make a guitar out of solid ebony, I’m going
to know that all my T’s are crossed and my I’s
are dotted and do it right.
What are the pickups on the Vampire?
I wanted an experience. I wanted adventure.
It really was not my character to do something
like that, but I just kind of panicked once I
graduated from Cornish College of the Arts. It
was like, “What the hell am I going to do with
my life?” Music college was so liberal and so
soft that I felt like I really needed to get beat up
if I was going to do anything with my life. That
discipline has really helped me to this day with
my approach to guitar making and the way I run
my business. I’m an anti-war guy, but in the military I learned you can achieve anything through
hard work and never giving up. There’s nothing
wrong with getting a little bloody and bruised
and just basically working your ass off.
Left: The Parsons Triple Jet that Jack White plays with the Raconteurs features a top made of copper. Middle: The Black Vampire was built entirely of Gabon ebony for Microsoft co-founder
Paul G. Allen. Its headstock is adorned with intricate scorpion carvings, and the back of the neck is inscribed with secret writings that are only visible under a black light. Right: Jack White
hammering away at the Peach Thief guitar Parsons built for White’s wife, singer/songwriter Karen Elson.
How would you describe the Black Vampire
from a tonal perspective?
started their tour and I didn’t like it. One day,
I said, “Why don’t we just make the thing out
of real copper?” I took about two months
and made the actual Triple Jet #2 out of real
copper, and that’s the one he uses all the
time now. It’s his number-one guitar.
You would think the Vampire would be really
cold and dark, but there’s definitely an open,
airy sound—kind of like an archtop. And I
left the back of the neck unfinished, so it just
feels great to play.
In the 2008 documentary It Might Get
Loud, Jack White uses a guitar you built
with a retractable microphone in the body.
How did that design originate?
TV Jones Classic Plus models. Same thing on
the Bruja model.
Jack White is one of your most well-known
customers. How did that association begin?
From your source materials to your model
names—Strolling with Bones, Diablo, Bruja,
and Vampire—there’s a hint of the macabre
to your work. Where does that come from?
It probably comes from my personality and
the things I’m interested in. I think of myself
as so normal, but then people come over
to my house and ask, “Why is it painted like
that? Why do you have dead cows hanging
from the ceiling?” So I don’t know. I’m just
kind of one of those guys. I’m just a regular
person that loves Halloween.
You joined the military in your 20s, which is a
pretty unusual move for an artistic person of
your background. What drove you to enlist?
It’s just one of those phone calls you get.
I had put myself in the right spot, I guess.
Some person who knew me knew some-
one who knew Jack’s drummer at the time.
Jack had the idea for a new band called the
Raconteurs and, instead of making everything
red and white like he does with the White
Stripes, he wanted his color of choice to
be copper. So he was looking for someone
to make a copper guitar. So, Jack’s people
called me with this idea for a guitar called
the Triple Jet, and it was going to have three
pickups and all this cool stuff. On the first
guitar, we actually painted the top—it was
a copper top with metallic paint. He played
that for about six months, and then they
Jack could call some company and say, “Hey,
there’s no budget, sky’s the limit, get your
research team on it and make me this guitar.”
But with me, I’m just a one-man show. I had
to figure it out, and it was a challenge. That
guitar has a heavy microphone that he pulls out
and screams into. He’s very brutal onstage, so
he lets it fly and then retract back up into the
guitar. But of course I was like, “Oh yeah, I can
totally do that.” I bought a bunch of hair dryers
and stuff with retractable cords, and I immedi-
ately discovered there was no way those parts
were going to work—the bullet microphone
weighs at least four pounds. I started talking
to people in the industry that do big tools, but
all their stuff was just huge and this guitar has
a thin body. I finally ran into the Rain Man of
vacuum cleaners: I walked into his shop and I
just laid it out. I said, “This is the guitar, this is
how much the microphone weighs.” And he
says, “The Hoover 2002 XL31.” He went to
the back of his shop and pulled out this wheel,
and I swear to God this must be the only thing