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Brian Mark - Guitaraholic

I'm a guitaraholic on the road to recovery. Just kidding. I'm on the road to buy another guitar. I'm also most likely looking for another pedal, cord, speaker, amp, pick, strap, case, rack mount gear, lighting and maybe even some recording or production s

Updated: 2018-03-06T13:13:29.056-06:00


Three shows, three states in July


July is panning out to be a busy month playing. We're playing Omaha on 7/7, Maiden plays Lincoln on 7/9, we're playing Des Moines on 7/15, and we just added Kansas City on 7/29. That's three shows across three states in one month, and then we're supposed to head to Rapid City during bike week.

That brings us to the next one, though... the venue may have fallen through. The host of the show is now scrambling to find a new location to set up his stage and food trucks for that show. I should know soon if it's actually happening or not, but we're really hoping to have 4 states in under a month. Either way, it was very nice to be asked.

What other states can we add yet this summer? I'm sure there are a few. We got asked to play in Colorado, but we're still waiting on details for that. Kansas wouldn't be too bad of a drive. Anyone have suggestions for us?

First big show announcement


Well, here it is. Our first BIG show announcement. We've been asked, less than 6 months after our first show, to play Monsters of Madness Tribute Fest in Rapid City during the Sturgis bike rally. While it's not in "Sturgis proper", this might actually be to our benefit as we'll be right next to Rapid City Harley Davidson, which gets a huge number of visitors every day and we'll be on an outdoor stage, so people can hear us without entering an establishment.

We'll be playing Aug 4 at 4:30, 6th at 10:00 and the 7th at 6:30. There are some big names that we'll be sharing the stage with, but more on that later. For now, we're playing and need to start figuring out logistics.

I missed a month...


I didn't get anything posted last month. Consider this an apology to everyone who reads this regularly. But, I think there was good reason.

Things are really picking up for the Maiden tribute band. I've taken over booking duties, and so far it's going well. We have a show coming up later this month, I'm working on closing the deal on a 2 night Maiden Weekend party leading up to their show on July 9th, we're playing a B.A.C.A. benefit in Des Moines the following weekend, and we've been asked to play something else that I'm working on a contract for. I can't spill the beans on that one yet, but let's just say Trump would be proud, because it'll be "YUUUGE!"

Also of note is that we have done a video shoot for a promo. Between the audio and video, it was almost 10 hours in studios. Once it's released (should be early next month), I'll be sure to post it here. Until then, here's a peek at our video set.

So, on that note, it's off to finish up that contract and get ready to inform everyone here about the next event that's been on many bands' bucket lists. Yep, it will be that YUUUGE.

Maiden Voyage Show Video


It's funny how the dance floor doesn't really fill in for Iron Maiden even though we had 150+ people in the audience. I guess it's just not dance material.

Anyway, here's some performance video to give you a taste of the Voyage from our first public performance. This was before gear upgrades (Adrian Smith signature guitar for Bill, my JMP-1 and Marshall power amp, etc.)

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Simpler pedal board


Since I'm pretty much sticking to the Iron Maiden tribute band, I've been able to knock down the number of pedals I require. So... for starters...

I got rid of a lot of the bulk. No need for a second volume pedal, reverb, delay, etc. Very simple signal path... wireless into volume into A/B/Y which either goes to the EHX pedals for some synth sounds or on to the...

Marshall JMP-1. That's right, I found a vintage piece of gear with tubes in it which is the same model as Maiden themselves use. Sort of takes the guesswork out of getting the right tone when their settings are well documented online. Both of the signal paths go to a side of my Marshall 8008, with an old school Digitech DSP 128+ adding a bit of verb and delay to the guitar side of things.

The only other thing I have been using is a power conditioner and I'm probably going to add my Noise Clamp back in the loop at some point, but hide it in the rack. Otherwise, it's pretty straight forward and most of the tone I'm using comes right from the JMP-1.

Shows! Upcoming Shows!


After practicing with the guys in the Maiden tribute for a while now, we have some shows coming up. The first 2 are scheduled for sure, with 2 more probables before springtime and a whole bunch starting to come together for the spring and summer months. Good thing I got a larger vehicle. My guitar cab wouldn't even fit in the back of my Jaguar. haha.

January 27th and February 24th are confirmed dates for now, with February 10th being a possible. I'll try to post up a few videos from those shows.

We seem to have a lot of interest locally and regionally already, so this could end up being a very busy year.

All shows are currently being put on our Facebook page.

Maiden Voyage (Omaha) - The Trooper


I've been getting some good feedback on the Maiden tribute videos, so here's another one. This time, we're playing The Trooper.

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What tune do you want to hear us play next?

Since people have been asking me...


Since plenty of people have been asking me, yes... I got a tattoo. No need for a long, drawn-out post here. I just need to post a picture of it around my scar.

To answer most of the questions:

1) No, it didn't hurt much at all. I had more tickling than anything.
2) Yes, that entire dividing line is the scar.
3) Yes, I am going to return to get color done.
4) No, I don't intend to get a bunch more scars / tattoos.
5) Yes, I do web work by day, so it has a connection to me.

Maiden Voyage (Omaha) - Hallowed Be Thy Name


Just a quick video from our rehearsal last night. We're about ready to get out and play some shows while we continue learning the rest of the catalog.

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Maiden Tribute video - new bass player


First practice with a new bass player? Not a problem. We found the right guy for the job. Not only does he have the bass lines down, but he already owned the right bass! You can see my Dave Murray signature strat in this video, but Bill doesn't have his Adrian Smith Jackson along for this practice. I hope to put a few more of these videos up in the coming weeks.

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So far, playing Maiden has been a total blast. Can't wait until the next practice... and the next one... and the shows... and building the stage props... and the shows... and did I mention this is fun to play?

Oh, and if you want to follow us on Facebook, it's here. Maiden Voyage Omaha

NGD: I'll have a new gear Friday post soon!!!


That's right... today is a big day. My Dave Murray signature Fender Strat shows up today. As you may have heard here already, I'm playing the part of Dave in a new Maiden tribute band, so I obviously needed the "correct" guitar. It'll arrive today, so after I give it a full shakedown, I'll be sure to upload some audio and maybe even some video with it.

NGD is always exciting!

Time off the blog and behind the guitar


In case you haven't noticed, I've been taking some time away from the keyboard to get fully ready for the Maiden band. I did audition with another band on bass last week, and they seemed pretty happy with my playing. However, I'm just looking for something fun to supplement the Maiden band since it feels like something that will be spread out (as in only once every month at the most) so we don't saturate the market.

So, with that said, I'm toying around with some songs that I think I can front reasonably well and have a buddy wants to play bass on and another buddy wants to play drums on. I've never done the power trio thing, but I think it could be enjoyable for a while. If something else comes along that catches my interest, I'll see where it goes. But for now, I've got those two plus the weekly Sunday morning performance with the praise band.

Three seems about right for now, and if the rumors come true, we may be busy driving around with the Maiden deal. I'll probably hold steady at these three so I don't spread myself too thin, at least until I don't have to think about anything Dave plays in the slightest and know most of their tunes. Then I may look harder into a fourth... or maybe another fun tribute.

What are you most interested to hear? Maiden? Power Trio? Praise Band? Leave a comment and I'll see about getting some audio / video posted of whatever people are requesting.

Keeping extremely busy


As you can guess, learning every Maiden tune ever recorded has been keeping me quite busy. I'm enjoying the challenge of it as well as some of the new theory I've picked out of their music.

Yes, I said new theory. Not new as in "OMG, nobody has ever seen this before", but new as in I hadn't used certain chord progressions with 8ths and 6ths together in that manner before. I'm certainly enjoying the different approach to things.

Probably the toughest part, though, is the shared solos. Moving one guy from lead to rhythm without missing a beat on the rhythm or the lead is tricky to say the least. Again, I'm up for the challenge, but it's certainly something I haven't tried in the past.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm intrigued by every tune I play and look forward to what I can learn in the next song on the album... and then the next album... and the next... playing with a purpose is good.

Gear Friday: Gretsch Electromatic


It had to happen at some point, right? I had to get a Gretsch. Well, I decided to start with an Electromatic and go from there, but it still says Gretsch.

It's certainly a pretty headstock, but I'm not real crazy about the way the strings are bent out from the center. This adds unnecessary tension to those middle few strings, but perhaps that's the point. That means those are less likely to bend when you're playing "normal". I suppose that could keep it more in tune when playing chords, but I've never heard anyone state that as being the reason. I just know I generally prefer straight paths so I can bend them as I want to with minimal effort.

As for the body, it's pretty. The bigsby took a bit to get used to. No divebombs, but a nice vibrato is no problem.

So what do I like about this one? It's certainly a different tone than most of my others. Between the weaker output from the pickups and the airy sound from the semi-hollow, it's a much different sound than most of my electrics. I also like the neck feel for playing chords, especially open chords. It's not a shred monster, but that's not what it was designed to be.

What don't I like about it? The strings like to fall off the saddles if I toy with the bigsby and it gets feedback really easily. Feedback is a common hollow problem, but the saddle issues drive me nuts. I've tried doing a little adjusting, but it just doesn't quite stay stable.

Overall, I like this one for recording, it would be fine in church, but most live settings I'll be grabbing something else. Good thing I have a few to choose from.

Tribute Bands: Love 'em, hate 'em, or otherwise?


Nothing beats seeing an amazing band. What do you do if they don't tour your area? Well, for many, it's checking out a tribute.

While it can't beat the real thing, or in some cases it does (deceased, etc.), a tribute can be a fun experience all in its own. Many times, these bands get extremely creative with stage props, song selection, audience participation or even making fun of how dorky they feel acting like someone else.

The first tributes I remember seeing were Elvis impersonators. Who doesn't love seeing a pretend Elvis shaking his hips and singing "Ain't nothin' but a hound dog"??? Ok, so many of us. But, for a true Elvis fan, that's one of the greatest things you can imagine, or one of the worst, or somewhere in between. It all depends on a few factors.

  1. How well did they respect the memories you have of the artist / band? A great tribute not only brings back memories, but enhances / creates new ones.
  2. How well did they perform the songs? They should sound pretty close to the original and not venture into that "unrecognizable" territory.
  3. How well did they perform like said band. Sure, everyone will have their own take on this, but there should be something saying "We're performing as if we are ____" and not just a bunch of guys playing a set or two of covers all from one band.
  4. Are they having fun? Nobody wants to watch a bunch of people on stage that look miserable, so having fun as the band they're imitating is a must.

As you can tell, there are a lot of reasons to love / hate tributes. So what do the bands get out of performing as someone else?

  1. Easy access to a fan base. If you tell people you're a tribute for ____, fans for that band are immediately interested. Heck, even people who aren't necessarily fans can become interested if they have some connection to that band.
  2. Decent pay. That's right, I brought up money. Tributes put a lot of time and effort into becoming the band they want to emulate, and the result should be a monetary reward. If that's not the case, they're doing it wrong.
  3. Ego trips. If you've seen Total Recall (the original, as the tribute to that movie wasn't nearly as good), then you may remember when they said Arnold's character was going on an ego trip - a vacation from himself. Performing as someone else is very similar.
  4. Ability to do several. Unless you're a wildly successful tribute that's touring (Mini Kiss comes to mind), you're probably going to be geographically limited and realistically date limited. If there's an AC/DC tribute performing every weekend, then it becomes stale in a hurry and the fan base runs out. Scarcity is a secret ingredient here, and doing several tributes with your band mates can fill in those performance gaps.
So, why am I talking about tributes so much? If you guessed I'm looking at one, you're right. I am looking at a Maiden tribute right now, with the potential for me to be playing lead guitar. Guess I better get fitted for my Eddie mask. This could either be great, or make you Run For The Hills.

I'm one of the 6...


I've been told this several times recently... I'm one of the six. Worse yet, I'm #1 on that list. I certainly find myself bored at times in bands. I most definitely want to keep progressing and hate taking it easy and just getting along. Lack of improvement from week to week drives me crazy. If I'm not better than I was last week, I'll be working 2x as hard the coming week to get it right. And then, I get let down by those around me quite regularly.

I guess that's why I have so much trouble sticking with a band... I don't see the same level of dedication and it drives me nuts. Anyway... on to the next adventure.

Gear Friday: Carvin BX1500


To finish off my new, lighter bass rig, I needed a new, lighter bass head. Enter the Carvin BX1500.

Weighing in at right around 10 lbs, it is less than 1/3 the weight of my previous head. I dropped the Line 6 Bass Pod Pro into a rack bag with it (interestingly enough, the rack bag weighs more than both of those pieces of equipment combined) so I'd have a tuner and wireless access to changing eq and tone settings using my Guitar Wing.

But, how does the amp itself sound?

I'm assuming that's the only reason you'd be reading this. To be honest, it's loud and clean. It's tough to dial in a growl with this amp (the Line 6 is handy for that now), but it's not really meant to do that. It's raw, clean power. Just how a bass amp should be in my mind.

As for the eq section, I find that it has a lot of static if I don't drop a lot of the highs. It doesn't sound dark if I drop them out, but it sure sounds bright if I leave them in. This changes if I use a passive bass, though. It might just be the way I've EQ'd the bass itself, but I can adjust it easily by either dropping the highs knob or leaving it in place and adjusting between the two basses by turning the graphic eq on and off. I find that trick to be really, really cool.

One other thing that really makes it nice is that I have a switch on the front panel to turn the effects loop on and off. This may not seem like much, but when a friend comes over to practice, I can turn off the Line 6 so they don't have to mess with that and just get a great clean tone. If I want to add something in, flip a switch and choose a patch. That's an awesome feature that my other amps had been lacking. I'd imagine I'll find myself using that quite a bit on stage depending on the song.

Overall, this amp meets my needs since I use outboard effects. If I wanted to dial in some grit in the amp, this would have been a terrible choice. But, with how it's set up and how I use my gear, it's just what I wanted. A bit of reverb, perhaps some chorus, a hint of drive on occasion and we've got some great tones. And those are all things that Line 6 does fairly well. I don't need all the amp modeling. I'll stick to just the effects, thanks. But power, that's totally covered by the Carvin.

Oh, and just for grins, I did hook up my Acoustic 4x10 and 1x15 along with the Markbass 2x10. Yes, this has plenty of power for all of that, and with the bi-amp mode, I've been running just the lows to the 1x15 and the mids and highs to the 2x10. Makes for a lot of interesting setup possibilities.

Audition results


Last week, I mentioned I had another audition. It went fine, I suppose. I was asked to come back next week and they were all pretty excited to have "low end" in their sound again.

That's the good stuff. Now for the not so good.

I wasn't a fan of anything they were playing. For me to really be happy in a band, I need to first off be a fan. It just wasn't easy to listen to with the songs changing keys from D minor to F minor to Eb minor to C# minor to E minor to C minor all in the same song. Yes, that's everything chromatically from C to F in one song done as key changes. The rhythm guitar and keys changed that much, but the lead seemed to be stuck in the same scale the whole day.

I didn't feel any of it as a result. I admit, I sometimes write stuff that's sketchy theory wise, but it's usually for a reason (adding some tension, transitioning, etc.) and not just because we had played four bars in one key already so it was time to change. Mark taught me well not to change just for the sake of change, and that the majority of changes should stay in the same key but perhaps just a quick change of root (and mode) to stay in the same scale but give it some sonic difference.

It was loud. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people think that hearing the drums in a practice setting means everyone else in the band is too quiet. This was a small practice room at Guitar Center, and my ears are still ringing a couple days later.

GC's supplied bass amp sucked. Yes, it was an Acoustic head with a decent 8x10 cab, but it sounded as if something was blown. No matter how low I turned the gain while plugged into the side of the head labeled "active" instead of "passive", it would still distort badly, but usually as the sound was fading out and not as it was at it's peak. Specific notes were the worst offenders (C# & F#), but lower volumes on any of the notes could cause problems. I guess that's fine if you don't play with any dynamics, but that leads to my next point.

There were no dynamics. It was all just one volume... super loud. I got the whole thing recorded with my phone and an external mic that could handle the input levels, but looking at the waveform it looked like one of those nasty, super compressed mastered tracks. Loudness wars for sure, but not in a good way.

Anyway, my final assessment is that I'm probably not looking for what they have going. Perhaps I'm too picky, but I think I've earned the right to be picky to some extent. I've paid my dues playing with bands that I wasn't totally happy with, so I'm going to wait for the right band this time - or start the right band - so I'm not wasting more years with people and bands that don't meet my expectations.

Gear Friday: Percussion Toys


Once again, I fell into a trap. I saw something fun and just had to have it.

While I don't have a specific use, I believe these will be great on some of the songs I'm recording recently. I'm doing one with keys, a bit of guitar, and a cello, so some congas seem like they'll be a great addition to that mix. Full drum set seems like it could be overkill for a pretty simple song.

The more I toy around with them, the more ideas I get. Sometimes, it's good to think outside of the "norm".

Another audition


This weekend, I'm going to audition for a prog rock band. They've actually been out playing shows without a bass player, just as 2 guitars, drums and keys. The whole thing is instrumental, so it seems like it could probably use a little help on the low end. They book practice time at the local Guitar Center, so I'll be meeting them there.

This brings up a couple of interesting things, though.

First off, how do you just walk into a prog band and start playing?

Secondly, if you don't have means for a decent recording, how do you get the songs down tight with minimal practice time at rented rehearsal space?

I'll know the answers to these and other mind boggling questions soon. Should be an interesting experience in any event.

From The Arc


I didn't get any building done this weekend. Instead, I had a band over to get ready for their first show coming up, opening for Another Lost Year and Death Division. Should be a great overall show, but it made me realize something.

Alex is a beast.

Alex, the drummer I've featured here a couple of times, is the drummer in this band. He's playing to a click for this group, the guitar players are sharp, the bass player is decent, and the overall sound is amazing. They're going to be a band to watch in the upcoming months.

That said, here's a little clip from their practice session.

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Keep rockin', Alex!

Gear Friday: New Bass Cab


I've been a bit beat up for the past year plus, so lugging around my Ampeg (almost 100 lbs), or my Hartke with the Acoustic 4x10 and 1x15 cabs is just not what I'm looking to do. As such, the Ampeg went to church where it doesn't need to move and the Acoustic cabs are going to find a new home. That left an opening for a lightweight cab. Enter the Markbass Traveler 102p.

I can actually move this one with my right arm (side the surgery was on), and the sound is actually louder than both of the other cabs together. Not only that, but it sounds a bit cleaner and pops better when I hit something hard.

Now to move on to a better head. I still like the effects I have, but the Hartke is a beast to carry around. I'll have that solved soon enough, and that'll be another Gear Friday post.



While working on the electronics of El Capitan, I learned the hard way that soldering iron holders get just about as hot as the iron itself. Might take a day or two to get over that one. I now have a pretty decent burn across my thumb and middle fingers on my right hand. At least it's not on the left... I'll count my blessings... just using the other hand for now.

That said, a new soldering iron stand is in order. One that will help me not burn myself during future projects.

Build Monday: El Electronics


El Capitan finally got some electronics installed. It was not without incident, though. I'll post more on that later.

Seems to be something missing in a few body cavities.

Ah, that's looking nicer.

Selector switch soldered on and pickups installed. The two volume knobs and tone knob are also wired, but not yet poking through to the front. That'll come very shortly.

Next up on this build is adding the bridge hardware and tuners so I can hear it sing. That will be a great day.

Gear Friday: Inventables X-Carve CNC Router Progress


I was asked how the assembly of the X-Carve was coming along. Well, slowly. I've been pretty busy outside of the workshop lately, so it's been slowly getting assembled. At this point, I have the X-axis pretty well done. The motor can glide across the rails nice and easy.

While it doesn't look like I've done much, there is quite a bit of small assembly to do on both of those end pieces, and getting the screws that were missing took some time as well. I think I'm back on track to get this assembled, though. Next up is the Y-axis, and then I can start really making it look like something rather than a fancy clothes hanger.