BACK IN BLACK

MARK ‘DIESEL’ LIZOTTE’S ICONIC STRA­TO­CASTER (FROM THE JOHNNY DIESEL & THE INJECTOR) DAYS IS BACK IN THE FORM OF A NEW FENDER SIG­NA­TURE MODEL. WORDS BY PETER HODG­SON.

Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Ever see the black ‘70s Stra­to­caster with a pearloid pick­guard, black pick­ups and con­trols, and a Floyd Rose that Mark Lizotte played back in the Johnny Diesel & The In­jec­tors days? For a gen­er­a­tion of Aussie gui­tarists, that thing was iconic, and for years af­ter its re­tire­ment, it could be seen in the win­dow of the Hard Rock Cafe in Mel­bourne.

Diesel’s gui­tar needs have changed over the years, but that Strat al­ways rep­re­sented a spe­cial time. Now, Fender Aus­tralia have taken that gui­tar as the in­spi­ra­tion for the Diesel Sig­na­ture Stra­to­caster Limited Edi­tion.

Col­lab­o­rat­ing over six months, Diesel and Fender ham­mered out the specs to find the per­fect bal­ance of what was great about that orig­i­nal gui­tar, and what re­flects Diesel’s needs as a gui­tarist now. The re­sult is an ash-bod­ied Stra­to­caster with over­sized ‘70s head­stock, maple fret­board, Fender Texas Spe­cial pick­ups, soft ’57 V-neck pro­file, 22 medium jumbo frets, an aged white pearloid pick­guard with con­trast­ing black pickup cov­ers and knobs, and a syn­chro­nised tremolo (re­plac­ing the Floyd Rose that Diesel was never so keen on in the first place).

The first 60 gui­tars will come with a Diesel song­book, CD and ad­he­sive logo, and they’ll be avail­able at lo­cal deal­ers this De­cem­ber.

“I guess it’s an amal­ga­ma­tion of my orig­i­nal experience brought up to speed with where I’ve ended up,” Diesel says. “The first Stra­to­caster that got into my hands was given to me by a fan of the band that I was play­ing in at the time, who was just a very gen­er­ous fel­low. I was about 15 or 16 at the time. He’d been to the States and bought this thing in Florida. He said, ‘Have a go on this!’ and I thought, ‘Okay, now what? Am I gonna have to buy it off you?’ And he said, ‘If you like it.’ I thought he was never go­ing to come and get it back off me, but I saw him about a year later, and he said, ‘Well, I can see you’ve be­come re­ally at­tached to it, so if you want to buy it off me…’ And he did a su­per, su­per friendly price on it.”

That gui­tar was a hard­tail ‘70s Strat, and Diesel was look­ing to move to some­thing with a whammy bar. “I had no ref­er­ence for hard­tail or tremolo or any­thing,” he says. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve seen a few other guys play­ing [a black Strat], like the guy in The Stran­glers and The Edge from U2,’ so they were on the land­scape a lit­tle bit. I was start­ing to learn what was what, and I guess I’ve al­ways had a bit of a fas­ci­na­tion with mod­els and how they progress, so to know that so much of the Strat has re­mained the same is pretty im­pres­sive!

“But be­ing a hard­tail, I re­alised I wanted some tremolo at some point. I was like, ‘Okay, I can hear peo­ple do­ing some of th­ese things that I can’t do.’ So the idea of just putting a stock tremolo on it – no­body pre­sented that to me! I would go to mu­sic shops – like I did for ev­ery­thing back then – and who­ever it was in the mu­sic shop said, ‘You need a Floyd Rose. Go away and get some­one to put it on for you.’ So I had it put on and it worked a treat. It was a sound that I could do a lot with – mod­u­la­tion and bends and em­u­lat­ing slides. It be­came an­other lit­tle trick in my bag.”

Diesel smashed his way through a few necks on that orig­i­nal Strat over the years – the orig­i­nal got bro­ken sev­eral times be­fore it got re­placed – but even­tu­ally, his love af­fair with the Floyd Rose be­gan to dwin­dle, its home gui­tar the vic­tim of a few too many worn parts and finicky set­ups.

“That gui­tar went through a lot of work – a lot of patch­ing and a lot of doc­tor­ing – and it served me well. The whole first al­bum is 75 or 80 per­cent that one gui­tar, with just some other things sprin­kled on top. By ’92 or ’93, I let it go to the Hard Rock Cafe in Mel­bourne, and I don’t know where it is now. No­body knows, and I would love to see it. So I waved good­bye to it, but there’s al­ways been that lit­tle bit of sad­ness in my heart for the old friend that I sort of left on the dock.”

Of the new Fender model, Diesel ad­mits, “I was a bit skep­ti­cal at first. I thought we were never go­ing to cap­ture that lightning in the jar twice. But this gui­tar ac­tu­ally re­minds me of the spunk­i­ness that that orig­i­nal gui­tar had. It had this real ag­gres­sive, but still soft and mal­leable whack, and a lot of it is to do with a good piece of maple, for sure. I’ve had a lot of gui­tars since then, but fun­nily enough, not an­other maple-necked Strat since that one. My main Strat that I’ve been us­ing and lov­ing – it’s been a real magic flute – is a Cus­tom Shop in bur­gundy mist with a rose­wood neck; it’s a big dif­fer­ence to me.”

The new gui­tar has a stan­dard Fender Syn­chro­nised tremolo in black chrome (which re­call slight vis­ual echoes of the colour of the orig­i­nal gui­tar’s tremolo).

“It’s chrome, but a dark chrome,” Diesel says. “The parts of it are half Mex­i­can and half Ja­panese, all as­sem­bled in Ja­pan. I love Ja­panese stuff. Any­thing Ja­panese you know is go­ing to be put to­gether well.”

The pick­ups are Fender Texas Spe­cial sin­gle coils, over­wound for a Strat pickup but still rel­a­tively clean.

“They’re juicy. I’m not re­ally a big fan of ‘over­wound to the point of noise’ pick­ups. Even a lot of the metal guys are start­ing to turn around and go to lower-out­put pick­ups, be­cause too much mag­netic pull is go­ing to kill the party. We’ve got two solid bits of wood, a metal bridge and a neck with a bright sound, so you need a pickup that’s go­ing to chill it out a bit.

“What I want in a Fender pickup is a lit­tle bit of that P90 gur­gle thing that hap­pens on the top end, but in a Strat pickup. I tried P90s in a Strat and I dug it – I re­ally liked what I could get – but I was miss­ing the three pick­ups all the time, from day one. Then some­one said to me, ‘Just put the three pick­ups back in again,’ and they were right!”

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