We appear to be smack-gob in the middle of another golden age of music, at least for the music I like.
I love guitars. How can you not? They're so cool.
Here are the axes that currently serve with me, as well as a roll of honour for those that got away. Apologies for the page size... lots of images. But they're all COOL images of GUITARS so it's fine.
The current arsenal, stretching backwards from the most recently procured.
Ibanez SR705 NT (2009?)
Yeah, I know you didn't come here to look at basses, but this is my newest acquisition so it goes at the top, capisce? I needed a decent bass in order to do some better recording. The 15-year loan of a pal's old Tanglewood Rebel 5 can now come to an end, as I have this baby. It plays great and sounds superb. Shame I can't play bass to save my life, really.
Serial number: I091211263
BlacKat DC7 (2015)
(Formerly known as BlacKat Ninja D7)
I first became aware of the work of BlacKat Guitars through my good friend Ian, who happened across one in a music store in Germany and fell so in love he bought it. I ordered this guitar in February 2014, and through one thing and another it took until December 2015 to actually get it. That said, it was worth every second of the wait.
F your I, the spec runs thus:
- Ash body in satin white
- Maple fretboard with black cat paw inlay
- Stainless steel frets
- Hipshot hardware and locking tuners
- Bare Knuckle Cold Sweat (neck) and Holy Diver (bridge) pickups.
Ibanez RG7620 (2000)
You see... the thing was, I'd been waiting for the BlacKat for over a year. I'd played the RG7321 with the band once or twice, and knew that I was starting to get into 7. But... there's a certain fluidity to the way I feel I have to play in the band that just feels like I need a trem. So, the hunt for a reasonably priced whammy-equipped seven string began, and this popped up in Germany. A friend kindly did the honours, I paid him back, and he even fitted the Bare Knuckle Aftermaths for me.
I can't stand plain unadorned black guitars, though, so white trimmings all round and everyone's a winner.
Serial number: F0008871
Washburn N2 (1990s ?)
I've actually owned this guitar twice, but this time I'm keeping it.
I can't peg the exact year of this guitar, since its serial number doesn't conform to usual Washburn numbering, but I believe it to be early-mid 1990s. A friend - and ex-owner of this guitar - believes this to be one of a short run of Japanese made N2s, as the body shape is apparently closer to the guitars that Nuno Bettencourt actually plays, though of course those are N4s. I don't know. What I do know is that this is one of the most fun guitars to play I've ever owned.
I've switched out the stock pickups for a Seymour Duncan '59 in the neck and a Bill and Becky L500XL in the bridge, in tasteful zebra stylings with cream surrounds. Annoyingly the guy who did the wiring got the pickup selector backwards, so in the picture that's actually the bridge pickup selected. It won't turn round in the hole, and I can't be arsed to rewire it. Ho hum.
Observant listeners will note that one of the bridge saddles is black. The G saddle cracked when I was restringing it one day, and the only replacement I could find was on a 'for parts' Washburn 600S trem on ebay, which was black. It's not even the right height saddle either, I had to shim it to get it to the right height.
Anyway - cracking guitar. Plays and sounds fabulous.
Possible further modifications: I'm seriously considering changing out that trem for a Gotoh GE1996T. Oh and one day I might get that switch the right way round.
Serial number: 1100159
Ibanez 540PII-SH (1989)
Ahhhhh, how long have I waited! As mentioned below, I used to play a two-humbucker one of these, and then got rid of it and regretted doing so almost immediately. So since the mid-to-late 90s, I've been trying to find a replacement. And finally, in early 2014, a chap turned up on the Jemsite forum selling not one but three of these gorgeous beasts! (Thanks Bas!)
Strangely, I can find no record of the 540PII-SH ever being released in orange. The 1989 Ibanez catalogue does list it as being released in FA—Five Alarm Red—and on the following page, there is an RG750FA which looks suspiciously orange... so maybe it's just that, and it's faded a little.
Observant listeners may also note that the original pearloid scratchplate has been replaced with a custom black one courtesy of Jack's Instrument Services. Great job, Jack!
Serial number: F925753
Taylor 210ce-k (2013)
I've never been a particularly acoustic man, but for a few years I kind of yearned for a really good acoustic on my wall just to be able to pick up and strum when the mood took me. And so, when my Mum asked me what I wanted for my 40th birthday, an idea bloomed. She ended up putting up most of the money and I drove over to a shop in Luton and came home with this superb guitar.
It's full gloss with a koa top and full electrics, and it sounds so so nice.
Thanks, Mum. I love it. RIP.
Serial number: 2102053276
Ibanez JEM90HAM (1998)
This is my goto 6-string for live work, particularly with Indigo Down. It plays like butter, sounds great and looks absolutely killer. The current pickups are DiMarzio Evolutions, but as of March 2016 I have ordered replacements from—who else?—Bare Knuckle!
Serial number: F9804205
Gibson Les Paul Custom (2001)
It was early 2004, and I had just joined Claytown Troupe. My main guitar at the time was the Blackmachine, but I felt a yearning for something more traditional. The added popularity of The Darkness at the time probably helped steer me towards a white one, and this splendid Alpine White Custom popped up on eBay at just the time I was looking. White Customs usually have gold hardware, but some apparently were released with nickel/silver, or so I'm told. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the bits aren't original though.
I've replaced the pickups with a set of Bare Knuckle Rebel Yells, and had the whole thing rewired as of 2014 since the Gibson pots were shit. They basically had two settings: off, and full-on. That's rubbish. Now it's as it should be.
I've also, as you may notice, replaced the knobs, scratchplate (from Jack's Instrument Services again) and poker chip with white versions. I rather like the look of it that way, thanks.
Serial number: 03191654
Blackmachine B2 (2003)
Yep. This is... just an amazing guitar. I first met Doug at Blackmachine at the London Guitar show in 2002 or 2003, and I fell in love with his guitars immediately. Right there and then I decided I was going to buy one, and I became his first commercial customer. FACT.
My B2 is 30mm thick, mahogany, with a Brazilian rosewood neck and fretboard. At the time of ordering it was unique in being the only Blackmachine B2 with no tone control (as I specified) and 24 frets (most of his guitars at that time were 22 fretters). In March 2016 I replaced the original DiMarzio pickups with Bare Knuckle Black Hawks which are absolutely amazing. I just cannot say enough good things about these guys and their pickups. Believe the hype.
I see that in the decade since Doug made this guitar for me Blackmachine guitars have skyrocketed in value and cachet, but this is one I will never sell. You will have to prise this guitar out of my cold, dead fingers and even then I don't fancy your chances.
Serial number: doesn't have one
Ibanez JEM777BBQ (1988)
This guitar started life as a JEM777DY, and was sold to me by a friend in need of cash in around 2001. It was in quite a state cosmetically at that point, with several large dings and chips down to the wood. This led me to think about customising the finish, and the results were... divisive. Personally I love the thing - it's my trusty workhorse guitar, but it still plays like a dream and I love its "modified" look. ;-)
Serial number: 882181
Ibanez JEM777LNG (1987)
Before this I played a JEM77FP which was awesome, but part of me always lusted after the original and when one came up I leapt at the chance to buy it. It cost me 3000DM, which tells me that I bought it in around 2000. As Ibanez officianados will know, this was the first production Jem and only 777 were made, each numbered by Steve Vai himself. Mine is one of the ones numbered on the backplate rather than the guitar itself, and it is #407.
Serial number: 870058
Gone But Not Forgotten
Sometimes you have to let guitars go. It's always hard, but that's life.
Ibanez Iceman ICT700WH
In the end though, it just wasn't getting played. I have two other incredible 6-string hardtail guitars, and this was simply surplus to requirements.
One day in, oh about 2002 or so, I went out into London with my mates Ian and Steve. All three of us came home with new guitars that day - the other two bought Les Pauls, and I bought this. It was £299 new, and it was all I needed in a 7-string at that time in that it had 7 strings. The pickups were... let's say "not astounding", but the neck was solid and it played fine when all I needed from it was those 5 extra low notes.
I've recently revisited the world of seven (hence ordering the BlacKat mentioned above) and so this guitar has had a bit of a revamp. I switched the tuners for Hipshot Griplocks (which are excellent) and the awful stock pickups have stepped aside to make way for the Seymour Duncan Sentient/Nazgûl set so favoured by low-stringers of late, particularly that Merrow chap.
I had to let this go once I had the BlacKat and the RG7620 mentioned above. There was just no way it was going to get played with not one but two superior sevens in the rack.
Here's a closer look at that stickered body.
Serial number: C02049918
I originally bought this guitar pretty cheap - either £249 or £299 new, I can't remember - purely to play in a covers band where we were tuning down a whole step and occasionally in drop-C. That's all kinds of faff with a locking trem, and I didn't want to be hassling with the Blackmachine or the Les Paul, and I didn't yet have the Iceman. As it happens, this thing has a great neck on it and looks fine. As a gesture towards rationalisation I sold this one to a mate in March 2014.
I loved this thing! Firstly I'm a sucker for Ibanez reverse headstocks, secondly colour-matched inlays! Thirdly, a great pickup combination. Still kind of miss this, but I really can't justify picking up another one. Shame, as the reissue is kinda sexy. :-)
I loved this thing! Colour-matched violet inlays, lo-pro trem, pretty good pickups... It had a few dings and chips down to the wood though. In the end I let it go to another UKMGer and it ended up being refinished with a flame maple veneer by Paul at Arrowhead Guitars.
I don't have any pics of this. I loved it, and would like it back. Maybe when I have some spare cash...
This was a real workhorse guitar. I obviously stickered it up, but also I switched out the original - fairly naff - humbuckers for a DiMarzio Air Norton in the neck and an X2N in the bridge, and that made it very interesting to play. :-)
Ibanez JEM77FP (1989)
Ah, of all of them, this is the one I miss the most. This was an amazing guitar. But I did something very stupid, and it got badly damaged, and it had to go. That's all I can really say about that.
Now, this was a fantastic machine, and one of my longest serving guitars. I discovered it on the wall of Macari's in Charing Cross Road. It was out of place as that shop is generally filled with more traditional guitars like Strats and Teles and also acoustics, banjos and ukeleles and the like. I was out with mate Ian, who was doing well financially at a time when I wasn't. He actually lent me the money to buy this guitar on the day and... well, I never did get round to paying him back. It was my main guitar for many years, having switched the humbuckers for a DiMarzio Humbucker From Hell in the neck and a FRED in the bridge, and it served me so well for ages. The only reason I let this go was... well, I needed money to buy an engagement ring. Personally I think that was a valid reason, but by god was it hard to let go of this one. Also, I still owe Ian a guitar.
I have mixed feeling about this guitar. On the one hand it served me well during the heaviest gigging period of my life (I had no other job and was gigging with band Iguanahead 2-4 times a week), but on the other hand I should never have bought it. Or rather, PXed it.
It was during the Dark Times (more on that another day) in the mid 90s. I wasn't playing that much (this was before Iguanahead), and I'd become bored of both my sound and my (far superior) guitar (next on the list, the 540PII-HH) when I happened across this on the wall of a music shop in Eastbourne. I'd been out of the loop for a while, and wasn't properly aware of the PGM30 "budget Paul Gilbert" range, and on some level thought I was getting a top-of-the-range PGM when in fact I was seriously trading down.
Not long after that dark day, I realised what I'd done, and the search began for another 540PII (they only made them from 1988 to 1990), a search which ended in February 2014 (see above).
Ahhhhh. This guitar. I was 18 and playing in my first "proper" band, i.e. one that rehearsed and did gigs, and working in a soap factory in Eastbourne. I sent off 50 or 60 quid to FCN / Underground Sounds in Tonbridge every month, and after 10 or 11 months, I collected this splendid machine. The 540PII has the widest neck of all 6-string Ibanez rock guitars. Where your RG550 is 43mm wide at the nut, the 540PII is 45mm. This was my very first Ibanez, my first introduction to the wonder that is the Edge trem system, and the pickups were DiMarzio-designed. This was my only guitar for a good five years, and as detailed above, I should never have parted ways with it. Oh well. I hope wherever it is now, someone is smashing out wicked licks on that superb neck.
Fender HM Strat
This was my first proper brand-name guitar - I mean, it was a Fender! But not just a Fender, it was a Heavy Metal Fender! The band I played this in was a hard rock band (my first) and I will always think fondly back to those days in Cooden.
The sticker job you see there... well, did I mention I was 17?
Maya Strat Copy
My very first guitar. It's December 1988, I'm 14, and at high school I'm "the dorky kid who's really good at maths". I have friends though, and am having a not-too-bad time of it. Then one day I notice that several people around me are i) playing instruments and ii) hanging out with girls a lot more than previously. "A-ha," think I. "I'll become a drummer!" When we found out how much drum kits cost, I decided to be a guitar player instead.
My birthday is January 10th, so this was to be a combined Christmas and birthday present - my Dad bought the guitar and an amp (a Laney keyboard amp, as it turned out) from the local free ad paper, and my Mum paid for a year of lessons, which I took with the splendid Mick Hutchinson.
The rest, as detailed above, is history.