April 1997

Guitar School

Tin Man
by Chris Gill

MUSIC IS ART, but guitarist Ian Schneller of the band Falstaff feels musical instruments deserve similar merit. Schneller started out as a sculptor, but noticed a change in attitude about his work when he started building guitars. “People stopped considering me a sculptor,” says Schneller. “To me, I was building sculptures that happened to be guitars.”

Guitar School Magazine features Ian Schneller and Speicmen's Flying A Aluminum GuitarFortunately for Schneller, the transition from sculptor to luthier has been lucrative, and he now manufactures the Specimen line of guitars out of his Chicago-based repair shop. His brushed aluminum Specimens are especially eye-catching, but he insists the material is entirely functional.

“Aluminum provides tremendous sustain and the overtones and harmonics are incredible,” he insists. “Once you’ve heard one of my aluminum guitars, you can’t go back to your regular axe. It’s like drinking your first glass of fine wine after you’ve become accustomed to rotgut.”

Ian in Division Street Shop Schneller also has a line of amps. They’re similar to a tweed Fender Champ but significantly beefed up, featuring a 10-watt class A design with a nickel-plated steel chassis and a solid birch cabinet with steam-bent paneling. “It has a woody, crunchy tone,” he says. “The cabinet itself is tonal, like the body on a classical guitar. And, like my guitars, it’s indestructible. You could drop it off a cliff and it would be fine.”

Schneller’s band, Falstaff, has just released Falstaff II on Homestead Records. The guitarist sees his two pursuits as interrelated: “One things fuels the other. I write a lot of songs while I’m in the shop. I usually record and play gigs after the shop closes. Now, when prospective customers ask how my guitars and amps sound, I tell them to get my album.”