Eight months ago, the Van Halen News Desk came across a guitar player named Craig Parker Adams (official site), who wrote and recorded some instrumental songs that we truly felt captured the summertime sound and feel of classic VH.
We’ve just learned that Craig has written four brand new VH-esque instrumentals, and we want to share them with VHND readers.
Note that it’s not normal practice for the VHND to run stories on people who are simply covering VH songs or just trying to capture VH’s “brown sound”, but we make an exception for Craig! We love his stuff, and, based on the response from the original story we did on him, “New Music with the Vintage Van Halen Sound”, most of our readers do too.
Here’s a sampling of his VH-esque instrumentals:
Ed clones are everywhere. Edward Van Halen casts such a seductive shadow, like no other we’ve seen. Most likely, the world will never see anyone like him come along again. So what makes one Eddie wannabe capture that sound better than another? How many players really seem to understand and capture what Edward does? Is it the notes or the feel? Or both?
And what about the elusive “Brown Sound”? It is the sound of legend. Have you really heard it? You see the endless youtube videos of shredders claiming to posses the sound. Guys working their versions and interpretations like their taking dictation while running as fast as they can. People send them to us daily. And by the way, exactly which VH record has the “Brown Sound”? Ed’s sound is different on every record. Do they all have it? Well, if so, the “Brown Sound” is Ed…or is it?
In thinking about these questions about Ed and his sound, we thought it might be a good time to check in and follow up with Craig, since he, like most players, has been chasing the “Brown Sound”. We called him up at his Los Angeles studio and, as you’ll find out, our timing couldn’t of been better, as he’s written a few more songs that we think are reminiscent of our favorite band!
Craig Parker Adams: Since we first spoke things have really been pretty cool for us. We were very happy to find out that there is a definite interest in what we’re doing and that people actually want more. And the best thing is that we’ve received a lot of positive support and interest for the music from VH fans all over the world. And some not so positive too! (laughs)
Van Halen News Desk: In what way do you mean not so positive?
CPA: Well support for what we’re doing is strong and people have been asking for more and more songs ever since our first batch. That has really been great for us to hear to say the least. But then we got some pretty critical responses too. And those took a bit to get use to. But then it hit me. As I really thought about what was being said I started to realize that the comments made did make sense. I realized I basically agreed with them for the most part. It seemed obvious that they weren’t just slagging us. I could see there really was validity to what was being said. And that validity fueled our four new songs. (laughs)
VHND: What were they saying?
CPA: Well basically it was a lack of fire. Classic VH as you know was just pure energy and pure attitude. They played all the time and were completely in sync and just totally on fire. Rich (drummer) and I were pretty close with some of the sounds and feels but fell short on the classic VH energy. Emulating the old school energy commands major discipline and respect, just ask any tribute band. These critical guys wanted more fire, and tapping. (laughs) Oh yeah and someone asked for open strings and more leads.
VHND: Well why do suppose they would say that?
CPA: Well first off, we’re not really a band. (laughs) Yet! So that means we can only take it so far. I don’t see how you can become a great musical force by faking it. You have to put in the time. Rich and I don’t play or jam together on a regular basis like we should so we have to work it in other ways. We’ve both definitely put in the time separately but I always say to him, “Just think if we had a bass player and played together five times a week how much tighter and more creative we could be.” I know for me it would just be devastatingly killer. The main reason for that is that he lives a ways a way and works a gig that makes it hard for him to make the time. So basically to deal with that, I demo most of the tunes for him and send them to him so he could learn them and then come in prepared and do his thing. We primarily put the focus completely on the energy with the latest songs. Be it dark energy or fierce energy you will feel it!
VHND: So what are the new songs like?
CPA: I would describe them like this:
“When She Shines The Light” is aimed at VH back in the club days. Aggressive and wild with plenty of fire. I describe it as the music they would use for the TV commercial that sold F22 Raptor fighter jets.
“Kick It Down” is a straight sexy cooker that is sonically like VH II or Fair Warning. (Listen for the jape). This tune has a killer groove in the way the guitar bounces off the drums. Energy wise I was aiming for “Bullet Head.”
“Las Lunas” feels like a Fair Warning / VH II outtake to me. I was inspired by the overdub guitar part from “Hear About It Later” on the main part. I wanted to write a part that really had that spirit. It also has some cool flange parts through out as well. The outro is my favorite. It feels like Ed circa 83 for some reason.
“Sweep The Sky” is by far the darkest thing I’ve written. I wrote this a few years ago and it felt like a Thin Lizzy tune. I rewrote it the day I installed my new EVH pickup. It was the harmonic balance of that pick up that led me to those chords and parts. It is one of my favorite things to play and personally for me I am very proud of what I came up with for that tune. When we played it in the studio it just sounded so huge. It’s definitely another Fair Warning vibe for me.
Drum-wise, Rich is pulling vibes from different records too but I didn’t really spend much time matching sonics with the records with this batch. We just set up four different times and went for it.
VHND: What would you say for you is the best thing about what you and Rich are doing or trying to accomplish with these songs?
CPA: I would say, overall, that we really do play together like the VH brothers… I would say that that is also the accomplishment! (laughs) But really, I suppose it is to morph into our own original and unique sound. Which I think has already started to happen. Also, to get funded to make a real record where all the songs sonically sound like they should as opposed to our sounds that change from song to song because of when or how they were tracked…
VHND: That would be cool! So, when you attempted to get the different vibes from different VH records, what are your thoughts about the “Brown Sound”?
CPA: Shit don’t ask me, (laughs), I know I’d love to have it.
VHND: Do you think it’s Ed or the gear?
CPA: Well tonally for me it was most evident in the club days and up to the first VH record. I’ve heard two bootlegs in particular that really exemplify it for me. First one is one of the Golden West Ballroom shows and the other is one of the Starwood shows. It really shines through to me on those two gigs. Obviously there are tons of great gigs but those two had everything in their favor sonically. After the first record he has a different sound on all the records, so it just becomes subjective.
I’ll give you a interesting example, there’s 3 different youtube videos to check out. First one is the Opening night of the Cabo Wabo Cantina video. Ed’s using one of his 1984 or so guitars as well as the Steinberger with a Soldano. Second one is the promo video for the live record where they play Won’t Get Fooled Again at 5150 with his Music Man and most likely a 5150. And the third is one in which Ed is crucified by internet critics – an impromptu performance at the 2003 NAMM show, were Ed is using a stock Peavy Wolfgang and a 5150.
So here’s three very different performances, at three completely different venues, with different gear. I ask you, do you hear the “Brown Sound” at all? You see, it’s subjective. But for me I hear it clearly. I know it’s not the pre VH 1 tone I sited earlier, but that is where the subjective nature lies. If you think the “Brown Sound ” was VH 1 and before than it hasn’t been heard since. One very important element to Ed’s playing is that he is always (as I call it) harmonically balanced. It’s like he’s a tuning fork to the source or something.
VHND: We’ve also heard and seen a lot of bad reviews about that particular NAMM performance.
CPA: I bet, but I recommend people listen very closely to that. His playing is completely off the charts. He spits out like 6 or so new techniques that are just incredible. Some guy say’s to him, “You’re on, Ed!” and he replies “No, I’m not. You ain’t never seen me when I’m on. It’s scary when I’m on.” And I believe him. That 2003 performance has gems all over it. I’ve been studying it for weeks… Keep this in mind, the sound is warm and loud and for a video camera not to sound all bright and scratchy it is a perfect test. He plays loud and you don’t even think of plugging your ears. That’s the “Brown Sound” as it lives on to me.
VHND: How about all of the guys covering Eddie on youtube? What are your thoughts about them?
CPA: (laughs) Well being one of them, I have to say it’s pretty cool. I mean, I think we’re lucky. The guy inspires! We’re all just waiting for the next record… we just can’t get enough.
To listen to and/or purchase Craig’s songs, visit his website, CraigParkerAdams.com, where all 10 of Craig’s “VH-esque” instrumentals are available for just 99 cents each.