Greg Interviews Cynosure
Guitar designer and maker Oliver Andrew aka Cynosure has been part of the RAM gallery every year since the inaugural exhibition at the Bloodstock festival in 2014. His unique hand-crafted instruments make up some of the most impressive work the gallery has showcased thus far. For 2018, he has designed and constructed no less than six guitars, two of which have been inspired by one of this year's festival headliners, the legendary Judas Priest.
Q. How did the idea for the Judas Priest guitars come about and how did you approach the creative process?
“Around October last year, a couple of months after the last Bloodstock festival, that's when everything came together and the permission to create a couple of Judas Priest guitars was given. Paul [Gregory] and myself had talked about this for a long time beforehand. The previous year, there were hopes that Priest would play Bloodstock at some point. They were on the wish list. At first I had no ideas and it actually took me a hell of a long time to think up some! Generally I'm very good at designing and implementing new concepts into guitar possibilities. However, this seemed very daunting to me, maybe because they're such a high profile act. Perhaps I got slightly intimidated. For a long time I had absolutely no idea. When I first started getting into metal, Judas Priest were one of the number one inspirations for me, so obviously to be asked to create a couple of guitars in honour of Priest was absolutely overwhelming. I adopted the Glenn Tipton signature model for what I call the 'British Steel' model obviously inspired by the album. I play around with different ideas and imagery but the razor blade is obviously the most iconic aspect of that album, the most memorable, so I do feature that a lot. The other guitar was majorly inspired by 'Painkiller' on which we see the angel, which is a very predominant figure featuring on various Priest albums.”
Q. Tell us something about the technical specification.
“Both guitars feature EMG pick-ups, which the band actually use. Both guitars also feature Glenn Tipton's signature wiring which is like one volume, a three-way switch, two pick-ups, and an eighteen volt circuit which is to boost the signal. They both feature a 24.75 scale fretboard. The fret markers on the 'British Steel' model are custom made inlaid razor blades. For the 'Angel V' as I call it, it has a circular saw blade surrounding one of the pick-ups and also the trident which is a mainstay logo for the band.”
Q. Did you need to learn or employ any new techniques in creating the Priest guitars?
“That happens with every single guitar! My problem is this: when I get commissioned and start designing and coming up with new ideas, I always say to myself 'Why the hell did I design that? I have absolutely no idea how to build it!' So for me every guitar is a whole process of working things out and establishing new methodologies. Within these two Judas Priest builds I guess the most challenging thing for me was the carving. I'd carved other guitars but this brought it to a whole new level. This was extreme carving! Not so much miniature details but a full-on carve in which the whole guitar is shaped more so than just embellished. So, I now know how to use an angle grinder a hell of a lot better.”
Q. How much input did the Judas Priest organisation have into the process?
“Working with the band and management was very exciting and made it more official. There were a lot of ideas that were thrown my way that I think may have benefited the construction of the guitars. The management gave me the inspiration to use Glenn Tipton's signature shape. Unfortunately I was not in direct contact with any of the band members but it would be incredible if they were able to see the guitars and I was able to talk to them about them. That's the one thing I'd love to take away from Bloodstock this year. These two guitars are endorsing the band and it would be great for me as an artist and a luthier to be appreciated by such a high profile band. It would be even more amazing if they were able to play the guitars. That's a dream but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.”
Q. What sort of feedback – pardon the pun – have you had so far?
“I've received nothing but positive feedback so far, especially with the heavily carved 'Angel V'. The main question is 'It looks incredible but how does it sound?' and I'm very happy to say it sounds as good as it looks. A few weeks ago I got a friend who's jammed with people like David Gilmour, Paul Gilbert, and Tony Macalpine to test out the guitars. According to him they are the best sounding guitars he's ever played, and also the most comfortable. To me it's a huge, huge deal to be able to create something that not only looks very interesting and cool but also sounds absolutely incredible.”