Pick of the Month - October 1999
1996/7 Fano Satellite DG

This guitar was specially made for me by bespoke luthier (and XTC fan) Dennis Fano, who'd previously built a guitar for Andy Partridge called—you've guessed it—the Partridge. Though currently out of production, the Satellite (named after one of his favourite XTC songs) is basically his own design but with pick-up configurations and appointments individually tailored to his clients' needs.

I have always loved Steve Marriot's guitar sound in the later-60's Small Faces. Marriot flipped between Telecasters and a solid-bodied Gretsch 6121 Chet Atkins in those days; it was the Gretsch sound I was after, but on a more player-friendly Gibson-style chassis. I asked Dennis to make the whole thing in mahogany, with a set glued-in neck, a 24–¾" scale, a stud wrap-over bridge/tail-piece and two Gretsch Filtertron pick-ups. Amazingly, he delivered everything I asked for, including the fiddly job of inlaying those eyebrow-shaped fret markers. He did a fantastic job.

The guitar sounds, plays and looks beautiful. I felt a slight pang of guilt asking him to spray black paint over that mahogany, but the results are there for all to see (and hear). The cobalt blue pick-guard was another personal fetish that I think is particularly striking. There's no tone circuit in the guitar, just a pick-up selector switch and a volume control. The sonic properties of the pick-ups require only the slightest reduction in volume to remove any unwanted bright peaks when playing softer, for example. The direct and uncomplicated wiring system means there are no buzzes or ground rattles; combine that with the sustaining characteristics of the bridge anchor and the mahogany body, and what comes out of the guitar is pure signal.

I've used it in the studio with Keiichi Suzuki, Troy, and my last sessions with XTC (notably Playground, now lost forever). You can also hear it on Mitch Friedman's Simplification, and all my guitar parts on R. Stevie Moore's Dates are courtesy of the Fano.

Dennis is currently producing a variety of very drool-worthy retro solids from his home workshop in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. He no longer supplies direct to order, but there are a number of dealerships worldwide that carry his guitars. If you're serious about having something a little bit special—or if you're just curious for more—why not check Dennis's website at www.fanoguitars.com.