Published Aug 25, 2008Ian Blurton isnt your typical gear hound. While many musicians peruse new music shops ogling the latest in equipment, this CMon guitarist/producer (Weakerthans, Tricky Woo) is more at home scrounging pawn shops and friends forgotten stockpiles for true gems. He only wants it if its old and weathered. "Im pretty much a vintage guy, he notes during a short break while recording with Moncton, NBs the Motorleague. "I appreciate tubes and analogue gear because it sounds natural. My rig is a 1975 Marshall 4X12 cabinet, Stevens 4X12 cabinet, 1997 Green 120-watt head, Marshall 50-watt head, my Garnet-Hertzog preamp is about five years old. He found parts lying around and made it just before he died. As for guitars, I have two 1965 Gibson SGs, a Gibson Firebird and a Mosrite that I found in the back of some store for $300 but lately onstage Ive been using a Tokai Love Rock, a cheap Les Paul knock-off.
"You can get a lot of older stuff cheaper if its got a few scrapes on it but the tonality is still the same so theres nothing wrong with it, he continues. "Some people are just too tied up in how [equipment] looks over how it sounds. I dont care about the way it looks. I care about what it sounds like.
Solid advice from someone who isnt exactly the most aesthetically concerned individual. With his trucker cap, scruffy beard, long-ish hair and denim jacket, Blurton is unmistakeable even amongst the in-vogue hirsute rock contingent. Despite his visual distinctiveness though, its Blurtons music that stands out most. Initially revered for his work in Change Of Heart and Blurtonia, over the past few years, current project CMon have established themselves as Canadas strongest power trio, renowned for melding the bluesy swagger of 70s Detroit rocknroll with the hyperactivity of early punk and fuzzy grit of ZZ Top. Blurton admits that its his gear that gives him such distinction.
"I guess I have my own tone, he concedes humbly, noting that having a personal guitar sound is important to creating musical individuality. "Its crucial. The sound [CMon] are trying to get is all about volume. When Tony Iommi turns on eight stacks, its the real thing. Thats the difference between a live show and a record: the air is moving around more. Its powerful, [its] about air pressure and pushing it around small clubs with loud amps as much as it is about sound. Its intoxicating. Similarly, he notes that while much of todays equipment is pretty and sounds nice, when lugging three people, gear and personal effects across the Great White North for weeks on end multiple times a year, looks are the last thing to be concerned with. Factor in that loud, boisterous rocknroll belted out in bars generally begets loud, boisterous people spilling drinks/tipping over said gear, and concerns for reliability compound tenfold. Its because of this that Blurton foregoes appearance for sound and dependability. A collectors nightmare, this stuff doesnt sit on shelves and get polished with diapers. Blurtons guitars are blood-splattered and chipped one repair shop was so repulsed they refused to service his axe whilst his amplifiers show more electronic innards and plywood than tolex covering. Its some pretty rough, Frankenstein-esque stuff. Yet as he consistently reminds, its about function over fashion.
"All of my stuff is used. I dont care that I put it through the ringer because its tough and I never clean it... it works well on the road. These things dont break down because theyre workhorses. You need an amp that can live every day on the road; one that can get knocked over and thrown around. That said, I probably spend more time getting my gear repaired than anything else.
Prospective vintage gear saviours beware though. Theres no saving Blurtons rig from the throes of rocknroll torture. Because hes so adamant about maintaining his own style, once Blurton gets a hold of something, its never coming back. Furthermore, be forewarned that if you have it and he wants it, eventually hes going to get it.
"Im happy with what Ive got but it took a long time to find it. When I finally see the piece of gear I want, Im relentless about obtaining it. For example, my amp previously belonged to a friend and it was sitting in his barn for ages. I really wanted it so I bugged him forever until he finally sold it to me, then I wrote, Kick out the jams, motherfucker on the back of it in black magic marker to make sure I cant resell it. Some people freak when they see that youve done something like that to a vintage piece of gear but now it will always be mine. To me, every scar [on your instrument] is a story. You know where it came from. I guess some of my stuff could be pretty valuable... if it wasnt so banged-up.