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. Discarding the lipstick neck pickup and replacing it with the bridge pickup made it a feedback machine (Here it’s shown with a humbucker from my SG that e. carlson later installed). 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.