Technology, Talent, and Toys – NAMM 2012

Technology, Talent, and Toys – NAMM 2012

Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen

NAMM Show 2012

This was the 110th Annual NAMM Show and the biggest turnout to date, with almost 100,000 Attendees, and 1400 Exhibitors from 90 different Countries. NAMM, which stands for National Association of Music Merchants, is the longest running annual trade Show that takes place yearly at the Anaheim Convention Center for musicians/businesses to see the latest musical instruments and products available. Throughout the convention, there are artist signings, 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. The show ran from Thursday, January 19th through Sunday the 22nd.

I spent all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the convention, and it still wasn’t nearly enough time to see everything!

My first day of NAMM was pretty good. It wasn’t too crowded yet, which gave me a chance to scope everything out and make a game plan for the weekend. I spent some time at Gibson/Epiphone with Product Specialist Doctor Wil, who gave me a detailed walk-thru of their latest guitars and basses. He showed me an acoustic that had a built in tuner in the mounting ring that was really cool. Basically you just hit a couple buttons and it tunes your guitar! He also showed me a few guitars that have USB outputs built-in and that come with a guitar rig software download. They also had a line of Kramer reissues, which were most known for their 80’s metal sound, and guitarists like Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Mars, and Vivian Campbell used them back in the day.

NAMM Show 2012

I wandered around a bit, visiting Rock N Roll Industries Magazine, Rock-n-Roll Gangstar to say hi to the crew, Rockett Drums to say hi to Rikki and check out their new kits, and Sabian, where I ran into Randy Black from Primal Fear. Things seem to be going really well for him. His instructional drum DVD “The Black Book” came out last year, and he was excited about the brand new Primal Fear CD “Unbreakable,” that was going to be released the next day. (January 24th ) I noticed that Mapex had a really cool promo idea going on. They were taking pictures of Attendees holding up a plastic frame that said ‘Drummerface’ and then hanging them on the wall in their booth. Of course I did one!

I lost track of time for a minute, which can easily happen at NAMM, but made it to Carvin just in time to catch Marten Andersson (Lizzy Borden) and Bjorn (Yngwie). Marten described NAMM as a ‘toy store for big people.’ I couldn’t agree more. I always call it “Musician’s Heaven.” Marten is currently working on a new album with Lizzy, and they just got confirmed for Hellfest in France June 15th – 17th, along with Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Cannibal Corpse, Children of Bodom, and many more.

Thursday night I went to the 6th Annual NAMM Jam at Big’s Grill in Fullerton for Skye Delamey, Dirty Little Secrets, Zen Rising and Black Vinyl. I primarily went to see Skye showcase her two most recent videos, “Thor” and “Devil in an Evening Dress,” and ended up sticking around for the next three bands.  I’ve never seen Skye perform live before, and it was great to see her sing while her music videos played on TV screens throughout the bar, especially since I’m in the one for “Devil in an Evening Dress!”

Black Vinyl, who is fronted by 13-year-old Dylan Nash, stole the show. People would walk in, not knowing what to expect, and would just be mesmerized. Nash is a superstar in the making, and already has his moves and stage presence down, and he knows how to work a crowd. They have a very Led Zeppelin-ish feel to them, and even covered two Zeppelin songs, “Communication Breakdown” and “Whole Lotta Love.” It’s so nice to see young and talented musicians embrace rock n’roll. They are our future.

NAMM Show 2012

On Friday, I jumped right into the crowds and chaos, ready for an even bigger day. I started out at the Zoom Booth for a signing by John Temptesta from the Cult, Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple/Trapeze).  It was great to meet John for the first time, since I’m a really big Cult fan, always good seeing Dave, and Glenn Hughes was super nice, and funny.

While walking the floor, I noticed a big crowd was gathered at the Paul Reed Smith Booth and saw that Dave Navarro (Janes Addiction) was doing a signing. The line was already at the cutoff point, but I was able to snap a quick picture. From a shear artistic viewpoint I am always in awe with the PRS booth.

One of the most fun parts of the day was when I happened to walk by Rockett Drum Works while Steven Adler, Rikki Rockett, and Troy Patrick Farrell were all doing pics. Of course I jumped right in next to Rikki!   A&R Rep Bobby “Tango” Gibb filled me in on some of the inner workings of the company. He told me that Rockett Drum Works are a custom company that pride themselves on ‘fully custom’ drum kits and the fact that they are an American-Made company. They even make their own lugs and mounting hardware. They had as much Custom Gear as they could fit in the booth, and a lot of new graphics and hi-res graphic wraps.

Rockett Drum Works use a lot of exotic woods, such as cocobolo, rosewood, bubinga, and a variety of maples, which give the drums different tones, from rich, to dry, to bright. Bobby was excited that they are getting ready to work with a type of wood out of the Appalachian Mountains called orange osage, which has a real maple-like tone. He said that it’s a beautiful wood to work with and that it’s actually white, but when you put the lacquer on it, it turns orange. For more information on Rockett Drum Works please visit

NAMM Show 2012

I promised AC Alexander (Lizzy Borden) that I would stop by his signing at Engl, and noticed Razor from Metal Knights talking to Craig Goldy, who was also at the signing, along with Steve Morse (Deep Purple). Craig Goldy has quite a Discography and is most known for his work with Dio. He also produced Metal Knights debut album “World of Forever.” I talked to Razor, Billy, and Danik (all in Metal Knights) for a minute, and they were excited to have three songs in the can for their next album.

I also talked to AC  for a bit, and he told me how he got into Lizzy Borden. He was actually a fan… and saw them play live for the first time on the Lizzy Borden/WASP tour. When they were looking for a replacement for Chris Sanders (now in Knight Fury) AC auditioned, and ended up doing some Lizzy shows with the Band, even going all the way to Japan, before they officially made him a member.

Speaking of Chris Sanders, he has recently created his own project, Knight Fury, and released their debut CD “Time to Rock.” William King, Dave Ellefson, (Megadeth) and Ken Mary (Alice Cooper/Fifth Angel) are all on the album. I kept trying to meet up with Chris all weekend, and we kept missing each other. I finally caught up with him, and his band, at the Fender Booth, where he spent a lot of time doing press and photos.

Rock-n-Roll Gangstar had a lot of cool stuff going on at their booth, including several signings throughout the Show. I stopped by while they were having one of their signings and got autographs from John Exall and Randy Cooper from Texas Hippie Coalition, Miljenco “Mili” Matijevic, (Steelheart), Robin McAuley, (MSG) and Toni Aleman (World War III). While I was there, owner and designer Daryl Boyd called out my name “Metal Babe” on his megaphone. (Thanks Daryl.) Also, Rock-n-Roll Gangstar is a great place to find my ‘circle of friends’ hanging out, and helping out.

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Prior to NAMM I’ve always said that there were only three ‘Rock Stars’ that I haven’t met that I want to: Alice Cooper, Jon Bon Jovi, and Steven Tyler. After being an Alice Cooper fan since “Trash” came out in 1989, seeing him perform live at least a dozen times, and performing in an Alice Cooper Tribute Band, I finally had the chance to meet the Man himself.

I went to Shure for the 4pm signing, and the line was insane! It was hard to tell where the line started and ended.  I knew he was doing another signing upstairs at the Fender Booth at 5pm and didn’t want to take any chances on missing him, so I headed that way. There was already a line all the way down the hall that actually went outside, so I got in. I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to make it to the front by 6pm (when the convention ends) but I made it just in time. Security was EVERYWHERE, yelling at us to hurry up, move, leave, etc…


NAMM Show 2012

In the midst of all the chaos I did get the chance to shake Alice Cooper’s hand and tell him how honored I was to meet him and that I was in an Alice Cooper tribute band (Nightmare). He signed my flyer for an upcoming show and said, “You probably do Alice Cooper better than we do!” I turned around for a quick picture, while security was still yelling, and then ran out of there, almost forgetting my autograph Chuck Garric, Alice’s bass player, was handing me, and forgetting to snap a picture for my friend who had been waiting in line with me. (Sorry Steph.)

I got there bright and early on Saturday so I could have a full day. It wasn’t too crowded the first couple hours, so it was a great opportunity to walk around and check out the gear. I thought it was really cool that Charvel had their own booth for the first time. (Usually they are part of Fender) I’m a bit partial to Charvel (since I have one tattooed on my back for Criss Oliva from Savatage) and I really enjoyed checking out their production line and custom shop guitars.

The Jagermeister Girls were hanging out at the Peavey Booth, so I joined them for a few pictures. It was really fun! When I walked up they said, ‘we have another Jagermeister Girl” and then random people kept coming up and taking pictures of us and with us.

NAMM Show 2012

I always enjoy checking out Dean Guitars, especially their custom lines for Dimebag Darrell, Dave Mustaine, Michael Schenker, and Leslie West. This time I had a different viewpoint because I was at their factory in Tampa a couple weeks ago and saw the entire process of how the guitars are created, from a piece of wood on a palate, to the beautifully custom crafted guitars that were hanging on the walls around me. At the Show, Dean were showcasing the first ever Double-Neck Guitar, which I actually saw the prototype back at the factory before anyone else did! While at the factory, I also learned that Dimebag envisioned, and drew, in full color, all of the guitars that Dean has created in his name. It’s just so sad that he never got to play one…His memory lives on.

I just happened to run into Rex Brown from Pantera and stopped to take a quick picture, and then really lucked out by walking by Nicko McBrain, drummer for Iron Maiden, who was doing a signing at Remo. I jumped right in, and he was really cool! He kept telling me how lovely I am and telling my husband what a lucky guy he is. He even told me the story behind the little yellow aeronautical bear that sits on his bass drum.

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My first official meet and greet on Saturday was scheduled for 1:30 at Samson, for Geezer Butler, (Black Sabbath) Mike Inez, (Alice in Chains) Mike Portnoy, and Billy Sheehan. However, when I arrived at the booth, I was informed that Geezer had actually left the Convention to go back to England to care for Tony Iommi, who was recently diagnosed with early-stage Lymphoma.  Prayers go out to the “Iron Man.” Hopefully he is up and rockin’ again soon.

Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval from Armored Saint performed two songs at the Krank Booth at 3pm. I am just so glad that I ran into Jeff right before their performance, otherwise I wouldn’t have even known! Duncan and Sandoval jammed out to Saint songs “Reign of Fire” and “March of the Saint.” I LOVE Armored Saint, and it was so cool to see the two guitarists play in such an intimate setting. This was definitely one of the highlights of the entire convention. When they were done, they let fans jump up on stage to take pics with them. Of course I was one of the first ones up there!

NAMM Show 2012

On Saturday, I walked by Lita Ford, Warren Di Martini, and Steve Stevens while they were doing signings, and was able to snap a quick picture of each of them. I even had the chance to talk to Steve Stevens for a minute, and I told him how awesome it was to see him play at the Viper Room with Ginger Wildheart.

My other official signing of the day was at Dean Markley Strings at 4pm.

I was really looking forward to meeting Brian Wheat from Tesla. I always say that Tesla is one of the only bands that actually gets BETTER over time. Rudy Sarzo, Mike Inez, TM Stevens, and Phil Soussan were also scheduled for that signing. When I got to the front of the signing, I saw Rudy Sarzo, who is one of the most amazing bass players ever, and was happy to see Chuck Garric was next in line. It was a lot more relaxed than the Alice Signing was at Fender, so we had a chance to talk a few minutes about Alice and The Barons (a killer band that he was in) and he stood up for a picture with me. By the time I got to the end of the line I realized Brian Wheat wasn’t there.

Everyone knows that one of the best things about NAMM is the parties….And there are always so many to choose from! The Hilton Hotel is always packed, with bars, bands, rock stars, fans, and friends. And then there’s the Sheraton. I’ve heard it’s happening, but I’ve never made it there.

And then there are always bands playing outside the NAMM Show on the John Lennon Educational Stage, and at the end of the day on the Main Lobby Stage. On Friday there was a “Legends Jam” on the Main Lobby Stage that featured tons of musicians including Nicko McBrain, (Iron Maiden) Teddy Zig Zag, (Guns & Roses/Alice Cooper) Terry Hous, (XYZ, Great White) Robin McAuley, (Survivor, MSG) Frankie Banali, (Quiet Riot) Chris Slade (AC/DC/Asia) and more.  Friday night was the NAMM Jam at the Grove with Testament, Jackyl, Vinnie Moore, and Wayne Static, and Stonebreed played Marquee15 in Corona with Uli Jon Roth.

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And on Saturday, there was a “Celebrity Jam” on the Main Lobby Stage, featuring the Band from TV. And Saturday night there was another NAMM Show at the Grove with Seether and Filter.

Overall, I had a great experience at NAMM 2012. In addition to checking out the gear, meeting with friends, making new ones, and schmoozing with the Rock Stars, I did quite a bit of networking and have new contacts and ideas for photographers, advertising, writing, and some special events. Keep posted because “Metal Babe is Taking Over the World One Shirt at a Time” I hope that all of you will be along for the ride!

Here’s a list of musicians I saw/met/hung out with at NAMM 2012:

AC Alexander – Lizzy Borden (Engl)
Alice Cooper (Fender)
Billy Sheehan – Mr. Big (Samson)
Bjorn Englen – Soul Sign/Yngwie(Carvin)
Charlie Benante – Anthrax (Zoom)
Chris Holmes – Where Angels Suffer
Chris Sanders – Knight Fury
Chuck Garric – Alice Cooper (Fender and Dean Markley Strings)
Craig Goldy – Dio (Engl)
Dave Ellefson – Megadeth (Zoom)
David Shankle – DSG (Kahler)
Doug Aldrich – Whitesnake
Dug Pinnick – Kings X
Eric Bass – Shinedown (Zoom and Samson)
Glen Hughes – Deep Purple (Zoom)
Jeff Duncan – Armored Saint (Krank)
Jeff Worley – Jackyl
John Exall – Texas Hippie Coalition (Rock-n-Roll Gangstar)
John Tempesta – The Cult (Zoom)
Marten Andersson – Lizzy Borden (Carvin)
Matt Bachand – Shadows Fall (Engl)
Mike Inez – Alice in Chains (Samson and Dean Markley Strings)
Mike Portnoy – Adrenaline Mob/Ex-Dream Theater (Samson)
Miljenco “Mili” Matijevic – Steelheart (Rock-n-Roll Gangstar)
Nicko McBrain – Iron Maiden (Remo)
Phil Sandoval – Armored Saint (Krank)
Phil Soussan (Dean Markley Strings)
Rafael “Hofa” Moreira (Dean Markley Strings)
Randy Black – Primal Fear
Randy Cooper – Texas Hippie Coalition (Rock-n-Roll Gangstar)
Rev Jones – MSG (Rock-n-Roll Gangstar)
Rex Brown – Pantera/Kill Devil Hill
Rikki Rockett – Poison (Rockett Drum Works)
Robin McAuley – MSG (Rock-n-Roll Gangstar)
Rudy Sarzo – Whitesnake/Dio/Quiet Riot/Ozzy (Dean Markley Strings)
Steve Morse – Deep Purple (Engl)
Steven Adler – Adler’s Appetite (Rockett Drum Works)
TM Stevens Shocka Zooloo (Dean Markley Strings)
Toni Aleman – World War III (Rock-n-Roll Gangstar)
Troy Patrick Farrell – Pretty Boy Floyd (Rockett Drum Works)