Sunday, February 3, 2002

Manson brothers continue to innovate when building instruments

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Instruments or equipment made or repaired by Hugh and his brother Andy Manson can also be found in the hands of such musicians as Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Steve Howe of Yes, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, and members of Oasis and the Stereophonics.

"There's a new English band called Muse," Hugh told me. "They've got a massive recording deal with Madonna's label, Maverick." He said that the guitarist of Muse, Matt Bellamy, now 23, walked into Manson's Guitar Shop one day with an odd request: "Can you put a whammy pedal in the guitar?"

Hugh must feel that nothing is impossible. "So we built a little microprocessor in the instrument," he said. "I've made him some amazing stuff, with MIDI on board, an actual MIDI controller in the guitar. So for example, you can control a whammy pedal, which is on the floor, with a laptop computer pad on the instrument. It also has a built-in Theremin pad."

Bellamy's future is a bright one, predicted Hugh. "I think he is a guy to look out for," he said. "He is very exciting as a player, and he has some wonderfully demanding ideas for me to create. You should see what I'm working on for him now! It involves lots of lasers."

Necessity is the mother of invention, it's been stated many times. This could be the premise that guides the work of Hugh and Andy Manson, inventors in their own right. Andy, who designed and built the triple-neck guitar for John Paul Jones in 1976, is still creating new instruments for Jones these days.

"Andy's made something; it's not a secret anymore," Hugh told me. "It's a three-neck arch-top mandolin. It has mandolin, mandola and bass mandolin. It has a carved top. That features on the new album [on "Down to the River to Pray"], and we hopefully will be touring with it as well."

These days, Hugh is closely involved with Jones' concerts, looking after the instruments and amplifiers. On tour, Jones has used an array of basses, keyboards, plus stringed instruments like the mandolin, ukulele and the bass lap steel. Other sounds come courtesy of the Kyma sound design workstation. All of that, including Terl Bryant's drums and Nick Beggs' Chapman stick, fall under Hugh's jurisdiction. "I'm responsible for the day-to-day running of the stage, really," he said.

It's a huge commitment, but Hugh couldn't be any more pleased with his boss on the road. "We go back a long way," he gushed. "John is so nice to work with, a great guy -- no attitude, just a true pro and an amazing musician. I wouldn't miss a tour for the world, although it does seriously cut into guitar building time!"

The brothers' building time is best explained in Andy Manson's book, Talking Wood: A Guitar Maker's Diary. With the foreword written by none other than John Paul Jones himself, the 140-page book was published in hardcover form. "There is only a limited run, so I think it will become a collector's piece," said Hugh.

"It's like an instrument maker's diary over a year," he added. "It's not like how to build a guitar, although you probably could from the photos! It's a diary of what a good guitar maker would do, if people are interested."

Around 250 color photos grace the book. Included among them are Jones with his eight-string acoustic bass, his 12-string bass, and the crowning glory, his triple-neck acoustic guitar. Some of the photos document the building of a replica three-neck for a Japanese Led Zeppelin tribute band called Cinnamon.

Next, what you can expect to hear on John Paul Jones' new album, The Thunderthief. It is scheduled to be released on Tuesday in the United States and later in the month in Europe.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated prior to publication. Comments will not be published if they are deemed vulgar, defamatory or otherwise objectionable.