Sunday, December 31, 2006

I will build a T-Wreck in his honor

One of my hobby gurus died on Saturday, December 23rd, 2006. Ken Fischer was the Strativarius of the guitar amp world.

He worked for Ampeg in the 60's and got his business going by hot-rodding guitar slinger's Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Messy Boogers (Mesa Boogie) amps. In the early eighties, while his fix-it and mod-it business was booming, a guitar slinger came into his shop and needed his Marshall Plexi Super Lead 100's sweetened up. After getting that sorted, the dude wondered if just having Ken make him an amp from scratch would be better. It was. Ken made him the finest guitar amp that he ever played through. That amp's name was Ginger, after the buyer's wife. If someone is selling Ginger right now and you are an interested buyer, plan on taking out a mortgage on your home. I know that some of his original amps go for tens of thousands of dollars now.

Anyway, Ken started up his own amplification company Trainwreck Circuits, after his biker nick-name "Trainwreck". His first model was the "Liverpool", second "Express", and third "Rocket". Ken carried on the tradition of giving amps names instead of serial numbers. Seeing how he worked with each client to make an amp according to his client's specific needs, all these different named amps are in fact unique. So, collectors are looking not just for a Trainwreck Express, they are looking for a Ginger, a Rose, a whatever.

Ken had developed many health problems since the late '80s and his amp building pretty much ceased in the '90s. This is when his willingness to share his knowledge really helped the world of music. So many great amp builders were inspired by this man and his knowledge, resulting in a renaissance of tone. Ken spent the last years of his life as resident Wizard for Komet Amplification. If you play electric guitar, you need to sample the sound clips of those amps. Start saving your pennies, though. Those amps are not cheap.

My dream was to have Ken personally make me an amp. I wanted there to be a "The Grunt" amp legacy out there with collectors drooling at the possibility of owning it over my dead body. It wasn't to happen. Well, in honor of Ken, I will learn my craft and build a Wreck of my own. I know it won't be as good, but I will try to channel his spirit when I form those big Mallory capacitors and watch the thing come to life. Maybe I will have a few hundred dollars to spend on a full compliment of Mullard 12AX7's and EL34 electron tubes to really get things cooking. I will start bit by bit. I really want to feel connected. That was Ken's philosophy on what an amp should do: be connected to the player, roar like a mother, have a rich harmonic complexity, and clean up nicely with a roll of the guitar's volume knob.

RIP, Ken.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Will the real Fleetwood Mac please stand up?

Thank you! Thank God for sending the world Peter Green. He wrote "Green Manalishi" after his experience of being "spiked" . To get spiked, in this case, is to be given acid without knowing it. It messed Peter up and he was touched in the head ever since. Judas Priest does an awesome cover of this, but you don't get the haunted torment that this original version has. You can feel the terror that Peter had when encountering a demon dog that was sending him messages of doom. I wonder if it was the same dog as with The Son of Sam? Maybe David Burkowitz should discuss this with Pete.

Anyway, this original lineup of the Mac really was one of the best British blues groups of the '60s. I even feel that Peter had more depth emotionally, with his playing, than Clapton himself. I am now waiting for a lightning bolt to come crashing through my ceiling right now and strike me down.

Peter Green vanished for a long while, but now performs regularly and whatever schizophrenia he supposedly had seems to be gone now. No Syd Barrett fate for this legend. That is one thing that I will personally thank God for tonight. Peter Green, Brian Wilson, and Roky Erickson are examples that it is worth it to overcome being a burnout and coming back to your art. I wish Syd would have realized that.

While I am at it, Mick, John, why don't you guys get the original Mac back together? I think everyone is still alive. You two know that you would not have gotten very far without Pete. You owe it to him. Besides, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are busy not trying to talk to each other right now, so that lineup is not going to work out. We all love that lineup, but it is way overplayed, and people have forgotten just who ruled in the '60s. I think it is about time you reminded us.