Friday, July 13, 2007


New sex column up at

enjoy-feel free to leave comments there--thanks


Friday, July 06, 2007


Long Time, no Blog!

My latest Column is up at those not wanting to follow a link..her it is...

Rob's Crazy eBay Finds!

I'm a vintage gear nut, but I'd like to think I'm not a total analog snob. While most of my amps are tube amps (and rare or oddball tube amps, at that), and most of my pedals are pretty old school (mostly home made fuzz boxes and a Homebrew Electronics Power Screamer), I have some digital stuff I really dig.

For instance, the since-discontinued Behringer Vintager AC112, is a pretty great solid state amp/tube hybrid (a single 12AX7 in the preamp stage) with some killer digital effects. You can snag them for under $150 on eBay and they're worth every penny, if for the eleven reverbs alone. Yup, that's right. Eleven reverbs - various models from spring reverb emulation to studio, stage, chamber and plate reverb. And all pretty snazzy sounding. Is everything about it great? Nope - or else I wouldn't own all these Valcos and Magnatones and Silvertones. What doesn't it do? Well, for one, the distortion blows chunks. It doesn't have the richness and depth and dimension when it saturates - which, for me, is the true greatness of tubes specifically and analog technology in general.

Take, for instance, the difference of recording drums on digital versus tape. Push the tape a little hard and you get a warm thick lush saturation. Push the digital too hard and you get that crappy "fcccttttt" sound. Digital does cleans really well, but when you want that sound of tape saturation, there?s nothing quite like the real thing.

This is especially true with tape delay units. Run in front of a good tube amp, a nice tape echo unit can act as a great thickening preamp, along with its more obvious (and intended) applications, such as the delay itself.

What tape delay unit should you get? Got a thousand bucks - then go for the Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. It's an amazing piece of machinery and probably the best sounding delay I've ever heard. However, most of us (especially us Valco/Teisco/Silvertone loving dweebs) wouldn't pay a grand for a tape delay, when there are several really cool options available for a lot less money. And add the fact that they sound as good in their own way, and, wow, let's go shopping.

Along with the Fulltone, at the high dollar end of the market, is a vintage Maestro Echoplex. This is the Jimmy Page classic - sounds great. Well designed and pretty awesome. But also really expensive - so, not for us. Another classic, really expensive and not for us tube tape delay? The Watkins Copycat.

If we're going to come down the price ladder, we're going to have to get to the solid state vintage devices. And here, I'd argue, is where a lot of the great deals (and great sounding units) and hiding out, waiting to be snagged up. Solid state tape delay units are a great deal on the vintage market - and since so much of the vintage delay tone comes from the tape itself and not the tube, the solid state is a great, reliable, good sounding option here.

Arguably the most famous of the solid state delays is the Brian Setzer favorite - the Roland Space Echo. This is a killer sounding unit - capable of combining (in the RE-301 model, at least) the slap-back delay along with Roland's awesome chorus effect - quite a combination. These seem to be going in the $450-700 range these days on eBay. Better than the price of the tube units, but still too much for the frugal (i.e. cheap bastards) among us.

So, what's a rockabilly boy or girl to do? Two relatively unsung (but worthy of praise) vintage tape delay models are a good option here. The Univox Echo Tech (reputedly used, for what it's worth, on Van Halen's Eruption - not my cup of tone tea, but one many people love big time). The Univox units go for around $200 (for one needing work) to $350, but they are more often than not broken, or in need of work (more than the other vintage units, these seem to lose a point or two for reliability).
And, last but definitely not least in this roundup is this month's crazy eBay find:
The Electra EP 350 Flat Response Tape Echo. Like the Roland, this is a combination unit (the Electra carries a reverb along with the tape delay, rather than a chorus). Unlike say, an Echoplex, the Electra doesn't use a tape cartridge - but rather has a loop of tape running free on one side, then it gets fed over six heads as it travels around a see-though top (which is just too cool).
How does it sound? Pretty awesome - as good as the Roland Space Echo. Rich, with a fat density and a very versatile (for analog - no 15 second delays here - also no cool "Sound on Sound" feature like an Echoplex, sadly) range of echo tones. The reverbs are pretty cool. There's a standard reverb that sounds very much like one from an Ampeg (the jazzy verb as opposed to Fender's surf vibe), plus a "cathedral" reverb that's very cavernous indeed.

On the echo side, there's the echo alone, or the echo combined with any (or all!) of the reverbs. You can choose several modes - with different tape heads being engaged in a number of combinations. With controls for "Echo" (depth), "Echo Repeat" and "Delay Time" you can go anywhere from a subtle doubling/thickening, to full rockabilly slapback, to full feedback freakout (and NOTHING sounds quite like a tape echo with the "Repeat" and "Delay Time" both cranked and played with it's a zany sonic assault).

For the investigators and hunters among us, who made the Electra? Hard to say. Electra was imported and branded by the St. Louis Music company (of Ampeg fame, among others), but made in Japan at one of the many great effects manufactures there. Probably manufactured at the Shin-ei factory, but that's an educated (or semi-educated) guess. Be on the lookout. These are true Tape Echo units that have that singular vintage analog sound that you can only get from tape, and they can be had for half the price of most other vintage units (the finicky Univox excepted).
Questions or comments? Drop me a line at:

or check out: www.myspace/robroberge for more information about my book, blogs and bands.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


NAMM show column is up at's a look without the pics!

2007 NAMM SHOW – by Rob Roberge

What I learned at my first NAMM show.

· The NAMM show is incredibly HUGE. It’s fitting that it’s across the street from Disneyland, as you end up walking just as much as you would at the self-proclaimed happiest place on earth (not when there’s a million guitars across the street, Walt). On a further plus, there’s a lot less puke and fewer children at the NAMM show.

· Parking is a slice of hell. Maybe two slices. And that’s with Disney running the parking, and Disney does parking with an efficiency that rivals the train schedules of Fascist Governments.

· NAMM is, however, one of the most incredibly organized colossal endeavors I’ve ever seen. We’re not just talking about hundreds upon hundreds of booths with guitars and amps and accordions and ukuleles, but full rooms of grand pianos and other enormous instruments. Add to this the complexity of visitor lists, vendors, exhibitors, performers, and so on, and it’s just incredible that the whole thing comes off without a train wreck of disasters.

· People who wear sunglasses indoors look like idiots. The NAMM show is no exception. Knock it off, people. If you don’t have some eye condition and you’re wearing sunglasses inside during the day, you look stupid. You do not look like a rock star. You look like a guy trying to look like a rock star. Which is really not an admirable goal for anyone over 14.

· The guys at the Eastwood booth were a kick and a half to hang out with for four days. Many laughs, much guitar geek love and a cool surf guitar show for the first two days by fellow Buster Keaton fan Peter Robinson of the CA surf band Surf Cinema. Thanks for the great time, guys!

· Metal and shredding are with us to stay. As is guitar-face. And sunglasses inside. And men in their fifties in leather pants. We can ask why, or we can accept it and move on.

I also learned there were a lot of guitars I wanted. The short list:

A radical Fritz Bros Jimmy Reed Thin Twin model (high a spare four grand for a fellow down on his luck?)

A cheapie (retail under three bills) Dano Pro (in Aqua, and several colors that were not Aqua...which is what happens to me when a guitar is offered in Aqua and/or Sea Foam Green...I know only that it is offered in other, non-essential colors. Aqua, people!). It played really well, and it had an improved bridge over the last re-issues. And it comes in Aqua.

Some very cool Italia models, including an absolutely stunning twelve string electric with a beautiful headstock. Why aren’t there more sparkly guitars in the world? Well, Italia is doing their part to right that wrong. A big sparkly thanks, folks!

See-through Ampeg Dan Armstrong. I didn’t play it, but it’s see-through. That’s enough cool factor.

SEVERAL Eastwood models released at NAMM, but there were also a couple of others that will be ready in April - the AIRLINE Tuxedo “Kay Barney Kessel” Model and the Map Shaped Bass. The Saturn (man, that’s a fun guitar to play...and I got one!), The Town & Country (ditto), but the big hit was the Map Shaped Guitars. I’m guessing EASTWOOD sold out of those at the show. All great lookers and players.

And a bunch more. What else did I learn?

· Peavey continues to make solid, well-made really ugly stuff. 40 years and counting of truly aesthetically challenged design. You would think they might have accidentally made a cool looking guitar by now, but nope, you’d be wrong.

· There was a guy who always dressed in camouflage and sold machine-gun shaped electric guitars. I kept my distance.

· In a world of large booths, Fender and Gibson have REALLY large booths. No stunner there, but the Fender booth did have some cool historic guitars. They also had a new Eddie Van Halen model that costs a lot of money for something that looks like it was made in a high school shop class by a stoner in 1982.

· Randy Bachman seems like a nice guy in addition to being a legend who has played on lots of great tunes.

· I learned there were a lot of amps I wanted.

Again, the short list:

The new. Which isn’t really a re-issue, as I don’t think they ever did a Jet with 6V6 output tubes (a early Reverberocket, yes, maybe a Jet, but I don’t remember that...I’m pretty sure they all had 7591’s). But, anyway, it sounded great, and had only Volume, Tone and Tremolo Speed and Intensity knobs. Cool. Low wattage, few knobs. Gotta love that.

Our very own Don Mackrill’s Airline 18 Watt amplifier. Just a great looking and sounding amplifier. Hand made, with style and care and great tone. What’s not to love? Don, I want one in Sea Foam Green! (Everything should come in Sea Foam Green with a Bigsby option. I’d put a Bigsby on my Sea Foam kitchen table if I could).

Fargen’s 4x6V6 amp. Yummy. Four 6V6’s, which is such a cool way to get to your 30-40 watts, rather than the more conventional two 6L6’s.

What else?

· Joel Weaver of Home Brew Electronics, in addition to making my favorite overdrive pedal (The Power Screamer), is a nice guy. Check out his pedals. Great stuff.

· I begged Groove Tubes...I cajoled JJ Tubes...Nobody is going to make a new 7189A tube. Argh. This is sad news to a Magnatone M10 lover. They just don’t run on EL84’s, no matter how rugged, and there is an ever-dwindling (and ever-expensive) supply of 7189A’s. As my niece likes to say, this news is “poopy.” Poopy, indeed.

· A lot more people that I might have expected wanted Paul Stanley’s autograph. But, hey, it’s a big world. More power to him, I suppose.

· There’s one very cranky and not incredibly competent woman who checks your bags on the way out. There may be more than her, but I kept running into the same one. She would demand I open my bag, not really look in, and then bark at me to move on. I could have had a severed head in that bag for all she knew. (I did NOT have a severed head, for those wondering at home).

· There are a LOT of people who play guitar better than me. That’s not a huge surprise to me, but when they’re all in the same room with you (albeit a VERY LARGE room), it’s pretty humbling. A lot of people who can play out there in the world. Pretty cool.

· I learned that I had to sell some stuff to make some room for what I carried out of there. NAMM is a heady experience, a gear freak’s nirvana (or close...maybe it would be nirvana with vintage axes, too), and a tiring sensory overload that’s a ball.

There’s nothing quite like it, and I can’t wait until next year to see what’s new.

See you in next month’s newsletter… Rob Roberge

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Show This Saturday!

Hey folks…I’m playing a show with the CHAIRS OF PERCEPTION (that’s me getting to make some big noise with Kevin Barrett and John Talley Jones from LA punk rock legends URINALS and 100 FLOWERS)…this SATUDAY at the BUCCANEER bar in Sierra Madre.

This is a really cool, intimate bar (with PIRATE PAINTINGS!) just on the east side of Pasadena and we're playing with the great JR. JUGGERNAUT and PROJECT K. Get there early as JR. JUGGERNAUT is great…stay late, as, well, so are we.

This show's gonna be a blast...It's a Saturday night...It's free...What the hell else do you want?!??


9:30 Jr. Juggernaut / 10:30 Project K / 11:30 The Chairs of Perception / 21+

January, 27 2007
70 W. Sierra Madre Blvd
Sierra Madre, 91024

Monday, December 04, 2006


Chairs Show this Weds...12/6

The Chairs of Perception

That’s John and Kevin from the Urinals/100 Flowers, and me…are playing this Weds…

December, 6 2006 at THE WRITER'S GARAGE (Long Beach)

Dipiazzas Lava Lounge,
5205 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, California 90804
Cost: $5.00 (after
8PM…FREE before)

Mike Martt at 7pm / Pete Weiss reading at 8pm / Chairs of Perception at 9pm / Satellite Dogs at 10pm.

All ages until 10pm, FREE before 8pm. 562-498-2461

Friday, December 01, 2006


New Column up...enjoy!

I have a new column up...for fans of guitars, amps, snarky humor, Jimmy Page and/or (on the odd chance) my here:

also, check out the guitar store at while you're there. My buddy Mike owns the company and he has some GREAT stuff (what with the holidays coming up, you might want to get your favorite guitarist (and/or noir novelist :) something cool.



Thursday, November 16, 2006


Reading at The Writers Garage NOV 29th!

Ok, so lots of people tell me I should give more notice...Well, here's some. I'm reading at The Writers Garage (hosted/started by Mike Martt) on November 29th...less than two weeks. Put it in your datebook now--this is a great weekly night in Long Beach. Usually it's two or three bands, with the reading at come on out every Wednesday, but I'll be reading from my novel in progress on the 29th.

7pm every Wednesday
@ Dipiazzas Lava Lounge, 5205 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Long Beach, CA 90804 - 562-498-2461

Cost Free before 8PM, $5 after

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