You know, sometimes you just know. When we first started this whole thing, and we were able to bring Damian Probett on as a builder for the West Coast, I had never played one of his guitars. I'd only read amazing things about him, and had some really great Skype sessions around the globe at uncomfortable hours, generally with coffee and tea involved. And after these experiences and discussions, I just knew that the work that was coming out of his shop was going to be significant.
After we shook hands on the partnership, we got guitars specified, and hunkered down awaiting delivery. Damian puts out small batches of guitars at a time, about 4 to 6 guitars roughly 3 times a year, so we were thrilled to hear we we just made it in to the tail end of the larger second bunch that were delivered in 2016.
August comes and we are greeted with two guitars that have again changed my expectations about what an instrument alone can do. And here's where it becomes hard to write about this build....Why, you ask?
1) When you get to this level, it takes a while to get your head around all the things that a guitar can offer....how does it sit in a mix? in rehearsal and live? How does it make you feel when you play it? Are you confident or distracted and error prone? How does it sound? Does it inspire you to improve and do more?
2) How do you express these qualities of an instrument and still remain an authentic and trustworthy voice, and not just another person speaking loudly to get over the white noise?
Will try to do that now. :) When the Rocket III arrived, the first thing I noticed was the Flawless and Immaculate build quality. I mean no flaws or imperfections to be seen, anywhere. And the beauty, you can see this in the pictures. When I picked up the Rocket III, I also noticed that while remaining visually more in the Fender camp, it played and weighed more in the Gibson camp. The Rockett III came in at about 8.3 lbs. Damian has shared with me his ideas about guitars and their ideal weights. I can say that he knows what he's talking about. This guitar has some good features that none of the other guitars I've experienced possess, and I attribute some of this to this idea of an ideal weight. The final thing I noticed was the playability. Action was low, but perfect. Neck was pure Gibson shape. With the tummy cut, the pitch of the headstock and the Gibson scale neck, the guitar wrapped around your body like your long lost love. The Stainless Steel frets made for a very fast playing experience. With the lightest touch, you are able to get a full and solid fretting of any note you are looking for, the most minor effort, and your fingers can just fly. Just a monster of a guitar. I wasn't at first sure about the middle pickup, would it impede my playing? The strings are placed pretty close to the body...
I had Damian include a rear bridge route to provide up-pull for the Mann Vibrato it comes equipped with. Great call. Damian executes this in a particularly excellent fashion. It provides over a whole note of up-pull, with no noticeable impact on sustain. If anything, it feels like the guitar with its long tenon and the trem system the way it is assembled increases the available sustain from the guitar, while always returning to pitch. Hit it hard, and you get the slightest warble (desirable in my case), and play near the bridge and you get this extra chime that is just gorgeous.
The pickups are pretty marvelous. The A2 specified vintage PAF style, Probett-wind from Bulldog Pickups are very full with the right hint of treble bite to be in seamless concert with the amazing rod magnet p-90 style middle and neck pickups (http://www.bulldogpickups.com). The middle and neck pickups are both incredibly articulate while remaining fat. Nearly as fat as the bridge pickup, which is an amazing feat in itself for two single coils.
So, how does it play and sound, in and out of a live music context? I can do virtually everything with this guitar. There is a solidity to the fretting and plucking experience that I associate with the finest guitars. The Myka has this as well. Just a human to instrument coupling that is very satisfying. The Rocket is an very "orchestral" sounding guitar. One can play a single note and a specific volume level and play complementary figures on other strings at a different dynamic level, and have these passages be very apparent, clear and musical. There is a nice "sag" to each attack, if attacking is your thing. After the initial strum of the guitar, the middle pickup became a total non issue, I can accomplish all that I'm hoping for and don't feel this as a distraction. Finger styling sounds nuanced and glorious, and again plucking at the bridge pickup adds an otherworldly chime at each setting. There is a certain compression that occurs with this guitar that I haven't experienced elsewhere. It is apparent immediately when you plug straight into an amp. This extends to all the pickups and all the settings. It must be something in the way Damian builds his guitars.
The guitar plays super fast and maintains a consistent experience, fretting ease and sustain up and down the fretboard. Literally no dead spots, its like 100% sweet spot, and that is an incredible accomplishment.
When playing live it slices through the mix. Even with this 'compressed' tone, I've never played a guitar that is more well suited for live music. The feeling of competence and confidence that comes when playing this guitar is a highlight. It makes music. All the time. This is what it all comes down to, and it is a success.
I could go on and on, and I think I have,. :) While being an understated guitar from the perspective of many bespoke builds, the Rocket overachieves in any measure I can find. Highest recommendations. Utter bargain. Hit me up with questions. And, please take a look at our '59 currently available on our site. http://www.guitars-electric.com/forsale/probett-rocket-59
And speaking of the aspirational work of Damian Probett, I aspire to someday write and record a song as amazing as this. It has me truly captured. Apparently voted the best Australian song of all time by 70 Australian song writers (fine company there everything considered...). Needed to share this thing, thanks for your willingness to be distracted. :)
Finally, I wish you peace this Holiday season in this divided and divisive world. Maybe that's why I haven't been writing much lately, it's been hard to find things to say. Please love your brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, your freaks, your bearded hipsters, and the family you like to forget you have sometimes. We are all we got.
Peace, Love and Merry Christmas from Guitars-Electric.