Ian Segal, MotorAve LeMans Guitar – Item Number One
Item Number One profiles people by the thing they have owned the longest. If you were to put everything you own and use in the order you acquired it, what's Item Number One? We ask the same eight questions to every subject.
Name, Age, and Occupation?
Ian Segal, 32, co-founder of Nine Lives.
What is the thing you have owned the longest?
My lefty LeMans (#38) guitar from MotorAve. It’s got a potted Tom Holmes pickup and a Callaham bridge and volume knob.
How long have you had it?
How did you come to possess it?
Well, I had started playing, and as a lefty, found that production runs of main-brand lefty guitars were particularly second rate. It was a slippery slope from modifying made-in-America and made-in-Japan teles to wanting to build and buy custom.
MotorAve was definitely an item of lust, but I was intrigued by the construction of the LeMans. It might not have been my most obvious fit—Queens of the Stone Age fan that I am (Josh Homme uses a BelAire)—but I messaged MotorAve’s founder, Mark Fuqua, about the long tenon and the set-in spring tailpiece and was intrigued/hooked. He (and his amazing wife Kate) are MotorAve. Originally Los Angeles—now out of, I believe, Durham, N.C.
In a way I kind of fell into it. And it just seemed suddenly right. I don’t know exactly how their process is these days, I think back when I ordered it was perhaps a year wait?—I don’t remember exactly. I know it’s gotten longer since then. The key is putting a deposit down before you’re convinced you want the fucking thing, and then weighing your options/being delighted down the road.
Have you made any customizations, modifications, or repairs?
I have swapped bridges and added a heavier gnurled volume knob. Also just a little fretwork by my buddy Toru Nittono when I was home in Los Angeles. Callaham is a great maker of after-market parts (and, rarely, guitars—I own a lefty strat-style guitar from them), and I believe in the parts. I love their bridge, and the heavy-gnurled knob provides some cork-sniffing grippage with the pinky finger.
When was the last time you used it?
Five minutes before answering these questions. And again yesterday afternoon and evening as I gulped down doses of amoxicillin.
Why have you kept it so long?
This is the easy question. It’s unclear why it shouldn’t be buried with me one day.
It’s a potted humbucker in the bridge and, with only one cap/knob (i.e. relatively bright wiring) and a long tenon neck with Gibson SG measurements/specs, it’s certainly a specific type of rock vibe. It’s not everything—scooped strat neck pickups/neck P-90s/hollow bodies/etc all provide other stuff most folks, myself included, crave—but this guitar is a veritable tank; and a beautiful one at that. So you want to make noise with it.
A lot of boutique pickups (and by extension, guitars), including ones I own, build, and play with, have unpotted pickups (potting arguably muffles some tone but makes them more resilient in the face of distorted feedback), so this guitar is certainly the one that gets the loudest in my rotation.
If you were offered a brand new version in exchange for your item, would you take it?
Never swap old wood for new. Not once it’s learned to sing. Less poetic than you think—we’re talking about the whole crafted piece settling in. Joints, screws, strings, glue—the whole thing. Eventually it all kinda “burns in”, so to speak.