Paul Stanley: Some Kind of Minister
Originally printed in Guitar World Magazine, February 2008
With his flashy new Washburn Preacher ax, Kiss axman Paul Stanley delivers a modern gospel on traditional guitar design.
Kiss’ guitar player is a man who knows what he wants out of life, and that includes guitars. Over the years, he’s had endorsement deals with Gibson, Ibanez and Samick, but he feels that he’s finally realized his dream guitar with the PS9200 Preacher, his newest signature model from Washburn.
“It’s called the Preacher because I see it as a guitar that has real blues roots,” Stanley explains. “You can preach the gospel of rock and roll and blues on this guitar. You can really testify. This guitar preaches.”
It’s a traditional design, very much in the spirit of the Les Paul, but with a few stylistic flourishes that could only have come from the mind of the man who helped originate the world’s reigning cartoon superhero rock band, Kiss. The lower body bout very closely resembles the Les Paul, but the upper bout is more abbreviated and curvilinear.
“I wanted to make a guitar that looks like it could have come out in the Fifties, only you just haven’t seen it until now,” Stanley explains. “I wanted a guitar that adheres to all the hallmarks of a classic guitar.”
As Stanley sees it, any great luthier can make a great guitar; it’s the aesthetics that require someone with something special. “And that’s where I come in. Too many new guitars are either poorly designed or just goofy looking. They’re different for the sake of being different, but they don’t stand up in terms of design.”
A lover of classic guitars, Stanley has owned “everything from a ’58 V to a primo Les Paul sunburst. All my heroes, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, they all played a Les Paul at some point in time. It’s one of the two most identifiable guitars in the world. But I also believe that just because something is traditional doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Tradition can be improved upon.”
A case in point is the cutaway on the Preacher, which is larger and more dramatic than a Les Paul cutaway. This gives the guitar an eye-catching, catching, curved “horn,” but also enhances playability. “Neck access is much better,” Stanley says. “We took down the back of the heel significantly and angled it so that it fits your palm. You can really wrap your hand around and go as far up on the neck as you want to go. So that’s one improvement upon the tried and true. I call it ‘history with an attitude.’ ”
History is certainly evident in the headstock. Its inlay design is influenced by the early 20th century Art Deco aesthetic. “I like traditional headstocks with three tuners on each side,” Stanley explains. “I don’t like asymmetrical, newfangled looking headstocks. I want something that a young kid can feel comfortable playing; but also an old traditional blues player can pick up this guitar and love it.”
The top-of-the-line Preacher models are equipped with two Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbucking pickups. These are based on the pickups in one of the most famous ’59 Les Pauls in all of rock: the sunburst that belongs to ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. This pickup choice also reflects Stanley’s preference for traditional values when it comes to guitar gear.