How DevilDriver’s Mike Spreitzer ended up with a hand-built guitar from the hedge fund manager depicted in The Big Short

Mike Spreitzer
(Image credit: John Troxll)

Throughout his illustrious career with heavy metal outfit DevilDriver, Mike Spreitzer has long favored one brand of electric guitar over all others: ESP. Be it on the road or on the studio, ESP's V and Eclipse models have been the core of Spreitzer's sound.

However, after a chance encounter with hotshot hedge fund manager Michael Burry via Twitter, Spreitzer temporarily relaxed his ESP loyalties in favor of a one-of-a-kind six-string that Burry himself built.

And, judging by the surprising story that explains the build, we’d have done exactly the same.

Why is Burry such a big deal, you ask? Well, if you’ve seen the Oscar-winning movie The Big Short, chances are you already know. Depicted in the film by Hollywood royalty Christian Bale – who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the role, no less – Burry made his name by betting against the subprime market that started in 2005.

The Suicide King guitar

(Image credit: John Troxll)

As it turns out, when he’s not investing, shorting stocks or managing hedge funds, Burry is probably doing one of two things: listening to DevilDriver or building guitars.

The pair first connected when Burry added DevilDriver to his Twitter bio, with Spreitzer then reaching out to offer him some band-related merch. From there, they became good friends, bonding over a shared interest in guitars, effects pedals, home set-ups and bands such as Green Druid and Sepultura.

“We talked about my ESPs and why I prefer to play Vs live and Eclipse models when I’m in my studio,” Spreitzer told Guitar World, saying Burry soon revealed his guitar-building hobby and offered to make him an axe, dubbed The Suicide King.

Of how the build came about, the DevilDriver member continued, “He told me that he’s built guitars in the past as a hobby and usually gives them away to friends. He mentioned that he was looking for a new hobby and The Suicide King guitar would probably be his last.”

A brief appraisal of the spec sheet shows that Burry is just as adept at the workbench building guitars as he is behind a desk, working away on some complex financial equations that we’re not going to pretend to know anything about.

Aesthetically, the Suicide King utilizes a Tele-style body composed from lightweight alder, and features a two-piece roasted quartersawn hard maple neck with a soft-V to D profile. Other materials include a ziricote fingerboard, complete with 22 jumbo 6150 stainless-steel frets.

Burry pulled no punches in the electronic and hardware department, either, equipping Spreitzer’s six-string with Hipshot hardtail and tuners, as well as a pair of hand-wound “Mythryll Gytr Wyrks” passive humbuckers that Michael created himself.

The Fury Alnico 8 bridge and Blur Alnico 4 humbuckers are at the mercy of a master volume knob and a versatile tone control that boasts a push/pull Q Filter pot that can be rolled back to “approximate a piezo”-style sound.

To put it frankly, it’s a top-notch spec sheet, and one you’d expect from a high-end boutique model with a fairly hefty price tag, rather than a guitar built by a hedge fund manager who only builds instruments as a “hobby”.

Spreitzer, naturally, was pleasantly surprised with Burry’s effort. “I have to admit that a part of me was expecting a guitar that would end up permanently on my wall,” he says. “I’ve been playing high-end ESPs for so many years that I’ve become a bit of a snob when it comes to quality.

“When I first sat down with the guitar, I was amazed,” he continued. “It was different to anything I currently own in a wonderful way.

“I was equally impressed when I plugged it in. I have some guitars that work well with my Axe-Fx and others that work well with tube amps. The Suicide King sounds deadly through both and is great for rhythms and leads.”

Mike Spreitzer

(Image credit: John Troxll)

In an even greater testament to Burry’s guitar-building abilities, Spreitzer also said that the axe has made him rethink some specs on his own ESPs – specifically, the frets.

“It’s the first and only guitar I have with stainless steel frets,” Spreitzer said when asked about how it differed to his usual guitars. “I’ve never taught myself to replace frets on a guitar, but I’m going to take the time soon to learn and replace them on a few of my ESPs."

We can’t help but feel the Hollywood depiction of Burry robbed us of this crucial element of his character. But if there’s ever a sequel to his story, The Suicide King proves his guitar-building talents are worthy of a script of their own.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.