John ‘Speedo’ Reis’s Tym ‘Swami Scimitar’


The story of Speedo from Rocket From The Crypt/Hot Snakes/Night Marcher’s custom Tym axe…

Two of my top 5 favourite bands are the Hot Snakes & Rocket From The Crypt, which both happen to have John ‘Speedo’ Reis as the main axe wielding maniac. I was lucky enough to tour with the Hot Snakes in 2005 whilst playing in The Tremors, so for a week I got to watch my favourite guitarist ever play pretty much my favourite songs. I was S.T.O.K.E.D! I managed to talk to Speedo a few times about guitars and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was as much as a gear nerd as I was. His gold dragon Les Paul had been modified heavily in Speedo’s search for the ultimate tone. He’d completely hollowed it, made the pickups seperate input jacks and replaced the neck pickup with a 60’s Dearmond. It was a beast.

While in Brisbane, Speedo had been to Tym’s shop and was impressed with his custom made axes. He said he’d love a Tym Custom, but knew Tim had a 4 year waiting list on custom guitars. I said I’d see what I could do. When I got back I asked Tim if he was up for it, which when he heard what Speedo wanted, he was. Basically Speedo is a tone hound and loves experimenting with weird combinations to get the sound he wants. So his custom design had 3 completely different pickups (a Danelectro lipstick, a P-90 and a rare original 1960’s DeArmond Goldfoil, which was donated straight out of one of his Les Pauls). The body shape was based on the cool 1960’s Tokai Hummingbird, but with a Mosrite carve and body binding.  The neck was to be based on an 80’s Les Paul Custom, with full ebony fretboard and block inlays. Oh, and gold hardware throughout.

Tim had a little freak out when he heard that Speedo wanted an ebony fretboard with block inlays, as ebony is like steel and a bitch to cut inlays into. First things first, I started illustrating what the finished guitar would look like. The Tokai Humminbird body is pure evil, so this guitar was going to look great in black and gold. For the headstock I went for the large 70’s Mosrite shape, as this was a Tym guitar so I thought it had to have some Mosrite in there. The scratchplate design took a while to figure out, but I ended up basing it on Tym’s Mosrong Jr scratchplate, which is kind of like an Sg Jr but pointier. I stretched it so that it fitted the HUGE body, but made it cut through the bridge pickup. Originally Speedo ask for a Telecaster style control plate, but after I sent him a picture of what it looked like, he decided he wanted the controls on the scratchplate. He also toyed with having a tortoiseshell scratchplate, but ended up going for black. The last thing to get right took MONTHS. Originally the guitar was going to be called the ‘Speedobyrd’ (my idea) as the name incorporated Speedo, Tym & Hummingbird. Genius!!! (Well, I thought so.) After about 3 different versions of the logo, Speedo decided he wanted it more Swami than Speedo and so dubbed it the ‘Swami Scimitar’. No worries. I based the logo on a 1960’s hot rod style, and added the Swami logo with the cool swords from the Sultans record cover underneath. Speedo loved it and the design was signed off.
I finished drawing it up and gave the finished art to Tim.


As Tim was flat out with running his shop, the guitar took about 2 years to get together. As soon as he carved the body, we knew that this guitar was going to be a beast. It was HUGE! Tim made it 5% bigger that the original Hummingbird outline, so it was a big guitar. He carved out the Mosrite-type edges and got the binding on it next. The neck Speedo wanted was to be based on an 80’s Les Paul Custom. As Tim didn’t have one to reference he got one in second hand from Japan to measure up and then later sell through his shop. It was a FANTASTIC Les Paul with a great neck. Tim pretty much nailed it, his hand carved Scimitar neck felt very similar to the Les Paul. The block inlays were a pain in the ass. Tim hates working on ebony as it’s rock hard, so that took him a full week to get the inlays in.


Next was prepping the body for painting. This part took ages, thanks to Brisbane’s topical climate. In summer, Brisbane’s humidity level rises to about 80%, which makes it impossible to do a decent paint job. So Tim had to wait months until the level dropped back down.

In this time, Speedo had sent his original Dearmond pickup that he wanted installed. He loved these pickups as they apparently sounded like a cross between a P-90 and humbucker. He’d used a Dearmond guitar with one of these pickups to record the last Hot Snakes album, and it sounded amazing. With a loud tube amp, they sound really clear but still thick. Tim & I tried to track some more down, but they were really hard to get. They rarely came up on eBay, and when they did the bidding went crazy. I finally managed to get 3 for future projects.

Finally, winter came around so the humidity levels had dropped. Tim quickly sprayed the body & neck and let them settle… for 12 months.



(Again… Tim’s REALLY busy with his shop!) Bit by bit, over the next few months the guitar got assembled. The headstock was screenprinted with the Swami Scimitar logo I designed. Speedo had requested original gold Gibson Schaller-type tuners, as he didn’t like Grovers. After 3 months of looking, though, we found out Gibson hadn’t used those types of tuners since around 1992 and now used Grovers, so Speedo settled for gold Grovers.


The scratchplate was cut out and tested… it looked great! Tim had cut it so that it went through the bridge, which was really different.


The pickups were loaded and final assembly was done. Tim had wired it like a Gibson 3 pickup Les Paul, where the middle pickup was always combined with either the bridge or the neck. Being the Hot Snakes nerd that I am, I commented that Speedo would want the middle Dearmond pickup to be active by itself, as it was on his Dragon Les Paul. Tim confirmed this with Speedo, and so rewired the guitar so that when in the middle position with the bridge volume knob pulled up (which turned off the bridge), the Dearmond was on it’s own.

That was it. After 2 years the Scimitar was done. I played it for a little while before it was shipped the Swami HQ and was amazed how good it played. Tim did a fantastic job on the neck; it really felt like a Les Paul Custom. The pickups all complimented each other really well and after playing the Scimitar, I got Tim to put a Danelectro lipstick pickup in the neck position of my Gibson SG.


A few weeks later, Tim & I got an email from Speedo saying that the Scimitar had arrived safely and that he was so blown away by it, he’d used it on every track of the new Night Marchers album.

Speedo photos by Edwina Hay (thanks Edwina!)

Scimitar #2 is still under construction (which is Speedo’s backup to Scimitar #1) as is Scimitar #3 (which is mine). #3 is a Scimitar Standard, with Mosrite dot inlays, rosewood fretboard and chrome hardware. There is also talk of a Scimitar Junior, which has no Dearmond pickup in the middle, just a lipstick & bridge P-90.

Here’s Speedo in action with his Tym Scimitar.