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KISS ARMY AUSTRALIA TOUR INFORMATION Q&A With Eric McKenna

Eric McKenna at KISS ARMY AUSTRALIA
Preacher with Paul Stanley Artwork

 

 

Another world exclusive brought to you by the
KISS ARMY AUSTRALIA!

 Q&A with Boogie Street Guitar's Eric McKenna,
by KAA's Starscream.

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1. You have a strong affiliation with Washburn guitars. How did that come about?   

Well, I started BSG in late 1998.  Initially I bought and sold used and vintage guitars online.  BSG grew and grew and eventually, my home could not support the business and I decided to lease an office here in Pittsburgh in 2003.  Once this was done, I truly wanted to design guitars.  Not so much design a shape or 'structure' of a guitar but I wanted to work on the aesthetics side of business.   Paint, tone-wood selections, pickups, inlay, etc.  After a few years in the used guitar business, I began to really have strong opinions as to what 'works' and was did not.   With that thought in mind,  I approached Washburn in late 2003 with my idea of working exclusively with one major guitar manufacturer.   By forging this very strong and personal relationship with Rudy Schlacher (CEO) and his personnel at USMusic Corp (Washburn), BSG quickly grew to be Washburn largest dealer while at the same time, commissioning truly custom import and USA guitars.  Guitars with aesthetics that have not been seen in the marketplace before.

Preacher Guitar
Boogie Street Guitars

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2. When did you first meet Paul Stanley and how?

Wow!  Well - like many KISS fans, I had gotten the chance to very briefly meet Paul a few times over the years.  Once there was a chance meeting at the Pittsburgh airport in 1984.  Another time was at the 1995 KISS Convention in Pittsburgh.  And once after one of Paul's  Phantom of the Opera performances in Toronto in 1999.    However, my first significant meeting with Paul was before his Live To Win concert here in Pittsburgh on Nov 1, 2006.   Since Paul had just returned to Washburn a few months earlier, I wanted to give Paul a few of our custom Import Washburn/BSG guitars in order to show him how far the Korean custom production quality had come.  I also wanted to show Paul the kind of truly 'custom' paint/inlay work I was designing with Washburn.

Eric McKenna with Paul Stanley
Eric and Paul Stanley

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3. What’s it like working with your childhood hero?

It's AMAZING! I truly feel blessed in so many ways and getting the chance to meet, know and work with Paul is just another amazing chapter in my life!   You see, while I have been a dedicated KISS fan since 1976 when I was 10 years old, it was really all about Paul.   To me, he *is* KISS.  The heart and soul.  I've always said his songs, voice and guitar are the 'soundtrack' of my life.    And let's face it - Paul has always been the epitome of 'cool'.  I've heard so many stories of people meeting their hero or someone they admired, only to be disappointed by that person in some way or another.   In my case, it's just the opposite.  While the 'awe' factor is still there, I must admit, I now have tremendous amounts of respect for Paul - as person, a father and businessman.  He is a very classy guy. 

Paul at NAMM 08
Paul at NAMM 2008

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4. How did you come about making Paul Stanley guitars?

Back in 2004, when I would make a trip to Chicago to visit with Rudy and his people at Washburn, I would continually chide anyone who would listen with the idea of approaching Paul and getting back in the Washburn family.  I must have done that - 20 times!  Well, I never thought it would happen and I kind of just considered it a 'running joke' between Washburn and myself.  Then in the Summer of 2006, Washburn's Larry English called and informed me that Paul was coming back to Washburn.   To say I was stunned - is an understatement.  From that point, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would be able to work with Paul and possibly do some limited run guitars. It was a goal - and it was going to be realized.  Being such a fan of Paul's for so many years, I have very strong opinions on how Paul's guitars should look.  Luckily for me, Paul has liked my ideas!  At least, so far!

Preacher bodies
Preacher Bodies

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5. What was the motivation to build a Preacher and not something else (like one of his KISS related guitars)?

BSG will indeed work with Paul on his ultimate KISS guitar very soon.  That I'm very confident of.   However, it was clear to me after seeing the prototype Preachers, holding Paul's stage guitar in Pittsburgh and discussing the Preacher with Paul,  working first with the Preacher model just made sense.   I could tell from Paul's passion about the design, construction and ideas behind the Preacher, this guitar is a project that is very important to him.  But even more importantly for me, I believe in the guitar.  It's very well documented that I'm an old Gibson Les Paul fan.   My passion for working with the Washburn Idol guitars for years came from the idea of improving on the classic single-cut idea.  And I feel we have done that with the Idol model.  And now with Paul's Preacher - the classic single-cut guitar continues to be improved.  To me, the Preacher has a sleeker, more progressives shape and styling.  If guitars can be 'sexy' - the Preacher is definitely - sexy.   While at the same time, it has a true traditional feel and tone.  It's 'familiar'.  And I think single-cut players will appreciate that.

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6. What advice would you have for someone who wants to buy a KISS guitar, but doesn’t know much about guitars?

The great thing about KISS is that there is so much out there for the collector.  So much.   And I think that is wonderful!  KISS truly understands the need to cater to fans with all income levels and all demographics.   Nobody gets left out.   So on the guitar side, it basically comes down to whether you are a player or non-player.  Are you a KISS collector?   I think if you are not a guitar player, but a collector, it all comes down to your budget.   If you are a guitar player - you may want to look at some of the mid-priced to upper end guitars.

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7. For someone who doesn’t want to spend thousands upon thousands on a custom shop KISS guitar, which guitars do you think represent good value for money?

Well, the PS8500BSG1 Preacher was born out of the idea that there needed to be a truly AWESOME Preacher guitar that was a nice fit between the entry level PS7000 series Preachers and the USA Custom PS9000 series guitars.   The PS8500BSG1 Preachers share the same form, fit and finish techniques used on the USA Custom Shop guitars.  And the PS8500BSG1 also uses the same hardware and USA pickups as well.  Plus, on this first run, I was able to take the split block inlay which was on Paul's PS2000 Washburn from 1998, add multiply neck binding, chrome, jet black paint - and immediately you have a Preacher guitar that 'looks' like Paul!  A Preacher that simply looks like 'the' version Paul would personally play.   So, to answer your question, the PS8500BSG1 fits the bill nicely.   Also, the PS600 KISS guitars coming out of Washburn currently are very, very nice.  They are the 'mid-level' KISS guitar.  And while they are not the same level of trim and quality as the PS8500BSG1 Preacher - they are nice and play very, very well.

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8. Do you have to pinch yourself when you look in your inbox and see an email from Paul Stanley?

The first time Paul called me - I missed the call!!  So, listening to my voicemail and hearing a message from Paul Stanley was quite surreal.  I still have that voicemail.   And indeed - when I check my email at home or the office or on my blackberry and the sender is 'Paul Stanley' - that is also quite surreal.  Indeed.

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9. Do you have any future plans to continue your relationship with Paul Stanley? Perhaps a new line of Boogie Street Paul Stanley or KISS guitars?

One thing I learned about the guitar business these past 10 years is that you can't look too far ahead.  While there are some solid traditions in place - the guitar business is constantly changing.  I will work with Paul, in any capacity that makes sense for all involved.  Washburn has been tremendous to me over the years and working with Washburn and Paul together is about as good as it gets.  We have the 2nd run of PS8500 guitars on the way in.  They are the PS8500BSG2 and they are white with gold hardware.   We have already done a run of 18 Washburn USA Custom Shop High End PS9500 'Padauk' Preacher guitars.  I've given Paul one and he really, really digs it.   So, we have other short 'runs' of USA BSG commissioned special Preacher guitars coming. 

Also, Paul and I are currently working on a high-end import Preacher Acoustic! It's the PS1000BSG1 - the prototype is due in soon.    I designed this guitar based off the inlay and 'look' of the PS8500BSG1 and the PS9200 USA model. It's very cool stuff and due soon.  I always loved the Ibanez black acoustic Paul played on the KISS unplugged.  Ibanez never put that guitar into production, so we are going to make the Preacher Acoustic cool like that Ibanez acoustic - but BETTER.  Much better!  I discussed this guitar in great detail with Paul at the 2008 NAMM show a few weeks ago.

On the top-end custom import side - I'd like to soon work with Paul on a top-end KISS import guitar.  Possibly a PS700 KISS guitar - a guitar positioned between the PS600 import and the USA custom shop PS800. 

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10.   What role did Paul’s guitar tech, Francis Steuber, play in developing the Paul Stanley PS8500BSG1 Preacher?

Fran is great!  I really, really consider Fran a friend.  He has been conduit between Paul and l at times and Fran's input on the PS8500BSG1 & PS8500BSG2 Preachers was invaluable.  Getting Paul's neck profile correct on the guitar was important to me - and Fran helped me get the correct profile to the Korean facility.   I speak with Fran about once a week and working with him is always fun.  Paul's got a great tech!   And Fran is one helluva player and singer in his own right!

Fran and Eric
Fran and Eric

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11. When you sent the PS8500BSG1 Preacher prototype to Paul for his approval, he brought the guitar to Australia and used it as his main guitar for his solo tour. What this the ultimate endorsement for all your hard work?

Briefly, here is how it went.  During my week long visit to Washburn in Jan of 2007, Rudy Schlacher and I got Paul on the phone.  I had my paint/inlay and trim ideas together and Paul liked them.  So, we drew up the prototype guitar that week.   The Proto arrived a few weeks before Paul left for his OZ leg of his 'Live to Win' tour.   I sent the guitar out for Paul's approval hoping to get his thoughts before he left only because I wanted to get back to the factory and get any corrections Paul wanted done - and get the run started!  Well, when I did not hear back for a few days - Fran finally called and said that the guitar was not coming back to me.    He said Paul was using it for rehearsals in LA - and he loved it!   And - he was keeping it!  So, who am I to argue?   Paul called later that night and expressed his delight with the guitar and gave me the 'go ahead' for the run with NO changes.   I remember him saying "You nailed it!".   That comment really meant a lot.  So, pretty much, that was it.   At least - that is what I thought.  Until pictures started to surface from 'Down Under' and had to take a couple double looks because - Paul was playing my guitar!!  On one hand - I could not believe it.   However - on the other hand, it made TOTAL sense.  Paul truly liked the guitar and - the guitar plays and sounds amazing!    After about the 3rd show, Paul emailed me and told me how much he was enjoyed playing the PS8500BSG1 live.    Paul, Fran and Al (KISS's photographer) were kind enough to get me a print of Paul playing my preacher.   It's framed and in my office. 

Preacher Certificate

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13.  Over the years, what are your favourite Paul Stanley stage guitars?

The Preacher, of course!   Now, if we are talking about Paul's KISS guitars, it's a really tough question.  As KISS fans know, Paul played some very, very cool B.C. Rich guitars in the 80's and early 90's that were hand-built for Paul by the late Bernie Rico.  During the past 2 years, I've developed a great friendship with Bernie Rico Jr and it's really, really cool to listen to Bernie tell me about those Paul Stanley guitars and about Paul and Bernie's father's friendship.  My favorite BC Rich Paul Stanley guitars were the early 80's black Mockingbird with the jewels and the leopard painted Eagle.   I also really loved the Ibanez Iceman models both in the 70's and the reissue of the 90's.   But - my favourite Paul KISS guitar is the PS2000 Washburn from the late 90's.  I actually own a black version of that guitar.  And it's a special one!  It was one of the three PS2000 guitars he took the Super Bowl!  The one I own was the backup.  It's signed, dated and marked 'Super Bowl' by Paul on the back.  It's a permanent part of the BSG collection.

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