Luthier Planning to Unveil A New Build Exclusively at The 2023 NAMM Show
Stephen McSwain began building guitars for his enjoyment in the early 90s. Seeking a creative outlet that incorporated his hobbies of metal work and woodworking, he combined his two passions to create a business that has become his life’s work, McSwain Guitars.
We spoke with McSwain last year as he launched the highly anticipated Stealth Star guitar and discussed his passion for music and luthiery. To read the full interview, please visit https://ww1.namm.org/playback/career-business/boutique-luthier-debuts-%E2%80%9Cstealth-star%E2%80%9D-guitar.
In August, McSwain Guitars announced its most recent build, the Machine Custom, a stunningly gritty melding of McSwain’s exceptional luthier skills and the ever-popular steampunk genre. For those unfamiliar with the term, steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates futuristic technology and aesthetics inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. While the Machine Custom is the perfect encapsulation of this unique niche cultural phenomenon, if you’re still drawing a blank when trying to envision steampunk, think of the 1999 film, The Wild Wild West, starring Will Smith or elements of the long-lived television series Doctor Who.
The inspiration of the Machine Custom is a bit Mad Max, a touch Terminator, and just a drop of Jules Verne that takes metalwork to the next level. McSwain spoke about the design concept saying, “When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1998, I was working on some guitars for Schecter. I became friends with Mike Tempesta of Powerman 5000. He had seen a guitar with a gauge that Billy Gibbons owned and asked if I could modify his signature Schecter guitar with metal and gauges. Naturally, I accepted the task and started scouring an old aircraft surplus store in North Hollywood. I ended up modifying about 20 guitars for Schecter with these gauges as a special limited run of the Tempesta model. I loved the uniqueness of that design so much that I started building my version and continue to this day.”
The Machine Custom includes a carved mahogany body, a three-piece mahogany neck, an ebony fretboard with ToneLayer™ binding, and comes enclosed in McSwain’s signature aircraft aluminum with metal binding. Sadly, the visually stunning and equally impressive sounding Machine Custom that can be seen and heard in the above video won’t be available at The 2023 NAMM Show as it instantly sold upon launch. However, McSwain wants to assure those hoping to play a riff or two on this guitar that he plans on building another Machine Custom specifically to showcase at The NAMM Show this April.
McSwain is excited to return to Anaheim in April 2023 for The NAMM Show as part of the Boutique Guitar Showcase. He reported that exhibiting at The 2022 NAMM Show cemented his belief that face-to-face interaction cannot be replaced and said, “A huge part of a luthier’s brand is the luthier. People want to meet and get to know the builder and understand what goes into creating their instruments. I, as a builder, want to get to know my clients. I have so much gratitude for the people who have supported my business over the years and love when I can hang out with them and get to know who they are, and The NAMM Show is the perfect place to do this.”
In April, McSwain plans to network with other builders at the Show and grow his skills as a builder. Beyond that, he plans on bringing three instruments, a pair of guitars and a bass, to represent the depth of his skills as a luthier.
To catch a glimpse of the Machine Custom or any of McSwain’s builds and to stay up to date on the latest NAMM Show registration information, please visit https://ww1.namm.org/thenammshow/2023/attend.
For more information on McSwain guitars, please visit https://www.mcswainguitars.com/.