I encourage everyone to pop on a pair of headphones and listen to a few songs by The Cure – especially if you’ve never really paid close attention before. You’ll hear how a few simple melodic ideas can be blended together to form a much more complex whole. It’s really intriguing to listen to and learn from how each instrument works together, especially when the six-string bass is used: often Robert Smith might play a high melody while Simon Gallup plays a more traditional bassline, but sometimes these roles become cloudy: Gallup will play a more wandering melody while Robert plays something more anchored. The lines really become blurred between the roles of each instrument in service of the song. Robert Smith, Reeves Gabrels and Simon Gallup all have current signature model instruments to help them get their sound. Let’s have a look at them all. Schecter Robert Smith UltraCure
This is Robert’s main six-string workhorse. An old Gibson Chet Atkins was Robert’s benchmark in the design of this guitar – not that he wanted it copied, but just that he wanted something he would like as much as that guitar. It has a Mahogany body and three-piece Maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard with cool star and moon inlays, and Seymour Duncan ’59 pickups with individual pickup volumes and a master volume control (no tone). On The Cure’s current tour Robert is using a few with block inlays and Bigbsy vibratos, and Schecter had a great live Facebook video featuring some these guitars being finished and set up, including a few 12-string UltraCures not available to the public. Buy one here.Schecter Robert Smith UltraCure VI
Robert’s use of the Fender Bass VI is very influential – I know it’s one of the main reasons I bought my Squier Bass VI – but the UltraCure VI takes the same idea of a six-string instrument tuned an octave below a regular guitar and makes it a little more stage-friendly. The Bass VI’s bass-zapping ‘strangle’ control is gone, although the three on/off slider switches remain to take care of pickup selection duties. There’s also a master volume knob and a tone control, while the tailpiece is a standard stopbar which, when combined with the Tune-O-Matic bridge, eliminates the weird extraneous noises you sometimes get from Jagaur-style bridge/tailpiece setups. The pickups are a trio of Seymour Duncan SJAG-1 Vintage Jaguar single coils. Buy one here.
Schecter Robert Smith RS-1000 Acoustic
This guitar is a bit of a rarity because it doesn’t come fitted with any electronics. That’s right, it’s an acoustic guitar that’s actually acoustic, so if you want to amplify it you get to make up your own mind about whichever method works best for you. It has a solid Spruce top and Maple back and sides, Maple neck with Rosewood fingerboard and Mother of Pearl star and moon inlays. Lately Robert’s been using a version with a different headstock and a big while star behind the bridge. Buy one here.
Reverend Reeves Gabrels Signature
At first glance this looks like a stylised but still pretty straightforward guitar, but look a little closer and you’ll see plenty of upgraded features: a pair of Railhammer pickups, Wilkinson vibrato, phase switch, bass contour knob… and the tremolo cavity is back-routed for the ability to raise the pitch as well as lower it (or make weird fluttery sounds or do the whole Jeff Beck ‘bend by pushing on the bridge’ trick). Buy one here.
Reverend Reeves Gabrels Spacehawk
The latest Reeves Gabrels model has a great retro-futuristic vibe with its segmented pickguard, Bigsby vibrato and pointy lines (and the yellowed fretboard inlays add to the old-school vibe too). Again it has Railhammer pickups, the Bass Contour control and push-pull phase switch, but adds a kill toggle as well, making it a deceptively flexible guitar. It also has a Soft Touch spring whigh turns the Bigsby into a more high-performance unit. Buy one here.
Schecter Simon Gallup Ultra Spitfire Bass
Simon’s bass is pretty straightforward. It has a Maple/Walnut Multi-ply neck-through body with Mahogany wings and passive EMG TBHZ pickups. These are Alnico pickups designed for Thunderbird-style basses, and you can see the Thunderbird’s influence on the Ultra Spitfire pretty clearly. (Simon has been playing yellow versions with graphics by Nancy Wakeman Graphic Design, which you can see in the Facebook video linked above). Buy one here.