If you count yourself among David Bowie’s most faithful fans, you might want to go guitar shopping in Troy. Reeves Gabrels, who played lead guitar for the Thin White Duke from 1987 to 1999, and is an active member of The Cure, actually lives in Troy and gets custom work done at Collar City Guitars.
Gabrels, who is known for his improv-heavy virtuosity and playing futuristic-looking guitars like the Parker Fly, recently posted to Facebook that “I decided to put a fretless neck on one of my signature guitar bodies equipped with a Sustainiac—creating a fretless version of my Reverend Guitars RG-SUS.” (Collar City Guitars is a licensed Reverend dealer, and Gabrels has a signature model.) For the uninitiated, most guitars have frets on them, so that players can easily find and barre chords; fretless guitars, on the other hand, are only for the most advanced players and provide players with the ability to slide between notes, much in the same way a classical cellist might shift from note to note, using a single finger. Add some guitar effects to it, and it could sound like a cross between a sitar and theremin, as is evidenced here.
To transform the guitar into a fretless one, Gabrels “brought it to Peter Fisher, the luthier/owner of Collar City Guitars, [who] put maple in the fret slots of [his] Reverend [guitar’s] neck. I haven’t had a fretless with a sustainer since I sold my Fernandes in 2004.” Fisher says Gabrels started coming into the shop a few years ago, and the two “hit it off.” Soup to nuts, Fisher says the gig took him only about six-seven hours to accomplish, given that pulling the frets was a 20-minute job, and the toughest part was waiting for the superglue, which holds the maple pieces in place, to dry before sanding it down.
Fisher says this isn’t the first job he’s done for Gabrels. In fact, he’s built the guitarist a handful of guitars that he’s ended up playing onstage with recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Cure.
Besides his work with Bowie and The Cure, Gabrels also has his own band, Reeves Gabrels and His Imaginary Friends; has collaborated with everyone hip-hop legends Public Enemy and Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers; and occasionally performs in a jazz band called Club D’Elf. Prior to the pandemic hitting, Gabrels was known to play hometown shows at The Hangar on the Hudson.