the lineup

Guitarist - - Contents -

Some­times the fate of a gui­tar model can be en­twined with the artists who cham­pion it – and so it proved with the re­turn of the Epi­phone Cen­tury last year, 46 years af­ter the com­pany ceased pro­duc­tion of the hol­low­body model. It’s surely no co­in­ci­dence that re­cent years have seen Bri­tish artist James Bay reach main­stream suc­cess wield­ing a 1966 Cen­tury and mak­ing it a cen­tral part of his mu­sic. And now his loy­alty has re­sulted in a lim­ited-edi­tion sig­na­ture model.

“In the three years we toured my first al­bum, Chaos And The Calm, the amount that I got around with this gui­tar… if you saw me any­where, I prob­a­bly had this gui­tar,” ex­plains James of the ge­n­e­sis for the model. “I think we came to­gether be­cause [Epi­phone] no­ticed that.”

Even in its orig­i­nal years of pro­duc­tion, Cen­tury num­bers were rel­a­tively slim. Bay’s orig­i­nal ’66 is one of only around 300 Epi­phones made that year. The singer-songwriter ended up pick­ing one up dur­ing his first trip play­ing in New York, and was drawn to the un­usual com­bi­na­tion of the elec­tric and or­ganic that the P-90loaded hol­low­body with a rose­wood bridge pre­sented. “It looked like a chal­lenge,” he says. “It looked like it might be a bit dif­fi­cult, but if I hit it hard and turned it up loud it might kind of sound good.”

Oc­cu­py­ing a middle ground be­tween acous­tic and elec­tric, the Cen­tury has in­flu­enced and re­flected Bay’s path as a writer and player. “I’ve en­joyed the bat­tle be­cause it meant I wrote a lot of the songs from my first al­bum on this gui­tar in quite an in­ti­mate set­ting, and a lot of them are in­ti­mate songs, but I kept with this gui­tar when it came to play­ing live with a band and turn­ing the amps up. The songs could come from the same place, but the sound could de­velop dif­fer­ently [live]. And I en­joy the two things rub­bing against each other.”

Bay’s pickup up­grade to the his own ’66 is one of the fun­da­men­tal changes com­pared with last year’s ini­tial ‘In­spired By ’66’ model that rein­tro­duced the Cen­tury to play­ers. It’s loaded with a Kin­man Cus­tom No Hum P-90 like Bay’s. Sub­tler nods in­clude a James Bay Hat Man in­signia, and his orig­i­nal Cen­tury’s se­rial num­ber – 385143 – is laser in­scribed on the back. Rather than the satin fin­ish of last year’s re­launch, this time it’s an au­then­tic gloss and Bay adds that it took some time to get the ‘brick red’ fin­ish of the sig­na­ture just so.

The lim­ited edi­tion of 600 sig­na­ture mod­els even in­cludes a re­cre­ation of Bay’s own strap, a home­made cre­ation from the hem of a sari. And the sig­nif­i­cance of the end re­sult of this pack­age isn’t lost on him. “When you pull it out the case for the first time it’s… a qui­etly breath­tak­ing moment. I was a kid at school read­ing gui­tar mag­a­zines and read­ing about peo­ple who have put out sig­na­tures and fol­low­ing gui­tarists that have done the same thing, and then for the first time I’ve got my own one.”

As the Hold Back The River hit­maker em­barks upon writing and record­ing new ma­te­rial, he con­firms the Cen­tury is very much part of his fu­ture plans, too. “I’m still all about P-90s,” he adds, sug­gest­ing fuzz, cho­rus and new ap­proaches to re­verb are all part of the fu­ture for his sound. “My orig­i­nal ’66 still fea­tures in a very big way. There’s a lot more shorter re­verbs and slap­back. With slap­back, I barely touched it on the first record and as I move for­ward now with new mu­sic… a gui­tar like this with a bit of slap­back sounds in­cred­i­ble, and I get chop­pier with my play­ing. I’m stick­ing with this gui­tar for the jour­ney.” The Epi­phone Lim­ited Edi­tion James Bay Sig­na­ture Cen­tury Out­fit is avail­able for £679 and is lim­ited to a pro­duc­tion run of 600. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.epi­phone.com

James Bay’s orig­i­nal ’66 Cen­tury is one of only 300 made that year

Bay’s new Lim­ited Edi­tion Cen­tury is fin­ished in an au­then­tic brick-red gloss

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