orange and yellow, the leaves were dark, dark,
blood red and black. So the new Gretsch guitar
uses these pointy, sharp, sunflower-seed petals
all over the front, with kind of a gray-black finish
on the back and sides. It’s very dark, very gothic,
so it’s actually called Sleeping Hollow. They
pulled a Gretsch Anniversary Jr. off the assembly
line and gave it to me to modify. I replaced the
fingerboard, reshaped the guitar, changed the
f-holes. It’s a completely different guitar. They
don’t know quite what they’re going to do
with it yet, but they came to me because they
wanted to identify with the rock-and-roll crowd
versus the country cowboy crowd.
Back to your own brand, you’ve got a new
model coming out in August.
It’s the Diablo Antigua, which is my new line
and what I’m most excited about. I’m working
with this incredible metal artist named Shawne
Reeves, and this thing looks like it’s 500 years
old. It’s got this cool copper etching all over
the top, and the fingerboard is actually made
from recycled newspaper and car tires. It’s
got aged copper block inlays. It has the cow
skull construction and some other hidden
stuff inside. One of the cool things about this
guitar is that all the hardware goes through a
two-step process. First, we copper-plate all the
hardware before we do our acid treatment,
because we turn everything black after it’s
been coppered. It just has this unique look that
you can’t buy anywhere. It also has a killswitch
and a boost control—which are two things production guitars usually don’t have.
What’s the price point for the Diablo Antigua?
It ranges from $5000 to $7500. Most things at
Parsons start there. What I’m trying to do is
avoid doing production guitars. I’d rather offer
my clients something that has value because
it’s handmade by me, so we do a small run
every year of no more than 50 guitars.
A $5000 guitar is not entry level, but it’s
not outrageous either. A customer could
easily drop that on a high-end axe off an
assembly line. How do you create handmade quality while still keeping prices at
least somewhat reasonable?
It’s tough, because ultimately I want people
to play them and be able to buy them. Five
[grand] is kind of the area where, if I can get
that much, I can continue doing what I do. I
don’t want to get greedy and just sell to collectors or rich people. But at the same time,
I recognize that $5000 is a lot of money for a
guitar. What I’m trying to say to someone is
that you can spend $5000 on a Les Paul and
it’s going to hold its value and you’re going
to get a quality instrument. But you can also
buy a guitar from me—that’s actually made
by me—and it may be worth a lot more in the
future. This is the birth of a new company.
How are the repair locations in the area
Guitar Centers set up?
The finished Peach Thief features an armrest, a single TV
Jones pickup, and petals from four sets of roses that were
dried in books for three weeks.
The whole point is to get the name out there
and brand it. So when you go there, you’ll
see the Parsons logo, and the shops are built
by me and they’re kind of dark and spooky.
The Parsons vibe is there—it’s not just a
bench in the corner, that’s for sure.
While female luthiers are not totally
unheard of, it is somewhat unusual that
you employ five women in your shop. What
does this team bring to Parsons Guitars?
I couldn’t be in a confined space for very long
with another guy. I have this drill-sergeant men-
tality when it comes to training and dealing with
people who work for me. If they’re pretty girls,
I back off a little bit. I don’t think any guy could
actually handle working for me, screaming and
yelling all day long. The first to join my team about eight years ago was Dagna Barrera. She
was an inlay artist and really knew her craft and
was making acoustic guitars that made me say,
“Wow!” I really enjoyed working with her and I
thought, “I’m going to wait for more Dagnas to
come through my door.” Every couple of years,
someone would show up looking for a job or
training and, as long as they had a legitimate
interest, I’d take them under my wing. So far,
no one has left. They’re like daughters. We’re
a big family. Now, if you’re a female in a band
in the Seattle area, you try to get a job here.
Every cool chick that comes into town asks
about doing an apprenticeship. I ask, “Do you
know anything about building guitars or work-
ing on guitars?” And they’re like, “No.” But
potential employees have to really want to do
it. I’m looking for people that genuinely want
to be a part of what I’m doing, that believe in
it, and that see themselves as creating a career
here and being here long term.
You’ve also built instruments for Jimmy
Page. How did that occur?
In the movie, Jack is kind of talking about me
and Jimmy listens. So I drunk-emailed Jack and
said, “Call Jimmy for me, I’ve got this guitar I
want to build him.” Jack mentioned the movie
premiere in Los Angeles and invited me to
come down, meet Jimmy, and give him the
guitar—which was a month and a half away. So
I actually built Strolling with Bones in a month
and a half. It was insane. I don’t think I slept the
whole time. The cool thing about that guitar
is that it’s based on the Kasha bracing system,
which is a really cool way of making acoustic
guitars. It’s a cool guitar and it sounds pretty
good, but I wasn’t really happy with it.
How does one design a guitar for Jimmy
Page? Does he ring you on the phone?
Send email? Transmit telepathic missives?
I played a lot of Led Zeppelin in my shop. I
just took the ball. I just said, “Hey, give me
full artistic license” and just went for it. When
I met Jimmy I said, “I promised Jack this
was going to be the guitar that Jesus Christ
wanted, but I wasn’t born yet.” But I explained
it’s fallen a little short, so Jimmy and I started
talking. I told him I had this idea for a guitar
called the White Mare that was similar to
Strolling with Bones but that was made entirely
of holly. Holly is like the whitest wood on earth.
So the neck would be white, the fingerboard,