photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
originally conceived in the late 1950s as part of a new series of four decidedly MODERNIST guitar models by GIBSON pushed by their LEGENDARY president TED MCCARTY (including the EXPLORER, FUTURA and MODERNE) to compete with the FUTURISTIC FENDER STRATOCASTER, the FLYING V was shelved shortly after production began due to low sales. it wasnt until the PROMINENT 1950s BLUES guitarist ALBERT KING and later 1960s ROCK AND ROLL guitar players like DAVE DAVIES (THE KINKS), ANDY POWELL (WISHBONE ASH) and JIMI HENDRIX began using them that their popularity began in earnest. later in the 1970s and 1980s the model found a home and became identifiable with the NWOBHM and THRASH METAL scenes in bands like JUDAS PRIEST, MERCYFUL FATE, DIAMOND HEAD, SCORPIONS, ACCEPT and KING DIAMOND as well as SLAYER, METALLICA and MEGADETH.
the IN-ARTFULLY named, conceived and executed recent FLYING V (TEN NINETY ONE, 2020) documentary is focused on the SYNERGISTIC relationship between those music scenes and that particular GUITAR MODEL. there is something to be said about the GIBSON models LACK OF CURVES and SPACE-AGE AESTHETICS which stood out on stage and literally pointed the way forward. their popularity resulted in a myriad of later brands, most notably JACKSON, ESP, B.C RICH, DEAN, SHECTER, KRAMER, IBANEZ and so on taking their stab at creating POINTIER, more ANGULAR REVISIONS with DIFFERENT ACTIVE PICKUP CONFIGURATIONS that went well beyond the original SETH LOVER humbucking pickups associated with the original. the film is largely an INCOHERENT series of interview clips with the likes of K.K. DOWNING (JUDAS PRIEST), MICHAEL SHENKER (UFO / SCORPIONS), MICHAEL DENNER & HANK SHERMANN (MERCYFUL FATE), BRIAN TATLER (DIAMOND HEAD), WOLF HOFFMAN (ACCEPT), ANDY LAROCQUE (KING DIAMOND), MICHAEL AMOTT (ARCH ENEMY), DAVE MUSTAINE (MEGADETH), JAMES HETFIELD (METALLICA) and KERRY KING (SLAYER) among others about various aspects of the guitars appeal. most of these interviews are pretty TEDIOUS and REPETITIVE and act almost as advertisements for the band members and their particular MODELS, which does the FLYING V ultimately a disservice in my opinion. the film would have been served better by conducting interviews with the manufacturers themselves and those that are continuing to INNOVATE on the original design. there is also LAZY EDITING and the LACK OF LICENSED MUSIC by said artists, which shows both a LACK OF BUDGET and buy-in from the artists themselves. in fact, the same GENERIC background music is repetitively utilized over and over again throughout to the point that it grates as the film rambles on.
in totality, this film was difficult to watch even with a passion for the subject that i have as a fan of guitars and their development in general. this film feels RUSHED and ILL-CONCEIVED and would have been executed in a more talented director's hands with a bigger budget. NOTHING WAS LEARNED here that a thirty second perusal through the first two paragraphs of a WIKIPEDIA entry couldnt have taught me, which funny enough feels like the extent of the preproduction utilized for this documentary. id given this film a hard pass unless one is exceedingly interested in the subject of FLYING Vs to the extent that they could stomach one EVISCERATING the topic.
dont say you werent forewarned.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
i should start off stating that i am among the CONVERTED.
between my dad and i, we have several guitar AMPLIFIER by the likes of FENDER, MARSHALL, AMPEG, SUPRO, VOX, MESA-BOOGIE, and even a vintage SUNN. i get the appeal of running a guitar straight into a good AMPLIFIER. its because of this predisposition that i am a bit confused by the recent AMPIRE: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (2018, DNR PRODUCTIONS) documentary which is supposedly about guitar amplification but really is about the CULT / OBSESSION / FETISHIZATION surrounding it.
the conceit of this film is one of combatting the recent wave of DIGITAL MODELING TECHNOLOGY that has transformed the AMPLIFICATION INDUSTRY, both in terms of high and low price points. even beginning guitarists through low wattage MODELING AMPLIFIERS now have access to a myriad of quality sounds and effects unheard of ten years ago at an entry level price point. likewise, with the advent of studio-quality MODELING / PROFILING PLATFORMS like KEMPER, HELIX and AXE FX, touring and recording musicians have access to the tones of their existing AMPLIFIER collections in a more USABLE, TRAVEL-WORTHY package.
the message of this film is one of advocacy for the EMOTIONAL and PSYCHIC, almost ALCHEMICAL, connection between player, guitar and AMPLIFIER (whether tube or solid state). adherents to said worldview include an impressive list of interview participants such as PETER BUCK (R.E.M.), RICK NIELSEN (CHEAP TRICK), ALEX LIFESON (RUSH), JOHN 5 (K.D. LANG, MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE), ROBBIE KRIEGER (THE DOORS), PAUL GILBERT (RACER X, MR. BIG), PAT METHANY, MIKE KENEALLY (FRANK ZAPPA, STEVE VAI), PETE THORN (CHRIS CORNELL), LITA FORD (THE RUNAWAYS), TOMMY HENRIKSEN (ALICE COOPER) and JOE BONAMASSA among others.
here is the thing: i dont buy the argument.
a more thoughtful approach would be to actual explain in some detail what a traditional tube AMPLIFIER actually consists of and how it technically functions. educate your audience. maybe throw in a little history about its TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT and throw some shine to past and present AMPLIFIER INNOVATORS like LEO FENDER, JIM MARSHALL, MICHAEL SOLDANO, DAVID REEVES, HARTLEY PEAVEY, EVERET HULL, REINHOLD BOGNER, RANDALL SMITH, LYNDON LANEY, DAVE FRIEDMAN, CLIFFORD COOPER, PETER DIEZEL, DON RANDALL and HOWARD ALEXANDER DUMBLE among countless other engineers. better yet, instead of seeing the incoming wave of technology and various techniques regarding onstage miking of low wattage AMPS to massive PA systems as competition, maybe get a little PHILOSOPHICAL about how these are all tools for conveying a musical idea. and they all have their place.
AMPLIFIERS are cool, dont get me wrong. but they arent the end-all-be-all of musical expression. arguing against incoming technology is a surefire way of rendering yourself an ANACHRONISM, which is sadly what some of these advocates have exposed themselves to be. others seem to embrace change which is where i stand. this film is essentially a variation on the topic of the relative merits of ANALOG vs DIGITAL equipment and the false attribution of AUTHENTICITY to the mix that was tread notably in DAVE GROHL's SOUND CITY (review linked HERE) documentary.
AMPIRE: THE SOUND OF MUSIC is an INTRIGUING and FUN film worth watching but the argument is a bit TEDIOUS and SANCTIMONIOUS at times, even for someone who absolutely adores both traditional tube and solid state guitar AMPLIFIERS like myself.