Jakko Jakszyk is many things. He has enjoyed a storied career playing with the likes of Kings of Oblivion, The Lodge, Level 42 and more, and as a prolific solo artist. He is also an actor, a comedian, and a documentarian whose work has been broadcast on the BBC.
Since 2013, he has fronted King Crimson – a band he had been well-placed to join having familiarised himself with their catalogue playing in 21st Century Schizoid Band. But the through line in Jakszyk's portfolio is his sense of curiosity, creativity, and the electric guitar.
What was the first serious guitar that you bought with your own money?
“I don’t know whether it’s a serious guitar… I bought a copy of a 345 from Macari’s in Charing Cross Road and I think the brand name was [El] Degas, and although it sounds Spanish I think they were Japanese. I scrubbed off the original name and made a little stencil from a Gibson advert and I put ‘Gibson’ on the top.
“That was my first kind of proper guitar that I bought with my own money. I was an enormous fan of Robert Fripp and I remember reading that he said he had two main guitars.
“One was the famous black Les Paul, but the other was a 345 and there are some pictures of him playing the 345 while recording In The Wake of Poseidon. Oh, and Fred Frith had one. I was a big Henry Cow fan, so that’s why I was particularly enamoured of that.”
What was the most recent guitar you bought and why?
“It was this afternoon! It’s a Gordon Smith Gemini. Apparently it’s immaculate and hasn’t been played, I’m assured. I bought it on eBay so I’m expecting it to arrive next week. I used to have a number of Gordon Smiths. In fact, I had a black one that I loved and I foolishly replaced the Gordon Smith tremolo in the early or mid-80s.
“It was simple but functional and very good, but I replaced it with a Kahler, which completely fucked the whole sound of it and so I sold it. Apparently Greg Lake bought it.”
What’s the most incredible find or bargain you’ve ever had?
“Do you remember those Record Exchange and Music Exchange shops? There used to be one in Notting Hill Gate and I bought a 20-watt Marshall head from the '60s for £25 and years later I flogged it for about £500. I think it was basically a PA amp – I remember Allan Holdsworth having one. I would say that’s definitely a bargain.”
What’s the strongest case of buyer’s remorse you’ve ever had after buying a guitar or any piece of gear?
“That’s a tough one to answer, actually. There have been a few, I think. I had a Les Paul that cost a lot of money and I didn’t like it. I think that might be it. The remorse has been flogging stuff rather than buying stuff, actually. There have been a lot of those…”
Which brings us neatly on to… Have you ever sold a guitar that you now intensely regret letting go of?
“I sold three. I bought a 1951 Gibson ES-175 with a single Alnico bridge pickup and I used it on the first Dizrhythmia record. I loved that guitar, but a tax bill came in and the guitar was the most valuable thing I had. Of course now, in order to buy that same model back, it would be a small fortune.
“Another is a 1961 white Les Paul/SG. I really regretted selling that; it was a fantastic instrument. Same reason. Tax bill. And here’s one – when I was a kid I would buy any album if Dave Stewart, the keyboard player, was on it and one such album I bought was called Fish Rising by Steve Hillage.
“On the back cover Steve is standing by a riverbank playing an early '60s SG Junior and I thought, ‘That’s just about the coolest-looking guitar I have ever seen…’ and I bought it off him and I really regret selling it.”
What’s your best guitar-buying tip?
“Oh lordy. You know, the value of anything is all down to how much someone is prepared to pay for it. I’m not a collector, I’m a guitarist that likes guitars. I’ve had a number of 345s, but by far the best one I ever had was an Antoria copy from the '80s, and I gave it back to the shop because it didn’t say Gibson on it.
“So my advice would be do not let that sway you. If it looks great, it feels great and it plays great, who gives a fuck what’s written on it? I’ve regretted selling that ever since and I wished I’d kept hold of it. It was a great instrument.”
When was the last time you stopped to stare in a guitar shop window and what were you looking at? (We’ll extend this to online shopping in view of the current circumstances…)
“The last time I got transfixed by a guitar – that’s kind of the question, right? – was a few summers ago. Crimson were on tour in Europe and we had a long-ish lay-off in Amsterdam. I think we had arrived there one day, had the next day off and then we had two shows. On the day off it was a glorious summer’s day and I was about a 14-minute walk from all the museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and there’s a Banksy [exhibition at Moco] Museum.
“I passed this guitar shop and it was fantastic. Upstairs it had lots of guitars and there was a glass case with a few select guitars in it and it had a guitar I’d never seen in real life, a Gibson ES-150D. When you look at it straight on, it looks like a 335. It’s walnut, it’s got block mother-of-pearl markers and a master volume on the lower horn. When you look at it from the side, it’s the depth of a 175. So it’s like a 175 but in the shape of a 335.
“Next thing I did was phone my guitar tech and said, ‘If I buy a semi-acoustic, have we got room in the big flight case?’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah…’ So I bought it. I took it to the soundcheck and Robert [Fripp] was very enamoured of it, so now I play it on two tunes.”
If you could use only humbuckers or single coils for the rest of your career which would you choose and why?
“Humbuckers. You can’t get the fullness of tone that I like out of a single coil. I like the sound of single coils in context, but I would ultimately miss the humbuckers. Fatter, warmer… for a lead sound it’s more my thing.”
What’s your favourite guitar shop and why?
“I guess it used to be Chandlers in Kew, but it’s not there any more. It was lovely for lots of reasons. I knew most of the people that worked there, they always had an interesting selection of older instruments, as well as new things. Where else is there? It was my guitar shop of choice and now it’s not there and if there is another guitar shop that’s like that I don’t know where it is. Please tell me.”
- Jakko Jakszyk’s latest album, Secrets & Lies, is available now via Inside Out Music.