I customize all my instruments in one way or another, hopefully in artful and subtle ways, but there are always those extreme cases…

The Dethkaster is one such story: originally born as a Japanese-made Squire Telecaster, it was my first guitar purchased in 1987, and as first guitars go it was love at first sight: its minimalist appointments and piano-like black gloss

dethkaster

'dethkaster' telecaster. photo: e.carlson

I customize all my instruments in one way or another, hopefully in artful and subtle ways, but there are always those extreme cases…

The Dethkaster is one such story: originally born as a Japanese-made Squire Telecaster, it was my first guitar purchased in 1987, and as first guitars go it was love at first sight: its minimalist appointments and piano-like black gloss finish were both versatile and unique. And back in the day, these imports were impeccably constructed.

Well as first-love hearts break, I smashed this guitar in half. And it was not even in the heat of a performance in a rock n’ roll Pete Townshend kind of way. Instead, it was at an everyday rehearsal with the band Wept.

But that’s how Wept rolled: we were extremists and more than the live performance, the practice was a sacred ritual: if anyone was late, they would be whipped with the heavy duty 3-prong extension cord we plugged our amps to. We would work through our set with only serious discussion about the song itself: no wandering from the chosen path.

But many times when the paths diverged an epic war would break out. One sunny high-school afternoon Vorticez and myself locked conceptual horns about volume and tone while recording the infamous ‘Exit,’ sessions. Rage ensued and I hurled my Tele onto the suburban carpet floor where it split with an anti-heroic thud.

It was one of many epic breakups for the band: the following week however it was time for ritualized forgiveness: I glued the guitar back together, even gluing on the neck to make a super rigid axe – an ultra telecaster. Most importantly the gloss finish was sanded off and each band carved into it runes of reconciliation.

The guitar was resurrected into something meta: first of all the glue made it even more percussive than before which for an already bright Tele borders on the obscene. Loading it up with humbuckers made it a feedback machine. Finally, scraping off the thick veil of polyurethane freed the resonant tone of the woods, something I will comment on later with my other guitars.

Today the Dethkaster is in the good hands of e.carlson aka area c and was featured in a few of the 16:16 songs recorded in 1991. It has become an icon of the joy and angst of making music, especially with the band Wept. As first loves go, I adored this guitar and the era it represents and I especially enjoy hearing it in recordings. But as first heartbreaks go, I never want to see this guitar again.

carving credits
Top left: Vorticite emblazoned the ‘ice age’ and related imagery.
Bottom and top left: Christopher Wassell carved the figurines that resemble his woodblock print for ‘Starball Contribution.’
Bottom right: IReverend Brainskan carved the flute figure – perhaps a self-portrait?
Top right: The lightly inscribed eyes, X, and other ethereal gestures were carved by Xopher Davidson.
Top right lower: The ‘+’ emblem with related dots was carved by me… a sign for a tattoo that was never realized…
photos: e.carlson
related songs
(pre-deth customization)
(with 16:16)