This is an excerpt from the October 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story (and more photos of Mars and his many guitars), plus a Dimebag Darrell poster and features on Avenged Sevenfold, Buddy Guy, the Mayhem Festival, Yngwie Malmsteen, a guide to 15 fantastic electric guitars for less than $500 and more, check out the October 2013 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
Guitars, Guitars, Guitars: Mick Mars shares his vast collection of rare Gibsons and Fenders, including a ton of vintage Strats.
The number of guitars that Mick Mars has gone through over the past three decades in the limelight with Mötley Crüe probably rivals the total amount of porn stars that Charlie Sheen has dated.
Literally hundreds of instruments passed through his hands in the Eighties alone, from the trusty black 1972 Les Paul Custom that he used to record the band’s early albums to various Kramers, Charvels and Hamers in every imaginable shape.
“I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs over the years,” Mars explains. “The ’72 Les Paul Custom that I used to play in the early days is now hanging in a Hard Rock Café somewhere in Florida. I didn’t want to let go of that guitar, but I was forced to do it. I don’t miss the pointy guitars. They all sounded really bad to me, and I hated all of them. They just didn’t work for me. Companies kept giving me all of these different guitars to try, and I would end up trying to break them. Now they’re all either kindling or I sold them off long ago.”
Although Mars acquired a few vintage instruments during the Eighties, he began to pursue them in earnest during the early Nineties, around the time that the band recorded its 1994 Mötley Crüe album with singer John Corabi.
“That’s when I started playing Fender Strats,” Mars says. “I owned a few vintage Stratocasters by then, and I loved how light a real Strat felt. One of the first real Strats that I ever owned was pieced together using ’63, ’64 and ’65 parts. I bought it for $1,200 while we were on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour in 1987. The pickups didn’t work, so I put humbuckers in it and installed a Floyd Rose. Even though it’s really beat up, it’s a player’s guitar. I still use it onstage and in the studio.”
When Mötley Crüe hit a rough patch during the late Nineties, Mars was forced to sell off many of his prized vintage guitars. Thanks to the band’s recent resurgence in popularity and much more efficient (and honest) management team, he’s been able to build up his collection once again.
“I’ve slowly and carefully rebuilt my collection,” he says. “I got really serious about collecting guitars again about 10 or 12 years ago. I now have about 100 guitars. I managed to keep some really cool instruments, but I like to have a lot of different things to play around with, so I’m always adding something new to my collection.
"I have guitars from the Fifties and Sixties as well as a few Seventies guitars. Some are really cool, and some are my player guitars. I don’t have very many guitars that I don’t play much. Even if I don’t take a particular guitar on tour because it’s too valuable and difficult to replace, it usually gets played in the studio.
“In the studio I go for a lot of different tones,” he explains. “I never record an album using just one guitar and one amp. Sometimes I’ll start a track with a stock Strat and do overdubs with something funky, like an old Harmony. I like to put something that sounds trashy behind something that sounds really good. That makes the track jump. I’ll use just about any guitar you can imagine in the studio. It’s all about what you do with the different tones and how you mix and match them.”
Photos: Kevin Scanlon
For the rest of this story (and more photos of Mars and his many guitars), plus a Dimebag Darrell poster and features on Avenged Sevenfold, Buddy Guy, the Mayhem Festival, Yngwie Malmsteen, a guide to 15 fantastic electric guitars for less than $500 and more, check out the October 2013 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.