HIT PARADER FEB. 1998 GEARING UP TECH TALK By: Jodi Summers Transcribed by firstname.lastname@example.org Hey, remember how Metallica's Cliff Burton used to always wear Misfits T-shirts and bellbottoms? The Misfits, who've been around for twenty years (American Psycho is their most recent release), are a seminal New Jersey punk band, renowned for their love of horror film imagery. Check out their instruments, guitarist Doyle. bassist Jerry Only and drummer Dr. Chud make their on tools-of-the-trade that are laden with creepy characters and horrific imagery. (Vocalist Michale Graves uses a normal microphone.) Recently we had the chance to talk with Jerry Only about how the Misfits make their equipment. Just bring up the subject, and he'll ramble on forever... MISFIT'S JERRY ONLY In the beginning when we had the original Misfits, we used to buy two basic kinds of guitars. I used to play a Richenbacher 4001 and Doyle used to play a Paul Stanley Ibanez. We used to buy them used, and it usually ran us between $300 and $400 per guitar. I've worked in a machine shop all my life, so we'd bring the guitars back to our machine shop and break out the saws and hack the whole thing up and make it look like a Misfits guitar. A misfits guitar is shaped like the Batman sign, we cut batwings into it. We take all the standard hardware off and put on custom hardware that looks more diabolical, like pick guards with a red border. It looks cool and doesn't noticeably change the sound of the guitar. We were investing several hundred bucks into the guitars and we still have to work on the thing to get it the way we wanted it. When the original band broke up in '83 and we gave our singer Glenn Danzig his walking papers, we sat in our machine shop and said, "Well, what are we going to do about guitars?" It was kind of ludicrous to go out and buy a guitar that's really not what you want to begin with. Then you have to do all this work to bring it into where you want it. So, why not just start from scratch and build exactly what you want? We decided that with a little ingenuity, we could basically build our own guitars to the style we wanted for the same amount of money it cost to buy one. Rand, a buddy of ours who worked for B.C. Rich in California, said he wanted to start a guitar company with us. So he came to see us in New Jersey, and we started building guitars. We decided to use mahogany because of the tone value. Mahogany has a very warm tone to it. We sent Rand down to Baltimore to see the guitar maker Paul Reed Smith and pick up wood for the project. When you buy guitar wood, you buy one huge plank, like it's cut out of a tree. It's not like it comes in little strips or different sized pieces. He came back with one piece of wood. And I looked at him and said, "This piece of wood cost $2,000? C'mon, what is this?" Anyway, we went out and bought table saws and all this equipment. I made all the tooling and the jigs and the supports and the clamps that would hold down these different operations. So we went ahead and blasted out about 60 guitars. We decided that the headstock should be attached to the neck, so we that we didn't have to put glue onto the neck. When we took all the wood away to clear out for the neck, the wood remembered that it was a tree. It just moved and warped. Out of the 60 guitars that we built, 50 of them ended up being garbage... a very expensive hot dog cooking ceremony. A couple of them managed to stay good, Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard got one, the Nelsons got a couple of them. Doyle and I sat back and thought about it. We realized that wood was good for most people, but it definitely wasn't going to be taking the punishment that we give our equipment. What we did after that is we started looking at synthetic materials like graphite and epoxies. We came to the conclusion that the graphite neck was the way to go, so we built a mold for the graphite necks. The sound is great-- the sustain and tone-- it's like wood, only ten times better. Since the graphite is so far is so far superior to the wood, I decided that I didn't need wood bodies for my guitars. I wanted something that's going to be a little more durable and not totally crumble under the first impact. So I had this guy work up a rubber type of resin. It's not very flexible, but it has some kind of give to it. We decided to go with the rubber body for a lot of reasons. One: I go banging it into people's heads. Two: They go flying into my equipment. Three: They fall on the floor. Four: I throw them into walls. We have a model company where we build figures. There's one of me, there's one of the Crimson Ghost, Frankenstein, all these different monsters. The guy that builds models for us uses a two-part mold, which is how we designed the guitar molds. We used a silicone rubber for the two-piece mold. You put them together and pour the rubber epoxy into the mold. The resin hardens in about five minutes, and that's your guitar body. They work really well. Before we went on tour with Megadeth, I took my guitar body, which is shaped like an African beetle, and had it made into a mold. It's a scary shape. You don't want to touch this guitar because it looks like it's going to snip your finger off. The beauty of this new design is that you can make your guitar any shape you want. A neck is a neck, you just stick it on the body. Now that we're making these molds, we can easily sculpt all kinds of characters or whatever we wanted into the wings of your guitar body. It's a great way to work. You can make the molds any way you want. You can have faces of presidents, or faces of monsters or skeleton hands, whatever you want on there. If you're pouring guitars out of molds, your imagination would be the limit. It leaves a lot of options open for your work. As far as sound goes, these guitars plug into anything-- they work with all kinds of amps, monitors, and speakers. On my bass guitar, I don't have any control knobs. When you plug my guitar in it's flat out, full treble. When you put the control knobs on, you actually move the treble away to make the bass. Knobs cause resistance, so instead of being a 10, you get about a 9 because they absorb some of the energy. ("These go to eleven.") I thought about mass-producing these guitars, but I realized life is short. I really don't have time to mass-produce these things for an economic price where it's worth my time to stay on top. If I sell 100 guitars a year, I have to pack 100 guitars, I have to ship 100 guitars, I have to build 100 guitars, send invoices for 100 guitars, and anybody whose got a problem is going to come back to me and say you've got to fix it. My job is to be in the Misfits and get my band to this world domination theme that we've always had. What I think I'm going to do is build 13 guitars a year. I'm going to call up the Hard Rock Cafe and see if they're interested in buying up the first round of them, and call the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame and see if they want one. The latest guitar I've designed has a big Cyclops skull on top that I sculpted myself. I'm going to talk to a case company and build coffin cases with a glass window, so that when you put the guitar into the case, you can see the Cyclops face from the outside. I'm going to price them really high, between $3,000 and $4,000. I don't want somebody buying this as their first bass, it's totally out of control for something like that. I don't want someone saying, "I want one so I can hang it on my wall," because it's not about that. It's about creating a superior piece of equipment. My next project is to design a computer program where you can design any shape of guitar body you want. You program it, throw in a piece of wood and you can have any shape guitar you want in a matter of minutes. You'd be able to create a spontaneous custom guitar, a concept which is unheard of at this point in time.