(warning this is literally a life story, so It’s a long post)
Every special guitar needs a name. And mine is called Django. Why? Honestly, it wasn’t a name that immediately jumped into my head, but over the months I’ve been playing this beautiful chunk of wood and metal we’ve formed a connection. And it sounds like a Django. It’s got this lovely gypsy twang to it when you play it unplugged that reminds me so much of legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (guy only had two good fingers to play with and he’s still better than anyone alive today- you should check out his story here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Django_Reinhardt. Here’s some music too.
I guess if you wanted to go into wanky metaphor territory you could also say that this guitar is a wild filly that needs to be tamed and can hurt you if not respected, but will love you and take you to all kinds of exotic places if treated right. But we definitely won’t go there…So on with the story of Django’s conception.
Around about the same time that we’d decided we no longer wanted to be in an electro band, I decided that I wanted to make my own guitar. I’d been doing some woodworking for quite a while (a lot of the furniture in my house is self-made) and so I decided that making a guitar was not that hard. Besides, I didn’t think a clear acrylic flying-V that lights up on stage was going to be taken too seriously (I’m not joking, this is what I used to play in our old band. It was made by Visually Loud Guitars here in Brisbane- not sure how many there are in the world but I was lucky enough to pick this one up on Gumtree- anyway here’s a photo and a link to the guy who did the electronics for it http://adamkiyuna.com/visually-loud-guitars/.
So the research began. I’ve always loved the look of the Fender Jazzmaster and to me, it just exudes coolness and class- so that’s what I decided to go for. I just needed a body, a neck, hardware, electronics and a pickguard. Firstly, I needed something that I was actually going to enjoy playing and wouldn’t shred my fingers to ribbons, so a decent quality neck was a necessity. Unfortunately that meant that I wasn’t going to be able to make it myself (this was definitely going to be outside my skill and toolset range). Lucky for me this place in America does it for you and you can customize EVERYTHING http://www.warmoth.com/. So I ended up with this incredibly sexy neck made out of Kingwood on Flame Maple and triangle pearl inlays for around $450. Next step was the body.
This is where I got scared. What if the holes weren’t routed in exactly the right spot for the hardware? What if the neck didn’t fit? Where was I going to source a giant solid piece of Swamp Ash to cut the body out of? How was I going to do the finish? But the deal-sealer was probably looking at the cost of the hardware- we’re talking around $400 for pickups, bridge, knobs, electronics, tuning pegs, tremolo system etc. JUST FOR THE HARDWARE. Add into that the pain and heartache of almost definitely screwing up the woodworking on the body at least once, this was going to be a giant project.
So what do you do when it’s all just a bit too hard? You cheat and let someone else in Mexico do it for you, like these people http://stores.ebay.com.au/The-STRATosphere. Got a body preloaded with pickups and hardware for about $350. So all I needed was the hardware, which I picked up from Warmoth for about $100 (tuners, pickguard, and different knobs because the standard jazzmaster knobs are really hideous).
So when people ask to see the guitar I made I always have to look down and say “No, I didn’t make it. But I did assemble it…” I still had to bolt the neck on, drill the holes for the tuning pegs and screw them in, rewire the tone pot with the help of my dad and fit a new bridge (custom made Mastery Bridge from http://www.masterybridge.com/, endorsed by Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth and now myself as well). But no, I didn’t make my own guitar.
But do I love it any less? No way. It will never be sold and will go with me wherever I end up in life. It’s a beautiful instrument which I put together for less than $1000 and plays better than the $3500 American Fender Jazzmaster I tried in the store. And this guitar has definitely shaped the kind of music we play. I almost feel embarrassed to play anything on there that’s not exuding class and character (there shall be no drop D tunings or power chords of any kind).
So apologies for the long post, but how do you tell the story of Django in so few words? Its not possible, but here’s a final picture which is worth another thousand.