gear


Here’s a great package recently featured on the absurdly robust Make Weird Music site. MWM mastermind Anthony Garone and guitar electronics guru Ed Heisler had the opportunity to install the latter’s Mad Hatter SVST-HSH Terminator Kit into Steve Vai‘s signature Ibanez JEM, the guitar named Evo. Like … the real Evo itself. Here’s what Anthony had to say about the handoff:

It was a little nerve-wracking leaving the venue with one of the most valuable guitars on the planet. I joked with Ed that I would rather Steve handed us a bag with 1 million dollars cash because cash is replaceable. I think Ed double-checked his homeowner’s insurance after he brought EVO home.

Yeah, no shit.

mwm_vai

“It’s like Evo has a bigger set of lungs.”

If you head over to MWM you can watch a mini documentary which chronicles the work done and reveals incredible details of the iconic axe inside and out. It’s a real treat for Vai fans and guitar tech wonks. Go see it all.

Right here.

The venerable Guitar Player has posted a list of “The 10 Most Iconic Guitar Amps.” You could probably run down the roster yourself: Fender Twin Reverb, Vox AC 30, Fender Bassman et al. I mean, hey―they’re iconic for good reasons. Here’s what GP says about another legendary amp, the Marshall 1959 Super Lead 100 Watt Plexi:

Introduced in 1965, the amplifier included four inputs, two channels, 100 watts of searing power and a Plexiglas faceplate (hence “Plexi”). Matched with 4×12 cabinets, the 1959 Super Lead helped to popularize the ‘Marshall stack.’ The amplifier can be famously seen being played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Read about all 10 and see some videos at GP.

Right here.

Jazz legend Tal Farlow was unquestionably a pioneer of the fretboard (jump back to watch his take on “Misty” here), but it turns out he was also a visionary in terms of guitar design and modification. A new Guitar Aficionado profile takes a look at seven of Farlow’s instruments and their unique twists, including an otherworldly 1951 Gibson ES-140:

(The guitar has) been almost entirely painted bright red, including the fretboard, headstock overlay, pickguard, and single P-90 pickup cover. Farlow asked Gibson for this bizarre paint job when the Red Norvo Trio was hired to back up singer Mel Tormé on his new CBS TV show, which was the first to ever be broadcast in color.

See the piece and read much more at GA.

Right here.

We’re very pleased to present this killer guest article written by Joel Bennett of The Electric Herald. Make sure to visit that site when you’re done here, comrade.

The Axe & The Iron Curtain – Guitars of the Soviet Era

They say that music is the universal language, and the instruments that make it may be born in one nation, but each instrument’s evolution has always been a global contribution. The violin may have been perfected in Cremona, but it evolved from instruments of the Byzantine Empire. But what happens when a nation adopts a policy of secrecy and seals their activities off from the rest of the world?

For a period of almost 30 years, the Eastern Bloc was manufacturing electric guitars in various factories without design input from their sworn enemy, the United States. The electric guitar is undoubtedly an American invention (thanks to Rickenbacker and Beauchamp and their Frying Pan guitar), and rock music was a Western staple at the time the USSR began shielding their activities and working in the shadows.

By the 60s, the Beatles were global – and their music managed to slip through the cracks into the hands of Russian youths, who formed a sort of rock & roll counterculture. Western rock recordings were imprinted onto discarded X-ray emulsion plates to make bootleg copies and passed around to fulfill a growing need for modes of escapism.

Of course the electric guitar was the next step.

There was essentially just one guitar to choose from in the beginning – the Tonika. The Tonika’s body looks like it survived a shark attack (and strangely enough, resembles the ultra-ergonomic Strandberg design).

By the 70s, the Tonikas were manufactured at 3 different plants, and had undergone many improvements. By the end of the decade though, they had been discontinued – which freed up the plants to begin producing their own models. This is where the real fun started – lots of interesting, unique looking guitars were being built en masse. By the 80s, there were at least 10 different factories manufacturing different, strictly Soviet electric guitars of varying quality.

The early Tonika models have been called ‘the worst electric guitar in existence.’

Here’s what really makes these guitars interesting though – “[They were] made behind the Iron Curtain with little and, in some cases, no interaction with the western guitar-making philosophies and practices.” They are entirely foreign, in many cases probably designed based on bootleg pictures or videos of Western bands playing Fenders, Gibsons, Airlines, Dominos, Teiscos – and various other American brands floating around in the 60s.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing quality was not up to par.

The early Tonika models have been called “the worst electric guitar in existence,” and their designs were quite aesthetically … interesting.

The whole era is fascinating nonetheless and, as mentioned before, the manufacturing quality improved greatly over the years, so the later models can make some truly beautiful sounds.

Let’s take a look at some of these mysterious contraptions now:

GALLERY 1: Aelita ca. 1973

GALLERY 2: Elta – 1970s

GALLERY 3: Formanta ca. 1978

GALLERY 4: Jolana Diamant

GALLERY 5: Jolana Rubin

GALLERY 6: Jolana Star IX

 

Soviet guitar technology and designs evolved parallel with America’s, much like their space programs.

GALLERY 7: Orfeus 12-string ca. 1960s

GALLERY 7: Tonika 1, unknown model

GALLERY 8: Tonika 2, EGS-650

GALLERY 8: Ural 650

It might be a difficult thing to imagine for anyone in the West due to the inherent need to document history so meticulously (thank the Romans), but the internal dealings of Russia’s infrastructure are largely unknown to the history books. This is true for their guitar manufacturing plants as well – very little is known, and it only adds to the fascination surrounding these awesome instruments.

Soviet guitar technology and designs evolved parallel with America’s, much like their space programs – and, I thought I hate to say it, the Americans seem to have edged the Russians out in this matter as well. But in spite of all the knocks against their quality, I would never bash anyone for contributing to the evolution of the electric guitar – better late than never. Their contribution was a little late, but it’s certainly getting well-deserved appreciation these days.

Facts About Soviet Era Guitars

  • Electric guitars in the USSR were first manufactured in Leningrad.
  • The first Soviet guitar was the Tonika, which is apparently “the worst electric guitar in existence” .
  • Their designs steadily improved through the 70s, and different models of the Tonika like the Ural and the Kavkaz were being produced in different cities (Sverdlovsk, Rostov, Ordjonikidze).
  • By the end of the 70s, production of the Tonika was discontinued, which allowed manufacturing plants to design their own models.
  • There were over 10 factories producing Soviet electric guitars in the early 80s.

Some Soviet Era Guitar Models

  • Kavkaz – Russia (Rostov-on-don factory)
  • Kavkaz – Russia (Ordjonikidze factory)
  • Borisov – Belorussia
  • Lunacharsky – Russia
  • Moscow – Russia
  • Erevan – Armenia
  • Odessa – Ukraine
  • Ural – Russia
  • Elta – Russia
  • Lvov – Ukraine

Are you familiar with Gittler Guitars? They sort of look like props from Blade Runner or something. Actually, the profile over at Electric Herald puts it best, calling the instruments:

(S)omething futuristic and foreign that resembles something from an H.R. Giger painting more than a guitar. It’s like a spinal column with strings.

Get more info and see some pics over at EH.

Right here.

And standby for a guest post from this excellent site!

Samuel Clemens’ 1835 Martin is a sight to behold. The instrument, reportedly valued at over $15 million, was a constant companion of the roving author. From Guitarsite:

Mark Twain ‘gigged’ with his 1835 Martin extensively as a singer guitarist, bringing it along to his many travels. Like the main protagonist of his popular novel: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain traveled far and wide, often with only his 1835 Martin, paper and ink to accompany him.

Take a look at this beauty over at Guitarsite.

Right here.

Several guitars belonging to Jeff Hanneman are currently being auctioned off on eBay. The ESP website is highlighting several of the late Slayer guitarist’s instruments including, oddly enough, a black B.C. Rich:

(T)he serial number seems to indicate it was manufactured in 1990 in the USA. The guitar features a Kahler tremolo, EMG 81 pickups, and is festooned with German phrases and names. Inside the guitar’s hard shell case, there are a number of 1/4” instrument cables, as well as an MXR Carbon Copy analog delay.

Quite the time capsule.

Check out more and follow links to the auctions at ESP.

Right here.

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