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.


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.
* 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?


Kiesel Vader

New Pickup Day: DiMarzio Area T 615

The DiMarzio Dominon isn’t my only New Pickup Day: I’ve also just installed a DiMarzio Area T 615 in my Telecaster parts guitar. The Area T 615 is a Tele bridge pickup made for modern country music. It’s hum-cancelling and it offers increased dynamic range. It’s made with an Alnico 2 magnet, has a DC resistance of 7.93 Kohm and an output mV of 200, and DiMarzio puts its general tone guide at Treble 7.5, Mid 5.5 and bass 5.5.


I’ve given it a quick spin ahead sitting down to do a full review, and so far I’m really digging how nicely it ‘sits.’ The bass isn’t too big, the highs aren’t too strident and the mids aren’t too honky. It cleans up very nicely indeed when you pick softer, and it sounds great no matter where on the neck you play.


The neck pickup in my home-assembled Tele contraption is a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder, a very dark, woolly-sounding pickup which doesn’t seem to balance very nicely with the Area T 615, although it sounds great with its matching Quarter Pounder bridge pickup.


My dad and I put this Tele together when I was about 15. For a few years it was my main guitar, and it’s been through a hell of a lot with me. I don’t play it very often any more but when I do I feel right at home, even though I’m much more commonly found playing superstrats.


More info on the DiMarzio Area T 615 here.

NEW GEAR DAY: MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion

Remember this story about the MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion? Sure ya do, because it was the very last story I wrote before this one. Well I happened to get my hands on one of these bad boys today, so without further adieu, and as a teaser for an eventual full review, wrap yer listening gear around this little demo I whipped up.

MXR Custom Badass 78 Distortion by I Heart Guitar

The gear used on the recording is:
Guitar: Ibanez UV777BK (Universe) 7-string
Pickups: DiMarzio Crunch Lab 7, DiMarzio Liquifire
Amplifier: Marshall DSL50 (clean channel)
Cabinet: Marshall 1960A w/Celestion V30s
Microphone: Shure SM57

A little delay and reverb was added in Pro Tools.

[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]
CLICK HERE to buy the MXR M78 Custom Badass ’78 Distortion from Musician’s Friend.

[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]And here are some links to buy DiMarzio Crunch Lab & LiquiFire pickups at Musicians Friend.

DiMarzio Crunch Lab (Black, F-Spacing)

DiMarzio Crunch Lab (Black, Regular Spacing)

DiMarzio Crunch Lab 7 (Black)

DiMarzio LiquiFire (Black, F-Spacing)

DiMarzio LiquiFire (Black, Regular Spacing)

DiMarzio LiquiFire 7 (Black)[/geo-out]

NEW GEAR DAY: Planet Waves Varigrip

I picked up a Planet Waves Varigrip the other day. It’s a neat little device that allows you to strengthen your fingers when you’re away from the guitar, and it’s designed so you can do all sorts of different exercises for different parts of the hand and fingers. It even has a callous builder. I really wish I had this when I was overseas earlier this year and didn’t have a guitar with me. Those first few days back after not really playing for almost a month were murder on my fingers!


[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]CLICK HERE to buy the Planet Waves Varigrip Hand Exerciser from Musician’s Friend.[/geo-out]