Nirvana fan tries to recreate Steve Albini's aluminum Veleno guitar that Kurt Cobain used on In Utero

Aaron Rash aluminum guitar design
(Image credit: Aaron Rash / YouTube)

You may remember Aaron Rash from our story about him playing Jack Endino's Fender Twin amp that Kurt Cobain used on Nirvana's debut album Bleach. And he's made plenty of other beautifully shot videos on Cobain's tones and gear but this… this could be next level. 

Cobain certainly wasn't averse to borrowing the choice of gear of Nirvana's producers; and he used one of Steve Albini's for the recording of In Utero, alongside his own heavily-modded Fender Jaguar and now infamous, record-breaking 1969 Competition Stripe Mustang. But Albini's guitar was a very different instrument; an aluminum Veleno guitar.

You may be familar with its tones without even knowing it; Heart Shaped Box's hauntingly bleak clean tones, Rape Me's scratchy verses, Very Ape. And it's all over the album's overdubs. 

"It was the most aggressive clean sounding guitar I've heard in my life," marvels Rash. He was hooked. A quest followed with Rash attempting to recreate a number of Cobain's other key guitars from that era. "None of them sounded like the tone I was trying to get." That led to the Veleno all-aluminum guitar.

Buying one now is difficult. John Veleno was a pioneer of aluminum guitars and only produced around 195-200 'original run' examples in the second half of the '70s with prices that can go far north of $20,000 on the vintage market. Why aluminum? It was the material he understood the best. Veleno’s day job in the late '60s was in St. Petersburg, Florida building aluminum electrical housings for NASA space shuttles. Veleno was also a guitarist who gave lessons and brought an engineer and player mindset to his designs. 

Rash sought to make his own aluminum guitar and the video above documents his process.

It was a learning process – all aluminum guitars do not sound the same and Rash was not happy with his first attempt. Veleno's had a very specific chambered design process in the build and it was by studying this that a breakthrough began.

Veleno Guitars is producing Legacy instruments again for $8,599, but the great news for Nirvana fans is Rash now wants to produce his Veleno-influenced design for others to buy and is looking for people's suggestions on headstock designs. 

Find out more at Aaron Rash's YouTube channel 


Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.