Certified in: Drums, Guitars, Accessories, ProAudio, Keyboards7 months agoJust Alliance, the brainchild of John Allen, is an ever-changing product incorporating countless influences and experiences he has found throughout the world. Since it’s inception in 2010, Just Alliance’s looping prowess has been in fast demand, bringing Allen ever-further from his home of Las Vegas to places as far-flung as Los Angeles, New York and London. After playing his first professional gig at 16, John Allen has excelled in many artistic areas, including Jazz, Rock, Classical, Funk, before discovering and utilizing looping, beat-boxing and different instruments such as keyboard and Trumpet in the creation of his own original material and the reinterpretations of established music. Just Alliance became a necessary invention for John shortly after graduating from college. Just Alliance has performed on many of the leading stages up and down The Las Vegas Strip, such as Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Palms, Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock Casino and beyond. His musical style is a reflection and invocation of his experiences as a native Las Vegan, fed and nurtured by the fans he performs for regularly. The local and national clinic circuit has kept John busy with invitations from Roland USA and Electro Voice to showcase his unique music on cutting edge products and technology. Fusion Bags (United Kingdom) took notice of John’s creativity and proudly supported him with invitations to the NAMM 2012 and NAMM 2013 as their featured endorsed artist. The Clark County School District (3rd largest in the USA), Guitar Center, Sam Ash Music and Family Music have all featured John as a in-store clinician as well, adding to a busy schedule. The City of Henderson asked John to represent their city as their Artist-In-Residence and have kept him busy opening up for many of the America’s Got Talent contestants and other national acts at the Henderson Amphitheater and other city events. Just Alliance is powered by Fusion Bags UK, BOSS Roland Pedals and performs regularly on Electro Voice Microphones. He is the current Artist-in-Residence for Henderson, NV located just south of Las Vegas,NV Check out his music at www.facebook.com/JustAllianceMusic What drew you to a career in music? Before we start, I really want to thank you for inviting me in for an interview, and onto your blog. I am really excited to be here! I can only give my Van Morrison answer to this question. “I didn’t choose music, music chose me.” Music has always been a huge part of who I am and how I communicate with. What was your first job in the industry? My very first gig was when I was 16 yrs old. A bandleader in town invited me to perform with his big band for a New Year’s Eve. It was daunting to not only being the youngest member of the band, (by at least 25 years) but also being surrounded by musicians who had been playing longer than I had been alive. It was a fun night though; they all treated me well and invited me back. It wasn’t until after college that I took my first steps into the world of looped music. As your career evolved, what kinds of skills or training have been helpful to you? My career evolves daily if not hourly. I would say the best tools I have in my box has always been a sense of wonder. I remember the first time I saw somebody use a loop pedal, to me it looked like sorcery! So of course, I was curious to what looping was……it awakened a sleeping giant!! Who were some early mentors? The person that ignited my musical fire was my high school band director. He introduced me to Jazz music so many of those elements (improvisation, etc) are quite viable in my own music. My trumpet instructor in college was able to reel in and forge all of the scattered energy inside me into a working musician. Dub FX was the first Loop Artist I discovered. I had zero clue what an effects pedal was let alone a loop pedal…but I knew I Iiked it! Shlomo (UK) is doing incredible things as a solo artist and as a leader with different ensembles. Rico Loop (Germany) never stops surprising me in his musical choices, and probably one of the nicest people I have ever met. The World Loop Championships that BOSS Roland hosts every year, brings into focus the facets of the looping community and how diverse it is. What does your job look like day-to-day? Keeping your eyes, ears and heart open to new ideas, thoughts, music and people is important for me. I am always seeing what my peers are doing in the looping world. It is exciting to see the looping community evolve as fast as it is, there is always something new to learn, or an approach I wouldn’t have thought of! Practice is key too. Sometimes I have a real structured practice regime. Say, a goal or a unique sound I want to accomplish. There are other nights I will turn on my gear, slip on my headphones and soon the sun is coming up. Many times my imagination has led me to many unexpected sunrises!! I have always been one to look at practice as an opportunity than a chore. So many discoveries are waiting for you every time you pick up your trumpet, sit down at your piano or write down a lyric that presented itself to you during lunch with your friends. As far as performance. The fortune is always in the follow up. You can’t wait for the opportunity to come your way. You have to create it. Many things I have learned as far as being a working musician are as basic as it gets. Return calls, show up on time, thank those that have helped you out and humility never goes out of style (that is another discussion all together!) What tools do you employ in your rig to create your sounds? My rig is as follows: An Electro Voice ND-767a Microphone takes care of my microphone needs. Crisp, clear and a true workhorse it has been my go-to since the beginning. I am also impressed with the ND-767a’s ability to handle the signal levels that are associated with beat boxing. I have tested mics in the past that have been washed out from the beat boxing, but the ND-767a handles whatever I throw at her. To tie into my rig, Monster Cable is whom I go to for an XLR male to an XLR female. My Electro Voice ND-767a Microphone goes directly into my BOSS VE-20 Vocal Performer. This came out a year or so ago and it didn’t take long for me to realize that it would be a very welcomed addition to my set-up. The factory presets were a lot of fun, but what attracted me to it was your ability to make your own presets down to the EQ level. It wasn’t just a sideshow piece. Harmonizer, Reverb, Robot, Strobe I am never at a loss at finding a new way of shaping and shading my signal. I use it a lot more in the Electronica end of things and have recently started combining my guitar patch with the Auto-tune feature. Not so much for the tuning aspect, but there are tonal aspects I have really been exploring. The BOSS SYB-5 Bass Synth comes next in my signal path. An excellent color to add to bass sounds; this was the first compact pedal I ever bought! Plenty of settings to choose from, the BOSS EV-5 Expression Pedal compliments the SYB-5 in Dub Step warbles and other aspects of my show. The BOSS GT-10B is my principal easel in my musical color spectrum. I have been asked many times after shows, “How do you make your sounds if it is all your voice?” I then show the person(s) the different presets I use. At last count, I use at 12 unique settings through my show. Main vocals, guitar, organ, 3 or 4 basses, plus a laundry list of delays and reverbs with different settings. I have told musicians who are just starting with digital effect units, that it is a lot like cooking. The quality should lay in your recipe, and not dependent on the finished product. I look at someone’s presets almost as like it is their own fingerprint. Dub FX, Rico Loop and Angela Sheik all use digital effects units, all with their own approach, but more importantly…their own presets. Currently the BOSS RC-300 spoils me in my loop pedal needs. The BOSS RC-20XL was my first loop pedal; I then picked up the BOSS RC-50 as my experience level grew. The RC-300 arrived with built in effects and an expression pedal and I was drawn to it immediately. The built in effects are a lot of fun, and completely customizable. The “Delay” and “Filter” are two effects that I use frequently. I also attach a MIDI cable from my RC-300 Midi Out to my GT-10b MIDI in, this allows my delays to be calculated by the BPM’s and in time between both pedals. The Hohner Performer 37 Melodica has been a lot of fun to add to my mix. With EQ-ing and a few other tricks, it is exciting to see how far I can push the envelope with this instrument. I keep my rig in a customized case made by the fine folks at Advanced Guitar Las Vegas, NV. Jim Poisson is a miracle worker when it comes to making pedal boards. I brought him my gear and my needs, he gave me a date to come back on. I was very impressed with not only the craftsmanship but also the eye for detail and how he anticipated my needs in the smallest detail. Fusion Bags UK are the protectors of my gear. Not every night is Carnegie Hall, and playing the club one night and the street the following morning, I need my gear protected. I use one of their keyboard bags. The materials used (remember what I said about ingredients earlier?) are top notch as is the durability. I have done a lot of traveling with my gear inside of my Fusion Bag and feel more than confident in trusting my gear to their bags. They are also an incredible group of people and have invited me to perform at the NAMM show this past January as their featured artist. Quite humbling when you take stock of the talent on their roster, and that is also on display at the NAMM show! What are some of the benefits using multi-effects units? The benefits to using a multi-effects unit are based solely on the wants and needs of the artist behind the pedal. I believe by having control over different aspects of your sound, it frees up other avenues to explore. It can be as complex as a long chain of effects for a truly unique sound combining a dozen or so effects, or as simple as adding reverb to your main vocal setting if you are in a dry room. By no means have I ever been a technical guy. My alarm clock still flashes 12:00!! However, when I stepped into this area of music, it was literally, “Let’s see what happens when I press this button!” Multi Effects pedals work best when used as a tool and not a crutch too. It is easy to hide behind slick production and a flashy show, but can you give the same performance with half of the gear? I have seen a few videos of Endru, a loop artist from Eastern Europe, street perform with an RC-20 and a microphone and absolutely kill it! That is so inspiring! He is an incredible talent. What ideas are most important when it comes to arranging a fun, exciting loop performance? Looping by definition is doing something and it happening again in a predictable manner. So in my performances, I think it is great to keep the audience guessing, or if you are halfway through your song, throw in a small piece from a different song. In pop music, it is quite accessible to mash up different songs…. I try to mash up different songs from artists or genres that are distant of each other. What about your job gives you the greatest satisfaction? I get different satisfaction as a performer, composer and clinician. As an artist/performer, it is being able to communicate with people though music. Language, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds disappear with music. To have people appreciate my art means a lot too. It is something so raw…..so…personal and to have people embrace it, is incredible. As a clinician, being able to help others find their own music is exciting. Maybe looping is the way for them, maybe it has them examine music in another way, or maybe it makes the path they are on easier with something they might have discovered in a clinic or lesson. Helping others express their art is just as important as me finding a way to express my own. What is your sense of future in terms of making music? The future is exciting! I have many things in the work at the moment. I am noticing more complexity in the musical side of what I am doing, but a simplicity in the lyrics themselves. Why use seven words if six will work? I am focused on original material at the moment as well. Covers are great, and necessary, but my goal is to be able to do a completely original show in the near future. Looking back at your own career, what do you wish you knew at the outset? Regrets are misplaced emotions. The goal is to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you and to work toward those that have yet to present themselves. I don’t know if I had previous or new knowledge if it would change anything. I am thankful for the choices and events that have forged the road beneath my feet. What would you say to those people curious about pursuing a career like yours? If it is honest it can’t be wrong. Just be honest with what you do both on and off stage. Lester Young, one of my favorite saxophonists, said “if you haven’t lived it, you haven’t played it.” I find that to be true. The best love songs come on those nights when your own sorrow is tangible in an empty room, or when someone makes you feel completely vulnerable…but you are ok with it. Finding heroes is important too. I have heroes in every aspect of my musical life. Finding artists who you want to emulate is as important as finding an educator or clinician who you can communicate as well as. Heroes are always right around the corner too. I have accidentally discovered most of mine. Push yourself every time you practice or perform. If it feels routine you are doing it wrong. If you go over the edge….the next mountain for you to climb will be their waiting for you. Mistakes are fine. Embrace them as you do your successes. Learn from them and then set them free by not dwelling on them. Be thankful they happened, they remind you that it isn’t important that you win the race….but just keep going. Be thankful for everyone along the way. So many people have helped me it would take days if not weeks to list them all. Pay it forward and never keep good knowledge for yourself. I saw an interview once with Dan Insonato, in it he says, “If you are confident in your knowledge, share it with others.” I couldn’t agree more. My career is no different than someone wanting to enter construction, law or medicine. If something lights your fire, immerse yourself in it and don’t look back! Read every word you can find, every video that can be watched and surround yourself with positive, motivated people. Lastly, humility is never out of style. World-class musicians are in my experiences the most loving, humble people I have ever met. They were once starting out, and know the sacrifices it takes to get there. I have been fortunate to have met many of my heroes, and many of them have been as happy to meet a fan that has stood in line to meet them, as the fan is! Keep motivated and keep positive and don’t forget those who help you out along the way!