fx II through the equipment of high-end studios, like recently during the production of the FAS Cab Packs. Who wouldn’t have wanted to do just that at this moment?
FIVE MINUTES OF STEVE VAI
Anand Mahangoe from My Propane offered up a particularly tasty tidbit when he casually built a fantastic Axe-Fx II preset from scratch with the help of the podium. In doing so he revealed his preference for the ‘Atomica High’ amp in the Axe-Fx II, which he likes to play with the master volume set to 10.
The sophistication of this professional musician was clearly shown by his efficient use of one expression pedal to control delay volume, drive block and mid boost, making it possible to change seamlessly from ‘rhythm’ to ‘solo’ with just one press of the foot. In simple steps Anand (with a little help from Yek) quickly and efficiently created the so-called Preset 80 – well, even presets that you just set up in five minutes have to be called something.
GREAT SOUND REALLY CAN BE SO QUICK
And with this newly-created preset he laid down a ripping version of guitar virtuoso Steve Vai’s ‘For the Love of God’. And boy, did it sound good! So good, that the audience immediately begged to have Preset 80. Anand referred them to Yek, who had saved the preset on his computer and promptly put it online for everyone to use. There you are – great sound really can be so quick.
TIFY stands for ‘try it for yourself’ and the close of the Dutch Axe-Fest 2013 saw many TIFY fans making a rush for the stage to try out the Axe-Fx II for themselves. With the help of Yek and the other podium members their many questions were answered, and a fantastic day wound down very sociably.
AFTER AXE-FEST IS BEFORE AXE-FEST
And because after Axe-Fest is always before Axe-Fest, Carl is looking forward to the upcoming German Axe-Fest in Daxweiler, near Frankfurt, in April 2014 - to pleasant encounters, new experiences and a nice weekend with other, like-minded Glad Guitarists. You too? Then come along to Axe-Fest Germany 2014!