Four Megabytes of NAMM

Four Megabytes of NAMM

Los Angeles Convention Center • 1.29.98 — 2.1.98

Due to construction going on near the usual Anaheim Convention Center site, this year’s National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Convention was held at the L.A. Convention Center. For many unfamiliar with NAMM, it is a world-renowned, reputable organization that serves the music products industry. With an estimated 6,000 members worldwide, NAMM consists of distributors, manufacturers and retailers of musical products, music publishers, and advocates for music education. Founded in 1901, NAMM’s objective is to “unify and strengthen the music products industry, and increase the number of active music makers.” And that mission may entail sponsoring such programs as last summer’s “VH1 Save the Music,” which raised $75,000 to support music education in New York public schools. Or holding seminars that help business owners maximize their businesses creatively and strategically.

Enforcing the 85-decibel sound limit (I guess no one has been near the percussion section, lately), NAMM has long been a yearly, four-day event where merchants and industry folk come to showcase their wares. But, in the process, it has become the place where big-haired, rock star types come to see what cool music stuff will come out, before the rest of the world knows. So, as a result, the professional becomes the preposterous, as groupie types (with “Visitor” passes) converge upon booth after booth, flocking to see some of the celebrity endorsees in attendance. Mind you, NAMM is supposed to be “closed to the public,” but, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Although everyone was well-behaved, it’s a little bit of a nuisance to wait around. (I mean, that’s why I got into the journalism business, so I wouldn’t have to wait.) There were lines wrapped around several booths, as many waited patiently to see video stud muffin/Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, Gene Simmons, and Edward Van Halen. Onlookers seemed more interested in hearing about Eddie’s hip replacement, or his wife Valerie Bertinelli, than Van Halen’s new album (with new singer, former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone), Van Halen III, slated for a March release.

Nevertheless, I found the NAMM experience to be quite fun, although I had to endure four days of endless walking. There were over 8,200 exhibits taking up all 870,000 square feet of the L.A. Convention Center, which makes it virtually impossible to see everything, thoroughly. But the day doesn’t end there. There are numerous industry and private parties, and NAMM-related concerts that one may partake upon after hours. But seeing as how I was this was my first NAMM experience (Wham! Bam! Thank You NAMM?), and I was exhausted as hell, I opted to only attend a by-invitation-only performance by Joe Satriani at the Omni Hotel sponsored by Ibanez (who had recently presented Satchmo a plaque for 10 years of diligent endorsee service), before making my way back to NAMM the next morning where I ran into Rachel Bolan from Skid Row, who was jamming at the Dean Markley Strings booth with his new punk band Prunella Scales.

Burnt-orange-goateed Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian arrived one hour fashionably late for his autograph session, solidifying that there really is such a thing as “musicians’ hours.” My guess is the real reason he finally showed up was to get the two new Scott Ian signature series guitars that Jackson had built for him. He was stoked about unveiling them the next night at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin gig Anthrax was scheduled to appear at whilst on tour with Pantera.

Although Anthrax is not currently doing new material on the road, their next album, entitled Volume 8 to mark their eighth album overall (and third with former Armored Saint vocalist John Bush), will be released in June. With just a week of recording left (Anthrax started mixing February 16th), Ian warned that Anthrax’s new album would be “pretty brutal.” A few of the brutalities Scott rattled off were “Giving the Horns,” “Catharsis,” “Born Again Hard.”

Also expect a new home video from Type O Negative, After Dark, on March 24, newly-wed Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly stated while on hand at the Paiste cymbals booth with former Kiss drummer Eric Singer. I never did see L.A. Dodger Mike Piazza, also a drummer, who scheduled to make an appearance at Paiste.

In between Kiss Conventions and gigs with ex-Guns ‘N Roses guitar player Gilby Clark, former Badlands/Kiss skinbasher Eric Singer has been getting a lot of flack by the media and fans alike for his refusal to promote Kiss’ latest album, Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions, which also marks his and guitarist Bruce Kulick’s final endeavor as Kiss members. I had heard some nasty rumors, so, naturally, I approached him with a wee bit of apprehension about the subject. Surprisingly, he was quite happy to clarify any misconceptions.

“If any magazine, or any person or fan, wants to ask me anything about the record, I’ll gladly talk about it. Right now, I’m not in any set band, and I’m not employed by Kiss. Gene and Paul’s manager called me up and wanted to know if I would do promotion for it, and I just said I can’t do promotion unless I’m getting paid because I can’t afford to go out and do stuff for nothing. I know some people are starting to get the wrong idea. It sounds very political, but I don’t have any vested interest in the record. In other words, I don’t make any money off that record, whether it comes out or not… It really just came down to economics, and a business decision. I think, given a role reversal, Gene and Paul would never go out and work, or promote something for somebody else that they’re gonna make any money off of. And I don’t think most people would… ” he said, noting that he has bills to play. Singer, an independent contractor who gets paid on a performance basis (such as through studio sessions, drum clinics, or in-store appearances), still takes part in the fan-sponsored Kiss Conventions.

Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman has become a regular NAMM attendee, holding autograph sessions and guitar clinics for Jackson guitars and D’Addario strings, respectively, for the past few years. “I do [enjoy it] because I get to meet so many people that I wouldn’t otherwise. But I’m not much of a talker by nature, so my throat gets totally parched by the end of the day. But I’ve got to do it because I’ve got a lot of musical companies that I’m dealing with, and I have a lot of instructional videos out, so I like to keep in contact with everybody.” He also stated that just days after playing at Howard Stern’s 44th birthday party in New York, Megadeth welcomed a new addition to their heavy metal harem. Lead singer Dave Mustaine and wife Pam had their second child on January 28th, a baby girl named Electra Nichole who weighed in at 6lbs. 15oz…

Although Friedman made no predictions as to who would win this year’s Grammy for Best Metal Performance, for which Megadeth was nominated for “Trust” (from the band’s platinum album Cryptic Writings), making this their seventh nomination in eight years. “It’s nice to win. If we don’t, it’s great to be nominated,” he said diplomatically. “A Grammy would be very cool.”

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