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Vincent Denis with one of his custom 8 string guitars


Vincent Denis playing his new custom Conklin 8 string guitar for the first time

Vincent Denis

     In these dire days of economic recession, The Plush Interior, originally a 9 piece band with full horn section, was faced with a tough decision. So instead of writing better songs or carefully planning their next move, they decided to let go of most of their members.

     Now only a duo, with Vincent Denis on Guitar and Andrew Gordon on Drums, changes had to be made.

     On the downside, Vincent had to add two lower strings to his guitar and learn a whole new technique to allow him to play both a bass part with his left hand, while his right hand plays the melodies and solos.

     On the upside with now only two members left, they decided to invest all that extra cash into fancy equipment to mask their very average skills.

     Trying to cash in on the current trend of duos like the White Stripes or the Black Keys, The Plush Interior made the crucial mistake of foregoing a trendy look and vocals, and instead playing an instrumental blend of jazz, funk & rock that is both hard to define and chock full of overzealous jams.

     Now a power duo (whose powers include invisibility to record labels and super speed to avoid bill collectors), The Plush Interior is probably rockin’ some Bingo hall somewhere while you are comfortably sitting here reading this.

     Well as you can tell, a lot of effort has been put into making absolutely sure you get tantalized by their epic tale, so do us a favor and go give the boys a hand.

Vincent Denis's Conklin Experiment

          My interest for extended range instruments came together with my fondness for the tapping technique. With two hands on the neck it sure seemed appealing to have more room.

      I started off with a 7 string I picked up in 1997 in one of my visits to Los Angeles. I didn’t use it much until I studied in Hollywood at Musicians Institute in 1998 with T.J. Helmerich, who helped me take my two handed technique to a new level. I finally found a use for my 7 string, using it in a way that was more funk & jazz than the typical heavy riffing they were preferred for (a trick I stole from a player I went to music school with in London who used his Ibanez Universe for playing funk).

     As a backup, being a young musician in L.A., I needed something reliable and cheap, and settled on a Conklin Groove Tools. I loved the feel of the neck right away.

     By that time my interest in an 8 string had heightened as my technique was really calling for the full range of bass & guitar (I tune down a step, so an eight string would bring me to the holy low E). But I was hitting a wall as I couldn’t find any respectable guitar manufacturer with an 8 in his catalog.

     In 2002, back in France (where I’m originally from), I wanted to find out what wood my Groove Tools was made of and looked Conklin up on the web…and lo & behold: they were making 8 string guitars!
I waited until my next trip to the US to actually go and visit the maker himself. I wanted to feel and play an 8 string before I committed to purchasing one.

       I drove from New York City to Springfield, MO with my trusty Volvo, and as I rolled into the driveway, my heart racing, questions swirled in my mind: Would I love it? Would the neck be comfortable (I don’t have very big hands)? Would gas prices hit an all time high on my way back? Well, for the most part, my mind was put at ease very quickly.

      I met with Bill & Mike and instantly knew that these were the kind of people I wanted to make a guitar for me. Their art speaks volumes about the height of their craftsmanship, yet they’re very mellow genuinely nice guys. They handed me a stunning spalted maple 8 and I was hooked.

       My favorite part was perusing the shop with Bill and picking out the wood for my guitar. After a bit of searching there it was: a breathtaking piece of buckeye burl, closer in looks to a piece of marble than wood. We discussed my technical choices with Mike (pickups and so forth) and I was on my way.

       If you build it they will come, we joked. Well I sure did… all the way from France. And it was worth every mile.

       We kept in touch and when the time came in 2004 (I was living in New York by then) I hopped on a bus (I had sold my Volvo) and endured the 28 hour bus ride to Springfield. Halfway through I got a terrible migraine, but knowing what was waiting at the end I pulled through and made it there. (I actually didn’t want to spoil the surprise but accidentally saw pictures of my guitar on the Conklin website).

      To actually hold the instrument and see it in person is quite another shock.

      This was everything: The money I had saved up for two years, my first custom made guitar, my first 8 string guitar, the instrument that was going to allow me to fully achieve my musical vision. Tall order. Yet my expectations were met and exceeded in many ways.

      The top is visually the most stunning part, like a storm on the surface of the moon. So naming it came easy: Storm was born.

      At that point I made a crucial mistake: I had another look around in the shop, and sure enough, found a piece of spalt maple that I just had to have put aside…for my next guitar of course.

      After having played Storm for about a year, I knew what little changes I wanted to make for the next one to be even more “me”. It’s actually just a stripped down version with only one neck pickup.

      This time though I didn’t want to see it in pictures beforehand. And in early 2007, off we went on Greyhound again…
Mike & Bill unveiled it like the stunner that it is: where Storm is dark in looks, this one jumps at you with an array of reds, pinks, and yellows. Like a big raging fire. And so Phoenix came to life.

       These days I find myself playing Phoenix almost all the time in my band The Plush Interior.
The most striking feature on both my guitars is the natural resonance they have. They both have bolt on necks yet the whole instrument vibrates with amazing clarity. You can play a note, go grab a bite and when you come back…yup, it’s that kind of magic.

       I will always be grateful that my path crossed with Bill & Mike because not only do they make the kind of instrument that allowed me to reach my full potential as a musician, but they’re also very kind souls that I feel fortunate to call my friends. Oh, and they also know where to go for good food & tasty milkshakes…




Vincent Denis's custom 8 string




Vincent Denis's Custom 8 String Guitar with a Spalted Maple Top