A Trip To The Biggest Music Store In The World: KNAC.COM's NAMM Show 2002 Exclusive
Wednesday, February 6, 2002 @ 10:49 AM
KNAC.COM’s Diana DeVille Invad
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NAMM 2002: One of the biggest get-togethers of the music industry, held every January in Southern California. I always go because it’s a great chance to find out the latest news on our favorite artists straight from the horse’s mouth. This year was no exception as I headed down to the Big Orange to the Anaheim Convention Center to see (and hear) the sights.
As a preface, I first hit the Convention Center on Friday, when my plan was to zip down to the show and visit Jeff Pilson and George Lynch at the Dean Markley booth. After saying goodbye to Eveready Ed at the station and hitting the highway, where I sat in famed Los Angeles Friday afternoon traffic for well near an hour, I finally reached my destination. First step: to retrieve my official badge. I asked around and quickly realized that I was at the opposite end of the convention center from where registration was, so I hustled down to the very end of the building. As I sped along on my mission, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turns out it was Joe James, who I had worked with during my tenure at A&M Records (pre-KNAC.COM). I hadn’t seen Joe since I left A&M, so it was great to catch up again. After several minutes of chatting and a promise to “do lunch,” I was on my way again.
I hit the registration booth and presented my credentials…waited for a minute, and as I’m looking over to the booth across the way marked “Media” the helpful person at the desk tells me, “You’re media so you need to go over there.” I dutifully presented myself at the media booth, got my badge and hit the floor at 5pm (The convention ended at 6pm that night).
With an hour to go, I wondered, “How am I going to cover all this space by then?” I simply decided to start walking and before I knew it, came right to Jeff and George, as well as Carmine Appice. As I scanned the maddening crowd, I spotted Jeff’s fiancée, the lovely Ravinder, who happens to be one of my best friends, so I hung with her watching the crowd and the signings. Jennifer Batten (of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” fame) was there signing and giving away copies of her latest CD as well. I spent the hour chatting with Jeff, Carmine, Ravinder and some of the Dean Markley employees, who seemed to be enjoying themselves. Little did I know it then, but by the end of the convention, I found that the Dean Markley booth had become the centerpiece of the place, and that "all roads lead to Dean Markley," no matter where I went.
The convention closed, and I found myself in more traffic hell as I inched up the street to the 5 Freeway and back into Los Angeles as quickly as possible to make the Judas Priest/Anthrax show at the Universal Amphitheatre. I made it to the show in time to see Anthrax's last three songs, then backstage to say hello to the usual LA gang, Gonzo and Phil from Armored Saint, Randy Castillo (who shared that he is working with ex-Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez on a new, as of now unnamed project and looking for singers), Lizzy Borden and Marten Andersson, along with Duff McKagan and many other fine folks.
Saturday it was back to Anaheim and NAMM. This time I came with my two friends Kathy and Shelly, both publicists, and all of us on a business mission. I wasn’t driving, so I had time to “prepare the attack,” listing locations of key booths along the way.
Once we arrived, Kathy and Shelly had to get their badges, so I waited for them and watched a potential convention-goer get violent as her badge was not there. Security was called, and I thought there might be a bit of drama while I waited…but she calmed down, and by that time we were ready to roll.
The convention is actually two buildings with many different halls, so there is quite a bit to see, and if you’re not sure what’s where, it can be very overwhelming. We took our “road map” and wandered around the convention. Shelly representing the dance community, we decided to head down in that area, since many of the rock presentations were not until later. We hit many of the magazine booths, starting with the Recording magazine booth. Lorenz, a charming man with a German accent, told us the story of how the magazine had started out in California, and then the owner decided to move to Colorado, so he had offered the entire staff the chance to move out with him, and most of them had…
We continued around the convention and our first planned stop was at the Ibanez booth, where Steve Vai would be making an appearance. We arrived promptly at 1pm and found out that Steve was running late, so we looked around at all the displays. Steve Vai’s seven-string signature guitar was on the wall, and in talking to some of the people, I learned that that particular guitar had been retired by the company until recently, when one of the Korn guitarists began playing a seven-string, so that model was brought back.
Next stop was over to the drum section, where Rikki Rockett was doing a signing for Johnny Rabb drumsticks. I got there in time for my pre-scheduled interview and was pleased to find that the line seemed to be fairly short. As I waited though, the masses found us, and it wound up being a little bit more of a wait than I had expected. No matter. Gina Schock of the Go-Go's showed up to take over the signing from Rikki after a while, and we popped outside to chat.
Rikki had several endorsements and as such, made appearances at several different manufacturers’ booths. He explained, “I’m kind of a NAMM rat. I know it’s weird, and I should be…you know, I see all these people that just kind of buzz in here real quick, do a signing and leave, and are real “rock star” about it. That’s cool, but I like hanging out. I like seeing stuff, I like seeing the new products, and what everybody’s pushing, and just the whole vibe, you know?”
For Rikki, the best part of the convention was the new offerings this year. “Honestly, there’s some really cool innovative products. For a long time, it seemed like it was just like, either people were trying to reinvent the wheel or they were coming up with really cheesy products just to be different, and now it seems like they’re making cooler innovations out of cooler materials, you know, just like a unique spin stuff that lasts longer, like everyone keeps raising the envelope. People are making stuff out of billet aluminum and titanium and all that stuff and applying it to pedals and drums, and whatever, and it’s awesome to see.”
Poison fans, rejoice. There will be a new record out most likely in April of this year, with the annual summer Poison tour to follow. (See related story for details.)
From drums to guitars again, I wandered back over to the ESP booth where Bruce Kulick, George Lynch and Michael Wilton (Queensryche, pictured below right) were signing. I ran into my compadre Junkman and saw Slayer’s Tom Araya as he headed off to view more of the convention. George filled me in about the new project with former Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson. The new band is at the moment called Pinch (for Pilson & Lynch)…there will be a new record out in April with a possible summer tour, which will be very exciting.
After ESP, as I was planning my next move, I ran into Michael Ciravolo, head of Schecter Guitars. I had worked with Michael’s wife, Tish at A&M, so again, another face from my past. Michael told me Tish was working the booth, so I walked over to say hello. Turns out that Tish started her own company about a year ago under Schecter called Daisy Rock Guitars, so, thinking it would be cool to get a NAMM experience from the merchandiser’s perspective, I chatted a little with her about that.
Daisy Rock caters to the budding young musician and Tish explained her line: “It’s called the Daisy Rock Guitar. It’s got a slim neck profile and it’s a lightweight guitar. It’s a guitar designed for little girls around the age of 6 to about 12 to learn how to play electric guitar. And then of course after I made the little one for the little girls, every friend of mine panicked and said “I have to have one of those; I need a bigger one,” so I made this one. (Points to larger guitar.) This one has two pickups that’s more of a touring artist guitar for big girls, and then, because I play bass guitar, I made the bass guitar.” And not JUST daisies: Tish continues: “I started with the daisy collection, and now I have what I call the “Heartbreakers,” and again I have it in the short scale for little girls (or little boys), full scale for artists, and we have the bass guitar. In fact, I just sent this guitar, the Heartbreaker artist in black, to Joan Jett, so that’s the kind of artist I’m trying to get my guitars out to.”
On the NAMM experience, Tish gushed, “NAMM is awesome! NAMM is really a lot of fun for me because I make guitars that nobody else makes, so I’m not really a competing guitar line. No one’s doing hearts or daisies except me, so it’s fun…Oh my god, it’s just nonstop! Everybody just….at first they go, “oh how cute,” or they go, “how cool,” or they go, “oh my god it’s a heart!” They don’t know how to react because it’s so different.” I asked her what her best part of being at the convention was, and she replied, “The NAMM organization is really great and really behind a lot of kids getting into music this year, and so I think that’s a really good part of it. And attendance has been normal I think…a lot of people talked about how it wasn’t going to be good, but I think it’s been great!"
Back to the artists. Since my purpose of being at NAMM is to talk to people and find out news, I decided to find out exactly what the artist’s purpose is in coming to NAMM. I ran into Lizzy Borden bassist Marten Andersson and “popped the question.” “It’s a big music store,” he summed up for me. And indeed it is. Marten was one of the smart shoppers, having come to the convention armed with a “wish list” of places to visit. Rikki Rockett stated, “This is like the pulse of the music industry in terms of musical instrument merchants. So it’s neat to see, I think. It’s great to see it, a lot of energy.”
And so on it went. Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell was signing at Washburn Guitars, Michael Anthony was reported to be floating around the convention and NOT answering questions about the Van Halen reunion rumors, and Disturbed’s Dan Donegan graced the Paul Reed Smith booth. We eventually did run into Steve Vai in the middle of some play with people in strange historical costumes. (That was a bit bizarre; talk about walking into the middle of something!).
At the end of a long tiring day, we found our favorite part of the convention: the massage guy! I kid you not, there was a VERY popular fellow there with a handheld massager who was reaching out and touching anyone in distance. Of course Kathy and I scurried over there and got ourselves a free massage while we waited for Shelly to show up (we had decided on a “divide and conquer” strategy). After the convention ended, we popped over to the Hilton Hotel for a few minutes while we decided on where to go for dinner before heading back to Los Angeles.
Again, another NAMM convention covered successfully! For more information on the NAMM conventions and trade shows, visit www.namm.com.