Over the years, guitar players have proven to be an entrepreneurial breed. Sometimes out of a sense of philanthropy, restlessness from too much post-tour R&R. Or maybe sometimes it pays to have a sideline.
We all know the music industry can be a harsh and unforgiving sector. It has never been easy to make a buck with an electric guitar in hand. Once upon a time, there were moguls, gruff folk putting the squeeze on the talent, and great big managerial sharks capable of swallowing a college fund whole.
Then came Napster, file-sharing, the hollowing out of the business model. Silicon Valley’s H bomb. When you add all that up then factor in the ever-capricious tastes of the record-buying public, it makes sense for a pro player to have some start-up business smarts.
Indeed, musicians have always shown a commercial acumen that would make them as welcome on campus at Harvard Business School as they would be at the Ryman. Here, we're going to look at some of our favorite guitar player collaborations with the captains of industry, and those who have taken the concept of the well-stocked merch table to its logical conclusion.
We'd be remiss not to give mention to some of the enterprising merch strategies over the years. KISS, in particular, are a case study in branding and reach. KISS Koffee remains a favorite brew for creatures of the night doing battle with the morning. Beer is big. But we typically see that in the wild as an outgrowth of the band’s brand – and indeed a penchant for a frothy cold one. Look at the joy their cold Canadian golden ale has given Rush’s Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee.
All self-respecting rock and metal bands have a beer nowadays. Iron Maiden have a very brown, very English ale, the Trooper. Status Quo have a malty little number named for their 1972 album Piledriver. Those urbane sophisticates Megadeth have a Belgian-style saison, A Tout Le Monde, and AC/DC’s Australian Hardrock lager is a crisp German number that will have the average person bladdered and duckwalking to the toilet after a touch too much.
Whiskey? Well, Metallica’s Blackened American Whiskey is made using some traditional and avant-garde methods, with some batches exposed to 11 of the best from the ‘Tallica catalog to presumably improve the aging process.
But if beer and whiskey seem like appropriately adjacent products to align with, the following guitarist x industry collabs are more left field, and just what do they tell us about the guitarists who brokered them?
1. Yngwie Malmsteen x Sharpie – A marker pen
Birthdays in Chez Malmsteen must be tricky. What do you get for the neoclassical shred virtuoso who has everything? A Ferrari makes a poor investment with gas prices the way they are. Not another guitar amp, that’s for sure. As the bold Mr Malmsteen has explained, and with no little delight, he has an embarrassment of riches on that front. His Great Wall of full-stack Marshalls – allegedly, though yet to be verified – can be seen from orbit.
A Stratocaster? Pah! He’s got them, his studio crowded by an array of signature Strats. How about a pen? Maybe some Montblanc, fancy-pants fountain pen? Well, you’re outta luck. Because Sharpie, yes, the marker pen brand, has already released a personalized range of Yngwie Sharpies. We’re not sure what cut, if any, Yngwie gets on this, but as signature gear goes this is, well, this is very practical: setlists, autographs, daubing arpeggio sequences onto bus shelters.
2. Billie Joe Armstrong x Kat Von D – Basketcase eyeliner
This collaboration between punk superstar Billie Joe Armstrong and makeup brand KVD raised eyebrows upon its release but it left eyes well and truly lined – just the thing for that up-all-night, shambled-in-from-Camden look.
Now, if the pharmacist is closed for the night, you could in a pinch borrow one of Yngwie’s Sharpies instead, but we don’t advise it. You won’t get that smoky come-hither that KVD’s non-precision eyeliner range excels at.
Unlike mascara, which always looks like something The Borrowers use to clean the chimney, and is mildly hazardous to the retinas, eyeliner is easy to apply and a very forgiving medium. You might even say it’s American idiot proof. Armstrong describes it as being the ultimate pick-up line in the punk scene, which is good to know for all you punk singles out there. Also good to know is proceeds went to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Kat Von D and Billie Joe Armstrong also collaborated on another charitable endeavor, funding a chimpanzee sanctuary. Evidence once more of the Monkees’ influence on punk and alternative rock.
3. John Mayer x The Laundress – Out West laundry detergent
Many of us go weak at the knees at the mere mention of the words ‘John’ and ‘Mayer’. Often because of his carefully curated signal path, campus-schooled chops and exquisite phrasing. He knows our pressure points. Other times, well, he is – how to put it – kinda dreamy, and more than that, clearly a man who takes some care and attention when laundry day comes around.
When that day comes, you can bet that the Sob Rock superstar is washing his duds in his signature Out West detergent. It’s tough on stains, easy on colors, and can be used in the machine or fingerstyle (commonly referred to as ‘handwashing’).
Unlike germanium diodes, it operates well in all temperatures, and it’s suitable for cotton, linen, blends, and synthetics, and more. It hasn’t been tested on animals, and 50 percent of the retail price goes to supporting voluntary private land conservation in the state of Montana.
Wait, you don’t think we’re going to let you out of here without some notes on the scent? Grab this and your cotton Oxford will be as fresh as a daisy, offering “crisp and powdery notes with undertones of sandalwood, leather, and amber surrounded by spice, patchouli, and musk”. We’ve all smelled worse on the last train home.
4. Hot sauces: Joe Perry, Billy Gibbons, Obituary’s Trevor Peres and more…
Janie might have a gun but Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry has his own range of Rock Your World barbecue and hot sauces and they’re so darn tasty you’re gonna need a pump for this stuff. Boneyard Brew table sauce? Just the thing when sitting down to eat the rich. Or maybe you prefer some mellower piquant sweetness, try the house Original BBQ sauce.
In case you get some pulled pork stuck between your gnashers, or maybe if dinner was so enjoyable you have to break into song before dessert, Perry has been known to ship these sauces with a guitar pick.
Apparently, the back story to this saucy tale – and let’s be real here, there have been a few saucy tales in the history of Aerosmith – is that Perry found the food on tour too bland, and so he cooked up his own sauce. It sure does add a whole new level of subtext to Lord of the Thighs. Or to Get Your Wings for that matter.
Then you have Billy Gibbons and Tim Montana’s range of salsas, BBQ and hot sauces. Those who sprinkle reaper chilli flakes on their granola in the morning might enjoy the Have Mercy hot sauce, rated 9 on the heat dial, but if it’s a casual lunch and you need something to put on the kids’ sandwiches, the Blanco BBQ looks the part.
As for Obituary’s Trevor Peres and his collaboration with Bump In Sauce – evocatively named T-Bone’s Famous Original “Rib’Licious” BBQ Sauce, it presumably has that uncanny ability to make anything and everything taste not just edible but delicious. You could grab the Rat off of Obituary guitarist Trevor Peres’ pedalboard, slather it in “Rib’Licious” then wedge in a brioche bun and it’d taste like ambrosia.
Is it strange for guitar players to have their own BBQ sauces? Well, not when they hail from the Sunshine State. They know a thing or two about grilling down in Tampa, Florida. But there sure are plenty of pickers who have put their name to condiments – Johnny Winter, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Zakk Wylde, Dexter Holland, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein have all got their own signature sauces. Speaking of…
5. Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein – Vegan Monster Protein
Mention Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein and mealtime and it’s not necessarily hot sauce that springs to mind. Doyle might look like he would eat your first-born with fries and peas but IRL he is a vegan, and has developed a high-protein formula that will help you add to your abs, tighten your buns and rack up those gains.
Vegan Monster Protein, which was also [unconfirmed] his nickname in the Misfits, is easily prepared. Simply mix with eight to 16 ounces of water – or some non-dairy milk – and you are good to go. You can also use it as a meal replacement shake.
Pro tip (well, more of a suggestion): why not mix it with tomato juice then spike it with Doyle’s Cajun-style hot sauce, whose basil might add a little je ne sais quoi and make the Vegan Monster Protein a Vegan Monster Hangover cure?
6. Mustaine vs Hammett: Dave Mustaine x Net Worth Coffee Brokers vs Muddy Waters Kirk Hammett Greeny Blues Blend
Having resisted the clean tone joke with regards John Mayer and his detergent, it behooves us not to mention the word bitterness or anything leaving a bad taste in the mouth here when talking about Dave Mustaine, Kirk Hammett and a humble cup of good morning America.
MegaDave had every right to be proud of this roast, working with his wife Pam on this signature blend. Sadly, it is no longer available, but for all your coffee needs and here to save breakfast we have Kirk Hammett.
His partnership with Muddy Waters Coffee Company on the Greeny Blues Blend is inspired by his Greeny ’59 Les Paul Standard and offers “a rich, full-bodied dark roast with notes of dark chocolate, earth and tropical fruit.” Like Mustaine, Hammett’s coffee collaboration sees money going to good causes, with portions from each sale of Greeny Blues Blend ($20 for 12 ounces) going to music industry non-profit Crew Nation.
7. John Petrucci x Captain Fawcett Nebula beard oil
There are some telltale signs that Dream Theater’s John Petrucci has officially got his shit together. Number one: listen to his discography, a body of work in which compositional audacity is met in kind with executional exactitude. No slop. This is a disciplined man.
We also know he loves barbecue, holding court at the grill. So why couldn’t JP have joined the legions of guitar players and brought a barbecue sauce to market?
Well, no, because with a beard as lustrous, vigorous and luxuriant as his, the last thing you want is to soil it with a cayenne-rich condiment. Instead, looking for a new vertical, Petrucci went all in on beard care, bottling up some magic whisker elixir in the shape of his signature blend of beard oil.
It’s a serum known only to Petrucci and the good Captain Fawcett, and it might just give your facial shrubbery the gloss of the immortal. “Exhilarating top notes of bergamot & aromatic myrtle riff with a bittersweet tang of grapefruit, rising to an intense heart of earthy, violet orris, dark coffee & tenacious woody cedar. A pulse of seductive musk trails a smoky backbeat laced with vetiver & luxurious leather…”
No, not the title of the new Dream Theater album, but how your beard will smell when gussied up with Petrucci’s Nebula.
8. Billy Gibbons’ signature sandwich – the Whisker Bomb Po’ Boy from Antone’s, Texas
The man with the most famous whiskers in rock ’n’ roll history is not afraid to upend beard best practice and take a walk on the wild side when lunchtime comes around.
Here he has a Whisker Bomb Po’ Boy from Texan sandwich institution Antone’s that is a guaranteed three-napkin meal. It contains, of course, some Billy Gibbons signature Whisker Bomb sauce, which is applied to a filling of buttermilk fried-green tomatoes, harissa, chipotle mayo, goat’s cheese and arugula, and served up on warm fresh French bread from Royal Bakery.
The Whisker Bomb Po’ Boy is part of a charity initiative with proceeds going to the Clifford Antone Foundation, a non-profit “dedicated to preserving music culture”. But with all those condiments, it’s going to be right up there with cereal milk as the number one threat to beard-wearers across Texas.
9. Brian May x Seiko – Red Special watch
Timekeeping is an essential skill for the guitar player, and we have all manner of gadgets to help us, from the bleep-bleep of the internet metronome, wrist-bands with haptics, to these strange people commonly referred to as drummers. But what about when you’re not playing? How do you stay punctual?
For Dr Brian Harold May, that’s easy: he has a signature Seiko watch, his second collaboration with the Japanese watchmakers.
It celebrates May’s recent reissues and has a design inspired by his Red Special guitar, with a face that looks like pressed wood, and a deep red finish that contrasts nicely with the gold-and-black of the bezel and strap. That striped detail on the strap is meant to look like guitar strings, which as six-string references go is a deep cut, alluding perhaps to May’s signature Optima Gold electric guitar strings.
10. Tony Iommi Monkey Special Xerjoff
By a nose, the most unlikely commercial collaboration of any guitarist, we have Tony Iommi, godfather of heavy metal and perfumer at large, working with Italian perfume house Xerjoff on a signature scent.
When we first heard the news it was smelling salts we needed, not a unisex perfume with strong opening notes of bergamot from Reggio Calabria, rum, Bulgarian Geranium and passionfruit.
But lo, the plot thickened, with Iommi sharing the story of how he was weaned on evergreen festive fragrances Old Spice and Brut, before becoming a collector as he toured the world. So heady was the whiff of the perfume counter that Iommi released his first music in eight years, Scent of the Dark.
Perhaps it is time we upped our olfactory game and upgraded to a bottle of Monkey Special, named for his iconic Gibson SG Special, and leave the Old Spice to the shark fishermen.
11. Deftones x Golden Barn – The Passenger Box signature cannabis
So, you’ve polished off that bag of Mustaine’s coffee at the back of the cupboard, chasing it down with a pint of Hammett’s, and now you’re so wired with the caffeine that you find yourself arguing on the internet about Metallica, James Hetfield’s dog and the hinge in heavy metal history that took place right before the release of Kill ‘Em All.
That means it’s time to step away from the screen find your chill, and Deftones’ Stef Carpenter might just have the thing for you – a signature weed line developed in partnership with Golden Barn. Now, this is definitely a 21st century collab, and it looks to be available in California only, at least for now. For readers of a certain vintage, not to mention certain states, news of this is mind-blowing enough without actually sampling it.
Technically, this is a band collaboration, and shouldn’t count, but we strongly suspect Carpenter was operating as project manager for this one. “You can smell it immediately when you open it up,” he says. “It tastes just as it smells. It gets the job done.” A conversation one would never hope to have with a spaniel at the airport.