In celebration of Game of Thrones’ long-anticipated final season, Fender Custom Shop has teamed up with HBO to create three unique masterbuilt guitars, each representative of the houses made famous by the hit series. The trio, dubbed the Game of Thrones Sigil Collection, includes the Game of Thrones House Stark Telecaster; the Game of Thrones House Lannister Jaguar; and the Game of Thrones House Targaryen Stratocaster.
We invited Game of Thrones Creator and Guitar Center Hollywood regular D.B. Weiss and his Sigil collection to our Vintage Room just days before the finale air date to learn the backstory on the collaboration, D.B.’s connection to playing guitars during his off-time on set, and an unexpected twist you can anticipate in the final episode.
Photography by Jodi Domingue
How did the Fender Custom Shop collaboration come to life?
D.B.: I’m friendly with Andy Mooney, the CEO of Fender. Shortly after meeting him, I realized that he wasn’t just a guy running a guitar company - he was a serious player in his own right. (He can play Pantera solos note-perfect from beginning to end in unison with another pro player.) [Laughs] He had told me a fair amount about how Fender Custom Shop works, and it seemed like the kind of thing that ties in nicely with the show’s theming - especially given how much of the show involves actual craftsmanship - working with wood, metal, etc. The work Master Builder Ron Thorn did with these guitars reminded me of Michele Clapton's costume shop on Game of Thrones, and also Tommy Dunne's armory work - he's the weapons maker on the show. Ron will cut each Sigil out by hand from sterling silver plates with what seems like the equivalent of a pixie's hacksaw, and then he’ll engrave on top of that. And that's just for the fret inlay on the first fret. It was unreal to watch.
What features of these guitars exemplify the family they represent within the Game of Thrones universe?
On the Targaryen Stratocaster, the dragon scaling on the body is both beautiful and menacing. It has a real edge to it - the amount of detail in it is crazy. Instead of one scale repeated a thousand times, it's a hand-designed pattern - no two of those scales are alike. There’s something really organic about it, which I love. I just love that aged swamp ash look of the body of the Stark Telecaster. It reminded me of wood that has been buried in the forest in the North for hundreds of years, and then found by somebody and made into a guitar. And they’ve added silver trim around it for a layer of nobility that’s just really, really smart. And the engraving on the Jaguar is completely fantastic. The gold leaf on the front, back and headstock is gorgeous.
What do you think people will be surprised to learn about these guitars?
I wouldn't say I was surprised - because I know Ron is as good as it gets - but they play really, really well. Picking up that Telecaster - it’s just one of the best playing guitars I've ever laid my hands on. Every choice he made - the finish of the neck, the bevel around the edges of the fretboard, the choice of wood, the way it feels under your hand, - it's a great instrument.
Do you remember your first guitar?
I didn't start playing until I was 14 - I’d lock myself in a room for the afternoon. My first electric was a '57 reissue Fender Stratocaster that must have come out in '85, '86 - somewhere around there. I still have it - it's in perfect condition. It felt very full circle having these guitars made with Fender Custom Shop, because Fender was always what came first to me.
You’re the showrunner of one of the biggest television shows in the world - how do you make time for playing guitar?
The great thing about a guitar is how portable it is. I would always make sure I had one with me wherever I went. If I don't play every day, I go to bed feeling antsy, you know? Sometimes, especially with Thrones, there would be days where I couldn't. We were based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for most of the show - when you're abroad, you're living in a hotel room, and sometimes, a guitar and a book are the two main things you have to occupy yourself with before you pass out. I was surprised at how often I could make time for it.
What sort of fulfilment do you get from playing guitar?
It's one of the things that makes me happy every day, even if I’m just sitting on a couch with an unplugged electric. It's a hard thing to put into words, because it is something that operates on a non-verbal level. The pleasure it gives you is precisely the kind of pleasure that words can't give you. And maybe that's it - so much of my life is invested in writing, listening to the performance of dialogue, talking - having guitar engage a different sphere of my existence is a comfort at the end of a day full of words.
What musical aspirations do you have for your kids?
I would love it if it was a part of their lives. In our house, I just want there to be instruments out! There are guitars around - don't touch the Targaryen Strat [Laughs] - but most of them they're free to pick up and hammer on all they want. I'm hoping that it'll catch on with them that way.
Do you think Jaime Lannister could still play with his metal hand?
It's funny - my son is eight and left-handed, and I just started teaching him guitar a few weeks ago. I've had to really think about my son’s playing, and it makes me think of Jaime Lannister learning to fight with his left hand - making chord shapes with a hand that's never made chord shapes before. I’ll think, God forbid, somebody chops off my hand, but I still really wanted to play, how long would it take me to get to even a quarter of where I am now? It does an interesting thing to your brain, to flip everything.
We have to ask - in the finale, can we expect a Crossroads-style guitar duel for the Iron Throne?
I don't want to ruin anything, but yes - there will be a guitar battle. Three guitars, three houses, a player from each. I think people are going to be surprised at Daenerys' hammer-on technique.
Learn more about the Fender Custom Shop Game of Thrones Sigil Collection.