Artist Spotlight :: John McCabe

Bio

John McCabe

The painter T. Nem Hackett turned me on to punk rock, and I am forever indebted to him for that. Having grown up in the circumference of Meat Puppets territory in Phoenix, AZ, I was not to become aware of them until it was nearly too late. My formative years had me in a decade-long Grateful Dead coma. T. Nem and punk rock pulled me from that.

I initially started playing music, during my college years, on the streets and coffee shops (Steep 'n Brew) of Madison, WI with Dave - an elderly homeless guitar player from Kentucky. A duo.

Nem and I later started 'The Shelf Talkers' in Boston in the late '80s and managed to record one 1/4" tape 4-track tune called "On The Road"

Ten years ago, I cobbled together a makeshift home studio and began recording demos, which led to my first Studio EP, 2017's 'Flower Circle,' recorded and produced by John Kimbrough (Walt Mink, Teen Judge). In May 2019, I released my follow-up EP, 'These Years', working with the same production team and musicians at Janky East.

In September 2020, I released my 3rd EP: 'What For.' Recorded in the Orange Room, Laguna Niguel, CA, mixed by El Kabong and Mastered by Jason Deift.

In late 2019, I co-founded a trio, Good at Rockets, with Joel Cassara. Just as we were getting lift off, the global pandemic hit, but we managed to record and distribute our first EP, 'Unraveled' in March, 2021. More recently, we released our first single, 'The Margin,' in September 2021.

With live music back in full swing, I am currently doing one or two acoustic solo spots a month - and one or 2 with Good at Rockets.

What/Who inspired you to pick up your instrument?

If I was going to spend hours and hours doing 'air band' with a Sher-wood hockey stick, I figured I might as well devote that time to learning how to play.

It was my older brother that got me into music at a very you age; he's ten years older than me, so in the early, to mid-1970s I had access to his record collection. By early high school, I was chomping at the bit. I had seen a band play Led Zepplin's "Rock and Roll" at the annual talent show - and immediately said, "that's what I want to do." From there, I started taking lessons on a nylon string acoustic guitar. The first few I learned were Neil Young and a couple of Rolling Stones songs.

What piece of musical advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to the beginning of your musical journey?

Learn right-handed, learn right-handed and learn right-handed. Even today, when I walk into a guitar store - there will be a wall of instruments and one - typically off-brand - left-handed guitar. I have been very fortunate to have found a handful of guitars over the last 25 years; I found my first 1969 Telecaster at Black Market Music in San Francisco in 1992 or 1993. That's the main guitar is use today for recording as well as live shows.

I guess the second piece of advice actually comes from our local Orange County promoter: "Learn some cover songs." Our band Good at Rockets - and when I play acoustic shows - we do all original music. The pay grade for original bands is quite low (nothing). For some reason, I have struggled with learning covers - perhaps it's a fear of absolutely 'bothering' someone else's song.

What keeps you excited about playing?

We are very lucky in Orange County; there are a number of places to play - that continue to support original music. As noted above, the pay is usually a couple of drink coupons. So, the thing that keeps me excited about playing is starting with a blank piece of paper, writing a tune, and getting it recorded. From there, it's great to have the opportunity to release it -and eventually play it live.

It's the entire process around music: writing, recording, producing, releasing - and then seeing what the reaction is live.

Desert Island 3 pedal pedalboard (not including tuner)

I recently watched the series "Rig Rundown" and managed to watch AC/DC and J. Mascis (Dinosaur, Jr.) back to back. From a gear perspective, I am probably more along the lines of the Young brothers when it comes to pedals, but I am in complete awe of the J. Mascis configuration. I wish I had the skills to get there. My three desert island pedals would be Maxon Tube Screamer, Big Muff (I guess one of the original ones. . .), Electric Mistress (on the shopping list).

When you find yourself in a musical rut, what techniques do you do to break out of it?

I try to write a new song. Over the last few years, I have released 4 EPs and a handful of singles - so I am consistently trying to write new songs. That process will typically push me to come up with some new riff or chord progression. Or, in some cases, I will take an old 'scrap' that didn't make the EP or Single release list and try to rework it.

Who is your favorite artist/band today? And who was your favorite artist/band ten years ago?

I think I am in a bit of a gulch - and stuck in the late 70-80s punk bands. I tend to listen to many of the same bands that I have listen to for 30 years; if they have continued to put out new stuff - I gravitate to that (Buffalo Tom, Meat Puppets, Superchunk, Dinosaur, Jr., X, Jayhawks, etc.). My 17-year-old daughter will turn me on to some new things from time to time.

When you find yourself in a music store - what is your go-to riff when test drive gear?

For some reason, I will tend to start with very standard 'blues turnarounds'. And I don't even really like blues music all that much. But in my early years, after learning a handful of songs, I spent years playing Jimmy Reed records over and over again, mainly to work on my timing. Or some big 'D-C-G' wide-open progression.

What is your most prized/cherished piece of gear? And why?

I always say I could never afford my guitars if I had to buy them today. As noted, I think my '69 Tele was about $900 or $1,000 back then. This is definitely my most prized bit of gear; the sound is amazing - and the fact that I have had it for 28 years helps. A close 2nd would be my Victoria Amp. I have only had it for one year or so - but it seems to be an amazing match with the Tele.

What is the next big musical purchase you're hoping to save for?

Most of the gear that is on Santa's list is related to outboard hardware for my home studio. Always room for more - and I guess I would like to include a good compressor as part of the chain. On a smaller scale, I will continue to explore new colors with additional pedals and such - but as far as core equipment goes, I have been very fortunate.

Gear Breakdown

John McCabe Gear

Main amp: Victoria Victroilux 3x10. Routing is quite simple, guitar to pedalboard (tuner, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Big Muff, MXR Phase 90 (mini) - to amp.

Secondary amp: 1968 Princeton Reverb, 1 x 12. Same routing.

Rattlesnake Cables: All (instrument, pedal connectors, mic cable). Home studio - Rattlesnake mic cables, studio monitors.

Guitars: 1969 Telecaster / 1999 Telecaster '52 Reissue. [Recording guitars; 1968 Ric 360, 2019 Gibson J45, 2004 Martin D28, 1998 Stratocaster - Am Standard, 1976 Ibanez 'lawsuit' Les Paul].



Bands / Projects

Good at Rockets
John McCabe

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Christopher Clarke
Christopher Clarke
1/24/2022
Rattlesnake Cable Co. makes excellent products, at a competitive price point. Their customer service is also exemplary! I recommend their gear to anyone needing the best cables and patch gear. The order turnaround time is also amazingly fast! Do yourself and your sound a favor, you won't regret it.
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chromag R
3/16/2021
Wanted to say that the cables I purchased from Rattlesnake, are the best cables I own. High quality materials and construction. The customer service is one of the best companies I have had the pleasure in dealing with. Thanks Rattlesnake. Richard
Pat Cross
Pat Cross
5/19/2021
Great service, great product. Sturdy and built to last without giving up any style. Only cable I'm using on my rig.
Pat Cross
Christopher Clarke
1/24/2022
Rattlesnake Cable Co. makes excellent products, at a competitive price point. Their customer service is also exemplary! I recommend their gear to anyone needing the best cables and patch gear. The order turnaround time is also amazingly fast! Do yourself and your sound a favor, you won't regret it.
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Pat Cross
chromag R
3/16/2021
Wanted to say that the cables I purchased from Rattlesnake, are the best cables I own. High quality materials and construction. The customer service is one of the best companies I have had the pleasure in dealing with. Thanks Rattlesnake. Richard
Close
Pat Cross
Pat Cross
5/19/2021
Great service, great product. Sturdy and built to last without giving up any style. Only cable I'm using on my rig.
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