Bildnachweis: Helge Engelke
This article series is about the tools of popular guitarists. What are their favorite guitars and how is it related to them? This time with Helge Engelke (Fair Warning, Dreamtide) www.helgeengelke.com/
“Practise you should at home, young man!” said the lady who, in my understanding, certainly had passed her 110th or 120th birthday a long time ago. I was 13 and had practised the D major chord to perfection! A rock D major, as in “Layla”. So how could the shrew dare? Well, she just could, she was an institution.Emma Bömecke, Musikbrunnen, Grupenstraße 12, 30159 Hannover. That was where you went to buy a guitar and nowhere else. And that’s where I was to check out the Maya nylon string guitar with my well rehearsed D major chord (it hurt a bit though). For hours I suppose. Finally I spent the budget of 135 Deutschmarks my grandmother had given me on that very guitar. The truth is, this was the second step. The first step, learning the D major chord, I did on a piece of pressboard I cut to the shape of a flying V and used twine for strings. Thanks to the Maya, Guitar chords got more and the desire for an electric guitar soon emerged. Another visit at Musikbrunnen. This time I was lucky. With her infamous and creaking voice the old lady called for her grandson, maybe great-grandson. “Gerrrrrrrnot, show these ‘electric guitars’ to the young man”. I tried some guitars, mostly Ibanez (at those times fender or Gibson copies). But, oops, these were expensive. No way. Rescue came in the person of Thomas. Thomas was a class mate and and had given up on playing guitar, but owned a Framus electric guitar. A solo-guitar he said, not made for rhythm playing, he said, for solo playing only, he said. A guitar for a heroes, he said. Sounded good to me, another 150 Deutschmarks gone. Later I found out, “not for rhythm playing” was due to the twisted neck and it was impossible to get chords in tune…Next was my first real Stratocaster.
A Fender Stratocaster. The real deal. The guitar of Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore, of Robin Trower, Eric Clapton, Uli Roth, David Gilmour, and you name it. And it was a legend indeed. It was one of the guitars which established the reputation of vintage guitars from the 50s, 60s and early 70s. The vintage boom started exactly at that point in time, for a very simple reason: Strats built from 75/76 onwards were utter crap. Mine was from 1977 and just a shit guitar, heavy as hell, not resonant at all and the neck was kind of loose from the beginning.
All of this I didn’t know back then. I was more concerned about the bridge of my strat looking completely different than the bridge of the strat pictured on the back cover of “Layla”. Time to learn and to find out. Among others I liked Johnny Winter a lot and I wanted a firebird. I spent all of the school summer holidays working to be able to buy a firebird. When I finally had it, I found out that it played completely different than a Stratocaster. The neck was somehow much longer and it started somewhere far far away from the place I was used to…I went through quite a lot of guitars in the years to follow.
Most of these guitars I quickliy sold again or traded them in for other ones. I had several of the late 70’s strats, a SG, a Explorer, 3 Flying Vs, a Les Paul Special. There are only 2 guitars I regret having sold. A Medallion V and the afore mentioned Les Paul Special. The lesson learnt after having bought and sold a decent amount of guitars was:1. It’s not that easy. 2. Chances to find a good one are better once you search among old ones. By the beginning of the 80s I started finding guitars, which I still own today. First was a 58 Stratocaster. Unfortunatel I had to sell the Medallion V to buy the strat.
Except for a refret this guitar is like I bought it and I used it on a lot of recordings. Here’s a guitar which didn’t stay like it was at all. It had to suffer a lot from try outs and fashions.
The truth about the eighties…And of cause the 80s brought 80s things…This guitar once fell over and the original headstock broke. Andy Demitriou, a luthier from Brighton, built a new neck for this guitar.
By the end of the 80s Uli Roth showed me his sky guitars, 3 of these guitars were already made. I really liked the idea and asked him if he had anything against the idea of me having a similar guitar built . “There’s no need for that” he said, “I am a working on a 7-string Sky guitar. Real men play seven strings, you can have one of the six string Skys”
Wow, that was new to me. In my book real men lived on mountains, issued commandments, had broken guitars and answered to the name of Iron head Haynes. But who am I to contradict, I thought and merrily took the sky, which became my main guitar for some years.
For a long time I simply was not interested in Les Pauls. I don’t really know why. Well, I know why a black Les Paul never was an option. “The Puhdys” a band from eastern Germany played black Les Pauls and they played music which I didn’t considered as such.
In 1991 the Gibson custom shop in Hamburg gave me a Les Paul and I used it on many recordings for rhythm parts.
Later I bought a second one whoch really came to life after putting some Bare Knuckles pickups in it and the neck was scalloped.
In 1997 Thomas Stratman built “My guitar” for me.
I call it the “NCC 1701-H”. A starship of a next generation…
For more than 20 years I use this guitar exclusivel for live and 98% of my solos are played on it. The following guitars are not used too often, but they are used. On most of Fair Warnings and Dreamtides albums these classic can be heard.
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