"I purchased that in San Francisco because I broke a guitar and then woke up ... more
"I purchased that in San Francisco because I broke a guitar and then woke up the next day needing a guitar, so I went down to the guitar shop and bought this guitar that had this obviously homemade dragon, but done in a manner that was permanent. Whoever had done it had obviously taken the care so that it wouldn't fade."
A cream-coloured Les Paul previously owned by the guitarist in San Francisco hair metal group Vain, the Les Paul was unmistakably marked with a gold dragon and Kanji Script applied by that band's guitarist.
"I played that guitar for a while, and it wasn't until James Hetfield came to a Rocket From The Crypt show, and he was like, 'Dude, you're playing the Vain guitar.' And I had never heard of them. I was like, 'What's Vain?' And he said, 'That's Dave Vain's guitar—it's a band—he used to play that guitar all the time… everyone, metal people know that guitar.' He found it very ironic."
Speedo modified the guitar with various pickups in the bridge position throughout the '90s ("Man, I tried just about everything,"), most notably with a passive EMG humbucker. In its final form, the guitar sported a humbucker in the bridge and a DeArmond gold foil pickup in the neck position. Each pickup is wired to a separate output, so each can be plugged straight into its own separate amplifier. This Les Paul was also subjected to Reis' DIY approach to weight relief, which no doubt has had some effect on the tone.
Reis ended up trading the dragon Les Paul for his Swami Scimitar, a guitar cu... more
Reis ended up trading the dragon Les Paul for his Swami Scimitar, a guitar custom made by Tym Guitars in Brisbane, Australia. Shaped liked a Tokai Hummingbird, but with the body and neck larger overall, this guitar is huge. Fitted with an original Danelectro lipstick pickup in the neck, a DeArmond gold foil in the middle position, and a P90 in the bridge, the guitar is wired up like a three-pickup Les Paul, with the ability to isolate the middle position to just the gold foil pickup. The neck is based on an '80s Les Paul custom.
The guitar is also quite weighty. "The Swami Scimitar is a really, really badass guitar," Reis says. "I don't play it [live] often just because it is a bit heavy, but I have used it on quite a few records. It's such a badass guitar, kind of one of a kind."
The guitar is all over See You in Magic, the first record by The Night Marchers, Reis' project that also features Hot Snakes' Gar Wood on guitar.
Reis' touring machine for much of Hot Snakes' recent run has been a black, la... more
Reis' touring machine for much of Hot Snakes' recent run has been a black, late-'70s Les Paul Pro. "That one has the lipstick pickup, a Curtis Novak lipstick in the neck position, and in the bridge … I had the Gibson [P90] that was originally in it put back in the guitar. It looks a bit strange, because it had been routed out for a different pickup. So it's still the same pickup, but with a wider box around it."
The guitar has also been subject to Reis' weight-relieving process, with several chunks carved out of the body from the back. When asked if he'd considered the less hefty Gibson SG, rather than carving apart numerous vintage Les Pauls, he replies, "I've had about four SGs over the years, and I can just look at a SG and break it. [The headstock design] is like a spring, it's just really tightly wound, and it's just ready to pop at any moment."
It is also wired up with stereo outputs like the Dragon Les Paul. The guitar not only features heavily on the initial tracking of Jericho Sirens, but, Reis says, "That was the guitar that I used on the first two Hot Snakes records."
"I don't know the year—it's somewhere between '69 and '71," Reis says. It ori... more
"I don't know the year—it's somewhere between '69 and '71," Reis says. It originally belonged to Pen Rollings, guitarist from late-'80s hardcore's best-kept secret Honor Role and original math rock outfits Butterglove and Breadwinner. The guitar also spent some time in the hands of Superchunk's Mac McCaughan. Rollings had originally fitted the guitar with an EMG in the bridge position. In Speedo's hands, it received a Rio Grande Bastard P90 in the bridge and a Danelectro lipstick pickup in the neck.
This guitar was also used heavily on the first two Hot Snakes records. "Basically I would use the lipstick pickup that I had in the Telecaster and the P90 that I had in the Les Paul and double-track it," Reis says.
But the Telecaster is perhaps best represented on Sultans second LP, Shipwrecked. Combined with a DiPinto Mach IV, one of his battered Marshall JCM800s, and a Traynor 2x12 combo that he described as "super fucking take your head off, bright, clean." A lesser-known part of the Reis discography, this record is a masterclass in garage-rock guitar tones, melodic sensibility, and economical songwriting. Reis also used this guitar live with Sultans for some time.
This guitar was made for Speedo by luthier Brandon Madrid, with a body design... more
This guitar was made for Speedo by luthier Brandon Madrid, with a body design based on his vintage Silvertones—guitars known for their raucous garage tone, but not for their reliability or longevity. The body is made from poplar and Masonite, and the neck is maple with a rosewood fretboard. A Lollar overwound P90 pickup is in the neck position, and a pickup constructed by Curtis Novak in a vintage gold foil case with a new alnico 5 magnet in the neck. Both pickups were custom made for the guitar.
Madrid took an acoustic guitar builder's approach to the "box" design of the body, reflecting both the vintage Silvertone-style construction (and the sustain it produces) and trying to keep weight down on the guitar. Madrid has stated that to attempt to replicate the "junky, boxy tone" of the original Silvertone bodies, weight was a big issue, and the final, finished guitar came in at 6.3 pounds. To avoid neck dive, parts of the neck itself are also chambered.
Speedo used this guitar on the initial tracking for Jericho Sirens, particularly the title track. However, an incident with one of his Les Pauls led to his re-evaluating the gear choices for the record…
"I purchased it in '92. I got it right before going on tour and toured a lot ... more
"I purchased it in '92. I got it right before going on tour and toured a lot with it and played it in both Rocket and Drive Like Jehu. From when I purchased that guitar, it was pretty much the main guitar I played," Reis says of this late-'70s Les Paul Custom. "I went to Japan with it, and Ono [Ching]—the singer and guitar player for this band called the Jet Boys—did cartoons and drew all over it, did all this really cool artwork all over it."
The lost, then recovered sparkle finish Les Paul Custom. (Photo from Reis' Instagram) Some of this work, though faded from years of touring and sweat, is visible still on the back of the guitar. The front is a different story: "When I got home I decided, 'I've kinda always wanted a sparkle guitar,' so I took it to this guy in town who gave me a quote to refinish the guitar, and I couldn't afford it—I could only afford to do the front of it, hence why it's only [finished] on the front."
At some point the guitar was modified with an EMG pickup in the bridge position. As mentioned above, this was a modification Reis did to many of his '90s Les Pauls, and the reasons were twofold. Firstly, the range of aftermarket and boutique replacement pickups in the '90s was somewhat more limited than we enjoy today. And secondly, the way the magnetic field of this particular pickup interacts with the magnetic field of Speedo's JCM800's transformers produces a bizarre kind of chirping feedback, like the tweeting of cartoon birds.
For almost all of his musical career Reis has relied on Marshall JCM800s, mod... more
For almost all of his musical career Reis has relied on Marshall JCM800s, modified by having the head shells stripped open in the front and back and the amplifier chassis reversed in the shell so that the rear plate is facing the front of the stage. Reis has explained that this allows the heads to run a bit cooler—essential for the sweaty marathon shows for which Rocket From The Crypt were known.
Sometime during Hot Snakes' run, he recorded with a '60s Vox AC30 head and fe... more
Sometime during Hot Snakes' run, he recorded with a '60s Vox AC30 head and fell in love, eventually acquiring his own '67 head. All the guitars on Jericho Sirens were recorded with this head and a closed-back cabinet.