Nick Johnston tells us about his yet-to-be-released signature Schecter from the cosy environs of the GuitCon event in Markneukirchen, Germany.
"This is the fourth iteration of my signature model from the Schecter custom shop. Schecter’s interesting; they go back quite a way. They started off as a parts replacement company, and then they were bought by somebody abroad and they were tasked with making money. That’s where the Diamond Deuce came from, and all of those metal, nu-metal guitars, the Damiens and the Omens and the Hellraisers.
"I personally had no interest in those guitars and I didn’t think of myself as a metal guitar player, so while I was a budding guitar player they weren’t on my radar. That was until about five years ago when I found that they were still doing more traditional types of guitars in their Custom Shop. The Custom Shop is very small - 40 to 50 pieces a month."
A personal relationship
"At the time I was playing Fender guitars and I wanted something where I could work with the company more closely. Schecter became that relationship that I was hoping for, and then they offered me a signature model and we produced my first signature guitar, which was in a lovely silver.
"However, this lovely new model, which is in a shade that I call Atomic Frost, is more of a Custom Shop instrument. For example, it has a wenge neck, which when you get it under your mitts feels very, very raw, very clean and smooth.
"It has an ebony fretboard. We’ve completely done away with rosewood - not because rosewood is bad, but because it’s presenting a problem for guitar companies, and also I wanted something a bit different. It’s got a Graph Tech nut, so it’s self-lubricating, which is pretty cool. My name and logo is burnt into the back of the headstock.
Admiration of the neck
"Onto the neck! We have a trust rod adjustment down at the bottom now. I travel a lot, and if I have to adjust my neck I don’t want to be stripping screws. Jescar frets, which are great, and it’s got these cool silver rings set into the ebony fretboard.
"So now we go to the body. It’s an alder body. Schecter is now spraying with nitro. In California, that’s kind of a problem, but they’ve got a licence to do that. If you look closely at the guitar it’s got this checking. You can feel it, the paint’s all checked. I wanted something that felt vintage without being blatantly relic'd. If you have that alien acid sweat (which I unfortunately do not have), you will quickly wear through the paint. I would love to be able to do that – I would love it."
Pickups with history
"These single-coil pickups are a signature set. They have a lower output and they use formvar wiring. That’s a very rare type of shielding on this wiring that Fender was using at one point and then Schecter bought all the remaining quantity of it and they’re using it for my pickups. It’s adding an extra resistance to the pickups that gives them a different sweetness. I wanted something so I could hit harder.
"It’s got a proprietary bridge, master tone, volume and five-way selection; everything looks real vintage. I like the neck joint. It’s real simple and it should be in your collection. Available 2019!"
On to the rig
"The strings I use are D’Addario NYXL. I’ve been using D’Addarios since the beginning, since my dad bought me a pack in 2004. The NYXLs are relatively new. I’ve done a bunch of tours with them already and I just changed these today. Call it laziness, call it trust in the D’Addario brand.
"I also have a sweet strap I just started using last year. It’s by a company called GruvGear. It’s frickin’ incredible. Not only is it the most comfortable thing, it also looks really cool. It reminds me of an old blacksmith’s harness or whatever - makes me want to shoe some horses.
"That does it for the guitar; let’s move onto the amp. I've been using a Mesa/Boogie amp for about three years or so. There’s the TC-50, and recently, they released the TC-100. It has reverb and a boost channel, so it handles everything I can throw at it. Mesa/Boogie’s great because it’s like a boutique amp company, but it’s got a backline pretty much everywhere. They have distribution everywhere in the world, so I can always get my hands on one. And it’s great stuff; it’s all American-made, and it’s road-ready.
"I usually plug straight in, but I might use a delay pedal like the MXR Carbon Copy. Or maybe for sweeter reverb, I’ll use the MXR Reverb pedal by Jim Dunlop. Next year, I’m thinking about using more pedals, maybe building a 'board. But right now, it’s pretty simple. Pretty streamlined."