From Parts, to Lawsuits to Top Guitar Producer, Adversity has Been Schecter’s Greatest Asset.
Throughout the course of the industry, there are some guitar companies that have stayed true to their roots. But there is one that has gone through a multitude of changes in their structure, image, and legacy: Schecter Guitars.
Throughout the course of the guitar industry, there are some companies that have stayed true to their roots. Fender has always been known for their bolt-on, single-coil magical sound. Gibson brings a shorter-scaled humbucker sound into the mix with a whole lot of mahogany. Even a company like Gretsch is known for their impeccable semi- and fully-hollow electric guitars, jangling and ringing the night away. However, there is one guitar company that has gone through a multitude of changes in their structure, image, quality control, and legacy into the success it has become today.
Schecter Guitar Research, more commonly known as just Schecter, has become quite a prevalent modern guitar company in the past thirty years. Models such as the C-1 and C-6 are instantaneously recognized for their comfort and quality, and their roster of artists that are affiliated with Schecter is far than average. Legends such as Disturbed, Avenge Sevenfold, The Cure, Papa Roach, Prince, Stone Temple Pilots, Nevermore, and Black Label Society have all flocked to Schecter to use their professional instruments because they are extremely diverse and effective no matter what genre of music.
However, if I transported you back in time to 1976, you might not believe all of the aforementioned feats that Schecter are proud of today. Once you dust off your bell-bottoms of the intergalactic debris from time traveling, and after you feed your pet rock for the day we’re going to take a road trip to Van Nuys, California. David Schecter opened a repair shop with the name of Schecter Guitar Research. The shop built a multitude of guitar parts, ranging from guitar necks and bodies to bridges, pickups, and any electronic knick-knacks you might need. A few years into production, Schecter started supplying prominent guitar manufacturers, which was great for the surrounding guitar companies but David felt like there was a piece missing to this puzzle.
In 1979, for the first time Schecter took all of the supplies they were providing to the world around them and offered their own fully assembled guitars. For four years Schecter’s Custom Shop, which were known for their superb quality but for such a small shop it was hard to keep up with their building demand. In 1983, a panel of Texan investors who wanted to support David’s dream while also build upon Schecter’s success and character to create a household brand bought Schecter Guitar Research. There was one small problem though, that would prove detrimental to the short-term future for Schecter.
Since they were a parts company from the get-go, Schecter’s designs were never a big deal because they were providing quality parts to small companies. Once the investors moved Schecter to Dallas, production was full steam ahead. In 1984 at the Winter NAMM Show, Schecter unveiled twelve brand new guitars and basses. The only problem? All of their guitars included what is now referenced as “lawsuit” headstocks. Since they started as a parts company, Fender allowed Schecter to use the Strat and Telecaster headstock shapes. However, use of these iconic shapes was never discussed when the now Dallas-based company when full production mode. The lawsuit that emerged from this hit Schecter hard; so hard that in early ’87 Schecter had to close their doors and stop production altogether.
That didn’t last long, and Schecter, as an entity would not remain silenced for long. Shortly after the closing of the Dallas plant, the investors sold the company to entrepreneur Hisatake Shibuya, an active participant in the guitar business back in California. Also owning Musicians Institute and Sunset Custom Guitars in Hollywood, Shibuya moved Schecter back to its home state and returned the company to its custom shop motives. Being high-end, expensive instruments again, Schecter guitars were only sold in certain boutique stores; one of them being Shibuya’s own Sunset Custom Guitars, where Michael Ciravolo worked. After much success with the company and selling Schecter instruments, in 1996 Shibuya promoted Ciravolo to the president of Schecter Guitar Research. While his knowledge of the brand was a vital point in this decision, Ciravolo was also an experienced, active musician in the California-guitar scene, and he brought in players such as Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Jay Noel Yuenger and Sean Yseult (White Zombie), and Xavier Rhone (Carbon Nation).
Wanting to differ himself from his competitors’ designs, as well as distance the company from the lawsuit, Ciravolo introduced the Avenger, Hellcat, and Tempest models to Schecter’s repertoire. However, up until this point Schecter was still only providing a relatively small number of guitars every year, and they were expensive. Thinking of the younger generation of guitar players that want quality without needing to sell a kidney, Ciravolo decided to search out a factory where the impossible could be made a reality. Sealing the deal with a factory in Incheon, South Korea, Schecter Guitar Research would have all of their guitars built overseas, and then be set up in the Schecter Custom Shop in California. Talk about quality control and caring for their customers!
While the models that come from South Korea are phenomenal instruments built to impressive specs, with the success of the company Schecter wanted a stateside Custom Shop to give other companies a run for their money. In 2012, Schecter expanded their custom shop in California and introduced a new like of USA-built guitars, appropriately called “USA Production Series.” Since then they have also dabbled in the hand-wound pick up market, the amplifier world (working with Peavey 5150 designer James Brown), and even pedals. Even with all of these impressive feats of guitar ingenuity, what is known as a predominately “metal” brand deserves so much more than the box it’s put in.
When we think of Schecter today, we think of modern artists such as Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance from Avenged Sevenfold, or Dan Donegan from Disturbed or even DJ Ashba. Just as Telecasters can be used for more than country, a Les Paul can play more than just the blues scale, and a Strat doesn’t have to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn, a Schecter guitar doesn’t need to only play metal music. If it does, great; if you want to play blues on a C-1 with a Floyd Rose on it because you like the way it feels or sounds, that’s great too. My point is, Schecter Guitar Research started just like every other brand that saturates the market today. In a hard-earned shop, with the hands of someone who wants to make a difference, and a dream Schecter was born. With traditional roots like that, Schecter deserves the room to breathe outside of the box it’s been so wrongly placed in.