It felt a little like returning home after a couple of months traveling. Walking into the rehearsal room for the first day of rehearsals, it was like we never took a break! All the crew were at their usual stations – Rob tweaking the crazy light walls that we have, B-Ranks, Jimbo and Roy all changing strings, Robert buried deep under a pile of synth patch cords, and Charles banging the shit out of a snare drum. (Never quite understood that one – it always sounds the same …..good, cracking and fucking loud!!) Matt and Joe doing whatever it is they do to make it sound good in our ears and your ears. Karel greets me with a smile and a handshake, and within 10 minutes we’re running through Ready Steady Go instrumentally and it all comes flooding back to me. There’s maybe two or three little runs and details that my mind refuses to remember first time around, but by the time Billy arrives to run through the set, my muscle memory is back in full effect and its business as usual – a good feeling.
Rehearsals are a delicate thing. A band can definitely be over-rehearsed. Ever watched a band that is so perfectly tight and sonically sound that it crosses the line from amazingly good, to slightly boring? Kinda like listening to the record through a very big stereo. Well, I guess if you are a huge Back Street Boys fan or maybe some of the new breed of auto-tuned R+B type pop music, then that’s the sort of live experience you will be used to having. For rock n roll it’s a different thing entirely. No one wants to watch a band that’s bad – making mistakes – sounding like shit. But at the same time, rock n roll is meant to have an element of danger, of aaaaalllmost coming off the rails but staying on despite it all. There’s no danger if the band is in a computer, being pumped out in sonic perfection every night. So rehearsals become important. Muscle memory in the fingers ensures that in moments of emotion, or losing oneself in the music, that it will still get played correctly, but allows the heart and mind to wander into the moment. To stop concentrating on what fret you’re gonna play next, and to actually FEEL what the band is doing….to experience what the audience is experiencing. THAT is when a great rock n roll show happens.
Over the course of a few days, we run the set a few times, tweak a few parts, and more importantly get to make sure that all our gear (the MANY guitars that both Steve and I play throughout a show) is working correctly, sounding good, and performing reliably. For the tech heads among you (everyone else can go and put the kettle on at this point!) – my live Marshall heads and my rack have been tweaked by a man called Dave Friedman, who has been heavily involved with Steve’s rig for years. Basically he takes the equipment away, pours magic powder into the tubes and the circuitry, chants a few ancient spells, invokes a couple of Roman Gods and brings it all back sounding chunky, heavy and immaculately quiet. The heads, while being great stock, have a tendancy to be lacking in tonal weight and body. Once Dave has his wicked way with these things, they lose the fizzy high end and gain a bunch of choice midrange balls. They sound fucking huge and I love them. The guitars are the same on this run – pretty much all Les Pauls and a 335. The Pauls are mostly Standards, with a couple of 90’s models, a late 80’s and a couple of new ones. Different tunings and pick ups differentiate them all. And the FX are mainly Boss pedals, with a Dunlop Rack Wah, a couple of Line 6 rackmount things (great units but they don’t make ‘em any more – WHY??) and a Suhr overdrive. My shit sounds great after a few level tweaks and we’re off to the races.
On the last day, our wardrobe cases get loaded up with clothes, power bars, eyeliner and for me, some Trader Joes ‘Just The Clusters’ pecan granola….. the only way to snack after a show!! Throw some greek yogurt on that stuff and it’s a culinary delight!! Because Camp Freddy are also gigging this month, I have a bit of extra logistics to think about – which guitars need to be available after the LA show so that Jimbo can take them. What FX will I need? How they get transported from the Idol camp to the Freddy camp (excuse the pun) and then back again. But its all simple stuff and we all go home at the end of rehearsals dialed in, ready to rock, and looking forward to seeing everyone at the first show – San Diego. I reflect on the year as I drive home. Playing Boss Sound with Billy and Steve is something that, as a teenager (loaded on drugs and wasting my life away at the Marquee or the Moonlight club in London) I never in a million years imagined I would do – and yet we play it every night. White Wedding and Rebel Yell are, for me, just like some of the Beatles songs are for many people – way more than simply songs we know – they are pieces of music that are engrained in my DNA, things I heard so many times in my youth that they represent huge portions of my life. Fuck knows how Billy or Steve feel when they play those, but for me, I look forward to them every single night. It’s been a fucking great 2010, and I cannot think of a better way to finish the year than playing the last few shows in sunny SoCal with this band. See you at a show.