But we’re not talking about the intimidating 6-foot-4 QOTSA frontman Josh Homme.
In this case, the unmistakable monolith is actually guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen’s new Fender Custom Shop double-neck Jazzmaster, a 12- and 6-string beauty.
Guitars with two necks are not as rare as one would think, but the fact that Van Leeuwen’s was made with the body style of the offset Jazzmaster pointed this mission into uncharted waters.
Things began when Van Leeuwen was working on the Queens’ acclaimed 2013 album …Like Clockwork. As the smoldering record came together, he noticed that he was using a 12-string guitar fairly often.
One only needs to hear the track “I Appear Missing” to recognize the 12-string axe, with Van Leeuwen’s deft fretwork lulling the listener into an ethereal dream. Van Leeuwen also pulled out the 12-string for the frantically powerful “My God is the Sun.”
It was clear that …Like Clockwork would produce several songs that would make it to the QOTSA live setlist. But if Van Leeuwen switched back and forth between 12 and 6 strings in the studio, how would he perfectly recreate those arrangements on stage?
Enter Master Builder Paul Waller. With over a decade of service and innovation in the Fender Custom Shop, Waller was the perfect luthier to deliver a bespoke instrument to this guitarist in need.
The duo met in summer 2013 at the Custom Shop in Corona, Calif., with Fender video cameras in tow to document the process— from start to finish.
“I’m a function guy,” Van Leeuwen said in that first meeting. “Of course, I like stylish things too, but I really need a 12- and six-string guitar. It’s going to be easier for me to just play my music.”
First, Waller and Van Leeuwen created a rough outline of the double-neck guitar, using Van Leeuwen’s signature Jazzmaster as a base. Van Leeuwen definitely wanted the double neck to borrow the striking Oxblood finish, matching headstocks and red tortoiseshell pickguard of his signature model.
Waller also got feedback from Van Leeuwen on details like neck shape, headstock design and pickup preference before going to work on what he called a “dream project.”
“I had to basically make him love two guitars at once,” Waller said of the 13-pound beast. “That was a challenge that I willingly accepted.”
Waller had a few surprises in store for Van Leeuwen, however, such as a three-way switch that enabled all four pickups to be on at the same time. He also set one of the necks at a slight angle to allow for easier transition between each fretboard.
After a few months of work, Waller was able to hand-deliver it to Van Leeuwen at QOTSA’s studio during a break in the band’s touring schedule. Needless to say, a giddy Van Leeuwen couldn’t wait to plug in and play, as he pored over the new toy like it was Christmas morning.
Now, Van Leeuwen wields the electric XII/Jazzmaster live, expertly recreating the lush compositions that blossomed throughout the …Like Clockwork recording sessions.
For Van Leeuwen, this distinctive piece was a must-add to his arsenal.
“I don’t know what to say,” he exclaimed with a wry smile. “It’s really a fine instrument. I just love to play it.”
Want to see Van Leeuwen and Waller’s amazing creation come to life? Watch our documentary on the entire process below.