Author Topic: Elantric's Bio  (Read 16327 times)

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Offline Elantric

Elantric's Bio
« on: January 24, 2008, 03:53:00 PM »
Im Steve Conrad
I grew up in both southern and northern California, and Chicago.

At age 7, I was inspired to play guitar after watching the Chantays record the surf hit "Pipeline" at Wentzel's Music Town, 13117 Lakewood Blvd,  Downey California  - back in 1962. My mom was a major R&B record collector and would drag me from record store to record store all over the LA area .
Downey is in Los Angeles County, ten miles from Downtown Los Angeles, and is famous for three things. One is the oldest existing standard McDonald’s. The second would have to be the Carpenters. The singing stars who appealed to the silent majority with the ordinary taste. The third is Wenzel’s Music Town. Downey Records was in the back of Wenzel’s Music Town, a record store serving Southern California's music lovers for 40 years. Downey Records achieved notoriety with recordings like the Chantays’ ‘Pipeline’ and the Rumblers’ ‘Boss.’ Since the Wenzels retired in 2002, only the McDonalds is still open for business.
Wenzel’s Music Town sat at 13117 Lakewood Blvd., just inside the Downey city line, and was one of the best collector’s record stores in Southern California.

INTOXICA! is the first in a series presenting the Downey output by genre. Even more interestingly, the first comp out of the gate is an instrumental collection, but not a surf comp. No Pipeline here. The Downey vaults have been trawled thoroughly in order to bring straight-from-the-masters quality (and in the doing of it, discovering that the released sides were only the tip of an iceberg!). This collection features instrumentals from the gamut of young bands from the California beach communities and as far east as Las Vegas; cabaret acts from the lounges of Lake Tahoe and Palm Springs; mixed in with some great R&B names who used Downey’s studio and cut some fine instros of their own. The theme that links them all together is a quirky sense of cinematic drama and fun, a certain sleaziness, a love of analogue tape echo, and all recorded in an experimental fashion the equal of Joe Meek, who was working contemporaneously in London.

This collection will appeal to the instrumental collector, and the lover of lounge-sleaze. This comp has oodles of rare sides and seven unreleased gems. Familiar names likes the Revels, Rumblers, Nevegans and Hustlers rub shoulders with the R&B of Chuck Higgins and Little Caesar. A treat for connoisseurs of the strange!

- See more at:

My family lived around the corner from Wentzel's on Woodruff, near Rio San Gabriel elementary school in Downey, CA. - this was only a few blocks away from Paul Bigsby's shop on Phlox Street ( he was a motorcycle mechanic who built guitars for Merle Travis and invented the Bigsby Vibrato)

- also home of the Carpenters, and Dave Alvin and The Blasters, and North American Rockwell - who designed the Apollo command module that orbited the Moon.

My Father worked for General Motor's Ball Bearing division, and he once visited Leo Fender in 1959, to sell him Ball Bearings for a guitar vibrato prototype that never left his R&D lab.

 and GM moved our family around the country every few years - so it was rather like being an Army brat.

Between 1962-63 We lived in Glendora, California - and my older brother was friends with a younger brother of the local surf band - the Surfaris (Wipe Out)

Then in mid 1963 we moved to Cupertino, CA
 Been playing guitar since 1967, Performed in the Santa Cruz / San Jose , CA  area in the late 1960s, ( I saw bulk of the San Francisco bands live in the park in their heyday) then I lived in Ohio for a year, then Chicago in 1970 - 1978, - used to sit in and play blues at Kingston mines coffee house in Chicago), The Quiet knight, Aaron Russo's Electric Playground.
(1972 - Darien, Illinois - with my 1961 SG Special, 1971 Plush "Twin Reverb" atop a 1968 Fender Dual Showman cab loaded with JBL D130F 15" speakers.

Ive used Marshall Cabs too

Thats me on the far right performing at Northern Illinois University with "Eugene Buxley band" - a southern rock /CSNY type band.

 After college  at NIU (DeKalb, Illinois), I moved back to Los Angeles.   I wrote and performed the incidental music for a cult SCI-FI film "LazerBlast", which aired a lot on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

 At the same time I toured the southwest in a rock band called Rocket 88 - whose members went on to big time with Ratt, and Wang Chung.

Here's a site with  MP3 recordings  of that band at a live gig in Flagstaff , AZ from 1979:

A pic of me during that time

Eventually I became service manager at Valley Arts Guitar in Studio City, CA just off Laurel Canyon. I started in Amp repair, then worked in Guitar repair too.
I set up and built Guitars and Basses for the top LA Session players :

I suppose you could say I was a member of the "pit crew" for "The LA Wrecking Crew"

I worked on these guitarists instruments
Bob Bain, Dennis Budimir, Larry Carlton, Steve Carnelli, David Cohen, Joe DiBlasi, Herb Ellis, Ron Eschete, Robben Ford, Grant Geissman, Jay Graydon, Al Hendrickson, Mitch Holder, Carol Kaye, Pat Martino, Tim May, Lee Ritenour, Tony Rizzi, Thom Rotella, Steve Lukather, Christopher Cross, Duane Eddy, Allan Holdsworth, Mike Sembello, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Zappa, Devo, Oingo Boingo - rewired several of their studios too.

Pic below is from 1981, the Valley Arts Guitar repair department located upstairs above the store below.  I'm on the right. Bob Kerr is on the left, filing frets on a Martin D-28. My '61 SG Special is on the bench in the foreground, The view is from the Client waiting area - a dutch door with a shelf.

 Around the corner to the right was a complete guitar workshop and paint booth.
 A crew of 3 talented Luthiers from Michoacan  province Mexico did a lot of beautiful work.  Manuel Rios , Ramon, and Rujelio. Dudley Gimpel was there too. Building a custom 335 for Larry Carlton ( Dudley soon left to become principal luthier for Ernie Ball / Music Man , where he still works today, designing all the models for EVH, Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Luke, Albert Lee, etc).  Stevie Freyette worked right beside me in Amp repair in the early 1980's prior to moving over to MusicTech, then founding VHT amps in 1988 after an initial capitalization from Andy Brauer rentals.

I attended the 1983 Winter NAMM Show where MIDI was introduced jointly by Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits and Jim Mothersbaugh of Roland US.

Jim Mothersbaugh ( with Roland Jupiter 6) and Dave Smith ( with SCI Prophet 600) in the first public showing of MIDI at Winter NAMM show, January 1983
Recently discovered I can be seen in the background in a photo at Jeff Rona's web site  - (Yellow Circle)

Impressed with this achievement, a week later I urged the owners of Valley Arts Guitar create a Keyboard department, where the sales revenue from Yamaha DX-7 Synths help VA fund  the initial manufacturing of Valley Arts Guitar's California Pro series.

I worked with Frank Zappa's guitar tech Arthur "Midget" Sloatman

One of Arthur's Para EQ Preamps

Many people worked on FZ's gear - While working at Valley Arts I worked on nearly Everybody's gear between years 1980 - 1986. I took over Paul Rivera's role at the shop, as he had left in 1979 to work for Pignose, then Yamaha, then Fender. It was a wonderful time, low pay, yet rewarding for being part of a great team with Mike McGuire, Al Carness, Martin Miranda, Stevie Freyette (VHT), Dudley Gimpel (Ernie Ball / MusicMan). 

I worked on Jimmie Vaughan's gear too, and when his brother Stevie Ray came to LA to record his first demos at Jackson Browne's LA studio - I set up his '61 Strat.

Here's a video of David Bowie live 1983, I built the red Strat guitar played by Earl Slick:(though I would have tuned it a bit more had I been his guitar tech at that show) Begins at the 1:53 mark.

David Bowie - Cat People (Serious Moonlight)

Sadly the Valley Arts Store and shop was destroyed by a Fire in 1991. Samick had a contract to make import budget versions of VA Strats, the fine print in the contract stated Samick could make the whole VA line should production cease in the USA - which it did after the fire. Major bummer. 

 My local rep for Dr Ts MIDI Sequencer for the Commodore 64 worked at JPL, in thru him in 1986 I left Valley Arts and music to work full time at NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab to focus on Electronics where I performed radiation testing on components for deep space probes (Galileo, Magellen, Hubble Telescope, Mars Pathfinder)

It was a time of focus on heavy technical challenges, and thru JPL, I was able to audit/sit in on many engineering classes at Cal Tech

( The popular TV show "Big Bang Theory" closely resembles my own life at that time!)

My career was on a path of becoming an international specialist in Radiaton Effects in Semiconductors - to the level that I designed and installed several  robotic semi-conductor radiation effects test systems for NASA , as well as spending time in France supporting ESA - the euro version of NASA at the Centre d’Etudes de Gramat (France)

But regarding music, it  became clear my 1st wife was not thrilled about supporting my past, present, future music career - so I restored British Sports cars while, learning CAD and PC board design.

In the mid 90's I decided to follow my passion,and worked to return back  to music / audio as a career as the Technical Director at Machine Head Studios in Venice, CA

This is major LA post production sound design studio that produced all the music and multichannel audio sound effects for TV commercials for Lexus, CocaCola, Budweiser Frogs. I played guitar on many of those. And I performed on the soundtracks for the trailer films for Batman & Robin  , Multiplicity with Michael Keaton

in 1987-1989 I developed the RackMaster MIDI Reactor with CM Automation

I moved to San Luis Obispo in 1999 to work for Ernie Ball / Music Man, to cultivate an electronics division and support instrument amplifiers.
I worked on several interesting projects there - Here's me with all the limited production Spinal Tap MusicMan Mr Horsepower guitars with working Tachometer to measure how fast you are playing - I designed the PC boards and personally hand wired each one.

Since 2001, I've been at Ultra Stereo Labs Inc. www.USLINC.COM I'm an electronic design engineer, creating DSP digital audio processing equipment for the Cinema industry. We are a rival to Dolby. Our company has designed equipment which has won Academy Awards in Technical Achievement. I have a passion for creative invention, and feel quite fortunate to be able to be employed at an innovative local company, as well as reactivate my music career on the side here on the central california coast - performing as lead guitarist in a few local bands.
My day gig I design PC Boards - like this:

and we sell versions to other manufacturers, like DTS, Crown, Dolby.

Today I continue to help many audio / instrument companies with PCB design -

Here's a random sampling of products I've had a hand in co-designing

In 2009 I was employed as a consultant by Tronical  / Gibson to assist in Gibson Dark Fire Guitar production issues in Nashville. 
(CLICK FOR MORE DETAILS);sa=downfile&id=23
Here we are at 2009 NAMM in the Gibson bus with Tronical team and Craig Anderton.

(Detailed doc here);sa=downfile&id=23

and currently perform as  lead guitarist in a local surf band "The Dentures"

Steve Conrad
« Last Edit: January 17, 2018, 05:42:44 PM by Elantric »

Offline feloniouspunk

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2008, 05:48:54 PM »
Please tell me more about your work with Zappa. Do you remember which guitars of his you worked on?  Needless to say im sure, but I am a huge Zappa fan. Awsome interview, BTW.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 11:29:07 AM by Elantric »
Lots of Gear. :)

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2008, 06:07:47 PM »
I worked with Frank Zappa's guitar tech Midget Sloatman -

I installed and maintained Dan Armstrong Green Ringers in several of FZ's guitars:   

"-Given to Zappa by a Hendrix roadie, this formerly sunburst Strat was mutilated by Hendrix at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. Zappa had it hanging on a wall in his basement for years until Rex Bogue put it back together with Zappa-approved electronic delights, such as a Dan Armstrong Green Ringer and a Barcus-Berry pickup buried in its original replacement neck! This neck, however, is a fairly new addition, as is the tortoise shell pickguard."

Somewhere in my box of pics - I have a photo of me working on this famous Hendrix Burnt Strat, that was featured as a mid 1970's era Guitar Player  FZ  Cover guitar pic. BTW - Under the pickguard it was a total "bathtub" Route, so FZ could easily swap different pickguards with different PU assortments. H-S-H, H-H-H, S-S-S, S-S-H, etc, etc.

Its best stated like this.  When I asked his keyboard player, Don Preston "What is it like working with Frank Zappa?"

His response was  "I don't know - because NOBODY worked WITH Frank Zappa - we all worked FOR Frank Zappa - and he was the man in charge - we were employees, and all members of "the mothers" were hired straight out of the local Musicians Union local 47 !"

I was the Service Manager - dealt with his Roadies  - sadly I never met FZ, although I used to know Dweezil when he was a teenager, watched Dweezil grow up as he would hang out at the store a lot. 

Used to work with most of the early 1980's LA bands - Missing Persons, Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, Berlin,
Old school session players: Dean Parks, Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye, Carlos Rios, Abe Laboriel
Genuine Artists: Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Steve Lukather, Buzz Feiten,   
Here's what i know. I'm a long time Steely Dan Fan -  I was probably the 1st guy in my group of friends in Chicago in 1974 playing the "Mu" chords they used - I still have a wonderful steelie dan songbook with liner notes by Denny Diaz, who explains all the chord voicings - + advice from  Walter Becker &  Donald Fagen.  Well worth the $4.95 list price I paid in 1975 - right up there with my 1969 "Meet the Led Zeppelin" 1st album songbook - with Jimmie page liner notes - List price $2.95 right on the cover.  But thats another story.

I toured a lot in the 1970's in cover bands playing kid charlemain, Dont take me alive, Reeelin, Rickie, Peg (jay Graydon on that one)

Band broke up at end of 1979, I was in LA and responded to an ad in the Recycler - basically like "Easy Ads" -or craigslist  but in printed form. (pre internet guys)  Every thursday - you picked up Music Connection. Recycler, LA Weekly to find work, or good deals on gear ( like my 1966 vox AC30 for $125). I needed work - and wanted to stay in music as opposed to aerospace- despite my engineering degree.  I responded to an ad for "Bench Tech - Music repairs"  - turned out it was Valley Arts Guitar in Studio City.

 I had assumed Paul Rivera was still there - but it was Pete Gehrlings who was burned out after 6 months on the job.( at critical mass" was his own words) who gave me the job as the new repairman. Soon Stevie Fryette (VHT Amps) was hired too, and both of us repaired lots of gear. I had a hand in designing a few things there too as both a guitar repairman, luthier, amp service manager, and spearheading the MIDI keyboard department. during 7 years there. My 1st day on the job, Jay Graydon wanted my opinion on Wah wah pedals. Next day Lee Ritenoir and Tommy Tedesco were done with sessions up the street - and just came in to  hang around for a few hours and talk about session life.  This was regular daily stuff. I should write a book - I was the fly on the wall at first and a quick learner.  but Larry Carlton was in Valley Arts a lot. I repaired all his gear - the 335, his 1975 Mark One Mesa Boogie with Teledyne Fetron pre-amp, Shobud Volume pedal. He was doing those Fender Super Bullet ads at the time ( see 1982 Guitar player mags) He liked the Super Bullets because they are like the GHS "Gus" strings - a polished round wound that makes less fret noise on recordings.

All these guys play guitar and it just flows like a river winding through all manner of terrain.

So  -a  Princeton Reverb is a great amp. Even the Post CBS chrome ones are still the same circuit up until 1974 - so any pre 1974 Princeton Reverb is a great amp for those buttery round sustain solos. ( but it makes a terrible Surf Amp - need a Twin or Dual showman to do the Dick Dale thing) Every studio in LA had a Princeton  or a Deluxe Reverb in the house amp arsenal. lots of reasons why. The reliability of Fenders, (Studio engineers know what amp does what just like what mic does what )- low watts, the Jenson  alnico speaker, the Rectifier tube , and small power supply caps that are not capable of supplying the current demands to accurately reproduce the input signal when played aggressively - turn the amp to "10" plug in a gibson, and the notes feel more like you are squeezing toothpaste from a tube.  Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezers were in everyones gig bag too. But Larry had developed this technique that sounded like a compressor,  it was like butter - but he was  using a Shobud Steel guitar Volume pedal and played  through small tube "house amps" in whatever studio he was working that day. By 1980 he was using a Mark one Mesa Boogie with EVM 12H, by 1983 he dabbled with a Rivera designed Fender Twin  - then  by 1985 Howard Dumble was supplying amps.

So  -For the steelie Dan sessions  Larry probably used  a 1967 ES-335 with  Dunlop 6100 fret wire, stock PUs (that i had to pot in wax one time because they became microphonic.)   his Shobud volume pedal,  a DI Splitter box ( to record the dry straight guitar PU tone on a seperate track - adds back the attack should the miked Tube amp track be too inarticulate on fast runs)  and (Pre-1975) a stock 1964 Black Face Princeton Reverb, post 1975 ( Royal scam) a Princeton wiith Paul Rivera stage 3 mods ( a pull boost, a master volume, a 6 position vari-tone mid EQ selector, and beefed up power supply.) post 1976 until 1983 he had the Mesa Boogie Mark One in a walnut cab.

Another thing people forget which adds significantly to the Guitar sound on records - post mic compression, and limiting (Urie 1176, Teletronix LA-2A), EQ, Reverb and the old analog Mag tape saturation - which meant you often had a better rock guitar sound if you pegged the VU meter on the magnetic  tape recorder into the red the whole time. Not true for most Steelie Dan Records - but it was there if needed - but my point is that if you heard the Raw speaker cab mic return from any of these sessions prior to all the processing i have mentioned in this paragraph -  you would be surprised how much it might sound like something you typically hear on your own basic tracks - but add the post production mastering - and most importantly  - Ears and Talent.

An interesting side Steely Dan story - At my current day gig- a co-worker told me he was the alignment tech at the Village Recorder studio in LA 1970-1986. He was there when the Dan recorded "Show Biz Kids". He told me they began the song by recorded at 30 inch per second tape loop of a click track and the girls singing "Goin to Lost Wages, Lost Wages, Going to Lost Wages, Lost Wages" - and they duped that down to 2 track - cut and spliced that tape into a huge loop of just that phrase - repeating for hours - driving everyone nuts in the building  - they had improvised all manner of spare empty take up reels strategically placed on various barstools and tables in the control room to act as tape guides - to allow the loop to playback  on an ATR100 2 track - while they laid down lead vocals and slide guitar played by Rick Derringer of "hang on sloopy" and Johnny and Edgar Winter fame onto the Ampex 16 track.

Snuffy Waldens Valley Arts Strat
« Last Edit: August 22, 2017, 06:02:12 PM by Elantric »

Offline feloniouspunk

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2008, 06:26:27 PM »
I have read many interviews where he has spoken about the Dan Armstrong Green Ringers.  How cool.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 11:28:40 AM by Elantric »
Lots of Gear. :)

Offline dead_lizard

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2008, 06:38:05 PM »
I know a guy who got to hang out in Dweezil's studio for a bit.

Apparently the Hendrix strat was produced at one point.

When he was left alone in the room with it he licked it!!!!!!! you do....
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 11:28:27 AM by Elantric »

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2008, 01:50:08 PM »

Glad you made it over here! Don't be a stranger!

Steve C

Again looking forward to see you and your inspiration Craig Anderton on a band stand or even a casual picture together here on the web!

here ya go! I'm on the far left - with the Tronical Gibson Dark Fire Team and Craig Anderton in the Gibson Bus at 2009 Winter NAMM.

Almost moved to Nashville in 2009 to be Director of Engineering for Gibson. . . . . buts thats another long story.;sa=downfile&id=23

Here's more reflection on Steely Dan
« Last Edit: November 17, 2017, 01:23:20 PM by admsustainiac »

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2012, 06:25:36 PM »
No VG/GR content - but. . . .

Hey my Surf band (The Dentures) is opening act for Dick Dale tonight  -

(Heres a video of the gig - I'm on far right.

Old post  - but sets up the video
The passing of Steve Jobs this past week has had me in moments of self
reflection. I'm 3 months older than Mr Jobs. In the 1960's I went to
grade school in Cupertino, CA.  The present site of Apple headquarters
at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA back in 1963 was the Mariani Dried
fruit packing plant.  The site of the barber shop where I would ride
my bicycle is now the Apple HQ parking lot. The apple and apricot
orchards I played in at age 10 are now Apple Computer R&D labs and
I often wonder what my fate would have been had my Dad not been
transferred away from the silicon valley in 1969. Me thinks my career
may have taken a different turn since I was living smack dab in the
middle of the action that would occur there in 1977.

But back in 1967 my mom played bridge with the lady who taught John
Fogerty how to play guitar. My mom had all the CCR records, and
needless to say, I can play most CCR tunes today blindfolded. I was
self taught, and learned to play guitar on those tunes, and still love

In 1967 Guitar Player Magazine began  10 miles away from my house in
nearby Campbell, California out of a local music store  -  Guitar
Showcase, which is still there today. (highly recommended store in the
bay area!)

As luck would have it, back in 2007 I found myself at the right place
at the right time. I was at Guitar Showcase with my girl friend to
arrange to buy a Stratocaster to be used as a fund raiser for the
"Guitars not Guns" kids at risk program which I support each year. The
Guitar certainly has always been my best friend when I needed one.

Also at the store that day just happened to be John Tristao, formerly
of the late 1960's San Jose pop group "People" (who had a regional hit
in 1968 with a remake of The Zombies tune "I love you"), and now
performs with Creedence Clearwater Revisted.

We had a good BBQ lunch with Guitar Showcase owner, Gary Wineroth and
got to talking. That day John was to be interviewed and appear on
Guitar Showcase's local cable access show "Makin' Music" as a solo -
to be filmed that afternoon.
At the very last minute John said - "damn lets find a drummer and bass
player and play on TV as a band!
I said "OK!"and an hour later I found myself on local San Jose cable TV:
  (here I am on a loaned Tele Thinline in the first 4 minutes before
the interview.)

« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 05:42:46 PM by Elantric »

Offline Machh_2

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2012, 05:43:45 AM »

 It's pretty much your story!
 Wow! you worked at NASA? Oh God, I dream of one day being there ...
have photos from there?

 Lucky you man!

 keep it up!
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 11:27:06 AM by Elantric »

Offline gumbo

  • Senior Member
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  • Changing the 13-pin interface - one Jack at a time
Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2012, 06:11:53 AM »
...oh... this WASN'T you....   ???

« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 11:26:52 AM by Elantric »
Read slower!!!   ....I'm typing as fast as I can...

Offline Rorster

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2012, 09:26:51 PM »
A truly incredible life. It would seem that you and the "Great Googaly Moogaly" have achieved blissful oneness.  Sending out your radiant light to all the rest of us cosmic travelers wielding our axes who incarnate here on the forum.  What a fascinating bio. I really enjoyed it.  This forum is frigging lucky to have such a talent who gives so much of his time and shares such wealth of knowledge. You're an inspiration my man.

Offline Toby Krebs

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2012, 10:28:13 AM »
I concur with Royster and want to also say a huge Thank You!

Offline aliensporebomb

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2012, 10:29:18 AM »
Yeah, this is crazy - it's like any one of the stories here would be an interesting life but looks like Steve has lived several interesting lives!  And the story continues!

Very cool!

"this is aliensporebomb" - my instrumental debut with the vg99 now on itunes:
More online at

My VG-99 based music projects:

Offline atonal

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2012, 12:03:08 AM »
WOW ELANTRIC some bio.but before I read it,I new you were a rocket scientist, meant in the most admirable way !!!Leading all your Rocketeers into new frontiers ..Thank you !!!Have you ever thought of planning a weekend of a gathering of all the minds on the forum and then some,it would be a blast complete with a guitar synth jam ,trading knowledge and some musical comradery !! Bill Nelson did a couple of weekends for a couple years and called it Nelsonica,just a thought !

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2012, 09:07:22 AM »
Jerry Hertig was Adrian Belew's drummer 1975-76 in the band Sweetheart - the band he was in when Frank Zappa "discovered" Mr Belew.

Shortly after, in 1978 Jerry Hertig moved to LA to become the drummer of my LA based band Rocket 88, and I inherited Jerry's  '66 Chevy Van.

When I met Adrian in 1986 at a Kahler sponsored solo concert at the NAMM show , he was very friendly and down to earth and we had mutual ground for conversation.  He's among the most inspiring musicians I have ever met.

After Rocket 88 broke-up. i landed a job at Valley Arts Guitar

Article on Paul Rivera at Valley Arts Guitar Repair - (pic below is from 1978)
I worked this same work bench with Stevie Fryette back 1980, before Valley Arts remodeled and converted the upstairs Amp repair to the Drum shop

the white Hondo II '59 LP Special copy "test guitar", ( upside down in the pic, next to Thom Rotella's Deluxe Reverb) loaded with Kent Armstrong designed Schecter Z+ PUs in both the neck and bridge, wired up with the coil cut Tone pot mod ( like a Peavey T60) might have been the most played guitar in the buidling- brings back great memories of Fryette playing the Dickies "Gigantor" at full blast to test completed repairs.
I fondly remember my 1st day on the job at Valley Arts ( with Stevie Fryette we took over Amp repair from Paul Rivera's friend Pete Gehrlings who had been there less than 6 months ( Paul had left Valley arts in 1979 for work for Pignose) and had "reached critical mass" hired us both, having Jay Graydon ask me what Wah-Wah is best - ( and Stevie sorry I often came to work in the morning and blasted through all the fender amps in "to do pile" for the ""Rivera Stage II mods, often leaving you with nothing but the dog repairs - a pile of broken Peavey Bandit amps to eek out a living from repair commission earnings. - but this is the same room I met Jimmy Vaughan, and when his brother came into LA for recording demos at Jackson Brown's studio his brother told him "Go see Steve at Valley Arts" and as luck would have it I got to spend quality time setting up SRV's Strat's tremolo with the 1/2 wrap over / under self locking string up on the stock early '60s Kluson tuners - too many good memories and an era to be proud of - we were the Pit crew to the LA Wrecking Crew for sure!

Paul Rivera on modding Marshalls, Eddie Van Halen and the 80s session scene
By Nick Guppy (Guitarist), a day agoGuitars

The legendary amp tech/builder talks

 Paul Rivera on modding Marshalls EVH and the 80s session scene
With shred pioneers such as Eddie Van Halen pushing amps to the brink in the late 70s, Paul Rivera began hot-rodding Marshall heads to squeeze ever more from them. Here, this now-revered amp maker recalls how he sought to make the "ultimate Marshall".

Paul Rivera's career started in New York, but took off when he relocated to California in the early 1970s, working from a shop located over Valley Arts Guitars in North Hollywood on the edge of Studio City.

While most of us in the UK remember him for his association with Fender, Rivera's custom work on Marshall amps and pedalboards is just as significant.

We meet Paul for a rare interview in which he explains how he got into modifying amps and gives us a unique Californian perspective on the Marshall sound.

When did it all really start for you - was Valley Arts the beginning?

Paul Rivera Sr: "At that time, Valley Arts was the epicentre of the whole LA studio scene. I didn't realise it back then, but it was a golden era for the guitar and guitar players.

When Eddie did Beat it for Michael Jackson, he was using one of my modified Marshalls
"My work for those guys started with Dean Parks and he turned me on to Larry Carlton, who in turn introduced me to Jay Graydon, then Lee Ritenour.

"This was alongside some of the top jazz cats like Thom Rotella, Mitch Holder and, of course, the infamous Wrecking Crew, which included Dennis Budimir and Tommy Tedesco."

What drove the amp-modification business for you back then?

PR: "Well, having gotten established at Valley Arts, pretty soon it seemed that if you showed up to a session and you didn't have a Princeton or a Deluxe or a Marshall modified by Paul Rivera, you didn't have the latest thing.

"There was definitely an element of competition between some of those session guys to have the latest, coolest sounds, which kind of drove my modification business forward.

"I started doing pedalboards, too, because the pedalboards these guys were using were so primitive. Nobody knew about buffer stages and that stuff. I think, to some extent, I was mirroring what Pete Cornish was doing in the UK."

What kinds of mods were players requesting, and how did you provide them?

PR: "I brought a lot of mods to the Marshall and did a lot of R&D on them, which led me to guys like [former Van Halen bassist] Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen in around 1979, where I did a lot of stuff on their effects racks.

"When Eddie did Beat it for Michael Jackson, he was using one of my modified Marshalls. Then came Steve Lukather, and Eric Johnson whose Marshall amp I worked on in 1980 and '81, which was at the very tail end of my stint at Valley Arts, just before I got hired by Fender.

"By this time, I had a range of different modifications, called Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4, leading up to my 'ultimate Marshall', which had true dual-channel switching and effects loops with bypasses.

"That was all done with silent optical switching and dual-concentric stacked control knobs on the front panel, which I did to save drilling extra holes and keep the appearance as stock as possible.

"On the sound front, some players were more articulate than others with regard to what they wanted. Jay Graydon was technically very articulate. He'd play me a note on his 335 and say, 'You hear how it goes skinny up there? Can you put more body on that, and maybe do something to mask the fret noise?' That's how things often got done."

Was reliability an issue on some of those old amps?

PR: "To get some of the high-gain dual channel stuff, sometimes you'd wind up with six or seven tubes in a preamp that started with two, and if you didn't pay any attention to the power supply, reliability would suffer. So yes, at the extreme I would be replacing power supplies, adding regulated DC heater supplies and so on.

"Probably the finest and most reliable hand-wired amps I ever saw were the early Hiwatts. The lacing on the wires and the solder joints was just a delight to see. I don't think I ever made a hand-wired amp as pretty as a Hiwatt, but I always tried to make it as bulletproof.

On some amps there's a collision of different things that add up to a particular tone and response that's almost voodoo
"Reliability was always - and obviously still is - vital to my customers. Back then, if a session guy's amp went down halfway through a date, he would sacrifice his money and probably wouldn't get called the next time."

How much did you experiment with loudspeakers and cabinets?

PR: "A lot. Loudspeakers are the ultimate mechanical filter. For guys who were going out on the road and needed the ultimate in reliability, we often used the Electro-Voice EVM12L, because if you have a 25-watt amp running into a 200-watt loudspeaker you know you aren't going to have a problem.

"The issue there was more about getting the cone moving. Those EVMs have very stiff cones and spiders. At low level, they were the coldest, least inspiring loudspeaker you ever heard, but turn them up and they were magical."

What do you think are the essential elements of the Marshall head-and-closedback-cab sound?

PR: "Where Marshalls are concerned, the classic pre-1972/'73 1959 Marshall is basically a 4x10 Bassman circuit with a few tweaks.

"In around 1972 or '73, Marshall changed their transformer spec to get a little more reliability, because pre-change, with the power transformer at full whack, they probably exceeded the thermal capacity of the tubes they were using. In spite of that they certainly sounded fabulous, all the way up to where they exploded!

"From what I could see, there wasn't so much attention being paid to reliability on early 1959s, because those tubes were being pushed so hard. Mullard and Valvo EL34s can handle 600 or 700 volts on the plate, as long as the screen voltage is kept down, but it wasn't.

"I think on some amps there's a collision of different things that add up to a particular tone and response that's almost voodoo, and the early Marshall 1959 has that.

"Partly in the lower gain preamp, which results in the output stage providing some of the drive, partly in the transformers, and, of course, the speakers and 4x12 cabinets."

What about some of the later amps, such as the JCM800?

PR: "The JCM800 was interesting, because it was a more modern take on that classic Marshall tone. I designed a lot of tweaks for it - nothing that would necessarily make it sound better, just different.

"'Better' is a very subjective thing. I didn't find the JCM800 to be very consistent, but a lot of that was down to the valves they used at the time. Also, Marshall tweaked the JCM800 several times over its lifespan, so they varied quite a bit coming from the factory.

"I fitted 'fat' switches and there was also some tailoring to the EQ in between gain stages, to smooth out the top end and tighten up the bass so it didn't sound so ratty or bloated.

"So a Les Paul with humbuckers wouldn't sound flabby, while a Strat could still sound fat with the pickups wound down to where you didn't get the magnets interfering with the strings.

"On a lot of old Marshalls I would get them with the filter capacitors shot and then we'd work on the power supply to take a little bit more of the ripple out and that would assist in removing ghost notes from power chords and so on.

My favourites are the original 1959s and JTM45s before the early 1970s transformer changes
"Marshalls in the States sound different to the way they do in the UK, because of the difference in the mains frequency - it's not apparent when you play clean, but with distortion there are all kinds of intermodulation effects.

"In Japan, where half the country is on 50Hz and the other half is on 60Hz, you can go from Tokyo to Osaka and your amp will sound different."

What are your favourite Marshalls?

PR: "My favourites are the original 1959s and JTM45s before the early 1970s transformer changes. If you had good valves you could keep them working and they were so musical and they had a lot of magic.

"Unlike them, our amps have a lot of gain, but it's still about keeping them musically responsive so they do what a player asks them to do. I tend to think that Marshall somewhat bottle-necked themselves, because they had this concept of 'The Marshall Sound', which they continue to chase, but on the early amps it wasn't about that, it was their transparency and response that made them work so well.

"As guitar players we're all on a never-ending quest for great tone, and that's really what Rivera has always been about, helping players find a way to get closer to that sound they hear in their heads, whether it comes from a small combo or a 120-watt stack. Great tone is a universal truth for us all!"
« Last Edit: April 20, 2016, 01:35:06 AM by Elantric »

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2012, 12:08:08 PM »

The Dentures enjoyed providing the live sound track for Surfing for Hope event last Saturday on the Pismo Pier - Kowabunga!

Here I am playing a GFS Xaviere JTM-100 (Jazzmaster clone) - and we will be opening for Dick Dale on Nov 20, 2012 here at SLO Brew in SLO,CA
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 02:25:01 PM by Elantric »

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2012, 04:52:07 PM »

Special added guest Paul Johnson (The Belairs "Mr Moto") will be sitting in too.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 04:10:52 PM by Elantric »

Offline whippinpost91850

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2012, 06:59:48 PM »
Elantric, Congratulations, that should be a very cool gig 8)

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2012, 07:23:53 PM »

Should be a reverb drenched evening!


Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2013, 09:24:10 AM »

The Dentures Surf Band w/ Paul Johnson (Mr Moto)

SLO Brew  - Nov 30, 2012

The Dentures Surf Band
Guitar: Steve Conrad
Bass:Ron Saul
Drums: Tres Feltman

With Surfing footage shot around Central California Coast

Paul Johnson
« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 11:51:01 PM by Elantric »

Offline whippinpost91850

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2013, 11:02:59 PM »
« Last Edit: January 06, 2014, 12:30:55 AM by Elantric »

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2013, 11:38:23 PM »
Glad you enjoyed it!
That night my Rig was a real stock '63 Fender Reverb and Roland Cube 80XT

Its a proud moment to invite one of your idols to sit in with your band, and everyone feels at home.

In life, people tend to make quick "size you up" assumptions that pigeonhole their perception of what you are capable of. Often to mutual loss.

If you read this forum, you understand I do a lot more than just surf guitar. But I remember the first time I saw The Ventures live at the Palomino Club in No Hollywood circa 1979.

Fantastic players, but I was less than impressed because they all played thru these Peavey Classic VTX Amps with built in phasers - and they ran the phasers 100% of the time on every tune - and nobody used reverb, ended up sounding like they were doing instrumental covers Isley Brothers "Whose that lady"  - when it was over I left wishing i would have lent them my old '63 Fender Reverb unit - I longed to hear more Surf drenched Reverb tones, as to me they had departed from their idiom

I have to thank my Mom for dragging me along as a child to LA record shops,in the 50's and 60's so I watched the Chantays record Pipeline when I was age 7, and thanks my photographic memory I know whats required to deliver the goods for live surf tone.

« Last Edit: December 06, 2014, 05:50:20 AM by Elantric »

Offline whippinpost91850

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2013, 12:07:11 PM »
Very cool. I saw the Ventures and the Chantays backin probably 62 in Daytona Beach. Pretty awesome. Pipeline is still my favorite Surf era instrumental. And Nokie of the Ventures one of my all time favorites along with Dick Dale 8)

Offline maxdaddy

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2013, 06:40:30 PM »
Great set Steve!

Offline Elantric

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2013, 06:47:37 PM »
Thanks! - We try to be true to the music and be an accurate reproduction of the early 60's surf instrumental band sound, and as luck would have it  - we know many many pro guitarists who love our band and want to sit in with us when they pass thru town. We have a lot of fun with it.

« Last Edit: June 06, 2014, 05:05:09 PM by Elantric »

Offline pk

Re: Elantric's Bio
« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2013, 08:16:01 AM »
WOW...I am very impressed with your Bio! I was living in Venice in 1978 and playing clubs in LA and Santa Monica. You are one interesting DUDE!  :) Are you married now? ;D Just kidding. But I AM impressed. Did you meet Micky Butler at Gibson or was he already gone? He was one of my clients in Nashville where I lived for 13 years.

Here is my