With the latest iteration of his Signature Boden Fusion NX 6 Alex Machacek Edition being unveiled, .strandberg* signature artist and acclaimed jazz fusion guitarist Alex Machacek set some time aside to talk with us about the updated model, the state of live music in 2022, his future touring and studio projects, and much more.
First off, congratulations on the release of your new Boden Fusion NX 6 Alex Machacek Edition signature guitar! Can you walk us through some of your favorite specs of the new model?
Thank you! The first things that should be mentioned are the new Michael Frank pickups. Michael really did a fantastic job. Nothing against the Suhr pickups that were in my previous model, but the new pickups just have that “little extra”. 🙂
Another favorite of mine is the refined shape of the body/arm contour. This makes an already comfortable guitar even more comfortable. The joint heel and the new knobs are the icing on the cake.
As you already know, 2020 and 2021 were tough years for many artists in the music industry. Did you have any unique experiences as an artist during this time? Was there anything that helped you stay sane creatively?
Here in LA, I was in lockdown but in October I played a little tour in Austria/Germany. At that time Europe was between lockdowns. Sure, these gigs were different because of the social distancing/limited capacity rules but it was still great to play live. Other than that I did some recording sessions and a little bit of online teaching. But there were definitely times when my motivation was rather on the low side. I didn’t have any unique experiences but I just tried to stay positive and make good use of my time.
You recently played a live show at The Baked Potato with Anthony Crawford on bass and Donald Barrett on drums. Was this your first live show last year? How did that feel?
Yes, this was my first live show in 2021. It felt great playing with real people in the same room.
During your .strandcon* Masterclass in 2020, you touched on the idea of adding “spice” to your playing in terms of harmony and dissonance. Could you talk a little more about that concept?
Spice is a very subjective term and I think it starts with developing your ears. For instance: playing a little line/melody in diatonic thirds or sixths might sound wonderful for some people but once your ears are ready for “more” it could as well be the cheesiest thing ever. If you develop an interest for “more”, then you could try out the same line/melody in other intervals and see if you like some of them. Then mix them up, experiment…it’s definitely worth the effort. At the very least you get a better understanding of the fretboard and give your ears the chance to hear something new. And maybe you just find out what not to play. It’s a win-win-win situation!
In terms of your new Boden Fusion NX 6 model, how do you feel it compares to your previous signature guitar?
I would say the NX is the logical next step from an already great guitar. I was in between those 2 models for about 2 years because I already had the prototype Michael Frank pickups in my previous one. The original one is/was great and the new one is great + more refined.
What does your current tour rig look like and what kinds of tones are you getting out of it?
Here is the signal chain of my pedalboard: guitar – volume pedal – Keeley 3 knob compressor – X-otic BB preamp (for mild overdrive) – JHS Angry Charly (for distortion) – Eventide H9 – Line6 HX Stomp. The Eventide and HX Stomp are being switched by a Morning Star MC6 Midi controller.
It is a relatively small pedalboard but I get all the sounds I need from it. I could probably cover most situations just with the Line6 all the other pedals have something special that I would miss otherwise. On the road, I use backline amps like a Fender Twin or something comparable, and most of the time it works out great. But on the last tour, I had a couple of occasions where the amps weren’t in a particularly good condition so I used a Quilter ToneBlok amp and connected it to the backline amp speakers. And that solved those problems.
On the topic of improvisation, what’s something more guitarists can do to improve this aspect of their playing?
That is a loaded question. 🙂 But here are a couple of ideas that might be helpful:
- Don’t just listen to guitar players – there are so many great improvisers who don’t play guitar and one can learn so much from them. Check out everything BUT guitar.
- Speed is just one aspect of playing. Try putting your focus on other aspects such as rhythm, groove, density, phrasing, dynamics, consonance/dissonance, motivic development, etc.
- Work with restrictions. By using that method you can’t play all your licks and you raise the probability of really improvising. For example: improvise only on the g and e string.
- Try to sing everything you play/try to play everything you sing
Again, these are just a couple of ideas.
Now that it seems live music is slowly making a comeback, what are you most excited to see in the future in terms of shows, touring, etc.? Are there any big changes you see on the horizon?
Obviously, I am very excited about the possibility of playing live again. But I am curbing my enthusiasm because I think it will take quite a long time until everything is “back to normal”. Sure, some places are fully opening up but we will see how it goes.
In this age of social media, it seems like are more and more young, talented guitarists popping up every day. Are there any up-and-coming players that you think more people should know about?
Here is someone I would recommend to check out: Jorge Loura from Portugal with his band Troll’s Toy.
What’s something non-music-related that has influenced your music or playing recently?
Riding my bike! Last September I got myself a nice road bike and I am still completely hooked. The good thing about cycling is I don’t think about music or playing guitar at all. It kind of cleanses my head so when I then make music I approach it somewhat fresher.
Lastly, any exciting projects you’ve got coming up that we should know about?
Sure, but I can’t go into detail because I have to go out for another bike ride right now. So I recommend people check out my Instagram: @alexmachacekhimself.