Did you hear the one about the man who had never had a single guitar lesson, only to go on to strike a deal with one of the most prestigious guitar companies in the world to develop his own signature hardtail Strat guitar? Well, that’s what Sean Long, 18 year veteran (and founder of metalcore monsters While She Sleeps) has gone and done. So how did Sean manage such a feat? After meeting the great man one on one, let us tell you that this driven young bloke has achieved everything in his life on the back of hard work, an immeasurable amount of self-belief and an outlook on life that can only be described as inspirational.
Wall Of Sound sat down with Sean who was zooming from his schmick looking guitar gear filled room to talk about his life in music, how it all started and how everything has all led up to the making of his first signature Charvel guitar, The Sean Long Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas® Style 1 HH HT M.
But before discussing this beautiful new guitar, it’s worth repeating the fact that Sean’s band While She Sleeps has been around for 18 years. The way we see it, another album and a couple of solid touring cycles and WSS is staring down the barrel of 20 years as a band. So how does that make this songwriter, backing vocalist and lead guitarist feel?
“It’s f*cking ridiculous innit mate? You can see it in the wrinkles just under me eyes.” he laughs.
“I’m incredibly proud of that. Because when we were young, we kind of had an unspoken agreement that this is really what we wanted to do. Then one thing led to another and we’ve just been keeping this thing going. So for me, I feel very privileged and very grateful that we’ve been able to keep this going.”
“I mean, not only is the music industry f*cking hard to survive in any way, but just the fact that I get to make music and not fall into the normal norms of society that we kind of get pushed into from an early age. So I’m just buzzing on that. Like, I’m very proud of us all. How much we have to put into it to make it work and make a living out of it. I think it’s the same with any job that you love. It’s very stressful, but it’s completely worth it. I’m extremely grateful for the work me and my friends have put into it.”
So after 18 years as a band, While She Sleeps has gotten so huge now that this man, their lead guitarist Sean Long has finally gone and created his own Charvel signature guitar, The Sean Long Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas® Style 1 HH HT M.
“Thank F*ck. HA HA!!! I don’t even know what them letters are mate. All I know is it’s got my name on it.”
Bloody oath it does and what an achievement. But before this guitar, even before forming the band, who were the guitarists that inspired Sean to pick up a guitar in the first place?
“Tom DeLonge for sure. One of the first riffs I ever learned was a Blink 182 riff. So I was a huge fan of Tom DeLonge when I first started out. Dave Brownsound from Sum 41. So this is where I kind of originated, was kind of that pop punk/skate scene. Then I moved into Rage Against the Machine, and then kind of like your Slipknot area, Jim Root and stuff like that. I saw that as mainstream alternative music. My real addiction with really playing and doing my own thing was when I found out about metal music. When I found out about bands like As I Lay Dying, so Nick (Hips) and Phil (Sgrosso) from that band were a huge influence on me. One of the reasons I actually gravitated towards Charvel is because of Phil. But when I first heard bands like As I Lay Dying the riffs in the song did the singing for me. I didn’t even hear the screaming vocals. I didn’t even know what any of them were saying. I would just listen to the guitars and the drums that’s all I could hear, and especially with the bands As I Lay Dying, Darkest Hour, Killswitch Engage, the riffs are so emotional and they move on so many different levels. I had tunnel vision. I’m just listening to that so I didn’t even know about vocals for a long time after this and that’s why I really got drawn into it. But I’d say Tom Morello was a big influence.”
So when it came to picking up the instrument, his first guitar was a beast that is probably most people’s first foray into actually having a crack at physically playing music.
“My first guitar was the Squier Stratocaster that my parents got me from a store in England called Argos, where they sell like everything and anything, and for about 100 quid, it comes with a practice amp and all that shit. I remember getting it. My friends had a band, and they were playing guitars and shit, and I was close friends with them, but I wasn’t part of that world. Then I would just start to feel like, whatever you’re doing, I want to do that with you. So I got a guitar without really knowing what I want. I wasn’t like super inspired by music at that point or anything like that. It just went from there.”
“I’ve still got the guitar, I found the guitar. So what I’m thinking about doing is either I’m gonna rebuild it and make that guitar again. So it actually works and it’s sick. Or I might even, I might even send it to Charvel and do like a whole thing about that, like the journey from the first-ever guitar, and then remake it. It’s a Sunburst so I’ll keep this one, just get it back up to spec and it could be a really cool little story.”
I have to agree with the man. There are so many tales of musicians that have long lost their first musical instruments. To still have that immediate connection to his humble beginnings is very cool and to get the techs at a company like Charvel to get it up and running again, Sean would have a genuine one of a kind on his hands. But when was it that he first got his hands on a Charvel?
“I saw one, I think it was Warped Tour 2012, maybe, was the first time I saw one in the flesh. That was Phil’s from As I Lay Dying. I’ve seen it in a case. I think it was Phil’s or someone else’s but I’d seen it in a case, and it looks similar to this (as he points to his new Charvel Sig) in my mind’s eye. So that left an imprint in my mind. These Charvels, I’d always heard about them, and in my head, they were like really, really high-end guitars that I could never touch. So I’ve always had this image of Charvels that are like, really prestigious, very niche corner of guitars (this is the image that I made for myself). So I’ve always had that in my head. I’ve always prized them for some reason. I don’t know why I’ve always had them as something really important in my head.
So it’s, for me, quite an interesting story that I’ve landed back here. It’s crazy. It’s a mad feeling. But like I said, I only seen them in passing. I remember being like, I can’t afford a Charvel. So I just kind of brushed it away. But then I think the first time I actually played one was when they sent me one, to try one out. I think that was nearly three years ago.”
So here sits Sean with his brand new Sig guitar camped out beside him and I have to ask “Mate, can we have a look at the guitar?”
“GO ON THEN!” he says.
Sean picks the guitar up and is as proud as any parent of a child that received a ribbon that didn’t just say “participation award”. The Charvel: Sean Long Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas® Style is a spectacular looking instrument. A gloss black hardtail Strat with a black EMG® 66 pickup at the neck and a striking neon yellow EMG® 57 bridge pickup that stands out like a pink suit shirt in a Slayer mosh pit. He puts it down, sits upright with his hands outreached and says,
“For me, I just don’t understand what more you could want in a guitar. Obviously, it’s my personal preference, but I’m very simplistic and just want to pick it up and use it for what it’s supposed to be used for, do you know what I mean? Just play some play music and that’s it. There’s no gimmicks on it. The only slight thing that pokes out is the yellow pickup. I just wanted to add something to it that didn’t keep it so static. But I’m honestly blown away. It’s f*cking, it’s unbelievable.”
That’s great Sean, seriously. But that yellow pickup. If the stage is even a little bit dark, that small neon yellow rectangle is going to pierce through everything, much like the pink Charvel you’ve used live in the past.
“That’s f*cking right dude. That’s why I did it!”
Sean picks the guitar back up like he should have never put it down and starts turning knobs on the wall and turns on a blue light. Standing now, Sean holds the guitar in the air and points out:
“It actually pings in blue light. So this was part of the vision from the beginning, is that when you are on stage and you’re playing your favourite riff or whatever, is this pickups glowin’. It’s giving that kind of feeling that it’s coming out of this guitar.”
Colours aside, there had to be a reason Sean chose the EMG® 57 & 66 for the pickups.
“Well, I played the 81 set for a while, which is an incredible pickup, one of my favourite pickups. I recorded a lot of albums with that. And then I just got in contact with EMG one day and was like I want to change. I’m ready for something different.”
That’s when the 57/66 combination was recommended for him.
“I put those in and they’re really consistent in the tone. It’s like a Wall of Sound. It makes you sound better than you are.”
It was at this point that I suggested that the two pickups provide the perfect amalgamation of sound for While She Sleeps, a band with multiple and varied vocal deliveries, often all at once. The EMG® 57 bridge pickup evokes an unmistakably PAF quality with plenty of headroom and punch for unparalleled definition and presence, while an EMG® 66 neck pickup provides the warm, smooth mid-range and expansive lows along with clarity in the upper register. Given that WSS has four blokes singing at any given time and the variety of vocals, ranging from those abrasive lows, smooth cleans and high end melodies, this EMG® pickup combination complements their sound perfectly.
“Absolutely. Well it’s the yin yang of While She Sleeps, you’re totally right. We will never just be a heavy band. We will never just be an emotional band. For me it takes the two, you need the two to make anything good and I think that’s what life’s made of too, is the polarities.”
It’s fair to say that this guitar is Sean’s dream model guitar, the embodiment of who he is as a guitarist and a natural extension of who he is as a musician. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find out that he wrote a solo for one of his songs as soon as he first held his signature Charvel. The lads were in the middle of tracking for their latest album Sleeps Society when the guitar arrived. That minute in time was captured as the solo for ‘No Defeat For The Brave’ and that full circle moment was perfectly rounded out with the addition of Derrick Whibley, vocalist of his childhood pop-punk heroes Sum 41.
So Sean has the guitar he’s always dreamed of, it has already started selling before its official release date and has already played a huge part in his musical journey moving forward. But what he really wants is for this incredible guitar to inspire others in the same fashion it’s inspired him, with a simple guitar design that will appeal to musicians of all levels.
“I feel like I’m doing the Guitar World and community of players a bit of a solid by making this because I personally feel like I can’t be the only guy that wants a really nice gloss black awesome Strat. So I’m glad that we’ve done that. A lot of them had Floyd Roses on them, like you find the gloss black one and then it’s got the Floyd Rose, and I’m like f*cking hell I just want a simple hardtail. So that’s why I’m so happy with this guitar. I don’t think you need to know who I am at all to appreciate the guitar and how nice it is.”
“I want this to be a ridiculous success. This guitar, I’ve put so much into it over the past two years. That’s the kind of manifestation that I’ve been putting into this. This is going to be a success and I just want kids to write some good sh!t and f*cking take their mind off some bollocks that they can’t fix at the minute and that can be the remedy.”
Well kids, you won’t have to wait long to see Sean’s signature Charvel guitar in person, being played by the bloke that designed it and whose name graces this incredible instrument. Sean, along with his band While She Sleeps are touring Australia in July (details here) and he’s bringing his beaut guitar with him. He’s even keen on doing a few in stores to promote his guitar after having just done his first in the UK.
“I’ve mentioned to Charvel that I’m so open to doing anything for this guitar. Like last night, I did my first ever exhibition in Liverpool, which is like my first ever gig on my own. I only did it for the principle of promoting the guitar. So I had to sit there on a stage on my own playing my songs. [It was] Quite nerve wracking. But you know, I’m willing to do anything. So if there’s anything open going in Australia…”
We bloody hope so. The tour coming in July is going to be an absolute opportunity for, not just fans of While She Sleeps, but also fans of guitars, Metalcore and Heavy Metal. After 18 years of charging through the ranks, the lads are on the cusp of being at the forefront of the heavy music scene. Throw in the brand new release of Sean’s signature Strat and this is an exciting time for this band. A turning point if you will.
In the meantime, check out the new Charvel; Sean Long Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas® Style 1 HH HT M. Designed and crafted for beginners, right through to the seasoned professional. With Sean hoping to grab a handful of guitars to send to the likes of Lee Malia from Bring Me The Horizon, Josh Middleton and Adam Christianson of Architects, and Jim Root of Slipknot (spoiler: it actually happened and it was glorious), this guitar stands a huge chance of being seen on multiple stages around the world. Not bad from a bloke that’s never had a guitar lesson in his life.
Top work, mate. Looking forward to seeing you and your new rig in July!
Take a look at The Sean Long Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas® Style 1 HH HT M right here
- Alder Body
- Bolt-On Maple Neck
- 12”-16” Compound Radius Maple Fingerboard with 22 Jumbo Frets
- Luminlay Side Dots
- Graph Tech TUSQ XL Nut
- Heel-Mount Truss Rod Adjustment Wheel
- EMG 57 Bridge Pickup with Yellow Neon Cover
- EMG 61 neck Pickup with Black Cover
- Three-Way Pickup Blade Switch
- Single Volume Control
- Charvel HT6 String-Through-Body Bridge
- Headstock Featuring Yellow Charvel Logo
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