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This article was originally published in issue #56
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The P94 is rich and full with tons of character, and a dummy coil helps keep the noise in check. Personally, I’d like to have a switch to defeat the dummy coil, because even the best-designed dummy coil takes away a little of the pickup’s grit and grind.
Looks absolutely fantastic
Thick, fat tones
At home in almost any genre
Upper fret access isn’t the easiest.
Mahogany Neck and Body
Torrefied Composite Fretboard
Gibson 84T-LM (bridge)
Gibson P-94 single coil (neck)
Following on from the success of his Les Paul and Explorer models, Bring Me The Horizon’s Lee Malia adds a third signature model to Epiphone's range inspired by the 1970s-era RD shape. Nick Jennison reviews the Epiphone Lee Malia RD Custom Artisan.
It can be challenging to get signature guitars right. If the artist’s requests are too specific, the end result can be too “quirky” for the general guitar playing public. Similarly, if the artist in question is known for a particular genre, it can turn off players working in different styles. No so for Bring Me The Horizon guitarist Lee Malia, who has successfully knocked it out of the park with not one, not two but three signature Epiphone models. Starting with the Lee Malia Les Paul Custom Artisan in 2014, followed by Explorer and RD models in the same Artisan livery, the intention from the outset was to produce a guitar that would be at home in the hands of any player, working in any genre.
Inspired by the Les Paul Artisan model produced between 1976 and 1982, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Explorer model in GI issue 52. Aside from the distinct good looks, I was particularly impressed by the thick, resonant tone that only comes from a massive bit of wood. The RD model is bigger again, both in physical size and weight of tone.
Originally released in 1977, RD stands for “research and development”. At the time of release, it represented the kind of radical technological advancement more commonly associated with the Juszkiewicz era. Featuring active pickups, switchable EQ, onboard compassion and expansion and no passive mode, the RD was, unfortunately, a little too “out there” for guitarists at the time. Discontinued in 1979, the RD body shape was thrown out along with its unusual electronics - which is a shame, because it’s a great looking and sounding design!
The Lee Malia RD comes with the same passive pickup configuration as his previous signature models, with a Gibson USA P94 single coil 84T-LM humbucker. The P94 is rich and full with tons of character, and a dummy coil helps keep the noise in check. Personally, I’d like to have a switch to defeat the dummy coil, because even the best-designed dummy coil takes away a little of the pickup’s grit and grind. Likewise, I’d like a way to activate the dummy coil when splitting the bridge pickup. Speaking of the bridge pickup, the sound is fat and dark with lots of low-end thump and chunk - certainly not a typical modern metal pickup. While it’s not super articulate on complex riffs, it’s definitely big sounding, especially when paired with a more classic sounding amp like Malia’s JCM800.
There are a few quirks of the RD body shape that may upset players that are used to modern high-performance guitars. The upper fret access is pretty poor, with the body cutting in at the 17th fret. If you have big hands like I do, you can work around it, but don’t expect to be wailing away at the upper reaches of the fretboard. The control layout is also offset in the opposite direction to the typical Les Paul/SG/335 configuration, which can make operating both volume control simultaneously quite tricky.
Of course, all of these criticisms become somewhat irrelevant when you take a step back and look at the guitar. It’s gorgeous! The finish, livery and body shape all come together to make a guitar that is eye-catching without being gaudy. It exuded an effortless 70s cool, and for my money, it’s the best looking of three (already beautiful) signature guitars. It’s probably the best sounding one, too!