Writing and Music by John Kirnan

Lost Tracks 5 – “Sandstorm Radio”

Posted by John Kirnan on January 18th, 2014

Effect Boxes photo by Marian Buchanan

Unlike the previous Lost Track, this one is definitely not an acoustic guitar piece. Another way it differs from "Shadows in the Woodlands" is that, rather than being quite short, it's thirteen minutes long. A mini album, you might say. So you're really getting your money's worth with this one. Of course, all Lost Tracks are free, so I guess that means it ain't worth nothin'. Forget I said that.

It's just me and the Doctor this time. As I recall, except for the beginning, most of it was improvised. It's called "Sandstorm Radio." Why sandstorm? Well, among other things, it has kind of a desert feel to me. Why radio? That requires a bit more of an explanation.

Way back when I first got my electric guitar and amplifier, I wasn't content with how they sounded. Yeah, it was electric, but it wasn't the same tone as the electric guitars that I was listening to on records. I decided to get a fuzz effect box, and the one I ended up getting was a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face. What a fuzz does (not often you'll hear that phrase) is distort the tone. That doesn't seem like something you'd want to do, but it's one way to get more of a rock guitar sound.

Stop for a minute and take a look at the photo above. See the Fuzz Face's face? Ain't he cute? I particularly like his beard. And his smile. Now I'm not sure whether the newer versions of the Fuzz Face still do this (I bought mine in the '70s), but my old Fuzz Face (the effect box, I mean) has an extra added feature that I would bet the manufacturer hadn't intended it to have. It fairly regularly picks up radio stations and plays them out through the amplifier's speaker. I know I'm not the only one that's experienced this. I remember a story in an old issue of "Guitar Player" magazine about a guitarist who was doing a gig one night next to a police station and kept hearing their radio coming through his amp. Personally, I was never bothered by it. In fact, I always found it kind of amusing, and even interesting sometimes, depending on what was coming through. I can't say that I wrote this piece with radio interference in mind but combined with the music and the effects, it does all seem to come together and tell me a story. Maybe it'll tell you one too. Anyway, you'll certainly hear examples of this unwanted / wanted interference in "Sandstorm Radio." Speaking of which, at this point, I'd like to thank the woman who sings that wonderful little piece at the beginning of the song. I don't know who she is, but her timing is perfect.

The other effect box, seen in the photograph and used in this song, is an Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress Flanger / Filter Matrix. (I've never been quite sure what an electric mistress is, but I've always been somehow glad that I have the deluxe version.) I suppose it's possible that I might be remembering this wrong, and that the effect used along with the Fuzz Face was the Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phase Shifter. I've looked on and within these effect boxes for invisibility and time-travel controls. No luck yet. It just always feels to me that, with names like Filter Matrix and Phase Shifter, I'm not using these boxes to their full potential. If for no other reason, these companies should have won awards for naming their products.

I like the way the Electric Mistress cuts back on the intensity of the Fuzz Face. In this particular song, combined with the fuzz, it's what gives you that windy, swooshy, space feel, but I usually just used it to get a distorted but not too distorted tone. Beyond the effect boxes, if you're interested in how I got the song to sound the way it does, it might help to know that when I was playing the lead parts, after pretty much every phrase, I would hit the low E bass string to act as a drone between and behind each series of notes.

That's about it for the intro to Lost Track 5. There's only one important question left. Who's the guy mentioned at the beginning of the piece, the one who was about to be interviewed? Well, I'm afraid you'll never know since someone was playing a rather loud electric guitar at the time. Some people, eh?

 

"Sandstorm Radio"

Written by John Kirnan
Drums – the incomparable Dr. Rhythm
Electric guitar – John Kirnan

To check out the fifth Lost Tracks song, right-click on this link and select Save Link As to download the mp3 fileSandstorm Radio


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