How to Build...
A Gibson / A Fairlight
so simple even an Australian could do it
You Will Need
• An old sideboard
• A saw
• A cheap Japanese guitar neck
• Black masking tape
• Coloured pens (yellow, red and brown)
• Six guitar strings
• 4 magnets
• 4 long pieces of wire
• Some cable
Sideboards are often thrown out with the bins, so it would be a good idea to befriend some local waste disposal operatives (aka dustmen) and con your way into getting on their rounds. Once they find out you've got another job everything should be OK. Look out for big terraced Victorian houses with BMWs parked outside and not too many 2CVs. Any sign of binned HM albums or Wham singles indicates gross family income of less than £3000 pa and should be avoided like the plague (best not mention the plague to the operatives). Remember, you are looking for types who are able to afford to be able to throw out a sideboard. Don't get violent, now.
The saw can be borrowed from the saw player in the group; the lack of a cheap Japanese guitar neck and six strings shouldn't bother the guitar player too much, either. Black masking tape can be made by leaving sellotape under a rose bush overnight, and coloured pens are available from all branches of Woolworth (see colour ad page 186).
Magnets can be found in a number of oft-disposed household gadgets, so a quick fiddling about with the microwave and the air-conditioning system can pay dividends. Be sure it's not your household, nor that of anyone even vaguely connected with the group. The manager's place is a safe bet. Long pieces of wire surround you even as we speak. Just what do you think's inside that telephone? Little people waiting to shout up the curly lead at you? Nope. Long pieces of wire, that's what. Get to it.
And finally some cable. Not very specific, is it, that "Some cable"? Best to be sure, then. Out with the handy club hammer and cold chisel, off with the mains, and here comes that handy wiring system that sits so temptingly behind the plaster. It's long, isn't it?
Saw up the sideboard into manageable, guitar-body-sized pieces. Marinade in lime juice and vermouth; set aside for one hour.
Clear up all the sawdust and sell it to the bass player who owns a rabbit. Do not disclose this amount to the tax-person — you can always claim afterwards that there was no obvious box for it on the new, easy-to-use tax form. If the bass player doesn't own a rabbit, put the sawdust into a glass bottle and sell it to Sotheby's as the remains of Buddy Holly's Stratocaster. (Check first with your local branch of Harry's Forgeries – letters of authenticity a speciality.)
Fit on the Japanese neck and ensure a solid, rock-hard joint by wrapping lots of masking tape around it. This is what top guitarists reckon is the key to that all-important "Les Paul sound".
Now you must make two pickups. Take one of the magnets and wrap one of the long pieces of wire around it, approximately 7,880 turns. If your wrist begins to ache, use the other hand. If that one starts to ache, get a friend to help you. If your friend conks out, go into the street and berate passers-by. "Will no-one amongst you come inside and help me wind my home-made pickups?" you can holler at them. If they choose not to involve themselves in this great revival of British ingenuity, fuck 'em. If this doesn't work, hang your head and go and buy a couple of DiMarzios like everyone else.
Lastly the artistic bit, where you draw with the coloured pens on the sideboard, sorry, body to make the distinctive trademark of the best Les Pauls, the "sunburst finish". First, familiarise yourself with the effect the sun has on the surrounding sky, as this is precisely what you are trying to reproduce. If you live in what sociologists have come to identify as the Inner City Areas, you will of course not be able to see this, so go and visit one of the few art galleries remaining open. Have a look at some stuff by Turner, preferably the ones with a blurry sort of boat in the front and a great big, well, sunburst in the background. Copy this on to your body (your Les Paul's body, silly) with the felt-tip pens, with a smooth easy motion. By all means take some drugs. This is, after all, art.
Link some cable through from the pickups to the hole on the edge, and your shining new Les Paul is ready to hang on a strap and supply searing "lead guitar" lines to the HM band of your choice. It will quickly become apparent to you that after having spent all this time and effort, you've landed yourself with the most unfashionable guitar in the cosmos. So if you're feeling at all bold, get out the saw again, modify the shape, throw away one of the magnets, split up the three remaining pickups, and you've got yourself a Strat. That's much safer, now, isn't it?
You Will Need
• An old TV
• A junked typewriter
• 7ft mains cable
• A green felt-tip pen
• 2 sheets paper
The last four items can be got from most stationers. The TV and the typewriter will take a bit more work: look in the local skips left by the side of the road, especially in areas inhabited by the financially burdened (listen for strains of Sade and the Fun Boy Three drifting from opened windows sporting Habitat blinds). Junk shops may also be a source for these two items, but watch out for crooks. "Are you a crook?" is not the most successful line of questioning here – try something more like: "Are you a member of the Association of Junk Shops?" and demand to see a wall-plaque, mounted certificate, or other written evidence. Do not call the old bill. Mains cable may also come from a skip, or can be liberated foot by foot from lamp-posts which have had that door at the bottom left open by inadvertent council workers. If caught in the act of de-cabling a lamp-post, simply say, "I am an extra from 'Singing In The Rain' and I claim my five pounds."
Clear a space in the middle of the room by burning old copies of Other Magazines (useless anyway) and by turfing out any members of the group who may have forgotten where they live or who have dropped by for a smoke and a playback of the concept album. Have all your tools ready by your side, and switch the radio to Terry Wogan. He's such a lovable old chap he'll keep you smiling through the tough morning ahead. A cassette of New Order will do if you don't know where to find radio 2.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and put in the cumin seeds for a few seconds only. Then add the onion, brown well, and eat the lot in one mouthful. Now locate the MIDI socket on the back of the typewriter and link the brown lead from the mains cable to the centre pin of the DIN socket. You will soon discover that the DIN socket is the most inept, ill-designed and stupid socket in the history of electronic intercourse. Tough. Route the string sounds through carriage return, and make a coffee.
Remember you're an artist, and casually throw the rest of the mains cable about the floor in a careless manner, gently implying a working environment where technology and creativity are harnessed to one another both by geography and design. Leave a few Larry Fast LPs and a copy of Computer Music Journal close by. Keep hold of the free end of the mains cable, and be sure not to wrench the other end out of the well-vital MIDI socket.
Now attach the blue wire to the centre of the co-ax socket used for the aerial on the TV. Fiddle with the controls in a concerned manner (watch a few professional roadies to get the hang of this – the idea is to make the sound worse but give the impression of a subtle improvement identifiable only by the musically aware). Eventually the Channel 4 test-card will come up. This will give you some suitable techno-synth rubbish with which to set levels. (Handy In-Phrase Number 42: "Oh hi, yeah, I'm just, you know, SETTING UP LEVELS," he laughed knowingly.)
Turn off the TV and pick up the sheets of paper and the green felt-tip pen. If you can't write, ask a friend. Write lots of computer-type words as seen on the popular BBC series "How To Flog Our Overpriced Computer To Complete Idiots". These must be written in capital letters: like WAVEFORM and DISPLAY and CRUISE MISSILE. Try these just to get the hang of the pen-and-paper interface.
Then write out the words you'll actually use. You could try FORMAT and PAGE R and EXPENSIVE. These are all very impressive amongst top pop groups. Now cut out strips with these words on using the scissors, and stick them on to the screen with the Sellotape. Turn off Terry Wogan or New Order, and you're ready to play with your Fairlight.
Turn on the TV, still on Channel 4, and turn up the synthetic nonsense posing as muzack. Type on the typewriter the words RUN MUSIC or TAKE ME TO THE BRIDGE, and sit back in the self-important knowledge that you now own an instrument which will be out to date just as soon as the next Trevor Horn record comes out, and which still cost you less than a Squier Strat.
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