I recently had a chance to catch up with Jim Tashjian, guitarist for the hard rock band District 97, about his favorite piece of gear. The band has been gaining quite a bit of attention lately with the release of their latest effort, Trouble With Machines. Fronted by a top ten American Idol finalist, District 97 is poised to conquer the rock world with their unique hard rock sound. Here’s what Tashijan had to say about his Suhr M1 guitar.

What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Jim: I would have to go with my guitar. I play a Suhr M1. My locking guitar tuners help me keep its signature sound.

What about it makes it so important to you?
Jim: The guitar has the precision of a samurai sword, and it’s made by the guitar making equivalent of Hittori Hanzo – John Suhr is a mad genius. When I joined District 97, I was playing a Gibson ES-446 (basically like a Les Paul hollow body), and until I got the Suhr, I really wasn’t able to truly express what the music needed. It completely changed, and allowed me to develop my style of playing in the band. It had been quite some time since I had worked with a whammy bar, and the M1 features a Gotoh double locking Floyd Rose system. This allowed me to tap into a lot of the vibrato effects and dive bombs made possible by the floating bridge.

What are the major pros and cons?
Jim: The guitar itself makes my life much easier. It’s just, generally, easier to execute the difficult passages in District 97 songs due to the precision of the neck and fret work. The Floyd Rose system, the majority of the time, makes things a lot better. The intonation is much more consistent, the guitar generally stays in tune better (especially with a lot of trem bar activity, which is common for a d97 gig), and I find I break strings less often. However, any guitarist will tell you there are a few things that become more difficult with this system.

The guitar is held in tune by a delicate balance of tension between the locking bridge and nut. When all the strings are in place, this balance is well maintained. If you break a string, the balance is severely disrupted and the rest of the strings go very out of tune. The guitar is basically unplayable at that point. I believe it’s only happened to me twice while on stage. Once was slightly inconvenient, we happened to be opening for Kansas, and my “A” string slipped out of the bridge lock. The guitar suddenly started going more and more out of tune. Luckily, the guitar techs handed me Rich Williams’ PRS Dragon and they fixed it for me. Important to have a back up!

How long have you had it, how do you use it and would you ever change it?
Jim: I’ve had the guitar for a little over 3 years. I use it with D97 and basically every other gig I have. I’ve used it for a wide variety of musical styles – country, bluegrass, rock, metal, jazz, etc…. It’s a great instrument and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll treasure it always.

Check out the song: “I Can’t Take You With Me”