The back of Alive!, the first live album Kiss ever released in 1975, and also one of the first LPs Dave Mustaine ever purchased, read “Kiss uses Gibson Guitars because they want the best.” This was all the Megadeth frontman needed to spark a lifelong love of the instruments. Never able to afford an authentic Gibson early on in his career, Mustaine purchased a fake V neck for $200. “It was what we call a copy guitar, but it played wonderfully,” says Mustaine, who got a Gibson sticker from a Gibson repair person and stuck it on the guitar so it looked like the real deal.
Climbing the food chain of guitar companies shortly afterward, first working with B.C. Rich, and briefly with Jackson and ESP, Mustaine later landed with Dean Guitars, with who he remained for 14 years before officially partnering with Gibson in 2021. “I enjoyed my time there [with Dean],” says Mustaine, “but the opportunity to be with the best guitar company in the world presented itself, and that to me was an absolute miracle.”
First approached by Gibson in 2020, Mustaine began working with the company to design the Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP, available in Antique Natural and Silver Metallic. The 25.5” scale mahogany neck features 24 medium jumbo frets, mother of pearl “teeth” inlays, an Explorer-style headstock with Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners with Kidney buttons, a Graph Tech nut, a pair of Dave Mustaine’s signature Seymour Duncan Thrash Factor pickups, a Tune-O-Matic bridge, and Stop Bar tailpiece.
“The flying V is essentially designed like a lot of the other guitars that I’ve played,” says Mustaine. “The legs of the guitar went to a point instead of being rounded like a Gibson.”
The other change Mustaine made was to the Gibson headstock, which typically has three tuners on each side. “When I play live, sometimes I get a little nervous when I’m fiddling with tuners since my hands are really strong, and I can’t do it very well with all the adrenaline surging on stage,” he says. “So instead of having three on one side, that can twist in one direction, and then three on the other side that you twist in the opposite direction, I have all six of them on one side going the same direction.”
Mustaine also designed four acoustic guitars—available April and May of 2022 to coincide with the release of Megadeth’s 16th album, The Sick, the Dying and the Dead—including two Dave Mustaine CF-100 models in Bloodburst and Blacked Out, and two Kramer Flying V Vanguards in Metallic Silver and Black. The acoustics feature 24 frets and were constructed differently internally with a heavier bracing inside the guitar, shifting the tone of guitars.
“Those are the designs that I brought to Gibson,” says Mustaine, “and rest assured they know how to make guitars.”
Under the partnership, Mustaine will also be featured in content and projects across Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer, and will join the Gibson Artist Alliance, the philanthropic arm featuring mentorship, research, and development programs curated by iconic musicians and newer artists, as well as industry executives.
A long way from his not-so-real model decades earlier, Mustaine insists the Flying Vs won’t last long.
“The strategy the company has for the rollout of this model and beyond is mind-blowing to me,” says Mustaine. “I think that the demand for these is overwhelming. I think fans and guitar aficionados are interested in getting this guitar better preorder because the waitlist for these is going to be wild… but that’s a great problem to have.
Photos courtesy of Gibson Guitars.