Join the PMTVUK crew as they hit up the USA Headquarters of ESP Guitars and check out the all-new 2022 models, the artist signature collection, and more!
Words by Dagan Wilkin
Hidden away in north Los Angeles, between an assortment of giant warehouses and what look like aeroplane hangars, you’ll find ESP’s USA Headquarters and Custom Shop. Upon closer inspection you’ll notice that these aren’t just ordinary warehouses.. these are stadium tour rehearsal stages! This is where bands like AC/DC, Motley Crue, and The Rolling Stones rehearse and get prepared for their world tours! LA just gets crazier and crazier…
As soon as you get to ESP you’re instantly greeted by a selection of huge signed Metallica posters (naturally), followed by a hallway leading to the showroom that is full of gold and platinum records from all the legendary artists that have played ESP over the years - Metallica, Slayer, Rammstein, Dokken, Lynch Mob, Children Of Bodom, and so many more! This is followed by a collection of artist-used and played guitars - we had the pleasure of checking out and playing one of George Lynch’s original Kamikaze signatures, one of the late great Jeff Hanneman’s signature models, and an extremely special model for me personally; another guitar from a recently lost guitar legend, a tour-used Alexi Laiho ‘Greeny’ V.
After what seemed like hours walking through the short hallway checking out all the ESP memorabilia, we made it to the artist showroom to see all the new 2022 models! Check out the run-through video with Director of Artist Relations, Tony Rauser - he was an absolute legend with some amazing stories! We saw so many epic ESP & LTD guitars; special anniversary guitars, sparkly gold guitars, some crazy modern V’s and uniquely metal guitars, sandblasted raw tone models, multi-string & scale guitars, and ones that have that perfect mix of old school and new school that tick every box!
There was also an awesome corner full of guitars that we couldn’t show to the camera, models that are yet to be released or that are still in the prototyping phase - DAMN THEY’RE AWESOME! You’re all in for one hell of a treat when they launch, so keep your eyes peeled for those later this year and next year.
We moved onto the new signature guitars from ESP, and it must be said that these guitars are EPIC! We first looked at the new James Hetfield ‘Camo’ Snakebyte models and discussed the small differences between the ESP model and the LTD - besides the paint job and where they’re made, in a blind test you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! They both play, feel, and sound incredible. It’s really a testament to how good the more affordable models are in the LTD range. Next, we went through the new ‘Hexed’ & ‘Ripped’ models from the late, great Alexi Laiho. These were the last guitars designed by the Finnish virtuoso before his passing in 2020 - they have a bold new purple look and an even bolder single coil pickup in the bridge of the ‘Ripped’ guitar, something we’ve never seen before on the Children Of Bodom & Bodom After Midnight's signature model.
See if you can spot the sneaky ‘secret’ yet-to-be-released signature guitar lurking in the background of the ESP 2022 Artist Models video above or over on the PMTVUK YouTube channel…
We then took a tour of the ESP USA Custom Shop! Now ESP is a Japanese company, and their Custom Shop is historic. In fact, to become an ESP Japan Custom Shop Master Builder you must have worked at ESP Japan for decades before you’re even considered to be in the Custom Shop or be declared a Master Builder! The USA Custom Shop is relatively new though - with almost 10 years of creating handmade guitars for customers and American ESP Signature artists alike, all on the same production line. We saw guitars that were almost finished for Gary Holt from Slayer & Exodus, as well as some secret new signature models for artists yet to be announced. The paint shop is incredible at ESP too, they do some of the most unique designs you’ll see on a guitar - gold blood splatter anyone? From the wood shop, the madness of the paint room with Ryan the main painter, all the way through to final assembly, ESP USA is absolutely crazy, making some of the best hand-crafted USA guitars going - and you can check out how it’s done too with our factory tour video!