This post is the first in a series I call “Tone Profiles”. This will be a periodic post that that features artists who have something valuable to say about electric guitar tone. This week the artist is Julien Kasper and you should know about him, because this guy knows tone! Enjoy!
JULIEN KASPER BIO:
“Soul, groove, melody, tone, and the element of surprise are my priorities as a composer and an improviser… as a guitarist I am coming equally from the schools of rock, jazz, and blues.” (Guitar World, October 2007) The subject was Julien Kasper’s 2006 CD The New Imperial and with the release of his latest effort Trance Groove, Julien has upped the ante while remaining true to his vision.
As with The New Imperial (Nugene Records, 2006) and Flipping Time (Toulcat Records, 2003), on Trance Groove Julien’s guitar is the nuanced, expressive singing voice of this all instrumental journey. Funky grooves, catchy melodies, psychedelic soundscapes, soulful gospel blues, epic rock guitar, and a stunning acoustic ballad coexist with rare, natural continuity.
Trance Groove features a guest appearance by Hammond B3 organist T Lavitz of the Dixie Dregs, Widespread Panic, and Jazz is Dead. Live and on record Julien’s choice of rhythm section reflects his aesthetic of groove and group interaction. Bassist Jesse Williams and drummer Zac Casher have, between them, performed and/or recorded with a who’s who of American roots and groove masters: Johnny Adams, Duke Robillard, Mighty Sam McClain, Immani Coppala, Mighty Sam McClain, D’Angelo, Jay McShann, Henry Butler, and countless others.
The international community of blues and jazz fans became aware of Julien through his work with pianist and Hammond B-3 organist Bruce Katz on their extensive tours throughout the US and Europe. He recorded two CDs with the Bruce Katz Band on Audioquest: Mississippi Moan and Three Feet off the Ground. Julien has also recorded with Mighty Sam McClain: Journey and Soul Survivor on Telarc.
Julien was born in France in 1962 to American parents and spent his youth as an army child moving around the American south. Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles, he took up the guitar at the age of eight. In 1978 at sixteen, while living in Tallahassee, Florida, Julien began touring with the legendary blues/rock band Crosscut Saw featuring harmonica virtuoso and singer Pat Ramsey. After several years and one album (recently reissued on Akarma), Julien decided to seek more challenging musical terrain. He moved to the fertile music town of Austin, TX where he gigged constantly, honing his skill among the city’s heavy hitting players for four years.
Despite the great musicians in Austin, Julien was frustrated by the lack of a vibrant jazz scene so he accepted a scholarship to attend the jazz program at the University of Miami. He put himself through school playing with IKO IKO, the house band at Tobacco Road, Miami’s blues and roots mecca, which allowed him to share the stage with a who’s who of blues legends and touring artists. An improvisational blues/jam band, IKO IKO gave Julien the opportunity to develop and organically integrate the advanced concepts he was learning in school into his virtuosic blues/rock sound. After graduating from UM Julien received another offer too good to refuse – a jazz guitar fellowship at University of North Texas – which brought him back to Texas in 1992 to complete his Master’s degree. While in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area Julien expanded his musical boundaries by gigging in country, blues, rock, and jazz groups and launching the first edition of the Julien Kasper Band with drummer Keith Carlock (Steely Dan, Sting, Wayne Krantz).
Julien is now based in Boston, Massachusetts where, in addition to writing, performing, and recording his original music, he is a professor on the guitar faculty at Berklee College of Music and an avid all-season surfer. “The Berklee gig is ideal in that I can impart my values and extensive performance experience to younger generations of talented musicians while interacting with a faculty of renowned international artists. The school encourages me to tour and record as my professional profile serves to enhance the reputation of the college and my own artistry. Surfing brings me into elemental contact with nature. Riding a wave is interaction with pure energy and the closest thing I can find to musical improvisation in that technique, knowledge, and experience all are at play but, ultimately, one must improvise and react to the purity of each passing moment.”
JULIEN’S THOUGHTS ON TONE:
I don’t consider myself a gear head or a vintage snob but it seems to have turned out that the gear that helps me realize the tones in my mind’s ear is usually vintage or of vintage pedigree. I grew up playing a Strat through a Fuzz Face, Echoplex, and an old four input Marshall. I love the unforgiving clarity, honesty, and anarchic nature of this rig and it continues to be the center of my tone universe. My music and playing have evolved to embrace a more chromatic aesthetic but my basic rig remains the same. I strive to hone my technique so that complex lines pop out of such an unforgiving rig with power and clarity but I love to turn on dime and unleash the fury that is lurking just under a small twist of the guitar volume knob.
My primary guitars are Stratocasters either one of a couple of older Fenders or amazing strat style instruments made by D’Pergo. I seek a combination of warmth, responsiveness, and extreme clarity, which is hard to find on most guitars, particularly newer Fenders. D’Pergo has created recipes to make this happen with every guitar he builds. My main gigging guitar right now is a D’Pergo Signature Limited, which has an enormous maple neck with no truss rod. In the studio I’m likely to grab a Tele, SG, or Les Paul on the spur of the moment, to make myself play differently or to better serve the track. Occasionally I’ll bring a Gibson on a gig to use on a few tunes.
I prefer the natural response of simple low gain vintage amps without master volumes, channel switching, or reverb. I record overdriven sounds with high wattage vintage Marshalls or a Vox AC-30 but usually gig with lower wattage amps as the volume curve in just about every venue has dropped so dramatically. In the studio I love the clean tones of small vintage amps – a Fender Princeton, tweed Deluxe, tweed Champ, and Vox AC-10 cover the clean tones on Trance Groove. I generally use the stock speakers originally intended for the amps.
My live set up has changed since recording Trance Groove. The new material has a broad array of clean textures so I have converted to a two amp rig which consists of either a Vox AC10 or Marshall 1974x 18-watt combo for overdrive tones and either a Vox AC30, a modified Fender Bassman, or a Fender tweed Bandmaster for clean sounds.
One piece of new gear that has become indispensable to me is the Faustine Phantom attenuator. It the first attenuator I’ve found that doesn’t destroy the tone and the feel of an amp. Venue size permitting, it has allowed me to return to my higher wattage amps live and for really small rooms I’ve successfully used it with my 18 watt Marshall. I’m also using the Faustine as a load box/ D.I. in my home studio. The speaker emulation circuit in the attenuator works quite well and I’m experimenting with impulse response speaker modeling in conjunction with the D.I.
My pedals constantly change depending on amp selection but I always use some form of Fuzz, boost, and delay. For color I’ll add an Octavio, tremolo, Univibe, and occasionally chorus. I avoid overdrive pedals because I’m so accustomed to natural cranked amp overdrive and nothing comes close to that. However, when I’m forced to play through a clean and/or horrible amp for a fly in gig or clinic I’ll use a JAM Rattler or a Xotic AC Comp.
Fuzzes: Custom Jeorge Tripps (Dunlop) Fuzz Faces, JAM Fuzz Phrase, Fulltone Soulbender and ’69 Deluxe, JAM Red Muck, Dunlop Octavio, MJM Roctavios
Delays: Echoplex EP-3, Maxon AD900, MXR Carbon Copy (for modulated delay), Digitech Hardwire (for reverse delay.
Boosts: Occtone Elmore, Way Huge Angry Troll or Red Llama, JAM Boomster
Univibe, tremolo. chorus: JAM Retrovibe, MJM Sixties Vibe, JAM Chill and Waterfall
JULIEN KASPER VIDEO CLIPS:
Stratocaster, 100 watt Marshall, Fuzz Face
D’Pergo, 50 watt Marshall, Fulltone Soulbender, MJM Rocktavious
D’Pergo, Vox AC 30 (clean), Vox AC10 (overdrive) and Occtone boost
For More Info, Check out Julien Kasper’s Website and youtube channel: