The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment, as related to us by Mitch Dalton This month: Z is for Zen and the Art of ZT Electronics
Well do I remember my first professional engagement, a seminal moment in my Showbiz history. For those of you under the misapprehension that I might be referencing my very first studio date (Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society commercial, Advision Studios, to be obsessively and compulsively accurate), you would be in regrettable error. Nor am I remembering my Free Jazz (in both senses) debut, The White Hart Public House, Holborn (or Covent Garden Borders, for any of you estate agents in tonight). Or even my grand entrance into the movie industry, a charmingly inexpensive celluloid caper, light of plot, lighter of dialogue and lightest of costume for the two and occasionally three nubile protagonists involved.
No. The focus of this rose-tinted reminiscence is The Thatched Barn, Boreham Wood, Hertfordshire. It’s a Holiday Inn now, and not in a good way. The corporate event in question was the Alfa Romeo UK Annual Dinner And Dance. And specifically, the three flights of stairs up which an unsuspecting electric guitarist was forced to schlep a Fender Pro Reverb complete with vibrato, valves and two 12-inch speakers. Elevators are for wimps, apparently. However, never let it be said that I am not a quick learner. By 2am and gig end, midway through a delightful reverse staircase manoeuvre, I had already mentally prepared the ‘Equipment For Sale’ small ad for insertion in the following week’s Melody Maker. The successor to Fullerton’s finest turned out to be a Peavey Pacer, 40 watts of tough transistorised tone, two thirds of the size, 50 per cent of the speaker count and half the weight. This had to be the way forward, as I reflected on the plight of those less blessed with options. Keyboard players lugging Hammond organs or Fender Rhodes Suitcase pianos plus wheeled Twin Reverbs containing their own body weight of JBLs. Absurdly over equipped drummers with double bass rigs and ambitions to be the next Carl Palmer. And as for those six-foot ‘column’ speakers - little wonder that the term ‘Sound Reinforcement’ had come into common usage. The entire US Cavalry First Division would have been welcomed at set-up time.
My rapidly absorbed lesson that ‘less is less’ engaged me in a bi-polar struggle between Top Tone or Torn Triceps. For years I trod a crazy path of financial self destruction, zig zagging between Peterson P100s (tiny but tasty) and flight cased Mesa Boogie Nomads (The Truss Busters), Roland Cubes and Dennis Cornell custom jobs, Fender Deluxes and Champs. At one point I bought a red Toyota MR2, one of its main attractions being the cubby -hole sized boot that could accommodate my teeny Paul Rivera designed Super Champ and little else.
And thus it came to pass that one fine day, the warring factions of unsatisfied ears and broken body finally declared an uneasy ceasefire after a visit to Bill Puplett, guitar technician to the gentry. On this occasion, he invited me to confirm that his latest guitar set-up was to my satisfaction by inserting a jack plug into well... nothing. With the aid of recently corrected spectacles and an electron microscope I could just discern the outline of something similar in appearance to a transistor radio sitting innocuously on his work bench. And a wee one at that.
“What the Fender is that?” I exclaimed euphemistically, as mellifluous tone filled Bill’s workshop. “Ah. Well. I take it you are unfamiliar with The Lunchbox by ZT Electronics? 130 Watts. 4.5-inch speaker. Weighs the about same as your wallet after you’ve paid me. And, as you can see, not much bigger. Although I own no shares in said company, I do suggest that you acquire one. In the unlikely event that you consider it a tad bulky, they also do The Lunchbox Junior. Just 30 Watts and so small it requires electronic tagging to locate.”
It remains only for me to tell you that I have been using said techno wonder at every opportunity since the nice people at DHL popped along with my very own example. Frankly, I wouldn’t be too fussed if it sounded merely adequate. But it doesn’t. It has played the The Royal Albert Hall, courtesy of a line out through the headphone jack socket. Ditto the O2 Arena and The Royal Festival Hall. Words and phrases like “Epic” and “Make sure you bring that thing next time” have been bandied about by sound engineers.
It nestles in its cute bag and sits on my shoulder. I even bought the extension cab. Same size, same bag. Fun to employ as a monitor and to amaze stage crew. You could do worse things in 2017 than to check one out. It was about 375 quid last time I looked. Just sayin’.
And a happy down-sized new year to you all.
and thus the warring Factions oF unsatisFied ears and broken body declared a ceaseFire
Mitch’s Lunchbox amp has played the 02 Arena and Royal Albert Hall