NAMM 2010 Through the Eyes of the Musicians
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Photos By Alison Cohen
Nothing compares to the NAMM Show, the longest running annual trade show that takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center for musicians/businesses to see the latest gear available. Thousands of musical product and retail manufacturers from around the world showcase musical instruments, audio and visual equipment, computer products, and musical novelties. Pretty much every music product manufacturer you can think of, and many you have never heard of, are at the show.
Throughout the convention, there are Meet and Greets, product demonstrations, band performances and professional development classes. There is so much to see, and so many things to look at, you are often afraid to blink because you might miss something. Every direction you turn there is something to see. But…the BEST part about NAMM is that it’s a giant party with musicians EVERYWHERE! My goal at this convention was to capture the entire NAMM experience from the eyes of the musicians.
One of the first people I ran into when I arrived at NAMM on Friday was Chris Sanders from Lizzy Borden. The thing he likes most about the show is having the opportunity to meet with manufacturers, preview new and upcoming equipment, and to network with other artists. I look forward to seeing Lizzy Borden play one of their three headlining shows in the California area next month. Chris just happened to be standing with Michael Wilton (Queensryche) and I had the chance to speak with him for a few minutes. Michael even introduced me to his son, and told me he had a performance scheduled at KRANK (where he played an amazing medley of Queensryche songs) and a signing at ESP Guitars.
In addition to Chris Sanders and Michael Wilton, I spoke with Doug Aldrich, Kerry King, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Pete Loren, PJ Farely, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, Mike Stone and Nick Cantanese on Friday alone!
One of my favorite descriptions of NAMM came from Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake) after an amazing solo performance at the Marshall Booth. I joked with him and said because of technical difficulties (bad tape recorder batteries) he had too much time to figure out what to say. He joked back that he knew I was coming and had been thinking of what to say to me all along, even when he was onstage playing guitar. Aldrich said, “NAMM is the biggest backstage party I have ever been to, where dangerous things may happen, and you never know where you may end up or who you may end up with. It’s outta control!”
From Marshall, I headed on to Samsung, where Tim “Ripper” Owens (Ex-Judas Priest/Ex-Iced Earth) was signing autographs along with members of Shinedown, Anthrax and Shadows Fall. Owens recently released his debut solo album with his new band Beyond Fear. “Play My Game” features performances by Doug Aldrich, Chris Caffery, Rudy Sarzo, Steve Stevens, Billy Sheehan, Michael Wilton and more. Owens called NAMM a circus full of craziness, and likes seeing old friends, band members, fans and equipment at the show.
After meeting Owens, I just happened to run into Steve Brown and PJ Farely from Trixter (who were actually getting an autograph from a New York Yankees baseball player). Brown said, “The NAMM show means to me….good friends, good food, and good booze.” He likes to see people he hasn’t seen in a long time and to make new contacts.
Next, I saw Mike Inez, (Alice in Chains) Mike Stone, (Speed X/Ex-Queensryche) and Nick “Evil Twin” Cantanese (Speed X/Black Label Society) signing at the Dean Markley booth. Inez was really friendly and loves coming to NAMM every year. He told me, “It’s like going to Wal-Mart but there’s cool stuff everywhere. I feel just like a kid in a candy store.” Stone and Cantanese were promoting their new band, Speed X and Stone described NAMM as “Mastadonic.” After an exciting, exhausting and hectic first day, I decided to skip the after parties and rest up for Saturday.
Good thing I got some rest, because Saturday was pure chaos! The aisles were so packed you could hardly move, and the lines for the Meet and Greets went on forever. Fans started lining up hours before Slash’s 12:15 PM press release and signing at the Marshall Booth where he unveiled the brand new Marshall AFD100 amplifier. This “Appetite for Destruction” amp was designed to reconstruct the sound used on the legendary GN’R debut CD. Slash also made guest appearances throughout the weekend at Seymour Duncan, and I just happened to catch a glimpse of him at the booth, and see one very lucky fan win an autographed Gibson guitar in a raffle.
I continued on my mission to find out what NAMM meant to different musicians and met Dave Ellefson, (Megadeth) Rudy Sarzo, (Dio) and Tim “Ripper” Owens (again) at the Peavy Booth. Ellefson gave me the following quote, “I like that NAMM is a big community, where everyone gets to hang together once a year. Musicians, artists, music manufacturers… It’s like an annual retreat.”
While waiting in line at Peavy, Razor from Metal Knights walked by. I said a quick hello and made plans to meet up with him shortly. He stated, “NAMM is THE place to be in the music industry. It’s based right around everything that’s going on. If you can get in, and you have an agenda, and you’re legitimate, it’s definitely the place to be.” Metal Knights recently released their debut CD “World of Forever.” Check their Website/Myspace for upcoming tour dates.
After talking to Razor, I headed over to the Dean Booth where David Shankle, Vinnie Moore, Uli Roth, and Michael Angelo Batio were all signing. I caught up with Shankle (DSG/Ex-Manowar) after the signing and he told me how excited he was to unveil his one of a kind DS7 29 FRET 7 String Shred Machine. He also told me about several other projects he has in the works. He just recorded a video for the insanely fast “Demonic Solo” featured in the upcoming movie “Jezebeth,” he is almost done with his 3rd DSG solo CD, and already working on his next guitar for 2011. In addition to all this, Shankle offers online guitar lessons (via Skype) and you can contact him through Myspace/Facebook if you’re interested.
One of the biggest surprises at the show was meeting the legendary Mick Mars, the only member of Motley Crue I had never met before. I happened to see him from behind and recognized him instantly. I didn’t want to disturb him, so I snapped a quick photo and kept walking. A few minutes later, I was really excited to find out that Mick was actually doing a signing upstairs at the Fender Booth. I jumped in line and anxiously waited for the chance to meet Mick Mars. When my turn came, I shook his hand, told him what an honor it was to meet him, and that I had been listening to Motley Crue since the beginning. He was genuinely appreciative and I am proud that I had this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Back at the Dean Booth, there was quite a wait to meet Dave Mustaine (Megadeth). He was there showcasing his signature series of Flying V guitars and had the “Rust in Peace” VMNT hanging right behind him during the signing.
You never know who you are going to run into at NAMM. I really lucked out by running into guitar virtuoso Steve Vai at Ernie Ball. He was there talking to John Petrucci (Dream Theater) and Neal Schon (Journey) and I had the chance to talk to him for a minute and get a quick picture and autograph. This was a very cool surprise, since he wasn’t even doing a signing.
Rachel Bolan and Dave “The Snake” Sabo from Skid Row were both at Dean Markley doing one of the last signings of the day. Bolan looks at NAMM like a gathering where you get to see old friends, some that you haven’t seen for 10 years or more, and likes getting to play with all the new cool stuff that’s around. “Snake” likes to take the opportunity at NAMM to thank their fans and sponsors for taking care of them through the years, to see friends, and to see a bunch of future Rock Stars that are gonna take over the world someday. He added, “It’s a great gathering of a great community of people.”
I couldn’t leave the NAMM Show without at least experiencing one night of partying at the Hilton. When I arrived Saturday night, it was so crowded they only let people in as others left. It didn’t take too long before I was one with a community, united in music. The Hilton is the place to go even if you don’t have a pass to the show. It’s the perfect place to schmooze with Rock Stars, see old friends, and make new ones, while listening to some great bands perform live.
I was happy to run into Randy Black from Primal Fear, since I had missed him at the Mapex Booth. Since he has lived in Germany the past 11 years, the best thing for him is seeing old friends that are still in the business. He was at the show mainly trying to find distribution for his DVD, a drum instructional titled “The Black Book, an Introduction to Creative Metal Drumming.” Things are looking good, and it should be released worldwide by the end of March. Also, Primal Fear has a four week U.S. tour planned later this year and are working on a live CD/DVD.
I also ran into Marky DeSade from Revlon Red, who loves the fact that the crowd at NAMM is so diverse, and they come from all over the world, yet they are all bound together by music. Revlon Red will be playing the “Glitter and Goth Ball” at Passive Arts Studio February 13th and are working on a new CD that should be out later this year.
Through Marky, I met a band from New Jersey called American Swagger that plays music from the heart and are trying their best to keep Rock N’ Roll alive. They were really cool guys, and were even inspired to write a song during our interview! I had a great time at the Hilton, saw a TON of people I knew, and made a bunch of new friends as well. It was definitely the place to be!
On Sunday, the only thing I had scheduled was meeting with Darrell Dwarf Miller (Automan/Ex-Killer Dwarfs/Ex-Laidlaw). After a late night at the Hilton, I was pleased to find that the show was a lot more relaxed. The Rock Stars were scarce, Meet and Greets were few and far between, and the aisles were mostly empty. This gave me the opportunity to really check out the gear I hadn’t seen yet. I saw so many amazing, beautiful and unique guitars it made me wish I could play halfway decent or at least had the money to enjoy trying!
It was great meeting with Darrell Dwarf Miller at the Sabian Booth. He is really excited to step out from behind the drums for the first time in 25 years to front new band Automan and is living his dream. Miller’s creative energy has been refueled. Now he is rejuvenated, like a kid again, getting out there and playing Rock N’ Roll. Automan released their debut album “Pocket Change” about six months ago on UD/Megaforce/Sony-BMG and plan on going on an extensive tour all year long to get the new CD out to as many markets worldwide as possible.
When I left Sabian I was surprised to see Rikki Rockett (Poison) at his Rockett Drum Works Booth right across the aisle. It was great to catch up with Rikki and talk about his company with him. Rockett is the President of the 100% American full custom drum company based out of Southern California. This is their 3rd year at NAMM and the show has gone really well for him. Musicians like Steven Adler, Phil Varone, Troy Patrick Farrell and Bobby Gibb already play his kits and Rockett Drum Works will be busy filling new orders all year.
Throughout the convention, I tried connecting with Pamela Moore. (Solo Artist/Queensryche) But with all the craziness, it never happened. Although we didn’t meet in person, she let me know how much she enjoyed networking and connecting with old friends as well as making new ones, and that she’s working on a new solo CD to be released this Spring/Summer.
All of the musicians I spoke with were genuinely happy to be at the NAMM Show and used the opportunity to meet with old friends, make new ones, network and check out the latest equipment. It really is a community where fans, friends, businesses and bands can unite as one. We all believe in the music, and we are here to make a difference and keep music alive. I would like to thank all the musicians I spoke with for your time and thoughts. I am proud to have had this experience and will treasure these memories always. I am already looking forward to NAMM 2011!