Tag Archives: custom

Deimel Firestar Custom demo: Thomas Andersson plays it loud!

VintageandRare.com visited successful Danish guitar player Thomas Andersson in the studio for a peek at his sleek Deimel Guitarworks Firestar Custom guitar. Check out the video below and look out for our upcoming interview with Thomas Andersson on the VintageandRare blog.

Thunder Road Guitars interview with Frank Gross from Thunder Road Guitars

Hi Frank, thank you for taking your time to speak to us. Could you please tell as a little bit about Thunder Road Guitars? Where are you located?
Hello Vintage and Rare! Thunder Road Guitars is an online-based guitar shop by musicians for musicians. We buy, sell, trade and cosign guitars and amplifiers with folks all over the globe. We opened our doors January of 2012 and have loved every moment of it since. We are located in Seattle, Washington, USA.

What initially motivated you to set up a music store, and when was that?
I’ve worked in music shops since I was old enough to have a job and have always had a love and passion for great guitars. I have managed a well-known Seattle vintage guitar shop and have also worked for a US chain store. I learned a lot working for both companies and eventually decided to open my own store this January. My favorite thing about independent music stores is the “shop culture” – the things that happen day to day, the guitars that come in and go and the interesting folks you meet. I love it! At Thunder Road we try and give our customers that same experience online by offering great customer service and a very personal approach. I’m very hands on and if you are buying a guitar from us more than likely you will speak to me directly.

What has been the biggest challenge in setting up your shop?
The biggest challenge for me was to take this dream of mine and make it a reality. I’ve always dreamed of owning my place, but there’s a lot of risk involved when you start any new business. Like I mentioned earlier I have just opened my digital doors to the world, but so far so good.

In EU the current Gibson case “lacey act” has gotten a lot of attention, what is your perspective on shipping between US & EU? Have you had any problems regarding this case so far?
I’ve shipped a lot of guitars between the US and Europe in my time buying and selling instruments and I think it’s unfortunate that the “Lacey Act” has created the issues that it has. I’ve seen it scare off customers and make it harder for someone like myself or other dealers out there to share great Brazilian rosewood vintage instruments with customers around the globe. With that said, it seems that if you can provide proper documentation of your instrument and show that it was built before a certain time period then you will be fine shipping, or so I’ve heard.

Do you play music yourself? If so, what do you play, for how long have you been doing it?
I sure do. I started my first band at age eleven, before I could even really play guitar. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to play in two professional bands, put out records, tour the US for what seems like a million times, and also tour Europe. One time on tour with my band in Europe the border guards in Croatia didn’t want to let us in because we didn’t have work visas so we bribed our way in with CDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. We ended up making it across the border and rocked a great show. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences playing music. I am very grateful for my experiences and feel lucky for the opportunities I’ve been given through music.

What do you consider the biggest challenge for dealers of musical instruments today?
I would say the biggest challenge is also one of the greatest strengths, and that is globalization. When I first started working in this field the primary option someone would have would be to walk into a brick and mortar store to pick out a guitar. Now they have the entire world’s instrument supply at the click of a button. For us this has been a good thing because it allows us to connect with buyers worldwide, but it is also challenging because there is much more competition for sales.

How do you choose what products to carry?
I carry instruments that I like, plain and simple. I’m a big fan of American and import vintage guitars and amplifiers from the 50s, 60s, and 70s as well as modern custom shop instruments from Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gretsch, Marshall, Dr. Z, and Orange. Right now Thunder Road offers used and vintage instruments, but in the near future we will be expanding to include boutique guitars and amplifiers.

What role has technology (the internet, your website, etc.) played in the success of your business? Do you use social media channels to promote your business?
Technology is huge for us as we are an Internet based business. Without the huge role the Internet now plays in instrument sales it would have been much harder for Thunder Road to get off the ground. We use social networking as a source of promotion as well as a way to connect with our customers and keep them updated on new and exciting instruments we acquire.

Is there a general trend to the people who purchase from you, in terms of how skilled or experienced they are?
We sell guitars and amplifiers to folks all over the globe. Some touring musicians, some recording musicians, and some hobby rockers. The thing they all seem to have in common is a passion for great guitars. I love how into guitars my customers are and love talking with them about music, life, and instruments.

You are known for your dedication to providing a good customer service. What advice do you give to somebody looking to purchase an instrument from you?
Being a musician myself I would not want to carry or sell an instrument that I wouldn’t feel comfortable personally owning or playing. Being a business owner I want to give my customers the same experience I would expect from a guitar shop. We go to great lengths to get to know everyone who crosses our path, whether it is selling them something or a simple inquiry asking about a guitar. We want people to feel comfortable when they work with us and feel as though they’re getting a great guitar from a great shop.

Any famous last words?
I want to thank the fine folks at Vintage and Rare for this interview and thank you (the reader) for taking time out of your day to read about Thunder Road Guitars. Please check out our website: www.thunderroadguitars.com/

Airline H8396 – 1960s Sunburst
Gibson ES335 – 1965 Cherry Red
Gibson GA18T Explorer – 1960

Hook up with Thunder Road Guitars via their Media Channels:

Fender Guitars- The Dark Era?

Guest blog written by Emil Puris

So I`ve been reading this blog by a guy stating that today`s Fender Stratocasters are “light years” better than any 70`s Strat he`s ever come across. The argument was supported by the fact that Fender was taken over by a company called CBS in 1965 and every Fender made between 1965 and 1985 supposedly belonged to the dark era of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

Doing some research on the net about the subject, as I had no historical knowledge of Fender guitars, even though I own two Fender Stratocasters myself, I found out that players perceived a loss of the initial high quality of Fender guitars after the company was taken over by CBS. As a result, the late 60`s Stratocasters with the large “CBS” headstock and (from the mid 70`s) the 3-bolt necked models (instead of the conventional 4 bolts) with the “Bullet” truss-rod and the MicroTilt adjustment system fell “out of fashion”. I literally have to get up and make myself a cup of coffee after writing this last sentence. However, the point of the above-mentioned, is that all of this supposedly led to a reduction of the quality of Fender`s guitars while under the management of “cost-cutting” CBS. When Fender was bought from CBS by Bill Schultz in 1985, manufacturing resumed its “former” high quality and Fender regained market share and brand reputation.

Furthermore, so-called “pre-CBS” Stratocasters are, accordingly, quite sought after and expensive due to the perceived difference in quality even compared with contemporary post-CBS models. In recent times, some Stratocasters manufactured from 1954 to 1958 have sold for more than US$175,000 which is perverted if you ask me, but then again everybody has their own fetishes.

I have two Fender Stratocasters, one from 1976 and the other one is from 1995, and after doing this research, I was amazed to learn that my 1995 Fender should be superior to the 1976 model according to these so-called guitar-enthusiasts and experts. Well, I have to say that my personal opinion is that my 1995 Stratocaster is a toy, which should be sold at supermarkets around the country, compared to my 1976 Fender Stratocaster. The history of Fender guitars, or any guitars for that matter, has never interested me and the only reason I did this research was because I was asked to write this blog. Personally, I don’t care about whether a guitar is made by well-recognized companies such as Fender, Gibson, Martin or a luthier from China or some monk chopping a piece of wood in the mountains of Tibet (hard to find by the way, the wood that is) who decides to open a Custom Guitar Shop, just out of boredom.

When I pick up a guitar I don`t look at a label or a serial number or what kind of wood the top, back and sides and fret board is made of. If it sounds and feels good, than that`s the right guitar for me. I`ve played guitars from the above-mentioned brands that sounded like crap and that are being sold for ridiculous prices, and I have played guitars sold for much less that sounded a lot better. For example, my $600 western Chinese-made Fina sounds better than some guitars that I`ve played in $2000-3000 category. This goes another way around, of course, but I`m just saying. The important thing to remember is that it is individual what kind of guitar suits one`s playing style and feels comfortable, and not what you read on the Internet and follow the sheep-mentality.

My purpose with this, rather short, article is not to promote 70`s Stratocasters, but to make some kind of stand against the ridiculous statements that one can find on the Internet. To end this article, I have found pictures of a few guitarists that are playing these ridiculous 30-40 years old badly-made Fender Stratocasters.

But what do these guys know, I think I`m going to start saving money for a $50,000 1957 Fender, instead of buying a “crappy” Fender from 70`s for around $4000.

Eddie Van Halen Custom Guitar Pedal Board 2007-2008 Tour

Legendary, unique and historic. This is Eddie Van Halens guitar pedal board that he used on the 2007-2008 Van Halen Tour.

In January 2011 Vintage and Rare visited the NAMM show in Anaheim, California. As the guitarfreaks we are, we of course had to visit Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd, downtown Los Angeles. In the front window sat Eddie Van Halens guitar pedal board from the 2007-2008 Van Halen Tour.

This famous pedal board marks the sold-out tour where David Lee Roth for the first time in 23 years performed with Van Halen.

– It is an outstanding piece of hardware and a must-see for guitar-freaks all over the world. It is always interesting to see how the master guitarplayers put together their rigs. As a huge fan of Eddie Van Halen and his unique sound and groundbreaking playingstyle and technique it is great to see up close.

– We hope you will enjoy these pictures. Should you have pictures of the amprig please contact us, as we would like to show it on this blog as well.

Kari Nieminen/Versoul Interview

At Vintageandrare.com we would like to introduce a new feature on our blog: The V&R-interviews. The purpose of this is to give a slight introduction to some of the amazing people, who build, sell or just plainly love their instruments as much as we do.

Our first headliner is the renowned Kari Nieminen, who is the mastermind of  the magnificent Versoul, residing in Helsinki, Finland. Karis stringed instruments has attracted a lot of attention from some cool customers, and here, Kari lifts the shroud on what lies behind his success in the business.


A closer look at the rockin’ custom made Raya for Billy Gibbons – Photo by Versoul

Hello, Kari, and thanks for taking your time for this interview. Could you tell us, what initially made you become a luthier?
I started carving wood at age of three in 1963 and when I built my first guitar in 1973 it was technically an easy switch. I have been addicted to music since early 1970′s. Music has been a generator for my career; rock, blues and soul are the most important styles. At 17 I got my first guitar order and after since I have been experimenting with materials and technics. At 20 I built my first acoustic influenced by The Everly Brothers guitar sound.
I’m educated as an industrial designer and a self learnt guitar builder, so my approach to guitar building is different compared to traditional luthiers. I’m always searching and developing new concepts and ideas for new instruments, which are based on deep knowledge and analysis of guitar history and evolution.


What has been your biggest challenge?
You have to be very patient since it takes at least 10 years to get more renowned and establish your brand at certain level. When you are a one man company you have plan your time and resources carefully. A major part of my work is communicating with clients and travelling to meet up with musicians and media for Versoul promotion.

What is your biggest dream of building someday?
Well, I’m only trying to make better instruments for open-minded musicians who would then use them as tools in the creative process of making immortal music.

Which was the first instrument you made?
I was about 13 years old in 1973 when I built my first guitar, an electric solid body at home. You may find a picture of it at my website’s gallery. (We did, red).

Kari and his first, selfmade electric guitar – Private photo

What instrument have you been most proud of?
There are several instruments, actually.
There are the Kenny Burrell Jazz Models: A “Kenny Burrell Jazz Model 6-string” and a “Kenny Burrell Jazz Model 12-string” acoustic guitars made for jazz-guitar legend Kenny Burrell. I have also made a series of custom Raya electric guitars for ZZ Top-guitarist Billy F Gibbons, which made him so pleased that he named the models as ‘Raya Billy F Gibbons Blue Light Specials‘. Also I have built three custom 10-string guitars for Keith Richards during the last three years. Dusty Hill of ZZ Top bought my one of kind Raya Blue Light Bass in 2009 and keeps it at his living room with his favourite basses. My first important customer was Amancio Prada, a well respected Spanish artist, who ordered and plays my Touco Classical guitar. We have to remember that Spain is the home of the classical guitar and Amancio already owned the best, historical Spanish classical guitars. That order meant a lot.

What type of wood is your preferred, when building an instrument?
Of course the quality is important, wood have to be well seasoned and cut right. I use East Indian rosewood for fingerboards, back and sides & parts for acoustics and electrics. Also a bit of ebony fingerboards and parts. Red cedar and spruce for acoustic tops. Alder for electric guitar and bass bodies. Maple and aspen for neck material. Also curly and very rare visa birch for electric guitar tops. During last ten years I have been experimenting with domestic woods: alder and aspen. We have to remember, ecological aspects are more and more important, since certain tropical hardwoods have been over cut and are in danger of disappearing and have fortunately been protected. Therefore I do not use mahogany anymore.
The most essential thing about building guitars, is to use the right construction materials in balance with lightness, stiffess, resonance, flexibility, all combined with aesthetic aspects.

How did you get in touch with people like Ronnie Wood, Roger Daltrey and Billy Gibbons?
Around 2000 I got a great dealer, Westwood Music from Los Angeles. The owner, Fred Walecki, had very nice contacts and plenty of hi-end customers. Roger Daltrey was one of them. He got very excited by my Buxom acoustic guitar and wanted to help me, so he called Alan Rogan, a highly respected guitar technician. Alan has worked with George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, John Fogerty, Joe Walsh, Keith Richards; etc.

Kari and Ronnie Wood – Photo by Alan Rogan

So, I sent two guitars to Alan and he was very impressed. First he introduced Versouls to Ronnie Wood. According to Rogan, Ronnie hardly even get excited by guitars, but after checking the Versouls, he immediately wanted to buy both. Since then, Ronnie has bought 6 other Versouls.
In 2006 I bought Billy Gibbons’ book ‘Rock’n’ Roll Gearhead’ and that inspired me to build a special Raya guitar with a Blue Light and perforated steel sides in a gold leaf finished body.
After one round of trying to get in touch with Billy, his long time friend Elwood Francis contacted me by chance. Elwood was working for Rich Robinson of Black Crows. Anyway, nice timing, so I sent some photos of the Raya Blue Light to Elwood and immediately afterwards, Billy wanted to buy it.

Were they demanding customers?
Yes, after all guitar is a communicating tool for them. Ronnie knows exactly what he wants; not only sound wise, as he is a visual artist himself, who understand aesthetic values a great deal. Also Billy Gibbons has played hundreds of guitars, and he’s very hard to please sonically and visually. Besides this, Billy has very creative ideas of guitars.

What did they like about your specific style of building guitars?
Ronnie and Billy both like the Versoul uniqueness: The sound and playability & ergonomics combined with unique artistic features.
Ronnie Wood has bought two Raya Electric Baritones 6 string models, Raya Blue Lite Electric Guitar, Buxom 12 Acoustic Guitar (my gift to Ronnie when he turned 60) and a Henry Gold Leaf Top Electric Guitar.
These Versouls he used on the Bigger Bang Tour with The Rolling Stones.
In addition to this, he has bought Buxom 6 String Acoustic Guitar, which he for example used in the BBC Documentary about him. Also he has bought Resosun 6 String Electric Acoustic resonator guitar and Raya Electric and Buxom Acoustic Baritones, both 12 String Models.


The custom made Raja guitars for Billy Gibbons – Photo by Versoul

The first guitar, Billy bought, was the above mentioned Raya Blue Light. a solid body guitar in gold leaf finished body. Right after that, he ordered two Raya Custom versions with chambered bodies and Les Paul scale length and all gold leaf finish, body and neck with chrome hardware. Billy was so pleased with his new Versouls that he named the model as Raya Billy F Gibbons Blue Light Special.
A year later he bought a Baritone 6 string version of the model concerned. In the summer of 2010 Billy then bought a Black finished Raya Billy F Gibbons Blue Light Special with gold hardware.
Billy has used his Versouls both on ZZ Top Tours and several other performances, like at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK in 2010 with Jeff Beck and Jimmie Vaughan.

Visit Kari and Versoul at his website and have a look at the awesome craftmanship. It made Ronnie Wood and Billy Gibbons turn their heads, and yours will too. You should also check our current list of our associated dealers at Vintageandrare.com.