Paul, what was it like working with some-
one so open-minded and open-ended in
their approach to a custom instrument?
Miles: Dweezil knew a lot about what he liked
and what he wanted, and he was very good
at conveying his ideas. That made us feel a lot
more in control of the project than perhaps
we actually were [laughs]. But we were also
very lucky that he liked the first stock instrument we sent him, so there was some reference there. Dweezil’s a very down-to-earth
guy too, so it was like working with a buddy.
What was the design process like?
Zappa: I’ve never had a chance to build a
guitar like that—from the ground up. So I
was really happy when the finished product
turned out so close to what I imagined. I
ended up trying to incorporate some oddball
elements in the ornamentation, things like
the bass- and treble-clef inlays, but I’m most
happy about weird things in the wood that
occurred naturally—all these freaks of nature
put together in a single, beautiful instrument.
The top, which had a rare, naturally occurring variation that results in the tiger stripe
and curly going in a single piece, really spoke
to me. I figured that kind of schizophrenia
occurring in nature would have to lend some
character to the guitar. And the headstock
is built from this spalted maple—a diseased
piece of wood with squiggly details that
looks almost like a brain. The back looks a bit
like a checkerboard, and the back of the neck
has a crazy tiger stripe.
Miles: That top is one of the craziest pieces
of wood we’ve ever seen, and it really set
the tone for what the guitar would be, in a
way. It was a piece of wood that everybody
in the shop loved, but it was funny—no one
would take a chance on it. When Dweezil
saw it, though, he had to have it. But I think
it really fits his personality. The back is a kind
of African mahogany that’s a little bit heavier
and denser than most mahogany. The neck
was a nice piece of curly maple, and the
fingerboard was Macassar ebony. Dweezil
had sent us a picture of him playing one of
his lemonburst Les Pauls, and he was really
going for that kind of feel. It’s a neat mix of
new and old influence.
Apart from the visual style and materials,
what other factors guided the design?
Zappa: I wanted it built a little like a 335 so
I could get that natural sustain, and I had it
wired so the middle position is out of phase—
Jimmy Page style. The first McCarty model
PRS gave me was so comfortable straightaway
that I didn’t see any need to change fret size
or neck shape or anything like that. I’m pretty
adaptable and, again, I really like for a guitar
to tell me what to do. I’ve never been a collec-
tor of really specific needs. I’ve never needed
one perfect guitar and a bunch of backups
that are exactly the same, and I don’t like get-
ting psychotically attached to things, either.
Guitars are meant to be played and do a job.
So I guess I’m pleased that this one really
does end up doing so many things well.
Miles: Dweezil went with 57/08 pickups—he
really liked that sound. He also really liked
the nitro sunburst on the first guitar we sent
to him. That guitar also had the wider, fatter
neck—which Paul [Reed Smith] checked out
himself because he’s such a stickler about
necks. In general, the hardware wasn’t anything too out there—a stop tailpiece—and
he went with a 25" scale. He really took a lot
of cues from that first guitar. The big difference in the electronics was the out-of-phase
option and the Santana model-style control
set—which helped us keep the wires out of
view through the f hole on the lower bout.
What inspired the shape and configuration
of the body—and did building it that way
present any other challenges?
Zappa: Because the guitar came together
around all these weird pieces of wood—all