What else can I say about ESP Guitars that I haven't already said for over 2 decades in interviews and to many young guitarists and my peers seeking advice on these instruments? Nothing else since I always preach the good word on ESP: They are hands down the most awesome, comfortable, bad-ass guitars available today.
I've been an ESP loyalist since 1987. It was in '87 that I walked into a local music store in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and saw for the first time, a new make of electric guitars that were built like none other and looked like none other. At the time, I could only afford the Kramer guitars that I was playing. After saving some cash, I bought my first ESP and the rest is history. I love these instruments and in my opinion, no other guitar manufacturer in the world comes close to their craftsmanship, diversity, tone, and popularity.
In 1989, I traveled to New York to see a couple concerts and it was there that I met ESP president-Matt Masciandaro-for the first time. I was 18 and nervous as hell as I walked into the famous 48th Street guitar shop to meet a guy I had only heard about through ESP channels. You see, I loved these instruments so much, it was like I was meeting the president of the United States or something.
Since '89, I went on to form both Broken Hope and Lupara. I've toured worldwide and have done 2 MTV videos-all of this with ESP Guitars with me on stage, on film and in the studio. Moreover, the bands I've played in have never been platinum, gold, or even tinfoil status, but nonetheless, Matt, Allen, Jose, Todd and the entire ESP crew have always treated me as a guitar god, as a friend, and with tons of respect, and for that, I'm thankful and it's only endeared me even more to this awesome company.
I've probably owned and have a round 3 dozen different ESP and LTD model guitars that I've either ordered as custom models, stock models, or have collected. I sometime buy old, '80-era ESP's off of eBay. ESP is currently building me 3 custom models that are going to be amazing when completed! I cannot wait to post the pictures here.
I suggest to anyone who hasn't played ESP's before, go out and try one. They offer guitars for every budget and they also have phenomenal signature series instruments and their custom shop will build anything you want.
In 1975, Hisatake Shibuya opened a shop called Electric Sound Products (ESP) in Tokyo. ESP provided custom replacement parts for guitars. In 1976, ESP gained a reputation as a provider of high-quality replacement parts. ESP also began crafting guitars under the ESP name in the Japanese market.
ESP replacement parts were first introduced into the United States in 1983. ESP began crafting custom instruments for local New York artists between 1984 and 1985. Among these artists were Page Hamilton (Helmet), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Vinnie Vincent & Bruce Kulick (KISS), and Ronnie Wood (The Rolling Stones). At this time, ESP also introduced the 400 Series as the first production line distributed in the US.
During this same period of time, ESP began making the bodies and necks for Kramer Guitars. Other manufacturers using ESP as an OEM were Robin Guitars, Schecter Guitar Research and DiMarzio. Many traits of the Kramer line are still visible including neck construction and body bevels. ESP tooled up for Tom Anderson's shaved bolt on neck heel on the Schecter bodies, and has since become a feature of their house brand.
In 1986, George Lynch discovered ESP while on tour in Tokyo. Lynch walked into an ESP shop looking for a replacement neck and learned that ESP also built custom guitars. As a result, his famous ESP Kamikaze was made. ESP soon introduced the M1 Standard, MI Custom, and Horizon Custom. At this time, ESP released George Lynch's Kamikaze as its first signature model. ESP based its headquarters in a loft in downtown New York City on 19th Street. In 1989, the headquarters were moved to 48th Street near the famous music stores.
Between 1990 and 1992, ESP expanded its Signature Series as well as its standard product line. The US replacement parts business was discontinued in order to switch focus solely on the guitar and bass line as well as the custom shop. There are about 41 signature series guitars.
In 1993, ESP moved its headquarters again but this time it was relocated to Los Angeles. There, ESP opened an office on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. In 1996, LTD was created to produce ESP's high-quality products in a more affordable line of production. Soon after the introduction of the Korean and Indonesian-made LTD lines, ESP discontinued selling the majority of its Japanese-made flagship instruments in the United States due to the prices involved in exporting to the Americas. The lone exception was ESP's artist signature lines, which remained ESP (rather than LTD) models. In the early 2000s, ESP resumed shipping the standard Japanese-manufactured lines to the United States (where they are very popular among metal and hard rock players), albeit at greatly increased prices compared to the early 90s.
Similarly to Ibanez, ESP's chief competitor in Japan, ESP was initially known for making high quality and customized replicas of famous American guitars, including hot rodded Fender Strats and Teles, as well as Gibson Explorers. The latter model (known as the EXP/MX) shot to fame when avid ESP user James Hetfield's band Metallica became extremely popular in the late 80s/early 90s. Models similar to Hetfield's black ESP even today sell for hundreds of dollars beyond the original retail price.
In 2002, ESP was ranked among the music industry's fastest growing companies. This is largely due to the Fender buyout of Jackson Guitars, with whom ESP had struggled to compete throughout the 1980s and 1990s. With the buyout, many Jackson endorsers switched over to ESP, due to their stunningly similar design, playability, and quality of their guitars.
Some of these artists who left Jackson for ESP included Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Adam Darski (Behemoth), Alexi Laiho and Roope Latvala (Children of Bodom), Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel (Atreyu), Galder and Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir).
ESP introduced its Xtone line, beginning with the semi-hollow Paramount Series. In 2005, ESP celebrated its 30th Anniversary and released James Hetfield's "Truckster" into its Signature Series. In 2006, ESP showcased 22 of its newest Signature Series and Standard Series models at Winter NAMM 2006. The Standard Series models included such famous models as the ESP LTD EC-500 and the ESP LTD B-500. In 2010, ESP Guitars celebrated 35 years amazing years in the industry.