Gift Ideas for Guitarists

Are you desperately searching for a present for the guitarist in your life? Here’s a list of gift ideas which are guaranteed to put a smile on their face.

Guitar Strings

All guitarists appreciate new strings, you just need to make sure you buy the correct type. You need to find out a) what type of guitar your musician plays and b) what gauge (thickness) they prefer.

For example, the guitar type will most likely be steel-string acoustic, nylon/steel string classical acoustic, or steel-string electric. If in doubt ask them or one of their friends which type of guitar they play. Next, find out what thickness or ‘gauge’ strings they prefer, again asking them or one of their friends is a good idea.

Once you know the type and gauge you can either go into your local music store and get a recommendation from their staff or you can buy online.  When buying online I’d recommend the following:Gift Ideas for Guitarists

For steel-string acoustic guitar strings buy some Martins, for example, these Martin Medium Gauge Acoustic Steel Strings are the ones I normally buy and I think they’re great. They’re even better valued for money if you opt for a multi-pack.

For nylon/steel string classical acoustic guitars, try these D’Addario Normal Tension Classical Guitar Strings.

For electric guitars my son, an excellent player recommends these D’Addario ProSteels 10’s.

Remember, guitar strings are a very personal thing so if in doubt ask what they prefer before you buy.

Guitar Capo

Very simply, it’s always good to have a decent guitar capo.  Make sure you choose the right one for your guitar and any of these guitar capos is worth considering. I think this Shubb Capo  Brass Steel String Roller Design is the best one for steel-string guitars.

Guitar Picks

A bumper pack of guitar picks is always useful, why not buy these Everly Star Grip Guitar pack of 12 picks.


Guitar Strap and Strap Locks

Buying someone a guitar strap is a nice way to give them something which will last a long time and remind them of you. This Taylor Suede Guitar Strap would make a lovely present, and to make it even better don’t forget to order a pair of Strap Locks to keep their guitar safely in place.

FX Pedals

This is a little more extravagant however  an FX pedal is a pretty cool gift for an electric guitarist. It’s best to check what they already have before you buy, but I’d totally recommend a Boss DS-1 Distortion or a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay or if you are feeling particularly extravagant a Boss RC-300 Loop Station Effects Pedal.

Music books

Easy one this, find out their favorite bands, then buy some guitar music books. I always think you can’t go wrong with a Beatles book, can you?

Guitar Lessons

My favorite suggestion is to buy some guitar lessons. Nearly all guitarists are likely to enjoy having lessons and you would be helping a local musician to fund their career. Find out what level your guitar player is at and what they are interested in…Blues? Rock? Folk? Funk? Prog? Death Metal? Math Rock Gothabilly???

An added bonus – think of this is as your chance to influence what you hear them play

Use google to find a local guitar teacher or for example in England you could try using this site.

Alternatively, here are some great online courses you could buy:


Bonus idea…. A Ukulele

If you can play the guitar you can play the uke. Ukes are great, the chord shapes are the same as a guitar, it’s just in a different tuning and only has four strings. Ashbury Ukes make fine presents.

If you have any good ideas to share please add to the comments below. Merry Christmas!

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John Lennon: The Life – Book Review

I’ve just finished a book about the life of John Lennon. I am a bit of a Beatles nerd so obviously I’ve read a fair few of books about John.  This one, an audiobook called John Lennon: The Life, by Philip Norman, was from as I find my self listening to more and more audiobooks these days, they are great for commuting.

John Lennon: The LifeThe book covers so much and is way more detailed than anything I had read previously.  Starting off with his grandfather’s story, right through to his untimely death there’s a feast of information here.

I think it’s fair to say that despite the fame, money, and near-universal adulation John was a completely messed up sort of guy and this book goes some way to explain the reasons for this. I really enjoyed hearing about their times in Hamburg as for me this is where the essence of the Beatles was forged. A bunch of young guys having loads of fun and playing as many rock & roll gigs as possible in a dodgy german nightclub to a crazy crowd. Fantastic.

It was interesting reading about John’s family and life before and after the Beatles. I don’t get what he saw in Yoko, other than being drawn to a dominating figure which he seemed to do throughout his life with figures such as his Aunt Mimi, George Martin, and Alan Klein playing key roles.

I’m left wondering what would have happened had he lived?  Would he still be making waves, doing whatever he wanted, and not caring who he pissed off or would he have found a sense of security and calm?  I like to think he’d be around and be making interesting music. That’d be lovely, wouldn’t it?

Guide to left hand position for playing guitar

Chord Hand Problems

left hand position for playing guitarTypical guitar finger problems experienced by beginners are:

  • Flattening and using the wrong part of the fingers
  • Pressing too hard
  • Pain in fingers, hand, and wrists
  • Grooves in fingertips
  • Tense fingers
  • Fingers not bent
  • Fretting in the wrong position


If you’re a beginner learning guitar and experiencing these hand and finger problems, don’t worry – you are not alone! Learning the guitar is most difficult in the first few weeks and months, not only because you’re learning the theory of how to play but because your hands and fingers are being asked to adopt positions they are not used to.

In this guide, we will look at the common problems experienced by new guitarists (including children) and how to overcome them. Of course, the Space Trainer accessory is specifically designed to help beginners with these problems, so we might mention it once or twice too!

General Tips for your left hand on the guitar

Before addressing specific guitarist hand problems, let’s look at some general points. The most important is probably the most difficult – RELAX!
Whenever we learn something new there is a great deal of concentration involved and learning the guitar is no exception. Concentrating hard makes us tense up and put too much physical effort into what we’re doing – this is the same when learning golf or tennis or woodworking… or anything else that is new to us. So, when learning and practicing guitar try to make a conscious effort to relax as much as possible. Take your time, practice for short periods and stop often, put down your guitar, and have a walk around. Believe me that eventually, you will be able to play your guitar for hours on end without pain or discomfort, but this takes time and you can’t rush. Some more tips on relaxing are listed below.

So now you’re chilled out and relaxed, let’s work through that list of finger problems commonly experienced by beginners.

Flattening fingers

OK, take a look at the fingers of your left hand. Each finger has three parts. The last part, which has the fingernail on it is the fingertip. Try this demonstration for me. Put your left-hand flat on the desk in front of you. Now firmly press the fingertip of your first finger of your left hand on the desk, with the fingernail uppermost, parallel with the surface of the desk. This is what many beginners try to do when playing guitar chords! They place the flat part of the fingertip against the string and press it hard on the fingerboard… then get frustrated that their finger seems too big, uncontrollable, and generally impossible to play even the simplest chords on their guitar. With your left-hand first finger still on the desk, now relax your hand and raise your palm off the surface while gently bending your fingers until your first finger is nearly vertical. Look at the small part of the fingertip that is now touching the desk; that is the part that should be touching your guitar strings. This, of course, is what the Space Trainer accessory achieves – it helps your hand to naturally make the right shape, allowing your fingers to fall on the strings at the ideal angle. Note that you’ll need to trim your nails!

Pressing too hard

One common mistake that beginners often make is thinking that they need to press the guitar string hard onto the fretboard (or fingerboard) with their fretting fingers. This is not necessary, as it is contact with the metal fret that causes the string to sound the fretted note, the fretboard is only there to hold the frets in place! Acoustic guitars generally require a little more pressure than electric guitars and all guitars vary. So experiment with your own guitar and try to find the amount of finger pressure needed on each string to make firm contact with the metal fret, but without clamping the string hard down on the wooden fingerboard. Your fingers will thank you!

Pain in fingers, hand, and wrists

To some degree, you need to suffer for your art! It’s inevitable that you will get sore fingers and possibly some aches in your hands or wrists. But you can control and reduce this by practicing often but slowly and for short periods of time, relaxing and not pressing too hard with your fingers.

Grooves in fingertips

If you’ve read this far, you know what I’m going to say! All beginners suffer from grooves or indents forming in the fingers of the left hand. The part of the fingertip you use for playing the guitar does not get too much use in everyday life, so it is likely to be soft. With a little and often practice regime they will soon toughen up and stop getting tender. Choose medium or light strings to make things a little easier and, of course, it helps if you don’t press too hard…

Basic left-hand position for playing guitar

Extend your left hand, palm up, and make a loose fist, placing your thumb roughly between your first and second fingers. All your knuckles should be bent. Your hand should look about like that after you stick a guitar neck in there. The thumb glides along the center of the back of the neck, straight, but not rigid. The finger knuckles stay bent – whether they’re fretting or not, they should be in a relaxed position.

To fret a note, press the tip of your finger down on a string, keeping your knuckles bent. Try to get the fingertip to come down near vertically on the string rather than at a shallow angle. This position exerts the greatest pressure on the string and also prevents the sides of the finger from touching adjacent strings — which may cause either buzzing or deadening the string, stopping it from ringing. Use your thumb from its position underneath the neck to help “squeeze” the fingerboard, but don’t over-tighten your grip. The top part of your hand and bottom part of your fingers should not touch the neck of the guitar at all. Using a Space Trainer teaching aid will help to get this hand position correct.

Typical guitar finger problems experienced by beginners are:

  • Flattening fingers
  • Using the wrong part of fingers
  • Pressing too hard
  • Tense fingers
  • Fingers not bent
  • Fretting in the wrong position

Finger position
Don’t place your finger on the metal fret, but in-between the two frets (or between the nut and first fret), just behind the fret being played. For example, if you’re playing the 3rd fret, place your finger between the second and third frets, but closer to the third fret. This will give you the clearest sound with minimum pressure and prevent buzzing.Finger position

Left-hand fretting requires some finger strength, but it isn’t necessary to strengthen your hands through artificial exercise – nothing builds your left-hand fretting strength better or faster than simply playing guitar.

Remember that you only need to press down on the string firmly enough to make good contact with the fret, you don’t need to force it hard down onto the wooden fretboard – if you are doing this then you are wasting your strength and energy and adding to unnecessary tension in your hand and fingers.

Relax! And slow down… 

Because of the strength, your left hand exerts while fretting, other parts of your body tend to tense up to compensate. As with any newly-learned activity, playing guitar seems to require an enormous amount of effort and concentration when you start out as a beginner. Practice your guitar playing only for short periods of time at first and at periodic intervals throughout your practice make a conscious effort to relax your left shoulder. Make sure as well that your left elbow doesn’t stick out to the side, but keep your upper arms parallel to the side of your body, relaxing your elbow so that it stays at your side.

Every new guitar student wants to play quickly, at the ‘proper’ speed for the tune or song they have learned. But the practice is far more valuable when you do it slowly and deliberately. In the early stages of learning the guitar, you should concentrate on properly fretting the chords and doing so slowly. Be patient and believe that speed and fluency will come naturally in time.

Hand pain and stiffness
The important thing to remember in maintaining a good left-hand position is that you need to keep it comfortable and natural. If your hand starts to hurt or ache, stop playing and take a rest. As with any other activity that requires muscular development, resting enables your body to catch up.

Try this exercise to investigate the weak parts in your guitar playing posture:
1) Holding the guitar as comfortably as you can in the normal playing position, let your left arm hang limply at your side.
2) Rest your right-hand fingers on the guitar’s strings, keeping them very loose and relaxed.
3) Focus your attention on your shoulders and slowly raise your left hand. Raise it straight up without extending it, and place all your fingers on the sixth string, around the tenth fret. Keep your fingers just lightly touching the string, not pressing the string down not as easy as it sounds!
4) Now, holding this position just analyze how you feel. Do you feel strain in your right shoulder? Any tightness come into the right hand, maybe holding the pick tighter, or tensing your wrist? Anything else you notice?
5) Keeping your left-hand fingers on the string lightly, very slowly begin to move your hand down the guitar’s neck toward the first fret. Notice what happens throughout your body.

You can also try the Guitar Hand Exercises described further down this page.

Different guitars need different techniques!
Electric guitar necks are generally both narrower and shallower than acoustics. Electric guitars also tend to have lighter gauge strings than acoustic guitars and are usually easier to fret. But because the space between each string is slightly smaller the new guitar player is more likely to touch and deaden an adjacent string with their fretting finger.Different guitars need different techniques!

The biggest difference, between playing an electric and nylon or steel-string acoustic is what is known as the “action”. A guitar’s action refers to the hight of the strings above the frets. On a well set up the electric guitar, fretting strings is easy, as the string only needs to move a small distance to the fret, and, with light strings, only a little pressure on the fingers is needed.. The easier action of an electric enables you to use a more relaxed left-hand position than you normally would on an acoustic, with the palm of the left hand facing slightly outward.

Nylon-string guitars have a wide fingerboard and are used mainly for classical music and Spanish musical styles, their necks require a more formal left-hand approach. Try to get the palm-side of your knuckles (the ones that connect your fingers to your hand) to stay close to and parallel to the side of the neck so that the fingers run perpendicular to the strings and all the fingers are the same distance away from the neck. (If your hand isn’t perfectly parallel, the little finger “falls away” or is farther from the neck than your index finger.)

The Space Trainer helps with proper hand position on all types of guitar and all playing styles because the fundamental hand shape required is the same!

Proper Left-hand Position for Playing Guitar

If you start right at the beginning and practice correct left-hand position and technique, you will avoid some of the problems that many guitarists encounter after they have played for a few years.Left-hand Position for Playing Guitar

Most guitarists learn the hard way; they start with “whatever works” informal technique instead of spending the time and effort to get it right from start. Guitar teachers see this in many of their students… a player reaches a certain level only to have problems progressing and going back to the beginning to re-learn bad habits in hand position. In the beginning, a player is usually more interested in learning to quickly play a few favorite songs, but when they try to step beyond that and really play, they find that they can’t get the “high performance” that they need out of their hands.

The technique is based on efficiency and economy. Correct positioning and use of the hands is essential in order to maximize your ability to get at the notes that you need to play.

Take the time to get it right and, with the help of a Space Trainer, you’ll save yourself a lot of back-tracking and frustration in the long run.

Left-Hand Positions
There are two basic left-hand positions, classical and popular or “baseball bat” position.

The most versatile left-hand position for playing guitar is the classical position and is the hand position that all classical guitar teachers will concentrate on. The popular “baseball bat” position is arguably easier for beginners and is most useful for casual playing – strumming your favorite pop, rock, or folk songs – but it also very limiting. It will come into play later when we deal directly with string bending, vibrato, and certain chords. But, for now, the classical position will allow you to develop the ability to use all of your fingers with equal control and agility.

Typical guitar finger problems experienced by beginners:

  • Flattening fingers
  • Using the wrong part of fingers
  • Pressing too hard
  • Tense fingers
  • Fingers not bent
  • Fretting in the wrong position

Classical hand position
The knuckle where the index finger joins the hand should not touch the bottom of the neck. Many people, when first trying this hand position, WILL anchor this knuckle.
Until you develop the musculature of the wrist and hand, it will feel as though you lack any strength in the classical position. Realize that it takes very little actual finger pressure to push the strings to the fret.

Most of the tension that a beginner applies with the left hand is directed onto the fingerboard itself and has very little to do with actually fretting the note. To this end, bracing the hand against the neck at the first knuckle of the index finger gives one a feeling of having better leverage with which to “strangle” the guitar. This is unnecessary as the muscles of the hand will develop in a very short amount of time (usually within the first two weeks).

Thumb position on the guitar neck
The thumb should be just a little higher than the dead center on the back of the neck and directly in line with the middle finger. Don’t bend the knuckle of the thumb, keep it hyperextended like when you push in a tack with your thumb. Don’t allow your thumb to point off to the side like you’re hitchhiking as this will destroy the hand’s natural ability to apply pressure to the strings.

Sitting or standing can make a difference in your ability to assume this hand position as well. When standing, you may need to adjust the length of your strap. If your guitar is too low, it forces you to have to bend your wrist way too much.

Guitar hand exercises
laying guitar quickly and well requires above-average hand strength. It’s not enough for your hands to have dexterity. They must also be strong enough to play fast. You’ll also want the endurance required to play for long periods of time without getting tired. Whether you play classical or death metal, strengthening your hands will have enormous benefits on your abilities.

1. As with any strength training, stretching your muscles is important. Hold your arms out straight at each side. Turn the wrists upward, bending your palms backward as far as is comfortable. Maintain this for one minute. Turn your wrists down, bending the wrists down as far as is comfortable. Maintain for another minute. Bend each finger backward, then forward. Hold for thirty seconds each way. Make sure that you feel pressure but no pain. Shake the hands out for thirty seconds.

2. Your forearm muscles support the hand. While not necessary to do intensive weight training, building strength in the forearms supports your hands. Get some light dumbbells. Three or five-pound weights will work fine. Sit down and hold the weight in your hand. Place your forearms flat on your thighs with the palms facing down. Curl your wrist upward as far as you can. Then slowly lower the weight back down. Repeat this 10 times and then rest for three minutes. Repeat the exercise, this time with the palms facing upward. Repeat the entire regimen three times for a total of 30 reps.

3. Strengthening the wrists is also key to strengthening the hands for guitar playing. Get a pair of exercise hand grips. They come in different tensile strengths. Try a few pairs and get one that allows you to do 10 to 15 reps before feeling moderate fatigue in the wrists. Do 15 reps at a time for this easy exercise, as you can do it while watching television or listening to music. You simply cannot do too many reps on your wrists.

4. The fingers are, for the guitar player, the most important part of the hand. Take a tennis ball and squeeze it, using the fingertips. Use all five fingers at once. Then graduate to two fingers at a time. Finally, move on to just one finger at a time.

Stretch Again
5. Repeat the stretching exercises you began with. This helps prevent repetitive stress injuries.

Try this test:
Place your thumb in the center of the back of the neck, as per the illustration for the classical position. Now, spread your remaining fingers out as wide as you can (With a little practice and relaxation, you will eventually be able to cover 6 frets easily, without moving your hand!). While keeping your fingers spread, slowly move your thumb up and over the top of the neck until you have it hanging over the fingerboard, as in the baseball bat position. Notice what happens to the rest of your fingers. There’s just no way to keep them spread out with the thumb hanging over the fingerboard. This fact limits your access to three or four frets at a time with little or no mobility if you flop your thumb over the top of the neck.

Hang it high! About guitar straps…
Whereas classical guitar players position their guitars on one knee raised with a footstool, most guitarists are more interested in playing Rock or Pop music… and usually, this means playing standing up with the guitar hanging from a strap. Choose an adjustable guitar strap that is wide enough to take the weight of your guitar without cutting into your shoulder. It might look cool to hang your guitar low down, but this is the worst possible position to actually play – especially if you want to play fast and smoothly. Most “high performance” players have their guitars no lower than waist level, and when they want to tear up the fretboard they can pull their thumb back to the center of the neck and stretch their fingers out.About guitar straps

Here is an example of the wrong way to position your hands to play basic guitar chords. Notice the thumb on the fretting hand is resting on the top of the fretboard. This changes the entire position of the fretting hand: palm sits underneath the fretboard – decreases mobility and ability to stretch fingers flatten out when playing notes on the sixth and fifth strings – fingers will likely come into accidental contact with strings, causing muffled notes, or “dead strings”.

It should be noted that at some point in the future, you may actually use your thumb to wrap around the neck of the guitar, to fret notes on the sixth string. You may also notice that some of your favorite guitarists grip the neck in a manner similar to the one illustrated here. It is a hand position that can be effective in the proper situation, but it will make learning the guitar much more difficult. Avoid it for now.

Changing chords confidently
The primary reason beginners have trouble switching chords quickly has nothing to do with their fingers, or the way they’re sitting, or anything physical at all. Most often, new guitarists haven’t learned to think ahead and visualize exactly which chord they’re about to play, and which fingers they’ll need to move.Changing guitar chords confidently

Try this exercise:
Choose two chords you know. You will be moving back and forth between these two chords.
Play the first chord eight times (strumming evenly), and then, without breaking the rhythm of your strumming, quickly move to the next chord, and play that chord eight times.
Did you need to pause while switching chords? If so, let’s try and examine what the problem is. Try the following, without strumming the guitar:

First, put your fingers back in a position to play the first chord.
Now, try and move quickly to the second chord, and study your fingers while doing so.
Chances are, one or more of your fingers will come way off the fretboard, and perhaps hover in mid-air while you try to decide where each finger should go. This happens because you haven’t mentally prepared yourself for switching chords, not because you can’t play them!

Now, try fretting that first chord again. Without actually moving to the second chord, imagine playing the second chord shape, visualizing where your fingers will be.
Picture in your mind, finger by finger, how to most efficiently move to the next chord. Only after you’ve done this should you switch chords. If some fingers continue to pause, or hover in mid-air while moving to the next chord, back up and try again.

When you have tried this a few times, next concentrate on achieving “minimum motion” when changing chords. It is common for beginners to lift their fingers high off the guitar fretboard while changing from one chord to the next. Spend five minutes going back and forth between the two chords, visualizing, then moving. Pay attention to any small, unnecessary movements your fingers make, and eliminate them. Eventually, your fingers will move efficiently from chord to chord, lifting only a very small amount above the strings.

Although this is easier said than done, your hard work and attention to detail will be paying off quickly and your chord changes will become more confident and fluid.

One final tip: Try practicing with your eyes closed! Many beginners – and more experienced guitarists – spend too much time looking at their left hand. Although not easy for the beginner guitarist, playing with eyes closed and visualize the string position and where the fingers should go is very useful in developing a natural guitar style.

Disco Demons Guest Mix VI : JÄGERVERB

In times of DJs surfing underage crowds on inflatable rafts, there are artists that really stand out over the never-ending flood of mediocre dance music for the masses; artists that you can always rely on to keep a constant stream of quality music coming your way. Disco Demons Guest Mix VI is brought to you by one of these artists – as always.

Based out in the UK, JÄGERVERB is without any doubt one of the most interesting artists in underground dance music to keep an eye on right now: game-changing original tracks (LadybirdsMozzarella, etc.) and remixes (Mustard Pimp, recently a big one for Roby Howler, etc.) on labels such as Dim Mak, Top Billin, and GND – and most importantly, the all amazing Phosphenes EP on Belgian imprint Electrolux, one of the most interesting releases in 2012.

Disco Demons: Sorry for the generic question, but I still have to ask: how did you come up with the name Jägerverb? Does it involve Jägermeister schnapps?

Jägerverb: There was a miniature bottle of Jägermeister on my desk while I was brainstorming ideas for a new alias a few years back, so I took the “Jäger” and stuck different random words on the end. The “verb” comes from “reverb”. The name doesn’t mean anything but it’s phonetically pleasing and I like that it doesn’t sound English. My music feels more compatible with stuff from Belgium, Germany, etc. released through labels like Lektroluv and GND, than what you’d expect from someone living in Sheffield in the largely bass-centric UK.

[Continue reading + tracklist after the jump]

Disco Demons: After some massive, electro-flavored tracks like Lady Birds earlier this year, your recent tracks and remixes are obviously aiming at funky house grooves. How come?

Jägerverb: I never normally plan a track before I start so the style and energy isn’t something I’ve deliberately gone for, it’s just evolved naturally from jams and spontaneous ideas. I do listen to a lot more techno and progressive stuff now than I used to, so I guess the focus on rolling grooves and rich percussion rather than big noisy drops is reflected in my recent tracks and DJ sets. Last year some friends booked Ivan Smagghe to play a load of strange spacey techno and disco in a warehouse in Sheffield. I hadn’t heard of him before but this deeper, subtler music suddenly made sense when I heard it in the right environment.

Disco Demons: At the moment, (underground) electronic dance music is obviously inspired more than ever by old-school sounds. What does the future of electronic dance music hold for you?

Jägerverb: The emergence of EDM and the ever-increasing commercial appeal of dance music means it’s now expanding in two directions at once; some discover this pop/dance hybrid style and go along with it while others do the opposite and dive back into the underground in the search for something fresh. It’s encouraging that artists like Julio Bashmore, Eats Everything and the guys on Dirtybird are in vogue at the moment, stripping house music back to the basic elements and nodding to its old-school origins while bringing a classic sound back into mainstream appreciation.

Disco Demons: If you could do a collaboration with one artist (musician, singer, etc.) of your choice, who would it be (dead or alive)?

Jägerverb: Tricky one. Blatta & Inesha called dibs on Bowie so I can’t just copy them. A collaboration with Tiga would be cool. The vocal in Lady Birds is basically my mate imitating his voice and me messing with the pitch a la Mind Dimension or Move My Body. Tiga has the perfect voice for infectiously catchy tongue-in-cheek lyrics, it gives tracks a really distinctive mood. I’m presuming he’d also be hilarious to do studio work with.

Disco Demons: 2012 saw releases on Dim Mak, GND, and Lektroluv. What’s next?

Jägerverb: I’ve just finished quite a disco-sounding remix for an Italian artist called Ricktronik, and I’ve got another remix coming up for Sharooz’s La Bombe imprint. After that, I’ll be working on some new originals for a second Lektroluv EP. In 2013 I want to focus on getting myself out and about as a DJ as well, pushing that side of what I do.

Disco Demons: If you could play one single song to the entire world, which one would it be?

Jägerverb: Inspector Norse by Todd Terje. It’s been my soundtrack to 2012 and I think it captures everything that’s fun about clubbing and house music. I can’t imagine anyone disliking that euphoric chord change halfway through, with those shimmering arpeggios. Gives me shivers every time I hear that bit, such powerful music.


01. Bobby Champs – Steve Martin
02. Oliver $ & Sqim – Hoes
03. Jägerverb – Phosphenes
04. Tharindu – Manor
05. Tiefschwarz feat. Jaw – Hurricane (Re.You Remix)
06. Dense & Pika – Mooger Fooger
07. Maelstrom – Lux
08. Tanka – Boogie With Me
09. Sir Nenis & Roby Howler – Don’t Stop (Jägerverb Remix)
10. Jägerverb – St. Elmo’s Fire
11. Proxy – Junk


Disco Demons Guest Mix V : BLATTA & INESHA

Thursdays are for techno, they say, so after an extended summer break, I’m proud to finally present a new episode of the Disco Demons guest mix series. Disco Demons Guest Mix V has come all the way from Italy, from two of the most exciting producers around at the moment: countless remixes, original releases on Oh My God It’s Techno Music, Bad Life and, most importantly, the incredible Coordinates EP on Southern Fried a few days ago – BLATTA & INSHA have been on fire in 2012!

In this guest mix, the two Italians take you on an aural journey into their world of dark techno sounds, and in the accompanying interview, they’re talking about EDM, Lou Reed and the best cities in the world to get drunk in. While you’re at it, make sure to check out the brand new video (NSFW) for Dirty Knees, their collaboration with Mustard Pimp.

Disco Demons: Your sound has evolved quite a lot in the past few years, leaning more and more towards techno. Obviously this seems to be a general trend in the scene at the moment. Has techno become the new electro? ( – or is it just electro influenced by techno sounds?)

Blatta & Inesha: Dance music styles are made of cycles, every kind of sound and genre comes back in vogue every few seasons updated with current sounds. Electro in the shape we used to know has become awful with all those cheesy commercial trance breakdowns, basslines that sound all the same, and a big lack of ideas and evolution, so I guess it’s normal for some sensible producers to move to other directions… but to answer your question: to me, techno-electro is still a pretty underground phenomenon, cheesy horrible wah sidechain is definitely the sound that is still mainly influencing electro!

On our side, we never decided or said hey ok let’s do some techno from now on, we just realized that we like dark music and dark melodies better than bouncy happy music. The fact that it sounds like techno then is just a coincidence, I’m sure in 6 months it will sound totally different again, and so will the genres. We like to be ambiguous and take things not too seriously, like the whole Techno Nouveau thing we came up with. Being honest our music is not even traditional techno, the real techno scene is a boys club, very hard to get in and if you talk to some real techno integralist and you play a Blatta & Inesha track to him he will probably punch you in the face! (laughs)

[Continue reading + tracklist after the jump]

Disco Demons: What do you think about the big buzz of electronic dance music in the USA at the moment? Has dance music sold out, or is it just a quick hype?

Blatta & Inesha: It’s definitely everywhere in the US right now… it’s cool, there are big opportunities and American crowds are awesome. Its nice to see since dance music was actually born in Chicago with house music and then acid/techno in Detroit, so it’s finally coming round to be enjoyed by the people that invented it (laughs). The UK has dominated the love for the dance music scene for so long, I suppose it’s time for a change! I don’t know what the future holds though, America has always had a love/hate relationship with dance music.

Disco Demons: What does EDM mean to you?

Blatta & Inesha: Just another lazy American acronym.

Disco Demons: You guys have been quite active in 2012 so far: Consign To Oblivion together with Casino Gold, Texas TechnoF1, and Coordinates as well as lots of remixes, receiving all massive love and amazing feedback. What are the next plans for this year and the near future?

Blatta & Inesha: The remix package of Dirty Knees, a track we did with Mustard Pimp, just came out on Dim Mak. Then our album is basically done and should be out in January or February 2013 – we are still deciding which tracks will see the light and which ones will stay in our hard drive for now. Plus we are working on some cutting edge hip hop beats for some cool Italian hip hop artists and we are also both working on some solo/side projects to be announced later in the year.

Also soon we’ll take a little break studio wise because we’ll be on a mini-tour in Asia in late October and then off to the USA to tour with Autoerotique in November.

Disco Demons: If you could do a collaboration with one artist (musician, singer, etc.) of your choice, who would it be (dead or alive)?

Blatta & Inesha: Lou Reed or David Bowie.

Disco Demons: I’ve been talking to a lot of producers who said they would never listen to their own music (or dance music in general) at home – how about you? What are your favorite non-electronic artists at the moment?

Blatta & Inesha: Well after you work on a beat or a bassline for 8 hours a day probably the last thing you want to do in your free time is to listen to it again. But in general, I don’t mind listening to my own tracks, especially when I take long car drives, etc… but even then I never enjoy it cause I have a too strict approach and I can only hear the mistakes…

I also listen to a lot of dance music in general, I like to get inspiration from genres of dance music that we normally don’t play. I find the new and very underground UK scene of the tech-deep house very interesting, people like Trikk (even he’s Portuguese, though!) produce like monsters!

I listen to tons of old music too – I have more than 10.000 old vinyl records at home, mainly old rock, 70’s funk and disco, jazz, plus I have this obsession for exploitation film soundtracks, 70’s soft sex movies, stuff like Piero Umiliani, etc. I also love more chill bassy stuff like Teeth, the new EP on Sound Pellegrino is just fantastic!

Disco Demons: What’s the best city on this planet to get drunk in?

Blatta & Inesha: Bamberg, Germany for the superior quality of its locally brewed beer, Lisbon, or Berlin for their atmosphere.

Disco Demons: If you could play one single song to the entire world, which one would it be?

Blatta & Inesha: Perfect Day by Lou Reed.


01. Travel & Four Quarters Boyz – K.T.S.
02. Singtank – Give It To Me (Don Rimini Remix)
03. Doc Trashz – Distorto
04. Blatta & Inesha – Parallels & Meridians
05. Tai – Steroid (Modek Remix)
06. John Roman – Monitor
07. Casino Gold – Ions
08. Mustard Pimp and Blatta & Inesha – Dirty Knees (Attaque Remix)
09. Les Tronchiennes – Riot Shield (Modern Hype Remix)
10. John Digweed & Nick Muir – Raise (Electric Rescue Purple Remix)

The Disco Demons Guest Mixes are a series of exclusive mixtapes, handcrafted by artists that I’ve blogged about a lot, artists that have influenced me as a DJ, artists whose music I simply love.

Felix Cartal: interview + exclusive blog premiere Black To White (The Loops Of Fury Remix)

After premiering a track from Felix Cartal’s album Different Faces a few weeks ago, it’s time for another exclusive: May 29 will see the release of the Black To White EP on Dim Mak Records, featuring no one less than Clockwork (check out the mixtape he did for while you’re at it), London-based The Loops Of Fury and Jakarta’s very own Angger Dimas on the remix front.

On that occasion I’m proud to not only present you an interview with Felix, talking about vocalists, haters, The Beatles, and of course about his new album, but also an exclusive blog premiere of The Loops Of Fury‘s take on Black To White. Fasten your seatbelts for some Domo-Esque high-pitched synth action!

Let me jump right into it: your new album is titled Different Faces – obviously not a coincidence: In a previous interview you said you “don’t want to be known just as another kid who makes bangers” – and while some tracks are still as heavy as expected, you’re clearly breaking new ground on songs like Don’t Turn On The Lightor Black To White. Where do you see Different Faces? Pop? Electro? In between?

Felix Cartal: For me, the most important thing in music is to keep moving forward. I’ve always loved vocals in music, be it from the days when I sang (albeit terribly) in my own band, or just from being able to relate to a piece of music on a lyrical level. Vocals are something very important that I have always wanted to incorporate. With Different Faces, I had a lot more of an opportunity to collaborate with some vocalists that I really admire and respect. So I think the heaviness still exists in the music on a lot of the instrumentals, but the vocal tracks are the ones that really helped push me into a direction I hadn’t been before. I hate labeling music under a certain genre, I just want people to decide if they like the music or not, and leave it at that. The genre isn’t important to me.

[ Continue reading after the jump ]

You also said one of the reasons for the diversity of Different Faces is that you’re “trying to make music that people will remember”. With electro- and dubstep-influenced songs in the billboard charts, electronic music has obviously managed to break out from the clubs – but do you think there will ever be songs that people remind for generations in electronic dance music, as there are in pop music?

Felix Cartal: Of course. I think what causes a song to be truly memorable for generations is great songwriting. I think a lot of dance music is obsessed sometimes with the actual production of the track (which actually makes sense since a lot of dance producers are just that… producers rather than musicians — [although on that note some of the best music is by people who aren’t great musicians… but that’s a whole other debate]), instead of writing a song that is amazing in its own right. I believe a truly great song can triumph over any so-called “production-flaws,” examples being, The Beatles who tracked things on a 4 track, to Crystal Castles who embrace a truly aggressive sound, to Arcade Fire who recorded their first record in their apartment… In order for a dance song to last for generations, it just needs to be a great song. I fully believe that 100%.

The new album is highly polarizing: While some old fans seem to be alienated by the new sounds, you’re on the other hand clearly reaching a lot of new fans by widening your musical horizons: In times of Facebook and Twitter, artists are closer to their fans than ever – and while lots of artists seem to have that kind of “all for the fans, fuck the haters” attitude, you actually reacted to both praise and criticism. How do you deal with feedback – do you learn from it, does it influence you?

Felix Cartal: Haters. Well I mean I’ve only recently started to get them, and I mean, I think anything that causes a strong reaction (negative or positive) means you’re doing something forward-thinking. I’ve never really understood the mentality to follow someone on Twitter to tell them how terrible they are, and I think retweeting comments like this is just my way of laughing at it, and sort of bringing people who like my music in on the fact that this is happening. But I don’t take “sellout” comments seriously or am influenced by them because I’m happy with what I’m doing… and doing what I want. To quote Henry Rollins, “Selling out is when you make the record someone else tells you to make.” I have never made a song that wasn’t something I wanted to.

With the album clearly on the pop side of things and some recent remixes standing out with heavy sounds, how does last year’s Joker / Riddler EP fit in (or vice versa)? Will there be similar EPs in the future?

Felix Cartal: I still play Joker at a lot of shows, I don’t disregard this as part of my sound, and who I am. I still love those tracks. As for making music that is the same as that EP, I can’t really speak to that, I never try and make a record that sounds like another one of mine. Sure it can be influenced by it, but if I tried to make a 2nd Joker, I guarantee the critique would be, “sounds like a shittier version of The Joker.” I don’t want to analyze and try and recreate why that song worked.

As for most electro/techno producers, the typical workflow when writing music is working on tracks in the studio – mostly alone. What was it like having to share the studio with other artists, especially vocalists for full collaborations?

Felix Cartal: Oddly enough we did all the vocal collaborations over email and Skype. I’ve been on the road so much it’s been hard not to do it any other way. So my workflow was very similar, still being alone in the studio.

Speaking of vocalists: If you could pick any artist, dead or alive, to collaborate on a song, who would be your choice?

Felix Cartal: Lead singer of Muse.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that your musical background is punk rock – a common phenomenon among the big names in electronic dance music: Heavy metal, indie, punk rock, – electro definitely draws a lot of influence from other genres. What non-electronic artists do you like at the moment, what music influences your work? What was the last song you listened to before we talked?

Felix Cartal: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of different things, I’m all over the place. Beach House, The Weeknd, Colin Stetson, Fun., Paul McCartney. The last song I listened to before this interview was Practice by Drake. It all influences me in different ways.

If you could play one single song to the entire world, which one would it be?

Felix Cartal: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. In its entirety. With my back to the crowd. While texting.

Thanks for your time man!

Felix Cartal: Thank you!

Photo credits: Jenelle Schneider