Where’s the Brand?

When you look at players in the 80’s, few guitar brands dominated the landscape. You had Charvel, Jackson, Kramer, and ESP. That was really about it. Even the once monolithic Fender and Gibson were taking a backseat to these brands. The axes that guitarists were slinging were just as important as the guitarists themselves. Guitar gods carried their instrument like Apollo carried his bow.

By the 90’s, brands changed but the concept stayed pretty much the same. Even though bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were both anti-establishment, everybody still knew that they were playing Fenders and Les Pauls.

The metal bands of the otts were more like the 80’s. Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance had no problem peddling their signature Schecter guitars. While Charvel and Kramer were the big names two decades earlier, it was Schecter, ESP, and Ibanez’s turn during the 2000’s.

Now that we’re firmly in the 10’s, bands are starting to care less about the brands. I’ve been digging The Black Keys lately. Whether you’re a fan of the band or not, you have to admit they got themselves some interesting guitar tones. So, I decided to look up what kind of gear the guitarist, Dan Auerbach, uses. In recent Guitar World interview he said:

I’m not too picky about guitars. I love to collect them, mostly oddballs, but I’m not married to any brand or model. Whatever guitar has the best character for the song is the one I want to use, because if you’ve got a style, you’re going to sound like yourself no matter what guitar you play.

The Black Keys isn’t unique in this. Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave has never been very particular about the brand of guitar that he uses. His “Arm the Homeless” Guitar is a Custom Performance Body routed to fit a Floyd and a Kramer Carrera neck.

Matt Bellamy from Muse jumps from Manson guitars – Who the hell is Manson? – or Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, or whatever the hell else he’s got lying around. The point is he’s not married to any particular brand.

Take a look at some recent guitar ads and see if you can find any face that you haven’t already seen a thousand times. Rags like Guitar Player are still packed with ads with EVH, Santana, Hammett, Lynch, and Clapton, recycling the same guitar players that they’ve been endorsing for over three decades.

Now, I don’t see a future where players will rush in to buy Dan Auerbach’s signature Silvertone or Harmony. The funny thing is, guys are still trying to find tones that they’ve heard on those Black Keys or Muse albums. They’ve just removed the branding from the equation. If they see Dan Auerbach playing a hollowbody, they’ll buy a hollowbody. It doesn’t have to be a Harmony H78 hollowbody; it just has to be a guitar and it needs to be hollow.

Maybe in the next decade, we’ll see more guitar gods wielding their weapons of choice.

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Filed Under: FeaturedGuitarsCommentary / Editorials


About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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