Of Gold, Green, and the Growl

We describe our music as garage or industrial surf.  But just what is that?  Maybe it is a bit like pornography; it cannot be described but you know it when your hear it.  We think of it as throaty with a twinge of a growl.  It sounds a smidge dirty with reverb, some slap echo, and tremolo or vibrato.  Occasionally overdriven.  Our music gives the sense of playing on the verge of falling into a vat of muck and other industrial waste..   

My Schecter gold top serves up garage surf very nicely.  It defies the Schecter image of guitars mainly for headbangers and metalheads.  Perhaps because of that, few gold tops were made.  They were not big sellers for a company that boasts members of Avenged Sevenfold, Black Label Society, Danzig, Motley Crue, Seether, Slayer, and Suicide Silence among its artists.  The descriptions of Schecter’s artists and their bands include goth, metalcore, screamo, punk-pop, horror punk, and death metal.  No wonder the gold top was a marketing failure at Schecter.

Surf, traditional rock, garage rock, or even plain punk is nowhere to be found on Schecter’s website.  Deep down, we know that the folks at Schecter would shutter at the thought that one of their guitars would serve up garage -- or even industrial -- surf.  A sexagenarian lead guitarist for a band named for a fluffy white dog does not fit anywhere in Schecter’s marketing scheme.  Besides none of us sports visible ink or very much makeup.

Despite serving up garage surf very nicely and being handsome, the Schecter gold top does not have a true “surf vibe.”  Its roots lie with Gibson.  Instrumental surf music, however, is Fender-centric.  It is dominated by the clean sound of Fender amps, the boing of Fender reverb units, and the brightness and clarity of Fender single coil guitars.

In its own way, my ocean turquoise Jazzmaster is equally as handsome as the Schecter.  The Jazzmaster may not have the carved top, machined knobs, or binding of the Schecter, but it has a surf pedigree.  It also stands out.  Its color is a departure from the sunbursts and olympic whites that seem to dominate.  Its matching headstock also sets it apart from other Jazzmasters.  The tiki-tipped tremolo bar makes the ocean turquoise truly unique.

Robert, however, berates the Jazzmaster’s sound as “being like every other surf band.”  He prefers the throaty aggressive tone from the Schecter.  Being distinctive -- having our own sound and schtick -- is important to him.  My less discerning ear does not hear the differences as clearly as Robert.  And unfortunately, as I get older, my hearing seems to deteriorating faster than my vertical jump.

Jazzmaster or gold top?  Surf vibe or something else?  Fender or headbangers’ brand?  Looks or a particular tone?  Are we back to image is everything?  Does anybody even care?  Wow, this might be a real rock ‘n roll dilemma.  

Of course, you probably are thinking that it is a tempest in a teapot because blog posts just do not flow as freely as they once did.

Fortunately, before becoming fully wrapped around the axle, the epiphany came.  Why not just replace a pickup in the Jazzmaster?  Surf vibe.  Tiki-tipped tremolo.  And the growl that seems to be the Lava Pups’ evolving sound.  The best of two worlds.  With a couple of clicks on the Lollar Pickups website, the solution was two days and visit to Guitar Workshop away.

Test drive coming soon.  Blog entry or Consumer Reports?


 

1 comment

  • VibroCount

    VibroCount Sacramento

    Surf is not just one sound. Not even then. There were lots of Danelectros, Airlines, Silvertones, Kays, and the new Japanese imports (mine was a red St. George that was somewhat Jazzmaster/Jaguar-ish) filled many of the hands of those of us who could not afford $250-$300 for a Strat, $300-$350 for a Jag, $350-$400 for a Jazzmaster. Link Wray had a fondness for $100-$200 guitars (and pencils through speaker cones). There is much crossover from surf to metal thrashing. In 1996, I used my Gibson SG Special I got in 1967 (P-90s) before I got my CIJ Jazzmaster and added the SD Vintage pickups. When Jim switched from Strat to JM, I switched to a Squire 51, whose humbucker allowed me to get the tone I wanted for "Rumble." Tone is in the fingers. If you play my Strat (SG, Galaxie, JM, whatever) you will sound like you mostly. If I play any of yours, I will sound like me. Surf is your personal attitude, not your equipment's. We choose extensions of us, looking for the one that sounds like the tone we hear in our heads but can never achieve in reality.

    Surf is not just one sound. Not even then. There were lots of Danelectros, Airlines, Silvertones, Kays, and the new Japanese imports (mine was a red St. George that was somewhat Jazzmaster/Jaguar-ish) filled many of the hands of those of us who could not afford $250-$300 for a Strat, $300-$350 for a Jag, $350-$400 for a Jazzmaster. Link Wray had a fondness for $100-$200 guitars (and pencils through speaker cones). There is much crossover from surf to metal thrashing.

    In 1996, I used my Gibson SG Special I got in 1967 (P-90s) before I got my CIJ Jazzmaster and added the SD Vintage pickups. When Jim switched from Strat to JM, I switched to a Squire 51, whose humbucker allowed me to get the tone I wanted for "Rumble." Tone is in the fingers. If you play my Strat (SG, Galaxie, JM, whatever) you will sound like you mostly. If I play any of yours, I will sound like me. Surf is your personal attitude, not your equipment's. We choose extensions of us, looking for the one that sounds like the tone we hear in our heads but can never achieve in reality.

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