Joe Perry Discusses His Latest (and Possibly Last) Dream Les Paul

Aerosmith's six-string specialist discusses his new Gibson signature model, the Joe Perry "Gold Rush" Les Paul Axcess.
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Recently, GP sat down with a number of guitarists who've recently collaborated with Gibson or Epiphone on new signature models. One of those guitarists was Aerosmith's Joe Perry, who kindly took the time to discuss his latest Les Paul signature, the Gibson Joe Perry "Gold Rush" Les Paul Axcess, with us.

What do you feel are the most significant aspects of the Gold Rush?

I like the neck, it’s got the radius I like, and everything from the body up is very Les Paul-ish. But the body is a thinline type and it has some carving in the back to make it more comfortable. Gibson chose the ’54 Muddy Waters goldtop color for it, and we put a high-quality Wilkinson vibrato on it. The prototype that I got only had a volume knob, but I like those cool tones you can get in the studio with a regular Les Paul, so when they said, “Let’s do a run of these,” I asked them to put in a tone knob to give it a little more variety. It also has a push-pull pot that serves as a coil cutter for the humbucker.

The neck on the Gold Rush is patterned on which of your guitars?

There’s a Strat I’ve been using that we put together in 2001. When I left Aerosmith in 1979, I basically put all the guitars I was playing aside and played this one left-handed Strat, which was a mongrel that was put together from aftermarket pieces. The body or neck might have been Fender, but that was it. It had Barcus Berry pickups, which you can’t find anymore. I didn’t want to bring that guitar on the road with me and risk it getting lost, so we put another one together in the same fashion, and that’s the one that looks all burned up. It’s a left-handed Strat body and a Warmoth neck from 2000, so every part on it has been played, replaced and worked with.

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That particular neck isn’t as fat as, say, a ’54 Gibson neck, but it’s pretty close. One of the things I like about Gibson necks is there’s something meaty to hold on to. When a neck is narrower from front to back, it rubs against a certain place on my finger and aggravates the arthritis I have in that hand. With a fatter neck, my hand seems to sit a little more comfortably and naturally. It’s also got the big frets and same radius as the original guitar, so those are the measurements we go by when anyone is building me a guitar.

What has it been like working with Gibson on signature projects like this?

Over the last year it’s been kind of slow going because of all the changes that Gibson’s been going through, but it seems to be that they’re all good changes. You know, I’ve been playing Gibson Les Pauls, SGs and acoustics at one time or another my whole career, so that all came into play when I sent them the measurements and list of all the things I liked. They worked closely with Marco [Moir] my guitar tech, and they put this guitar together and it’s great. Last night, the first song we did needed that Les Paul kind of sound, but I also needed the whammy bar for it, so the Gold Rush was perfect.

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