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Phil's Personal Blog


Phil Thorell Hi,Welcome to the 'Phil page'. I'd first of all like to introduce myself to anyone not familiar with The Force, and expand upon what you lucky Force fans think you know about me....

I play lead guitar and I sing. I also write, look after the band's sound (p.a./ sound engineering), I service and repair the electronic equipment that we use and I also demonstrate the seeming necessity to act childish at all times.

Oh, while we're there, for those that have met me, there's something you should know…
I'm often thought of as a bit of a clown, and frankly, I'm seldom taken seriously.
My perceived childishness however, gifts people a psychological and intellectual advantage. (Let's face it, if your trousers fall down around your ankles when you're talking to a clown – hell, who cares? The guy is a fool, right?)
This in fact serves as a great bluff or disguise, and the unwary stranger often falls into the trap of exposing more of his or her character and motives than is actually intended. Remember that first impressions work both ways....
Think, therefore, that Phil is more your Shakespearean Fool – your 'professional fool'. If you know your Shakespeare then you know the fool I am…

On a lighter note, (and, dare I say, a less cryptic one) one's sense of humour quickly leaps out from a relaxed person and this can be quite warming. I do like people to feel 'comfortable' around me so that we can have a larf .

So, tell me about your mother....

As for sound, guitars and electronics, well, here goes....  

Sound

Sound is the wonderful 'Playdough' musicians use to model their art.
Sounds themselves stimulate non-musicians into becoming musicians.
I was first influenced by the sound of drums, or rather the side (snare) drum when I was a child.
I wanted to be a drummer and so I joined up with the local Boys Brigade when I was eleven. I was soon in the battalion pipe band and, yes – I wore a kilt!
I quickly became 'Lead Tip' (no, I didn't get to copulate with girls before everyone else, lead tip was sort of the 'Guv'nor' of the percussion section of a pipe band.
For any smart arses reading, the 'Drum Major' is the one waving a large cosh about at the front of the band. He wouldn't know a day's work if....)
Anyway, I digress. Some years later, I wanted to be a rock drummer but my parents wouldn't let me get a kit.

I remember my argument with them;

"But don't you see? Sound is the wonderful Playdough with which a musician...."

Sound was also to become the noise of slaps, verbal abuse and the ' we can't afford a bloody drumkit'- ness, that worked so effectively in concert with strong, parental instrumental prejudices.

Guitars

Several 'O' levels later, I realised that education offered new hope, and the promise of more beautiful and wonderful experiences than that which rhythm alone could muster.
I craved harmony, melody and consonance. I craved....piano, but they were too damn big so I got a guitar instead. ( finally something to do with the band....

Yup, a guitar and years and years later, after a music diploma, a music degree and a certificate in teaching, I still play loud rock music (often the same pieces I learned during my formative years....thanks lads…....), I still dream of stardom and I still enjoy 'going for it' every night that the band plays. I believe that there are too many pretenders on stages these days, and fortunately some audiences do see through them. When The Force stop going for it, you will know and we will be no more.

For 'Tech Heads' my present gear consists of:

Fender Standard USA Strat, circa 1992.
The little fella has been customised by yours truly to move away from the anaemic 'Natural Blonde' finish which Fender thought of as being cool. (some people....)
I have inserted a Seymour Duncan 'Jeff Beck Junior' humbucker into the back pickup cavity, and this allows a little more 'grunt' to emerge when I'm playing.
The other pickups are stock, but the main custom job was the addition of a vintage style trem system. The modern Strats come with cast alloy blocks for the string saddles and they tend to sound a little 'thin'. The older rolled steel type, like the one I fitted, produces a warmer, more 'musical' quality to the notes.

I also have an Ibanez RS440 Roadstar which is stock standard except for the trem system which is an original Floyd Rose USA locking unit.
The Ibanez trem simply wore out as I have had the guitar for around 14 years now. Twin single coils sit adjacent to a V5 blade humbucker, and produce rich, almost vintage tones across the entire range.

Three more guitars complete my arsenal:

An Epiphone Les Paul Standard, an Academy half bowl back electro-acoustic and a classical guitar made by Deville.
You are unlikely to see the latter, but I do gig the 'Paul and I gigged the Academy once which was, er, 'different'.
The Les Paul sounds quite unlike your average Epiphone. I fitted a couple of high power Schaller humbuckers to it and man, it rocks! I know Dave Shaw admires the tone and playability of the guitar, bearing in mind he's been a 'genuine' Gibson LP Custom man since '84. (show me the money and that baby's yours Dave!)

Amps:

I have two amps. The first is the 'all singing – all dancing' wonderful Marshall Anniversary 6100, and the other isn't.
In fact the other is the classic Hiwatt Custom 100, which I have owned for many, many years and is presently enjoying retirement in my studio. This amp rarely sings and I have only known it to dance but once.
Live, I simply plug into the Marshall, slap a bit of reverb through the loop and dial up 'loud' on the volume control.
The reverb comes courtesy of my Rocktron Chameleon which is 24 bit DSP unit. Lovely.

Electronics:

Well since you asked nicely.
I'm a qualified electronics engineer, although sadly out of touch with today's rapidly accelerating technological advances. I can, however, repair bicycle tyre punctures though, so I'm not a total waste of space, unless of course you very specifically wanted me to fix your telly, and not the aforementioned puncture. Yes, electronics is a great topic but alas, not laymen friendly, so I shall bail out of the subject pronto.

I shall now attempt to bail out of the 'Phil Page' too as I am sure I'm the only one still reading at this point. I hope you have enjoyed my often inane drivel, and that you will venture into the 'page of shite' once again in the near future. If anything profound or interesting happens to me, you will be the first to ignore it once I have written it.


Well it's been a long time coming, but here finally is an update to the original "Phil page".

Since I last wrote (which seems ages ago), we have released the second album - 'Different Worlds'. There has been quite a lot said about the songs featured, and many people have taken the time to write to us, or stop us at gigs in order to pass on a comment or two. Thanks to you all.

The album is made up of songs of vastly different styles, and this reflects the makeup of the band as a whole. Without spending an eternity explaining which band member brings which style to the 'Force Table', or who is influenced by what, let me just say that there are profound contrasts in our individual music factories. The title 'Different Worlds' is therefore apt.

It is strange to discover that although the album has been received well on the whole, some people have taken exception to the fact that not all the songs are 'heavy'. Indeed, some have uttered words of contempt about the lighter numbers. This is of course balanced by the many positive remarks. Perhaps it is the harder edge we have as a live band, which points the listener toward a more metallic expectation for the CD. Pay more attention at gigs. Look and ye may find the soft underbelly of The Force.... that is as opposed to the 'large underbelly of the other three members.'

I thought that I would take this opportunity to explain some of my efforts on the album, and talk you through what I tried to achieve and the results obtained.

I'll start with the songs that I wrote first of all:

Never See You Again

This is a song that's been kicking around for a while. It was first aired live about 18 months ago, but was shelved as I kept bottling out of singing it! It's very highly pitched for me, and after a run of gigs it becomes a nightmare to sing live.

The song means a lot to me personally, and is unusual in that I wrote it from the heart. I seldom express myself directly in my songs, as I'm a hard faced bastard actually. I was once asked about 'Waiting' from the first album - 'Breakin' free'. "Tell me, what happened in your life to merit such a song....?" Queried a concerned ticket tout. I answered quite honestly, " Nowt - I made it up." Truth is, you can write songs with no personal emotional involvement at all. Imagine how difficult it would be to play night after night in a pool of tears 'cos the songs are so painful. Audiences aren't being short changed by me telling you that, I still go for it live and besides, I love that song.

Meanwhile, back at the barn...... NSYA is all about.....that's right, never seeing somebody again! It's written in the key of E major, and features a recurring phrase ("here I am.....") in all but one of the verses. A simple, yet powerful chorus acts as a foil for the lighter sections, and paves the way for the contrasting key change during the third verse ("after all this time..."). The song finishes with a gentle guitar lead in the new key of A.

The idea behind this song was to present a very bleak picture of personal loss, and this was depicted in part by the vocal desperation during the verses. Although the initial melody is quite 'sweet', the sentiment aches.
I think the song works reasonably well, although time was against us in the studio and I believe that this, and every song on the album, could have benefited from a little more 'polish'. Never See You Again feels a little rough around the edges, and could have been played a few beats per minute faster to prevent the vocal awkwardness that I feel is apparent.

Better Each Day

Now here's a song that has attracted its fair share of controversy.

Better Each Day was written some years ago, and was intended to be a 'Gospel' type of song. Yes I know The Force isn't your typical Gospel band, but with a little gain on the guitar and plenty of volume, the track works live as a bluesy rock tune.
On the album there were a few different ideas employed. Firstly, the guitar parts were 'clean' – played through an old Vox AC 30. This afforded a vintage Strat tone which was sweet rather than aggressive. Vocally, I multi tracked my voice 5 times or so to become 'the choir', although this could have been more prominent in the final mix. What was missing for my money was a Hammond Organ sound from the piece. Time and resources were limited as mentioned earlier, but I feel regretful that this sound wasn't explored.

I have had comments to the effect that it didn't sound like me singing on the album, and this song was unlike my live performances. I've no idea how I sound live, but I hope I still sound okay with either medium.

Incidentally, this is my favourite song. It is the only song on the album which is actually optimistic, and doesn't rely on being a depressing bastard to get the audience off. I personally feel good about singing it.

Tap Dance

Now here's a tune that's become a good 'mate'.
Tapdance was written for the Guitarist of the Year competition in '97, and led me to the finals held at Wembley in London. It was written in order to demonstrate my technique of 'tapping' on the guitar. Those of you who have seen us live will have noticed me with my right hand forever on the fingerboard of my guitar – this is tapping. Eddie Van Halen is regarded as the 'Father of tapping', and his influence on so many guitarists has been mind blowing.
Tapdance is a very short, fast shuffle. It incorporates twin lead guitars for the melody parts and is interspaced with lead guitar solo sections. The tune doesn't sit still and moves from one short theme to another rapidly.
For those of you who know your scales and modes, the larger part of Tapdance is written using the Mixolydian mode in various keys. The contrasting E minor section employs the Aeolian mode to worm its way around the guitar.
I've not much to say on this one except that it is always fun to play live, yet was difficult to play in the studio.

A'll De Me O'Level

Lovely play on words don't you think?
Okay, so most of you don't actually get the play on words. Here's what it's all about:

There is a very famous guitarist by the name of Al Di Meola. He plays a combination of jazz, Latin and Classical style music on acoustic guitars.
The idea of our piece was to serve up an introduction to the next track - 'The Game'. I conjured a classical style guitar part which worked nicely on its own, but having heard Mr. Meola, I thought it nice to get Dave involved to layer a pyrotechnic, acoustic counter melody over my part. The result is great – very atmospheric and very unusual for The Force.
Now, the title of our tune is simply a respectful nod in the direction of Al Di Meola, although we had no intention of 'copying' him or taking the piss. I think if you heard the great man at work, you would understand where the similarities end – right at the beginning!

The Game

Controversy? Who said controversy?
This is easy. Some of you love it and some of you hate it!

For those that hate it, let me explain. The Game was originally an instrumental guitar piece, kind of soft like say, 'The Loner' by Gary Moore - that sort of thing.
One day I decided to do an orchestral version of it with oboes taking the main melody. I let the band hear it and they liked it. They liked it until Mick (the fat bastard) heard a 'Pan Pipes' album whilst sitting having a meal at an Indian restaurant. He was convinced that the tune he heard was 'mine'. After much ridicule, I was cruelly forced into changing the melody and orchestration of the piece and came up with what you now hear as The Game. I had an idea for a subject matter and set about writing but to no avail. I was stumped for lyrics and so threw that one at Mick. He promptly came up with an idea, and we then sat at my keyboard for an hour and customised the content and phrasing.

For those of you who already liked the piece, then good. Say no more.

All The Other Songs

Well my efforts in other songs include rhythm and lead guitars and backing vocals. As like every other member, I made my opinions clear and sought the finest performances possible from the limited time we had. It was good to hear brand new songs hatch in the studio, having only heard acoustic strummings of them previously. It was also interesting hearing how people perceived their own, and other's tracks, and how the studio environment helped draw minds together.

I won't bore you with details of solos and techniques etc. See us live to see how the songs are done.

contact@theforce.org.uk or the Message Board if you like.

One final thing, erm, see ya.


A lot has changed in my guitar set up since I last wrote. I have several additions to my equipment list including guitars, pedals and effects etc.

Guitars

now have two Ibanez Destroyers; one from the early 80s and the other a 2001 re-issue.

The older guitar features a custom 'paint job'. I say paint, but it's actually metal polka dotted material which I think looks quite cool. The pickups are an Ibanez '57 in the neck and an EMG 81 at the bridge. The guitar is able to sound super modern and aggressive or mellow and 'vintage'.

There's no decent picture as yet, but I'm working on it.

The re-issue has two medium output Ibanez pickups which deliver a hard edged rhythm tone that can really cut through any mix. Again, its tone is able to soften into the classic twin humbucking mode. 

The only differences between the features listed and those on the guitar that I have, is that I changed the pickup surrounds to gold, and I removed one of the volume controls too.

It's quite a rare guitar in Britain and Europe, as Ibanez only released it for the US market. I had mine flown in especially, courtesy of two helpful individuals: Beefy in Florida where the guitar was bought, and Phil our roadie who was in the US at the right time and brought it back for me.

My other additions are two Gibson Les Pauls. The first was my Platinum:

I've customised it extensively and it now has:

So there we are a custom Les Paul the way I wanted it. Unique.

The other Gibson is a 1998 Les Paul 'Double Cut' Standard. The colour is difficult to describe but I believe Gibson used to claim that it's 'Translucent Black Pepper'! Please be warned that the Gibson site shows the guitar to appear purple! (At least on my screen.); I can assure you that it's much darker!; Check out the pic above - it has me and a brief glimpse of the guitar's upper cut, and it's totally different.; However, I digress; the advantage of the double cut-away, is that a player can access the higher frets with a little more ease than on a regular Les Paul. It's true that it works to an extent, but I love the 'vibe' of the guitar more than its practicalities.

I bought mine from the States again as there are many bargains to be had.

The next time you see the guitar, it should hopefully have the new surrounds fitted. They are chrome plated and look great. I've also added Mighty Mite pickups as they are, as far as I'm concerned, the best sounding pickups money can buy, yet they cost almost nothing.  I'm astounded by what they deliver..  They have given the guitar a real edge. I know a lot of pro players and I have turned them on to these simply wonderful, yet 'bargain buy' pups. If you guitarists want 'that' sound, you HAVE to try Mighty Mite 'Motherbuckers'.  Yes I know, the two names put you off, but please; save money and get the tone you've always wanted!  We're talking less than £30 for a pair delivered from the states! Get them from Here

Pictures of both these guitars will arrive soon.

Other stuff

Well, I still have the same old amp but I bought a 4x12 Marshall cabinet a while ago. It has Celestion G12M 'Greenback' speakers which sound excellent. They help deliver the classic rock sounds of the 70s and have a beautiful effect on the tone of the guitar.

Unfortunately, one of the speakers was old and damaged, so I replaced it with a modern Celestion Vintage 30

Live, I employ a 6x12 Marshall stack.

It's the Marshall 6100 Anniversary Amp, but beneath that I have the Marshall 1936 2x12 cabinet on the bottom (it now contains a Vintage 30 and G12T-75 speaker) and of course the 4x12 cabinet as previously described. The arrangement and assortment of speakers allows me many tonal options and I'm able to get a great classic rock tone from my rig.
 

I have new FX too.

I upgraded the old Rocktron Chameleon to a sparkly new TC Electronic G Major

What can I say? It's top notch equipment used by lots of top pros throughout the industry. Satriani and Vai both use its 'big brother' live: the G-Force. That unit has more options for meddling with the parameters, but it's essentially the same unit as the G-Major. TC Electronic have a cool video about some of the options available in the G-Major.
Go check it out:

A lovely new Behringer MIDI Floor Board to control it all:

I'm about to employ an Aphex Exciter in my guitar signal path to help boost the low end without 'booming' and to add sparkle at the top and also help focus the mids.

There are other bits and pieces too!

An AKG Radio Pack:

Sabine Feedback Destroyer (for vocals)

An AKG Condenser mic

Korg floor tuner (because floors need tuning too ;-) and another Aphex Aural Exciter for the p.a.

For studio recording I now have a couple of amp simulators (keeps the noise down you know!). I have the wonderful Vox Tonelab

and the marvellous Tech21 Triac

So there you go. Lots of new things to help make me and The Force sound good every time we play, rehearse or record.

Try clicking on some of the links and see what you think.

If you'd like to discuss any of the products that I've mentioned, please feel free to come see me at a gig and I'll show you around my system.

See y'all soon

Cheers

Phil T