Australian Gear Demoer Brett Kingman Talks Getting Started on YouTube and His Recording Rig

With the major influx of new and exciting boutique builders into the music instrument market—in addition to well-established brands introducing new gear all the time—the majority of us shoppers generally hit YouTube to watch a demo or two before emptying our wallets on a new instrument, pedal, or amp.

Luckily for us, it’s generally easy to find a demo or review for almost any piece of gear imaginable, as demo channels have become more or less ubiquitous across YouTube. While the majority of popular channels hail from the U.S. and Europe, one of the most well-spoken and avid gear demoers is actually from down under.

We caught up with former ProGuitarShop content creator Brett Kingman, who’s currently one of the hottest hired guns in the music industry, and asked him questions about his relationship with music, his exemplary recording setup, and his thoughts on the guitars and gear he uses.

Firstly, congratulations on all of the success you’ve had. You’ve made more than 1,600 videos with more than 29.5 million total hits and counting—quite an achievement. Did you always know that you wanted to create demo videos?

Brett Kingman and his daughter Sadie

Thank you for the kind words. It’s been a long but enjoyable labour of love. I started back in 2008, when YouTube was still in its relative infancy. It was just a fun thing, really: me, my Macbook Pro (which had a microphone and camera), and a couple of MI Audio pedals that I’d purchased from Michael Ibrahim.

My daughter, Sadie, and I were very close when she was little (teen-hood has sorted that out!) and she liked to help sometimes. That gave the videos a cuteness element and, therefore, a point of difference. Before we knew it, the channel was gaining steam pretty quickly. Two years later, Aaron Miller (the late and very great CEO of ProGuitarShop) enlisted me, and my little hobby became a proper job and remains so to this day.

Speaking of which, how did you land that gig with ProGuitarShop and Tone Report? You’re well-known for being one of its faces, along with Andy Martin.

Early in 2010, Aaron Miller put out an online call for video teachers to enhance the ProGuitarShop channel. Never being shy to seize or create an opportunity, I shot off a quick email with a link to my own fledgling channel. Within minutes, Aaron responded and suggested we hook up via Skype and have a chat. I was astounded, to say the least.

Aaron felt I would be better joining Andy at PGS producing some product demos, so that’s what I did. They’d send me product from Portland, and I’d demo it and send it back. That arrangement lasted a couple of years, until my own channel became overwhelming, and I had to bow out somewhat. But I was never off their books entirely, and the transition from PGS to Tone Report and now the new Distortion Ltd., still has a place for me. Again, I’m very fortunate.

Brett Kingman - Keeley: D&M DRIVE - Jamming with Guthrie

What kind of work did you do before YouTube?

Before YouTube, I was a product manager for Sound & Music—a music technology distributor. Before that, I was at CMI. I even spent a year as a reluctant Event Officer for Frankston City Council.

My problem is that I’m not too keen on spending my life working for someone else or doing anything that I don’t like (unless it’s charitable). Life’s too short. Follow your dreams, give it a go, and don’t die regretting what you didn’t try.

Was it difficult starting out as an independent YouTuber?

No. Anyone can do it. All you need is a little commitment and an idea.

Your videos reflect your fluency in several genres of music. When did you start playing guitar, and who are your biggest inspirations?

Thanks again. I kid you not, I remember first strumming a guitar seated on my uncle’s lap at around 18 months old. During my childhood, I became obsessed with the idea of guitar playing. By the age of nine or 10 I was taking lessons and practicing for up to six hours a day, every day. Slade, the UK glam group, were my biggest influence at that age—their power and melody.

I was a ‘70s kid and lapped up everything—Glam, Zappa, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Yes, T. Nugent—all the classic rock stuff. Later on, it would be Devo, Sex Pistols, and various other punk and new wave acts. I spent a few years studying and listening to early 20th century classical composers, such as Richard Strauss, Mahler, and their peers. Later still, I would obsess over Bacharach, The Smiths, Junior Brown—anything that I thought was good and anything that challenged me and broadened my musical vocabulary.

The Manchester scene and house music were big influences as well. Nothing was out of bounds. I still live by that philosophy, which (loosely) is: try anything once.

Brett Kingman - Carlton Guitars: ASTROCASTER

On that note, you yourself have toured and recorded with a lot of great musicians, like James Reyne, Daryl Braithwaite, Renee Geyer, and more. Do you still tour or do any session work these days?

Last night, I played a sold out show in Adelaide with Ross Wilson (who I’m currently on the road with). Next weekend, I’ll be in Sydney playing Taronga Zoo (Twilight Concerts) with James Reyne. A few weeks later, I’ll be the hired gun for Richard Clapton, Glenn Shorrock, Wendy Matthews… It never stops. I’m busier now, in my middle age, than I’ve ever been.

Sessions have slowed a little, but I’ve still managed to cut two albums for indie artists in the last month or so. It’s busy. I’m very fortunate.

The audio quality of your videos always blows me away. What’s your recording setup like?

My hardware crosses the boundary between austerity and cutting edge. I have good representations of most classic amps: Marshall 1962, Achillies Vibrolux Reverb, JTM45 (replicas), HIWATT Custom Shop 50, Vox AC30, VASE, MI Audio Iron Duke V2, Laney Lionheart L50H and VH100R.

Aside from the speakers in the combos, I have two 2x12 cabs. The first is the Laney LT212, and Achillies built me a cab housing Celestion 75W Creambacks that I really like. If I don’t feel like miking up an amp, I simply run my Fractal Audio gear. It’s far more reliable, versatile, convenient and is so close to the “real” thing that it’s very hard to differentiate between the recorded amp and the Fractal model.

My interface needs an upgrade. I’ve been using an Avid M Box Pro for 10 years or so, and I’m hoping to go Apogee Ensemble before the end of the year.

For monitors, I have used the same Blue Sky Media Desk 2.1 system since 2008, and it hasn’t failed me yet. It’s not particularly flashy, but it’s true. I can be reasonably sure that whatever I’m hearing through it will probably sound even better through the superior systems that many people own.

I use sE Electronic microphones to mic the amps and a Samson Airline headset for commentary. They do a great job at an affordable price, and I’m happy to support companies that are progressive and proactive.

Waves dominates the plugin list. I master almost exclusively with the L3-16 Limiter and CLA Guitars/Vocals. I’ve used Waves stuff since 2008. Recently, I’ve been testing and loving the new Eventide/Newfangled Audio Elevate Mastering Limiter. It’s a little more transparent than the Waves L3-16 and has amazing transient qualities. Highly recommended.

In terms of post-production, what kind of video and audio software do you use to create and edit your videos?

I use Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X for video and audio editing. I’ve always run Macs, so it just makes sense, and they’re great applications regardless. I ran Pro Tools for a while, and it was great too, but Logic won out in the end.

Brett Kingman - MI Effects: SUPER CRUNCH BOX V2

You play an incredible range of guitars in your videos, from a St. Vincent signature to local builder Ray Carlton’s partscasters. Do you have any favourites among the collection?

I have a fairly utilitarian approach to guitars. I’m not overly sentimental about any of them and have worked my way through a hundred or so at least. At the moment—and for the foreseeable future—I use Ernie Ball Music Man guitars first and foremost. In my opinion, they’re the best production guitar on the market today, and, for me, the most comfortable and versatile.

I have two Albert Lees, two Axises, a Cutlass, JP15-7 and several older models. These are first-choice stage guitars, and the Albert Lees always travel everywhere with me. The St. Vincent was an amazing guitar, but I sadly had to sell it during down-time to pay some bills. I hope to replace it one day, as I recorded some of my most inspired stuff with that guitar.

In the studio, I use whatever is right for the job. That can mean a classic Gibson, Fender, or one of the customs that John Palir, Eric Smid, Ray Carlton, Jim Mac, Oakland Axe Factory, Fast Guitar, and others have built for me. I like everything from early ‘50s Esquire simplicity, through to Ibanez 8-strings. I’m not fussed, I just like to have all the right tools on hand if required.

Speaking of the right tools, is there a pedal you’ve demoed that really took you by surprise?

Several. The Buffalo FX TD-X remains a firm favourite, and the Turkish-built Rock Fabrick Mind Abuse is one of the finest distortions I’ve ever tried. The Mooer Ocean Machine is incredibly good fun, MI Audio’s new Super Crunch Box V2 is very versatile… Man, there are too many to list. 2,000 pedals have come and gone through my front door. Crazy!

Digital effects, modelling amps, and cab sims have gotten significantly more popular recently, with offerings from companies like Kemper, Fractal, and Line 6 really impressing a lot of musicians looking for good, cost-effective ways to get the sounds they love. What do you think the future of tube amps and analog pedals looks like?

There was a point in time when tube amps and pedals were cutting edge technology and were probably sneered at and made to feel unwelcome before their charms and benefits became obvious. That’s just progress. Modelling is just another block in that same ongoing flow of progress.

The medium matters not—what matters is the music that you make from it and whether or not you’re inspired by it. For me, the Fractal Audio Axe-FX II is the single greatest inspirational tool I’ve owned since my first guitar. I can do amazing things with that machine—new things, not just emulations of classic amps.

Tube amps and pedals will always be there, however. They’re desirable objects with amazing tones. What’s not to love, apart from the weight, expense, maintenance, reliability issues… Ha! Anyway, I’m not selling my humble collection of analog gear in a hurry, but I’m done with lugging it around the country or hoping it’s in good order when hiring from a backline company. Done.

Apart from your YouTube channel, where can people find more of you?

Although I’m playing most weeks in some capacity or other (often interstate), I rarely advertise gigs unless it’s for a clinic or product launch that I’m the face of. In reality, I’m a hired gun on stage—a wage earner. It’s not my name on the poster, so I leave the promotions to the people and management whose names are up in lights.

Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are my platforms of choice for products and general ramblings.

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