Here’s something I wrote for Gibson.com recently, about the newly reissued Gibson Moderne. This was a really fun article to research and I hope you dig it.
The Moderne is the great lost Gibson guitar. Shrouded in mystery and myth, its story has been passed around in dimly lit bars, cluttered music stores and thronging NAMM Show floors for almost six decades now. It’s elusive and desirable, partly due to its unique styling and partly due to its sheer unattainability for so many years. That’s all about to change (the scarcity, anyway: the Moderne will remain as freaky-cool as ever). But more on that in a moment. First, let’s backtrack.
It’s the Les Paul that launched a million guitarists: the 1974 Cherry Sunburst three-pickup Gibson Les Paul used by Ace Frehley during KISS’s breakthrough era. The guitar, known as the Budokan Les Paul in honour of the historic Japanese venue where it was given one of its best-known public showings, left Ace’s stewardship a few years ago, and it was long since retired from the road. But now it’s back, in spirit at least, in the form of Gibson Custom’s new Ace Frehley “Budokan” Les Paul Custom. This limited edition instrument will be available in four versions: fifty signed guitars aged by Tom Murphy in the Gibson Custom Shop; one hundred aged (but not signed) pieces; a further 150 finished with Gibson’s VOS (Vintage Original Spec) process; and 1000 pieces of an Epiphone version which retains most of the design features of its Gibson big brother. Ace took some time to talk with I Heart Guitar about the new guitar, the 30+ year old classic it’s based on, and his future plans.
“It was my favourite guitar that I used pretty much exclusively through the 70s and 80s, I guess,” Frehley says of the original instrument. “I continued to use it even with Frehley’s Comet. I don’t even remember when I got it! It was some time around 1975, 76. I had three or four backups, but the particular one that they just released, which is called the Budokan guitar, it was always my favourite guitar, my number one. It just felt the best and played the best.”
A few weeks ago I wrote about the ’59/Custom Hybrid which Seymour Duncan announced at NAMM. Check out this new video of Seymour Duncan’s Frank Falbo demoing and discussing the pickup in comparison with a few others. The video offers a nice clear recording of the differences and ‘sames’ between the Custom, the ’59 and the ’59/Custom pickups.
What’s really super mega cool about this pickup is that it’s based on a mod developed by a member of the Seymour Duncan User Group forum. So there ya go – those of you who like to mod your gear and brag about it online (and who doesn’t?), just think – maybe the next time you perform some sweet mod on your guitar or pedal or something, it could end up as a production model.
Country guitarist Albert Lee is a freak. One of the true greats able to play totally in the pocket in a very tasteful, rhythmic manner – as those who were lucky enough to see him at the recent Ernie Ball 50th Anniversary party can attest – then slice your head off with a seemingly impossible flurry of speedy yet purposeful notes. Lee’s longstanding signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitar is much the same: both restrained and outrageous, traditional and exotic. The most common, three-single-coil configuration displays an obvious lineage to the Fender Stratocaster but to think of it as just a pointy Strat is to do the guitar a great disservice. And that fact is driven home even further by the EBMM Albert Lee HH model.
The twin-humbucker HH has the same basic outline as the triple single coil version, with its angular body horns and a very ‘designy’ forearm contour which follows the path set in motion by the slope of the top edge of the cutaway. The body is made of African Mahogany, finished in a high gloss polyester and available in all of EBMM’s Standard Classic Colours range. The company goes to great pains to ensure that all guitars weigh in within a specific range – around 2.95kg, give or take a little, or 0.2kg more for the tremolo version, ensuring consistency from guitar to guitar.
I’ve received word that a certain guitar company has allegedly just parted ways one of their owner-operators – a man who the company is actually named after. This will be big news when it gets out there and it’ll be very interesting to see what this gentleman does next. After all, this isn’t the first time he’s left a guitar company that he played a high-profile role in…
More as it develops. Feel free to speculate in the comments section.
Usually when I buy a pickup, I put a lot of time into researching my options, considering the body wood of the guitar, the amplifier I’ll be using, the style of music I’ll be playing, the guitar’s scale length, string spacing, volume potentiometer value… I really enjoy this process and it’s something I look forward to. That’s why I was intrigued a few years ago when I spotted a used Ibanez RG550 in a pawn shop which had already had its bridge pickup swapped out for a Seymour Duncan Parallel Axis Trembucker. I bought the guitar without actually playing it (I know that sounds like a gamble, but this guitar was an absolute steal), and I was already considering the option of putting a new set of pickups in it as I was driving the guitar home. But of course first I plugged in to see what the Parallel Axis Trembucker sounded like.
Long story short, I scrapped my plans to change the pickups.
Check out this sweet ESP Jesse Liu Katana 7, the signature model 7-string for the Chthonic guitarist. Alder body, maple neck with ebony fretboard, neck-thru construction, 25.5″ scale, Floyd Rose bridge, Seymour Duncan AHB-1 7-string pickup, metalworthy silverburst finish. This model is new for 2012 and you won’t find it in all markets. A 6-string model is also available. You can pick this bad boy up from my buddies at Bmusic.
One of my favourite pedals ever is the Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe. It’s one of those pedals that has the uncanny ability to simply make everything sound better, and once you turn it on it’s hard to turn it off. Well the latest evolution of the Voodoo Vibe is the new Vibe TC, and it’s a very stylish little unit too. The press release is below, and make sure you check out Roger’s website and Facebook page.
Catalinbread showed at NAMM for the first time in 2012 with a really cool display. They had plenty of cool new pedals to check out, but in the true spirit of showmanship they drew a lot of attention with a set of special Custom Shop Fuzz Flowers handpainted by Sharlet Thompson. These amazing creations feature the Catalinbread line as well as some special fuzz creations built by Bryan Lundstrom.
Also on show:
There was plenty of great stuff at NAMM this year – real break-your-wallet kind of stuff – but one of my favourites and certainly very high on my ‘must-sell-a-kindey-to-fund-purchase’ list is the 65amps Producer. It isn’t cheap but boy is it pretty. You might think of amps like the Lil Elvis when you ponder 65amps, but the Producer is something else entirely: an EL34-loaded warbeast which captures, subdues, skins and stuffs classic rock tones then mounts them on the wall for proud display. And it does it all while knocking back shots of Jäger.
65amps wanted to design a classic-sounding amp but without the unpredictability of those circuits. Y’know how a tube amp can sound great in one room but terrible in the next? 65amps has done some extensive study on the matter and found that these old circuits were designed around tubes that could take the voltage, which modern tubes just can’t do. So they’ve came up with their own solution, which they feel makes new tubes sound even better than old ones. The key to this is a new transformer by Mercury Magnetics which runs the amp’s EL34s in an extremely safe and unconventional way that no off-the-shelf guitar amp transformer can do. The two companies are so sure of the stability and reliability of this method that they expect that you won’t have to change your tubes for years.