Going Down Under

June 9, 2008

Dear Dude,

I’ll be immigrating from the United Kingdom to Australia in a couple of months, which of course means I’ll have to pack my stuff into storage to be shipped over in a container. My main issue with this is the amount of heat that builds up in these containers and the effect it would have on my gear (possibly warping of the neck maybe? etc). This has lead to me deliberate whether or not to buy new stuff now and ship it over or wait until I get to Australia and buy new stuff there. I was hoping you’d maybe have some experience in these areas, and any help you could give me would help a whole lot.


Going Down Under

Dear Going Down Under,

Traveling with music equipment can be an unforgiving, torturous act. I have heard horror stories of dudes opening their guitar cases to cracked headstocks. I’ve flown with my gear too many times to count and let me tell you I have see baggage handlers fuck up some bags in ways you couldn’t even imagine possible. Traveling with your gear is just part of life on the road, but what happens when it comes time to actually move all your gear? This can be tricky and for you, it’s compounded by the fact that you’re deciding to move almost across the globe! Here is some food for thought.

First, I have been to both the UK and Australia many times and there is a huge difference in the types of products available in each place. So, if you are thinking about buying new equipment in Australia, do some research about what is available there. Sounds crazy, we are so used to living in such a globalized world that we may over look that its WAY easier to get cool Marshall, Hiwatt, Vox etc. amps in the UK than Australia. I’ve also found its actually easier to get US made gear in the UK, so really you’re leaving a place with easy access and moving to a place where getting the same things might cost a bit more and be a bit harder to come by. Now, don’t get me wrong they have the Internet in Australia and dude, you can buy whatever you want as long as you look hard enough and are willing to pay.

If I was going to move I would take my guitars (Les Pauls, Fenders, Washburn’s) and my amp heads (Marshall’s, Vox’s, Randall’s, Peavey’s) because these will be really expensive there and very hard to come by. I might not bring all my pedals (Boss, Line 6, Digitech), they are all available down there and don’t seem to travel as well. I also wouldn’t bring my Berhinger Compressor/Gate, Digi 002, and my other cheap rack recording gear. Lets face it, the world of recording changes so fast you might as well use this experience for a chance to sell all that old recording gear so that when you get to your new spot you can get a better set up. By all means, if you have a piece of recording or audio gear that is really cool and sounds unique then definitely bring it, because it maybe hard or impossible to find once you get there. Guitar cabinets are a hard choice because they take up a lot of room. I know for a fact its easy to get Peavey, Marshall, Randall etc. down under but if you have special cab that you are just in love with, I say bring it because those items are just too hard to replace. You can see it’s all about prioritizing. So, take inventory of what you have and decide what’s important. Figure out if it’s more cost effective to keep it and ship it, or sell it and buy a replacement in Australia. If you’re going to go through the hazard and expense of shipping gear such a long way, make sure it’s worth it.

The first thing to consider when moving gear, or traveling to a foreign country, is the power voltage. Countries all over the world use different style plugs and more importantly voltages to power electronic equipment. This becomes very difficult if you are using gear that is hardwired at US power (110V) and you are going anywhere that uses 240V, for example the UK or Australia. Lucky for you the UK and Australia are the same voltage but they do have different style plugs. So, for all your electronic gear you are going to have to get some adaptors in order to actually plug any of them in. There are plenty of safe and relatively inexpensive ways to do this but it is something to keep in mind.

I know you’re worried about the heat in the containers and overall travel conditions your gear will have to go through. Let me say this, fuck it! It’s musical gear, it’s meant to be on the road! You have to be willing to travel and experience life with your gear otherwise those instruments are not tools but collection pieces. There is no way those shipping containers are going to be worse than driving through the desert in Arizona with the heat baking everything in the trailer. And they can’t get colder than when you have to leave your van and trailer parked in a blizzard in Calgary, Canada! My point is, take the risk with the gear you do decide to travel with; chances are it’ll survive.

Before packing your stuff, make sure to:

– De-tune all your guitar strings so that they are floppy as hell (you don’t want them to travel all tuned up, especially if your going to fly anything).

– Pack your guitars good and snug, with good neck support, in an appropriate travel ready guitar case. Do not ship these things in gig bags!

– Take all the tubes out of your guitar heads. Whenever I travel I always take out the Power and Pre Amp tubes so they don’t break inside the head.

– Pad and pack every knob and little item. If you decide to bring your pedals you should get some foam for padding, or even use T-shirts to wrap around the pedals, over and over. Then take some tape and wrap the whole thing in tape. You’ll have like a pedal ball! Sound crazy? Sure! Is there a more pro way to pack them, probably. But this method has always worked for me. Look, all you have to do is make sure you protect those knobs from getting knocked off, that’s what usually breaks when traveling long distances.

It all comes down to being prepared, taking your time, and most of all prioritizing what you actually want to bring. Lets not forget that your moving from the UK, you’ve got one of the strongest economy’s so that British pound your traveling with will go a lot further then normal. Use this trip to figure out what you really love and what you might want to get rid of before you go. It can be both a cleansing experience and a good way to start your new rock journey down under!

The Dude