With 2017 drawing to a close, we here at zZounds found ourselves feeling a bit nostalgic. After comparing our 2017 Spotify favorites playlists, we quickly fell into another classic trap — the YouTube video hole, going back through all our favorite zZounds videos of the year. Maybe it’s the eggnog talking, but we feel that we’ve done a lot, and learned a lot this year. We were able to interview some awesome artists and glean a few of their secrets, we tried our best to channel our favorite play-turned-film-turned-’70s-sitcom, The Odd Couple, in our Perfect Pairings series, and we really drove it home with our Legends of Tone video series.
We’ve put together a list of our top 5 favorite videos from 2017. So join us as we take a misty, nog-filled look back at some of our favorite videos, all focusing on one unifying theme: getting deep into that mystic land we call the #tonezone.
1. Legends Of Tone: The Beatles – A Tribute to Sgt. Peppers
Alright, this might be kind of a gimme, being that The Beatles are arguably the greatest rock band to ever exist, but Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is an amazing album. Many techniques that today sound like classic rock tropes were invented on this album, so taking it on and doing it justice was quite a challenge. For starters, the dense arrangements and unique instrumentation is daunting, to say the least, not to mention the stacked vocal harmonies and weaving chord progressions. Native Instruments Komplete 11 software was instrumental (get it?) in helping us approximate the massive and sometimes exotic instrumentation of Sgt. Pepper’s. Other tracks we were able to recreate on guitar, like “Within You Without You,” for which we grabbed an EHX Freeze, a POG2, an eBow and a few sticks of Nag Champa to help get us in the mood and channel a sitar sound.
Obviously, no one can completely capture the tone of The Beatles, but all in all, we feel it’s one of our strongest attempts to capture a glimpse into the tone of a iconic rock band, using modern, readily available gear. Just don’t ask how long it took to work out all the vocal melodies to the Reprise on guitar.
2. Perfect Pairings: MotherCorrupter
This was probably one of the most fun videos to make. As soon as we got a Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter in the office, we knew we could make some weird stuff with it. EQD is no stranger to getting weird and wild with their pedal designs, and the Data Corrupter is at the top of the heap (we didn’t forget about the Rainbow Machine, though). And when we needed something else full of warbly, fat sounds, the Moog Mother-32 was perfect. It also just happened to be October, so we took a wad of cash to the local Halloween store and put in our Bauhaus greatest hits tape on the way. Thus the MotherCorrupter was born. We like to think of it as if Trent Reznor did the soundtrack to Dig Dug.
3. Rush: Top 5 Guitar Solos
This one is everyone’s dad’s favorite video. Who can blame him, though? There is nothing quite like driving around town, windows down, blasting a flamin’ hot Lifeson solo as Geddy holds down the low end and Neil shows off how many toms he owns. zZounds lead guitarist Justin had a blast with this one. Finding his dad’s worn-out tape copy of Moving Pictures is what set him down the path that earned him the nickname “Hot Lixx” around the office, after all.
As far as gear goes, this video didn’t require too much. While we don’t have any vintage Marshall amps around, the 1987XL Plexi reissue did most of the heavy lifting, and did it well. The other half was a set of fingers that spent over a decade working out prog-style scale runs and perfecting vibratos. From there, a few pedals like the Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress and Dunlop Crybaby Classic added the final touches.
4. Alesis Strike Pro Demo
Drum gear can often be overlooked, and electronic drums can get even more of a bad rap. Sure, when they first showed up in the ’80s, electronic drums were a breakthrough, but today those original kits are better known for making hilarious VH1 Classic clips. But when the Alesis team brought their Strike Pro kit to zZounds HQ, we got to see how advanced electronic drums have become. To start off, we tried the first preset, Rock’n Kit, and got some incredibly believable acoustic drum sounds. Close your eyes and listen and see what you think. By the end, we got into some unconventional, more electronic sounds. Plus, by using an overhead angle we showed off how quick the kit is to set up and break down.
5. St. Vincent on her Signature Ernie Ball Music Man
Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) was all over the musical and guitar worlds this year. While her signature guitar came out in 2016, it continued to make waves well into 2017. Plus, her 2017 album Masseduction hit number 10 on the Billboard Top 200, carrying things even further. While some in the guitar community lambasted her signature model as a “gimmick” and just a “guitar for women,” the truth could be nothing further from that. Having had a model in the office for a few months, we can say the guitar is ergonomically designed for a “human” body, no matter what gender, and feels and plays beautifully.
And speaking to Annie at NAMM 2017 was incredible. She gave us some insights on how Ernie Ball Music Man worked with her on the design, and her ideas for the 2017 special finishes. She also dropped some hints on the Sterling series of her guitar, which now exists, and the possibility of a St. Vincent bass. We haven’t seen it yet, but maybe for 2018?
Runner Up – Legends of Tone: Dick Dale
Dick Dale’s reverb-soaked surf rock tone is American as apple pie and Discovery Channel specials on how hard it is to live in Alaska, despite his hit song ‘Misirlou’ being a traditional Middle Eastern folk song. This was another fun video to make, and let Justin really work on his alternate picking. Plus it gave us an excuse to hit the beach for some B-roll. When it came to recording the trumpet accompaniment, we hit the dollar store for a few kazoos which worked out quite well, if you ask us. Shortly after we finished this video, we got an urge to re-watch Pulp Fiction.
Fun video fact: Dick had a penchant for blaring his tube amps (my man) and often blew them out. That resulted in him helping design the 100-watt Fender Showman. This earned him the nickname the “Father of Heavy Metal,” as those loud and powerful amps are still used to push drop-D chug riffs as loud as possible.