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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Grif Bamaisin: Playing Guitar, Singing, and Looping...Fynnyus reporting

Grif is one of my favorite live Second Life performers because he’s engaging, funny, and one helluva guitarist. His performances are never the same. This evening he started off with a couple slow songs, which I liked because Misty was with me. We danced and talked, and she mentioned that, “he’s very good, his guitar playing has complex phrasing, and that he loves using the pedal board.” She swears Grif sounds like Jimi Hendrix when he talks. She thinks his guitar playing sounds a lot like Buddy Guy, or Hendrix himself and that, “his singing is on par with old blues players that were mainly guitar players, even a little like Muddy Waters.”

Indeed, Grif is unique. His vocals are very distinctive. His guitar playing is incredible.
Tonight, he played, among many other songs, the Mood Blues, “Nights in White Satin,” but very much in his own style, with background instrumentation. His rendition of the Door's, “Riders on the Storm” was awesome. And he did an amazing version of “Apache” you just have to hear to believe. Tom Petty’s, “Break Down,” was his closing tune.
Grif's gigs are always interesting and fun with interactions from the “The Tambourettes,” and his band members. His profile says that he performs, “every note and word you hear.” He invites guest players on stage for fun and visual impact.  Regular guest players include, Drutim, Eva, Kallia, Mac, and Kimmi. Dru “drives” his avatar during performances. He spent 20 years as an arena level sound engineer.  He used to be engineer for Blue Oyster Cult. He plays bass, guitar and keys in real life local jams and in-World. I was able to talk with Grif and one of his long-time band members, Dru (drutim.bates) in the days that followed the performance. Their interviews are woven together in what follows.

Fynn: I remember when you first started you would play and in between the songs tell the most hilarious stories of being a roadie.

Grif: I know - I couldn't sing and didn’t have a lot of material.

Dru: He's a very interesting fellow. . . .  When he was just starting out, he would invite people to the stage, as he would say "keeping the band alive.” I've been with Grif over 10 years. Know that I'm not a musician and do not play on his stream. My job is to animate his avatar onstage. We use a remote-control guitar HUD. He always enjoys audience participation.

Fynn: You've come a long way.  Can you tell me how you and your music have evolved since then?

Grif: I still have similar tastes rock/blues-based, but spanning genres, not much pop. Show-wise I do more live looping and have a lot more loop-based songs. I don't do many songs where I have recorded the entire thing and then dropped the parts I play live. So a lot of the songs I do have never seen a computer.

Grif Bamaisin: Playing Guitar, Singing, and Looping

Grif: Music tends to be pattern based and repeats.  Drums obviously are repetitive by nature, and verses will repeat. That means you can start with a drum machine (more on that later) and then record a bass line loop which will repeat over that, then record some rhythm guitar over that. Add in a tambourine or shaker, and you have a full backing to play and sing over

Fynn: very cool

Grif: There is a tradeoff, there are some songs, for example, Lady In Black where the song repeats almost line over line, so I do that one fully live and I record all the parts in front of the audience and then play the song using guitar and keyboard parts on top of the looped parts. The tradeoff with live looping is that the songs need to be fairly simple - at least the backing - and they take time to set up. I'd end up doing 4 or 5 songs, so I usually do a couple to show I am not making it up, then the SL audience believes me when I tell them everything they hear is me, live or on track. It is a tricky thing in SL – if you do too much, people will think you are not live. Luckily, I also do Facebook live shows and people have seen me play the same show on camera, and my Facebook page has plenty of video of me performing the same stuff.

Fynn: So, "looping" is a music technique that’s unique to virtual playing, or is it known in real life, live performances?

Grif: It is very much a live tool.

Fynn: Tell me more about how it works.

Grif: There are quite a range of loopers from single phrase to 6 phrase behemoths, some aimed at vocalists some at guitar players. So, for drums I use a thing called a Beat Buddy, it’s a drum machine specifically for guitar players. You pick your song (I use MIDI from my iPad - when I pick a song it sends a signal to all my toys – looper, vocal processor, guitar player, Beat Buddy, keyboard, etc., and picks all the right settings for the song. It’s shaped like a regular guitar stomp box.  Tap it once and it plays an intro and starts the drummer (I have about 30 drum kits to choose from- really good samples) tap it while it is playing and it plays a fill to the end of the bar, tap it again and it plays a different fill and so on. Press and hold and it plays a transitional fill until you release it. So, it is a very expressive drum machine that is intuitive and has enough variation to not sound like a drum machine. So, everything except guitar changes is automated.

Fynn: I love this “behind-the-scenes” stuff!

Dru: He's a real professional and takes his shows seriously.

Fynn: Who are some of your musical influences?

Grif Bamaisin: Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, David Gilmour, Status Quo - best band you have never heard of, lol. Status Quo is a Brit band that has headlined major European festivals for over 50 years. Wishbone Ash defined a style for me - they were doing twin leads years before Thin Lizzy, as were Wild Turkey (WIld Turkey was formed from some Ex- Jethro Tull members - notably Glenn Cornick).

Fynn: You seem to have a lot of fun playing. Can you describe playing in Second Life, your career, how it's influenced your real life?

Grif: Second Life gave me the courage to play in real life - I was doing blues jams – I went from playing guitar for three songs while looking at my shoes to actually talking to an audience and interacting and enjoying them.

Dru: Yes, he has recently made the local Portland (Oregon) music scene.

Fynn: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dru: He keeps his shows current and dynamic. He tries to engage his audience and make you smile. He's famous for having girls dance with tambourines: The Tambourettes. It makes for a "party" atmosphere that keeps the show fun.

Grif: I still really like playing in Second Life and the audience is even more important now.

Follow Grif’s group, Electric Brit, and check him out at where you can find out more about his Second Life shows and see videos of him playing in real life.


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