Music-makers blog about their kit and gig adventures, and the Kitmonsters team brings you a selection of exciting, wonderful and sometimes plain weird stuff.
We’ve been at NAMM 2014, the leading music gear show, that takes place in Anaheim in California. We’ll be bringing you choice cuts of some of the 5,000 brands that were exhibiting, and a taste of the exciting instruments and technologies that lie in wait for the coming year. Here are some early highlights and short videos from the preview day. Follow us on twitter, and check out Facebook for more updates.
We’ve checked out a brilliant new app for making lyric videos easy. It’s called Superstring and it’s the first app by new tech company Simplest Ways. Making any kind of music video can be tough on resources and time. Lyric videos are a great way to get your music on YouTube, and they’re popular with fans who want to be able to sing the songs. We asked London indie electro band Feral Five to give Superstring a try on their new single Strung Out.
Pussy Riot Freedom Compilation is a new album of great electronic tracks donated by members of female:pressure to raise money for the two imprisoned Pussy Riot members. As hopes mount that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina will be released, the fundraising goes on to support them and their families.
We were tipped off about The Lampost Gullivers and their “gnarled, brutish, blues metal” and vocalist that “scares the living shit out of anyone he manages to make eye contact with”, and pitched up at the launch of their debut album All Your Worldly Schmutter on Marble Ears Records, held at The Stags Head in Hoxton, London, home to many an arresting new underground band.
We asked some of our featured artists what they want for Xmas and got some fascinating answers. New kit, old classics and fantasy gear - from a space bass to wireless shakers!
It’s always great to see something truly innovative, and today sees the launch of REV, designed by Gregg Lehrman and his team at Output. It’s going to get producers, composers and artists really excited - saving hours of time - as it offers you tons of instruments, loops, rises, pads, pulses, and swells all in reverse, in real time. Not to mention the supersonic stutters!
Clit Rock organisers always pull together some of the best rising female rock talent in the UK for their fundraisers, and the third in their series was a scorcher, featuring Deux Furieuses, Dana Jade and The Pearl Harts.
Yorkshire’s indie and rock music scenes are positively thriving. With great bands and venues across key areas including York, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford, there is talent collectively busting a gut to be heard and seen.
Dublin duo Hudson Taylor have built a huge following for their pop-folk guitar-driven sound. We talked to the brothers about new single ‘Care’ from their Osea EP - named after a tucked away island that’s their song-writing haven. The EP is out on Polydor, and there’s a 15-date headline tour in November.
Dreadzone are about to release a great new single - Too Late - that features Mick Jones on guitar and backing vocals. It fuses dance, rock and dreadness with a killer sample to make a swaggering track that embeds itself in your brain. We talked to Greg Dread about the single, and new album Escapades, ahead of the band’s tour.
The latest new instrument to catch our eye is TouchKeys, currently going down a storm on Kickstarter. It turns a piano-style keyboard into an expressive multi-touch control surface, using sensors and software to give you power over pitch, volume and more on any individual key. It gives you a range of new sounds, and you can use it with synth emulations too. You can fit it on your own keyboard or buy one ready-made. We talked to creator Andrew McPherson.
Dom Smith runs alternative culture magazine Soundsphere, based in Yorkshire. Here are his latest hot tips for up and coming bands.
The 2013 Music Tech Fest was an incredible event, especially on the final day when the Music Hack Camp awards were presented, with hacks ranging from new instruments to a remix. Here are some of our highlights from Day 3, including Ableton’s new Push instrument, and guitars and synths made from ‘upcycled’ computer game instruments. The sessions were filmed and the videos are on the main Music Tech Fest site. We will be bringing you a second report as there was so much going on!
There’s an exciting What’s Next Musicians’ Conference coming up in Los Angeles on 10th August, and you can get free tickets. The conference is one of a worldwide series of events organised by Line 6, Topspin Media and industry leaders, to talk about the business and give practical tips. The series kicked off in London where Kitmonsters put together a panel about how to promote yourself, using social media and other strategies. The conference featured workshops and a discussion with music experts.
We got our hands on a new Apple MacBook Air 11” to put through its paces, and find out how you can use it to cover your musical bases from making through to performing.
Dom Smith runs the ace alternative culture magazine Soundsphere, based in Yorskhire. Soundsphere spotlights local and international musicians, and has launched its own free app. Dom is an evangelist for local talent, and has picked some of his favourite northern bands for us. There’s some amazing music here and we’re listening closely to his every word!
There’s an exciting musicians’ conference coming up in London on 6th July, and you can get free tickets. The What’s Next Musicians’ Conference is a worldwide series of events organised by Line 6, Topspin Media and industry leaders, to talk about cutting edge tech and ideas, and give tips and info to musicians. Kitmonsters is hosting a session at the London event called ‘Promote Yourself’, with music industry experts giving advice on promotion and social media.
We met “Beatboxing MC” Marv-ill Superlungs a while back, and marked him out as a talent to watch. Now he’s captured the nation’s imagination, as the beatboxer behind the Beatboxing Bird ad for First Direct. We’ve just filmed a brilliant interview with him, and can testify that he’s not called Superlungs for nothing! Here’s a little taste of what’s to come.
The second day of the amazing Music Tech Fest was full of surprises. Here are some of our highlights including new instruments such as The Seaboard Grand, music economy inspiration from Brazil, performances and very practical band help. All the while Music Hackers were mixing top bands’ stems, cocktails, and coding. Our report from Music Tech Fest - Day 1 is here.
Win a Line 6 StageSource™ L3t – 1,400-watt 3-way Powered Loudspeaker System with Embedded Smart Speaker Technology. The world’s most versatile loudspeaker system for musicians - a prize worth over £1645
The second, and sellout Music Tech Fest had a huge buzz about it. Mike Skinner (The Streets, The D.O.T.) sent over his latest aiff files, RCA Records supplied a load of stems for the Music Hack Camp hackers to play with, and there were amazing speakers. There was so much new stuff to do, see, hear and think about that we’re doing a separate blog for each day. Here are some of our highlights from Day 1, including Alex Allmont’s Lego sculptures that play rhythms, EMI’s strategies for artists, and live performances.
Guitar makers have been pulling out all the stops at recent shows, with eye-catching new axes - one-offs, limited editions and full production numbers. We’ve pulled together some of our favourite designs.
There’s been a big development in Apple’s GarageBand app, that’s opened up a whole load of exciting new musical horizons. You can now join your favourite apps up and record them into GarageBand for the first time. We checked it out with Yellofier and made some tunes.
Deux Furieuses’ huge visceral rock sound pins you to the wall. Their thrilling residency at The Water Rats in London has seen them dubbed “The half way point between PJ Harvey and the White Stripes”, and founding member of PJ Harvey, producer and drummer Rob Ellis, was checking them out at their most recent gig. The next Deux Furieuses show is on 2nd May.
There was loads of hot kit at the recent music trade show in Frankfurt - Musikmesse - and some top drummers playing it too. Here are some of the things that caught our eye.
In spite of dodgy weather and major news events, the London Bloggers Meetup on the theme of Music, Blogging and Social Media was packed out. Bloggers, music biz types and techno heads all wanted to learn more about making the latest tech trends work for them over a couple of drinks in a cosy North London bar.
French synth pop duo and disco lovers The Penelopes - Axel Basquiat and Vincent T - have done an audacious unofficial remix of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, to “honour our hero”. It’s had an amazing response and is in the top 50 of the most popular tracks on Hype Machine, which aggregates the favorite songs of music blogs all around the world.
Billed as a Beat Junkie’s ultimate gadget, the Ninja Jamm remix app has had a lot of thought, love and cracking tunes poured into it. We can’t keep our hands off it it’s so much fun! Matt Black of Coldcut and Ninja Tune who devised it, is known for pushing music tech forward whether it’s with cutting and sampling, or VJ-ing software. He says Ninja Jamm carves out a new space between DJ apps and other music/studio apps, and is good for artists too. Ninja Jamm download here.
The Boss DD-7 Competition is now closed, but you can sign up to our mailing list for news of new competitions, events and more.
Online presence - love it or hate it, is essential and a great tool for artists. With endless new platforms and apps it can be hard to work out where to be and what to do. So the Music, Blogging & Social Media event organised by the great London Bloggers Meetup for 9th April, is pretty timely. James Howard from Google+ is on the panel, along with Kitmonsters’ Terry Tyldesley and Andrew Dubber, music industry advisor, digital expert and Professor of Music Industries Innovation at Birmingham City University.
We’re cooking up some great plans - if you want to get access to exclusive events, gear tryouts, offers, and be the first to have news about competitions and Kitmonsters deals, then sign up to our mailing list. We promise we won’t bombard you with stuff (or sell your details to anyone).
Planes have been whipping up a storm on their UK tour. Fronted by Steve Forrest (Placebo’s drummer), the compelling five-piece play beautifully-formed hook-laden alt blues-rock that we’ve no doubt will thrill festival audiences this Summer. Fans flew in from across the world for their date at Birthdays in East London and they had the crowd spellbound. They’ve a new single ‘Set It On’ out soon and we’ll be bringing you some great interviews.
Orange Amplification built up anticipation big time at The NAMM Show, inviting people to the launch of a ‘revolutionary new product’. After their innovative Orange OPC amp/pc/studio-in-a-box, no-one knew what to expect. The product they unveiled - the DIVO VT 1000 valve tester - turned out to be a study in sleek pared-down design that will help a huge number of musicians, studios, amp retailers and makers.
One of the most exciting pieces of kit we saw at NAMM was the world’s first wireless hand-held MIDI controller with accelerometer. It’s by Numark who make a ton of kit for DJs but we think it has huge potential way beyond DJs, and the ‘game-controller on steroids’ approach makes it really easy to use.
Legendary London music club Ministry of Sound says it is under threat from a housing development. Music lovers across the world are being urged to support the pioneering dance music operation before 26th February when London Mayor Boris Johnson will make the decision that could kill it. We spoke to Ministry’s CEO Lohan Presencer for the latest news.
The first ever She Rocks Awards, set up by The Women’s International Music Network to take place at The NAMM Show, really rocked! The inspiring event started with a mass vocal warm-up, honoured some amazing women in the music business and finished with a stunning performance by Orianthi, Nik West and drummer Brittany Maccarello.
There’s been huge excitement at the Stylophone S2’s NAMM Show debut, with an exclusive Union Jack edition as well as the standard black model. The classic compact analog synth that’s part of so many musicians’ toolkits, has been “maxed out” in a feature-packed version that’s compact and portable, easy-to-use and at a good price point. Designed by the son of the original inventor too, and with David Bowie to thank!
The hottest ticket in rock right now is for the Bonzo Bash NAMM Jamm 2013 - a tribute to legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. A ‘who’s who’ of the greatest rock drummers will perform Led Zeppelin songs with an all-star house band in Anaheim, CA. Drummers from Iron Maiden, Korn, Slayer, Whitesnake, Anthrax, Scorpions, Dream Theater and Alice Cooper will all be there, plus plenty more. Who’s playing what track is a closely-guarded secret!
Legendary electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire is being celebrated with a day of events in Manchester on Saturday 12th January, including specially-commissioned new music that will also be played in other cities too.
Wishing you a great 2013! We’ll be bringing you plenty more bands, kit, producers, custom stuff, reviews, tips and music tech to make it a great year.
Here’s hoping you have a great festive season! Huge thanks to all the amazing people who have helped get the site off to a flying start. There’s plenty more to come - roll on 2013!
Vuvuvultures’ music is very much a combination of experimenting with sound in the studio, and the live energy of writing and performing an actual song. As a result we always found playing live to be a bit of a challenge as in order to incorporate the sounds we had made in the studio we tended to have to use a backing track.
Olaf Diegel is the world’s 3D Printed Guitar guru, marrying innovative structures and designs, with tried and tested guitar hardware. His highly customisable 3D Printed guitars made with 3D Systems caused a sensation at the 3D Print Show in London, and will be shown at The Namm Show in California for the first time this year. We talked to Olaf about his plans for 2013 and heard about some amazing new ideas.
If one man can be said to have brought Indian music to the west, that man was Ravi Shankar.
Pulling together The Woodentops’ tapes for their new album, sounds like some kind of knightly quest - with tasks ranging from hunting down lost dance mixes by legends such as Arthur Baker, to oven-baking fragile masters. The indie dance rock gurus have launched the 3-CD set ‘Before During After’, on One Little Indian Records, to great reviews, and there’s a new album due in 2014.
The Music Production Show at Emirates Stadium in London is a hot ticket - the global launch of Steinberg’s Cubase 7 is a huge draw, but there is plenty more on offer. We went along on the first day with Paul Rez - Producer, multi-instrumentalist, acclaimed ‘Analogue Witchcraft’ sample library creator and Vuvuvultures band member, to check out the latest kit. The event runs today - Saturday - too.
Two amazing artists, Amir Amor - a top Producer who is also in the blisteringly hot band Rudimental - and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd from She Makes War, launched our Kit Session video series with a visit to Roland UK and a good look round the new Jupiter-50 synth. Gareth Bowen from Roland, who also plays with Tricky, showed them all its special features for studio and live, and they asked the questions - finding out the things that artists need to know.
Helen Reddington AKA pioneering musician Helen McCookerybook of The Chefs is an expert on women in the early punk scene and wrote the gritty and compelling ‘The Lost Women of Rock Music’. We talked to her about her book, and her latest research.
Fender have opened an exciting new Artist Showroom in London for leading musicians to come and try their latest gear. Featuring everything from Pawn Shop series specials, to a Fender Amp Bar, as well as a stage, it’s a great space. We were shown round the latest kit, the amp room and given an insight into how the Johnny Marr signature Jaguar guitar was developed.
Design guru Scott Summit and 3D Systems’ Abe Reichental whipped up a storm when they launched the world’s first 3D printed acoustic guitar. Scott is an award-winning industrial designer who counts Apple, Nike, and Palm among his clients at Summit ID, and is known for revolutionising the world of medical prosthetics. Yet he loves playing guitar, has been in bands, and recorded albums. We had an in-depth chat with him at London’s 3D Print Show where he was showing his instrument designs, and he told us about building the acoustic prototype, spectral analysis of The Clash’s London Callling, and future plans for democratizing production.
Two incredible artists, Amir Amor - a top Producer who is also in Rudimental - and multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd from She Makes War, launched our Kit Session video series with a visit to Roland UK and a good look round the new INTEGRA-7 rack synth. Gareth Bowen from Roland, who also plays with Tricky, showed them all its special features for studio and live, and they asked the questions - finding out the things that artists need to know.
For the most part, guitars are very much like people: it is generally agreed that it isn’t a great idea to open them up unless you know what you’re doing. I’m no surgeon, so it is with a growing sense of horror that I find myself sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by the body parts of my beloved. However, it is the aim of this series of blog posts to share my reflections on the murky world of guitar customization and hopefully inspire others to experiment themselves, rather than scare everyone off with cautionary tales of instrument-murder.
I’ve played drums for 12 years, have lived in London for 3 years & love leering at shiny drum kits that i’ll never be able to afford. Somehow these things have never culminated in me going to The London Drum Show. Finally, last weekend I went to the place that, in theory, should be utopia for me. I think that any place that hands out ear plugs as standard on arrival you can’t quite describe as utopia, but it’s definitely how I picture my afterlife.
This week marks the launch of my new single “Minefields”, the latest to be released off my second album “Little Battles”. The video introduces some of my latest musical collaborators and is She Makes War’s first foray in to performance videos - I have shot them for others and appeared in them in the past but never before for this project.
Guitars are very important to me. I have spent a large portion of my time and emotional energies in guitar stores, looking for the new, novel and personal. It is this fascination that brought me to Tim Van Tassel’s house in Golden Valley, Minnesota. My girlfriend’s family comes from Minneapolis and we were going to see them. Our journey planned for August, I picked up the phone and called Tim out of the blue. I said I was a fan of his work from England and wanted to help out, could we meet? He seemed keen though a little surprised and frankly I felt the same. I could sense that feeling familiar to guitar fiends of being reeled in on the hook that one has baited.
If there is one thing that will give a band an unchallengeable advantage over their peers and win them the instant respect of the audience it’s a synth dude (or dudette) who has risen to the occasion and strapped on a keytar. You wear the ‘tar: you win. It’s that simple.
How often do you get your hands on the stems of a track from a top-selling artist? Shure have launched a remix competition for the Snow Patrol track ‘Fallen Empires’ from their album of the same name. Turn them techno, acoustic, dubstep… anything goes. The isolated vocal and music stems are all being made available, and Snow Patrol will pick the winners, who get vouchers to spend on Shure kit.
Pop-up shop mania hit London last week as London Fashion Week and London Design Festival collided in a maelstrom of party madness. So hats off to Nineboys Guitars who launched a guitar pop-up called Downhome for their new Downhome range, as well as show-casing prototypes like a crazy Jack Daniels machine. The launch party featured filthy blues and metal from the Tin-Tone Army - Motorhead’s Ace of Spades on biscuit tin guitars was brilliant. Josh from Nineboys jammed using the hit of the night, The Wedge, and Stu and Chris Da Lipz played cigar-box guitar and harmonica. Downhome runs at 64 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5PX until 9th October, and here are some pics of the latest kit.
During the final year of a music degree course, I was asked to write an independent research paper on a topic of my choice. Rather than write an essay purely for the sake of a good mark, on a topic that had already been written about many times before, I was keen to explore a contemporary issue directly relevant to independent musicians, one which genuinely interested me - house concerts.
Martyn Ware launched the stunning “Tales From The Bridge” in July, a 3D soundscape collaboration covering the length of the Millennium Bridge in London. The mesmerising piece was commissioned by the Mayor of London for the London 2012 Olympics. We filmed behind the scenes - with riggers more used to rock stadiums, dangling over the Thames - and asked Martyn how he and the team, including Grammy winning composer Eric Whitacre, and poet Mario Petrucci, created the work. There’s more from Martyn on making his Human League and Heaven 17 hits on our bands page.
Whales in Cubicles are making plenty of hot lists right now, from XFM to Artrocker, Daniel Radcliffe AKA Harry Potter, The Independent, the BBC’s 6 Music and The Sunday Times. They launched their new single Nowhere Flag this week at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen. The jaw-dropping video - in which they blow up London - has already had a huge response. We’ve got some pics from the gig. Full video interviews and kit talk here.
The Penelopes - Axel Basquiat and Vincent T - make shimmering electro pop, with plenty of indie influences. Originally from Paris, they moved to London to finish their new album Never Live Another Yesterday. It was mixed by The Vaccines/Scissor Sisters/Lana Del Ray collaborator Dan Grech-Marguerat who was seduced by their international yet very French sound, and features Laura Kidd as guest vocalist. The Penelopes love playing live and Axel has a gorgeously growly deep voice as well as the kind of stage persona that sees him dubbed “The Black Iggy Pop”. The duo are playing a series of London gigs this month including one for Oxjam at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on 25th September.
Last week I found myself in The Chambers, a cellar bar in Folkestone, drinking ale and watching the most surprising music.The place was packed - but not with gig goers. One section of the bar/restaurant housed long tables filled with cheerful diners out on work or birthday dos while on the far side people stood chatting near the bar. In the middle Lewis Floyd Henry sat on a wooden chair, playing to a small but intent group of music lovers.
Great filming with Tim Cohen and Shayde Sartain of The Fresh & Onlys today when they were in London. The San Franciscan musicians told us about some pretty interesting kit and plenty of funny stories. From pawn shop specials to beaten up guitars, we were gripped.
We managed to get hold of one of chillwave pioneer Neon Indian’s mini analog synths a while back. It was so exciting, but the PAL198X came in bits and we wimped out of putting it together for far too long. The synth was designed by Neon AKA Alan Palomo and the wonderful Bleep Labs, and Alan held a competition for PAL sounds. A rainy Sunday afternoon in London and we set to work.
Tagging – that nightmare point in your upload when you have to pin yourself down. Some places give you wiggle room as a musician, others are more prescriptive. How do you make the most of the process? When Matthew Hawn, Last.fm’s VP Product, gave a cutting edge talk on tags at the amazing Digital Shoreditch festival, we were all ears. You need to know this stuff and not just in relation to Last.fm.
The first Music Tech Fest, run by Ravensbourne College and Stromatolite in London gathered sound gurus, hackers and musicians together to make, talk and play. From synth legend and 3D sound designer Martyn Ware (The Human League, BEF, Heaven 17) to the dance demon that is Coldcut/Ninja Tune’s Matt Black, and new app designers, minds were well and truly expanded, if not blown! There’s even a free Synaesthesia app.
Dom founded Soundsphere which appears in print and online, and as an app, and he also helps train people in media as well as running other training projects including mentoring disabled entrepreneurs. A human dynamo, he made The Independent’s Happy List of “100 inspiring people who have selflessly enriched the lives of others in the past year,” and last year received the National Diversity Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence for Disability.
Hailed by Radio New Zealand as the author of a new sound, Jordan Reyne’s music is a genre bending soundscape of factory drones, acoustic loops, celtic vocals, machine noise, and lyrics that read like a modern version of Grimm’s fairytales.
According to The Mix (UK) “It is hard to categorise music this original - PJ Harvey springs to mind, but the style is 100% Jordan’s… Her vocals are astounding”.
Along with 3 nominations for a New Zealand Music award, Jordan has lent her voice to tracks on Cafe Del Mar and a funeral scene on Lord of the Rings.
London based drummer, Eddie Harris has made quite a name for himself in recent years, working with some of the most hyped and talked about bands in the country. In 2009 Eddie joined The Holloways for three years of relentless touring and recording. His unique style, his precise power-house technique and hard work brought him to the attention of Steve Forrest, the drummer of Placebo, one of the biggest alternative acts in the world. Steve invited Eddie to drum in his side project Planes, who he continues to tour and record with today. As if that didn’t seem impressive or exhausting enough, Eddie is also a permanent member of the much hyped “pioneers of fop-pop” Kites, currently creating big waves in the industry.
Paul Rez is a multi award winning composer and producer originally from South Africa, now living and working in London, UK. As a producer, Paul has worked with renowned artists such as Lana Del Rey, Scratch (The Roots), Bryn Christopher and Cofield Mundi, and is currently producing hotly tipped newcomers for 2013 including 2ForJoy and Vuvuvultures.
Calamateur is the moniker under which Scottish singer-songwriter and producer Andrew Howie performs and records. He has been writing, recording and releasing his own music since 2000, when John Peel played his debut single. He has also researched the impact of musicians playing House Concerts.
Nicole Bettencourt Coelho is a Musician and Art Director based in London. Originally coming from a background of the DIY alternative scene in South Africa, she cut her musical teeth session playing in Nashville, TN as well as relentlessly touring and performing original music around the USA. She occasionally sessions for other artists but always has one creative musical project as her main focus. Currently she plays bass, writes songs and experiments with sound in Vuvuvultures.
Tim is a musician, teacher and occasional (ahem) entrepreneur living in East London. His band Look, Stranger! makes highly cerebral synth pop, which Tim sings in a smooth, yet manly falsetto voice. They have put out several EPs and singles to reasonable critical acclaim and utter popular derision. They are definitely going places.
Zali Krishna is a multi-instrumentalist improviser/songwriter/bricoleur and multimedia artist with fingers in many pies and his head firmly in the clouds. He plays electric sitar with drone duo Raagnagrok, and digressive guitar with psych-prog landscapists Durga, as well as recording and performing solo under many noms de guerres: Entropy Circus, Krishna, The Benelux, Royal Free Electric, &c. In 2012 he has completed two download-only solo albums: Kingfisher Blue and Bremsstrahlung Sommerwind. They are both free, unpigeonholeable and he believes that you’ll probably quite like them.
Guitar Hacker will be a regular contributor to the Kitmonsters site, and offers an insight into the often murky world of guitar maintenance and customisation. As a gigging musician and recording artist who has played with a veritable cacophony of acts, they will be lifting the hood on their (mostly successful) attempts to tweak, tune and tinker with instruments.
By doing this they hope to make the mistakes that others may be able to learn from, and through the process of stabbing wildly in the dark with a soldering iron, may even save people some money. “With any luck these blogs may help one be better able to decide when to get your tools out, and perhaps more wisely, when to consult the pros.
So, read on and we’ll get those scratchplates off faster than you can say “irreparable damage with a hacksaw”.”
Zak is a writer, blogger and longterm music lover, who once won a weekend in Italy in a karaoke contest and then decided to stick to writing.