The Gibson Custom Shop has confirmed the arrival of the Richie Faulkner Flying V Custom – a limited-edition signature guitar for the Judas Priest and Elegant Weapons guitarist.
The new Custom V will be limited to 100 units and houses a few notable features, many of which were inspired by his original Epiphone Flying V Custom Outfit signature model and teased in a post from brand president (and now interim CEO) Cesar Gueikian on Instagram back in 2021.
The most immediately noticeable of these is the full-face pickguard – essentially, adding a pickguard above the strings and around the pickups to create a symmetrical arrow shape.
Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see a Floyd Rose vibrato and a simplified control setup. Traditionally, Flying Vs feature a three-knob arrangement (though its layout depends on the decade of production) – here, Faulkner reduces it to just a single volume control and a pickup selector switch.
In Guitar World’s recent interview with Faulkner, the Judas Priest man justified his seemingly paradoxical approach in creating a utilitarian Custom V.
”For me, it's about taking away the things that I don't need,” says Faulkner. “It's a blessing to have the opportunity to be able to modify my instrument to my liking. So, if there's something on my guitar that I feel I don't need, I either take it off or modify it into something that I do need.
”I wasn't using the tone controls or the extra volume knob, so I took them off. But as I said, I felt I needed the Floyd Rose to do what I do, so I added one. Being fortunate enough to take liberties in changing and modifying my guitars for my own use and to present them to others as a signature model has been a blessing. I'm very thankful for it.”
Less obvious tweaks include a tailored neck profile and a set of Faulkner’s signature EMG pickups – an interesting addition, given the originals appear to be out of production currently.
Then there’s a rather stunning Pelham Blue nitro finish, which is not found on any other current V model, alongside some smaller aesthetic flourishes, like the custom triple-ply binding, a Judas Priest logo on the headstock and Faulkner’s Falcon logo on the 12th fret inlay.
“This guitar has become a good friend of mine over the past couple of years and is the latest evolution of my main guitar with Priest for the past 12 years,” says Faulkner in the press release.
“It’s something that has evolved as I have both on stage and in the studio, in looks and in sound. Whenever I see that double pickguard and Pelham blue, I know that that is my guitar. With the Floyd Rose, signature EMG pickups and striking appearance I know that armed with my faithful Flying V, I will be able to deliver every night. Beautiful yet deadly, elegant yet sonically powerful it is the number one guitar in my arsenal.”
There’s no official word yet on whether we’ll get a USA Standard or Epiphone version of Faulkner’s V, but we’d say the chances of some kind of production run are good. Not least because Gueikian’s 2021 post actually teased a standard Gibson build – clearly differentiated from this model by the gold hardware and lack of the Custom ‘split diamond’ headstock decal.
In addition, the fact that the original Faulkner Flying V (now discontinued) was previously an Epiphone-only model suggests that Gibson’s budget brand may also get a look-in down the line.
The firm’s current marketing strategy seems to be to unveil a limited high-end Custom Shop option to get mouths watering, before rolling out other options in order of descending price.
Finally, we’re told the first dealer-exclusive run of the new Flying V Custom (which was available via Sweetwater) reportedly sold-out in under an hour, suggesting there is no lack of demand from Faulkner/Gibson fans. (The model is still available direct from Gibson and other retailers at the time of writing, though given the limited production run that might not remain the case.)
To hear more from the guitarist himself, including his thoughts on developing the signature V, his supergroup Elegant Weapons and his work with Judas Priest, check out our full Richie Faulkner interview.
The Gibson Custom Shop Richie Faulkner Flying V Custom retails for $6,999. Faulkner – who suffered a rare aortic aneurysm onstage in 2021 – will be sharing the proceeds from his Flying V Custom to the John Ritter Foundation the American Heart Association.
Head to Gibson for more information.
06/27/23: This article was updated to clarify that the instrument had sold-out its first Sweetwater preview run and other stocks are available.