Meet My New Kiesel Vader

Kiesel Vader

Hey Meet my Kiesel Vader! She’s a V7 with Hipshot/Kiesel vibrato. One of the coolest things about Kiesel is that every guitar is essentially a custom instrument: there’s an almost overwhelming range of options from which to spec out your dream guitar. Funnily enough, there’s a pretty similar guitar to mine on the V7 gallery, but that’s pretty much coincidence: whoever ordered that guitar just happened to have similar tastes to me. There are some differences too though, and as Homer’s assistant Karl said on The Simpsons, “My reasons … are my own.” Let’s break down what I selected and why.

Karl

So. Every element of this guitar was selected for a particular reason related to synesthesia. I’ve written about this before, including this article for Guitar World. Essentially synesthesia is a condition where a sensory input will set off other sensory ‘resonances.’ For instance, the number ‘2’ is blue to me, and always has been. It tastes kind of creamy and is very smooth to the touch. My brain has just always thought of it this way, and ditto for the other numbers, letters, shapes. It can happen with anything: particular speaking voices remind me of certain times of day. Certain guitar tones can generate really specific and complex chains of association that might incorporate texture, perception of size, levels of luminance, and so on. I’ve never done mushrooms cos I probably don’t need to. My brain is psychedelic enough on its own. That’s why I dig sensory deprivation tanks.

But back to the guitar: each of my specifications were based on specific things I wanted this guitar to be for. Things I wanted to play on it, sounds I wanted it to make, feelings I wanted it to generate or represent.

* Colour. This particular Aqua Burst reminds me of a shade of blue I often see in my dreams. I have a recurring dream of a futuristic city rising out of the ocean on the horizon, and it’s always an exciting place to visit. I wanted this guitar to embody that same sense of freedom and joy I have in those dreams. That’s also why I selected a flame maple top: to give the feel of waves in the ocean.
* Fingerboard. I always feel musically influenced by the colour of a fretboard. I feel like I play more ‘sunny’ on maple, and more ‘dark’ on rosewood. I chose Zebrawood because its mix of light and dark colours will (hopefully) encourage my subconscious to blend those two approaches.
* Neck. This is a 5-piece Black Limba/White Limba neck-thru. I wanted something that had more of a natural, ‘this used to be a tree’ look, and the particular colour of Black Limba reminds me of tree bark. This is a pretty futuristic-looking guitar so I wanted to balance that with something a bit more earthy.
* Body. The body is Alder, and I chose a natural finish because, again, I just wanted to offset the futuristicness of the design. And the almost desert-like colour balances really nicely against the Aquaburst top. It kinda makes the guitar look like Scarif from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
* Satin finish. I didn’t want this one to be shiny: sometimes it feels like a glossy finish is a barrier between me and the guitar.
* Pickups. This guitar as shipped has Kiesel Lithium pickups, but I’ll be installing my Seymour Duncan Custom Shop model, the Magnetar, soon. The bridge Lithium has an Alnico V plus ceramic booster, and a DC Resistance of 13.16k, and the neck model is Alnico V with a reading of 7.78k. The Magnetar is a pickup that MJ created for me when I asked her for ‘A pickup that sounds like the look of sunshine through a glass of beer, the feel of freshly-sanded wood and the taste of creme brûlée. It has an Alnico 8 magnet and it sounds both woody and airy, with a nice kick in the upper mids. Not too hot, not too gentle. This guitar will also have the first neck version of the Magnetar, and I’m going for a Zebra look for the same reason as choosing a Zebrawood fingerboard.
* Logo. I went with a white logo with black shadow because it stands out nicely and I wanted to proudly display the Kiesel name. Also another Zebra/light-dark balance thing.
* Seven strings. You can get a Vader in 6, 7 or 8 strings in standard or baritone scale or multiscale. I selected 25.5″ 7-string because 7 feels right to me, and I tend to be most comfortable on 25.5″ 7-strings rather than longer scales because I like to think of the 7 as a 6-string with a few extra notes when I need them, rather than orienting the whole guitar design towards those lower few notes. And I went with standard instead of multiscale because my multiscale heart belongs to Ormsby Guitars. Heh.
* Tremolo. Because whammy bars is fun.

So what does one name an instrument like this, designed to evoke both natural beauty and a certain space-age aesthetic, and to hopefully serve as a catalyst for better things?

Scarif.

Kiesel Vader

Second Annual She Rocks Awards – Congratulations MJ!

MJ at the Seymour Duncan Custom ShopThe second annual She Rocks Awards were held by the Women’s International Music Network (the WiMN) on January 24 during the NAMM Show, and one of the award winners was someone very near and dear to my heart:  Maricela “MJ” Juarez from the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. MJ made my all-time favourite pickup ever (my Magnetar), and she’s incredibly knowledgable about tone, as well as an incredibly lovely person. I had a great time getting to visit MJ at Seymour Duncan HQ after NAMM this year, where her She Rocks Legend Award was already proudly on display. Here’s the press release: Read More …

Build Your Own Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Pickup

magnetarNow, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’d probably know about my Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pickup, the Magnetar. Anybody can, of course, order their own custom pickup from Seymour Duncan, but the process just got a whole lot easier with the launch of the Custom Shop’s Build Your Own Pickup service. You can start with whatever format you like (right now there are options for Humbucker, Strat, Tele and P-90 along with a section where you can specify other types) and configure it however you like; magnet and wire type, colour, logo or no logo, pole piece type, string count (6, 7 or 8), custom-engraved colour… and there’s a section where you can describe the exact tone you’re after, so the Custom Shop can nail it for ya. And of course you have the option of giving your pickup a cool name (sorry, Magnetar’s already taken).  Read More …

Behold! The Mighty Magnetar!

Magnetar copyYou may recall this recent post about my Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pickup, the Magnetar. Well now you can hear it! Listen to it on Bandcamp here (and if you like it feel free to kick in a buck or two). I’ll embed it below too so you can listen to it right here. The idea for the Magnetar was to capture a particular sound I heard in my head that I just wasn’t quite getting from any stock pickup. So here’s the description I sent to MJ at the Custom Shop: Read More …

My new Seymour Duncan pickup: The Magnetar

Right now I’m at the Seymour Duncan headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. Everyone here is really cool and it’s a lovely part of the world. And I just picked up (pardon the pun) my new Custom Shop 7-string pickup. Wanna see the description I sent to MJ at the Custom Shop?

“…A custom shop 7-string bridge pickup for a basswood Ibanez RG  (maple neck, rosewood fretboard): tight bass and slightly scooped mids but a bit of a kick in the upper mids and treble – a sort of ‘dry’ sound that gets percussive when palm-muting. I tend to favor bridge humbuckers between 11k and 14k. To put it another more  abstract way: a pickup whose tone feels like sanded maple, tastes like creme brûlée and looks like sunlight through a glass of beer.”

And here it is: the Magnetar. A Magnetar is a a neutron star with an extreme magnetic field… seems like the perfect name for this pickup, which has an Alnico 8 magnet and a DC resistance of 13.90k.

Wanna order your own Custom Shop pickup? Here ya go!

The Magnetar

Magnetar

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