Swope Takeover at Summer NAMM
One of the downfalls about importing guitars from all over the world is that you don’t often get to meet and hang out with your luthiers and suppliers who very often become close friends to you and your company. So much communication is done via email, skype and phone that good old face to face has to take a back seat. Which is why guitar shows are so important to our industry and why we (The North American Guitar) try to make an effort to attend as many as we can…
This years Summer NAMM was particularly special for me as I got to finally meet face to face with one of our newest electric luthiers Chris Swope of Swope Guitars. It is a very welcoming feeling when you turn up to a packed booth unannounced and say hi to a bewildered looking face, only for them to read your name tag and shout "Hey BEN...", like you have known each other for years but not know each other if you know what I mean?
Well Chris did not disappoint, not only was I greeted with a warm welcome but immediately got a "What shirt size are you..?", and before I knew it I was one of many people surrounding the booth wearing my very own Swope Guitars T-Shirt...I am one of the gang!
For those of you who don't know much about Swope Guitars or Chris, let me introduce you a little....
There is a new sound…
Chris Swope’s guitar building path started in 1986 after apprenticing for Jim Baguette of Street Music in Lawrence, Kansas. After a few yeas of working with Jim, Chris finally decided to venture to the BIG APPLE and work for the world renown Roger Sadowsky of Sadowsky Guitars in Manhattan’s Time Square. Not only did Chris receive an expert education on building premium electric guitars and basses he was also heavily schooled in the vintage world. Sadowsky’s shop was 50% building and 50% repairs. The clientele was star-studded and the guitars that came in were the stuff of dreams; pre-war Martins, vintage Fenders, Gibsons, Gretsches, Rickenbackers..you name it they saw it! After many years working along side Roger, it was time to venture to a new territory…non other that The Gibson Custom Shop.
From 2002-2008 Chris held down a bench first in the Pro Shop and then moved on to the Engineering Dept. where he served four years as Engineering’s man on the floor. Among other things, one of his principal responsibilities, (and the most fun), was an involvement in the prototyping of various models. He even designed a few guitars and that opportunity served as his introduction to pickup construction. It was at this point, Chris knew that what he ultimately wanted and needed to do was design and build his own guitars…..
After an incredible 6 years at Gibson Custom Shop, Chris served as a Guitar Advisor for Private Reserve Guitars dealing specifically in the high-end. This new gig allowed Chris a window inside all the other “Top Brands” and a critical understanding of the other side of the business. All the while getting Swope Guitars ready to launch!
What are the models:
Geronimo - This is one that started it all. An offset alder bodied double cut. Featuring the O.G. pickups, (Original Geronimo), Swope’s original humbucking design – full voiced with a wonderful clarity. A 5-way switch allows for a very versatile tone pallet. Positions 2 and 4 combine one coil from each pickup, one position is in parallel mode for a hum-free single coil-ish vibe, the other position is in series, offering a third humbucker option in a two pickup guitar. A rotary “Funk Bump” switch also adds a filter to the middle position (both pickups on) giving the player the option of adding a little quack to his cleans, makes the dirty sounds rip nicely, too.
MG – Ash slab bodied single cut. Featuring Swope’s MG pickup set. These are broadly inspired by the overall California sound of the fifties and sixties. The bridge pickup offers lots of shimmer and spank while the neck pickup has the nice warm sound. A simple 3-way switch with master volume and master tone is augmented by a push/pull tone pot. Pull up on that knob and the two pickups are combined in series mode, adding a creamy humbucker to the mix while completely bypassing the 3-way switch.
GTO – Same platform as the MG but on an alder body with comfy contours. Features Swope’s GTO pickups. These pickups are lap steel inspired and have a bit more output and fuller mid-range than the MGs but still retain that famous Swope clarity. As the name implies, the GTO is the “muscle car” in the Swope line-up. Wiring is the same as the MG, complete with the push/pull series humbucker switch. Car enthusiasts may also call this ”The Goat” or “The Judge!
Right back to NAMM..
The Swope booth is packed! A small team, Chris and his two colleagues are grabbing guitars left right and centre for different people asking to see this one or that one. Chris is in the midst of an in depth demonstration of his new GTO Silver Shadow Finish (which I have to say I have been eyeing up the whole time I have been at the booth). After the slightly awkward eyes down to the name tag and ‘Hey BEN…” we start chatting guitars and TNAG’s plans for Swope Guitars.
On meeting Chris for the first time it is clear that he is not only a guy that has been building custom guitars for 25 years but is a visionary and someone who wants to make their mark on the guitar industry. Going through each and every one of this guitars that are featured on his booth he explains the design process, the pick settings and choices and what genre of music each of his guitars really excels at.
The GTO Silver Shadow - For me this was one of the best guitars (if not the best electric) at the Summer NAMM Show.
This was the newest member of the team. The Sunburst Geronimo + Whammy!
Chris could not be a nicer guy. I feel honoured when speaking with our luthiers that they have chosen us to represent them and help build their brand name and place their beautiful instruments in the hands of new players. It is something very special to see a man or woman step out and try to do their own thing in a very competitive industry. And by the looks of the Swope Guitar's booth at this years Summer NAMM, Chris is right; “There is a new sound…and it is Swope Guitars”.