My Totem Resintop guitar "Bliss`n`Freud", made in 2011, started life as...
... a mess, a confusing collection. Call it some kind of diary. Stuff I had been collecting for that "guitar-purpose" during 8 years, but also stuff that has been around for half a life time...
Then I had to make choices and order. What is so important about a piece of elefant skin, a broken drum stick from my son, souvenirs from former girlfriends, shards from my favourite coffe mug, a plastiline fish that my daughter made, half a butterfly, plastic legs and a green duck head?
Then I had some pictures printed. My children`s eyes. And, in the middle of a triptych, God himself (dressed up as Darwin) next to his two most popular archangels and my personal angel, my wife (who these days needs some more space than on this old foto)...
Obviously I had to add the devil (aka S. Freud) as well.
Another god or devil named Karl Marx didn`t make it on the guitar.
Maybe Michael didn`t like him.
Neither this band crossing Abbey Road. But the "Hausengel" by my favourite painter Max Ernst made it before he got routed away again in order to make space for the neck pocket. Also my mother`s late dog Näckl, and my favourite Cartoon-Girl, Devil Girl by Robert Crumb, who can be admired in several versions... (one of which beeing called Serena Williams. I`m not into tennis but her beauty lies in her curvy strength and vitality ... almost intimidating.)
Later I realized that I had forgotten Captain Haddock and Joe Dalton!
More stuff for a nice Totem guitar, right? For years my kids collected every color pencil stub for me and this special Totem guitar project. Different colors standing
for different guitar sounds. But in the end only four pencil stubs
made it on (or "in"?) the guitar...
I`m sure I must have had enough material for 5 guitars, at least ...
A screenshot from Michael`s blog. Body and neck, one of my endless emails with instructions, distractions, questions, options, ideas and epic blabla ... (Michael is a very patient guy, thanks for that!) and all the stuff I had sent to Michael waiting in a drawer in his shop.
It took some time since Michael had just moved from Los Angeles back to his hometown Vienna and first had to set up his shop all from scratch.
This screenshot from Michael Spalt`s Blog shows his new shop in Vienna before it was ready for guitar building.
Michael`s choice of top woods according to my ideas. I wrote him that I like the colour right between yellow and green in combination with red. But he also found that nice blue mailbox and disassembled it.
Cubism, sort of...
Look at these side dots made of two materials!
Where pickups, pots and switches will be.
15 Sound options, three pickups,
four switches and two pots.
what a simple layout!
Keef Richards says,
all it takes to play guitar
is five strings, three fingers
and one asshole.
Michael`s son inspecting dad`s work and all my weird stuff.
What a great job the old man has!
And "Bliss`n` Freud" is evolving.
Michael kept informing me everytime the work progressed
and sent me zillions of fotos.
Maybe the guitar would have been more beautiful with this simpler look and without that many objects and pictures on top.
But I insisted on adding this thing and that thing and more and more objects that have an important meaning to me. So as a consequence the top got more and more crammed and wilder and more chaotic.
And this fits my me better...
This is where the resin comes in...
... and more and more objects and pictures. Nice!
Polishing the resin. Did I mention how smooth the top is?
Routing the pickup, bridge and neck caveties and polishing again.
A Michael Spalt Bonetop Pickup custom wound by Lindy Fralin.
Hand made cow bone cover carved and dyed by Michael. (I`m not sure if even the whole coil is made of bone, not only the top...) This isn`t only looking like a real soapbar. Sound and construction
are pretty similar to a P-90 as well.
But this thing uses pole slugs instead of screws and one (or two?) smaller sized ceramic magnet.
It sounds very good, has a lot of fresh sizzle, "pluck", is a bit brash, raw and snotty but not shrill.
Together with the Lollar neck pickup you get a wonderful fat Strat-in-between-sound. It is warmer, rounder and fuller than the original Strat-sound, a bit less nasal or "out of phase", but still has some quack and a lot of beautiful silky shimmer and sparkle. Think "Gilmour/Knopfler"...
But nevertheless I asked Michael to build a louder replacement with (more or less) the same sound because I feel that this one is a bit too weak. That way I have to put it very close to the strings and screw the blasting Lollar CC neck pickup all the way down. This means a loss for the Lollar and that the Bonetop soapbar is too high and gets a bit in the way when I`m picking. Also the magnets may be too close to the strings and prevent them from swinging harmonically...
In Photoshop I designed some colour options for the new replacement Bonetop soapbar...
So what do you think? What looks best?
It is nice to have many options
but it is hard to make decisions.
(Karl or Harpo Marx said that. Or Buggs Bunny?)
Hand carved bone tops for the bridge pickup, a Lindy Fralin Unbucker.
(a vintage-type PAF-style humbucker with two coils that are not wound exactly the same way.)
This fantastic pickup proved not to be loud enough to cope with the powerful neck pickup, a Jason Lollar Charlie Christian Tele neck singlecoil. So the Unbucker
was replaced by a Fralin high output humbucker.
So Michael had to carve two more pickup coil bone tops
for the new Fralin HO bridge humbucker.
And I love that beast! Not too much middle or bass mud, not too much treble, but powerfull, complex, shiny, biting and aggressive but not too much. And yet warm and full enough without losing transparency.
Stan, Ollie, Soapbar, Unbucker and High Output `bucker, Pequod, Moby, a late blues dog called Näckl and a High Output Serena.
"Bliss`n` Freud "needed two nice knobs but Michaels drawer contains HUNDREDS af highly desirable knobs...
(Believe me, I know a seductive guitar knob when I see one!)
No one will ever be able to explain to me why this foto is smaller
than the one above... This is hell but they call it "computer software"... !?!?
Back to the complex and fascinating knob business ...
Look at Sigmund! Isn`t he cool?
What might his interpretations
of different guitar knobs shapes be?
Wow, look at this orange one, Sigmund!
But why the heck is this picture even smaller? What do you make of this"software"-stuff, Sigmund?
Has anyone ever thought of collecting guitar knobs and making a coffee table book about it?
Bigger, smaller bigger, smaller ...
I don`t get it!
Knob design is terribly underrated in our society, isn`t it?
Such a beautiful craft...