The inside story of how Homme worked with Echopark's Gabriel Currie to build and design a his Custom Crow.
Before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, marketing was done through business cards. A well-done business card demands respect and attention. Case in point: Patrick Bateman in American Psycho shriveling when his business card was outdone by his colleagues. For luthiers, it’s a bit more complicated than logo placement, font selection, and what background color exudes more confidence. Their business card is their axe, and the most beneficial way for a luthier to exchange credentials is by getting their guitar directly into a pro’s hands. That’s exactly what Gabriel Currie of Echopark Guitars did when given the chance.
In early May, Currie received an out-of-the-blue call from friend Rob Timmons of Arcane Pickups, notifying him that Queens of the Stone Age were rehearsing nearby and he should stop over. “I couldn’t go over empty-handed because I’m a guitar builder—that’d be embarrassing—so I grabbed a few pieces that I recently completed to introduce myself and my brand,” Currie remembers. “I met Josh, we shared a laugh, and I welcomed him to try out one of my guitars.” Homme was immediately taken aback by the Downtowner Custom Koa’s beefy neck size (he has a tough time finding necks to fit his hands) and its feedback-resistant P-90s. Homme asked if he could borrow them for a few days to show the rest of the band—Currie excitingly obliged.
The next week during tour rehearsals, Homme pulled Currie aside and told him that he, Troy Van Leeuwen, and Dean Fertita were all interested in buying guitars, but only one of the guitars was available for purchase. So Currie agreed to build Troy his own model. “That’s when Josh’s eyes lit up and he asked me to build him a custom model, too.” Van Leeuwen’s guitar was fairly easy because Currie had an idea in his head and the templates were based on the Trisonic he found in Leo Fender’s shop while working at G&L. But Homme’s guitar was custom from the ground-up.
“I had no safety net or platform to go off of because of the organic nature of this build. I usually have the benefit of knowing the design and how it’ll balance tonally with all the different woods and pickups.” confesses Currie. “So other than the aged-neck timbre and the body-chambering, I had no actual knowledge of how the end result would sound, just a familiarity with all the pieces individually.”
Currie and Homme had several conversations about feel, look, vibe, tones, body size, shapes, pickups, and playability. After hearing the custom Gold Coil in the neck position of Currie’s ’59 Custom model, Homme insisted that it be part of the equation. For the bridge position, Currie went with a customwound Arcane Ultra’Tron. Homme wanted a big neck profile so Currie based it on his early ’59 double-cut Les Paul Jr.—about .098" at the nut and .115" at the 13th fret. “I like to do a 1938-style ‘soft V’ carve and roll it into a ’59 ‘D’ carve at the 9th fret so that it feels natural and fills your hand but remains playable for long gigs,” Currie says. “It’s carved from a 200-year-old piece of Honduran mahogany that came out of the Los Angeles library and the fretboard is old-stock Brazilian I had stashed.”
For his custom builds, Currie uses old mahogany he amassed while working in the historic restoration of old buildings around Los Angeles and Southern California. “All of it is very old, very mature, very dry, and very bell-like,” he says. “I started using it for two reasons: One, because it was old, stable, and resonate. And two, because it was readily available and the best way to get a new guitar to feel, behave, and sound old."
The reclaimed Honduran mahogany body of Homme’s guitar is a chambered, one-piece slab. “We didn’t chamber it simply for weight-reduction. We agreed during our conversations that the tone of a semi-hollow instrument has the best warmth and growl without the howl [laughs].” The top is a 300-year-old burl walnut (the knots still have moss and earth in them) and it was outfitted with a trapeze-style tailpiece like one from a very rare ’50s Kay guitar. The headstock is made of nitrate celluloid—tortoiseshell—with a custom-made sterling silver crow skull inlaid in the center. The tuners are aged nickel, pre-war-style, 18:1-ratio Grovers.
“Josh freaked when I finally gave it to him the night they taped the KCRW special in L.A.,” says Currie. “It was great seeing him playing it that night at the showcase and it sounded better than I hoped and planned because of its round, creamy articulation. I’ve been a big fan of the band and I’m honored to get the unusual request from an artist like Josh—that’s the type of guitar building I live for.”
A special thanks to Gabriel Currie of Echopark Guitars for allowing us to feature this fine piece of gear and its story.
"It's maybe the most important thing to me that the solos [I record] are things that I haven't done a million times," country guitarist and singer/songwriter Brad Paisley shares on this episode of Shred With Shifty. "That's getting harder and harder to do." But as Paisley walks host Chris Shiflett through his solo on "Mud on the Tires," the centerpiece of the interview, it's clear that Paisley can improvise melodies that don't necessarily need to clear that bar in order to hook and make a lasting impression on his listeners.
Brad was learning Chet Atkins-style thumbpicking in lessons from the age of 12, and while he later absorbed a rock vocabulary, Shifty comments that Brad always seems to play with a country feel. Throughout the episode, Brad frequently illustrates his points by playing riffs, in a way that shows that his connection with the instrument is a fluid one and a key part of how he expresses himself.
"Mud on the Tires" was originally recorded 20 years ago, in 2003. Brad's setup was either his '68 Paisley Tele or '52 Tele, recorded through a '63 Vox AC30 and a Dr. Z Z 28, the latter of which was run through a 15" JBL speaker. As he puts it, the AC30 fills the frequency gaps left by the Fender, making the combination a perfect sonic marriage. He says that live, he normally plays the solo on a guitar he's nicknamed "Splash," and they've had to replace the nut on it three times, due to how Paisley bends the 4th string on the space behind it at a certain point in the solo.
While rockin' his G bender, Brad has some trouble executing the solo's most elaborate middle riff during the solo breakdown, but his incredible chops pull through towards the end of the ep as he whips out the impressive lick. Shifty encourages followers to see if they can match it! That might be a tall order, but it is all part of the fun.
Producer: Jason Shadrick
Executive Producers: Brady Sadler and Jake Brennan for Double Elvis
Engineering Support by Matt Tahaney and Matt Beaudion
Video Editors: Dan Destefano and Addison Sauvan
Special thanks to Chris Peterson, Greg Nacron, and the entire Volume.com crew.
After Dimebag Darrell gave Hard Rock the guitar, he handwrote a letter of authenticity. It reads: “THE DIMEBAG CROWN ROYAL! This is a tough one to give up. It’s
After Dimebag Darrell gave Hard Rock the guitar, he handwrote a letter of authenticity. It reads: “THE DIMEBAG CROWN ROYAL! This is a tough one to give up. It’s too nice to play live, so I guess there is no better place than the Hard Rock to put it on display. Crown Royal purple to 24-karat gold inlays, this jewel marks the 40 million gallons I’ve pounded rockin’ over the years. Enjoy!” Needless to say, this guitar is one of the most treasured artifacts in the Hard Rock collection and a fitting tribute to an incredible guitarist. It’s currently on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Adam Chandler
“Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbott was a rock star’s rock star. On December 8, 2004, the Pantera and Damageplan guitarist was gunned down doing what he lived for—thrashing onstage with Damageplan and partying with fans at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. His untimely passing left a gaping hole in the metal world, one that will never be filled with the same fun-loving personality and musical sensibility.
Dimebag was famous for embracing his devoted legions and being both generous and genuine with fans. If it meant answering endless questions at a guitar clinic, signing every piece of merch or gear after a show, or just taking the time to listen to a metalhead’s compliment and offer a high-five, Abbott seemed happy doing it.
Some of these intimate gestures involved sharing a cocktail with fans. Dime’s signature drink—a shot of Crown Royal whiskey topped with a splash of Coke—was coined the Black Tooth Grin, which was a nod to a lyric in Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets” off Countdown to Extinction.
Washburn USA built this custom, one-off Dime 3 model as a gift for their red-bearded endorsee. (Sandwiched in between two different endorsements with Dean Guitars, Abbott played Washburns from 1994 to early 2004.) This purple-sparkle axe features gold binding and 24-karat-gold hardware in tribute to Abbott’s favorite whiskey. The guitar even came with a purple drawstring gig bag mimicking Crown Royal’s top-shelf packaging, and each inlay on this axe is a detailed gold crown. It’s loaded with a Seymour Duncan SH-1 humbucker in the neck and a Bill Lawrence L500 pickup in the bridge. This Dime 3 features a mahogany body, a mahogany neck with an ebony fretboard, and a 24.75" scale length.
Hard Rock acquired this guitar directly from Dime in early 2004. “In fact, he invited our head of memorabilia to his home when we picked up this beauty,” recalls Hard Rock’s historian Jeff Nolan. “In a classic Dimebag moment, he answered the door with a drink in his hand and two lit bottle rockets (laughs).”
A special thanks to Jeff Nolan and Hard Rock International for the opportunity to feature this fine piece of gear and its story.
Dave Davies invented distortion. With frustration pushing him to wits end, the Kinks’ guitarist lashed out with a razor blade on the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier because
Dave Davies invented distortion. With frustration pushing him to wits end, the Kinks’ guitarist lashed out with a razor blade on the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier because he couldn’t get the desired guitar tone. (We’ve all wanted to stab our gear at one point, right?) Little did Davies know that a small tear around the speaker’s cone—still keeping the cone fully intact—would create one of the most important musical sounds of the 20th century that led to the instantly identifiable riff in the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”
Davies was a man of many guitars, but probably best aligned with the Gibson Flying V. Throughout his years with the Kinks and various solo projects, he used several Gibson models including this 1978 Gibson Les Paul Artisan. During the early ’80s, he preferred to use this guitar live when playing tunes from Low Budget, Give The People What They Want, and Chosen People, including the ripper “Freedom Lies.”
In 1976, Gibson looked to fancify their tuxedo of guitars—the Les Paul Custom. The Norlin-controlled company revamped the LPC by offering a natural or walnut finish showcasing the carved-maple top’s beautiful figuring. Other changes implemented on all Artisans included gold hardware, heart and flower inlays on the headstock and fretboard (very similar to Gibson banjos), a pre-war style Gibson logo, and a TP-6 tailpiece.
Similarities between the Artisan and the Custom are the mahogany body with three-piece, carved-maple top, a three-piece maple neck, an ebony fretboard, and the bound peghead and fretboard.
Aside from the cosmetics on the Artisan, the pickups were the only major functioning difference from the Les Paul Custom it’s based on. Davies’ Artisan is loaded with three humbuckers—two are Gibson Series VII humbuckers (bridge and neck positions) and in the middle position is a Gibson Super Humbucking pickup. The pickup selector switch was wired to three settings: rhythm pickup only, middle and bridge pickup with the switch in the middle position, and the bridge pickup only.
A special thanks to Hard Rock Historian Jeff Nolan and Hard Rock International for the opportunity to feature this fine piece of gear and its story.
John Page’s Performer was commissioned to combat lost sales to the “super strats” that were flooding the market in the mid-’80s.
Photos by Mark Bradford
In 1985, the launching of the Atlantis, releasing of Microsoft’s Windows 1.0 and Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Cold War meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan in Geneva made for a big year. But for guitarists, 1985 is a standout year because it signals the righting of the CBS-driven Fender ship that lasted 20 years. In January of that year, CBS sold the company to Bill Schultz and nine other employees and distributors for $12.5 million. However, within the agreement, the newly formed FMIC wouldn’t gain ownership or access to the currently standing Fullerton facilities so they were forced to continue importing lower-priced instruments and build a U.S. factory to start 1986 production runs.
Before the CBS sale, John Page—young Fender employee in R&D—was tasked with creating a new, radical guitar to be called the Performer. Throughout the transition from CBS to Fender, Page continued on with the Performer project and readied it for production once FMIC was in control of the company. Due to the aforementioned lack of facilities—the Performer was to be a U.S.-made instrument—Page and Fender moved ahead with production and the instrument was made in Fujigen, Japan.
The Tele and Strat have contributed to iconic records, performances, and even been the source of never-ending flattery by way of countless replication and imitation, but Page’s Performer was commissioned to combat lost sales to the “super strats” that were flooding the market in the mid-’80s.
The 1985 Performer has a Strat-meets-Warlock, double-cutaway body that was made with alder, basswood, or birch. (The design appears to be modeled after the flat part of the Strat’s body.) It features a maple neck with a 24-fret rosewood fretboard, a two-pivot bridge with a floating Fender System 1 vibrato made by Schaller. The pickups are two slanted humbuckers—mimicking the positioning of the bridge pickups in Teles and Strats—and are controlled by a volume knob, a tone knob, a 3-way pickup selector switch, and a coil-tapping switch. The tone knob has stacked pots—250k and 1M—with a center detent, which could’ve been a predecessor to the TBX tone control used in later Fender models. The impetus of the Performer was to propel Fender forward, but the guitar’s headstock nods to the past with its arrow-like design reminiscent of the company’s 1969 Swinger model.
Page’s legacy didn’t die with the Performer when its production was canceled in 1986. In 1987, he and fellow master builder Michael Stevens started the Fender Custom Shop. After amassing more than 20 years experience at Fender, Page started his own company, John Page Guitars, this year, showcasing his instruments for the first time at the 2012 Winter NAMM Show. As for the Performer, it only lasted two years and isn’t revered quite as much as a ’52 Tele or a ’54 Strat, but its influence can still be seen today in Parker’s Fly guitar, which was the first guitar to use carbon fiber and composite materials instead of traditional tonewoods for the body, neck, and fretboard.
A special thanks to Drew Jacques and Marc Bradford for the opportunity to feature this fine piece of gear and its story.