Deniz Tek SS Signature

Known for rocking a beautiful & rare Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe, Deniz Tek now has a new Signature axe.

Like most Aussies who love good rock ‘n roll, I’m a bit of a Radio Birdman fan. Along with some classic tunes, their use of graphic design, logos and some seriously good live photos made them stand out from the bunch. Another fan is Kieron & his guitar building partner in crime, Steve Salvi. Here’s Kieron’s story on the creation of Deniz’s new signature guitar.

Growing up, I was hugely influenced by, and obsessed with, the Detroit “proto-punk” movement. There’s nothing quite like the shiver you get from hearing Ron Asheton pummel the absolute sh!t out of his strat or Wayne Kramer wringing it out of his Mosrites and Stars & Stripes capitalism destruction machines. Pretty much the coolest (pretty much? No, definitely the coolest!) guitar to come out of that scene was Fred “Sonic” Smiths Crestwood Deluxe. The first time I saw the classic photo of him with that thing I was smitten…

Seeing Nicke Andersson of The Hellacopters, another idol and master of the game, with his beautiful Daguet copy cemented it further but it was the utter classic picture of Deniz Tek at the head of the Birdman formation that expresses how damn cool this thing can make you look!

There’s no doubt that Deniz Tek is a true legend of Australian Rock & Roll.
With Radio Birdman and his consistently awesome solo career he took all of the attitude of Detroit rock and reshaped it with a style and mastery that created something that is as unique as it is genre defining.

I had to have one of these guitars!

A combination of no money and severe lack of funds meant that there was no way I’d be getting an original. So when a brochure from Derringers (one of only a couple of decent guitar shops in Adelaide) showed a gleaming white Epiphone “Wilshire” reissue at around $400 I took my hard earned cash, my best mate Sam and we grabbed two of them. 7 years later, a few dollars on a custom P90 and rejiggering the setup and look, this thing is one of my favourites and gets a tonne of play.

About 2 years ago I decided I was going to put a Bigsby on it. Seeing DT’s Crestwood just makes any non Bigsby version look like it has a slap forehead. It came out great (that’s me on the right!)…

While I was toying with the idea I was looking up photos of Deniz’ Crestwood to explain the concept to a friend. I googled “Deniz Tek Guitar” and aside from a million tasty Crestwood shots it came back with a pretty rad looking sketch on the blog of pro skater, tattooist and member of Deniz’ US touring band, Art Godoy. Check out the post here…

I loved it!
The Rickenbacker horn with the Epiphone batwing and Mosrite carve ticked about a dozen ‘tarnerd boxes but the bit that clinched it was when he asked “Who’s gonna step up and make it?”
Well, dammit, I will!

When I say “I” what I mean is I’ll get my good friend and master builder, Steve Salvi to agree to build it. I help Steve with pointless ideas and fantastically moronic suggestions as well a maintaining the website and any graphic design work he needs doing. In return he makes my guitars awesome. I’ve always had the better end of the deal…

So I drew up how I thought it would translate in Illustrator and emailed it off to Art.

“Hey Art,
I’m a pretty big Birdman/Deniz Tek fan and have always loved his taste in playing and guitars.
While searching for a pic of the legendary Crestwood Custom (I have a Wilshire Reissue I’m modifiying to look similar) I found your sketches for a DT Signature and really liked the idea of it. I work with a local luthier here in Adelaide, South Australia, doing the website and graphics work for Salvis Fine Guitars ( and sent the sketch onto Steve suggesting we give it a go, his response was “Fuck Yeah!”. I’ve drawn the guitar up in Illustrator (see attached) to get a better idea of what the finished article would look like.
Unless you have any objections or have the design patented we’re going to be making one of these up in the coming months, let me know what you think. As we’re more interested in promoting our work than any income generated from something like this, do you think Deniz may be interested in lending his name to the project?
Speak soon,
Kieron. “

And the pic…

A day later I received a response from Art


WOW!!!! That is so great.
I forwarded the email to Deniz. I don’t think he’d mind! we were gonna be going to tour with Deniz in Australia in February if things can be arranged. would be so great to put it out then… an official release of some sort. Here’s a link of the band, this was New York, during the hurricane.. unfortunately, I’m on bass or I’d for sure play the DT MODEL GUITAR!!”

I was thrilled to say the least, I’ve joked before about hunting down Deniz for guitar lessons and now I had a totally legitimate reason to be in contact with the guy!

It was weird when I got my first email from Deniz, I didn’t think guys like that wrote emails, they’re too busy ripping it up aren’t they? He loved the drawing and was interested to see some of Steve’s work. He mentioned that another renowned US guitar company, who he has endorsed for some time, had been thinking of doing a signature model but there’d been no real movement on it. He asked that we hold off while he checked in with them first…

So I held my breath for about three days…then…

“SO …. You and Steve have full approval to go ahead with the project, and
there will be no issues with ******.

Looking forward to this. If it works out as planned, I am willing to play
the guitar on tour next year and Art, Steve and I will promote it heavily
via fan pages etc.

What’s the next step?

Deniz “

It was awesome but terrifying, now we had to make it!!

Deniz gave me all the specs he wanted, mostly measured off the legendary Crestwood, including the long vintage version of the batwing headstock. It also needed a Bigsby to complete the look. The pickups were to be Mini Humbuckers similar to the Crestwood.

To see what this thing was going to look like we dropped the drawing into some 3D software for a preview…

With a big fat rounded endmill it came out like a sleek hybrid of the classic German carve and one of my favourites, the Maton Goldline/Super Solid Body. Very promising!

Steve ran out a prototype body in Paulownia (the fastest growing hardwood) which confirmed the body was a good size and well proportioned.

So that was early 2012. Deniz was really keen on touring with it and playing the Hoodoo Gurus invitational but with a very busy shop those deadlines passed and the guitar remained a drawing and mockup for the remainder of the year.

Apart from the odd checkup from Deniz and apologies for the delay, I considered the guitar as being on permanent hold. It was disappointing but it’s what happens when momentum is lost on a project.
Steve and I work on stuff together all the time and we looked at setting up the whole project as a CNC job but it never progressed too far.

When Steve was asked to present a “Meet the maker” session at the Adelaide Guitar Festival he asked if he could talk about the Deniz Tek guitar and how it needed to be finished. There was some great feedback (everyone we’d leaked to about it has loved it) which re-ignited the project.

With Deniz’ leaving for a US tour in early May 2013, a proper deadline was set to have a guitar complete and in the man’s hands before he left.

So Steve got to work with building the neck incorporating one of his classic 70s styled volutes for strength and downright awesomeness…

Then THAT body…
It looked incredible, the Mosrite-esque carve and combination of Rickenbacker and Epihone style horns just work really well together.

From there I was getting updates hourly some days!

Steve tends to launch himself at a job and deal with tricky bits on the fly as, in his words, “This is where the glory is!”. So when the Brierley pickups were a little bit different to what was expected, and the rout proved too small for the controls required, it got the chisel and hammer treatment.

With it 90% ready, we ran into some trouble with the pickguards. Steve wasn’t happy with any of the pieces routed and had run out of guard material.

Luckily, we’d just acquired an Epilog Helix laser cutter at my day job and I was trying everything with it. I scanned the pickups, traced it in Illustrator then stuck it on the laser to make a template, I grabbed the closest piece of acrylic at hand…

You have to admit that the red guard looks killer, definite Maton territory there!
Alas, it was only to check everything fit, but I reckon that’s gotta be on one of these!

The final guard is 3mm black acrylic, a little but unusual but has a real MIJ/Maton feel about it which is in keeping with feel of the guitar.

Using the engraver I made the double S Salvi truss cover as well as a custom made “Custom Made” plate. Gibson used these on the ES 355 to cover the bridge holes left after fitting a Bigsby and Deniz’ Crestwood has the same thing.

I think my version is appropriate…

After having issues with a few official Bigsby B5 units, Steve has found the licensed versions are made great and work perfectly. They’re also shinier which suits the future/retro feel of this guitar.

Steves wiring setup on this is great. The standard 3 way switch gives you N, N+B, B but the volume pot is a push/pull that switches the middle pickup on and off so you can have any configuration including all 3 blasting your head off.
As the Brierley pickups are just too damn nice to mess with, there is no tone control to get in the way.

By the 29th of April with Deniz leaving for the US in just over 2 weeks, the DT Signature was ready.

Steve was really happy with the final fit and finish. The guitar basically set itself up, it intonated perfectly as soon as the strings went on and the action is super low. With the slim neck it’s a vintage looking and feeling shred machine! I knocked out a couple of R.B. Riffs on it in the shop, Steve played “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison, because he thinks he’s hilarious, and it was set to head for Sydney.

Here’s Steve Salvi modelling the DT Signature…

And a closer look at the finished guitar…

For the case, I drew up stencils using the original Radio Birdman font (a heavily modified “Aircraft” as I was informed by Deniz) and knocked them out on the laser. With the silver spray paint still wet it was dispatched and we waited to hear what Deniz thought…

I got an SMS to say it was received and it looked and felt great, he’d get back to us with a proper review the next day once he’d played it full volume.

“Played through the amps tonight. No glitches, the tone rips in all configurations and the switch setup is very functional. I got a very wide range of tones from completely mellow and deep, all the way to chain saw ripping through sheet metal.

The neck plays beautifully. I am not used to that low of an action but I think I can get into it with a little time. I don’t want to change anything… It’s FAST.

Will present an initial preview and first taste for fans up on the facebook sites tomorrow, with link to your site, and then will follow up with live shots on tour in the US in about a fortnight. Will also talk to my contact about getting a story in Australian Guitar Mag.


We couldn’t have asked for a better review!

Since then Deniz has put up some great shots on his Facebook and used the guitar in the poster for the US tour. All very, very, cool.

And in the words of the man..

“Since I got my original 1966 Crestwood Deluxe from Fred “Sonic” Smith, I’ve tried out many other great guitars. This one carries on the legacy and takes it even further. The ultimate in playability, tone and power. “

From here Steve and I are finalising the production of the guitar in 3 formats. The Deluxe (with everything as per #001), the Custom with 2 pickups and tune-o-matic and the Junior with a single P90 and wrapover. I’d like to refine the guard a bit so it comes further down the body, something between a Melody Maker and a Crestwood. I’m also pushing for a sidejack instead of the guard mount for an even more minimal setup.

The production models will all be made by Steve here in Adelaide and will offer the same vintage shred appeal and killer looks as this one! Steve has some details on his site…

For a Guitarnerd and DT fan, this has been one hell of an experience. To bring together some truly talented guys to produce an instrument like this has been an absolute honour and privilege!