Kiefer Sutherland on Guitar Collecting

As an actor, Kiefer Sutherland is no stranger to danger.
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As an actor, Kiefer Sutherland is no stranger to danger. His newest leap into hazardous duty isn’t in a movie script, however—it’s baring his soul throughout his debut album, Down In a Hole (produced by long-time friend and co-founder of Ironworks Records, Jude Cole). Recorded in a small studio located on a farm where he sang out in the elements to avoid vocal bleed into the drums, Sutherland joked he was “probably the only guy singing on a record who was in danger of being attacked by coyotes.”

Years before he stepped in front of the cameras, Sutherland became obsessed with guitars, and he ultimately assembled a large and impressive vintage collection.

“Some people collect cars, some collect art, and it was guitars for me,” relates Sutherland, who tracked Down In a Hole with a beloved ’59 Gibson Country Western. “Ever since I was ten years old in Toronto, I would go to Steve’s Guitar Store when the other kids were out playing, and I’d stare at all these Explorers, SGs, Les Pauls, Strats, and Teles. They looked so beautiful to me. Then, when I was 20 years old, I had a lot of friends who were great players—Jude was certainly one of them—but they had really sh*tty guitars because they had no money. I was in Norman’s Rare Guitars [Tarzana, California] all the time, I’d buy something I liked, and I’d end up lending my guitars out. Eventually, they started coming back to me, because a lot of those musicians were doing well. However when Jude and I started Ironworks Studio, collecting became a disease. I’d have a rack with these beautiful Strats—a ’59 and a ’64—but there would be some slots left, and I’d have to fill them. That started my binge buying, and I had close to 100 guitars at one point. I thought that was embarrassing and ridiculous, and I managed to pare it down to about 35 guitars. That was a really hard thing to do.

“For me, the look of a guitar is certainly the instigator to acquire it. But I’m also smart enough to go up to the guy who is running the store and ask, “What’s your favorite piece here?” Then, we’ll talk about tone and playability. Right now, I’m looking at two perfect 1954 Les Paul Juniors, and they’re as clean as if you bought a brand new one today. I love the fact they’re perfect, but right next to them is a ’67 Telecaster with a crackled white paint job that also looks stunning. In my opinion, because you’re attracted to the look of a cool guitar does not make you shallow. I think certain guitars inspire you to play, and they inspire you to play differently.”

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