ebay, Goodbye.

I had written a long post about the use of various online commerce sites for instruments, my super ultra old dog pro status expertise, and whatnot.  Complete with topical humor and various pop culture references juxtaposed with emotional attachment to my earliest instruments….but it had to be scrapped.

It’s just too much of a headache to buy or sell something used online.  In our younger days we can do the legwork of shipping, take the risks.  But after being burned a few times, you learn a little, and just can’t waste the effort.

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There was a period during which I became addicted to Round Badge Gretsch Drums.  (Hey, some people smoke crack, give me a break)  I somehow hit the wave, and came upon them like one of those truffle sniffing dogs.  I ended up with 5 kick drums, 3 toms, and 2 snares.  Maybe it was a Brooklyn thing, they were after all made in Williamsburg.  Sooner or later, logic and space prevailed, and most had to be let go.  One kick and one tom were shipped to Slovenia (the Fedex bill was RIDICULOUS) and 2 other kicks were shipped to Canada.

The Canadian paid an offensively low price, for drums basically being sold as parts.  Still, he was unhappy with them, and opened a Paypal dispute.  After a Paypal mishap, DOUBLE the amount of money was put on hold from my bank account, which lets just say was an inconvenience in my freelance working days.  Paypal is not the must helpful of organizations, as evidenced by this article, entitled “If you don’t like the violin you bought, just smash it, and we’ll get your money back”

I recently sold a snare drum to another Canadian (I guess I’ll never learn)  who wrote me to request $50 back claiming the snare throw off was broken.  This was not the case, so I asked what was broken, could it have been damaged in shipping, etc….and he said “you know what, let’s just forget about the $50″  WTF is that?  Just phishing for a refund?

So let that be a Lesson to you all, stay away from ebay for anything larger than a priority mail envelope, or more expensive than an iPod shuffle.  This is just on the selling side, I can’t even imagine it from a buyer’s perspective.  I’ve bought 3 drums on ebay, all over 5 years ago, but have heard endless horror stories.  Even Nels Cline was burned in a Jazzmaster ebay transaction, no one is immune!  Where’s the congressional hearing on this?

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Online descriptions of equipment are rarely as they seem.  The same can probably be said of anything on the Internet.  I recently bit the bullet, and bought a Jazzmaster, scouring Craigslist.  A slightly safer alternative.  The description said:

“I’M SELLING MY 62 REISSUE FENDER JAZZMASTER.
MINT CONDITION. ONLY 3 YEARS OLD.
YOU WON’T FIND A SINGLE THING WRONG WITH THIS GUITAR.
JAZZMASTER’S ARE GOING FOR $1700 NEW RIGHT NOW.
THIS IS A BEAUTY!”

Yes, the first thing wrong, is that it’s in all caps.  Yet still, I went to see the guitar. It was nowhere near mint, full of dents and gouges, the pick guard was stripped in some areas with a screwdriver, the bridge was replaced….But I did get it for a pretty low price.

I think it might be time to stick to music stores.  Is this what adulthood is?  Sometimes you just have to feel comforted by the convenience and possible guarantee of quality.  Is it worth the $300 markup for the guitar you saw on Craigslist at $600 now displayed in your local independent shop for $900?  Sometimes it is.

Just as I finished that paragraph, I got a call from my friend in Virginia.  He found a Ludwig Vistalite kit in a thrift store for $40.  I think that’s the place to end it.

I Only Listen to Edison Phonograph Cylinders, What Do You Have, CD’s?!

According to the New York Craigslist Instrument section, I’d say about 90% of crappy late 90’s equipment was purchased by people who now live on Long Island.  You need a Marshall Valvestate Half Stack?  How about a Hartke Bass Combo?  Some type of DSP Peavy amp?  It’s all there, those are actual examples from the first CL instruments page.  Long Island is such a weird place.  It scares the hell out of me.

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Say what you will about elitist Brooklyn hipsters, they do appreciate a quality instruments and amps.  Vox AC15, Fender Bassman, Korg Monopoly…again, actual examples.  Just wanted to show contrast.  It’s obviously a swayed point of view, relax Vinny.

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Damn Right Thats A Grado.

After several roadblocks, our record player is up and running at the new apartment.  Before the advent of the CD, people had to be way more handy than they do these days.  Have you ever replaced a turntable cartridge?  You have to deal with color coded wires the width of a human hair, tiny little screws and washers which can easily get lost in the turntable mechanism (and did!) alignment protractors, all sorts of crap.  No wonder we’re getting fat and lazy as a nation.  I burned hundreds of calories setting this thing up.  It does sound lovely though.

I can’t afford to be an Audiophile, but if you can, Park Avenue Audio is the way to go.  They walked me through the cartridge replacement, and delayed my inevitable descent into a Woody Allen like Jewish Freakout.

The Grado cartridge (made in Park Slope!) installed probably sounds better than the broken one that was in there previously, but I really have no idea.   I’m gonna say that the effect of vinyl is partially visual.  Seeing a record spinning while you hear what’s coming out has to trick your brain into feeling something different than just seeing a status bar on your iPhone.  Seeing what a performer looks like impacts how you perceive it…I’m going to bet Vinyl has a similar effect.

Two records were picked up in celebration;  A reissue of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Days 100 Nights just to prove both old and new releases have a place in my house.  Yeah, that’s right, always gotta prove a point.

Apparently, Time Out Of Mind was not widely released on Vinyl.  Can someone get on this shit?  All I can see are a few import copies on ebay going in the multiple hundreds of dollars, and that’s just not kosher.  Mule Vatiations is widely available though.  There’s nothing I love more than a late career renaissance by an American eccentric.

That’s all for now, I hope you all enjoyed your Leap Day.  I’m gonna go make some Kale Chips and cocktails.

A Response.

Well,  thanks to everyone who clicked through from the Lefsetz Letter, and especially to those who commented.  Some are for, some are against what I had to say, but that’s what makes the internet the leading source of information among humans age 4-65 in this country, Monday through Friday and occasionally on weekends.

One particularly interesting point was how we basically wait for the backlash after any media coverage of an article like this.  That just furthers the point that the guage of what sucks and what does not has never been more obvious.  This article was written by a douchebag indie rock trust fund collective, and instantly they were called out on it.  The world is a safer place, please return to normal activities.

The moral….Make sure something is completely fantastic before putting it out to the public.

In other news, I moved yesterday, and am just beginning to dig myself out of boxes.  There will be a beautiful mini studio set up in the new place, perhaps some resulting tracks will be posted.

I’ve once again fallen victim to the Craigslist eBay monster, so in addition to moving boxes, shipping boxes are now involved.  Did you know it costs fucking $60 to ship a guitar?  All relevant search results told me around $30 would do it.  Lesson learned.

In gear news, I want to get my hands on that Zvex J Mascius pedal.  Someone get Zach on the phone.

Fuzz.

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Sometimes we find ourselves captivated by objects.  We give them little personalities and expect great things from them.  It’s like Toy Story.  We want everything we own to come alive at night and wreak havoc on the Museum of Natural History while Ben Stiller fumbles with a flashlight.  Is that a different movie?  I think it still works.

The Zvex Fuzz Factory is like the mean popular kid in school.  Where I came from, I don’t know if we had mean popular kids, most people seemed fairly nice, but I’d imagine that’s what it’s like in the Disney Midwestern Version.  You can’t get it to agree with you, it keeps screaming at you, its way out of your control, it occasionally self-oscillates (yeah, you heard me).  And yet there is just something about it you want to hang around with.

I’ve tried this box out in stores on two separate occasions.  Each time, it was just too out of control for me.  The thing is INTENSE.  Think of the fuzz guitar sound The Flaming Lips have on the “At War With The Mystics” album, that’s this guy.  It squeals.  It sounds like your amp got in a fight with a wild wolverine (as opposed to domestic) and is limping away to safety.  Its far beyond the realm of anything normal.  But it certainly is intriguing.  I vowed not to pay full price, staying true to my heritage of bargain hunting.

Continuing with my CL/Ebay sell and trade-off, I got rid of a 1920’s Ludwig Snare that I’ve owned for years.  I bought it on Long Island from a dude who is exactly what you think of when you hear the words “Long Island” and it basically sat for those few years.  Finally, it was taking up more space than it was worth, and a friendly drummer on tour from Seattle bought it last week.  That same night, a Fuzz Factory appeared on the CL.  So I figured, why not?

There is no final point to this story.  Except that a few days after it was acquired, I ran into Nels Cline on the street, who was a lovely fellow.   I’m going to take that as a sign that I made the right move.

How Much Gear Does One Truly Need?

Oh gear, what a tempting mistress indeed.

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At times, I have been guilty of the utmost American Pickers Style hoarding.  At times I have overdone it, other times I have made the score of a lifetime.   Instruments are mysterious, it’s like having a tool to create art, which is also art itself.  You need more than one type of screwdriver to build a fancy Armour or accurate reproduction of the Batmobile…so shouldn’t you have multiple guitars/effects pedals/amps/drums/cymbals/synths/peruvian pan flutes?  You can see how it can get out of control.

Recently I have decide it’s time to purge the collection.  The first serious move was letting go of my 1969 Fender Twin which I had owned for 14 years…which opened the floodgates.  It continued with a recently acquired Microkorg, then a few effects pedals not getting proper use, and some old and broken cymbals.  Several craigslist transactions later, it was a 6 string banjo, a small tube amp, and a Line6 Pod.   It is now continuing with a Budda Bud Wah, and an old 1920’s Ludwig/Slingerland Frankenstein Snare Drum.  With each piece of gear that goes, it feels like a weight has been lifted.  Strange words coming from an obsessive collector, but it’s true.  I am now constantly cataloging my collection, seeing what can go.  Eastwood Electric 12 String?  Probably.  A few random cymbals?  Definitely.  My first ever drum kit…the silver sparkle Spaun kit I saved for months to acquire?  Yep, it hasn’t seen use in literally years, it’s time to go.

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I don’t know what triggered i, but it feels unstoppable.  Maybe it’s because my life now feels filled with things other than instruments?  Maybe its a sudden streak of minimalism?  Maybe it’s because I feel a sudden need to focus on the act of playing… rather than acquiring instruments?  Perhaps above all, being a city dweller for the past 7 years might have finally gotten the best of me.  Space is at a premium wherever you go, and transportation is net to impossible when carrying more than a backpack.  It’s probably all part of it.

So let’s all take this time to inventory our personal collections, and figure out some stuff we can strip down.  Is that 4th distortion pedal really going to make you a better player?  That delay that you use for 3 measures of one song, is it worth the extra space on the floor in front of you? Who are you, The Edge?  Why don’t you just change your name to “The Border” and fight locals in Jersey City while building a massive mansion on the cliffs of the Palisades.  Is the 2nd floor tom REALLY that necessary? Who are you, Terry Bozzio?  You probably didn’t play with Frank Zappa.

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Think about it.