1) Jack White’s Gretsch-inspired Parsons Red Vampire features cow-skull bracing inside its semi-hollow
African bloodwood body. 2) The hollowed-out, three-piece neck is of African bloodwood and holly
(“Bloodwood is just like ebony—very heavy and dense”), and the African bloodwood fretboard features
cow-skull binding and thumbnail inlays. 3) The back has four compartments—one for the onboard MXR
Micro Amp pedal and three to facilitate fast repairs on the road. “Jack breaks things,” Parsons explains.
4) The back of the neck features intricate detail work and a Latin inscription that translates as “I was alive
in the forest. I was cut by the cruel axe. In life I was silent. In death I sweetly sing.” 5) The finished Red
Vampire is stocked with a an unusual bridge (“I bought a bunch of them years back from a smaller company, but I haven’t been able to find any more”) and TV Jones Classic Plus pickups with a unique switching system: The treble bout has three beefy on/off toggles “from a secret source,” the bass bout has a
killswitch (under the strap), and the knob complement consists of a master volume, a master tone, and a
master gain for the Micro Amp.
and super, super strong. We’ve got these
dead skulls sitting in the desert just being
wasted, and I’m going to chop them up and
use them for braces. It just makes sense.
Tonally, they’re great. They look cool, and
it’s a great resource. I do a lot of other
things, as far as being green—I recycle
materials you would never think of instead
of buying new stuff or chopping down trees.
Ultimately, I use these items because nothing competes with nature.
Sourcing quality wood can be tough for any
luthier, but how does one go about procuring cow skulls?
You can discover this stuff by accident. In
New Mexico and Mexico, they’re lying all
over the place so people just pick them up
and sell them on the Internet. People hang
them over their fireplace as a decorative
thing. But they’re out there, just lying around.
They have to be bleached, dried, and hardened, and all the gunk inside needs to have
gone away, but the outside of a cow skull is
just so, so tough.
While bone and other organic material
might be lightweight, your Black Vampire
model is made entirely of Gabon ebony.
How much does that instrument weigh?
Well, before the fingerboard goes on, the
whole neck is hollowed out. Again, kind of
like honeycomb, so there’s some structure
there. And the body is semi-hollow, so the
sides are bent like an acoustic. And the top
and the back are one chunk of ebony that’s
shaped by hand. So it’s a heavy guitar, but no
heavier than a Les Paul.
Why not just use multiple chunks of ebony?
The whole idea of one piece was just the
uniqueness of it—y’know, the rarity. Here’s a
guitar made from the same piece of ebony
just to keep it consistent. If I’m going to