Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Good Die Young

Rather than backdating a few belated posts, I thought I'd do a quick summary of the last week..

First of all. Michael Jackson, RIP. I heard about it on friday 26th that he'd died. It's hard to believe he's gone. I guess he's one of the last superstars there will ever be. Once Prince and Madonna are gone, that's it.

I talked to some Japanese people about it, and I was surprised by the lack of emotion. It looks like the negative media was more noticeable than the amazing talent and classic songs that will live forever. They have their J Pop and they can have it. Thank You MJ. Out of respect, today I played his hits on my iPod going to work.

I noticed there was a Floral Jem for sale in Shimo Kitazawa, not too far from Shibuya so I decided to catch a short train ride to check it out. It looked really beat up, but it didn't sound half bad. They wanted too much for it though.

The train was really packed on the way out there so I thought it'd be an "adventure" to walk back to Shibuya. It wasn't so bad. I mostly zigzagged the Keio line and got back in more or less 40 minutes. The walk gave me a lot of time to think.

I did the usual rounds of UFO catchers and music shops.

At Ishibashi I tried a used vintage-style Edwards E-LP98-LTC that was 47,800 yen. It's almost the same as the one I tried in Ochanomizu, looking a bit more relic'd, with yellowed binding, a matte nitro finish and a few "non-factory" blemishes.

I was playing through a nice Marshall stack, and I have to say this sounded more like my Les Paul back home. In fact some young J musos were admiring my playing and probably this guitar as well.


Last night we went to an izakaya here in Yotsuya that advertised 100 yen bottles of beer. We thought that was great, until we walked out with a 3,600 yen bill. We only had two beers! Looks like the food had a inflated markup to make up for the cheap booze. Note to self: Come here ONLY for alcohol next time.

I was still hungry so we watched "He's Just Not That Into You", while eating piping hot popcorn that I made for that "cinema" experience.

Just for the record, the movie was ok with lots of famous stars throughout. This should probably go without saying, but I must warn that this is seriously a CHICK FLICK. The guys get made out like they are the bad guys big time. No Fair!

I was considering going to the Tokyo Guitar Show on Sunday, but I realized that I see guitars plenty as it is, and to pay to get a headache from "Stairway To Heaven" or something along those lines, made me give it a miss.

So that's my week so far. Until next time JIJ signing off!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Summer Vacation? Booked!

You might remember a while back during Golden Week I saw some unbelievably cheap fares back to Australia that I missed out on?

Well Jetstar are having another sale which allows me to go back for about AU $500 return. Nice huh?

So, I'm really happy that I can get another chance to hopefully bring as much of my guitar stuff home as possible. It'll be a relief to hear some "real" English too, and get to drive my car again. I can also get re-acquainted with all my guitars that miss me so much.

It'll be Winter there but meh, I need it. I'll come back to Tokyo reinvigorated, shiny, super happy, and genki.

And that's a good thing, right?

Oops almost forgot.. I went to Ochanomizu and Akihabara today.

Apart from being overcast it was a good day without any rain. I didn't make my way out the door till 4pm, but it still gave enough time to visit both.

I tried an Edwards E-LP-92CD. The brand probably doesn't sound familiar, but maybe ESP does, which is the company that makes these.

For a Les Paul it looks great and has a nice feeling ebony fingerboard which felt very smooth. The neck slowed me down a little but it feels good.

As for the sound, it's totally useable but I didn't think it sounded exactly like a Les Paul. There was a noticeable lack of Gibson chunk on the bridge, and the neck pickup didn't have that Slash-like lead sound that I notice from a Gibson.

In Akihabara's Revole, I tried a Squier J5 telecaster.

Squier is the budget version of Fender. In a previous post I mentioned I tried one of the Fender signatures that I liked despite the weight of the damn thing.

Funnily enough this one is just as heavy being the same Alder body as that one. Sound-wise I liked it. It sounded more like a Les Paul than the Edwards! It has a nice chunky quality, and was quite a bit cheaper than the Fender version. It has dual volume controls which gives the opportunity to use the pickup selector as a kill switch. Nice touch that.

I guess there is only the stigma of buying Fender's budget line guitar, rather than the "real thing". If it had a Fender badge on top, I'd be tempted to spring for this baby. Actually I might still be tempted anyways. I don't have a telecaster to add to my collection yet.

Uh oh.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Sweet Miku-chan

Although I try to stay away from playing the UFO catchers, I still have been going regularly to check out what new goodies they put in to tempt me once more.

Luckily not so much lately, but today in Yokohama's Taito Station I saw the cute 'lil Miku Hatsune dolls, and after I watched a guy fail to drop one, I thought I'd try my luck to finally get one of my own.

Seems like she's quite a popular one among the otaku. If I see one in a shop, it usually carries a higher price like the more risque, hentai variety.

Even with help from staff, it was a bitch to get in.

At what I thought was going to be the final shot, it was stuck in the hole. I thought she'd give it to me, but instead gave me the money shot to spend another 100 yen. Lucky it was 100 yen day. All up 1,000 yen.

Not bad, not great.

This will hopefully be the last for a while. I sure hope so. Jimmy be strong.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Please Explain

It seems like Japan never ceases to want to screw me over.

Today I went to a small guitar shop near where I live, and asked how much it'd cost to install that new pickup in my guitar. The guy told me 3,000 yen, a little bit more than Rock Inn. Later I went into Shinjuku and checked with Shimamura Music and they told me about 8,000 yen!

I basically know what to do. Are a few screws and some soldering really worth that? I don't think so. There are a mess of wires in a tiny space though.

I was actually going to go to Akihabara where I'm sure I'd find a soldering iron at a reasonable price to do the job, but I also wanted to find out why the pittance of that 12,000 yen "economy bonus refund" hasn't been given to me yet. So that meant I had to make a trip to Shinjuku instead.

I figured I'd be able to get one from Yodobashi or Bic but neither of them had it. Luckily I managed to get one from Rock Inn for 1,575 yen, which had solder and a handy stand as well.

Before we went home we had okonomiyaki to prepare me for the task ahead. I looked up as much information online regarding soldering, but I'm definitely not a natural at this. I only had two or three points to solder, but it was tricky to get the hang of it.

All screwed together and actually making a sound, I think I actually did it! I guess you can safely go by the ethos that if Jimmy can do it, anyone can. I'm glad that I saved a few bucks.

How does it sound? It sounds pretty good, although I was happy with the stock pickup anyway. Idle hands needed something to do. To my poor ears it doesn't sound all that different, but it sure looks nice with that chrome top doesn't it?

So what about that bonus refund? I should get it in my account next week. After I admired my handywork I opened up my health insurance payments. For some reason they're making me paying 18,700 yen each installment. WTF?? I guess I have to help all those old people stay healthy. Keep smoking f****ers!

Every year I'm making less. How depressing.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Shiny Pretty Things

I like things that twinkle.

Yesterday in Shinjuku I saw a flash in the corner of my eye.

I was mesmerized by the sparkle of a chrome top Dimarzio Paf Pro, sitting in the pickup box in the Rock Inn.

Of course I don't need it, so I was trying for an hour or so to justify spending the money for something I totally didn't need.

Although I'm finding new love with my Steinberger, it was criminally ignored by my recent devotion to all things Jem. Through my laptop it sounds quite sweet with it's neutral sound in software sims, but through my tube amp it left a little bit more wanting.

So trying really hard not to buy another guitar, an upgrade in a pickup seems a reasonable compromise. I'm even considering dropping in a sustainer in this one somewhere down the line.

Needless to say after all that consideration I went home empty-handed until today. I was researching as much information as I could online, and it seems to be a good replacement for the stock pickups. Before work I couldn't bear to think someone else may have bought it, so I quickly went back into Shinjuku and grabbed it.

The price was quite reasonable, and I'm sure I could re-sell it for a profit, but as soon as I left the music store I had a little bit of doubt. Maybe I should have got the higher powered Tone Zone? No, that looked boring. This would even look interesting on my mirror Jem. Too late to turn back now. They charge about 2,600 yen and a week to install it, so I'm considering this another DIY job.

Time to learn me some soldering!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Kōhii O Kudasai

The Weetbix has run out. Although I was offered to get some more sent back from Australia, the real problem was.. we're out of coffee again!

I thought I had rectified the situation by heading down to YaMaYa on Sunday and buying amongst other things, (namely Snickers, corn chips and Don Simon mango juice), a 1kg bag of lovely ground Mocha coffee.

To my absolute horror on opening the coffee, I had bought BEANS instead of pre-ground coffee. I was about to toss the beans whole into the Moka pot in desperation, to stop myself from hyperventilating. I relented and decided to just get a coffee mill.

T'was hard facing kindergarten classes without my coffee fix, but like a super trooper I came through fine. Thanks big M!

Anyway, after work I was on a mission. I went to one of the 100 yen shops. For some reason I figured they have just about everything else, why not a coffee grinder?

Unfortunately not.

I have to give the 100 yen shop props though. Out of the 101 useless things I don't need, I picked up a "Made In China", Rubik's Cube.

Why? Why not, It's 105 yen! I could've got the Hello Kitty one, but instead got the "classic" standard pastels only.

We found two coffee grinders at Don Quijote. One was electric for about 3,000 yen, and a manual one for about 1,300 yen. Of course I took the cheap one. It has a cute, old vintage style that I liked, with a wooden drawer for the grinds.

We got hungry so it was "all you can eat" tabehodai at Mo Mo Paradise. For 90 minutes and under 2,000 yen, it's a satisfying feed.

While I haven't played the UFO catchers since around January, I relapsed today and played for a motorised Llama in Kabukicho.

The gf wanted it badly, though it was pretty hard to get, even with help from the reluctant staff person. She's happy and yes, it's kawaiiiiii!.

From one addiction to the next, I still get G.A.S. for guitars. I'm trying really hard not to buy any more guitars but it's so damn tempting in this place.

It doesn't help when the Rock Inn has just opened up a used store with quite a few desirable guitars I wouldn't mind adding to the "pile". I saw the same Mesa F-50 amp as mine too. They asked for double what I paid. My prediction is that it will be a classic amp like my missed JCM 800!

I looked at TC Gakki again just after work again too. There's some real nice gear here. I probably mentioned it before but there's also a vintage guitar shop right next door with "vintage" (ie. expensive) prices. We're talking guitars from the beginning of the time when Leo made his first Fenders. It's like a guitar museum in here. Well worth checking out for the "tour".

Arriving home I couldn't wait to try out the coffee mill. It's manual so it takes quite a few turns to make enough for the standard two cups. It was easier than I imagined. It's pretty much the same mechanism as a pepper grinder. The grinds came out really fine. I was surprised.

How does it taste? Oishii!