Day 3: The silliness begins to kick in…

Well, today was Day 3 of our being cabin-bound for winter storm Juno

[you know, the storm that didn’t happen, because New York didn’t get hit so hard… despite the fact that we had nearly 3 feet of snow, drifting to 5 or 6 feet in places]

and, when the kids shouted for the umpteenth time that we should go out and play in the snow, I proposed an alternative plan. Here’s what we did instead of the usual,  for a little while at least…

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

From the VT vault: Tokai Super Edition VS-80

Every so often, I take a hard look at the gear I’ve accumulated over the years, with an eye to whether it might be better placed with someone else

[though, in reality, I seldom actually get rid of anything!]

So it was that I spent some time revisiting my first ‘proper’ guitar, a 1985 Tokai Super Edition VS-80.

Tokai Super Edition VS-80

Though my first ever guitar was an Encore Stratocaster copy

[black, with white pickguard which I subsequently swapped out for a black one, and painted the pickups black]

my Tokai was the first I bought with my own money – the stereotypical working of weekends and school vacations to earn the money – based upon a review in Guitarist magazine

[still one of my go-to sources of gear info and reviews]

There’s very little information online about the model, so I thought I’d drop some here for folk who may be looking.

It’s a pretty cool guitar, Made-in-Japan S-type, mahogany (I think) body – it’s heavier than my Les Paul! – with a figured maple cap and medium C-profile maple neck, medium jumbo frets.  The tremolo is Tokai’s own locking unit, a bit of a pain to restring, but fairly stable

[though I rarely use a whammy bar, to be honest]

Tokai Super Edition VS-80

As for electronics, it has twin humbuckers

[proprietary to Tokai, I think]

with coil split on a push-pull tone pot. The secret weapon is a boost on the third push-pull pot, which offers up to 20 db

[as I recall, though it may be 18db]

of boost, more than enough to push any clean tube amp channel into gritty overdrive.

Tokai Super Edition VS-80 Headstock

I haven’t played it much since the early-90s, when I began to add other guitars to my collection. Spending time on it the other day, I was reminded how it really is a great guitar – top-of-the-line for what was a budget line with a great reputation to this day. The neck pickup is nothing to write home about – unless using the coil split, then it has some spank – but the bridge is nice in both HB and single-coil modes.

As far as I can tell, Tokai lost their way

[and reputation]

when they got pulled into the hair-metal madness – before that, they’d built a strong brand for copying Les Pauls and Strats on a budget. I think the brand was always more popular outside of the US.

As my first guitar, the Super Edition holds such a sentimental weight for me – I can still remember waiting for it to be delivered from

[I think]

Peter Cook’s guitar shop in West London. The box arriving, opening up the hard case, the smell of it. I learned my basics on this guitar, before I lost my hands for 15 years. While I wouldn’t use it live now

[I have several much, much better axes]

it’s still nice to play once in a while, and has aged well. Interestingly, when I think of making my own guitar, it usually ends up looking something like this one

[though I’d definitely swap out that floating trem for a fixed bridge]

which to me at least feels like a subconscious nod to how much the Tokai meant to me at the time

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

ps: Let me know if you like this stuff, I have a couple of other rare guitars which I’d be happy to share with you.

 

Subconscious, luck or intuition?

I was just checking in on iTunes to see whether Grope was now available

[it is, now sitting proudly alongside Sparse]

and, for the first time, I looked at both covers side by side:

Record CoversIt may just be me that sees it, but the physical orientation of my body and guitar on Grope mirrors the branches on Sparse pretty closely. Do you see it?

The two photos are completely unrelated.

The branches on Sparse are in my back yard, captured on a very cold day while mixing the record. The cropping was thanks to Rob Edmonds, who designed the front cover, and overall graphic concept for the record.

The saturated picture of me on Grope was taken by a friend, Pam Strollo, while I played at an Anne Castellano & The Smoke

[new EP ‘Bridge To Nowhere’ just being released]

gig – it’s from a much wider angle picture, but the cropping happened when I uploaded that picture as my header at ello.co and, as soon as I saw what their process had done, I just knew it was the Grope cover.

Processing the two covers happened a couple of years apart, so there was no conscious effort to make them similar in any way. And yet here we are: subconscious, luck or intuition?

Love-peace-trust,

Vince Sig 131x89

 

Journalists wanted

Last night, news anchors seemed genuinely surprised

[nay, shocked!]

that the Paris terrorists may have been part of a larger cell of

[OMG]

up to 6 people. At the same time, the undertone of Islamic terrorists being uncivilized heathens

[wait… how do they use computers when we’ve bombed them back to the stone age?!!]

I honestly was doing double-take after double-take as the pieces rolled by.

The narrative of the lone shooter, the crazed jihadist, the shoe bomber… Such a hollywood stereotype.

IRA, Baader Meinhof, Black September, ETA – these were/are organized, committed armies ready to use whatever weapons were/are at their disposal to advance their strategic objectives.

How I wish we had journalists involved in news now – you know, those folk who search out facts, illuminate context, learn from history…

About a song: Anywhere But Here from Grope

Anywhere But Here is track 2 from my recent release, Grope. It’s an unabashed slice of Britpop, built around a series of chord cycles, with my Fender Telecaster taking the main rhythm track.

Anywhere But Here would have been written in about 1994-5, the height of Britpop; the halcyon days of Oasis and Blur fighting it out for the number one spot.  And really, the song is pulling from both camps for inspiration – there’s the telecaster rhythm, a nod to Graham Coxon, and the sunshine of the chorus lyric, a definite lean towards Liam Gallagher. Though my voice truthfully doesn’t do well aping Liam, at the time Grope played the song live, I would find myself automatically adding the vowels

Sun-shee-iiine

partly for fun, but partly because Oasis were just so omnipresent at the time.

In the songwriting, I was playing with the idea of double-choruses

[a signature of my favourite band, REM, so very non-Britpop]

and Anywhere But Here falls into the cluster of songs where I play with the technique.

I still clearly remember sitting on the lounge floor of our flat in Ramsgate, Kent, and making the choice to reverse the chord sequence of the verse turnaround to provide the chord sequence of the first chorus

             D                         C       Em                      A
You’ll ride, yes you’ll ride, anywhere but here

became

A                 Em                   C                    D
Seems so dreary, since I got out of bed

The second chorus then steps off into its own sequence, which feels nicely circular, and lays the foundation for the solo, in live performance and recorded, just a picked version of the chords

[some shades of Coxon, but more likely a reflection of Peter Buck, whose style seems to sit within most of my rhythm work]

rather than a more upfront melody.

Lyrically, as the title suggests, Anywhere But Here revolves around the yearning to be elsewhere, to run away; it’s one side of a conversation between two people – and undoubtedly somewhere down in my sub-conscious, there’ll be some part of Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy. These themes, of hope and escape, were signature within Britpop, from the hedonistic impulses of so many songs, to the Cool Britannia remodelling of national identity

[reclaiming the Union Jack from the far right, and putting it on a guitar]

to the  re-emergence of London into a cultural destination – not really seen since its 60s prime.

Personally, I know that some part of these lyrics were also me speaking to myself, knowing that I was slipping down the rabbit-hole of corporate life, instinctively facing the compromise I was forcing upon myself and wanting to turn the other way. And, while that’s very specific to me, I like to think that I placed it in the abstract enough that it becomes something universal.

You, dear listener, will have to be the judge of that.

Love – peace – trust

Vince Sig 131x89

 

 

It’s like taking a gun

Lots of people taking sides on who shot who, why they pulled the trigger, were they right, were they wrong…

At this time of peace, I keep getting drawn back to this meditation, written in response to an atrocity in Syria, but applicable to so much happening in our world right now

LIKE TAKING A GUN – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

It’s like taking a gun
and pointing it
in your brother’s face
Telling them
unless they stop
you will pull the trigger
Wasting life
to make you feel better
to make you feel like
you are getting
somewhere
You become those them
becoming you
face down on the ground
for the sake of scant borders
Pointless
Pointless
Pointless
Like taking a gun
and pointing it
in your brother’s face

 

It’s been five years…

Well, it seems that Christmas Eve is here again – the tree is up, prezzies underneath, food ready for the cooking – and I’m looking forward to time spent in love with my beautiful ladies.

Today is special for me in another way, though. Five years ago today was my last day worked at Pfizer, my last day employed by anyone other than myself, my last day of that corporate shape I inhabited for nearly 20 years

[though it would take a further 10 months of detox to complete that particular journey]

and it’s got me kind of reflective on who, what, where, when, how and why…

These five years have passed very quickly – a reflection, I think, of my will to live my portfolio life. I’d always pictured myself as a plate spinner, all those plates on top of their poles, and me dancing from one to the next, giving it a little spin to keep the momentum up; to make sure nothing crashed to the ground.

That’s pretty much how life works now, and I know it would drive some people crazy trying to keep so many things going; for me, it’s my natural state. I get bored otherwise

[and there are few things worse than finding me in a slump]

Five years…

I’ve got stuff done for sure, and know I’ll get more stuff done in the years to come. But when I think of the last five years, it’s less about work and more about who I’ve become

[and continue to become]

  • A son thankful to still have his parents around, and for the solid ground that his sister and brother provide
  • A father mesmerized by his daughters’ journey through life
  • A husband who continues to be amazed by the beauty and soul of his wife
  • A martial artist living his black-belt principles in all he does
  • A musician who still finds the wonder in wire and wood, melody and harmonics
  • A lover in the widest sense of the word, blessed by everyone he knows and cares for

And my corporate shape? To him, I say “thank you”. For getting me here. For protecting me enough that I didn’t get subsumed. For never forgetting that I had a choice, that I always knew I was making a compromise.  Though he’s five years in the rear-view mirror, I can still see him

[and feel him every once in a while, mostly when working with clients who look and sound so similar]

I don’t fear him any more, nor judge him to harshly. I don’t resent stolen time, nor wish I could go back and try again. He is who I was then, not who I am now, nor who I will be five years from now.

And that’s why life is so cool.

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

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