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Gear Porn by Dave Leslie: Grubisa Merlin

Merlin

Hey there, Sports Fans. This is the first instalment of a column that I hope will be a regular occurrence around these parts. It basically entails me, Dave, chatting and sometimes waxing lyrical/nostalgic about the equipment that myself (and Suze, if you’re interested) have been playing/using/abusing during the last 20 or so years of Baby Animals (and maybe even the 17 years before that…).

Those of you who know me know that I’m a self-confessed ‘gear-head.’ I have been fortunate to have acquired some really nice stuff and I really enjoy discussing equipment, what it does, how it sounds, how it looks and most importantly, the way it makes music…

dave leslie_0001

Some of you might find this stuff really boring. I realise that music isn’t about the gear and the listener shouldn’t have to know or care what is used, as long as it sounds good. I completely get that… Bottom line is that if it sounds good it is good. For those that are interested, please feel free to comment and ask questions. I will endeavour to answer to the best of my knowledge (and sometimes hazy memory).

I might kick off the maiden voyage of this adventure with a profile on my #1 guitar for the last 17 years, the Grubisa Merlin #001.

I had been friends with Frank for quite a while and used to hang at his workshop in Botany between gigs/tours to drink coffee, sniff wood and chat about guitars. I had been taking my Strats to him for re-frets/setups and I thought his work was immaculate, and a top bloke, to boot.

We had been discussing various designs when he showed be a design similar to a guitar that he had just made for Bob Spencer. As opposed to Bob’s, this design had a slightly bigger, more feminine body shape and the cutaways were a little softer and more-rounded. It was chambered and had an extended neck-tenon which extended through the body to the bridge pickup. In other words, a damn stable axe with an almost neck-thru quality…

dave leslie_0002

I had been playing a Les Paul Custom which was as heavy as a boat and I was looking for something that would still give me a fat, woody tone but not stunt my growth or give me curvature of the spine…

We got to start picking wood and decided on a nice, stripy maple cap (not too over-the-top) on a chambered Mahogany body with a couple of Grestch Filter-tron pickups. The neck was a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard (back in the day when it was still legal) on a quarter-sawn, one piece mahogany neck with abalone fret markers of Frank’s own design…

Well, a month or so later she was ready. The first of this design to be born, Frank named the model ‘Merlin’ after the Rolls-Royce engine that powered the mighty Spitfire.

My girl had serial #GM 001.

When I needed a little more mid-rangey beef than the ‘Tron pickups could provide, Frank routed the body out for 2 humbuckers. PAFs lived there for a while but the positions are now filled with two pickups from Adelaide maker, Mick Brierley.

dave leslieBoth pickups have split-coil possibility and a special wiring by Frank, which has a master volume, front pickup volume and master tone pots. This combo makes for a wide palette of tones.

As far as the sounds go, she is really versatile, with a wonderful, sparkly top end but also has an enormous thickness to the tone. An example of which, being when I used it on a “Boags Premium” commercial. (The B&W, Glassblower one, where the girl plays the double-neck, I think it’s still on YouTube…) Signal chain was Merlin-DE7 delay-RAT-Fender Twin, (we nearly killed that Twin…). Big, woody TONE! :-D

What more can I say than that it very rarely leaves my side, it has done probably around a thousand gigs, has been stolen and returned, it’s on it’s third set of frets, countless jingles and sessions and is all over the new Baby Animals record…

I think I’ll keep it.

Merlin + Leso


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Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com

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