WORLD GUITAR DAY 2019: The guitar means different things to different people. For some it's a hobby; for others it's a potent tool for expression or a creative release from the rigours of life. Whatever your reasons for playing, we can all agree that the guitar is an incredibly powerful instrument.
For World Guitar Day we asked some heavy hitters to open up about what the guitar means to them. What we got were incredible stories, musings and personal revelations about quite how much the guitar has shaped and enhanced their lives...
Rich Robinson - The Magpie Salute/The Black Crowes
“The guitar is something that still captivates millions of people around the world. There is a deep mystery inherent to what generates from the instrument. It can move you to tears and show you a world that you could not fathom or believe even existed. It has been around for centuries and will be here many years into the future. The key is the human, organic quality that emanates from the earthly materials. It has absolutely nothing to do with computers or a falsely perceived perfection. It is the imperfections that create the uniqueness of the sound from guitar to guitar, from player to player.”
“Music for me has always been a form of release. I’ve always been a hyperactive person and find it very hard to relax. Playing guitar is one of the only things that I can do where I can really escape, go off into my own world. For many years, when I was training and fighting MMA, playing the guitar would be the one thing that would help me to mentally escape the rigours of training and dieting. When I stopped fighting in 2014, I needed an outlet, something else to focus on. That came in the form of songwriting and the Kris Barras Band was formed!”
Kie Von Hertzen - Von Hertzen Brothers
"Playing guitar for me is both about meditation and searching. Just holding the instrument calms me down and takes me closer to the being I truly feel I am at the base. Once I start strumming my instincts always awaken and the hunt is on. I never just play. When everything else in life has been constantly changing, this one thing has remained the same."
Jeremy Widerman - Monster Truck
“My guitars always have a special place in my heart. They don’t always start that way. Sometimes I just get a certain model or type because it was something I thought I could use in the studio or sometimes I just find an irresistible deal. Sometimes it takes years for the affinity to grow or turn into something where I just look at it one day and think, ‘Goddamn I just love you.’
“However that wasn’t the case with my main guitar. It’s a Custom Shop reissue 1962 Gibson SG in TV Yellow. We were on tour in Munich Germany and I was trolling the local music store like I always do and as soon as I entered the store it felt like it jumped off the wall at me. I already had two 1961 Reissue SGs, but they weren’t from the Custom Shop.
“So I see this guitar and I pray that when I take it off the wall it’s got that magic feeling, that resonance and neck that will let me know it’s for real. It does. IMMEDIATELY. I know it’s the one. I don’t have 3,000 Euros though. I have maybe about 1,000-1,500 Euros in room on my credit card. I call home, I borrow the rest of the cash from my dad. I used it that very night in Munich without even getting it properly setup or adjusted because I was just so excited to get it on stage. I knew it sounded and felt great but I always wait to hear from our sound guy Chris who I trust implicitly on all things tone. He comes to meet me after the show and the look on his face, I’ll never forget it. He knew what I knew, it’s the one.
“The guitar is always with me now. I never check it on flights. I never leave it in a car on the street. It doesn’t leave my side. I’ll never sell it and it will probably always be what you hear on any future Monster Truck record. As for the debt it accumulated on my Visa and with my father? I hit a slot machine two months later for the EXACT AMOUNT, roughly $3,800 US dollars which I kept in $100 dollar bills in my pocket until I could safely return home and hand it off to my dad!”
"The guitar has been a part of my life since as far back as I can remember. From being a 3 year old child and watching Elvis' '68 Comeback Special with Elvis and Scotty Moore sitting, playing unplugged, that very moment changed my life forever! A few years later, hearing Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced album for the first time as a child was another life changing moment. Just a couple of years after that, seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King jam together in Dallas was probably the most pivotal moment that catapulted me into studying and researching the Blues.
“Those moments were very otherworldly for me and definitely touched into the spiritual realm. I also tap into that same realm mid-guitar solo, and it's a very magical feeling. Through my darkest days my guitar has always been there for me. I have always been able to pick it up and play through the pain and tap into that spiritual place. My guitar has always provided me with a positive outlet to express whatever emotions I am going through, keeping me from acting out negatively. My guitar is a part of my soul and my spirit and not only helps me through bad times but also enhances good times. That's why I became a Blues guitarist; I feel that true Blues guitar players are open channels of emotion and those emotions flow from your soul out through the guitar."
“What my guitar means to me is almost indescribable, but I will do my best. It has been the one thing that, when all else has failed, it has been there. I consider myself very blessed to be given the gift of playing music, in particular the guitar. I honestly have no idea where I’d be or what I’d be doing without it. #BOOM.”
Andrew Baylis - Nine Shrines
"I’ve had a Les Paul Studio since I was 17. I’ve used it on every tour I’ve ever been on, probably 40-plus tours. I continue to use it with Nine Shrines and I really don’t think it’s going anywhere. It also looks like total shit, but yet I still get compliments on the ‘rugged paint job’! That’s all from playing too hard with my right hand. It just wouldn’t feel right writing and performing without it. Of course, I have a ton of other great guitars (mainly Schecters) but this one always pulls me back in. I’m almost certain it’s haunted. When I look at this Les Paul it plays a mental slide show for me, of everywhere I’ve been and more importantly, where I want to go. I’ll always keep it around and I know everyone has a guitar similar to this… maybe not a haunted piece of shit, but something that means as much to them as this one does.”
Big Boy Bloater
“I’m not a guitar collector. I don’t have a lot of guitars. The guitar that I currently use is an early noughties Japanese Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan pickups and a Callaham trem block. I also had it modified to have just one volume control. I never saw the point of two volumes, it just got in my way. My guitar has taken me all over the world to places I would have never got to on my own, and it’s allowed to meet many great people and make new friends. But I have to say that, for me, the guitar is just a tool. I don’t get that attached to them. I’m not sentimental about them. Guitars come and go and in the big scheme of things it’s not really important. Your loved ones are what’s important and they mean more to me than any guitar ever has or ever will!"
Dean Wells - Teramaze/Meshiaak
“When I was a kid I used to sneak into the room where my dad kept his 1960’s Les Paul Black Beauty. I’d play it for as long as I could, hours at time until I’d get caught. I own that guitar now, it’s my prized possession. Playing that guitar is how I learned what a guitar should feel and play like. Music is the way I express myself and speak to people, guitar is my favourite method of creating music.”
Josh Hamler - Shaman’s Harvest
“I have many guitars, picking a favourite would be like picking a favourite child! That being said, my ‘97 PRS McCarty has been my tried and true since 1997. From field parties and dive bars to arenas and stadiums, this guitar was part of every memory I made over the past 20 years of touring. I’ve used it on every record and will continue to without hesitation. While I can’t say it’s my favourite, when that strap hits my shoulder it’s game on.”
Asger Mygind - VOLA
“The guitar that means the most to me is a Guild D-40 acoustic from the ‘70s. It belongs to my father, but since he spends more time teaching international economics than playing guitar, he has been kind enough to let me borrow it indefinitely. I don’t tend to get emotionally attached to instruments, but when I look at this guitar it’s hard for me not to reflect on the 40-plus years it’s been in my family, and consequently my own progress in music. It was on this guitar I learned to play the first chord, G, followed by the first song, Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. It was on this guitar I wrote my first composition, a shameless Beatles imitation called Why Don’t You Wanna Dance?, back when sitting with the guitar felt like hugging a 4 person canoe.
“It was on this guitar I later subjected myself to entangled fingers trying to follow the voicings of Dryad Of The Woods by Pain Of Salvation, and strummed Porcupine Tree’s Trains all day long, because that capo on the fifth fret suddenly gave me superpowers. Recently, it has been used on VOLA’s forthcoming album Applause Of A Distant Crowd, alongside downtuned 7-string riffage, which is something it has never tried before. But it did well. I hope it lasts another 40 years.”
“For me, to miss a day of playing guitar is like skipping a day of eating… rare and improbable, unless I’m going on a deliberate fast for some reason or another. I’m not fanatically attached to a specific guitar. I have my favourites but, in truth, I can while away the hours on any old thing as long as it is not completely inhospitable in terms of tuning and playability. The guitar serves as my self-contained entertainment complex, spiritual conduit to astral plains, psychiatrist, longest friend and constant challenge. I’m sure I would find a way to enjoy life without it, but as long as I can play, I’ll never be bored, lonely or uninspired… can you dig it?”
“The Firebird was the guitar that changed my playing. It opened me up to a whole new style. It stood for everything that rock ‘n’ roll was about to me at that time and unlocked a whole new world of Johnny Winter, Joe Perry, Eric Clapton and Howlin’ Wolf. I have a custom TSR Firebird with one humbucker pickup. I don’t use pedals, I solely rely on the tone and volume controls to allow me to express myself through my guitar. I feel this is the most honest and moving way you can play.”
Brian Vodinh - 10 Years
“My guitar is a critical ingredient in the overall recipe that is songwriting for me. Guitar has, since day one, been a fundamental cornerstone of all of my songwriting. All the songs that I have written that have had any success and given me a career, started with a guitar idea. My guitar is also a place for me to escape the world and go to a mental place where nothing matters at the time. For me, the power of creating something from nothing with my hands and my mind is such a powerful concept. My guitar allows that to happen.”
Pablo van de Poel - DeWolff
“I basically owe my whole life to the guitar. I have spent every day making, playing, writing, recording or listening to music ever since I left school, and all of this started with a guitar. This instrument has taken me to so many places all over the world that I never thought I'd ever visit, let alone play. It was my key to freedom and to an awesome life. It gave me an identity like it has given thousands of other players in the world an identity. Listening to players like Paul Kossoff, Peter Green, Derek Trucks or any great guitar player, one can only conclude that those six strings are really an extension of the body and the mind.”
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