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The Veil...
Sophia Speaks

Sophia Speaks album notes - guitar freak edition

We began recording back in October of 1999, starting by improvising sounds around a set of lyrics by Margarita Kovats. Margarita had previously released 3 albums with her group Jessica's Attic. They had come to a parting of the ways, and Margarita wished to take a new direction with her lyrics and spoken-word performances. Guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Mark Ungar and percussionist/vocalist Deirdre McCarthy had already formed The Veil as an experiment in working with drones, trance states and more "exotic" Eastern scales and song-forms, branching out from their earlier Celtic and rock musical roots. When we all came together, we found a great inspiration and ease in working with each other, and committed to the journey of creating the album that ultimately became Sophia Speaks. We wrote each song together, then went into the studio and recorded it. They are presented here in the order in which they came to exist.

We recorded at Justin Weis' Trakworx studio, in South San Francisco. Justin is a highly competent engineer and co-producer, and had substantial input during the recording process. We recorded raw tracks on a Studer 24-track, then dumped them into Pro Tools for editing. Justin has several racks of excellent outboard preamps, compressor/limiters, reverbs, and other signal processing equipment (for a complete list of his equipment, visit his website at For the mastering process, the signal path went through the heads of a ½ inch tape machine for that sought-after analog tape saturation sound.

Mark's Notes for Guitar Freaks:
For this recording, Mark used:
• A 1983 Fender Strat '65 re-issue, made in Japan, with P.J. Marx single-coil "vintage" pickups.
• A 1987 Stephan Sobell archtop acoustic
• A 1998 or so Peavey Foundation V five-string bass
• A 1907 Gibson K-1 Mandocello, fitted with an L.R. Baggs piezo pickup in the bridge.
• A Boss GT-3 multi-effects pedalboard.
• A JVC powered 15 EON speaker.
• A 1985 Fender Blues DeVille, with 4 10" speakers
• A Jerry Jones replica of a Coral electric sitar, complete with 13 drone strings, with the original-style red crackle finish.
• A 1920 Gibson H-2 Mandola
• A Kinkade Brothers electro-acoustic guitar, prototype of the Glastonbury model. This guitar was commissioned by English blues artist Kevin Brown in about 1984. It was first used at the Glastonbury Festival of that year. Subsequently, Joe Louis Walker saw it and bought it from Brown, later selling it in the USA. I bought it from a now-defunct guitar store in the Lower Haight in 1989.

For more information about any of these instruments, go to

The Veil
Sophia Speaks

©2002 The Veil, all rights reserved

The Veil is:
Margarita Slevin - lyrics, spoken word, synthesizer
Deirdre McCarthy - vocals, percussion, drums
Mark Ungar - electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, bass, mandola, mandocello, plectrum banjo, electric sitar, percussion, synthesizers
Scott Irwin - drums
Cat Taylor - electric violin

1. Sophia Speaks: A Translation - 8:20
M: lyrics, spoken word
Deirdre: vocals, percussion
Mark: mandocello, bass, acoustic and electric guitar
Cat Taylor, electric violin

Mark's Guitar Notes: This song begins with the deep-throated, brooding sound of the mandocello, along with the droning of the electric violin and vocals. The mandocello was not miked acoustically -- I played it good and loud for maximum trance effect through the Blues DeVille, first going through a Fishman belt-pack EQ/preamp. After the initial tracks were recorded, I went back and did some wailing/whaling on the Strat through an Ibanez Tube Screamer and the Blues DeVille.

2. The Cauldron - 5:03
M: lyrics, spoken word
Deirdre: vocals, percussion
Mark: acoustic and electric guitars, bass, klong yaw, mandola, guitar synth
Cat Taylor, electric violin

Mark's Guitar Notes: the guitar foundation here is the Sobell, tuned in DADGAD. The tuba/french horn sound is the GT-3's guitar synthesizer, played through the DeVille. The Kinkade Brothers acoustic-electric "Glastonbury" guitar enters mid-way, then comes the Big Rock Moment with some power chords from the Strat, both also played through the DeVille. After the mandola/acoustic guitar interlude, the Strat tears in for the third repeat, powered by Justin's Marshall JCM 900 stack. The bass here is a Squier Precision, circa 1986, tuned in dropped D, also played through the DeVille.

3. My Heart Is A Lion - 6:13
M: lyrics
Deirdre: vocals, percussion
Mark: acoustic and electric guitar, bass, vocals
Scott Irwin, drums

Mark's Guitar Notes: the Sobell again lays down the bed, this time with a lively skipping strum. The Strat enters with some volume-knob-and-slide violinisms in the bridge, then revs up to rock out until the end, going straight from the Boss GT-3 into the board. The patch was Hard Strat, straight out of the factory presets. Quite a good wah pedal, don't you think?

4. Beggar Man - 6:39
M: lyrics
Deirdre: vocals, drums, percussion
Mark: vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, electric sitar

Mark's Guitar Notes: One of the more interesting aspects of the Sobell's sound is that it has something of a built-in reverb in the brass tailpiece. This beautiful clankiness is brought out in this fingerpicked piece. The snotty, bratty Strat comes in at the end, through the Marshall again. The electric sitar makes its first whiny, tentative appearance in the outro.

5. Fever Vision - 5:54
M: lyrics, spoken word, synthesizer
Deirdre: vocals, percussion
Mark: acoustic and electric guitar, bass
Scott Irwin, drums
Colin Farish, synthesizer

Mark's Guitar Notes: This tune ain't nothin' but a party for exploiting some of the cooler sounds in the Boss GT-3. Right from the top, the burpy, radio from Mars sounds are made by the pedal-operated ring modulator. The Strat comes in on rhythm on the latter half of the verses, through the GT-3's version of a Vox AC30, played through the JVC Eon 15, then cuts in the Harmonist, which adds a tone a 5th up for the demonic riffing section. I left the 5th generator on for the solo.
The bass part is all thumb-slapping, which I had a great time working out. I think of it as the camel chase music in the desert movie of your life.

6. The Star of India - 5:26
M: lyrics
Deirdre: vocals, percussion
Mark: vocals, acoustic guitars, bass, electric sitar
Scott Irwin, drums

Mark's Guitar Notes: Here's where the Jerry Jones electric sitar comes into its full psychedelic glory! It was very cool to have those 13 drone strings to work with, to establish that pop-Eastern feel right from the cascade at beginning. I played through the GT-3, into the JVC EON 15, using the pickup simulator to change the lipstick pickups to humbuckers. I then doubled the fingerpicked chord work with the Sobell to give the midrange more body. The acoustic guitar solo was done on Justin's 2001 Martin JC-16GTE, which had some very seriously dead strings, giving it a nice wooden plucky, oud-y sound.

7. A Single Note - 6:26
M: lyrics, spoken word
Deirdre: vocals, percussion
Mark - mandocello, bass, plectrum banjo, electric guitar, mandola, electric sitar, synthesizer

Mark's Guitar Notes: I was trying for a middle-eastern pop feel in this tune, so guitar plays a subservient role, being merely a part of the string orchestra. The Strat takes the sinuous soprano voice, with plenty of string-bending, played through the Marshall.

Recorded and mixed by Justin Weis at Trakworx Studio, between October 1999 and June 2002.


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