Interview: Conrad Sundholm of Sunn O)) amplification
For those of you who are guitar players, and into underground metal or just into vintage amplifiers, you have probably heard of Sunn amplifiers. I was given the opportunity to interview the man who started the company, Conrad Sundholm. This man is an awesome person who is still, at 72, pushing himself to make new amplifiers. So here's my complete interview with the man himself.
Scott: What made you decide to start building your amplifiers?
Conrad Sundholm: Well I’d always been a hi-fi buff in building my own equipment, you know, for my home use. And then when my brother was a bass player for the Kingsmen, at the time he was working at a music store in Portland, Oregon, and he was using old Bogen 60-watt tube p.a. amplifiers for his bass. And then he brought a, let’s see, a 2x15 cabinet to me and we modified the cabinet so he could get more low end out of it. And that’s kind of what started it. And then, I told him that I would build him a cabinet for him. And he wired up an old dynaco 60 watt mark 3 power amp and we used a dynaco preamp with it, threw it in a box, and I built the cabinet which was a rear loaded folded horn which later became the 200s cabinet. This particular one had extra bracing in it, and it sounded great. And then he got involved with the Kingsmen, and took that system out on the road and you know it was outperforming anything else that was out there so people were asking about it, and he told them to go to their local dealers to ask them to carry the product. I was back at home, building this stuff and he was out there kinda promoting it out on the road playing for the Kingsmen.
SW: Wow, that sounds like it worked out perfectly. Did you have any formal training in electronics or was it just messing around when you were younger?
CS: No I had no formal training, but as the company grew I hired people who had very good electronics backgrounds.
SW: What was the creative process like for creating you amplifiers, like the model T and Solara. Were there any epiphany moments, where you decided that that would be a good sound?
CS: Well, the big epiphany moment for me was the 200S cabinet, I had kind of a…I don’t know…a guidance coming out of sleep, in terms of a design for that. And the next day I got up and built the design which turned out to be the 200S, which norm used on the road, which proved to be a very good bass cabinet. The other stuff like the Model T and the Solarus, was just a matter of me providing inputs from the marketplace and the kind of performance that was needed, and then sitting down with the engineers and discussing it and having them design the product and then doing the sound testing and field testing of the product that was involved with that.
SW: Are you aware of how many bands still use the Model T, and still tout it as being one of the best amplifiers?
CS: Um…yes I, see that model T was developed just as I was leaving the company, so I was not too aware of everybody that used them but I know there were a lot of big groups, a lot of regional groups, which were big back in that day, though it’s not happening today. I know West of Mountain and other big name groups were using that stuff.
SW: Well actually, as of right now you have a band that’s named after your company.
CS: Right, I think they’re a death metal band or something like that.
SW: It’s actually kind of a drone thing, they originally didn’t even use a drummer, and they just use your amplifiers. I always thought that was really interesting because the sound was thick enough that they don’t need other instruments.
CS: Well, on the early units we used really high quality output transformers that could go down to even 10 Hz [sw note: that’s an octave lower than the average human’s hearing…that’s bass folks] and they were very very linear. We used a method of connecting the screens to a screen tap on the output transformer, which is called an ultra-linear output and they were very very clean and deep in their response.
SW: It could get to 10 Hz?
CS: I had a 2000s on my bench a couple of months ago and I measured it and it could go down to 10 Hz.
SW: Wow…that’s low.
CS: You know, a bass guitar, the fundamental low frequency is around 42 Hz, but, you know, if you can go down one octave below the fundamental frequency of the bass guitar then you have a really good performing amplifier. The only question is how you get a speaker cabinet that will go down there.
SW: So in the 90’s Fender bought out your company?
CS: Yes, I sold the company to Hartsel Industries out of Minneapolis, Saint Paul. They wanted to diversify into electronics and then they operated the company for a number of years and then they eventually sold it to fender, and fender operated a factory here in Lake Oswego Oregon, which is a suburb of Portland. And they did a lot of their builds here; in fact I think they might have built some of the Fender product here in that location, I’m not sure about that.
SW: How did you feel about the buyout? Was it ok with you to have that name be used by Fender?
CS: Well, I have no control over that ha-ha. You know, we worked hard at building a quality reputation and a product that would really withstand the rigors of road travel and I’m not so sure that was maintained by Fender. But you know, by that point I’m really totally out of it, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. And I really didn’t pursue what they were doing.
SW: Have you ever considered re-acquiring the title of Sunn, since they have seemingly stopped all production.
CS: You know, I haven’t. You know for me in my life, too many schematics too little time, you know what I mean? I’m 72 years old now, I’m just happy to be doing what I’m doing now, building the amps that I’m building. I have given some thought to building a clone of the Model T; I would probably call it a Model C.
SW: That would be amazing. I know for my friends and I, we’ve always wanted to find a good first generation Model T, even a second generation but really we have tried to ignore the post-fender model T’s. But they’re in such short supply that we can’t even find them.
CS: Well, I’ve given some thought to that and maybe as a result of our conversation here I’ll dig in and get it done. Yeah…the second generation Model T had some weird midrange switch in there using an inductor, it was kinda funky, I’ll have to study the schematic on that a little bit. Yeah, the first generation is the best unit. The key will be to find a good output transformer, duplicate what they had back then, and that transformer company is no longer in business.
SW: So you would have to find another company that makes an equal power transformer?
CS: Right, I’d have to find someone to build that transformer.
SW: What is the difference in design and performance of your newer amplifiers with your current company [Conrad Amps] than the amplifiers built with the Sunn Corporation?
CS: Well, I tell you what, we were best known in the era that I was involved in, for our bass amps and we always struggled coming up with a really good guitar amp; probably the first one was the model T. Although, there were others, the Solarus and so forth, but they really weren’t quite there. Because we were so clean oriented, you know what I mean? Linear oriented, we didn’t do anything that was high gain or designed to create distortion. And most of the musician input that we were receiving was more in the jazz orientation and cleaner tones. So anyways, here in the last few years, I’ve had a desire to build a good guitar amp, to see if I could really do that and so that’s kind of what motivated me to build the amps that I’m building now.
SW: Do you mostly focus on getting a clean warm sound out of your newer amps instead of a high gain sound?
CS: Well that’s the direction I’ve been going, and you know, that’s kind of where the model T is as well. The model T is not a high gain amp, you just really have to drive the snot out of that thing to get it to break up. I’ve had an interest here recently of doing some higher gain stuff.
SW: Was it your idea to go into mixers and P.A. systems?
CS: Well, the initial push was bass amplifiers, but when Dick McCloud was hired in the engineering department he kind of took us in that direction with the solid state circuitry and stuff, so that led to those products. Later on I started another company called Bi-amp systems, and we were really big into mixing consoles, equalizers, power amps and stuff for the semi-pro audio market.
SW: Did your brother, Norm, ever help with the design of any models?
CS: Only from the standpoint of marketing input, you know he wasn’t a technically oriented person, he was a musician. He was involved in evaluating cones, and sound testing products.
SW: Well I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk with me.
CS: Sure, No problem.
Check out these amplifiers! Let's all pray for the coming of a possible Model C!!!
Musical note sends gators into bellowing ecstasy
After a report claimed aligators would respond to the musical note B flat, we go wih two tuba players to the Gatorland attraction to see if the reptiles will respond as advertised. (Jun3 10, 2007) [Video: Maurice Rivenbark | tampabay.com]
Performance together with Italian artist Nico Vascellari in Paris tonight. 4,9m tall bronze sculpture contact mics to tape machines/amps and sympathetic guitar.
STEPHEN O'MALLEY cohost/interview on Jerusalem's JEKYL & HYDE radio
Direct link for the streaming show hosted with Oded Fluss:
Old interview special with O'Malley:
message from MELA FOUNDATION
PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI
4th February 1922 ~ 24th January 2011
Today the quintessential voice of Hindustani, nay, Indian, Classical Music has been lost to this world. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi-ji passed away this morning at Pune in India at the age of 88. To define Bhimsenji in terms of his Kirana Gharana would be a futile attempt at marking the man and his magic. His art transcended the fineries of Gharana definitions - his became a style of his own. To a majority of lovers of Khyal music his voice, his singing style became the benchmark by which they informed their musical sensibilities.
My own awakening to classical music came through his singing. I remember from a very early age being struck by his song "Ketaki Ghulab Juhi? performed with Manna Dey in the film Basant Bahar. My re-introduction to the UK classical music scene on my return there in 1985 was through a series of his concerts in London, which led to my long association with Jay Visva Deva of Sama Arts Network which in turn led to the eventual creation of the Navras Records label in 1992. My own late father's utter devotion to Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb's music (Bhimsenji's Guru's Guruji) also must have had some subconscious influences on me. Whichever way I look at it, my absorption in Hindustani music had the aura of Bhimsen Joshi bestowing its magic on my sensibilities.
So today I deeply mourn the loss of this legendary maestro, a lion among vocalists, and yet a rare Maestro who had no ego, no tantrums, just a lot of quiet dignity, a man of simple needs and no demands! He was at peace with his achievements and his craft in that he did not seek any approvals, any awards. Even during his performances, at the end of each item, he would not wait for the applause to die down before he would move on into the start of his next rendering - so un-preoccupied he was with his own ego. Once when barely 100 people turned up at a busy week day concert of his in London, responding to an apologetic promoter he simply said it did not matter to him if there were 10, 100 or a 1,000 people in his audience. He would be still giving them his utmost! He would not be affected or offended by the size of his audience.
I had the privilege of attending the Sawai Gandharva Festival at Pune some years back when he just resumed performing there after a break of a year or two due to his brain tumour and subsequent surgery. He was rather shaky in his performance - his voice was weak and trembling a bit - but the audience was just happy to see him sing and with tears in their eyes and as if saying to him, "don't worry Panditji - we know what you are trying to sing and that's all we are hearing the way it always was.." When I went to bid him farewell at the end of the festival he just said to me "Baxi Saheb, maine theek to gaya na?" - (Baxi Saheb, was my singing okay?) - a legend asking a simple listener like me and that was the measure of this hugely modest man! And from that state of his health he recovered his usual gusto and virtuosity with some more gems of performances, including the "Tapasya" concert (October 2001 at Mumbai?s Shanmukhananda Hall) released by Navras on CD and DVD.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was born in Gadag (now in the state of Karnataka) on 4th February 1922, well away from the main centres of activity of Hindustani music, and with no family tradition of professional music-making to build on. Legend tells of how, determining on a musical quest, he left home in his teens and travelled over much of the subcontinent, learning his art from several masters in musical centres such as Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur. Best known as a disciple of the renowned singer Sawai Gandharva Rambhau Kundgolkar, Bhimsen Joshi has been consequently regarded as a representative of the Kirana gharana made famous by Sawai Gandharva's guru, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan.
Bhimsen Joshi has been performing in public since the age of 19, both in India and abroad, till around 2007. It is a measure of his stature in the Indian music world that he has received such high national honours as the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, the Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna (The Gem of India). This last and the rarest of honours ever given by the Indian Government was bestowed upon him so late in his life as to almost make it a travesty. I hope the powers that be will remember this and do not make such omissions in the future to such deserving individuals.
He has earned the respect of all for his musicianship, and for the immense power and majesty of his performances. For many he epitomised this aspect of musical expression, the grandeur of the serious Hindustani ragas, although he is also appreciated as a singer of the devotional bhajans and other light classical genres such as the Thumri. His voice, style and sheer presence are instantly recognisable, his performances amongst the essential experiences of Indian music. The Navras Catalogue contains 13 CD titles (20 discs) and one DVD title of Panditji, including some rather rarely performed ragas from his repertoire.
We have been greatly privileged to have been blessed with his presence on our Catalogue and in our musical lives. No doubt a very major presence in the annals of Indian Classical Music, his music and presence will remain forever in the minds and hearts of all music lovers.
Chairman & MD
Navras Records Limited
To visit our web site please click on the image or go to
We are pleased to announce that our great friends in The Sweet Hereafter will be joining at Roadburn next April. Jesse Sykes is one of the most beautiful chanteuses of recent times, and our collaborations have been most interesting, beautiful and arcane in their essence. Full respect!
Sweet Hereafter guitarist and co-leader Phil Wandscher is one of my favorite guitar players as well... and a close comrade, especially in all things ALTAR related. Another officer in the guitarist army of our curated day!
Also of very important note: The Magister of Seattle, William Herzog, operates as bassist in this outfit and must get honorable mention. Bill has played with O))) many times in the past years as well, including on SUNN O)))s first "comeback" show at SXSW in 2003 and as collaborator on the "altar" album, not the least the track "N.L.T." (No LapTop) together with Atsuo/Boris on Bowed Gong!
“With a lovelorn, heavenly voice that’s earned comparisons to the late, great Sandy Denny, Jesse Sykes sings the kind of heart-songs that bleed pure outland soul. After leaving Alt Country band Hominy, Sykes hooked up with ex-Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher. The two set to work recording Sykes’ songs by picking some of the most-respected Seattle musicians to form The Sweet Hereafter. Anyone who ever loved the Scud Mountain Boys will love this band even more: almost every song burns slower than an American Spirit cigarette, as subtly twangy undertones weave in and out of spacious arrangements” — Eric Shea, Rhapsody.com.
Also appearing on the bill are Winter, Corrosion of Conformity (“Animosity” lineup), Keiji Haino, Earth, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker, Mamiffer, Scorn, Beaver, Hooded Menace, Menace Ruine, Aluk Todolo, The Secret, Atilla’s Csihar’s Void Ov Voices and Sunn O))).
As curator, Sunn O))) (Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley) are personally selecting the bands that will play during their special event, as well as performing a headlining show. Sunn O))) is Roadburn’s fourth curator, following David Tibet in 2008, Neurosis in 2009 and Triptykon’s Tom Gabriel Warrior at this year’s festival in April.
Jerusalem blowing our minds right now. So many images and lack of words to describe various intensities. To the level that one doesnt need to ever return...
I will be on the following radio show tonight at 10PM local time (thats 3PM NY and noon west coast USA). Interview and DJing, playlist below.
Jekyll and Hyde
Pretty insane to talk about "Onward To Golgotha"'s influence on death metal and then visit Golgotha the same afternoon! Well, Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Solo concert at the magnificent UGANDA shop/bar/cafe/venue tonight... this and the TEL AVIV solo concerts will be recorded hopefully for release on Editions Mego as part of that cassette series I'm doing.
ALOT of stories about OM
HOLY DOWN II
We're deeply saddened to report that Broadcast frontwoman Trish Keenan has died. A statement on the Warp Records site reads:
"It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care. Our thoughts go out to James, Martin, her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time. This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly - a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in Peace."
Keenan was one of the founding members of Broadcast, who formed in the mid-1990s as a quintet and released a series of singles on Wurlitzer Jukebox and Duophonic Records before being approached by Warp, who compiled the single releases on the 1997 compilation Work and Non Work. The band released its debut full-length, The Noise Made by People, in 2000; that record established a cosmopolitan pop sound reminiscent of Stereolab while also taking influence from the more experimental sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
In 2003, Broadcast released their sophomore full-length, Haha Sound, which featured slightly harsher textures amidst the band's continued draw from 60s pop, early electronic, film soundtracks (particularly the Czech film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders), and avant-garde influences. In 2005, only Keenan and multi-instrumentalist James Cargill remained as members of the band, releasing Broadcast's third full-length, Tender Buttons, which took the band's sound in an even harsher, more staticky direction while still prominently featuring Keenan's sleepy, high-register coo.
Another singles and rarities compilation, The Future Crayon, was released the following year; the duo then remained relatively silent until their most recent release, 2009's collaboratiive mini-LP with experimental musician Julian House's project the Focus Group, Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age. Check out audio and video of some of Keenan's work as part of Broadcast below.
"Come On Let's Go":
"Before We Begin":
"Winter Now" (Live on CBC):
Posted by Larry Fitzmaurice on January 14, 2011 at 7:45 a.m.
Fra Verdenstreet/From The World Tree
Jeg Faller/I Am Falling
Enhver Til Sitt/Each Man To His Own, meaning "Each Man Gets What He Deserves"
Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen /To Hel And Back Again
Musically "Fallen" is like a cross between "Belus" and something new, inspired more by the début album and "Det Som Engang Var" than by "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" or "Filosofem". The sound is more dynamic - we mastered the album as if it was classical music - and I was more experimental than I was on "Belus" in all respects. Lyricwise it is similar to the début album, in the way that it is more personal and focuses on existential issues, but the mythological untertone known from "Belus" is still there. I have also included some ambient tracks - a short introduction and a longer conclusion.
"Fallen" was recorded and mixed during two weeks in Grieghallen studios, using a Spectar bass with alembic electronics on a VOX AC50 amp from 1965, a Ludwig drum kit (with a 26 inch kick) from 1975, a Neumann M149 microphone and stereo Schoeps CMTS 501 U microhpones for vocals, an OBH Nordica Harmony 6487, a custom Stig instrument and a Peavey 23 guitar on a Peavey 6505 (120 Watt) amp.
The picture on the front cover of "Fallen" is a part of a painting, "Élégie" (Eng. "Elegy"), by William Adolphe Bouguereau.
PS. Yes, both "Fallen" and "Valen" translates into English as "Fallen".
"Fallen" will be released worldwide on Byelobog Productions on the 7th March 2011.
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