Thursday, 9 October 2008

It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World

Whether it's being convinced we're about to expire as soon as we get a bad case of the sniffles, throwing the world's financial structures into chaos by not thinking beyond the size of our end-of-year bonuses (in case anyone wants to attempt childish, right-wing "Fanny & Freddie were socialistic enterprises that distorted the market so it was really the fault of government interference" excuses - just because the lid is left off the cookie jar, it does not mean you and your mates have to eat until you're sick, then sit around blaming each other for the mess while demanding the rest of us pay for more cookies. 'Personal responsibility'...I remember when 'conservatives' were big on that sort of thing...but maybe that was only for the rest of us, not their chums in the banks?), or prancing around on a stage making highly-distorted screeching noises with a 'leccy guitar (pulling very odd faces into the bargain), there are some aspects of life that have always seemed to be predominantly the domain of we blokes.

There have, of course, been great strides towards 'equality' over the last 40 years or so - apart from the obvious changes in employment and pay (still got some way to go on the latter, surprise, surprise), here in the UK, women now smoke almost as much as men do, which means they're close to achieving parity in deaths from lung cancer (although when it comes to booze-related deaths, the ladies are still lagging behind - they are quicker to develop liver damage through 'heavy drinking' than us, though, so they might catch us up before too long).

Anyway, hauling this back to something close to what was originally intended to be the topic, my pondering of the "rock guitar gender gap" was precipitated by a friend's 8-year old daughter, who grandly announced she wanted to be a guitarist a couple of weeks back (my thought processes ain't exactly fast these days...). Now, just to be perfectly clear, she doesn't mean "guitarist" in a strum-a-long, singer-songwriter-y sense. No, her desire is to be a lead guitarist - and a seriously metal one at that - her favourite band is Metallica, and she's already showing enough musicality to be able to sing their guitar solos...which isn't exactly a bad start!
So I was asked if I'd help to find her a decent (and inexpensive!) guitar (since I allegedly have some passing knowledge in that area). It sounded like an interesting project, although made a tiny bit trickier when she answered my question, "What kind of guitar would you like?" (me thinking: a pointy headstock? whammy bar? like Kirk Hammett's?), with the brilliantly descriptive, "A red one".

While considering the annoying preponderance (it's a 'big-words-starting-with-P-day) of black guitars in the 'metal' market, I started wondering about possible female role models, too, and whether there were more around than when I were a lad (which there surely had to be). Compiling a list proved oddly difficult - there are more female singers, these days, certainly (Nightwish, Amberian Dawn, Lacuna Coil, Epica, Within Temptation, etc,etc), but even with the long-distance help of Rich Hind (a veritable 'metal guru', and 'minor rock deity' in the environs of York), I couldn't get beyond the 'usual suspects' (Girlschool, Lita Ford, Jennifer Batten, Vixen, and that shy, retiring soul, "The Great Kat"). Sorry, but Joan Jett, ultimate queen of garage rock as she definitely is, sadly doesn't count because she's not a lead player - she does have a very nice Gibson Melody Maker signature model, though.

Time to go a-Googling, then...but this was also less productive than I'd hoped. I started to worry...why should this be? Do girls not like metal? Are they all into less-technical-but-bouncy-fun poppy/punky stuff instead? Can they really want to be just like Avril Lavigne?? And why does this create an image in my mind of that 'sicklier than a truckload of aspartame, and even worse for your brain' Japanese nightmare, "Hello Kitty" wearing a Top Shop 'rock-chick-lite' t-shirt and a studded belt from Dorothy Perkins?

Are we still 'persuading' girls into what we regard as 'nicer' (softer, more filled with kittens) forms of music? Give them violins while handing guitars out to the lads? (But then, classical music - and the technical training involved - is a key component of a great deal of metal...)

At this point my head started to explode a bit (not helped by rampant sinusitis), so I was very glad to come across this list of all-female rock tribute bands. (Favourite names - "AC/DShe", "Lez Zeppelin", and "The Iron Maidens"). Great! Some serious guitar talent in amongst that lot, for sure.

But what kind of guitar to recommend? Now, I know that "Daisy Rock" (can't bring myself to add the them yerself, then hike on over to their "artists" page, and see who's endorsing them), make perfectly decent instruments, designed for women...but why do they have to be so damned 'girly'? I know, I know, the marketing department will have conducted focus groups amongst fans of 'Hannah (Billy Ray Cyrus now owns the world) Montana', 'High School (where were the goth/emo kids?)Musical', and the completely misnamed "Camp Rock" (oh, come on, the Jonas Brothers are so damned 'wet' they almost make 'McFly' look like genuine rockers), and I'm sure they sell by the shedload...but...but...but...

And then I found the kind of guitarist I'd been looking for all along - a woman who plays lead in a bloke-led metal band. Ok, I'm probably being ignorant, there may be thousands of 'em out there toiling away in obscurity, but I'm just glad I found one!

Three cheers for melodic-metal-woman Lori Linstruth ('Warbride', 'Stream of Passion'). And her "Play Like A Girl!" blog. And, indeed, the great-looking Luna Guitars she now endorses.

What's possibly most impressive about these beasts is that you can buy exactly the same model that Ms. Linstruth uses for under $300 in the U.S.A. That does mean that if you could find one over here it'd probably be pound-for-dollar, regardless of the exchange rate, but even at that price it looks like a major bargain (haven't played one, so can't be certain - but the list of people who use 'em is encouraging). Still a bit pricey for my fellow primary-school-parent, however, so if her hands/arms/weight-bearing capacity are big enough to warrant a full-size guitar, I'm currently leaning towards an Epiphone Les Paul Special in wine red...a hell of an improvement on the nameless East German 'cheesegrater' strat copy I learned on, and there's a nice one in Live Music in Edinburgh currently for £99, which isn't too bad.

Mind you, it's a shame Luna don't do this one in red...