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SurfGuitar101 News & Articles

Category: Articles

New Record from THE RAZORBLADES out now!

The new album of THE RAZORBLADES, Germany's wildest surf band


17 songs, 12'' Vinyl or CD and digital

Order here:

or download on iTunes or stream on Spotify!

Tour is in full flight, check all the dates here:


Long Beach Post features Will Glover of The Pyramids

Check out this great feature on Will Glover of the legendary 60's surf band The Pyramids in the Long Beach Post.

Stompin' with The Pyramids, Long Beach's Legendary Surf Band: Guitarist Will Glover Remembers

Thanks to Danny Snyder for alerting us to this article.

Tsar Wars Turns 15!!!

Tsar Wars, Never Forgotten

There are those events in life in which you remember each and every detail; the sunlight coming through the window, the smell of the stale July heat, and the disheveled bed that you hastily threw that package on as you couldn’t wait to rip into. You see, in that packaged contained both the vinyl and CD of The Space Cossacks’ Interstellar Stomp of which I had been wearing out the Real Player samples of on the Space Cossacks', then, cutting edge website. While Interstellar Stomp would be the jewel of most any other package this package also contained the brand new Cossacks album, Tsar Wars. From that album I had heard The Defector, and immediately thought, “This is no Red Sunrise”. This was not the only mistake I was to make as a 16-year-old. This mistake is a common one, playing music outside of the context of which it was intended. You see, Tsar Wars is no mere album. It isn’t an experience, it isn’t even a journey. It is an adventure.

Tsar Wars was released under hurried conditions by MuSick Recordings, with the Cossacks heading to California for a 3-date tour in March of 2000. On March 26th, at the Rendezvous Ballroom Reunion, the first copies of Tsar Wars were sold by the band. The LP, a gorgeous purple marble with silver labels, and the CD, an interactive CD, both contain cover art by Shag and illustrations by Steve Blickenstaff. On that CD, a novella written by Jamie Miles with illustrations by Blickenstaff. The novella, follows the trajectory of the album through a classic story of a man and his car, a classic surf music trope. The difference, is the car is a spaceship and he is relentlessly pursued by an evil alien species and it is up to him to save the day.

One could have an album consisting of number 1 hits, and still have a so-so album. The true power and beauty of the ‘album’ lies in the tracklisting. A perfect album, like Tsar Wars, has a unique feel, tells a story, and causes the world to disappear as you listen to it. Tsar Wars is truly compelling, it’s first track setting the tone of the album. On this track we know something serious is happening as the reversed audio leads to frantic drums and fragile double-picking that resolves to pummeled double-picking only to bring forth a beautiful melody to break the tension before returning to whence it came. As we progress from that perfect opening track the album moves hearts with The Jewel of Duende, creates euphoria with Escape from Gulag 17, and causes us to celebrate with ¡Fiesta Del Cossacapulco!  This is an uncertain time, an era of unease, this is Tsar Wars. It is heavy, it is dark, it is triumphant, this is Tsar Wars.

To the author, Tsar Wars went where no surf music had gone before. Arpeggios, double-stops, reverse audio, acoustic guitar, texture, and dynamics to die for. I never had the Shadows or the Atlantics growing up, but I had the Space Cossacks. This is why I am not alone in celebrating the 15th anniversary of Tsar Wars.

Please keep reading for a modern review by our very own Noel and reviews from circa 2000 as well as an interview with Art B of MuSick Recordings.

And be sure to share your thoughts on the forum threads: LINK TO FORUM THREAD

There is more to this story, continue reading ...

Surf Guitar Icon Merrell Fankhauser Revisits Jimi Hendrix's Legendary 'Rainbow Bridge' In New Documentary

London, UK - 'Rainbow Bridge' was a peculiar 1972 film featuring Jimi Hendrix (who had died two years before) and a cast of local eccentrics using Hendrix’s music and a whole slew of UFO sightings to explore their spirituality. 41 years later, musician and filmmaker Merrell Fankhauser revisits the film to explore its message more fully. The 'Rainbow Bridge Revisited' documentary was really Maui journalist Steve Omar's idea, and Merrell and Steve produced it together. The two had fun looking up and interviewing the original cast of the 1972 Jimi Hendrix movie 'Rainbow Bridge' that was filmed on Maui. It was interesting to hear what they had to say about hanging out with Hendrix making the movie. The one-hour DVD documentary also features some great surfing and music by Merrell Fankhauser, The Space Patrol and Omar and The Wavespies. The package includes a 12-song soundtrack.

Merrell explains, “As you know I lived on Maui for 14 years and I moved there in ‘73 just a year after the Jimi Hendrix 'Rainbow Bridge' film came out. And when I moved there I met a lot of people that were in the movie, and a lot of them were hippies, surfers and cosmic people that were seeing UFOs, and they said Jimi was really into the whole UFO thing, and that there were even some hovering about when they were shooting over there. So we contacted the ones that we still knew were on Maui and we went over and interviewed them and it was really interesting what some of them had to say about hanging out with Hendrix and everything. Then we went down to Southern California, because some of them lived down there, and we interviewed a few of those, so we’ve got some really interesting interviews with an insight into some of the things that were going on with that movie with Hendrix that didn’t come out. In the original 'Rainbow Bridge', it follows Pat Hartley the actress from the Sunset Strip over to O’ahu and then to Maui where she meets all these characters, and ultimately Jimi. And the message, because of all of her travels and the way it was put together, kind of got lost a little bit in the different scenes and things. I talked to one of the guys from Warner Brothers who was in on the editing and he said that when they brought the film over it was in all of these bags and there was sand in it and they were almost afraid to put it on their machine, and had to clean it all and they kept going through this stuff and it was just a lot of hippies talking about cosmic stuff and getting high on drugs, and everybody kept saying 'Where’s Jimi, where’s Jimi? Where’s the concert' You know they were afraid they weren’t going to have enough to make the movie really good, but finally they got to the 'Concert' footage. So what we did, we kind of condensed these interviews down and we segue into some really great surfing on big waves over there, because a lot of the people that were interviewed were surfers and we have old footage of them surfing, and then we cut to surfing footage from now. I have about ten of my newer instrumental surf songs in there with the surfing, and then it goes to a couple of band performances – there were two Maui bands featured on the soundtrack: Omar and The Wavespies and The Space Patrol – the lead singer, Les Potts,  was in the original 'Rainbow Bridge' movie.”

There is more to this story, continue reading ...

The Elements of a Surf Song

The Elements of a Surf Song

Greetings surf music comrades! I initially wrote this articleout as a mental exercise to gather my thoughts for a talk I was going to give at The Sierra Surf Music Camp. It turned out that I didn't give the talk, but I think this can still be useful for the newbies out there just discovering our little genre. What I'm referring to as the 'elements' are the basic components that  together, or at least when several of them are grouped together, you have a song we can label as a surf song. Many of you may be thinking that you've listened to surf music for years, these elements should be obvious, and many of them are, but as musicians we can go a little deeper and try to tease out some of the more subtle ones. 

First off, the term "surf music" has been a challenge in and of itself as a description for what it is we're doing. Historically, it's been often equated with The Beach boys. Now that has been debated endlessly, and I personally am willing to call it a draw. But when I try to describe what I do to the uninitiated, they invariably ask "like the beach boys" and I can't bring myself to say yes. Granted, The Beach Boys sang about surfing, so it makes sense that people ask do that. In fact, here's what happened to me the other  day. 

I've started going to a physical therapist because my neck and arm have been really hurting lately due to overuse as a contractor. I'm explaining to my therapist about how I play surf music, totally expecting to hear her ask "like the Beach Boys?" but she doesn't ask that. She asks, "Surf music.... is that with an E or a U?" Now that's one question I've never had before. I answer, it's with a U, like the ocean. "ooooh, you mean like the Beach Boys?" .... Turns out she was a classical music major and may have thought this was some kind of ancient music style played by serfs of the kindgom or whatnot. Also, I'd put her around 30 years old, at this point, even too young for the whole 90's pulp fiction fueled resurgence. 

I've also found on craigslist and soundcloud and other musician's sites that a lot of vocal bands are referring to themselves as 'surf bands" or 'surfy". I'm not 100% sure at what they're getting at. My suspicion is they have a lot of reverb on their guitars and have a relatively clean guitar sound, which are 2 elements I'll discuss, but that alone isn't enough to warrant being a surf band by our standards. Not that they care.... but we do!

Here's my list of elements and then I'll go over each one in some detail. 

  • Instrumental music
  • Guitar melody
  • Clean tones, with reverb and/or echo
  • Distinctive drum beats that push the music forward
  • Simple song structure and chords
  • Single coil guitars, primarily Fender or fender like
  • Distinctive guitar techniques that are ubiquitious in surf music

You'll notice several of those elements are about the gear rather than the music. Unlike most genres, gear plays a big role in creating the surf sound. Perhaps it's a bigger factor than the music itself? Hard to say. I can tell you on SG101, the gear forum has by far the most activity, about 25% more than the next one, the 'general surf music' forum.  And that's on the premier surf music website on the internet! 

There is more to this story, continue reading ...

Italian Surf Academy in Wall Street Journal

Check out an article by Jim Fusilli in the Wall Street Journal regarding the Italian Surf Academy. My brother sent it to me.

Lee Kix

"Keep to the Rhythm and You'll Keep to Life"

The Origins of Surf Music — a first-hand account by Paul Johnson

Prior to 1961, Southern California kids didn’t hang out at the beach all that much; you’d be more likely to see them cruising in their cars, hanging out at the ice cream / root beer drive-ins, or dancing to 45 rpm records at sock hops. Live music was a rarity, and there was no such thing as “surf music.” In short: prior to 1961, there was no “California surf culture” as we know it today.

But the new trend was on the rise that year: with the advent of lightweight foam boards, surfing caught on big with the beach-area kids; by summer this had grown into a major cultural explosion — a mass youth-movement complete with it’s own styles, mannerisms and slang.

Going into that memorable summer of ‘61, I was 15 and a fledgling guitarist with a fledgling band (the Belairs) that emulated the sounds of the rock-instrumental heroes of the late ‘50s (Duane Eddy, Link Wray, The Fireballs, Johnny and the Hurricanes, the Ventures, etc.). When we heard that a lot of these new young “surfers” were driving thirty miles south to Balboa on the weekends to hear somebody named Dick Dale play similar stuff, we decided to throw our own dances locally. The result was like jumping onto a speeding train!

We had never given the slightest thought to calling ourselves a “surf” band. But at our first dance that summer, which drew about 200 beach-area kids, a prominent local surfer came up to me and said: “Wow, man — your music sounds just like it feels out on a wave! You oughta call it ‘surf music’!!” By summer’s end we were filling halls with 1500 fully “stoked” surfers who were doing just that: over the summer they had embraced our music (along with Dale’s) as their own, and now they were calling it “surf music!”

There is more to this story, continue reading ...

The Surfside IV Gives Desert Dwellers the Adrenaline Rush of Surf

Hey, my wee band got a swell feature story writeup in the local indie paper. Check it out!

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Deep Water: How to Get the Classic Surf Guitar Sound by Dave Wronksi

Ever wondered how to nail the surf guitar sound? Is it the gear? Is it the technique? Is it a combination of both and of the attitude of the player, also? Dave Wronski (guitarist extraordinaire of surf monsters Slacktone and previously of the legendary Jon & The Nightriders) lays out the basic recipe over at Guitar World's blog in the informative entry entitled Deep Water: How to Get the Classic Surf Guitar Sound.

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Return of the Jaguar (the 40 year journey of an Australian guitar)

Return of the Jaguar

(the 40 year journey of an Australian guitar)

Martin Cilia is guitarist with the legendary Australian surf band  The Atlantics. He is also regarded as one of Australia's finest.

Around 2006 Martin got a phone call to demonstrate some guitar sounds for ABC’s The Collectors TV show. He had original versions of all the guitars they wanted to demo, except for one - a Fender Jaguar. Steve Jackson of Jackson's Rare Guitars sent over one of his Jaguars to use.

There is more to this story, continue reading ...