SE Machine Rock Magazine 5.13
Other than some radical custom guitars, W.A.S.P. lead guitarist and ‘psycho-luthier’ Douglas Blair has a few added tricks up his sleeve. The Boston native and frequent Stockholm visitor will soon introduce a decidedly different musical approach upon Scandinavian shores--with help from various area star drummers.
Wielding paired-stringed inventions, dubbed 'GuitarCross' and 'ASIA,' Blair intends to organize live clinics, area shows and festival slots--given sufficient downtime between his W.A.S.P. sawblade guitar duties(the group is already booked for two Swedish summer fest appearances at Kirunafestivalen and Sommarock, as well as in Germany and Belgium).
Coming off a highly-successful fall tour with the LA-based quartet celebrating its 30-year anniversary, Blair filled us in, discussing these unique instruments and a unique 'power duo' performance concept, making obvious his desire to share it all with metalheads and guitar-lovers:
“I, like many others, love the classic ‘power trio’... one guitarist, bassist, and drummer with various vocals: Hendrix, Cream, Rush, King’s X... Led Zeppelin! So many iconic rock groups that cultivated a holy silent space that exists between guitar and bass, intertwined with human vowels and consonants, and shredded by the mechanical muse of a ... drummer!
“Well, after a while everyone just wants to fill it up! Bollocks! Sure, you can hire and deal with another guitarist or keyboard player. But, back in the day before iPod-fed backing tracks that replaced everyone, the only alternatives were ancient MIDI sequencers or foot-operated MIDI synth pedals. These worked well, and they didn’t need hotel beds, food or babysitters--just a little DC power and programming time. Now, of course, power trios could invariably sound like orchestras(witness Rush...).
“So, fast-forward umpteen years and extended-range guitars are all the rage, letting these monster players shred from the bowels of audible frequency to the heavens! Well, over the last decade or so, I’ve taken a slightly different path with a severely-extended-range hybrid I call the ‘GuitarCross’, which allows me to play bass as well as guitar parts simultaneously. By using paired strings, tuned an octave apart and fretted together--yet amplified separately--I’m able to achieve an insane duality, and thus create the foundation for an innovative power duo!
“Yeah, a ‘power duo’! There’ve been countless duos, but they’re usually skipping bass and/or counterpoint, unless keyboards are involved(hell, they can play anything!). Yet, by using various altered and standard tunings, I’m able to ‘separate’ the guitar and bass parts, and combine them with chords and unison lines when I’d like to. Electronics let me mute each of the ‘formats’, or use effects on each or both, as would normally occur with two players! It’s a total mindf**k at first, but then it becomes challenging and gratifying!
“The GX has 3 bass strings--enough to groove heavily, and 5 guitar strings--again enough to do considerable damage. Three pairs and two singles, stretching over a 5 1/2-octave range: real strings played through to real amps. Not quite such an easy task, and that’s why I made my bassist learn to play it first--to fill in our old trio’s ‘holy silence’ a bit--before I decided to try my hand at it.
“Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, Tom Morello and Tim Cummerford, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, Dug Pinnick and Ty Tybor... the list goes on. Their unison, counterpoint, chordal work, and ‘flair’ is what I aspire to, as I get better at playing this 8-string BEAST. Then, just add a guy like any one of their drummers to the mix, and you have magic. The goal is to rip like these trios with just two brains, two hearts, and two voices--but most importantly, only two OPINIONS! And I’ll find and work with a Scandinavian percussive opinion at that...
“The instrument I call ‘ASIA’ is similar in concept the GX, but instead combines steel and nylon strings on an acoustic/electric 12-string guitar. These two ‘formats’ are again captured and amplified separately, yet played together, for another unprecedented guitar sound coming from one player. I’m really psyched to get both of these creations plugged into both small and massive PA’s in the coming year!
“My vision for the ‘power duo’ performance, which will use the long-time US moniker ‘signal2noise’, is for the drummer to be set up IN FRONT of a riser that I’d stand and perform upon, effectively reversing the usual live ‘drummer in the back’ set-up. This will emphasize the concept that the drummer will be taking an equal ‘lead role’ in the power duo--I’ll hang back and groove on a guitar/bass rythym and drummers can just TAKE IT OUT... and with only one other player to interact with, the directions are ENDLESS.
“For more info, you can check out www.s2nusa.com. Watch for upcoming news and events and... see you onstage! Special thanks to Model T at MRM!” dbl
Douglas traveled to Moscow, RU to perform with Rock City, a popular area quartet as part of The Winter Invasion event, as well as holding an instructional guitar clinic. Rehearsing just once, the group played two shows in one day in two venues, performing various cover songs featuring Blair's vocals, as well as electric and acoustic guitar work on his Mutant Twin double neck.
Czech music magazine Musikus interviewed Douglas about his custom stage guitars in their October, 2012 issue. Discussed were his Blade Les Paul's, his1990's-era Washburn N4's, his home-made Mockingbird, and his Blair Mutant Twin acoustic/electric double neck guitars, all used with W.A.S.P. on tour.
Douglas was interviewed at the Rock Hard offices by Jens Peters in February, 2012. They discussed his guitars, approaches to performing, and his opinions concerning the widespread and unfortunate use of backing tracks in live performance by many groups of the genre. The piece appears in the 300th May 2012 issue, a special anniversary edition in an oversize format.
Tampere Guitar School in Tampere, FI invited Douglas for an open-to-the-public instructional clinic at Laterna in Tampere. Attendees were treated to performances of many of Douglas's favorite solos, and were able to try out his stage guitars.
Rock Academy Turku was proud to present Douglas in a performance/instructional clinic following the end of the fall W.A.S.P. tour at Vimma in Turku, FI. Several city papers, as well as the evening TV news covered the event and interviewed Douglas. The Rock Academy Turku spearheads a vital and growing original music scene including studios, venues, retail outlets, video production, and promotion.
Douglas was featured in the On Tour section of the Europe-syndicated Classic Rock Magazine in its April, 2012 Russian Edition issue. The guitarist's custom instruments were discussed, in anticipation of the group's upcoming Russian dates.
US Premier Guitar 9.11 article
Douglas' second specimen in his series of Les Paul super overhauls, the Blade II, has been chosen to be featured in the September, 2011 edition of Premier Guitar Magazine(US) in its 'Guitar of the Month' section, which features unique and rare instruments from readers' collections. Check out the article here!
DE Metal Hammer 8.10 Wacken review
Metal Hammer Germany Special Edition Wacken 2010 Review Issue August, 2010
W.A.S.P. set review by Andreas Schowe and Frank Thiessies, translated to English:
It's party time! WASP boss Blackie Lawless let no punches be pulled - some wrapped in medleys - through the full program, fortunately speaking almost not at all and, instead, to the motto: Let the music do the talking! This is the ideal candidate. And by the way, for the most ingenious guitar solo of the festival the prize is clearly to Doug Blair, who actually manages to keep during 'The Idol' nearly 75,000 fans from breathing for six minutes with his arts of the six-string.
RYTMI magazine Helsinki, Finland January, 2010 monthly guest musician column kolumni by Douglas Blair
Back to the source of music...
I love Jimmy Page. In the late ’70’s and 80’s, what did we kids have? LP’s? yes. 8-tracks, cassettes? yes. ‘Song Remains The Same’ concert movie? yes. MTV, CD’s? not quite yet, but coming... Creem and Hit Parader magazines showed all the glossy concert pics and told all the tour stories of drugs, fighting and debauchery(well, maybe not the drugs). There were countless groups, with a high level of mystery always surrounding them. Yet, only time would tell which would really leave a mark.
Fast forward to ’10. With the various Zeppelin bios and cool movies out now like It Might Get Loud, I’m finally seeing how f’in’ long and hard old JP worked, and how incredibly visionary and independent he was in conceiving of, then forming a group that changed everything. And further, what the group and its management did to create a roadmap, if you will, for touring bands to follow, right up until this very day, affecting all professional musicians, including yours truly. No small feat, especially in hindsight.
In some ways, this so-called music ‘industry’ is evolving now into what may become its best period ever, and one having more in common with its humble beginnings than the cash- and ego-bloated incarnations of decades recent. For early American country and rock music, and concurrently in early British scenes, technology’s limitations kept word from spreading very far about groups or performers. So, the hardy--the ambitious--had to ‘take it on the road.’ That was the only way for anyone to see you: the ONLY way to build a following.
Back to ’10. Everything’s digitized--and in turn free--and you can get it all online... Except real live performance--right there in front of you! Hence, touring is becoming the all-important promotion and advertising tool, culminating with what we do this all for-- to perform for an audience: highlights, mistakes and everything in-between.
I checked out about 25 shows last year. Many obscure but amazing talents in small venues--the best because you hear the instruments and the performers breathing, you sense their expression, often without amplification. But I also saw many popular bands, in giant venues, with massive productions, and massive audiences. Recently, I flew to LA to see my fave singer/songwriter in her Hollywood debut. Why? Because these moments are priceless--there is nothing better than having someone play for you, whether intimately or as part of a riot! To paraphrase John Mayer, true magic occurs when ‘you are in the same moment’ as the artist. Or, the audience...
I also played about 65 shows last year--in 23 different countries--experiencing the priceless feeling of connecting with an audience that loves the group, and relates deeply with the power and lyrical content of the music(it’s awesome to be on both sides of the ‘front row’). And as we contemplate our band’s future, touring increasingly appears to be one of our strongest assets, as it is with many of our contemporaries. When we stand beside the stage before every show, we feel like a football team, going out to win the ‘Superbowl’!
To an American musician, Finland is quite intriguing. It is as we’d wish America to still be--cool, hip, connected and ultra-prolific. Since first hearing Ville and H.I.M., I’ve discovered the ever-expanding web of the country’s musical and production talent, as well as the legendary walls of Finnvox, and the paramount experience of playing Tuska, Sauna and Ankka Rock fests. This group is proud to perform on Finnish soil, and to be part of its music scene. We have had several of our best performances here, so far from home. In the spirit of Jimmy Page and the other pioneers, we tour on into the future, and will never miss a chance of playing Finland!
Douglas Blair is the lead guitarist of the Los Angeles-based American rock group W.A.S.P., residing in Boston, and visiting Tampere’s Klubbi whenever possible...
In the summer of 1993, Young Guitar(Japan) reporter traveled to Douglas' home in Ellington, CT for an interview and photo shoot. Interestingly, photos of almost all of his custom guitars were printed in the article. Many of these same guitars are still in primary use in W.A.S.P., and can be seen in their original forms: the natural finish Mockingbird(now red), the yellow Les Paul(now red with gold sawblade), and the red sunburst Les Paul(now black with sawblade).
Enjoy this short piece found in the April, 1990 issue of Guitar World(US). Douglas(then called 'Dug') was featured in the monthly 'Hometown Heroes' section, his first national exposure. He is shown standing in front of a vintage 1950's all-chrome F-100 fighter jet(courtesy of New England Air Museum).