1.These Guitars Talk

1/12

This month Chronicle Books, SPIN's sister company, released Instrument, a photo book by Pat Graham that examines the relationship between artists and their music-makers. SPIN contributor Graham has been working on the project for more than a decade, photographing musicians in action with their go-to guitars, drums, keyboards, and more while collecting the personal stories behind each one.

Check out photos and read the tales behind 10 instruments owned by Kurt Cobain, Stephen Malkmus, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, and more.

Buy Instrument at Chronicle Books right here.

2.These Guitars Talk

2/12

This month Chronicle Books, SPIN's sister company, released Instrument, a photo book by Pat Graham that examines the relationship between artists and their music-makers. SPIN contributor Graham has been working on the project for more than a decade, photographing musicians in action with their go-to guitars, drums, keyboards, and more while collecting the personal stories behind each one.

Check out photos and read the tales behind 10 instruments owned by Kurt Cobain, Stephen Malkmus, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, and more.

Buy Instrument at Chronicle Books right here.

3.Justin Vernon's Vintage Acoustic

3/12

I bought this guitar from a guy here in a music shop in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The serial number on the guitar body dates it to between 1929 and 1931, nobody knows for sure. I bought it for $400 and had minor restoration done to it. When you put this guitar in an open-D tuning ... I've never ever heard a harmonic sequence resonate so purely on any instrument. It lights up an entire wooden room with sparkles and notes that feel like you are listening to one of those $30,000 speaker systems. It's just beautiful.

It literally wrote a song for me, a song called "Skinny Love," which was a really important song for our band and our first record. The guitar seemed to exist to write that song, although it has been around for eighty years and who knows where it has been. It makes me feel humble in its presence because I know it's older than me, and that it has brought more music to the world than I ever will have the time to make. I will never get rid of it, and I take it everywhere that I go.

4.Kurt Cobain's Electro-Harmonix Clone Pedal

4/12

The first thing I can remember Kurt buying from the store was an Electro-Harmonix Clone [pedal]. After that he bought every one that came in, and he bought five of them. I thought it was weird that he wanted this lush chorus pedal when none of the music that he had played prior to that had any kind of inflection. I asked Krist Novoselic, "What's up with Kurt and these pedals?" He just said, "Oh, you'll see." Then, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Come as You Are," and songs like that came out... — Rick King

5.Johnny Marr's '63 Fender Jaguar

5/12

A lot of my favorite Fender guitars are 1963 L series Stratocasters. It's the year I was born. Nineteen sixty-three is my favorite year. When I got this one from Isaac [Brock] it was in quite a bad state, so I gave it some love and took care of it and gave it a setup. I decorated it one night when I was making the Modest Mouse album We Were Dead in Mississippi. The 8 stands for Scorpio — my birthday is Halloween, which is in the eighth sign of the zodiac. The S is to remind me of my daughter, Sonny, the N is for my son, Nile, and the A is for my wife, Angie. The flowers I got from Walmart at 3 o'clock in the morning when I was bored.

When I started playing with Modest Mouse, I thought, "Well, I'm going to have to have a big sound to do this." I saw this black Jaguar, it was dusty and not working, a pickup was broken. I plugged it in, and it was just a huge sound; Guitarzilla. I like the Jag because it is a little restrictive to play, and that's a good thing. I have to work with the limitations of the guitar. It gives me quite a strong direction. It's too feminine to play many power chords. That's what appeals to me about the Rickenbacker as well. They sound really good, clear, and clean, and a lot of guitars don't sound that great clean; they need the amplifier to do 30 to 40 percent of the work. As a machine, the Jaguar does what a Strat does, but with more of an all-encompassing sound, and I can pretty much do everything I want on it. I ended up playing a Fender Jaguar exclusively for the next five years. I still do.

6.Isaac Brock's Custom Inlay Guitar

6/12

Early on, the guitars I played were the cheapest ones I could find that had the Floyd Rose tremolo, which was found almost exclusively on cheesy metal and glam-rock guitars. They were really hard to keep in tune, and impossible when I removed the apparently necessary locking nuts on the necks. (I had taken off the locking nuts because they made changing a string during a show really time consuming.) I spent about a year and a half playing with a pair of needle-nose pliers in place of the locking nuts because I could get the pliers on or off in a single motion.

Any time I had a problem with one of these guitars, I'd take it to Brian Wicks, a repair guy at a local instrument shop, and he slowly started developing a better system for me. We started by sawing off and sanding out all the little fine-tuning screws and the layers of bullshit — the little fine tuners were cutting my hands and arms. He then installed locking tuners, which I think had come on the market right around then. Good-bye needle-nose pliers!

The problem with modifying cheap guitars was that the back of each one had a slightly different warp. I bend notes with the whammy bar using the side of my hand to push and my pinky wrapped behind it to pull. The slight variations in the guitars often made it very hard for me to play the way I liked. Brian came up with a prototype that, after it was modified by a couple of people along the way, developed into what I use now. He also began making guitars for me that I could really get the sound and harmonics out of that I wanted. He knew I have a tendency to be rough on guitars, so you almost can't break these. It's great!

The guitar with the vines on the neck — wood inlay on wood, a nice touch — was the first of four that Wicks made for me. I am still playing and touring with it. The one with bees on it is the one I've been using the most because we made some sonic tweaks that I like. The bees are inlayed because I wish I could play a hive of bees.

7.Thurston Moore's '61 Fender Jazzmaster

7/12

The black Jazzmaster is a '61 and has been around since about '99 and is Thurston's main axe for Sonic and side projects. It goes where he goes, and is subject to all manner of abuse (files, knitting needles, etc.) so if I haven't seen it for a while, it's often a bit "broken." When we start a Sonic tour, I usually need to give it some special attention to get it show- worthy again.— Eric Baecht, Sonic Youth guitar tech

8.Kim Gordon's '66 Fender Jaguar

8/12

The red 1966 Jaguar is one of the few original Sonic guitars that didn't get ripped off in '99 [The band’s touring equipment was stolen from a Ryder truck in Orange County, California, in 1999. Only four pieces of equipment have been recovered to date.]. The red 1966 Jaguar is one of the few original Sonic guitars, and it has a lot of the classic Sonic modifications. In my opinion, it's the best surviving historical example of their original batch of axes. Back in the '90s it was mainly played by Thurston on songs like "Silver Rocket." Since then, Thurston has gone on to almost exclusively Jazzmasters, and this has become one of Kim's main jams." — Eric Baecht

9.Nels Cline's Jazzmaster

9/12

My guitar (the second one here, the 1959 Fender Jazzmaster) was purchased in the summer of 1995 from Mike Watt after the first tour by The Crew of the Flying Saucer. I had used my old '66 Jaguar on Watt's first solo record and really didn't know the difference between a Jaguar and a Jazzmaster other than the different pickups and switching configurations. I didn't know then that 1959 is one of the best years for Jazzmasters, and that this would end up being my favorite guitar. I first chose both Jazzmasters and Jaguars for their feel and because they have strings behind the bridge and single-coil pickups. I was copying Sonic Youth and Tom Verlaine, basically. But when I finally played the Jazzmaster, I was smitten with the whole feeling of the neck and body, the sound, and the inherent durability. Watt engraved his name on the base of the neck where it joins the body and on the base of the tremolo assembly. He engraves everything!

This guitar has done more tours and records than I can count: all the Mike Watt tours, the Geraldine Fibbers tours and Butch album, later records with the Fibbers' CarlaBozulich and Scarnella, dozens of recordings by various improvised projects, including all my solo records since The Inkling, tours with Wilco, and all three records I made with them. This guitar mostly lives in Chicago in the Wilco loft now, and I have a different '59 at home in Los Angeles so that I don't always have to fly back and forth with it. I have been extremely hard on it, as you can see — it was in perfect shape when I got it. I play hard. There is actually a very deep and ever-deepening gouge above where the strings stretch from the bridge to the tailpiece, where I play a lot and, apparently, with considerable vigor!

Admittedly, the finish was delicate. It is easy to scratch the paint, revealing a purplish hue, much like eggplant. I used to wear my keys on my pant loop, and after hopping up and down on stage with Watt, I created an interesting and rather sizable stippling on the back of the guitar. In the Geraldine Fibbers, I would sometimes throw the guitar to our drummer Kevin Fitzgerald and play my effects pedals while he savaged it with drumsticks, sometimes ripping out the strings, which is difficult to do on a Fender guitar, and bleeding on it. I have bled on it plenty. The Geraldine Fibbers' "Dusted" caused some wounds, and these days Wilco's song "A Shot in the Arm" might be another danger, though I am much smarter now about things like fret wear. The body, well ... I think it looks great. It's a work in progress, just like me.

10.Kim Deal's "Fiesta Red" Fender Bass

10/12

It was 1988, and I needed a bass guitar. I was a six-string player and didn't own a bass. Joe [Santiago, Pixies guitarist] was borrowing my beautiful gold-top Les Paul, and I was borrowing my sister's Aria Pro II Cardinal Series bass. When the Pixies played some shows with My Bloody Valentine, I noticed Debbie played the same bass. But the Pixies released two records already, and I needed to get a bass of my own.

I bought it at some music store in Boston, Massachusetts. The store might have even been on Mass Ave. I was looking for a cooler color, like black, or red, or even some wood sunburst, but there was only a white P-bass and this one. I think Fender calls the color "Fiesta Red," but it's really an orangey coral. I didn't like the look of the white pick guard so I took it off and exposed the silver metal shielding underneath. Then I was cutting my hand on the edges of the shielding, so I attached a molded black rubber piece running all the way around the metal. This bass always sounds good. It sounds good DI'ed. It sounds good with or without a pick. It just sounds like a good bass guitar. And, of course, now I love the color.

11.Stephen Malkmus' Fender Jazzmaster

11/12

I got this guitar from some friends in the band Silkworm in 1994. It has big frets and is kind of dull-sounding, which I like. It really keeps on working, with the original electronics. Pretty cool. I probably need to get another guitar, but this one keeps on insinuating itself into the equation. Once you're comfortable with a certain guitar, it's hard to make a move.

12.Nick Zinner's Fender Strat

12/12

This was my second guitar. I got it from my best friend, Scott Burg, in the seventh grade. I can't remember if he sold it to me so he could buy more comic books or if I traded him half of my comic book collection for it, but I remember really wanting it, being impressed by the floating whammy bar and the sophisticated locking nuts at the top of the neck. (Though I took off and lost the whammy bar and the locking components when I was in high school because it seemed too heavy metal — I'd briefly stopped listening to heavy metal.) After I got it, I spent the majority of my adolescent years locked in my room playing it, learning it. Today, it's probably the guitar I've written, toured, and recorded with the most. It's not the greatest sounding or most desirable Stratocaster, but all of its weaknesses have been ultimately responsible for how I play the thing now.

It's a pretty thin-sounding guitar, so when we started the band without a bass player, I started looking for effects and secret tricks that would make it sound bigger, and now I'm overwhelmed by pedals. Like a body with tattoos, I have lots of little stickers on it from different periods of my life, most meaningful only for the time and people they mark. The big circle sticker with the 50 on it is from Indonesia; I got it for 25 cents in Sulawesi when I was traveling there before I was in a band. It's celebrating fifty years of Indonesian independence. A lot of kids there write us about it, which is pretty great. When the band was in Singapore a few months ago, a girl from Jakarta gave me a new sticker; it's been sixty-four years of independence now.