My NAMM EXPERIENCE – 2011

Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen

NAMM Show

Nothing compares to The NAMM Show. Founded in 1901, 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. 1000’s of musical product and retail manufacturers 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 this Show.

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. And, you never know who you are going to run into at NAMM. Musicians, rock stars, and friends are EVERYWHERE!

NAMM – FRIDAY, JANUARY 13TH, 2011

I headed to Anaheim on Friday morning with Rob Chevelle from Lit Soul. Traffic was a bit of a drag, which was to be expected, but we rocked our way to the Show.

While in line to get my badge, I ran into Sean Kelly (Nelly Furtado/Helix/Crash Kelly), which was a totally awesome surprise! Sean had a signing lined up with SIT Strings, and planned to hang with his reps from Yamaha and Gibson. Sean has a lot going on these days. He is playing guitar with Nelly Furtado, working with Helix, recording a solo classical guitar album, and he just played bass on some South American dates with Gilby Clarke.

NAMM Show

After getting my badge, my first goal was to see Kings X perform live at a showcase representing professional audio company Mackie. On our way to Mackie, we stopped at the Godin Guitar Booth and caught the tail end of Frankie Banali and Chuck Wright of Quiet Riot jamming with classically trained David Maldonad. Banali was playing a Cajun drum, which basically looks like a wooden box that you sit on and play with your hands. Maldonad was on guitar, and Chuck Wright, who normally plays a fretless Godin, Spector, or Schecter, was on bass. What was really cool is that when they were done jamming, Banali came right up to me, gave me a hug, and said it was good to see ME.

Unfortunately, and fortunately for them, when we got over to where Kings X was playing, the 180 capacity had been met, and we were unable to get into their 1PM show. But, all worked out well, and we ended up catching their next set at 3PM. While waiting, we were able to get in line at Ampeg, which was actually connected to Markie, to meet the legendary Geezer Butler, (Black Sabbath), as well as Rex Brown (Pantera). Also, Dug Pinnick (Kings X) would be signing in between his two sets.

After waiting about an hour, it was finally our turn. Rex was first…. Funny thing is, I just happened to ‘skip over’ him to talk to Dug, and forgot to go back. (Oops!) Dug told me that Kings X has some European dates scheduled in March, and that he has  a side project in the works with Jeff Ament and Mick McCready from Pearl Jam called Tres Mountains, and that they plan on touring this March as well.

NAMM Show

After talking to Dug, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the Black Sabbath bass playing genius, Geezer Butler. I was in awe and really didn’t know what to say to this heavy metal pioneer, but I was happy to get an autographed photo and picture with him.

Right after the signing, Kings X took the Mackie stage. Capacity was met once again, and they played about ten songs from their 13 album catalog.  “Groove Machine” and “Dog Man” both really stood out to me during their set. Also, it is amazing to me what great shape Dug Pinnick is in. I could never have guessed that he is 61 years old!

I went to check out Rock-n-Roll inspired apparel company Rock-n-Roll Gangstar, since this was their first time at the Show, and ran into Michael T. Ross (Lita Ford/Missing Persons). He told me that he played a killer show with Lita the night before at the Dean Markley after-party, and that he has a couple L.A. dates scheduled with Missing Persons in late February/early March.

Next I stopped by Rockett Drum Works to try and catch up with Rikki Rockett (Poison). Someone was conducting a demo, and a crowd of 30+ were gathered watching. I waved at Rikki, and he motioned for ME to come over to HIM. I walked through the crowd for a big hug, and had the chance to catch up for a bit.

NAMM Show

This year Rockett Drum Works is reaching out to dealers for the first time and has three new lines of mid-price production drums available. Previously, Rockett Drum Works was feeling out their demographics and catering mostly to custom orders. Available to dealers this year is Rockett Drums Series 1 basic maple kit with 18 x 22, 9 x 12, and 14 x 16 tom sizes. They also have a Series 2 available, that has a black or white powdercoating, sparkle finish, and you can get it in maple or birch. And they have a Series 3 where ‘sky’s the limit’ as far as powdercoating and stain options are concerned.

After talking to Rikki, and checking out his new kits, I looked across the aisle to Sabian Cymbals and saw Joey Scott and Lizzy Borden motioning for me to come over there. I caught up with Joey and Lizzy for a bit, and then their bass player Marten Andersson walked up.  Lizzy Borden toured like crazy in 2010, and are starting 2011 off right, as Lizzy calls it, at “musician’s heaven.” I couldn’t agree more! They plan on doing a lot more touring this year… India, South America, some U.S. dates, and back to Europe again. And, Lizzy promises he is working on getting an L.A. show booked too. They haven’t headlined Los Angeles since 2002, and it is definitely time!!!

NAMM Show

Earlier in the day Lizzy Borden did a signing at the Sticks ‘n’ Skin Booth. Joey told me that Sticks ‘n’ Skins just released a coffee table book that has full color photographs of “every drummer known to man,” and that he is honored to be in the book. This is a ‘must have’ for anyone who plays drums, likes drums, or that likes Joey!

As we walked by Dean Markley Strings, I noticed that Lita Ford, Nuno Bettencort, (Extreme) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob) were all doing a signing. The line was really long, so I yelled to Nuno and he flexed his muscles for me. I took a funny picture and joked with him, telling him I was covering the Show for a magazine that has one million viewers a month and that his picture was going to be on the cover! And, as it turns out, I ended up meeting Lita Ford and George Lynch on Sunday, so it all worked out.

Friday was a really good day, but everyone knows that the most important part of the NAMM show is the parties! It was hard to choose what to do Friday night; there were so many options. It seemed like EVERYONE I talked to was going to The Grove to see Megadeth. Rock and Roll Gangster had a deal going that if you bought a $20 shirt you could get in to see Megadeth that night. Not a bad deal…But I’ve seen Megadeth like 25 times, and it seemed far. The Galaxy Theater had a show going on with Vains of Jenna and Gilby Clarke, which would have been fun, but again, seemed far. And, Yngwie Malmsteen was playing at the House of Blues.

NAMM Show

But, I had been planning all along to go the Hilton, where everyone usually ends up anyway, so I stuck with my plan. Even with the big Megadeth show, it was pretty crowded when we arrived. As the night progressed, the Hilton got more and more crowded.  They had a couple of bands playing on the main stage, including Van Halen tribute band Hot for Teacher. They also had bands playing in a room in the back, which I had never even noticed before, and I happened to catch some of the House of Broken Promises.

It was great to run into Dean Deane (Twin Method) who was there with his new band Murder of Crows. And, I was totally excited that a good friend of mine from St. Louis, Steve Kyle from Rebel Train, made it out to the Show. He just released his first solo acoustic CD, “Naked Truth,” and will be playing some L.A. shows this Spring. It was one hell of a party, but after running around all day at the Show, and all night at the Hilton, it was time to call it a night.

NAMM – SATURDAY, JANUARY 15TH, 2011

We got off to a bit of a late start on Saturday, but still managed to pack the day full of fun and excitement. I started off by getting in line at EMG pick-ups to meet Daisy De La Hoya from VH1’s “Rock of Love.” While I was waiting to meet Daisy, Brett from Octane Mob and his wife Aerian were nice enough to hold my place so I could run over to Nady Systems to meet Chuck Billy from Testament. He was totally cool, representing his endorsement at Nady, and was definitely ready for the big Saturday night party at the Hilton.

NAMM Show

After meeting Chuck, I ran back over to the EMG line to catch Daisy. She was really excited to be at NAMM and to be doing her first signing with EMG. Also, this was her first real outing with her new band Daisy and the Beautiful Disaster. They are currently working on their debut CD, and their first single, “Addicted to Love,” is about to drop.

At 3:00 I had to make a decision if I wanted to meet Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, or Hellyeah. I chose Steve Vai, and headed over to Carvin Guitars. By the time I got to the front of the line, they weren’t allowing pictures anymore, but I did get the chance to talk to him for a minute and get an autograph.

From there, I found myself alone with nowhere I needed to be, so I had fun just wandering around. At Nady, they had a band playing some really cool rockabilly. I had no clue who they were, but they were awesome. They had a “stand-up” bass player who actually stood on top of his red flaming bass to play, while the guitarist rolled around on the floor playing on his back. I hung for a few songs, before continuing on.

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I wanted to catch up with Rikki again, so I headed back over to Rockett Drum Works. He wasn’t there, but I ran into Justin from Spektra. We talked for a bit, and he told me how excited he was to be opening for Quiet Riot at the Galaxy Theater in a couple weeks. As we were talking, someone asked if we would take a picture with a life-size cardboard cutout of an ‘80’s rocker” with big hair, a pink shirt, and devil horns. After doing the picture, I asked what the promo was all about. One of the Creators, Joe Ryan, told us he is working on a cartoon called “Outta the Zoo” which is about an 80’s metal band that has time traveled from 1987 to the present day to make it big on the Sunset Strip. Sounds awesome to me! For more info, please see outtathezoo.com.

NAMM Show

As we were finishing up talking about the show, Troy Patrick Farrell, (Pretty Boy Floyd/White Lion) who uses Rockett Drum Works, walked up to the booth. We caught up for a minute and snapped a picture. Then, I was back to wandering….

Last year at NAMM was the first time I had ever met Mick Mars from Motley Crue. It was truly an honor, and the highlight of last year’s Show. This year he was doing a signing at Marshall. Security wasn’t that strict, so I was able to stand right in front of Mick and snap some pictures of him signing autographs. At one point, I yelled to him, and he looked up and waved to me, and I ended up with a perfect picture… of Mick Mars, waving at ME.

While checking out guitars at Ibanez, I ran into local “scenester” and photo/video guru Kruzin’ Kenny, and Mike Gray (former Stonebreed). Mike told me he had started a new band called Same Vein. They are much heavier than Stonebreed; more along the lines of Pantera or Slipknot. Next I happened to run into Mike Inez from Alice in Chains. I met him last year at Dean Markley, and he was really nice, so I took the opportunity to catch up again. Alice in Chains had just finished up a thirty-country tour, and he had been running around NAMM all day. After SIX signings, he was ready for the Hilton party, and even offered to buy us the first round!

I happened to catch the very end of a signing at EMG with Gary Holt (Exodus) and Kerry King (Slayer). We talked to Gary for a minute, and got a really quick autograph/pic from Kerry King.  At that point, the convention was coming to an end, and it was time to head on my way.

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NAMM – SUNDAY, JANUARY 15TH, 2011

Sunday is always the slowest day of the Show. Things calm down quite a bit, and it’s the best time to really check out the gear. Although, there were still a handful of ‘Meet and Greets’ scheduled. When we first arrived, we saw surf music superstar Dick Dale was doing a signing at Dean Markley with his son Jimmy. Dick Dale was really friendly, and told us he had just designed a brand new Signature Malibu Fender Guitar. While designing this guitar, he paid extreme attention to detail, so that it included dual matching pickguards, a 3” body depth which makes it more comfortable to play, and it has less feedback when plugged in. Basically, you can play it all night long without wearing yourself out! It also has a Fishman pickup system with onboard tuner, and a reverse headstock. Sounds pretty cool to me!

NAMM Show

Dave Mustaine now has FIVE signature Dean Guitars, and says that his Dean Guitars “play better than any guitar he has ever used.” I stopped by his signing at Dean, and security sped fans through the line as Dave kept his head down and signed posters assembly line style, hardly even looking up as fans went by and grabbed one. Again, pictures weren’t allowed. (They usually do this at the end of the signing, if they are running out of time.) However, I got Dave’s attention as I grabbed my poster, and took a picture of him looking right at me.

While I was on my way to Seymour Duncan to meet Lita Ford and Warren DiMartini (Ratt), I noticed that George Lynch was playing a really cool wooden guitar and that a small crowd had gathered around to watch him play.  As I looked around the (ESP) booth, I realized that the guitar line was called Mr. Scary Guitars, and that George Lynch himself had designed and hand-carved each of the wooden guitars in the booth. They were stunningly beautiful, one-of-a-kind, and organic. When someone asked how much they cost, he said they could buy the one off his back right there for $7000!

I stood next to George for a minute while he was playing for a quick picture, and then headed off to Seymour Duncan. I was really looking forward to meeting Lita Ford, and Warren DiMartini, because I have never met either one of them before. They were strict on the pictures again, but I did get to talk to Lita for a few minutes. She was really nice, and we compared notes from her comeback show (Rocklahoma 2008) where it POURED rain, and was FREEZING cold, even though it was Summer in Oklahoma. During her set that night, fans gradually sought shelter and warmth, I told her that I stuck it out for her….trash bag, chattering teeth, and all, and that is was definitely worth it.And then, I defied all the rules, and took a quick picture with Warren DiMartini!

NAMM Show

From Seymour Duncan, I jumped back in the Dean Guitar line with Andrew from Metal Assault, and the girls from The Binges to see Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns).

Andrew was having a blast at this year’s Show, taking pictures and videos for metalassualt.com. Also, he saw Kings X, Megadeth, and Animals As Leaders perform, and had the chance to interview Alex Skolnick from Testament. Tsuzumi and Mayuko Okai from The Binges were also having an amazing time at NAMM. They both were inspired to meet their heroes, and were happy to catch up with friends they hadn’t seen in a while. They describe their music as “straight up, no B.S. rock and roll!”

NAMM Show

It was getting towards the end of the Show, so I took one last run (ok, two) by Rockett Drums to try and catch Rikki, but still didn’t have any luck. I also stopped by Nady to ask about the Rockabilly band that I had seen on Saturday. They told me it was John “Spazz” Hatton’s (Brian Setzer Orchestra) band. As I was at the booth, he just happened to walk in. I had a great time sitting and talking with John, who was getting some good deals on gear since it was the last day of the show. I asked him about how he got started standing up on his bass, and if he had had any major injuries. He admitted that he had fallen off his bass several times, but it wasn’t that far. (laughs) He said that one time he was up on his bass and started falling over, but he was really lucky the girl singers were up onstage and that he fell into them. They just kind of pushed him back over, and saved his life! When I asked John if there was anything he’d like to add, he said if you’re ever at a Brian Setzer Orchestra show, make sure to get on his side and yell ‘SPAZZ’ really loud!

As we were heading out, I ran into Randy Black from Primal Fear. He was at the Show to keep the contacts open with his companies. (Sabian, Mapex, Vic Firth, Aquarian) Randy has just formed a 2nd band called Dusk Machine with Joe Comeau and Russ Bergquist, who he used to be in Annihilator with, and Nikolai Wurk.

He described his new band as more thrash metal than power metal, and similar to when they were in Annihilator, but a little more progressive and a little more melodic. He also has German distribution (Randy lives in Berlin} for his Creative Metal Drumming DVD, “The Black Book” and is hoping to secure something in North America in the near future.

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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 their time and thoughts. I am proud to have had this experience and will treasure these memories always. I am already looking forward to NAMM 2012!

If you would like to see video footage of My NAMM Experience, please see the link below:

NAMM 2011