A Guitarists Wish List: Part 1
Guitarists (and most bass players)suffer from a debilitating condition whose mere acronym strikes fear into the hearts, minds and bank accounts of spouses and long-suffering partners everywhere: GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome! There is no cure, as the afflicted victim recites the mantra of “you can never have too many guitars” to anyone inexperienced enough to engage in conversation. The sufferer can easily be identified through both visual and aural clues: barely audible muttering about humbuckers, “ten tops” and all-valve signal paths; wearing clothes that even a tramp would declare shabby while simultaneously clutching a £3000 guitar; a tendency towards disappearing into the bathroom for protracted periods clutching Guitarist magazine; and constantly beleaguering their other half over the almost-Sisyphean deliberation about which guitars to take to gigs.
To that end, here for your delectation and delight (you lucky people!) is a fairly exhaustive run-down on my gear. (Apologies in advance for anything forgotten, there’s quite a lot of it.)
Guitars Used on Enigma EP
Probably my favourite guitar, although that changes depending on which way the wind is blowing. It’s certainly one that sees a lot of use in both live and recording situations.
Another favourite, and probably the most versatile “traditional” guitar in my collection. Usually used to double rhythm guitar parts in conjunction with the Cobra. It’s fitted with Anderson’s Switcheroo pickup-selection system, which gives it 27 possible sounds. My wife is keen to point out that this was my wedding present at every opportunity.
Line6 Variax 500 series
The original digitally-modelled guitar. Primarily used for recording acoustic guitar parts on the EP, as it sounds extremely convincing. Gareth tends to use it live for both electric and acoustic sounds (it has pretty decent 12 string settings as well), as it models most of the iconic guitars of the last 60 years.
Charvel San Dimas Style 1 (in Slime Green!)
For anyone who learnt to play guitar in the 1980s, this is an extremely desirable axe! It displays to all and sundry the unequivocal statement “I like to abuse tremolo systems and have absolutely no taste!” Ironically, the extremely tasteful and melodic solo that closes As They Lay My Body Down was recorded with this guitar, as were most of the solos and lead guitar parts on the EP. It originally had Seymour Duncan pickups, but now sports a pair of Bare Knuckle Nailbombs, for extra subtlety. I don’t really go in for the naming of guitars, as they usually have perfectly good monickers bestowed upon them by their creators, but certain instruments have picked them up along the way. This one’s called Slimer.
ESP 400 Series Stratocaster.
In Fiesta Red, of course. I replaced the bridge pickup with a Seymour Duncan Lil’ 59 humbucker a few years ago. It tends to get used for clean parts where you’d normally reach for a Fender Strat, although live it also doubles as my Drop D tuned guitar. It’s referred to as “the Red Strat”, boring but both accurate and precise.
Fetchingly finished in a satin purple hue, this is actually my wife’s guitar, but she lets me use it for double-tracking clean parts (as long as I promises not to sweat on it!). It has a one-piece maple neck and sounds different enough to the ESP to be useful for “widening” the clean guitar sounds on a track. Araldia (who has an infuriating habit of coming up with names that stick) calls her Psyche.
ESP LTD M107
It’s black, has a reverse pointed headstock and seven strings. Be afraid, be very afraid! Although the convention is to tune the lowest string to B, on Light Your Journey Home I tuned the bottom string down to Drop A, and then double-tracked it, because I like causing internal bleeding to unsuspecting hamsters.
Charvel Model 2
Named “Priscilla”, this eighties model single-pickup shred machine revels in a sparkly metallic pink finish (Charvel called it Burgundy Mist, but they’re just being coy). I always lusted after an original Model 2, as the hot guitar player at school got one for his sixteenth birthday back in nineteen eighty whenever, and I was exceedingly jealous for a very long time. Now I’m not.
Jackson Randy Rhoads
First an explanation as to why I possess possibly the ultimate in tasteless metal pointy guitars: I am hugely influenced by Michael Schenker, a man permanently welded to a Gibson Flying V. I thinks I look extremely cool wielding these, but unfortunately I hate Gibson guitars with a passion normally reserved for bacon butty vendors on a Hajj. The Jackson allows me to indulge in Schenkeresque fantasies without actually having to soil my hands. It’s fitted with Seymour Duncans (a JB at the bridge & Jazz in the neck position), a Floyd Rose Vibrato and has an Eerie Dess Swirl paint job, which is very, very cool. I really ought to use this guitar more.
It’s an off-the-shelf budget Telecaster with no redeeming features. I picked it up from a friend when my daughter expressed an interest in learning to play, and after she’d thrown in the towel it was consigned to its case where it remains to this day. Apparently, in order to provide a tonal palette for every eventuality, one should own Leo’s most utilitarian creation, but it’s a lot easier to dial-in a tele tone using the Variax than struggle with an actual tele.
ESP 800 Series Stratocaster
This is a pretty rare, extremely well made strat that was far better quality than anything Fender themselves were churning out at the time. She’s named Araldia, after my wife’s nom de internet, and tends to be the most-played guitar in the collection by dint of being the one most likely to be found hanging on the living room wall at any given time. She was at one time my main squeeze (hence the name) but unfortunately also weighs about the same as the average Les Paul and is far too heavy for me to swing around at gigs for protracted periods of time any more.
I bought this second-hand in 1989. It’s my oldest guitar (made in 1982) and the first decent quality instrument I possessed. It’s fitted with DiMarzio Super Distortion humbuckers and has a Floyd Rose vibrato. It doesn’t do clean at all, as the output from the pickups is so hot it’ll overdrive practically any amp you plug it into. Prior to acquiring it I had a succession of truly shite, practically unplayable chunks of premium chipboard lovingly crafted by the blind, deaf chimpanzees that passed for luthiers employed by Marlin, Artist & Kay. It was hand-made in the Birmingham workshop of John Diggins, and named Jigsaw by him when I returned it in two shopping bags and requested it be re-assembled! At the time (the early nineties) Michael Schenker’s propensity for trashing guitars was also an influence, and a number of instruments bit the dust. This one was saved because it’s truly exceptional, and actually plays better after being rebuilt.
Fender HM Strat
Back in 1988, Fender started panicking over the market share certain hipper guitar companies were appropriating from them, and tried to beat them at their own game. It was a dismal failure because musicians hankering after a traditional-looking strat with modern appointments couldn’t countenance 24 frets, a lurid dayglo paintjob and a frankly scarily-thin neck with a ridiculously flat fingerboard and absolutely huge frets; while the Charvel-, Kramer-worshipping Hair-Metal fraternity wouldn’t be seen dead with the Fender logo on the headstock! Which is a terrible shame as this American-made shredding machine has quality hardware and pickups (by Kahler & Dimarzio, respectively), and was probably the best production-line superstrat available at the time.
Washburn D12CE Acoustic
As someone whose first forays into guitar-playing revolved around pretending to be some elegantly-wasted LA man-whore with a make-up budget that exceeded the gross national product of most banana republics, I never particularly got on with acoustic guitars. After all they didn’t come fitted with double-locking tremolo systems, and pinched harmonics sounded absolutely rubbish on them. Somewhen in 1995 I tried to correct this character deficit by buying a reasonable acoustic, but quickly came to the conclusion that they were too bloody difficult to play with any degree of precision! Over the years the Washburn has matured into quite a sweet-sounding guitar. However, I have never matured and still don’t like playing real acoustic guitars, hence my reliance on faking it with my Line6 Variax.