"As much as I enjoy making a "traditional" instrument out of the finest "tonewoods", I also love making instruments which push the boundaries and open new possibilities to musicians willing to explore and expand the scope of their music. The influences manifested in the Totemguitar line, to date close to 400 instruments, go back to Dada, Surrealism, collage and assemblage art, Pop art, and sometimes a more conceptual approach, along with the occasional dose of pure kitsch." - Michael Spalt
The birth of the electric guitar, some 60 odd years ago, happened because there were builders who weren't afraid to defy convention. Imagine what the (now) legendary Telecaster must've looked like to players at the time, not to mention the Les Paul and Stratocaster. It's hard to imagine music, pop culture, or our own lives as musicians, without these instruments - yet - they were radical designs at the time. Solid body? "With Synchronized Tremolo"?! You're kidding right? You can just hear the detractors while imagining this scene...
Fast-foward to today...names like Steve Klein, Ken Parker, Ulrich Tueffel, and of course, Michael Spalt, are generating similar reactions with their very forward thinking designs. The instruments made by these world class builders brings to mind the old Apple ad campaigns from the 90s - "Think Different." Indeed, Michael Spalt's resin-topped instruments invite us to do just that with regards to what a guitar can be.
To be sure, this stunning 'Chocolate Boy' - named for the small chocolate mould of a child that was used in a Vienna candy factory - isn't out to replace your Tele, Strat, or Les Paul. Michael is after something altogether different. Using his formal training in the fine arts and love for, and knowledge of, vintage guitars (Michael worked on countless vintage instruments during his time in LA), Michael combines the worlds of fine art and guitars by using the guitar's body as his canvas - quite literally.
'Chocolate Boy' is stunning to behold in person. The depth of the top (which really reveals itself in the right lighting), the amount of detail involved in creating these unique, one-of-a-kind guitars, is simply incredible. To be sure, these guitars aren't just objects to be admired from afar. These are world-class, incredibly well made instruments. They play flawlessly thanks to the impeccable fretwork and setup.
Other details, that live squarely in the high-end guitar world (not art world), start to unfold as you look the guitar over - the gorgeous fret markers that line the side of the fingerboard, the Tone Pros wraparound tailpiece, Schertler tuners w/Ebony buttons, bone nut, and Spalt bone-top Spalt/Fralin P90s with push-pull (series) capability...Looks aside? This is an incredibly cool guitar that plays, sounds, and is made as well as any we've seen!
Tones? How does this resin top sound? In a word: beautiful. These guitars definitely have a sound that is uniquely their own, but it's not dissimilar to a mahogany body / maple cap guitar. Not to say it sounds exactly like an LP, but the resin top of these guitars does impart a bit of a maple flavor. There's a warmth and articulation to these pickups that we find really appealing. Complex, sophisticated, yet familiar all came to mind when playing this guitar through our trusty Carr Rambler.
To fully appreciate this guitar and the story it's telling, we'll let Michael reveal the impetus behind the build:
"This guitar takes its cue from a small chocolate mould I found - the back half. The top consists of old printer's wood letter type pieces. It plays with the patterns and rhythms of the type pieces, with the silver mould of the boy's back providing an enigmatic focus. Especially nice in this case, when seeing the guitar's body from the side, the abstract pattern created by the sections of wood type pieces."
Long story short, Michael Spalt is making wonderfully unique instruments that should be given serious consideration for those who love "thinking different" about guitars. Not every guitar needs to be a Tele, Strat, or Les Paul as this masterpiece affirms! Priced with hardshell case.