We saw the hottest, newest and most unusual kit when we were taken round the showroom by Fender’s European Head of Artist Relations Neil Whitcher, including this American Vintage ‘65 Jazzmaster reissue in a blinging Aztec Gold. There are wall to wall Fender guitars, but also other Fender brands such as Gretsch, Charvel, Guild - used by Laura Marling, Jackson and Takamine, including Gretsch drums.
Neil is an expert on the Johnny Marr signature Jaguar as he developed it with Johnny over four years. It’s just been nominated for the guitar of the year at the Music Industries Association Awards. The idea for the guitar grew out of Johnny’s regular guitar modding and it turned into one of the most personalised signature models out there.
Neil said that the original Jaguar guitars weren’t designed for the kind of guitar-playing of bands like Nirvana in the 80s and 90s and he demoed some playing styles. Jaguars had become out of favour, and were cheaper and less mainstream so were taken up by emerging alternative rock musicians. The chance to make a signature Jaguar with Johnny Marr was really exciting, and the guitar guru had lots of ideas.
He said why don’t we put a Tele switch on it. We also put in filters to alter the tone - there’s a high-pass filter. You can put the pickups in a series postion which gives it a tone like a humbucker, warm but there’s a switch to add more bite. People used to think the guitar only did one thing, but now you can get loads of tones.
Johnny named one of the colourways Metallic K.O. after a recording by one of his favourite bands, The Stooges. The actual colour is reproduced from the worn amber tones of his own original Jaguar. Plenty of other top musicians love the guitar and Ed O’Brien from Radiohead now uses one as his main guitar, and has one in each colour.
There were some radical new models just in - part of the Pawn Shop series where Fender designers mix up the old features in new ways. The Reverse Jaguar Bass was the first thing that caught our eye, complete with two meaty humbucker pickups. It’s the first bass to be ‘Pawn Shopped’ and is a real show-stopper!
New design the Jaguarillo is also a Pawn Shop special. It’s based on the Jaguar and Neil pointed out the angled pickups designed to enhance the bass and treble tones. It has an unusual combination of single coil, single coil high-output and humbucker pickups. This one is in Candy Apple Red.
There are plenty of classic reissues in the showroom like this elegant American Vintage ‘58 Telecaster - an Aged White Blonde.
Gretsch guitars are a big feature too - we’ve seen them growing in popularity with a new wave of bands such as Two Wounded Birds and Virginia Wing, as well as more well-known artists such as Mercury Prize nominee Richard Hawley.
Drummers have plenty to get excited about with the Gretsch drum range and these brand new Brooklyn snares, including a hand-beaten version.
There’s an acoustic area featuring the latest Guild, Gretsch, Ovation and Takamine.
The amp room is where artists can let rip and Biffy Clyro had just been in there. The Bassman Pro series was one of the ranges on display, including the Super Bassman - a stadium level 300-watt tube head, used by Mike Dirndt of Green Day and Russell Pritchard from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Neil showed us the new Machete - a high gain rock amp, Foo Fighters territory.
Fender also has the EVH, Jackson and Charvel ranges which are a hit with rock and metal guitarists. Charvel is an edgy range that’s popular with new bands and there are plenty to try out.
Our favourite amp? Has to be the very limited edition Fender amp bar - a larger than life Hot Rod Deluxe!