'Something Missing?' by Ben Matthews Print E-mail

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All Thunder photos copyright 2006 Les Linyard


I suppose you think being in a band is all limousines, luxury hotels and free hair product? Well you’re right, it is and it’s brilliant – apart from the free hair product unfortunately.

On the first day of a tour, I step on board the tour bus, and all my worries disappear as I ease back into the luxury leather bound sofa, kick off my boots, and browse through the DVD selection.

I have a tour manager to point me in the right direction (physically not morally), and I never have to remember where the hotel is (because it’s always just outside the tour bus!). He will make sure I'm in the right place at the right time, wearing the right attire, he'll have my laundry done, and keep me up to date with the latest on England’s progress in the cricket – usually delivered as an exceptionally bad Richie Benaud1 impersonation.

I have a wonderful guitar tech2 called Brian to look after all my guitars, amps and keyboards, if I break ‘em he can fix 'em. He’s even been known to walk on stage during the show and give me the correct guitar as I've been known, on occasion, to forget to change guitars at the right time.

I seem to remember that we played “Moth To The Flame” on one particular tour, and it required a guitar change (we had our guitars tuned a step down3 just for this song). I started the song by myself with a little bit of guitar noodling4, oblivious to the fact it was on the wrong guitar. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there was Brian with a bemused look on his face and the correct guitar in his hand.

So, on the face of it, you can see that it would be difficult for anything major to go wrong. This is true – until you take the professional out of the equation and leave it to the musician.

It was the rescheduled Norwich show that caused the problem, let me explain. I always take one of my own Gibson Les Pauls on tour in Japan and rent a spare, this means when I fly home the guitar travels with me and ends up at my house, instead of in the band's storage unit.

Our next show was in Norwich two weeks later, and Luke and I decided to drive up in my car. I spent the entire morning doing the pre-show preparation essentials (i.e. choosing my sparkly costume, polishing my boots, and stocking up on hair products). Eventually I was ready; Luke was knocking at
the door, so we jumped in the car and headed for Norwich.

I was meeting Charlie Cash at the venue. He's a friend of the band, and we like to call him Charles because it sounds posh and we’re convinced it annoys him. Now excuse me if I digress, but let me explain a little bit about him.

Charles has two strings to his bow, first of all he's a Sports Injury Therapist who quite often comes to a show and gives us a few sporting injuries before we go on. Well not quite, but he gives us the once over to loosen up our tight spots.


Too heavy
to stand up with


Too valuable
to stand up with

Secondly, he owns a splendid collection of rare Ibanez guitars, which he was very keen to show us. On a dual purpose trip to Charles’ clinic we had an extensive tour of the said axes5 and he had a slightly less than extensive but altogether more painful tour of our anatomies. I found a couple of guitars that fitted quite nicely, but Charles insisted they were not for sale; one was an Ibanez Explorer 2459 from 1977 and the other an Ibanez 2675 custom agent.

Charles told us that he would love to hear what they sounded like through a large sound system, so we duly arranged for him to bring a couple of my favourites from his collection down to Norwich, where I would put them through their paces during our soundcheck6.

It was early afternoon when I arrived at the venue, and I walked into the hall and onto the stage to be greeted by Brian, after a hearty handshake, and a quick look at the equipment Brian asked me if I had remembered to bring my main Les Paul….

… well you can guess the answer, I looked at him in a slightly puzzled and a slightly concerned way, and the conversation went something like this:

“Have you got the Black Les Paul with you?”
“What do you mean Brian?"
“The Les Paul was at your house, you did bring it didn’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You were going to bring the guitar with you in the car, to Norwich – remember?”
“I was going to bring what, in what, to where?"
“The guitar you took to Japan that ended up at your house, you had it on the plane”


“Not sure about
the shape”

.
“sssh I know it’s a
Telecaster but I don’t
think anyone’s noticed”

“Oh yes, you mean the Black Les Paul?
“Yes”
“The one I was bringing with me today?
“Yes”
“In the car?
“Yes”
“To Norwich?
“Yes”
“For the show tonight?”
“Yes, have you got it?”
“No – I forgot!”
“Mmmm! Houston I think we have a problem”

So, as you can plainly see, it was all Brian’s fault, as he forgot to remind me to bring it; such is the lot of a guitar tech. It’s really no good relying on a musician to remember such a trivial thing as bringing a guitar to a show. And that concludes the case for the defence Mi'Lud.

This meant that I didn’t have my main Les Paul for the show – not a major problem as Brian had brought another Les Paul which would do the job nicely, but I had no backup – this could prove to be a bit tricky if I broke a string or something major went wrong with the guitar. At this point I had considered the following:


Luke: “Where’s Ben”
Chris: “Gone home - something about a Black Les Paul”


"Cheers Charles"

  • Driving home to get it
  • Sending someone else off to get it
  • Getting a taxi to get it
  • Becoming a drummer (yes things were that desperate)

Then I noticed Charles sitting on the edge of the stage and in his hand was my salvation. He had brought the rather splendid Ibanez Explorer; this was a Gibson clone, and a very fine instrument indeed. He was oblivious to the crisis situation, but his eyes lit up when I told him my predicament, and that his guitar would be my spare for the evening.

“Now I’ll really get to hear what it sounds like!” he said, as he handed it over to Brian.



The Ibanez Explorer in action

I tried it out in the sound check and it sounded perfect (he had also brought the another Ibanez 2675 but that was a little too valuable and far too heavy to be played, so I just played with that during soundcheck) – In fact it sounded so good I used the Explorer towards the end of the set during Dirty Love and it performed admirably, shame the same couldn’t be said for me!

Thanks Charles, you and your trusty Ibanez saved saved my bacon....



All’s well that
ends well


Hi everyone, great story isn't it... and you thought they were professional!! Watching them is just like being at a race meeting with the superbikes (just as chaotic) which is where we met them through Hawk Kawasaki (who I work with). Let me tell you a bit about the guitars. The Destroyer is a copy of the Gibson Explorer which, this one was made in 1977, and is part of the Golden Oldies Series. The wood is referred to as African korena, but is actually Japanese sen (ash). A bit about the law suit era which these guitars come from. A lot of companies were making Gibson copies at this time, and as you can guess Gibson where none too pleased. As Ibanez were the biggest producer at the time Gibson wanted to make an example of them, so they were taken to court on June 28 1977. The basis of the claim was the infringement of trademark, based on the copying of Gibson headstock logos. When these guitars were made retailers kept hearing players say their Ibanez Les Paul plays better than their real Les Paul, also, Gibson ended up giving Ibanez an unintended tribute by all but admitting that their was no perceptible difference between an Ibanez and Gibson guitar. The 2675 guitar is the jewel in the crown of our collection. We have been informed that there is only a hand full of these known of in the world. I feel sorry for the person who painstakingly took hours to inlay all the mother of pearl into the body, just look at the pictures. It sounds as good as it looks. Isn't Benjamin a lucky boy, all these toys to play with...see below pictures of our collection...
Cheers
Charles...









 


Key:

1 A legendary Australian cricket commentator
2 Guitar technician, used to be called a roadie but they get a bit sensitive about it these days
3 To make them sound really butch
4 Fiddling about on the guitar, occasionally to the pleasure/amusement of the audience
5 Colloquial term for guitars
6 Checking the sounds but really just messing about before dinner is ready

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