Premier Guitar

Premier Collector #2: Gibson Customs and Modded Marshalls

July 15, 2008


Mark Dewey is a former hair-rocker who''s graduated to the corporate world and Gibson Custom Shop Les Pauls. We were impressed by his collection of reissues, and intrigued by his custom-looking Strats, so we talked a little further with Mark about his collection and playing history. Here''s Mark''s collection, in his own words:



"This shows pretty much my backline of amps. All of my Marshalls have been modified by Alan Cyr of the Amp Exchange in Woodland Hills, California. He is the best amp guru alive for Marshall amps. They all have Mercury iron and just blister like nothing I have ever heard. I also have a Divided by 13 FTR 37 that Fred Taccone built for me a few years ago. His stuff is very unique -- super big clean sounds and a Marshall-Vox-like kind of brown sound on the click channel.

"I still pretty much plug a guitar directly into a Marshall and use the volume as a gain control for my main sound. Sometimes I will Y two amps together and have one DSL 100 with a slight delay and the other 59 HW head or 50 watt JCM 800 as pure tone.

"In the first photo, you also see a bunch of Gibson Custom guitars and a lineup of custom-built Strats. I got a little carried away with finding the best body wood/neck combinations last year so I built 15 of them. I also have experimented with a ton of pickup manufacturers like Seymour Custom winds, Suhr, DiMarzio, Nordstrand and a few others. My favorite pickup is pretty much a BurstBucker in a Les Paul Historic. They just sound like an open vowel waiting for your strings to vibrate. They are open, airy, clean, crunchy, stingy and have a ton of balls and low end while still being very clear and well-balanced.

"I have tried most [pickup] manufacturers cold and hot. For singles I like Seymour Duncan Custom calibrated set of Alnico 2: 6.5, 6.5 (RW Middle),6.5. MJ knows what she is doing and is great to work with. The John Suhr v60 LPs are equally as awesome for single coils. I have never tried a BurstBucker in a Strat, so I stick with Seymour or DiMarzio humbuckers. I like the five-way Superstrat wiring where you take two humbuckers and split the north coils on position 2 and the south coils on position 4. Since the pickups are reverse of each other this makes all five positions humbucking. I usually use a hi-pass filter on the volume so it rolls down clean and sparkly.



"Most of the guitars in my Gibson Custom Collection are newer reissues from 2001 to 2008. I made the jump and bought my first ‘59 from Willcutt’s guitars for $4000. It was a lot of money but quite frankly once I got the guitar, I realized I would rather have the guitar than the money so I was hooked and now have quite a few of them. The sound of a Custom Shop Les Paul is just so much better than anything else for rock guitar. I pretty much only play a Strat every now and then, especially for whammy bar gymnastics.



"Here are a few of my prime Custom Shop Les Pauls a few years ago. These are some of my favorites actually. However, I have never found one guitar or amp that does it all. There is no true "favorite” -- they are all different. I have never had a guitar I thought was "the one." Perhaps this is the devil’s snare for materialism. I also could not fathom buying a real ''59 because I already worry enough when I put a ''59 reissue in the back seat of my car. Imagine getting a $300,000 guitar stolen?

About Mark

Ice Water Mansion - Mark is second from left
"In the eighties I was in Ice Water Mansion – a hard rock eighties hair band from upstate New York. I used to use BC Rich (USA high end), Dean (USA), Fender (USA) and Ibanez, but never liked seventies or eighties Gibsons. I bought an ''84 Explorer that just sucked. I only wish they had the custom shop of today back then.

"This was a song I wrote about being scared of the dark – “Ghosts in the mirror”. I used my Marshall JCM 800 with a Fender Strat loaded with a humbucker with a boss compressor as a boost for lead schwing.

"I don’t play in a band anymore at the moment but I certainly play about two hours every day and all weekend. I have twp boys, ages four and five who both love guitars. My four-year-old plays drums like a man and also loves his plastic guitar collection. He has about ten, which makes me wonder if we are teaching him the sin of excess which I never meant to do myself.

"I guess at 43, I am done trying to make it big so I just focus on playing for the soul and the enjoyment. When you play a guitar, you forget about the wood in your hands and just kind of get “out there” and that is my bliss.

"I have also really enjoyed building, testing and working on gear too. I never thought I would even play guitar past 25, but I guess it now plays me!"

Listen to Mark''s Guitars
Mark was nice enough to share some YouTube clips of his guitars in action. Says Mark, "These are by no means anthing but my wife holding her sony camera sideways but you can sure hear the tone…"
To join Mark as a Premier Collector, send an e-mail with photos and a description of your gear to rebecca@premierguitar.com