by Martin Tielli
Ned designed this guitar. Ned wasn't a guitarist. He looked at it as a tool and rethought it. As an engineer he asked guitarists what they needed and he built it with no eye on fashion or trend. A tool is a tool is a tool. A fool is the tool who criticises the tool and can't hear the music... no?
I love flair and extravagance and if I had the means to attach 20 foot golden tendrils to my buzzing Steinberger mandrolla I would... and I will!... because that's entertainment and that's fun! So I've painted it a few times. Haida frog (from a totem pole I saw in a book only) is usually the starting point. Why? ....because I was looking for a simple and strong image of something I loved and I was focused on realism at the time and couldn't come up with my own that day. It was a humble animal portrayed so regally and it looked like a mad MAN.
It's been happening' less, but I've never gotten anything but grief for playing' this guitar. I thought with all the punk rock and new wave nonsense (in the 70's and 80's) that progressiveness and not fitting in was getting a foot down but then they all discovered Neil Young and country Kitch and Patsy Cline and after Blue Rodeo became popular, U2 and REM seemed to follow suit and if you could afford it you should be playing a Gretsch. God, I'd have a Gretch Country Gentleman if I could afford it. But that guitar can't do what the Steinberger can do at all whereas Ned's guitar can approximate it easily. Buddy Holly played a stratocaster because at the time it was the most modern, versatile and practical guitar around. It looked like nothing else before. Blues players in the 40's and 50's were playing the most spastic, modern instruments they could find. Albert King? Don't you find it funny that richer kids are buying guitars that the poorer kids in America were buying in the sixties really cheap for more than better instruments NOW just to imitate them.
Destroy the trends I say. The future is nigh and the Jetsons were five years past and here we are and the future is NOT what we expected. The nostalgia is rampant. I like my triangular high tech guitar because it works very well it, has character -(a classic excuse for one thing or another)- and it stands for a man who rethought the mechanics of a firmly established thing and put it back together again. Ned did it. I want to do that too- with music. I will, I guarantee that... whether people are listening or not. Listen to the music first. Fashion is for the tragically youthlike who are generally worth only the sigh of familiarity for their sweet naivete and if they're lucky their enviable freshness of corpse.
Some weeks ago we played a national broadcast on CBC radio and I got two guys come up to me and tell me they hate my guitar. Chris Murphy from Sloan and a guitar technician that we're never gonna hire again. I told Chris Murphy it certainly ain't no vintage guitar... to which he didn't reply because he seemed in a different world. The nineteen sixties? That's a long long time ago.
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Note: This was written by Martin on the Rheostatics mailing list in April of 1997. I've taken the liberty of breaking the writeup into paragraphs for more readability. But I didn't change any of the crazy-ass punctuation.
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