Greg Interviews Cynosure (2022)
The stunning creations of guitar designer and maker Oliver Andrew aka Cynosure have been at the heart of the RAM Gallery since the inaugural exhibition at the Bloodstock festival in 2014. His designs for 2022 feature two guitars inspired by metal masters Iron Maiden, and one based on an outline sketch by fantasy art legend Rodney Matthews, whose own work will also be on display in the RAM Gallery 2022. Here, Cynosure lays out some of the details of each new piece.
Iron Maiden ‘Kabuki’
“The inspiration for this guitar was blatantly distinguishable as the front cover of the 'Senjutsu' album. Stylised after the iconic Eddie mascot character, paying specific reference to his Samurai warrior armour and visage, forming the structure, design, and overall concept. As the Eddie mascot has become the predominant visual signifier of the band, it was only natural to create a guitar that reflected the character and appealed to the fan base as an immediate identifiable manifestation of Iron Maiden. The guitar is fully carved to reveal perfectly accurate dimensions of Eddie’s countenance and expressions, highlighted by the prominent glowing red eyes with white pupils, which were created by shaping cured epoxy resin, impregnated with metallic pigment powders and a backlit LED circuit. Always remaining faithful to not only the album cover, but Japanese cultural methods of woodworking, wood treatment techniques were employed within this guitar. Most importantly, and perhaps most interestingly, I conducted the use of the Shou Sugi Ban technique of conflagrating the black walnut body, crystallising the natural wood sugars and fibres to form a protective and durable finish, exacting a crackled and grooved appearance, synonymous with Eddie’s battle-worn skin. The face was further painted to reflect the character's ritualistic war-paint, and a menacing grin reveals fang-like protruding teeth, irregular and inciting a threat, concealing the singular Iron Gear Metal Machine humbucker. The sound is heavy and powerful, has a high output with strong mid-range and a phenomenal sense of clarity, definition, and dimension. Something most akin to the heavy riffs on the 'Killers' album. The ‘helmet’ is the same black walnut wood, carved into the desired shape and gilded with silver foil, burnished and sealed. The ‘crescent moon’ appendage, or attachment, adds to the overall composition of the guitar, juxtaposing the aluminium frame against the solid wood structure beneath. The ‘crescent moon’ also acts as a stabiliser or ballast against the weight of the guitar neck, and features two knobs - one volume, one tone - and a centre locking unit connecting the frame to the body. Individual guitar saddles, betwixt the glowing eyes, seamlessly follow the strings across a 25” scale length wenge-topped maple wood neck, interspersed by red LED fret markers that can function independently or simultaneously. Adorned to the headstock is a thick aluminium disc, finely sawed to elucidate the Japanese symbol of death - as featured in the album artwork - encased in epoxy resin, and backlit with red LEDs, following the same electrical circuit as the glowing eyes. Finally, the backside of the guitar follows several segmented reams, synonymous with the traditional Samurai helmet, and incorporating two rocker switches that control the LEDs”
Iron Maiden ‘Senjutsu’
“This guitar follows the format and aesthetic design of the limited edition box set artwork – more subtle, understated, yet more refined and detailed in its overall composition. The structure of the guitar is based on a PRS style body, and in the same vein as the ‘Kabuki’ guitar, the Senjutsu creation uses a 25” scale and specifically designed to be ultra playable, ergonomic, and comfortable. The hard maple body and wenge-topped hard maple neck is coated in a textured black top coat that adds a new level of contouring and tactile effect for the user. It is adorned with a custom hand-cut 11/8” thick plaque of brass that has been engraved to resemble the Eddie mascot on the box set artwork, with accompanying mini Samurai swords that frame the lower bout of the guitar. Two strips of thick brass line the fretboard and compliment the interspersed red LED fret markers that add a touch of class and elegance within the colour scheme of gold and black. Similarly to the ‘Kabuki’ guitar, this one prominently displays a Japanese symbol, this time exuding the symbol of ‘Life’, again, as featured in the album artwork, and lit from behind with a warm red glow. All hardware is classic shiny gold, with a vibrato bridge contrasted against the obsidian raven-black body, with Iron Gear Blues Engine humbuckers that add a full-bodied and vintage delivery, allowing for super clean arpeggios and a perfectly-balanced over-driven tone. Certainly the most visual element to the guitar is the wrap-around brass plate across the perimeter of the lower bout, expertly sawed to reveal the Iron Maiden logo on the left side, and the 'Senjutsu' album name on the right side in album-specific font. An interior red glowing light penetrates through the wording and indeed, through the eyes of the brass Eddie character, previously mentioned. The lights are controlled by one of two push/pull potentiometers, the other creating a coil split technique, adding even more dimensions and functionality to the already well-versed range of sound capabilities.”
Rodney Matthews 'Stag (Horny Bug)'
“A beautiful, strange, and unique creation that could only have been dreamed up by iconic fantasy artist Rodney Matthews. Based upon Rodney’s very otherworldly style, this guitar is a double-neck six string and twelve string amalgamation that functions independently, or simultaneously, depending on how many hands and arms you have. Two 24.75” scale necks are bolted to a frame that resembles something out of David Attenborough’s entomological findings. A beetle-like exoskeleton is foreboding in appearance, and exudes a vision of the possible preternatural atmospheres and environments of Rodney’s imaginative living-scapes. This manifestation, conceived on another celestial sphere, incorporates stag beetle-like mandibles about its body and headstocks alike. I refer to the guitar as a creature or beast in itself as it is certainly an embodiment of multiple origins that come to life in a Frankenstein-esque manner, truly frightening. The protrusions or ‘claws’ for lack of a better term, do not serve any functional purpose, other than adding a notion of anxiety and precariousness to its viewer. Moreover, the body is perfectly balanced to accommodate the two necks and accoutrements, whilst maintaining its distinction as a singular unit. Perhaps slightly excessive, or perhaps not, this instrument is certainly the show-stopper with its aesthetics and colour-shift paint finish which adds additional dimensions to its multi-contoured frame, and the custom-made tailpiece and resonance bar are engraved with Rodney’s name, clearly indicating the source of inspiration for this model. The necks and body wood are solely created from hard maple, with purple-heart fretboards to reflect the colour scheme displayed in the original graphic. Additionally, the fretboards feature triangular fretmarkers, created by routing out the shape and filling with epoxy resin impregnated with blue metallic pigment powder, adding more depth and scintillation to the instrument. Two sets of humbuckers adorn the front of the guitar beneath two custom-made black panels, comprising of two Tesla Shark and two Rolling Mill humbuckers, each with unique inflections in tonality. These combinations create a lexicon of symphonic resonances, ranging from subtle clean tones to ear-splitting frequencies, intermixed with a warm mid-range and top-bottom end. Finally, the exiguous protuberances are designed as more that mere affectation, they function as the volume and tone controls.”