Evan Rubinson, CEO of Dean Guitars, spoke to Stay Metal Ray about SLAYER guitarist Kerry King's recent addition to the Dean artist roster. King joined Dean in October after previously working with B.C. Rich and ESP for his signature guitars.
Calling the partnership with Kerry "a long time coming," Evan said (see video below): "I've known Kerry for a while, but clearly, [he's] been with B.C Rich for 20-plus years. And one of my other artist relations guys, Josh Maloney, was good friends with him as well. So we had a few dinners and a few conversations. And [Kerry] said, 'Look, new ownership at B.C. Rich. I haven't gotten a new guitar in six, seven years. I'm ready to make something happen.' So we flew him out here and designed some guitars. Here we are."
According to Evan, the affiliation with King is "a dream come true" for Dean. "And now to have Dave Mustaine [MEGADETH], Dimebag [PANTERA], as well as Kerry King, under one roof, it's incredible," he said. "And hopefully we're gonna do something really cool with a three-guitar package — one with each artist that is super iconic, and it'll be a limited series. This is in the works right now — no guarantees — but something where we'd have one exclusive guitar for each of our iconic artists and we'd sell it as a package as kind of an exclusive thing — hand signed, artist appearances and the whole deal."
Detailing the various Kerry King guitar models that are going to be coming to the market, Evan said: "My idea is good, better and best. So we have the USA, of course — it's kind of on its own. We have the limited run that we're starting with, but then we're also gonna have regular-production USA guitars. But the good, better and best will all be imports. The best will be about probably a 1,399[-dollar] guitar, and that will have Kerry King's signature Kahler [bridge] on it. It'll have the Sustainiac [pickup]. It'll have almost an identical replica of what he plays; it'll just be an import model. And that's gonna be the highest end that we make that's gonna come from overseas. Then we're gonna do kind of a middle tier, probably around 699 [dollars] or so, and that will still come with a Sustainiac. It will come with a Kahler, but not a Kerry King signature, and it'll have a few downgrades, so to speak. And then we're also gonna do probably a 399- or a 499[-dollar] that may be a fixed bridge Kahler instead of the tremolo system. And that, of course, is gonna cater to the intro guys and maybe people that are saving up for that 1399."
Rubinson went on to discuss his general approach to designing Kerry's signature guitars. "I don't want anything to be disingenuous," he said. "So if an artist loves what they play, I don't wanna try to modify just to be commercial. So the thing with Kerry is, he said, 'Look, this is what I play. This is what I wanna produce.' And I said, 'I agree. That's what we need to do. We need to have your Kahlers on there. We need to make it work.' Even though Kahlers are USA made and very expensive, we're still finding a way to make it work at that price point. But the big part is Kerry was receptive. He understands that he also wants to ingratiate a new and younger generation to his guitars, and some of those people can't afford that souped-up, perfect guitar that has the Kahler, the Sustaniac and everything. But they still get to have a Kerry King guitar."
Last month, Dean Guitars released a limited run of 50 handcrafted USA guitars designed in collaboration with King. Each USA Kerry King V Limited Edition 50 Pc guitar is priced at $8,666 and can be ordered from the Dean Guitars web site.
When the King-Dean partnership was first announced, the guitarist said: "I'm super stoked to be part of the Dean Guitars family. This has been an insane long time coming! Together we're going to create some amazing guitars that Dean, SLAYER and Kerry King fans will be as excited as I am to play them. It's gonna be a wild ride for years to come!"