By Christopher Horton
My delay pedal is dead. Dead, right in the middle of recording a solo. Useless. Impotent. Done. DEAD.
If you’re a musician, what do you do with broken shit? Do you do what I used to do, and just chuck it off an overpass somewhere? I mean, I know how to setup my guitar, and do general maintenance, but when something electrical is wrong…I’m lost. A lot of you are, I know, because I hear it all the time. They blame their gear, and say it’s shitty. That’s not the problem. It just needs some love.
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have their own personal guitar tech. We gig, we play, we fix what we can….
Here’s a little secret for you too most techs are like used car salesmen, you go in there with one thing in mind, and next thing you know you’ve gone wayyyyy over budget.
So what if you could have personalized service for your instruments at a fair price, by someone who isn’t going to bullshit you because they too, are a musician? A stand-up guy that wants your gear to sound as good as possible?
John at J&S Custom Guitarworks is just that guy. He is a literal wizard (No, not like Harry Potter. Read an adult book, weirdo.) with stringed instruments and electronics, loves to talk about guitar gear, and is a player himself. So he’s knows how frustrated you can be with an instrument. I caught up with him and got a great interview and some pictures of his personal collection of awesome stuff that I wish I had.
1. How did you get started in guitar repairs and modifications?
That’s a question i get asked quite often and never get tired of answering.
Ever since i heard the opening riff to “Whole Lotta Love” and discovered that music was my passion in life. I was instantly drawn to the sound of the electric guitar and I always enjoyed tinkering with things, figuring out how they work.
Growing up I never really had the money to repair my gear or get it properly setup so naturally i would tinker with it myself and read books and ask questions from a great local tech named Jon Willis. Soak in as much knowledge as i could.
Then after years of being in the world of an all original, independent, regional, semi-touring band (John was in Digital Disease, opening for Saliva and other big names) your funds become depleted rather quickly and i kind of became the tech for the entire band. As well as helping other bands out that may have been having technical and gear related troubles
So basically it was out of curiosity, necessity, lots of trial and error, and a genuine enjoyment of repairing modifying or customizing guitars and basses. I love the feeling i get when someone brings me an instrument they’re obviously not satisfied with and i turn it into something they never thought it could be and it inspires them to play more. That feeling never gets old
*Eidtors note: It’s too bad he cant do this with women. His wizardry is only for guitars.
John playing some licks on his personal #1 guitar, a Paul Reed Smith “Starla”.
2. Being an active guitar player allows you to experiment on your own gear, whats your biggest success story?
Hmmm…. this is a hard one.
I’ve done very complex pickup and wiring schemes and experimented with pretty much every single component and piece of hardware you can.
I’ve discovered MANY things in that process. But in the world of the gigging guitarist i would have to say my biggest success story is keeping things “meat and potatoes” if you will.
Im a regular gigging musician just like the bulk of my customers, so the biggest success story would be knowing what the player needs and doesnt need and giving them the piece of mind that everything is laid out and simple and knowing that the work is rock solid and something they can depend on night after night and know its not going to fail or let them down.
I’ve repaired and fixed many botched jobs done by other local and regional techs. So that’s a bit of a personal success to me knowing the pride and hard work i put into each customers instrument, be it a beginner guitar or a professional caliber instrument. They all get the same treatment when they come to me. Its the customers instrument and i strive to make each one 100% satisfied and inspired to play more
I’ve created and tinkered with EVERY single component and piece of hardware on guitars and have made and come across many discoveries and new findings and with that comes alot of knowledge to share with my customers to help achieve the ultimate goal and tone they’re looking for. But at the root of it all, my biggest success story is seeing a customer leave satisfied with a new found love for their instrument and inspiration to play more and be more creative
Your eyes may literally burn from the sexiness of this picture.
3. Tell me about your customer service. Just how personal is it?
My customer service is something i take very seriously and pride myself on.
I dont let a customer leave with an instrument they’re not 100% completely satisfied with.
Customer service played a big part in me offering tech and mod services to the public.
I remember the few times i actually had the money to go get my guitar setup or a pickup installed, every time i had to fill out a form and they would take it to the tech area and just call me to come pay for it and pick it up. I would never even get to meet or see the person that was actually going to be doing the work on my instrument and that’s the main person i personally would’ve preferred to talk with. I didn’t care to talk with the person behind the counter i wanted to talk with the tech that was going to be performing the work. And on a few occasions i would go pick it up and want a small tweak made but most of the time the tech wasn’t available and i would just have to live with it until i gained the confidence to start making my own tweaks.
A basic rundown of my customer service is, you call and tell me what you need done. We schedule a one on one appointment. I check the instrument over, and have you play for me so i can see what type of physical player you are and what style of music you play. I have you play for me so i get a better and more accurate idea of what type of setup would suit your playing best. (On a serious note, you have no idea how important this is to getting the best out of your instrument)
We discuss the business aspect of it. You’re provided with my email and personal phone number so i can be reached at any time. On the day of pickup you play the instrument and put it through its entire paces. While doing this i will make even the smallest of adjustments so you are nothing short of completely satisfied with you’re instrument.
There is no middle man. You’re in direct contact with me at all times and I’m the only one working on your instrument. No middle man. Just the customer, and myself.
4. I hear you are moving to a better location. Where and when?
Correct. Its a new music and production facility called The Garage. Its located at Paulsen and 69th. I cant give a specific date at the moment but the move should be very soon!
5. While you’ve been doing plenty of guitar repair, I hear you also do quite a bit of work on pedals as well.
I do. It started out as a hobby, but as more and more people started finding out about it, it grew into its own little operation. Alot of my modified pedals are currently on many local players boards as well as a few in other states
A current signature bass preamp/distortion pedal is in the works in conjunction with my good friend and awesome local musician Jon Willis and a custom wah complete drop in kit that is a perfect drop in replacement for your current crybaby or wah with a similar housing.
Its voiced as my take of a classic organ era wah combined with the voice of the vintage maestro boomerang wahs. A hybrid of the both combined into.1 if you will.
There is a basic model and more and more options can be added. I.e. true bypass led status lights dual inductors different sweep caps on a toggle or rotary etc… sky is the limit
These builds are my own recipe and use many custom parts that i have to source. But as stated above, you are getting a custom complete drop in kit. The circuit board the wiring harness a custom spec’d and built pot and heavy duty 3PDT Bypass Switch
You can almost hear them through the picture.
6. Finally, your list of services gets more and more extensive. Do you mind listing what you can do for our fellow musicians?
The typical guitar tech things first off:
Fret levels and dressing
String nut installations
Custom wiring and electronics routing.
From the tiniest tweak to a complete overhaul
I offer pedal modification services as well!
The sheer amount of different pedals i can mod and what mods can be done to each one would be way to vast and extensive for you to write out but customers are always more than welcomed to give me a call text or email anytime if they want to inquire about something specific or just call to talk about music and gear in general!:)
* Editors note: I know for a fact that he has suped up some Boss pedals, and does a great job on Wah wah pedals. I got to play through a few of them at The Musician’s Institute!
John is currently located at 7041 Hodgson Memorial drive. Inside Savannah Musicians Institute
912 220 8924
Thanks for your time John! It’s been a real pleasure.