Jan on guitars

 


First guitars

"My very first guitar was my father's but I didn't know it. My mother said I was already fiddling around with the thing when I was one or two. Then I was playing the accordion.
"My old man saw that I'd prefer a stringed instrument. When I saw the guitar I fell in love with it right away. It was the six strings. It didn't matter what type of brand as long as it twanged."

"My first acoustic guitar was an Italian. My first electric was a Rogers and that one belonged to my Uncle. The Rogers guitar was very famous. It was made in Berlin in the thirties, a jazz guitar, a big, heavy thing but a beautiful instrument.

Johnny & The Cellar Rockers, 1961
The Höffner

After that it was a Höffner, but a big one like the Gibson L5 I own now. My brother used to play this too with The Cellar Rockers. Then I got the small Höffner Les Paul model, semi-acoustic, and then an Eko. This was a very bad guitar but it had four pick-ups and in and out of phase stuff and actually it was quite ahead of its time."

Johnny & The Cellar Rockers

"My first decent guitar was a Burns at the time of the Cellar Rockers, then a Fender Squire and then, with the Hunters and Brainbox and the early Focus, a Gretsch White Falcon. The first Focus album I made on a Fender Telecaster which is the first plank I liked! I also liked the sound of the Strat but not the guitar. The shape is not that bad but it's the set up of the knobs."

Session, 1965

The Gretsch White Falcon

The Framus

"The Framus came about when I was approached by a South African guy who lived in Germany and worked for Framus. He wanted to do a signature guitar. This was round about 1972. And I still had this liking for the old Hofner Les Paul semi-acoustic and also the larger model which was like the L5. The Framus was a mixture of all those instruments actually and the head designer for Gibson, Billy Lawrence, designed the pickups like the P90s and the synch switch and the two controls. One control was to cut out the middle so you keep the high end and the low notes, the other was volume. I was very pleased with the Framus but I understood later that the factory was on the verge of bankruptcy and that guitar was for them like a last gasp. They expected to sell millions. There are several hundred guitars in unfinished form somewhere."

A Framus poster

The Les Paul Custom

"I got the Gibson Les Paul in Focus just before Moving Waves. I saw Clapton play a Les Paul but when I lived in the Indonesian quarter in Amsterdam we all knew about The Tielman Brothers. That was in 1955 or 56 and they played the Black Beauties already. It was used as a blues instrument, then of course Bill Haley used it as a rock instrument in "Rock Around The Clock". But you didn't have an idea of where to get this instrument or how to get it at that time. And then I saw Clapton with one and I thought "Hey, this thing is in England" not realising that they imported them from the States."

Brainbox 1975

The Les Paul Custom

"I liked the sustain, the humbuckers don't have much treble but I worked my way around it again. For me, to get that clarity of the Telecaster I bought this thing in London called Color Sound for eleven quid. I screwed up about forty Leslies every night because of it . It was a treble booster, so you could get a single-coil pick up sound."

"The Focus thing was recorded with the Fender amp and the Color Sound in between. It gives it brightness. I like that. Actually before anyone thought of using a preamp I used that as a preamp. I wasn't one for effects pedals. I used wah-wah on Brainbox "Amsterdam, the First Days") and it was a great gadget but once was enough!!"

"I modified this guitar myself to start off with. I put a Gretsch pickup in the neck position and kind of screwed up the wiring. Not realising that I'd hooked it up in and out of phase probably - that gave that special tone to it. That triggered that whole DiMarzio customising thing. Get the front Humbucker out! I like the one near the tailpiece that's a very good pick up.You get the clarity and special tone from the Gretsch pickup."

The Gibson Personal

"I bought the Gibson Personal back in the seventies. I didn't like the pickups. I met Paul Hamer and I asked him to get the bloody pick-ups off and make me a maple top and put my old humbuckers back on there so I would have my old sound. Because the body is a little wider and longer it has even more sustain than the black Les Paul Custom, and it was lighter as well. So Paul refurbished it for me and the thing arrived in the studio in New York at the moment I was starting to record Tabernakel with Les Paul's son Gene behind the desk "

"I used it on most pieces on Tabernakel and, of course, Hamburger Concerto. After the Personal I also used a gold top Gibson."

The Les Paul Personal

"For some reason the gigs in the UK last year kind of triggered my interest in the old Les Paul again. It brought back memories but I didn't know I still had the tiger-stripe (Personal). I knew somewhere it was stashed away with a guitar builder called Anno Galema but I had left it there. I drove up there in summer of last year. The guitar was totally stripped and cracked up but Willem Heins restored it and he's done a marvellous job. It took him four or five months. He got the whole top out because it was totally spoiled, all the bindings were gone. He used 24 or 25 pieces of original lacquer and put on a new maple top."
"My gold top has gone, and also the Gretsch Super Jet (on the Live at Montreux cover). I've still got the Gretsch White Falcon. There's some knobs missing, because I used those on the Black Beauty."

The synth-guitar

"This was a revelation because it gave me the chance to create my own background and delete the organ sound where appropriate."

The synth-guitar

The compound guitar

"It doesn't have these overtones. This thing has a tendency to stay more in line. It has a tone. It's a substitute for wood. I like it that somebody comes up with an idea for a wood substitute. It saves trees, the thing doesn't bend, you can play it underwater. It's still in tune!! Let's face it we're living in the twentieth century, we're all romantics and all that but if you travel from point to A to B you're not going to jump on a horse are you? Time marches on. And that guitar is a stepping stone in evolution. It's not perfect yet, but we can get there."

The Compound guitar

"This year I went to Rimini in Italy and stayed with the Meazzi family. Meazzi had a guitar out in the fifties which was made out of man-made materials: an aluminium neck and the body was like a plastic substitute. The idea comes from the fifties. The Italians were always ahead in that respect. They're actually building a prototype of the signature guitar in Holland, and a wooden version based on the old Framus."

Based on an interview with Jan, 29.7.98