Photo: Simon Emmett
It Goes To 11: The Darkness' Justin Hawkins Shares The Story Behind His One-Of-A-Kind Gibson Guitar
The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins recounts the fateful day he discovered his one-of-a-kind custom Sea Shell Gibson guitar in this episode of It Goes to 11.
Justin Hawkins may be the frontman of glam-rock group the Darkness, but he identifies most with the guitar. "I started as a guitar player. I always see myself as a lead guitarist, really," he says.
As Hawkins explains in this episode of It Goes to 11, his most prized guitar — a custom Gibson electric — took some effort to find. He had to travel from the band's hometown of Lowestoft, England, all the way to Nashville, Tennessee. But the trip was worth it: The guitar has become a "family heirloom" that he hopes to pass down to his daughter one day.
"It is the Gibson Sea Shell. There's only one of these in the whole wide world. Isn't she lovely?" the singer/songwriter gushes, holding up his cream-colored electric guitar that features a seashell pattern and three holes carved into the body.
He first encountered the Sea Shell while the Darkness was on tour in the U.S., and the band was invited to tour the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville. "We watched the process, we saw how they selected the woods, did all the carpentry stuff, and then they said, 'Why don't you have a look through some of these drawers?" Hawkins remembers.
Inside the drawers, Hawkins found custom guitar after custom guitar — and specifically, he noticed the instruments that had been crafted by a particular luthier well-known for decorative inlay work, named Bruce Kunkel. That's when he first saw it: The Gibson Sea Shell, hand-crafted to look just like a shell that you might find on the beach of the coastal English town where the Darkness first became a band.
"It was destiny. That's what it was," Hawkins says, speaking of the first time he laid eyes on the instrument. "It's a family heirloom now, as I've gotta look after it and keep it all nice. I've got to save that one. That's one that my daughter will have after I shed this mortal coil."
Photo: Anton Goiri
It Goes To 11: Jorge Drexler's Favorite Spanish Guitar Has A Special Childhood Connection
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Uruguay-born musician Jorge Drexler introduces fans to his favorite classical guitar and explains why it's the most essential instrument he owns.
Uruguayan singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler's life path included training as a medical doctor — specializing in otolaryngology, the study of diseases of the ear and throat. Still, he says that music, and specifically, the classical guitar, has been a constant for him ever since childhood.
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Drexler introduces viewers to the Spanish guitar, the most essential item in his musical tool kit. As he explains, it was made by Vicente Carrillo, a Spanish luthier who made guitars for Keith Richards and Paco de Lucía, among others.
Drexler's instrument has various siblings. some who've landed in the hands of some of the biggest stars in music. What makes Drexler's guitar truly special, he continues, is the wood it's made from.
"The cover is made of Canadian cedar, and the sides and the back are made of palo escrito. It's a type of Mexican wood," Drexler says. He then flips over his guitar to reveal the gorgeous, multi-toned panel of wood that makes up the back of the instrument.
When Drexler was first learning to play the guitar, as a ten-year-old in the mid-1970s, he had an instrument made from a similar type of wood.
"This guitar is made of Mexican wood," he explains, "and the first guitar I ever had was a guitar from Paracho, Michoacán, made with Mexican wood as well. So in a way, I'm reconnecting with the first guitar I ever had that was made with this type of wood as well."
Drexler's life has changed immeasurably since he learned his instrument: He's been nominated for five GRAMMYs and won five Latin GRAMMYs over the course of his career. In the meantime, he's only grown closer to his Spanish guitar.
"I can play it like it's a part of my body, right?" Drexler adds. "It's a beautiful instrument, and the sound is the most beautiful thing about it.
Watch the video above to see Drexler's classical guitar in action, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes To 11.
Credit: Sam Hodges
It Goes To 11: Scott Kirkland Unveils The Synthesizer That Helped The Crystal Method Find Its Sound
Meet the synthesizer that the Crystal Method's Scott Kirkland has used on every album in this episode of It Goes To 11.
Over the course of the almost three decades Scott Kirkland has spent making music as the Crystal Method — which became Kirkland's solo project when former bandmate Ken Jordan departed in 2017 — he has always depended on a great synthesizer to help him create his signature sound.
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Kirkland introduces the trusty synth that has helped the Vegas-based electronic outfit form its signature sound. "It's been in the Crystal Method family for every album," he says.
That's the Roland Jupiter-6, a piece of gear that Kirland says he originally picked up thanks to LA-based classified ads paper The Recycler — the same legendary paper that once helped bassist Duff McKagen join Guns 'n' Roses and put Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee in touch with guitarist Mick Mars to form Motley Crue.
"There would be, like, 20 to 30 people every morning at 6 a.m. out there getting 'em, ripping 'em open to put 'em on their car," Kirkland remembers. "Some people were looking for free items, some people were looking for cars, and there was a group of us that were always looking for synthesizers. I'm sure that's how we found it."
The now-discontinued JP-6 is well-known for its ability to produce a wide array of sounds. To Kirkland, that's what makes it great. "I always love sounds that seem to be antagonizing each other," he explains, adding that it can easily create texture, sonic juxtaposition and — because the Crystal Method is not a vocal group — create sounds that are ear-catching enough to serve as a main melody.
"It feels like an old friend. Like having a conversation with an old friend. I would never get rid of this old friend. But if I ever had the opportunity to buy a new friend, I would," he jokes. "If any of you out there want to donate your Jupiter-6 to the Crystal Method, I promise you, I will give it a fantastic home."
Hear more about Kirkland's trusty synth in this episode of It Goes To 11, and check back for new episodes.
Serj Tankian of System Of A Down performs at Download Festival 2011
Photo: Christie Goodwin/Getty Images
U.K.'s Download Festival Announces Lineup For Virtual Festival: KISS, Iron Maiden, System Of A Down And More Confirmed
The three-day online event, taking place June 12-14, will also feature performances from Korn, Deftones, Babymetal, The Offspring, The Pretty Reckless and others
Download Festival, the celebrated rock festival in the U.K., has announced the lineup for its Download TV virtual festival. The three-day online event, running June 12-14, will feature headliners KISS, Iron Maiden and System Of A Down, who were all scheduled to headline this year's Download Festival before it was canceled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other confirmed Download TV artists and performances, which will broadcast exclusively via YouTube, include Korn, Deftones, Babymetal, The Offspring, The Pretty Reckless, The Darkness, Bowling For Soup and others, in addition to as-yet unannounced "special guests," according to the Download Festival website.
Download TV will feature content blocks, split into daytime and evening programming, comprising "music, special interviews, unseen performances, and exclusive footage," according to the Download Festival website.
All three headlining sets will comprise footage from previous performances. On Friday night (June 12), the festival will show footage of KISS's headlining set from Download Festival 2015. Saturday night (June 13) sees Iron Maiden sharing "nostalgic performances" and snippets from their ongoing Legacy Of The Beast World Tour, in addition to "something just for Download TV," according to the festival's website. System Of A Down closes the virtual weekender Sunday night (June 14) with footage from their performances at Download Festival throughout the years, including sets from 2005, 2011 and 2017.
Download TV will also feature interactive content throughout the weekend, including tutorials, artist interviews, special live performances, mindfulness sessions, cook-alongs and more. The online festival will also share fan-created content via their social channels.
Download TV is the latest virtual festival to come from the metal and rock worlds. This weekend, bands like Darkest Hour, Tesseract, Twelve Foot Ninja, O'Brother and Silvertomb, as well as members of GWAR, The Black Dahlia Murder, Anthrax and more, will be slaying the virtual stage at Slay At Home, a metal and art online festival benefitting MusiCares' COVID-19 Relief Fund and the GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund.
To view the full lineup for and to learn more about Download TV, visit Download Festival's official website.
Photo: Kevin King
It Goes To 11: Samantha Fish's Favorite Piece Of Gear Is A Road-Tested Blues Instrument With A Sound That Sets Her Apart
Blues rocker Samantha Fish shows off her cigar box guitar, an instrument that's been a crowd-pleaser at her shows ever since the day she bought it.
Singer/songwriter Samantha Fish's catalog encompasses an array of different styles, from rock to alt-country to bluegrass. But a major part of her foundation is in blues, and her favorite instrument is a testament to those roots.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, meet Fish's Stogie Box Blues Cigar Box Guitar, a piece of equipment that's been essential to her live show for the past decade. "The beauty of this thing is how durable it's been for me for 10 years," she explains.
The origin story of the guitar — made from an actual cigar box, which once contained 20 premium cigars from Nicaragua — is a memory that's special to Fish.
"I remember being a teenager, and my father took me to my first-ever blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. They call it the King Biscuit Festival. And a lot of the bands and one-man acts were playing this instrument," she recounts. "I remember thinking, 'Wow. So cool and unique.'
"Fast forward, years later, I got hired to play the same festival with my band," she continues. "I saw a guy selling these, and I said, 'Hey, this is kind of circular and perfect and serendipitous. I'm gonna buy one.'"
The first time she tried it out in front of a live audience, the reaction was immediate. Now that the guitar is so special to both Fish and her fans, the singer admits she's not sure what she'll do once it dies. "You find it, and you're attached to it, and it's really hard to replace it, even if somebody makes you a replica," she says.
Even when that moment comes, Fish will still keep it around for sentimental reasons. "I've got some gear on my walls," she adds. "I'm gonna play it 'til it can't be played anymore, and maybe there'll still be some shreds of it to hang up somewhere."
Press play on the video above to see Fish's cigar box guitar — as well as some shots of the instrument in action — and check back to GRAMMY.com every Wednesday for more episodes of It Goes to 11.