Source: Bass Guitar Magazine
Date: 01 June 2009
Reviewer: Nick Wells
When Seal used an 8-string ‘Guitube’ bass in the music video for his 1991 hit, ‘Killer’, he gave the music world its first taste of the custom creations of Simon Farmer and Gus Guitars.
Simon Farmer established Gus Guitars in 1994, and despite concentrating on guitar design and construction throughout his schooling, he had little exposure to conventional guitar construction techniques, as he explains, ‘I was surrounded by furniture and jewellery makers, metal workers and ceramicists, so I generally worked out my own way of doing things’. Working as a sole trading luthier, Farmers treats all of his designs as starting points for custom creations and no two instruments are ever quite the same. ‘I make just about every part of a Gus instrument, bar the machineheads and the strings, and carry out nearly all the construction processes in my purpose designed and built workshop in East Sussex’. Early Gus designs were sculptural pieces constructed from steel tube that Farmer called ‘Guitubes’ and it was one of these basses that gave Gus Guitars its first real exposure to the mainstream music world when Seal used an 8-string Guitube bass in a music video for his 1991 hit single, Killer. A subsequent television documentary titled, "Simon Farmer Guitar Designer", featured Martin Glyn Murray of the Mock Turtles and Johnny Marr and was soon followed by a similar program commissioned by the Discovery Channel, but whatever happened to that 8 string Guitube bass used in the Seal video? ‘I sold that bass to the Hard Rock Café’ recalls Farmer, ‘I think it was last seen in Miami, Florida!’ Despite enjoying this period of expansion, Farmer was still working on prototype designs and decided to return to university to complete an MA. Upon graduating, Farmer set up his workshop with the help of a Crafts Council Award and some funding from SE Arts. ‘The first couple of years were spent finalising the design of what would become my main guitar, the G1’, says Farmer, ‘the G3 bass was then launched in 1996’.
The key to a Gus instrument is its composite construction of lightweight Cedar tone-wood and carbon fibre. ‘It’s really a wooden instrument covered in a carbon fibre skin’, explains Farmer, ‘which provides a number of benefits. It’s strong and stable yet light in weight, and exhibits excellent natural resonance, sustain and clarity. This makes the instrument feel ‘alive’ in the hand and very responsive’. When it comes to production techniques Farmer combines traditional methods with his own ideas. ‘I use a combination of self developed and traditional techniques’, he tells us, ‘the main body is carved from a Cedar laminate and the carbon fibre skin is formed using resin infusion in solid moulds. Most of the metal parts are turned on the lathe or milled on the milling machine from solid aluminium. I carry out all the finishing in-house using high quality House of Kolor custom paints. All the metal parts are either high quality chrome or gold plated’.
The current Gus G3 bass range comprises 6 models. The company’s base model G3 Four is a passive bass fitted with a pair of Gus Tube pickups and a unique 4-way switching system that’s designed to deliver a range of single coil and humbucker tonalities. The G3 Four Active features the same construction and bespoke hardware as the G3 Four with the addition of Farmers own 3-band active EQ that’s been tailored by John East of E-Pro to sync perfectly with the Gus Tube pickups. The G3 Five and G3 Five Active partner the G3 Four models and offer an additional low B string and the option of an extended 35 inch scale length. The G3 Baritone uses the G3 body shape and incorporates a 30” scale length, which gives the instrument a huge amount of depth to its sound. It’s tuned a fifth below a conventional 6-string guitar (A-A), and features a slightly wider string spacing of 12mm at the bridge and larger Hipshot Ultralite machineheads. Farmers most complex production model is the G3 Midi, which offers magnetic pickup tones from its Gus tube pickups, an ‘acoustic’ tonality from its RMC Piezo pickups and 13 pin access that enables you to sync directly with Midi equipment. Most Gus instruments are private commissions that are sent to customers all over the world, but Farmer admits to having had some help along the way. ‘Over the years I’ve been fortunate to be involved with a number of first class musicians, who’ve helped me to refine some of the features of my instruments. From a bass point of view - Rej ap Gwynedd, (Natalie Imbruglia, Apollo 440 and Richard Ashcroft) and Leigh Marklew from Terrorvision have been particularly helpful’.
For more information about Gus Guitars Visit www.gusguitars.com
Copyright Bass Guitar Magazine ©2009. Used by kind permission of Bass Guitar Magazine.