Anyone who is planning on heading out to catch the recently reunited Derby rock trio LostAlone play in support of their comeback LP, The Warring Twenties, is going to be confronted with an electric guitar like no other.
We are used to seeing guitars taking inspiration from the strangest of sources, and turning out to be the strangest of instruments – like the USS Starship Enterprise-esque Jackson Roswell, or the Bat-Mobile-inspired Hallmark Wing-Bat – but, for his latest guitar, LostAlone guitarist Steven Battelle has leaned into classic French literature and the a new form of functionality that calls to mind Steve Vai’s custom-made Ibanez Hydra.
As Battelle explains, the idea for a double-necked electric guitar, which is effectively an SG-style 7-string guitar spread across two necks, came from a song inspired by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables that has a dual-riff pattern that was simply impossible to play on a regular guitar. Admitting defeat was the first part of the design process.
“To paraphrase a well known phrase and transpose into guitar speak, I realised I’d layered off more than I could play,” says Battelle. “The song is called Crusaders and opens our record Shapes Of Screams. I was totally obsessed with Les Miserables musical at the time and wanted to push what we could do as a three-piece – not only in the studio but then onstage – and become more like an entire company rather than just a three-piece rock band.”
Batelle had a hunch that a 7-string was the answer, but maybe not a 7-string as we know it.
“The studio version [of Crusaders] has chords moving around while a deep heavy riff is happening and so it posed a problem,” I tried a 7 string, but couldn't make my brain understand why what was an E, looked like an A and so I came up with this idea.”
With necessity now pregnant with invention, Battelle turned to Nigel Roberts, a custom guitar maker based out of Leicestershire Luthiers. Roberts, who is now retired leaving the repair/custom-build company in the hands of Danny and Natalie Lint.
“I air guitared my thoughts to my friend Nigel who is a brilliant luthier and a couple of days later he sent me blueprints for the guitar,” says Battelle. “The guitar means I can play the riff and the chords as well as sing at the same time.”
See below for how this looks in practice.
The result is kinda weird, kinda genius, and augments an SG-styled solid body with a single-string second string for what would traditionally be the seventh string on an extended-range guitar, tuned to B or A. Roberts runs a single-coil along the length of the string.
It looks an awkward fit for most guitar cases or gig-bags but if you are of a mind to have a specialist instrument built for a job like this, then what’s a custom case, too?
LostAlone’s new album, The Warring Twenties (opens in new tab), is available to pre-order and is out 30 September via Dharma Records. You can witness Battelle use his Nigel Roberts custom double-neck up close when the band tour the UK in December. See LostAlone (opens in new tab) for dates.