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Interview & Review
Patrick Gigliotti & the Gigliotti 'GT Special'

For the February 2004 cover story, the ToneQuest Report interviewed guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. They were intrigued by the look and sound of Joe's Gigliotti guitars and decided to interview Patrick Gigliotti and requested a guitar for review. Below is the text of the resulting interview and review. You can also download the complete set of articles - Joe Bonamassa interview, Patrick Gigliotti interview and the guitar review, with photos, in .pdf format, below.

Jump to the review - or -get the .pdf version

The ToneQuest Report
February 2004

Patrick Gigliotti
Gigliotti Custom Guitars

"you don’t pick guitars, they pick you."

Patrick Gigliotti is a painter who has always admired the guitar as both an instrument and a work of art, and the guitars that bear his name gloriously succeed on both counts. Our first sighting of Joe’s Gigliotti was under stage lights that seemed to set the guitar on fire. Even from 50 rows away, Gigliotti guitars burn with a bizarre incandescence, and we were understandably anxious to discover the charm that had seemed to capture the imagination of a player who has pretty much seen and played them all. We weren’t disappointed, and a review follows our conversation with Patrick Gigliotti.

TQR: Do you have a background in guitar building?

No, but my background had everything to do with creating the guitars, beginning with working in my dad’s cabinet shop and learning about things like inlay panels. Then he opened a finish shop. He had kind of a drunk for a sprayer at one time, I was doing all of the sanding, and this guy would show up on Friday, get paid, and not come back until the next week. My dad couldn’t deal with that, so one day he handed me the spray gun and said, "Here - learn how to spray." We were shooting lacquer back then, and I learned all about using stains, how to spray in the winter, how to cheat... (laughs). Then I started spraying cars at night in the shop to make extra money. I did my own El Camino first, and when my dad retired I kept doing it. I got into pinstriping, and the next thing led to another and I got into doing Harleys. I just learned everything I could about painting. Over the years, I had also been interested in guitars, and I always liked the Telecaster. I don’t know why, but I knew it was a popular blues guitar, and I learned more about it by reading magazines, listening to records and watching tapes of the old blues guys. I kept looking at Fender designs and the Thinline, in particular. You know how guitars kind of grab hold of you? You don’t pick them, they pick you. So they picked me. I had nothing to do with it. I was at work one day and this idea came to me about using metal and painting it as part of a guitar. My crude thought was to take a plasma cutter and create some type of guitar top from metal. At the same time, I was customizing and chopping a ‘51 Mercury with suicide doors. I didn’t even know about a CNC machine. I asked around about where I could get a guitar body built and someone referred me to Tommy at USA Custom Guitars. We met, and I explained to him what I wanted to do and he said, "Sure, we can do that." So Tommy and USA Custom made the first chambered ash body with a center block, but I still had no clear idea how I was going to fabricate the metal top. I had been working out with a guy who was vice president of Alaskan Copper and Pipe, and he had been a welder. He told me that rather than using a plasma cutter, I needed to use a laser water jet. He told me where to go to have the first aluminum top cut, but it was too thick and heavy, so we cut a second, thinner top. I painted it myself and clear-coated it and gave it to my tech to put the first guitar together. He called me up after it was all together and said, "What the hell did you do?" The way he explained it to me was that it had this big, fat tone, with a bright sparkle on the top end. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Tommy builds such great stuff, and that big neck also plays an important role in the sound of the guitar. If someone wants a ‘63 contour, we’ll do it, but to my ear, the true sound of a Gigliotti is that big neck.

After we had the first guitar together I took it over to an older guy who worked at Guitar Center to see what he thought. He played it for a long time unplugged and he said to me, "You’re going to have rock stars playing these guitars." I thought, "Yeah, right..." (laughs) I wanted to get some second opinions on it, and I took it down to a local blues club during an open mike night and it just hung on the wall all night - nobody even touched it. But if you believe in something, you don’t give up on it.

TQR: How did you meet Joe?

Well, the first guy I met was Tab Benoit, and he seemed to be very closed-minded. All he wants to do is play his ‘72 Tele, which is OK. He was playing at Jazz Bones here in Tacoma, and he played my guitar and the crowd was loving it, but he didn’t want anything to do with it. Fair enough. Then one night my wife and son and I dropped into Jazz Bones to eat and there was a picture of Joe Bonamassa on the window, and in the picture he was holding a Les Paul. Now, my experience with guys that play Les Pauls is not very good - most of them just want to play Les Pauls and that’s it. But there was just something about Joe - I don’t know - maybe it was because he was Italian (laughs). While we were at Jazz Bones, my seven year-old son picked up one of Joe’s fliers and it had a CD sampler in it. So on the way home I played "My Mistake," and I was impressed, and then I heard "If Heartaches Were Nickels," and I had to go see him play. Well, Jazz Bones gets pretty packed, so I decided to see Joe at this dump in Seattle called The Tractor Tavern. We waited in the rain and I brought the guitar and I started talking to his guitar tech. I saw that Joe was playing Strats and Teles, so I was thinking this could be good. When he was finished playing we showed him the guitar, and I remember everybody just froze when he opened the case. "What the hell is this?" I told him to take the Tele, and then we built him a Strat, which is completely hollow, and he really loves them both.

TQR: How many guitars have you built to date?

Only nine. It’s all come together pretty fast since the first one.

TQR: So you started with aluminum, then you built a brass top, and now you’ve done a guitar using copper. What kind of finishing materials are you using?

We use all of the traditional materials that guitar shops use, but you can’t touch the unfinished metal tops with your bare hands. If you do, the oil from your skin will leave a print that only appears when the finish is applied, so I began to clear-coat them with three coats of DuPont 7600 automotive clear.

TQR: How do you get the pattern onto the metal?

Each pattern is different. I use a body sander that rotates in one direction using #500 grit paper, I get the pattern I like, and then we clear-coat it and send it out to Ty, who does the painting for USA Custom, and I tell him what color to paint each body.

REVIEW

It’s pretty tough to get noticed with a new guitar design these days, but as you will continue to discover in these pages during the months ahead, uncharted territory still exists in places that demand and deserve your attention.

Whether by chance or design, Patrick Gigliotti will be recognized for having created inspiring works of art that you will really want to play, in large part due to having chosen USA Custom Guitars as a partner in the construction of his guitars. We saw an example of their work recently when Delta Moon slider Mark Johnson proudly showed us a custom Stratocaster neck he had ordered. We contacted USA Custom, and an in-depth article and review is in the works, however, the Gigliotti’s we received for review left no doubt that USA Custom is producing some of the finest custom guitar bodies and necks we have ever seen on any instruments by any maker, large or small. So good, in fact, that we sold a guitar to buy the mahogany tobacco burst Gigliotti Tele reviewed here rather than taking our chances placing an order after this article was published.

A mahogany Telecaster is a beautiful thing... warm, round, full-figured (but not too heavy), curvaceous, and sweet-sounding, although fully capable of barking like a dog, too. The mahogany Gigliotti lacks the thinner treble smack of a typical ash and maple Telecaster, and the semi-hollow ‘thin-line’ style body imparts a subtle hollowness and unique acoustic resonance that compliments the warmth of the mahogany body and neck very nicely. Unplugged, the low E and A strings set off a resonance that can be felt throughout the guitar, and the mids and highs are warm and sweet, with not a hint of harsh treble tones or muddy mids. The fret work is flawless, and the compound radius makes playing a pure joy anywhere on the neck. In other words, the sum of the parts works in both a functional and an aesthetic sense that beckons you to play the Gigliotti every time you see it, and you can’t say that about every new guitar built today.

The neck shape on the Gigliotti is a deep, soft ‘V’ - less challenging than the full baseball bat heft of a typical Historic Les Paul, but the mass of the neck is still substantial enough to generate significant string vibration to the body of the guitar. This contributes to what some players refer to as ‘vibe,’ and we suppose this term really means that the guitar vibrates a lot and some of that woody, good vibration is heard through the pickups. Well, the Gigliotti vibrates real good. We dearly love that neck, and so will you. For your reference, USA Custom describes this particular neck as their rosewood 1.650 Fat Back with a 7.25 - 9.5 compound radius and Dunlop 6150 fret wire, mother-of-pearl face and side markers and rolled fingerboard edges. The Gigliotti certainly doesn’t play ‘new,’ and this neck would be super-fine on a Strat, as well.

The body is built from two pieces of mahogany with a center seam visible from the back. Each half of the body is fully chambered with a center block of maple wide enough to accommodate mounting for the bridge plate and routing for the neck pickup, which is accessible from the back. Despite the semi-hollow design, the Gigliotti absolutely refuses to feedback or squeal, and the brass top doesn’t introduce any unwanted noise. It does, however, impart tone. Please don’t ask us how, because we have no idea.

The bridge design is string-through-body, just as it should be (hate those top-loaders), with six fully adjustable, non-vintage saddles. The pickups in our Gigliotti are the same used for the first Tele given to Joe Bonamassa - a Seymour Duncan Vintage ‘54 bridge and Alnico II Pro neck. The inherent Tele brightness is nicely tempered by the mahogany, and we liked what we heard from the bridge. However, the neck pickup left us less than enthusiastic. Don’t fault Seymour - he has re-created a softer, more musical rendition of the the original neck pickup sound of the early Telecaster, but we still found it to be a little muddy, dull and uninspiring. What do you do with it? How about losing it altogether. We’d like to see a Gigliotti Esquire, or at least another take on a neck pickup with some attitude from Duncan, Harmonic Design or Lollar, perhaps. Or how about a set of Bardens? They are not a ‘traditional’ Tele sound, but they will pin your ears back with some mighty big tone. Since Gigliottis are all custom-built, you can pick your poison when it comes to pickups. How nice is that!

Tuners are Klusons, and the bone nut was perfectly cut. Like Joe’s Gigliotti, our guitar has stayed in perfect tune through travel and temperature changes. Now you’re wondering how much this thing with a brass top weighs, aren’t you? 8.5 pounds, or about the same as a light-weight mahogany Les Paul. In contrast, the surf green burst Gigliotti pictured weighed in at only 7 pounds (both guitars share identical specs), but we preferred the slightly darker, rounder sound of our heavier Tele. Weight isn’t everything...

There is plenty of additional information available on the Gigliotti and USA Custom web sites, and the sky is the limit on various tweaks that can be made to your Gigliotti. Strat style or Tele, we urge you to get your order in now, because we expect demand for Gigliottis to go no where but up in 2004. Meanwhile, stay tuned for our upcoming mondo-in-depth story on USA Custom and the ToneQuest Stratocaster. Oh, yeah...

TONEQUEST REPORT V5. N4. February 2004. Reprinted with permission.

The ToneQuest Report interviews Joe Bonamassa and Patrick Gigliotti plus they review the Gigliotti GT. You can download the .pdf file (933KB) complete with photos (black & white) by clicking here!
    - Joe Bonamassa interview, page 1-14
    - Patrick Gigliotti interview, page 15-17
    - Gigliotti GT review, page 17-18

If you need the Free Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the .pdf file, click here, then follow directions to download!

Visit the ToneQuest Report web site at: http://www.tonequest.com

Jump to the Patrick Gigliotti interview

To learn more about the Gigliotti GT Special, click here!

To read the Vintage Guitar Magazine® review of the Gigliotti GT Special, click here!

To hear a sample jazz, country, blues or rock track,click here!

For the ultimate sonic experience, 'Custom Fit' one of our Gigliotti GT Customs or a Gigliotti GS the way you want it from our list of options.

All Gigliotti electric guitars are available in a left-handed version at no additional charge. All guitars are shipped in a deluxe hardshell case.


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