Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 102

What year was
the V?

'78 or '79. I was aware
of what was out there because I used to read guitar
magazines cover to cover.
That's how I became
aware of active pickups;
I got a DiMarzio Super 2
and decided,"Wow, pickups are where it's at, man.
That's where we can get a
heavier, more aggressive
sound." I also saw an ad
for EMG pickups, and
as soon as I get enough
money, in late 1984 I put
them in my Flying V. It
was like a new guitar. I
couldn't believe it.
When we got signed to
Hetfield with the '58 (shown at right).
Electra and they gave us a
bit of an advance to buy
better gear, the first thing
Were there influences beyond Hendrix,
James and I did was go to Mesa-Boogie.
Page, and Beck?
The newest amp they had was the Mark
Yeah, my main influences are mostly BritIIC. The combination of EMG pickups
ish and German guys - Michael Schenker and
and Mesa amps solidified the Metallica
Uli Roth - and American guys like Ronnie
guitar sound on albums from Master of
Montrose, Pat Travers, Eddie Van Halen,
Puppets on.
and the guys from Aerosmith. I gravitated to
You eventually became
one of the higher-profile
anything that had a lot of energy and aggres"superstrat" players...
sion and heaviness. I remember listening to
the radio one day and realizing I how much
Being way into Beck and
liked loud drums, heavy guitar, power chords,
Hendrix, I first got a Japanese
and riffs. And I didn't like that Talking Heads
Strat, but I struggled with the
s**t (laughs). Hard rock felt best deep inside
single-coil sound. So, I put an
my soul. It was fun, it was exciting, it kept
EMG double-coil in it, and it
my interest. I wanted to explore it, and I had
was great. I entertained the idea
something of a vision. Looking back, I'm
of routing it for a humbucker
surprised at how many decisions I made, as
in the neck position, but
a 15-year-old kid, that ended up being right
then a friend said, "Check
for me.
out these guys at ESP,
Were you into gear at the time?
they'll build whatever
Always - even when I couldn't afford any. A
you want."
friend and I would hang out at Guitar Center,
So I went for a
pretending we were checking out guitars but
Strat shape, two
really we were waiting for cool players to
hu mbuc kers ,
come in so we could watch 'em. I'd go to the
and a neckcounter and look at effects, thinking, "One
of these days..." I remember having $50 to
my name, and I used it to buy a wah pedal.
That set me on a course. I discovered the
Tube Screamer when I was 16, and I lusted
after Marshall amps and Flying V guitars.
When I began to buy better gear, the first

VINTAGE GUITAR

102

March 2018

through because Les Claypool
was always going on about how
great his Warwick bass was because it
was neck-through. I asked ESP, "Can I
get a neck-through with two EMGs and
a Floyd Rose?" They said, "Sure." We did
a few other changes like neck dimensions.

How long after did your love of
monster movies merge with a guitar?

When I asked ESP for a skull-andcrossbones fretboard inlay at a time hardly
anyone was doing that. Later, when ESP
added a custom shop in '94 or '95, they
asked if I wanted to do more crazy stuff.
So I had them put different graphics on
my guitars, and they built a few wacky
ones like one with a Theremin in it, and
the Wavecaster has a plexiglass body
filled with blue oil to make it look like
the ocean.
When did the first "monster" guitar
happen?

I'd been into monster movies and
horror since I was five or six years old,
and while working with ESP, I acquired
this incredible poster for the 1932 film
The Mummy. So I took a bunch of pictures of it, cut them up, taped them to a
blank guitar body, and sent a picture to
ESP asking,
"Can you
do this?" It
took them
a year or so,
but it was
breathtaking.
And it just so
happened the
elements came
together in that
guitar - the neck
had the third set of
dimensions I gave
ESP for the KH neck,
which is probably the
best version. I loved
the way it looked, and
when I plugged it in, it
sounded better than a
lot of my other guitars. ESP hit it out
of the park with
The Mu mmy,
which opened
the gates for a
bunch more.
And we're still
making 'em, man.

Was there a point
where you went from being
a guy with a lot of guitars to having
a collection?

J. Hetfield's '58 Explorer: Ray Masterson.

thing I got was a Flying
V and a Marshall halfstack, which I bought
with money from
washing dishes at a
country club.


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