Aah, the Les Paul. Is there anything cooler than slinging one down around your knees, slumping over like Slash and reeling off sleazy rock riff after sleazy rock riff? Well, yeah. Not having to put down your beloved axe to pick up a wimpy acoustic to play the ballad is cooler. Not being tied to one of those acoustic guitar stands for the songs when you need to play acoustic and electric parts is cooler. Now, Gibson and Epiphone are well aware of how to make a cool thing cooler – just witness the Gibson Tony Iommi SG or the Epiphone Goth 1958 Explorer for proof. So it should be no surprise that they’ve figured out the least obtrusive way yet to cram acoustic sounds (via a Shadow NanoMag pickup) into an otherwise all-electric Les Paul in the form of the Les Paul Standard Ultra-II.
The Blackening was an unstoppable juggernaut of metal power for Machine Head. Conceived in 2005 and released in 2007, it kept the band on the road for quite literally years. But all good things must come to an end. And so finally, in the year of our lord 2011, Machine Head present Unto The Locust. Produced by Robb Flynn at Green Day’s Jingletown Studios, it’s a surprisingly diverse album which tempers its thrash edge with classical influences, wild mood swings, laser-focused precision, blunt-force-trauma riffage and some of Flynn’s best ever vocal performances. It may be hard to ever forget The Blackening and the way it captured the charred hearts of both modern and old-school metal fans in equal measure, but Unto The Locust its own animal and it makes neither concessions nor apologies for its history-making predecessor. It simply gets on with it in its own kickass way.
So I guess the question everyone wants to know the answer to is, did you have The Blackening‘s success in mind when you started working on this one, or did you try to ignore it?
We definitely didn’t have The Blackening in mind at all. We lived that moment for so long. It was an amazing moment, but when it was done, we were really excited to start writing again. You’ve got to remember, when we started writing The Blackening, it was August of 2005. And we started writing for this record in June of 2010, so five years had passed. We were ready to write, and we were ready to create a new moment.
It was almost like that album wouldn’t let itself die, y’know? It just kept going and going.
Yeah! It was amazing. It was an incredible moment. The Slipknot tours, Metallica tours, Grammy nominations. It was an endless stream of good news! It was really amazing, but it just went on for a while. We were lucky enough to finish the tour in Australia. That was the last dates of the whole album cycle. The last show we played in Sydney. It was killer, a great way to end it, and we totally went triumphant into the writing sessions. We were really charged up.
I really dig the classical guitar influence on the new album. I understand you actually took classical lessons?
I did. I actually took classical guitar in high school. It was an elective I had to take and I mainly just smoked a lot of weed and played Black Sabbath songs. Haha. I got a C minus, which isn’t a very good grade. It’s below average. I guess I showed that teacher, huh? Haha. But it really got my mind into that mindset of playing it, and once I really started playing I always leaned towards classical players. Like, I always liked Richie Blackmore, and Randy Rhoads in particular was a massive influence. Randy Rhoads on the first two Ozzy albums brought a lot of classical vibes and that was a huge influence. So between that and Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, those were pretty much my main masters.
Now this is going to be fun. What could possibly be more awesome than duking it out in a guitar battle royale where you must ultimately face the horned one him/her/itself, while being judged by an esteemed panel of respected guitar experts, and also me?
1ST ANNUAL DEMON ROCK OFF GUITAR COMPETITION
Celebrating ROCKTOBER, Rockstar Bowling proudly announces the first annual DEMON ROCK OFF GUITAR COMPETITION, to be held Sunday 16 October at 4pm at the venue’s Rock Bar.
Turning the volume up to “11” and inviting all amateur guitarists to showcase their signature “facemelting”, contestants will battle each other in a series of judged elimination rounds with two finalists selected for a soul-saving face off with the Devil himself. The Grand Prize winner will receive:
• A Gibson Epiphone Guitar
• $500 voucher to Gallins Musician’s Pro Shop
• Professionally Recorded Demo CD and Video
• Feature Showcase Gig at Rockstar Bowling Rock Bar
• Music Press Coverage Annoucements
• An Eternity of Free Bowling
Wow, I just unearthed a photo of my old Epiphone Firebird, which I got in 2002. That was a great guitar but I quite stupidly traded it for something else in 2004. To this day I don’t understand why I did that. Hurrumph. It was a killler guitar, with Seymour Duncan mini humbuckers that sounded amazing. It was missing the switch tip when I bought it and I never did get around to replacing it. It sounded amazing – real Govt Mule tone – and the only problem I really had with it was that it was a very different playing experience to the Ibanez RGs I was used to. I occasionally used to kind of grate my index finger on the strings when I was picking. But instead of adjusting my picking style when playing that guitar, I gave up. Like a jerk.
Epiphone doesn’t appear to currently make a Firebird like this (though they do make a Firebird Studio that looks pretty cool). The closest thing to it is the actual Gibson Firebird V 2010, which looks very similar to my old Epiphone but with nicer inlays and cooler tuners.
I’ve always wondered why there was no Gibson or Epiphone pickguardless Explorer with EMGs. Seemed logical. Gibson used to make an Explorer with no pickguard and a black headstock way back in the day, and a certain famous thrash guitarist used one of these with EMG active humbuckers in place of the stock passive humbuckers.
The 1984 Explorer EX has EMG 81 and 85 (neck and bridge) pickups. The body and neck are mahogany, the fretboard is rosewood, scale length is 24.75″. Available colours are Ebony and Alpine White.
Click here for more info. More pics below.
For some players – traditionalists, if you will - a Les Paul with a Floyd Rose is an abomination. For others (Slash and Alex Lifeson spring immediately to mind) it’s a useful addition which expands the guitar’s already impressive capabilities. While Gibson offers a few Floyd-equipped Pauls (the Axcess and new Alex Lifeson Axcess), Epiphone is also doing their part to encourage a bit of wiggle-stickery amongst Les Paul players.
The PlusTop PRO/FX features a Floyd Rose Special bridge and an R4 nut. The body is the standard mahogany, with a flame maple top in a very attractive Desertburst finish. The neck is mahogany too, with a rosewood fretboard and mother-of-pearl Trapezoid inlays. The neck shape is a 1960s Slim Taper with a D profile, but it’s definitely not as thin as you’ll find on shred machines and the like. The back of the neck is finished in the matte black, a big change in feel compared to the glossy finish one usually expects. There are 22 jumbo frets on the flattish 14″ radius fretboard. Tuners are Grovers with a 14:1 ratio.
This press release just, to quote Spinal Tap‘s David St Hubbins, drifted through my transom. Thought the USA-made John Lennon signature Epiphone Casinos were freaken’ sweet but couldn’t stretch the wallet that far? Well check out these babies which are made in Asia but feature Gibson USA electronics. Neat!
Nashville, Tennessee….December 18th, 2009…Epiphone Guitar announces the anticipated release of the Limited Edition and New “Inspired by” John Lennon Casino offering the professional musician the same key features of Epiphone’s acclaimed John Lennon signature U.S.A. Casinos but at a more affordable price. Also based upon the “1965″ Casino and the “Revolution” Casino, these two “Inspired by” versions combine the cost-effective workmanship of Epiphone’s own factory in Asia with original Gibson U.S.A. electronics including classic P-90 pickups with dog-ear, nickel plated covers and a Switchcraft(tm) made toggle and output jack.
The Inspired by “1965″ Lennon Casino: In 1966, during the recording of “Revolver,” John Lennon and George Harrison each acquired vintage sunburst Epiphone Casino guitars. The 1965 Casino is a reproduction of the original guitar John purchased with its sunburst finish and stock hardware. Attention to detail includes the correct “burst” pattern and front and back, neck joint at the 16th fret (instead of the 17th), vintage style tuners with small metal buttons, black washer around the toggle switch and the historically accurate rectangle “blue label” inside the sound hole.
In 1968, John had his Casino sanded down to the bare wood and covered with a thin, dull finish. During that time, he also replaced the tuners with Gold Grovers and removed the pickguard. He first used this “natural” Casino during “The White Album” sessions in 1968. The “Inspired by” Revolution Casino is a reproduction of this stripped guitar and as it also remains today. Both “Inspired by” Casinos include a hard case while the Revolution version also includes the unattached pickguard and mounting bracket.
As with all Epiphone Lennon guitars, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each goes to the BMI Foundation for the John Lennon Scholarship Fund which supports music education. Backed by Epiphone’s Limited Lifetime Warranty and 24/7/365 day Customer Service, these new “Inspired by” Casinos capture the essence of the 1960′s and the Beatles with their authentic looks, specifications and one-of-kind sound and feel that only a Casino has. Pickup one today and start a Revolution!
Zakk Wylde recently burst into town on an international jaunt to show off his three new signature guitars: the Gibson Zakk Wylde Les Paul BFG Buzzsaw and Bullseye and the Epiphone Graveyard Disciple. Zakk’s departure from Ozzy Osbourne’s band this year has been well documented, so I thought it would be fun to instead focus on Zakk’s new axes. Oh and um, warning: if you’re offended by salty language, you might wanna skip this interview, ok?
I Heart Guitar: Zakk! How ya been?
Zakk: Everything’s going good, man. We did an instore the other day, now I’m just hanging out with the rest of the Sydney chapter of Black Label. Just chillin’ out today, doing a batch of interviews, hanging out with the guys from Guitarist magazine over here. So everything’s cool, man. Heading back to the States tomorrow, have the holidays with the kids, then fire up the Black Label machine in January, start working on the new album. So that’s about it, brother.
Zakk: Oh yeah! We actually had one day that we could actually go sightseeing, so we went up to the Great Wall and then the Forbidden City. But usually there’s never any time to go anywhere because you’re workin’, you know what I mean? Most of the time, especially when I was drinking it was like ‘Let’s go sightseeing,’ but it’s like ‘Dude, if we’ve got a day off you and I are gonna go hit an Irish pub,’ you know what I mean?
IHG: You gave us quite a scare a few months ago!
Zakk: Oh yeah, totally, man. Between the blood clots and all that shit… we were out on the road with Mudvayne and Static-X on the Pedal to the Metal tour and we were having a blast out on that thing. Then next thing you know I’m sitting there hanging out and my leg was friggin’ killing me, my left leg behind my knee. I just figured maybe I’d pulled my calf muscle, I’d pulled something behind my knee. It wasn’t like I fell or anything, like maybe I dislocated my knee or fucked up my ankle up or anything. It wasn’t like I was doing David Lee Roth splits off the drum riser. I’d be icing down my leg and everything like that… just in the middle of the night it was a major production to take a leak. After that, we had like a 24-hour drive and I said ‘Before we do this, I just wanna get an ultrasound…’ the guy goes ‘Dude, you’ve got two huge blood clots behind your knee.’ I was like ‘Dude, you fuckin’ kidding me?’ He says, ‘No, do you do a lot of travel?’ I said ‘Well yeah, of course. I’m either on a tour bus or I’m flying or I’m on a ferry or something. I’m always travelling. I’m a musician, that’s what we do for a living.’ He said usually airline pilots get this shit, or truck drivers, you know what I mean? I said I’m not usually stationary, I can move around on a tour bus – it’s not like I’m driving the damn thing. But he said that’s probably where I got it from. I said ‘Would drinking have anything to do with this?’ He just goes, ‘No dude, if anything drinking was thinning your blood.’ I said ‘Well good, alcohol is a good thing,’ and my wife says ‘You’re fucken’ dreaming, buddy-boy. The bar’s closed for you, jackass.’ So I’m takin’ this Coumadin shit, and I had to get myself shots and everything. I haven’t even been drinking the last three months or whatever. I haven’t even had a beer, because if you drink alcohol on this shit you start pissin’ blood out your ass and your dick.
IHG: You don’t need that!
Zakk: Yeah, I’m like, fuck that, it’s a pain in the ass.
IHG: Well let’s talk about the new guitars. I saw one of the new BFG models the other day at Allans in Melbourne and it seemed like a really cool stripped down axe.
Zakk: About 10 years ago I got a prototype up at the house for the BFG guitars. Mine was more like corrugated cardboard and it wasn’t as chambered out as the ones they have now, but I said it would be killer if it had no binding, no paint, no lacquer, all you’re hearing’s the actual wood of the Les Paul. And it is a different model Les Paul. It’s not just a different top on it. It’s chambered out and it has a different feel than a Standard, and it’s definitely different than a Custom. If anybody said they never played a Les Paul cos it’s too heavy, wait til they play one of these things. It’s more like the weight of an SG. It’s definitely lighter. It’s got more top end and everything. The guitar sounds killer. The wood’s beautiful on it. They did a really killer job with these things.
IHG: And the Graveyard Disciple?
Zakk: I remember talking about the Bo Diddley guitar and the Billy-Bo, Billy Gibbon’s guitar, and I was going, ‘These guitars are so god-awful ugly!’ I just dug ‘em. Then I was looking in Vintage Guitar magazine guitar, the Vox Phantom, the Vox Teardrop, just how butt-ugly these guitars are, when they were doing the surf music and all that type of shit. Then I remember getting a coffin thing… it was a promo item with the Black Label logo on it, and inside was a bunch of lollypops my merch company with all the song titles: Genocide Junkies, Graveyard Disciples, House of Doom, Death March, written on the lollypops. I was just like ‘Dude, you know what’d be cool? To put a guitar neck on it.’ So Epiphone went out and made it for me, and I was like, ‘Dude, this thing’s fucken’ slammin’.’ The body is all mahogany like an SG, and the neck, instead of it being mahogany and rosewood like on an SG it’s maple with Ebony like on my Les Pauls. But the neck is a thinner taper – it’s not as thick as my Les Paul Customs. And the thing plays fucken’ great. When you’re sitting down, when they put the Steinberger kickstand on it, you can sit down and play it, otherwise the thing’ll slide right off your fucken’ leg, you know what I mean? But you can sit down and jam on this fucken’ thing like it’s nobody’s business, so man, the thing plays great. And it’s got the Floyd Rose on it so you can dick around with that thing. They did a good job with the guitar – I really dig it.
IHG: And the cool thing is, it’s Epiphone so it’ll be cheaper and more kids can get their hands on it.
Zakk: You can get it for around 800 bucks US or something like that, because it has the passive EMGs. I always put the active ones in it, because it’s always a money issue with that shit. They’ll put the passive ones in it to keep it under a thousand dollars, and if anyone wants the actives they just buy the active pickups and throw them in. So I understand all that shit – they gotta do it that way because it’s the business side of crap. But the guitar plays fucken’ great. Usually if it’s a cheap model you’ll just got ‘Dude, it’s a cheap piece of shit, I ain’t gonna play the fucken’ thing.’ But the guitar’s slammin’. I jam on it all the fucken’ time now. I play it live.
IHG: The quality of lower-priced guitars has improved so much since I started playing.
Zakk: Yeah, without a doubt. The crazy thing was, in the beginning Epiphone was a bigger company than Gibson back in the day, which a lot of people didn’t know. But the craftsmanship on them is slammin’. Some of my buddies like the Epiphones better than the Gibsons.
IHG: And like you say, you can upgrade them with better pickups later and still use the guitar even when you’ve moved up to more expensive ones.
Zakk: I agree. Like with the Randy Rhoads models, you’ve gotta have the student model, then when the kid’s ready to step up and get the one with the binding on it and the really nice shit, and they’re willing to drop $3,000, $5,000 on a guitar they can get it, you know what I mean?
IHG: I did that with Ibanez – I started out with a cheaper RG and eventually kept getting better ones until I ended up with the Jem.
Zakk: Yeah, and even though you got the cheaper one, it was good and it was still good enough that you can wail on the fucken’ thing, you know what I mean?
IHG: Speaking of wailing, I was watching some videos of you playing the Graveyard Disciple the other day and I find it really interesting to see the way you pick. You seem to get your whole forearm involved. How’d you develop that?
Zakk: I dunno, just years of practice. Some people are all wrist, but I use a bit of everything. The way I pick is pretty aggressive. I know a lot of other people pick really light. Even Randy Rhoads – Rudy Sarzo was telling me Randy Rhoads was the lightest picker he ever saw in his life. A lot of stuff Randy was doing too was real legato. But even when he picked everything, Rudy said Randy’s touch was really like.
IHG: One of my friends gave me something really cool recently – a Guitar World from 1988 where they had an article introducing you as Ozzy’s guitarist. And it said you’d be using Strats on what would become ‘No Rest For The Wicked.’ Did that end up happening?
Zakk: No, I never ended up trying a Strat. I think I might have got one of those Yngwie Strats back in the day. Actually I don’t know what the hell I did with that guitar. I fucken’ couldn’t stand the paint job – it was fucken’ terrible. But the guitar was fucken’ awesome. I wish I still had it around the fucken’ house. I’d take it and just fucken’ strip the fucken’ paint off it. I’ve gotta have it in my lock-up somewhere. I remember that guitar was fucken’ kickass though.
IHG: Do you ever look back on those old magazines for old times’ sake?
Zakk: Oh yeah, without a doubt. I saved all that shit. I’ve got a batch of that shit in the lock-up back in California in the compound. So yeah, with the goofy hair and all that shit.
IHG: Well I’m looking at the magazine right now and 20 years ago you looked pretty much like kids today!
Zakk: Oh yeah man, every 20 years everything old is new again. We were just over in Singapore and a lot of the kids fucken’ love Motley Crue, like when Motley was wearing the big hair like in the beginning. I was like, ‘Dude, that shit is the fucken’ coolest shit.’ Then they were telling me, ‘Dude, we didn’t even know about you until we saw that Rock Star movie.’ I was like, ‘Are you fucken’ kidding me?’ And they’re like, ‘No dude, we know about you through that, and dude, that movie is fucken’ awesome.’ But they fucken’ love that 80s shit, y’know what I mean?
IHG: Speaking of movies, you’re acting in a film called Bones that’s coming out soon? (See the trailer below)
Zakk: I had a great time making it. Whenever I do that kind of stuff I had a great time. It’s about this little kid who’s trying to make it, and I’m like his surrogate dad, and I end up mentoring him and shit like that.
IHG: Well that’s time up. Thanks Zakk!
Zakk: Alright brother, good talkin’ to ya, buddy. You take care brother.
Huge thanks to the mighty fine folks at Gibson for arranging this interview.