Paul Lisak joined the ranks of MJS guitar players when he picked up his own custom-made reliced Sorceress electric guitar from the workshop earlier this month. Paul is the singer/guitarist of the band “After the Ice“. After many hard and long discussions between Paul and I, the characteristics of Paul’s dream custom-made electric guitar began to emerge. It was a matter of time and skill before they were to become a reality.
And here it is! Paul Lisak’s MJS reliced Sorceress electric guitar.
Paul’s Sorceress, like every MJS guitar, is an entirely handmade electric guitar. The wood used for the body is a light piece of swamp ash. The neck is made of birds-eye maple with a Madagascar rosewood fingerboard holding 24 super jumbo frets. A Wilkinson VG300 tremelo, which looks more vintage, was used instead of the more modern-looking VS100. The Wilkinson tremolo, used in conjunction with a set of Sperzel locking tuners with staggered barrels and a graphite nut, provides a very stable tuning even with a heavy usage of the trem arm. I couldn’t put any average pickups on it, it required something of high quality and chararcter. For those reasons, the pickups we chose are Bare Knuckles, ‘Slow Hands’ model. Bare Knuckles pickups are handmade in the UK to a very high quality and I can’t recommend them enough! The pickups are wired the conventional way a Strat would be, apart from the 4th position (on the switch) which wires the bridge and the middle pickups in humbucking mode. The relicing was done by myself. I went into extensive research and experiments in order to create this unique guitar.
Relicing is a process that reproduces years of usage on a new instrument, in our case a guitar. There are several levels of relicing, from the ‘old and used but very well looked after’ to the ‘went to hell and back’ look, and everything in between. I was aiming for the latter rather than the former on Paul’s guitar, as one can tell by looking at it. Relicing is a long process involving several techniques; reproducing the result of years of playing doesn’t happen in one morning! One important aspect is to remember that the guitar to be reliced would have once been brand new and so relicing starts by finishing the guitar to a high gloss (as you would with a new one). The next step is to distress the varnish by wearing through it at the contact areas with the player’s body, chipping and reproducing scratches and dents – all done carefully by hand. The parts used on the guitar are all new and have to be aged. The metals parts (tremolo, tuners, jack plates etc.) are worn out using a corrosive solution. The plastic parts (scratch plates, knobs etc.) are aged by sanding, scratching and colouring. Bares Knuckles pickups and pickup covers were aged by Bare Knuckles.
And what a guitar! Precise, powerful, with a lot of clarity and sustain. The Bare Knuckles pickups are extremely clear with a lot of power. They are capable of driving an amp to a nice fat crunch. At lower volume (guitar volume) the sound becomes clearer but is still very defined with a lot of presence. The fingerboard has a rather flat compound radius (12′ at the 1st fret and 12′ at the 24th) that helps strings bend, allows for fast playing and gives a better strings balance.
At this stage it seems only right to let Paul tell you about the experience in his own words:
‘Ever since I met Godefroy a few years ago, and tasted his fine vintage of hand crafted instruments, I have dreamt of one day possessing a guitar made by this man, but specifically with my needs in mind.
This of course remains, for most of us, an elusive dream, yet thanks to an unlooked for (but very welcomed) form of sponsorship from both Gibson and Fender (having sold off two mediocre custom shop models of theirs), I was finally in a position to invest in the “real stuff”. We spoke long and hard on what to do, but I also felt that I should trust to his instincts and creativity – for surely that is the point of getting a luthier to craft something unique in the first place? What I did want was a Strat-type shape, and also the heavy relic look that I do love. Having thus decided on colour, general outline, hardware and pick-ups, I then let the creator free to do his job.
And what a job!
I have had this guitar in my hands for only a few days, but the wood already sings as if it has been played for years, the neck is perfectly carved in a bird’s eye maple and dark patterned rosewood that is both throaty and silky at once. The finish is…well, stunning is the simplest word that I could use. And unique; for every dent, nick and scratch that makes up this sculpture of a guitar is at the whim of the luthier and the moment. I cannot stop looking at it, this distressed black body with aged gold hardware- and all mine!
I also have to mention the pick-ups, for these were a real revelation to both me and Godefroy. They are Bare Knuckle single coil pick-ups, handmade of course, but they are more specifically the Slow Hand model, and their sound and response are quite phenomenal. Dark, very earthy and extremely sensitive to one’s playing. Fantastic.
It all sounds too good to be true, and I admit to still feeling incredulous at possessing such a sorcerous piece of equipment.
But consider this if you would: That to get something anywhere near this type of quality from Fender custom shop would set you back at least £5000 (if not more, for it would have to be a “Masterbuild” piece), would probably take years to be built due to the waiting list, and then would never truly achieve the full status of uniqueness anyway, having not been truly hand built.
Now, for MJS guitar no2….’
Thanks Paul! Can’t wait to start number 2…..
(click on image to enlarge)