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Desolation DC-1 Fr
Once synonymous with the superstrat, charvel is clawing its way into more modern rock with cool shapes, stripped necks and a newly moody, purposeful image. review by Richard Purvis
FaCTFile Desolation DC-1 FR DEScriPtiOn: Solidbody electric guitar. Made in China PricE: £683
builD: Mahogany body with carved top, mahogany through-body neck, 24-fret rosewood fingerboard, Floyd Rose vibrato with locking nut
Poor old charvel. We’ve left our thumbprints on a few of their glossy rock machines over the past year or two, and while our impressions have been good, the one consistent factor has been an element of sniggering over their non-too-subtle 1980s styling. for those players who can take the jokes about poodle perms and leopardskin trousers this might not be a problem, but charvel has clearly woken up to the fact that there are plenty of modern guitarists who demand something a little more mean and grumpy-looking around their necks. cue the Desolation series.
the name’s certainly grim enough to please the most heavily tattooed doom-monger, and more importantly, for the 10 models in this new range the high-contrast superstrat look has been tossed out of the window like a sweaty bandana. the double-cutaway version we’re reviewing here is available only in two different shades of black, and its asymmetrically angular form would bring a grin to the face of any 21st century zombie. there is a degree of opulence on show, thanks to the chunky abalone fret-markers and delicate inlay on both body and headstock; add dark metallic hardware and the verdict has to be that they’ve judged the look of this beast just about perfectly.
Transition from bare wood to glossy black will divide opinion
Naturally, the active EMGs need a battery compartment
With the 10 new Desolation models the superstrat look has been tossed out of the window like a sweaty bandanna beyond the bling, the technical details are interesting too: the threepiece mahogany neck runs through the mahogany body and boasts 24 jumbo frets on a bound rosewood board, while the bridge is a floyd rose and the pickups are active EMGs. the volume and tone knobs and three-way pickup switch are recessed neatly into the carved top, and there’s a generous upper chamfer round the back. in some ways it’s quite PrS-like in feel, but the rear of the neck is almost completely unfinished, and this makes for quite a peculiar collision at the point where it meets the heavily lacquered body. it looks unnatural, but like everything else on the guitar, it’s tidily done.
ElEctricS: EMG 81 (bridge) and 85 (neck) active humbuckers, three-way switch, master volume and tone control lEft-hanDErS: No finiSh: Black (as reviewed), transparent black (£60 extra)
ScalE lEnGth: 648mm/25.5" nEck WiDth: Nut 42mm 12th fret 51.5mm DEPth Of nEck: First fret 19mm 12th fret 20mm StrinG SPacinG: Nut 36mm Bridge 53mm actiOn aS SuPPliED: 12th fret treble 2mm 12th fret bass 2mm WEiGht: 3.6kg/7.92lbs cOntact: Fender GB&I 01342 331700 www.charvel.com fEbruary 2012 Guitar & bass 57
MICK Mars IntervIew
MarsAttacks at an age when many players would sigh and jack in dreams of stardom, Mick Mars hauled himself out of the everyday blues-rock circuit to become guitarist for the infamous Mötley Crüe. Interview by Matt Lamy
48 Guitar & Bass feBruary 2012
48 Guitar & Bass sePteMBer 2011
Mick Mars may be known as the quiet, mysterious one in Mötley Crüe, but let’s face it, that’s not the most damning accusation anybody’s faced – Liberace would have looked a shrinking violet next to Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil. Yet, speaking down the phone from LA, it’s still surprising just how quiet, almost frail, Mars sounds.
‘I set up my guitars in a very special way,’ he enthuses. ‘I have humbuckers, some of which put out more power than others. The normal rating for a humbucking pickup is about 7.5 ohms, for a strong one it’s 8 ohms, and I put mine usually up to 14. I’ve got 14, 16 and 20, so they overdrive the amp and each one gives a different sound. I don’t want all my guitars to sound the same. I do things like that, and I tweak stuff.
It’s true that Mick is the most ‘mature’ member of the band – by a margin of a full decade on Lee and Neil – but actually there’s no escaping the fact that all the boys who were once famed for running rampage down Sunset Strip are getting older. It’s a subject Mars himself raises, to our surprise. G&B had asked how he felt when he heard Nikki had got a tattoo of him inked on his knee, but whether it was the trans-Atlantic line or our poor annunciation, the answer we got was a little more, er, medical.
‘I’ve been working on my sound for well over 30 years, because even when I was playing in cover bands tone was so important to me. There were some times
‘ I’ve been working on my sound for over 30 years. I’ve always been about tone’
when I had to deal with what I had, which was a broken-down Twin Reverb through a homemade 4x12" cabinet with mismatched speakers. But I’d still make the best of it and make it sound the best I could. I’ve always been about tone – I’m a freak about it.’
‘I think it’s a good move for Nikki to get his knee sorted, because when he puts on a show he puts on a show. He does his thing and he’s not a young kid anymore, although he thinks he still is. I mean, Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger – I bet their legs are just beat to hell. So Nikki’s had one knee operation and his other knee needs to get fixed as well… he’ll probably get that done next spring. I wish I could do that. It would be nice to be straight again.’
Perhaps uniquely in Mötley history, ‘straight’ in this context doesn’t allude to escaping some form of substance abuse: it’s meant literally. Since being diagnosed at 17, Mars has suffered throughout his career with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory form of arthritis that has caused his lower spine to freeze and, by his own reckoning, leave him three inches shorter now than when he left school. We hear plenty of guitarists talking about how they prefer instruments with less mass as they get older, but when Mars says he uses Custom Shop Strats ‘because they’re lighter’, it’s a far more fundamental affair.
Despite these problems Mars is still a fully active touring member of the Crüe, and it’s obvious to see why. When we start talking about music the conversation begins to sparkle.
These days, with the Mötley road crew at his disposal, Mars can do a little better than soldier on with broken amps. “I’m using Marshall, Soldano, VHT, Rivera, Crest, and I think there’s one more in there, but I can’t remember. The way I’m doing my stuff is that there are six or seven different amplifiers. The cleaner amps are the Marshalls and I’m using one of my Soldanos for a clean unaffected cabinet for note, so it doesn’t get washed away by the effects. If there’s an echo that might confuse Tommy or Nikki’s timing on stage I’ll have a dry cabinet pumped to them as well as out front.
‘Plus I use sub-basses to fatten out my sound, but I use them low. If I can hear too much of the high strings, I say turn it down and put bass on it. Each room is different, but I mostly want to hear the bottom three strings, I don’t want to hear the GBE – or in my case the AFD.’
It might take a toll on his body, but Mars still shines on
Guitar Mick has used a massive range of guitars over the years but right now his axes of choice are Custom Shop Fenders and vintage Strats
Amps Amp-wise he uses Marshall JCM 800s, Soldano SLO-100s and Rivera Boneheads going through VHT and Crest power amps
Effects You name it, Mick’s got it… but he thinks the most important is his old Eventide H3000 Harmonizer
feBruary 2012 Guitar & Bass 49
Resonator Revivalupgradingabudgetresonatorguitarisn’tthehardesthomemodification–buttheresultscanbespectacular.HuwPricegivesitago our recent experience of reviewing the excellent Messer Lightning resonator guitar left such an impression that our attention turned to the possibility of improving a lesser instrument – a flashy and extremely heavy Ozark 3515 that had been sitting unloved for several years. Like most guitars that don’t sound particularly good, it didn’t get played much. Compared to the Messer it was quieter, lacking in bass, treble and sustain, and buzzy to boot. Could we upgrade the Ozark to make it play and sound more like the Messer… and if so, what would it take?
Modding resonator guitars seems to be an increasingly popular pastime. Some claim vast improvements, while others find the outcome hardly worth the trouble and expense. We consulted a few experts in the field, and it seems that absolutely everything is important with resonators. If one component is a little ‘off ’, the whole guitar under-performs. Also, resonators have to be set up just right to bring out the best tone, which means setting the neck angle and the break angle over the bridge as well as the action and choosing the right strings. There seem to be no set rules: things will vary from guitar to guitar and cone to cone. Undaunted by the mass of information, we decided to have a go. After all, if it turned out that we couldn’t significantly improve the Ozark it might save others from wasting their time and money. On the other had, we couldn’t pass up a opportunity to disprove all the doubters. So after drawing up a ‘to do’ list it was time to get started.
Contacts www.allpartsuk.com www.newtonestrings.com www.stewmac.com http://michaelmesser.proboards.com www.beardguitars.com www.deltaresonatorcones.co.uk toolbox
● Selection of screwdrivers ● Usual string changing tools ● Flat head screws ● 4000 and 6000 grade micro mesh cloths ● Fine needle files ● Centre punch
●1 string and tailpiece removal
If you’re not fully conversant with the workings of resonators, stripping down a guitar provides useful insights into the way they are put together. Obviously the strings have to come off first, but even the simple task of removing and refitting a set of strings needs to be done with care. Uneven pressure can deform the cone, and if you de-tension and remove one string at a time you’ll end up with string pressure that’s concentrated off-centre. To get around this we dropped the tension gradually, starting from the outside strings and working towards the centre, then repeating the procedure until all the
Nine screws hold the cone cover on. To remove it you need to take off the strings and the tailpiece strings could be removed simultaneously. The strings are anchored in tailpiece slots and pass over the top of the tailpiece.
Occasionally you might see a resonator with the strings coming under the front edge of the tailpiece. Assuming this isn’t a mistake, there’s a pretty good chance that it has been done as a quick fix to sharpen the break angle over the nut; when what’s really needed is a more costly and fiddly neck angle adjustment. With the strings out of the way, we undid the screws holding the strap button and tailpiece in position and removed them.
●2 cover and cone ●3 biscuit
Resonator covers come in many styles and designs, but they all do exactly the same thing: they’re mostly there to protect the delicate spun aluminium cone underneath. Simply remove the nine screws around the outside edge, taking care to use a screwdriver that fits the screw heads really snugly – if the screwdriver slips you might end up damaging the plating on the front of your guitar, and nobody wants that. Holding the saddle cover, lift off the cover plate and set it to one side.
At this point it may strike you that the cone looks remarkably like the woofer cones in loudspeakers, and you’d be correct (in fact some companies actually make speakers with aluminium cones: Hartke bass cabs were a well-known example). Aluminium cones in resonator guitars move forwards and backwards, just like a speaker cone, to create soundwaves. The only difference is that resonator cones are driven mechanically (by string vibration) rather than electronically.
The cone isn’t actually fixed to the guitar body. Its outer perimeter rests on a ledge inside the ‘resonator well’, and since string pressure alone holds it in position, you can simply lift out the cone.
You’ll notice that the saddle sits on a slotted wooden disc called a ‘biscuit’, which is usually painted black. Flip over the cone and you should see a centre screw, or maybe two off-centre screws, holding the biscuit in place. Manufacturers often apply a smear of glue all around the edge of the biscuit to secure it more firmly. The glue used in the Ozark factory hadn’t stuck to the metal at all, so the biscuit came away as soon as the screws were removed.
Some biscuit bridges will be fixed to the cone with glue. The old glue needs to be removed before you can re-use the bridge
If you happened to be already happy with the setup of your guitar but you wanted to upgrade your cone, you might be able to get away with transferring your original biscuit – assuming, that is, that the new cone is the same height as your old one. The dried glue will first need to chipped away, and you may also need to sand the bottom of the biscuit to remove every trace.
●4 neck stick
Inside the body you’ll see a long piece of wood extending from the neck heel to the tail block. It seems that the reason for the Ozark’s long strap button screw is that it extended into this ‘neck stick’, presumably to stiffen and secure the structure. At the bottom of the cone well are two screws that pass through the ledge into the neck stick itself. On our guitar there were spacer shims between the neck stick and the ledge, so it seems this is the way the neck angle is set on steel-bodied resonators.
To lock the whole structure together, wooden disks are glued to the back of guitar while spacer pieces are wedged between the disks and the neck stick once the angle has been set. These ‘mushroom posts’ can become detached from the guitar body and the guitar won’t perform properly unless they’re fixed solidly. Fortunately, ours were fine.
One of the problems with our Ozark is a noticeable degree of metallic buzzing and rattling. We concluded that there were two possible issues: somewhere inside the guitar there were parts that were only making partial contact when they should have been making full contact or no contact whatsoever.
The neck stick screws sat well proud of the bottom of the well and the heads had a high dome. Vintage and modern Nationals have flat headed screws that minimise the possibility of making contact with the edge of the cone. We decided to put in lower profile screws, and when we removed the originals we found out that they were turning freely in their holes, so they weren’t contributing to the structural solidity of the guitar whatsoever. We removed and replaced one screw at a time to avoid disturbing the neck angle – and of course we used thicker screws.
A mahogany stick runs from the neck joint to the tail. Note the mushroom posts and domed stick screws
We swapped the old neck stick screws for lower-profile flat head screws. Extra-thick screws improved the structural solidity
With the cone cover removed you can see the spun aluminium cone and the ‘biscuit’ bridge
108 Guitar & Bass feBruary 2012
feBruary 2012 Guitar & Bass 109
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