Australian Guitar - - Axes In Action -

The Mel­bourne Gui­tar Show is in its third year, and ev­ery year, it’s big­ger and bet­ter than the one be­fore it. As Rick Chad­wick of CMC Mu­sic Aus­tralia told us dur­ing a visit to his com­pany’s packed booth, “The first year was great, and the se­cond year was a lit­tle busier. But this year, it’s been wall-to-wall peo­ple the whole time. We keep hear­ing about the de­cline of the gui­tar, but look around you. Does it look like the gui­tar is in trou­ble?” By far the most talked-about piece of gear at the show was the USA-made Peavey HP2 gui­tar. If it looks fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause these are be­ing made out of un­fin­ished bod­ies that had been stock­piled when a cer­tain fa­mous en­dorser left the com­pany a while back. This new ver­sion, named af­ter com­pany founder Hart­ley Peavey, fea­tures slightly tweaked pick­ups that are de­signed to sound as good in sin­gle coil mode as they do as hum­buck­ers. There’s a range of beau­ti­ful new fin­ishes in ad­di­tion to the clas­sic black and ivory mod­els we all re­mem­ber. The first run us­ing the old bod­ies has al­ready been pur­chased by deal­ers. Zakk Wylde’s Wylde Au­dio brand, dis­trib­uted by Schecter, was on dis­play. You may re­mem­ber that Aus­tralianGuitar got to check out Wylde’s per­sonal pro­to­types of these a few years ago. The gui­tars avail­able to the pub­lic seem to be iden­ti­cal to those first sam­ples Wylde showed us, and the fin­ishes are all flaw­less. These gui­tars are ob­vi­ously go­ing to ap­peal to Wylde fans first and fore­most, but don’t over­look them if you’re not a mem­ber of the BLS fam­ily. Nick John­ston per­formed at the MGS, and his sig­na­ture Schecter USA Cus­tom Shop gui­tar was on dis­play as well. Fea­tur­ing Schecter pick­ups de­signed with Nick and a more shred-friendly neck than it may ini­tially ap­pear, this is a world-class in­stru­ment for any player who craves vin­tage tone but wants a bit more of a mod­ern playa­bil­ity. To that end, Nick’s per­for­mance on the Whammy Bar stage was a stun­ning show of vir­tu­os­ity and in­stru­men­tal songcraft. The Sherlock V3 High Volt­age Dis­tor­tion was on show again this year, though it’s been a lit­tle fur­ther tweaked and re­fined when com­pared to its 2016 de­but. This twin-chan­nel stom­per is an all-valve dis­tor­tion unit which takes the high-gain cir­cuitry of the Fat Head and shrinks it down to pedal form with three gain modes – High, Low and Medium, all ad­justable via a four-but­ton DIP Switch on the un­der­side of the V3. The MBC-1 Matthew Bel­lamy Sig­na­ture gui­tar by Cort was de­vel­oped in co­op­er­a­tion with Man­son Gui­tar Works to the Muse front­man’s ex­act­ing specs, with Man­son-de­signed pick­ups, a kill­switch, lock­ing tuners and a bass­wood body. The gui­tar is avail­able in matte black and sparkly red fin­ishes.

In­no­va­tive Mu­sic is the Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tor of Kem­per pro­fil­ing amps. What re­ally seems to make Kem­per de­vices stand out among all the other sim­i­lar ones is their very tube-like re­sponse, which seems to res­onate par­tic­u­larly with more tra­di­tional play­ers who need the ver­sa­til­ity of a dig­i­tal amp but crave the tone of the real deal. Se­ri­ously, plug into one of these and try vary­ing your pick­ing strength to see what hap­pens. BOSS is cel­e­brat­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of its leg­endary com­pact ped­als with a spe­cial box set com­pris­ing reis­sues of the PH-1 Phaser, OD-1 Over­drive and SP-1 Spec­trum. The Spec­trum is a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing pedal: it’s an EQ pedal of sorts, but it’s not like any EQ pedal you ever heard. It can give clean and edge-of-dirt gui­tar tones a real kick in the pants, and it’s also great with elec­tric pi­anos like the Fender Rhodes. Want to make your own gui­tar? Check out Wild­wood In­stru­ments’ elec­tric gui­tar mak­ing cour­ses. Some ex­am­ples of the kinds of gui­tars you can make there were on dis­play, in­clud­ing the beau­ti­ful 335-in­spired piece pic­tured here. Who knows, you might kick off your gui­tar-mak­ing ca­reer with this course, then have your own booth at a fu­ture MGS! Over at the Re­ booth, Mel­bourne luthier Joseph Price’s lat­est – the Soxy Gui­tars Ful­la­tone – barely spent any time in its stand. Ev­ery time we walked past, some­one was play­ing this hand­made beauty. The Re­verb stand also hosted a few Ormsby gui­tars and plenty of other good­ies.

Did you know Strand­berg gui­tars are avail­able in Aus­tralia? Jon Bloomer of Tone Tem­ple was at the Mel­bourne Gui­tar Show with a se­lec­tion of beau­ti­ful in­stru­ments – as used by the likes of Aussie gui­tar phe­nom­e­non Plini – and there was pretty much al­ways some­one play­ing a gui­tar at the booth for the whole show. The CMC Mu­sic Aus­tralia booth was al­most im­pos­si­ble to get to, be­ing one of the busiest of the show. For those that could find their way into it, the Ernie Ball Mu­sic Man St. Vin­cent sig­na­ture model gui­tar was un­miss­able and un­mis­tak­able, as were a few John Petrucci Majesty mod­els and the sig­na­ture gui­tar for Ma­roon 5’s James Valen­tine. There were also plenty of Mark­bass and DV Mark amps on show, and a range of new Ster­ling By Mu­sic Man in­stru­ments. Mel­bourne re­tailer World of Mu­sic has done a great job of repo­si­tion­ing them­selves as a des­ti­na­tion for bou­tique ped­als by the likes of Death By Au­dio, Old Blood Noise En­deav­ors and Earthquaker De­vices. Their dis­play fea­tured more ped­als than Ver­non Reid’s stor­age shed! Gui­tar Vil­lage had lots of great gear on show, from odd­balls like an ‘80s Roland synth gui­tar to a hand­ful of new Hamer gui­tars. Yes, this leg­endary brand has been re­vived af­ter be­ing bought and moth­balled by FMIC. Hamer is now owned by US Mu­sic Corp, and they seem to be dip­ping their toe in the wa­ters with some af­ford­able, yet high-qual­ity mod­els. Hope­fully we’ll see the re­turn of USA-made Hamers and mod­els like the Cal­i­for­nian be­fore too long.

The Fender booth was full of beau­ti­ful gui­tars – in­clud­ing a cou­ple of very pricey Cus­tom Shop in­stru­ments with pas­tel coloured candy-strip­ing – plus the Brad Paisely Tele­caster, an af­ford­able road-worn in­stru­ment that com­bines a sparkly fin­ish with a trans­par­ent paisley pick­guard for a lived-in Cus­tom look. Oh, and for those who like their home decor to echo their gui­tar fetish, there were some pretty cool Stra­to­caster and Tele­caster book­ends on dis­play.

Sun­burst Mu­sic had an ex­cep­tion­ally en­vi­able col­lec­tion of vin­tage gui­tars on show, in­clud­ing some beau­ti­ful old Gretsches and Fend­ers.

Vox dis­played their new MV50 se­ries of mini amps, and Diesel was on hand to demo these small, yet highly pow­er­ful am­pli­fiers. You’ll find the re­view else­where in these pages, but there are mod­els based on the AC30, a clas­sic Amer­i­can clean and a mod­ern Bri­tish high-gain sound.

Up in the acous­tic room, there were plenty of gui­tars from the likes of Yamaha, Cole Clark, Ma­ton, Martin, Gretsch – in par­tic­u­lar, a Gretsch Rancher Dread­nought acous­tic with a Fideli’tron hum­buck­ing pickup and a Bigsby tremolo – and some truly beau­ti­ful Wash­burns, in­clud­ing one that was played by Kirk Lo­r­ange dur­ing his ‘up close and per­sonal’ Q&A ses­sion hosted by yours truly. But tucked away in a cor­ner was one of the most breath­tak­ing gui­tars of the show: a hand­made Octi­gan arch­top made by Rod­er­ick Octi­gan.

Speak­ing of mod­ellers, there were plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to try out the lat­est and great­est: the Head­rush Pedal­board, Line 6 Helix, Frac­tal Au­dio Axe-Fx and Pos­i­tive Grid BIAS Amp were all avail­able for play­ers to try, and each re­vealed its par­tic­u­lar strengths. This is a re­ally ex­cit­ing time for gui­tarists, with this tech­nol­ogy fi­nally reach­ing its ma­tu­rity and find­ing a great bal­ance be­tween tra­di­tional and fu­tur­is­tic. Line 6 also had the lat­est it­er­a­tion of the Spi­der range on dis­play, which stream­lines the con­trols while also in­cor­po­rat­ing in­flu­ences from the Helix.

Ibanez seems to have kicked their fin­ishes up a notch in re­cent years. Per­fect ex­am­ples at op­po­site ends of the spec­trum are the S Se­ries and Art­core mod­els seen here. One has an al­most lu­mi­nous and very glossy green sun­burst fin­ish, while the other is...

Wanna see some­thing cool? How about these KISS-in­spired fin­ishes by air­brush artist Mark Emer­son? He had plenty of other gui­tars on dis­play too, in­clud­ing a great Iron Maiden ‘Ed­die’ and plenty of oth­ers.

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