The Current's Guitar Collection: Anthony Harty of The Selecter

the selecter, guitars
The Selecter's Anthony Harty's guitars. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

Do you play Telecasters?

They look like Telecasters, but not as we know it; they are based on a model that the Fender custom shop had done called La Cabronita. I saw a couple of guys using them, and what I was looking for was something that had the bite of the Tele but also the up-front-ness of a Strat — sort of a big sound, even bigger than a Strat — because the Tele sound has always been synonymous with the rhythm parts in ska, but I also wanted something more than that.

So what we've got on here is a couple of TV Jones pickups, which are like the old Gretsch pickups. TV Jones made them by hand, hand-wound them, and they just have a really, really big sound. And they have all that sort of classic edge that a Tele has and then an awful lot more.

And also I needed a Stratocaster tremolo, because the original guitarist in The Selecter used a Strat and used the trem a lot, so what I had to do was I had to get a couple made. I had the blond one made totally for me, for my spec — I spec'ed the guitar, based it on the Cabronita. The black one was more or less a copy of that, but it was actually made from an old Japanese Telecaster. It really works. It's a real good tool and it just does the job. It ticks all the boxes, really.

Was this custom built by you? Or by the shop?

There was a couple of guys that were involved in it. The guy I bought the body off for the original blond ash one, we then sourced the neck from a company over here [in the U.S.], then I sourced the pickups over here from TV Jones, and then the Fender parts. And then another guy copied that onto my old Japanese Tele, so it was all sort of brought about like that, really.

With these old-style pickups, they have screw-in type poles, so when I first had them built, I used to have the high E string pinging underneath the screws, and it used to catch halfway through a gig, so I'd be pulling the string off, pulling the string off, pulling the string off. So now, I just used some duct tape and it solved it! Good to go.

There's also a little detail on here; I don't know whether you noticed the name on the blond one: Instead of Telecaster or Stratocaster, I got some lettering done that says, 'Hartycaster'!

I thought it was quite witty — but I don't know how Fender would take it!

Do you tend to be involved in the design of all your guitars?

Not really, no. For past bands that I've been in, I've tended to go and get guitars which suit the job. I've been involved in ska with the Specials and the [English] Beat and the Selecter for the last 20 years, so I do know what was sort of used on all the stuff, and you tend to get a guitar that ticks most of the boxes, but then again, there's always a few missing. With this, it was a sort of amalgamation of all of that knowledge and basically throwing it into one guitar to try and get a sort of jack of all trades, if you like.

Any mishaps or close shaves while touring with these?

No, fortunately — touch wood!

The first one I had put together was actually completed two days before the first big Selecter tour that I did three years ago, so that was pretty nerve-wracking to get it freighted and get it out.

Do you take any special precautions while on tour?

No; fortunately with the flights over here, the last few flights, the airline has let me take them on board and put them in a closet. So shipping and freighting? It's been easy, really.

You do solo acoustic music as well as band gigs. Do you keep a lot of guitars?

I used to have a Les Paul, but when I got these together, these had an awful lot more mid and bite than the Les Pauls, and they're just as big-sounding, so I tend to just knock the Les Pauls on the head [i.e. stop using them], really. I also had Strats, but knocked those on the head because of these — as I said, they're jack of all trades. All I need now is Fender to make me a proper one, and we'll be laughing!

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3 Photos

  • anthony harty, hartycaster
    Anthony Harty's specially lettered 'Hartycaster' headstock. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • anthony harty
    Guitarist Anthony Harty of The Selecter. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • anthony harty, gaffer tape
    A little gaffer tape keeps Anthony Harty's high E string from catching on the pickup. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)