The National Association Of Music Merchants, otherwise known as NAMM, is coming to Southern California this month. I will be appearing at the Earthquaker Devices Booth 2493 in Hall D on Thursday, January 24th at 4pm, where I’ll be talking about and playing through their awesome pedals and will answer any questions about their line. I’ll also be appearing at Ampeg’s giant showroom Friday, January 25th in Room 209A/B with Mike Inez and Rex Brown.
NAMM shows have been part of my music life since 1984 and have had led to many great and wild experiences over the years. In the 80’s, I would go with Paul Gilbert to get endorsements after releases of Racer X’s first records, Street Lethal and Second Heat. Shred had just started to take hold in the music scene and we felt we could really get companies to bring attention to this new genre. One of the wilder stories I can remember from back then: Paul was at a booth, shredding his ass off in front of a small crowd, when a crew of some of the era’s formidable metal guitarists walked up to take a look. There were guys from Ratt, Ozzy’s band and others watching Paul light it up and at one point, they turned their backs, turned back around and flipped him off. It seems they were not into the changing of the guard, but Paul Gilbert just kept burning and still does to this day.
Bruce Bouillet (who played in Racer X, The Scream and DC-10 with me) and I went to go see Shawn backstage before he went on; he was chain smoking, pacing and seemed very anxious. Bruce, who knew Shawn well, asked him what was going on and asked him why was he so nervous. Shawn said he was stressed because we were there to watch him play. Hard to believe a guy with that much talent would be rattled by Bruce and me. We couldn’t hold a candle to him, but that was Shawn. He seemed to be unaware of how great he was. He was such a humble and genuine guy.
Later in the 90’s, Tim Commerford and I went to NAMM show together. We walked around the convention center aimlessly, just wanting to take in all the new gear and maybe catch a post-show concert. Every now and then we would go up to a booth and try out a bass. After a few stops, we noticed there were a couple of guys following us around as we strolled through each hall. These two bassists would pick up any bass we had just played, turn the amplifier up and play as fast as they could as if to show us up. Tim and I were really just checking out tones of basses and not really playing anything, but these two stalkers were determined to show us how fast they were. After about an hour of this, we just left the show and headed home. I guess there will always be musicians who see music as a competition.
Last NAMM story I will tell was more recent one. In 2009, Racer X was asked to play an Ibanez party after NAMM closed. We had not played a show since the early 2000’s so needless to say, it was a lot of stress for a guy like me who doesn’t play that kind of music any more. After a lot of rehearsals, I remember focusing on playing Racer X’s most famous song, “Scarified” and spent a disproportionate amount of time on it’s intricacies and speed.
That song got Racer X on the map and it was also featured in Guitar Player Magazine’s 1980’s flexi disc series where if you bought the magazine, the little flexi 45″ came with that month’s issue. “Scarified” would be the number one song of ours played on metal radio back then and a lot of musicians knew us for that song. Even the great John Patitucci mentioned hearing and liking that cut when we met back in the 80’s. This is not the song to mess up or play badly on. Well, needless to say, I made it through without any major hiccups, but I forgot that Racer X’s catalog is filled with very technical songs and honestly, I am just glad I survived that show without too many clams!
So now in 2013, I am about to attend yet another NAMM show. They are always filled with a lot of intensity and a lot of fun but it is really for the music stores and press to get an idea of what new products are available to them for the new year. Musicians like me who are lucky enough to attend NAMM get to see all the new gear, and these days, the most crowded areas are definitely the computer software and synthesizer booths. This is an area in the industry that has seen the largest surge in sales but also the fastest growth in terms of product development. Guitars are still guitars, basses and drums are still basses and drums but softsynths and recording software are advancing at an alarming rate. Anything that has to do with the digital world is changing rapidly from year to year and you have to stay on it to know where the future of recording and music is headed.
Look for my 2013 NAMM report and videos to appear early next month- stay tuned!