Our resident guitar guru Peter Hodgson was on location at NAMM again this year, checking out all the new releases from the biggest names in guitar from all over the world.
Another year, another NAMM. Once upon a time I never would have dreamed it would be possible to go to this annual orgy of musical-instrument goodness. Now I’ve been to eight of ‘em and I look forward to it the way I used to look forward to Christmas. Beyond all the cool gear, it’s a chance to catch up with buddies, make new ones, and see incredible concerts. This year I spent much of my NAMM at the Seymour Duncan stall helping out with social media and artist relations stuff, so I had a slightly different perspective on the event. Nevertheless, I still packed more new gear into my eyeballs than I could ever possibly chronicle. Here’s a little NAMM diary for ya.
LEFT: Kirk Hammett's ESP model RIGHT: Ibanez 30th anniversary Steve Vai reissues
As a massive Ibanez geek, the very first thing I did was head over to the Ibanez booth to check out the new Steve Vai Jem reissues. Remember the original Desert Sun Yellow, Shocking Pink and Loch Ness Green Jems? They’re back to mark their 30th anniversary, but this time featuring All Access Neck Joints and DiMarzio Evolution pickups. And they’re beautiful. Their vibrancy really doesn’t come across in photos but they’re going to blow a lot of minds when people see them in person. I also zipped over to say hi to Perry Ormsby and Jon Sullivan, again showing their guitars together this year. Ormsby is really killing it with his customs and more affordable GTR line, and Sully displayed a bunch of guitars co-built with Grover Jackson. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of Ormsby.
I also went over to Ernie Ball Music Man to meet St. Vincent and talk about her incredible signature guitar. It’s such a unique design, and it really speaks to Annie Clark’s creativity as an artist. If you get a chance to play one of these guitars, you have to try it. It was also great to see all the new John Petrucci Majesty models.
Seymour Duncan himself was hand-winding Jimi Hendrix pickups on every day of NAMM, and a few times a day I interviewed him while he was doing so, to get some great stories about the time he spent with Jimi in 1968 and his thoughts on the pickup-makers’ art. Duncan’s a humble guy and I don’t think people realise just how many things he pioneers. He was making his own five-way pickup selector switches when he was still in his teens because you could only get three-position switches back then.
I spent some time at Kiesel’s booth checking out their new Greg Howe and Chris Letchford signature models and their new tremolo option for the Vader headless guitar. There was also a mutliscale 8-string Vader that totally and utterly won my heart. I also bumped into Devin Townsend on this day. He’s touring here in May, so make sure you go along and check out his Framus signature guitar and Fishman pickups.
LEFT: The Ormsby Guitars Goliath RIGHT: The Sully Guitars Stardust
As a huge Nuno Bettencourt fan, I took some time out today to wander over to Washburn and check out their N4 Vintage, one of my dream guitars. During the process I noticed that USM, Washburn’s owner, has acquired and revived the Hamer brand, which is great news.
We had Mick Thomson of Slipknot do a signing at the Seymour Duncan booth this year, so I had to go make sure he was checked in and that security was arranged. Thomson is super professional and yet relaxed and friendly, so it was great to have him hang out, take pics and sign stuff with fans.
LEFT: Peter Hodgson with St. Vincent RIGHT: Seymour Duncan, Cheap Trick's Tom Peterson and Maricela Juarez
This was my main day to hang out and check out cool gear. Some highlights: LTD multiscale, ESP Kirk Hammett model with occult symbols, Schecter Robert Smith UltraCure with Bigsby, EVH 5150 replica guitar, this thing is gonna be massive, a PRS display including one of Neal Schon’s personal stage guitars, Line 6’s new Helix Native amp/effects software, Gibson’s amazing new S-Series of affordable USA-made guitars, and the killer Brent Hinds Flying V from Epiphone, Misha Mansoor’s new Peavey Invective 120 USA-made valve amplifier, Acacia Guitars’ booth, they’ve just signed Aussie prog legend Dean Wells as a signature artist, Prestige Guitars, who are releasing a signature model guitar for Pantera’s Rex Brown.
And with that, NAMM 2017 was over and my feet were killing me.