The "aggressive progressive" guitarist chases "peanut-butter tone" with a pair of Vigiers, some fine-tuned drives, drifting delays, and ping-ponging pitch shifters.
Guitarist Nick Lee handles the instrument like a Porsche 911 hugs the road. The German sports car is as equally deft at carving through the Big Sur coastline as it is accelerating out of corners and showing its top-end, straightaway velocity. Similarly, in just two Moon Tooth albums (2016's Chromaparagon and 2019's Crux), Lee has flexed the same versatility. In a single song (much like the 911 rips through a lap of the Monaco Grand Prix), he'll nimbly navigate a clean, precise, fingerpicked melody reminiscent of Chet Atkins before dropping the hammer and flying down the fretboard like Pantera's Dimebag Darrell or Mastodon's Brent Hinds.
While the band thrives in light-and-dark juxtapositions, their true colors and ambitions reach for the disparate musical extremes.
"The phrase we've been using is 'aggressive progressive,' but that's really just because saying you're in a rock 'n' roll band doesn't quite get the point across these days," says Nick Lee when he spoke with PG in 2016. "We're not trying to be a prog band, really. We totally get that there's an element of prog in what we do, but to me we're just a rock band in the purest sense of that term—we just happen to push the envelope of what we can do musically and push each other to do crazier shit."
After wrapping guitars for the band's forthcoming album, guitarist Nick Lee virtually invited PG's Chris Kies into Moon Tooth drummer Ray Marte's Westfall Recording studio based in Farmingdale, New York.
In this episode, Lee (also in Riot) showcases a duo of dazzling Vigiers (plus a stalwart Les Paul Standard), details his "most important volume knob," tries to explain "peanut butter" tone, and demos core sounds that involve mid-focused drives, celestial repeats, and polyphonic pitch shifters.
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Vigier G.V. Rock "Chromaparagon Swirl"
Lee grew up playing Les Pauls and has felt most at home with a two-humbucker setup. A few years ago, he borrowed one of his friend JD Scully's LP-style Vigier G.V. Rock models for nearly two years and couldn't put it down.
"Aside from playing great, it has everything I love about a Les Paul," says Lee. "But the biggest talking point is probably the bolt-on neck that features 90 percent maple and 10 percent carbon fiber that removes the need for a truss rod, and it doesn't move once I get the saddles properly intonated. I've taken it from a trailer in Austin in July to an air-conditioned club and it needs no attention. Same thing with international flights. The Vigier allows me to be pragmatic about touring life but also perform at a high level onstage."
The only change he's made to this G.V. Rock is swapping out the stock Amber humbuckers for DiMarzio Dominions. Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton and producer Machine (aka Gene Freeman) both suggested he try Morton's signature humbuckers. Lee made the change and hasn't looked back.
Now about the colors. Moon Tooth's first album Chromaparagon featured a vibrant wolf design highlighted in blue, red, black, white, and yellow. To celebrate the release, Vigier worked up a G.V. Rock model with a striking "Chromaswirl" finish that was accomplished with a dip-and-twist technique.
Most of Moon Tooth's material starts tuned down a whole step and for that material Lee employs a custom set of Ernie Ball Slinkys (.011–.014–.020–.032–.044–.056). He wraps the strings around the bridge when putting them on to reduce breaks and so he can bend the note behind the bridge like you'd bend a note on a Tele above the nut.
Other tunings this guitar sees is drop C and open C (C–G–C–E–G–C) that was inspired by the Allman Brothers' "Little Martha" and can be heard on Moon Tooth songs "Igneous" and "Offered Blood."
Vigier G.V. Rock
Here is the first Vigier G.V. Rock that Lee's friend DJ Scully loaned to him a few years ago. Clearly, Nick isn't letting it go anytime soon.
It's still stock aside from taking out the stock Amber humbuckers for the Mark Morton signature DiMarzio Dominions.
Vigier Excalibur Ultra Blues
This is Lee's Vigier Excalibur Ultra Blues. It's his newest guitar and first-ever Strat-style instrument he's owned. It's loaded with DiMarzios—Virtual PAF humbucker, Area 58 (middle), and Chopper (neck). This guitar is for the heavier songs in lower tunings like drop A.
1990 Gibson Les Paul Standard
This 1990 Gibson Les Paul Standard is the guitar Lee grew up playing. The neck pickup is still original, but the bridge had some shorting issues, so he put in a Seymour Duncan SH-5 Custom and has been rocking it ever since.
2005 Fender Aerodyne Telecaster
After the aforementioned Les Paul, this 2005 Fender Aerodyne Telecaster is Lee's oldest instrument he currently owns. He doesn't play it live much rather reserving it for teaching students or writing new material.
Nick Lee's Amps
If you've seen Moon Tooth in the flesh, you've seen and felt the 1976 Hiwatt DR103. To accommodate his bandmates and sound techs, Lee took out two tubes and runs the DR103 at 50 watts reducing its volume and headroom (The change also corrected some fuse issues, too). He jumps the channels engaging both inputs creating a fuller, thicker, chunkier sound.
Just before COVID's dark cloud descended, Lee scored the Marshall JCM800 from his Riot bandmate Mike Flyntz. Both heads are featured prominently on the forthcoming Moon Tooth album and for future tours Lee wants to try for a stereo setup using both amps.
"The most important volume knob I've ever bought," jokes Lee when describing the Fryette PS-2 Power Station (top) that allows Lee to push the Hiwatt as hard as he wants without drawing the stink eye from the venue or bandmates.
For the Rundown, Lee ran the Hiwatt through a Krank Revolution 4x12 that has a pair of original speakers and a pair of Eminence Wizards.
Nick Lee's Pedalboard
To cover Moon Tooth's maniacal musical moods, Nick Lee enlists a healthy heaping of tone twisters. Time-based stomps include Empress Echosystem, DigiTech DigiDelay, Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail, and MXR Carbon Copy. Modulation and pitch-shifting is handled by the EHX Superego & Pitch Fork, MXR Phase 90, EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery, and a DigiTech Whammy Ricochet. Gain and drive are supplied by the Wampler Ego, J. Rockett Archer, and Friedman BE-OD Deluxe. The utility components of his board include an Ernie Ball VP Jr Volume Pedal, a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, and a Mammoth Electronics 3 Lace Looper.
The new G.V. Wood single-cutaway model is very much a product of Vigier’s evolutionary impulses—with a fantastic array of tones and an innovative, super-slick fretboard.
One of the best things about reviewing gear for Premier Guitar is experiencing how attentive and passionate luthiers can be. When it comes down to it, all of us rely on wood and wire to craft our tones, but that doesn’t stop Vigier Guitars from trying different approaches to bringing those elements together. The French company was one of the first guitar builders to use carbon-reinforced necks and build a fretless electric guitar, and they have a history of readily embracing new technologies that will make their instruments more playable. The new G.V. Wood single-cutaway model is very much a product of Vigier’s evolutionary impulses—with a fantastic array of tones and an innovative, super-slick fretboard.
Fit for a King
Upon opening the G.V. Wood’s Hiscox Liteflite case, I was treated to a stunning transparent amber finish with a gorgeous flamed-maple top. The guitar was structurally flawless in every sense, with nary a trace of finish marring or sloppy paintwork anywhere. Perhaps the only thing that came as a slightly unwelcome surprise was that Vigier says the G.V. Wood is approximately 7.3 pounds, though the shipping scale I used registered a slightly heftier 8.35 pounds—still, that’s not unheard of in guitars of this style. The guitar also has a quality set of Schaller M6 2000 locking tuners and a zero fret that’s placed almost right up against the Teflon nut.
The 24.8"-scale guitar’s bolt-on neck is fashioned from hardened maple that’s been dried naturally for three years. The neck also features Vigier’s carbon-infused wood construction technique—which makes the neck 90 percent maple and 10 percent carbon—for added strength and durability. The fretboard is the real treat, however. Instead of using a standard material like rosewood or ebony, the G.V. incorporates a material called phenowood, which is basically birch that’s been injected with carbon and phenolic resins. After being exposed to intense amounts of compression and heat, the material is virtually invincible to the stresses that commonly plague other types of fretboards—such as warping, cracking, and other issues caused by moisture and humidity changes.
The phenowood fretboard felt like a sheet of glass under my fingertips, and it had a smooth, clear sheen that I could almost see my reflection in. It was pretty obvious that Vigier was attempting to minimize any possible sources of friction, because the fretboard also features 22 medium-sized stainless-steel frets that are slippery to the touch, perfectly applied, and rounded at their edges. Getting a feel for the G.V. Wood’s unique fretboard took some time, though. The combination of the slick phenowood and even slicker frets induced several “Whoa, Nelly!” moments—especially when I grabbed the higher strings for bends above the 15th fret. To make sure each fretted note—single or within a chord—was perfectly in tune, I had to keep a close eye on how hard I fretted and picked the strings. For players with a more aggressive attack, the G.V. Wood might feel a little too hyper and precise under the fingers. On the flip side, those with a softer touch might never be able to let this guitar go.
The guitar’s body is a thing of beauty, too. It’s built from aged alder and has a 2-piece flamed-maple cap. Deep-set brass mounts anchor a custom-designed bridge with six graphite saddles and a small, flat stop tailpiece. Two handwound custom humbuckers made by Germany’s Amber Pickups are wired for a multitude of switching options selectable via a 5-way blade switch between the Volume and Tone controls. Full humbucking modes for the bridge and neck pickups can be selected from the first, third, and fifth switch positions (with the middle position engaging both), while the bridge unit is coil-tapped at the second position and the neck pickup is coil-tapped in the fourth position.
The Vigier feels like a guitar for every occasion. Sent straight into a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Multiwatt head and an Emperor 4x12 cabinet with four Weber C1265 speakers, it covered an expansive tonescape, with a high-fidelity attack and bite that left me floored more than once. The bridge pickup demonstrates incredible response and definition, with serious body in the midrange and a pleasing sag in the lows. Gingerly playing open chords with moving bass notes revealed an amazingly detailed high end. More aggressive pick attack cut through with authority, revealing nuances in the upper frequencies that I’d never heard through the Mesa. As I moved up and down the neck with a combination of bluesy lead work and jazzy chording, each note rang out forcefully but with even volume and sustain. It was especially nice to hear how treble detail stayed intact as I dropped the guitar’s volume to soften the upper mids and keep the bass response tight and focused. The same hi-fi qualities so plainly heard in the bridge pickup are apparent in the neck pickup, too.
In full humbucking mode, the bridge pickup yielded fantastic rock lead and rhythm tones through the Mesa’s orange channel. Flipping to the second position, the Angus Young tones of the humbucker transformed into dirty funk tones with a scooped midrange and ferociously cutting treble. I had a ball laying into Curtis Mayfieldinspired rhythm lines in this mode.
Moving from smooth lead sounds to sharp, ’70s-style rhythm and then to velvety chording perfect for augmenting blues bass lines was as easy as a flick of the pickup-selector switch. I ended up finding the third pickup position—both pickups in humbucking mode—the most impressive. A lot of dual-humbucker guitars tend to sound hollow in this configuration, but the G.V. Wood is not one of them. Playing Zep-inspired riffs with both pickups at full bore and hearing the thick, syrupy neck tones meld with the immediate attack of the bridge was a blast. It’s also the loudest position of the five. But rather than a jumbled mess of frequencies fighting, it yields a beautiful, full-spectrum signal that’s exceptionally responsive to touch.
If you’re looking for a guitar that covers an impressive variety of tones and caters to those with a precise touch, the Vigier G.V. Wood is an extraordinary 6-string. Its modern combination of a phenowood fretboard and stainless-steel frets offers a more slippery feel than a lot of players are accustomed to, but chances are it’s a feature that will ultimately enhance your technique. The pickups have superb response and body, with a unique sense of hi-fi detail. Touch and tone come together beautifully in the Vigier V.G. Wood to offer a playing experience that’s worth every penny—if you have them to spare.
you relish the idea of a superbly voiced guitar that avoids some of the pitfalls of traditional construction while encouraging you to play more precisely.
traditional materials and greater affordability are your thing.
Street $3999 - Vigier Guitars - vigierguitars.com
PG's Chris Kies is On Location in Anaheim, CA, for the 2010 NAMM Show where he swings by the Vigier Guitars booth. In this segment, we get to see their newest offerings for 2010, including the GV Wood P90, the Excalibur Christophe Godin, Excalibur Kaos and the Excess 5-String Bass. The GV Wood P90 features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with a phenowood fretboard. It comes loaded with Amber P90s a new Vigier hard-tail bridge. It has an alder body and flame maple top. The Excalibur Christophe Godin features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with maple fretboard. It comes with DiMarzio Tone Zone/FS1/Chopper (bridge, middle, neck) pickups and it has a Vigier 2011, non-locking trem system that moves on needles bearings. The Excalibur Kaos is the first reverse headstock Vigier guitar. It features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with maple fretboard. It has Amber humbuckers, Vigier 2011, non-locking trem system and a killswitch. The Excess 5-String Bass and it features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with either a maple, rosewood or delta metal fretboard. It has a quick release bridge and has an active singlecoil pickup with a hum-canceling circuit that eliminates the hum usually associated with single-coil pickups to create a true studio-quiet performance: single-coil tone without the hum.
PG's Chris Kies is On Location in Anaheim, CA, for the 2010 NAMM Show where he swings by the Vigier Guitars booth. In this segment, we get to see their newest offerings for 2010, including the GV Wood P90, the Excalibur Christophe Godin, Excalibur Kaos and the Excess 5-String Bass.
The GV Wood P90 features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with a phenowood fretboard. It comes loaded with Amber P90s a new Vigier hard-tail bridge. It has an alder body and flame maple top.
The Excalibur Christophe Godin features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with maple fretboard. It comes with DiMarzio Tone Zone/FS1/Chopper (bridge, middle, neck) pickups and it has a Vigier 2011, non-locking trem system that moves on needles bearings.
The Excalibur Kaos is the first reverse headstock Vigier guitar. It features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with maple fretboard. It has Amber humbuckers, Vigier 2011, non-locking trem system and a killswitch.
The Excess 5-String Bass and it features the 10/90 carbon/wood bolt-on maple neck with either a maple, rosewood or delta metal fretboard. It has a quick release bridge and has an active singlecoil pickup with a hum-canceling circuit that eliminates the hum usually associated with single-coil pickups to create a true studio-quiet performance: single-coil tone without the hum.