“Now let’s check out the weird knob”: Shabat built Dweezil Zappa a new signature guitar and it is an HSS S-style “rock machine” like no other

Avi Shabat and Dweezil Zappa
(Image credit: Shabat Guitars / YouTube)

When Dweezil Zappa heads out on tour in August to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his father, Frank’s landmark releases Apostrophe and Roxy & Elsewhere, he will be performing some fiendishly difficult arrangements – but at least he will be well-armed, with a brand new signature guitar that he describes as “the ultimate rock machine.

Zappa has owned his share of legendary guitars. Think of his custom Jackson electric guitars, notably the Watermelon finish, and the Madonna True Blue model from the cover of My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama. There is his Steve Ripley stereo guitar (and the accompanying rack module that was the brains of the operation) and his custom-built PRS that took inspiration from the design of a mandolin.

This new one from Shabat Guitars is right up there. If you are familiar with the LA-based boutique brand, you’ll recognise the shape – it’s essentially a hot-rodded Lynx, a high-end HSS S-style, but with lots of custom trimmings, including a heavily distressed nitro finish. 

Introducing the new model alongside its creator, Avi Shabat, Zappa said he put a lot of thought into the specs.

Shabat Guitars Lynx DZ Dweezil Zappa

(Image credit: Shabat Guitars)

“This is definitely going to be the most exciting guitar for me in years,” he says. “It is all based on this first guitar, which [Avi] presented to me just out of the blue one day. I loved it. I’ve always liked doing different things, changing the look of it so it doesn’t look totally traditional, and that’s why I like about the standard guitars that you do, too.”  

This is the rock machine where you feel like you are ready to dig in and just make this thing scream

There are definitely some traditional elements, some Stratocaster DNA with the alder body and the bolt-on maple neck, the maple fingerboard too. And some non-traditional elements, such as there only being on knob, a “tea-cup” style knob with a push pull function that Zappa calls “the weird knob”. This activates a phase shift effect that in practice sounds a little like an onboard octaver has been pulled.

“It’s swampy and weird. I love that,” says Zappa, as he moved it from the middle pickup, and a twang that is so beyond Nashville that it’s almost sitar-esque, to the bridge pickup, where it’s less pronounced but just as cool. These core electric guitar sounds only sound better when he adds some gain. 

As for the pickups, it looks like Zappa has gone down the gold-foil route but that bridge humbucker is a Lollar El Rayo with a custom grille, and it is complemented by a pair of Lollar Special single-coils. 

There are all kinds of high-end appointments on this; Kluson Deluxe tuners, the Vega-Trem VT1 Ultra Trem. But what’s really cool about it is that, well, it’s not something you see everyday. Which is what Zappa liked about Shabat’s guitars in in the first place.

ALL-NEW Dweezil Zappa Signature Model Guitar | Shabat Lynx DZ - YouTube ALL-NEW Dweezil Zappa Signature Model Guitar | Shabat Lynx DZ - YouTube
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“They’ve got personality straight out of the gate,” he says. “It’s got the vintage feel but it is its own thing. A hand-built guitar, super-custom, but it’s got personality, and sometimes guitars – the boutique-y ones – don’t have character. You need to be draw to the guitar and really want to dig in, and that’s what happened when I started playing that guitar. But then it got me thinking, ‘I need the ultimate rock machine.’”

And this, continues Zappa, is it.

“It is exactly what we were talking about,” he says. “This is the rock machine where you feel like you are ready to dig in and just make this thing scream.”

Check it out in the demo video above and for more details, head over to Shabat Guitars, where they will make you one. Starting price, $4499.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.