NGD: Bernie Rico Jr Hesperian Slant 824 (pics, vid & LONG story inside)

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Thread: NGD: Bernie Rico Jr Hesperian Slant 824 (pics, vid & LONG story inside)

  1. #1

    Join Date: Feb 2011
    Location: Italy
    ME: Blackmachine B2
    MB: Spector Euro 5LX
    Rig: Axe Fx II

    iTrader: 1 (100%)

    NGD: Bernie Rico Jr Hesperian Slant 824 (pics, vid & LONG story inside)

    I received this guitar some time ago after a 2+ year wait, it was about time I posted a proper NGD about it.

    Let's first see the thing in action:

    [VIDEO]]This is Abiogenesis[/VIDEO]

    And mandatory pics of course:


    - Hesperian Slant body shape (Black Friday)
    - 8 string, 24 frets
    - 27.5" scale
    - maple neck through
    - mahogany wings
    - ebony fretboard
    - abalone offset dots
    - indigo/purple/blue quilt top
    - BKP Aftermath bridge, BKP Painkiller neck
    - Hipshot bridge
    - Hipshot locking tuners
    - 3-way pickup selector
    - 2-way killswitch
    - volume knob with BKP 550k pot

    Where do I start......there's A LOT to talk about this guitar. My review will inevitably have two versions, a positive one and a more horrific one.


    The guitar plays incredibly well, neck is ridiculously comfortable with a shape to die for, veeeery thin but without pronounced shoulders and not too flat, just perfect for both rhythm and shred. My Carvin DC800 neck was super comfortable too but thicker than this, in the end I prefer the BRJ's neck.
    Thinnest and most comfortable 8 string neck I've ever tried remains the green Vik I tried at Musikmesse, but this is a close second.

    It is THE tightest and most pissed off of any guitar I own, even unplugged you can hear a certain "evil grind" during chords, mainly due to the good piece of ebony fretboard which gives a superb attack with firm fundamental and compression.

    It is a rather bright sounding instrument due to the woods involved, 27.5" scale and 550k pot, but not overly bright. Just insanely tight and focused, actually even too much with the Aftermath bridge. I'm replacing it with some new pickups Duncan is sending to do a video review, very curious to hear how these behave.

    Painkiller in the neck sounds really good too, like a "compressed strat on steroids" during leads. The guitar doesn't have a clean tone to die for but it's still very usable, this is due to the instrument being very focused rather than warm and open sounding.

    The top speaks for itself. The blend between oiled neck/wings/sides and gloss top is veeeeery smooth, with no inconsistencies in the coating. Bernie does (did?) indeed have a pro guy taking care of the finishes. Oil finish is the same I had in my Carvin DC800 which is more than good, but not at the spectacular level I've seen on KxKs and Blackmachines.

    Hipshot bridge is a tank and I love it, but I can't say the same about Hipshot locking tuners. Yes they stay in tune but they're not as smooth as Sperzels (my favourites) and Schallers. The guitar stays in tune very well but it's not at the "NEVER out of tune" level of some of my guitars like the JP12-7 or '90s Ibbies, I suspect this is due to the nut not being super top notch quality, but in the end I'm just picky. It's a stable guitar that doesn't require retuning during a jam or session.

    Despite the extended scale, I don't feel any effort during bends, 9-46 + 60 + 74 does the job just fine in drop E.

    I also personally think the Hesperian design itself has the lower horn a bit too close to the body and it could happen that you hit it while playing the highest frets, but it happens rarely.


    I can't even remember all the stuff I had to deal with during this build. What started as a 6-month wait ended up being an incredibly stressful, schedule f*cking, pure facepalming turn of events. I learnt the "never trust the initial build time" lesson the hardest way.

    During September 2010 I placed an order for a Jekyll 7 thru a dealer but, after seeing the now infamous Black Friday sale during October, I just had to jump on it.

    At first I was very happy to get a killer guitar in a relatively short amount of time and for that price (which still wasn't that cheap due to different finish, inlays, pickups and some other stuff, but manageable nonetheless).
    Although I soon discovered how Bernie was totally fickle in his workflow, f*cking up lots of stuff, doing an insane amount of mistakes, distractions, forgetting most of the emails and informations I sent him, and I could go on forever.

    Let's start with the fact I can count up to 5 different email addresses that he used to answer my questions/write me at the same time, I really had no clue which one to use to reach him.
    Most of the times I asked him questions on multiple addresses and still got no answers, and when there was an answer, it still wasn't complete or he had forgotten about some points I mentioned, so I had to email him again and again to get the infos I wanted.

    In December 2010 I finished third in the BRJ "30 seconds of fame" guitar contest and have never received the prize, which was a BRJ tee, SIT strings and something else I don't remember about. Yea, very minor stuff, but still. And yeah I reminded him more than a couple times about that, never received an answer.

    Returning to the guitar, my specs (which, again, I've sent him at least three times) included this:

    - 24 frets
    - straight fretboard end, not slanted
    - neck pickup straight, not slanted

    After asking Bernie an absurd amount of times, several months to one year later, some pics of my guitar and never receiving anything, I stumbled across a Facebook post by Keith Merrow who mentioned taking lots of pics at Bernie's factory, so I messaged him regarding my guitar and luckily he took a pic of it:

    As you can see, the work-in-progress guitar had 25 frets, slanted fretboard end, and slanted neck pickup. Not only that, but f*cked up offset dot positioning too.
    But here's where the funny part comes: I then saw a FS thread in which a guy was selling his BRJ build slot, and the specs were the exact same as mine, only his one was actually being built right. I immediately contacted him and Bernie and asked if it was possible for the guy to sell my guitar as his slot, and for me to continue my build with his guitar. Luckily we all agreed on this.

    So if it wasn't for this weird turn of events, I would have probably received a very different instrument from the one I initially ordered. Just the fact I discovered my guitar was not right from a third guy, and had to deal with another guy doing something "politically incorrect", is awful by itself.

    Ok let's now begin the neverending list of excuses I received via email throughout the last year:

    - "yesterday was my father's birthday anniversary"
    - "my step daughter is getting married today"
    - "my daughter is getting prepped for braces"
    - "going to be a grand dad"
    - "my grandmother has passed"
    - "my great aunt has passed"
    - "we lost our house"
    - "soaking my foot trying to load dresser my self fell right on my ankle and foot"

    - and many more.

    Errrrr....ok, but all these personal things should NEVER get in the way of your business. What am I even supposed to think about this?

    During April 2012 I received an email from his personal email address in which his wife was telling me he was sick and unable to work, this is where it started getting even worse with updates etc.
    In June my guitar was 100% ready to go but due to "hardshell cases delivery delay" I waited until many months later to finally receive the guitar.


    - Hole in the wood with glue sticking out (I had my tech fix it, now it's fine)/neck shim/gloss finish going on in the fretboard too

    - Drunk side dots

    - Offset dots not aligned by themselves and with side dots

    - And the split-coil switch I requested actually acts as a killswitch, doesn't split.

    In the end, given the guitar plays and sounds amazing, I can live with all these minor flaws (minus the hole which got fixed pronto). This still doesn't excuse him for the incredibly stressful wait and an enormous amount of emails I had to send him to repeat things he lost infos about or to ask stuff and receiving no answer.

    Let's add the fact that only when balance was needed I was told "I don't have a Paypal account anymore" (I payed the deposit via Paypal), that he insisted I had to pay the pickups additionally when they were already included in the first price he gave me, and other little things that added to the amount of crap I had to deal with.

    You think it's over? Nope.

    This is not related to the 8 string, but as I mentioned earlier I also had a 7 string (not a Black Friday) being built since late 2010.
    What happened is even worse, I sent him this PDF (which covers every possible detail and doesn't leave any room for doubts):

    He managed to forget he had it and asked me for specs four different times. Then I receive this:

    Ok cool, the guitar seems great, too bad months later I'm informed that it needed to be rebuilt and the rebuilt instrument had a Jekyll Slant shape (not Jekyll Slim as this one), which made the hardware placement I requested impossible due to body thickness etc.
    Long story short, I decided I didn't want to deal with this chaos anymore, contacted the dealer who acted as a true class act and refunded me all the money I put as deposit.

    TL;DR: I like the guitar A LOT, it's gorgeous, very stable and plays/sounds fantastic. Will I ever deal with Bernie again? Hell no.

    Hope you enjoyed this NGD despite the long ass read

  2. #2

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Somerville, Ma
    ME: Suhr Modern 7
    MA: Martin MC16-GTE
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    Saw this on facebook, and was surprised not to see any obvious flaws.

    Weird that the side dots are SO bad, but most everything else about this looks pretty good.
    "They can kill you, but the legalities of eating you are a bit dicier." - David Foster Wallace

  3. #3

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Kitchen/Laundry Room
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    Weird that the side dots are SO bad, but most everything else about this looks pretty good.
    If these were being produced with one guy, that much deviation in the quality of work would surprise me but after it became apparent that the BRJs are being "ghost build" internationally, it's a lot less surprising.

    "Made in America" custom shop branding/pricing, with international "private label" production standards. The fact BRJ hasn't been forthcoming with where the work on his guitars is being done, there's no telling how many different people have had their hands on any one guitar and what kind of experience they have.

    That said, it's a sexy looking guitar. The Hesperian is a beautiful shape and wood+finish combo is perfect. Honestly glad to see you got anything at all, and even happier that it's not unplayable.
    Argbadh - RHLCİ

  4. #4

    Join Date: Oct 2008
    Location: Glasgow - Scotland
    ME: Suhr M5
    MB: Squire Jazz
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    it looks awesome its a pity about the dots and the flaw - that said i watched the vid first and was blown away by the look of it so if it plays well who cares.

    Also...your playing

  5. #5

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Lake District, UK
    ME: RGD2127z/Apex 100
    Rig: Diezel Hagen/Zilla's

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    Looks awesome, flaws aside. Shame Bernie fucked things up, as I always wanted one.
    Music was badass as always


  6. #6

    Join Date: Jun 2013
    Location: Chandler, AZ
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    Effing hell... I would've had a nervous breakdown, ulcer, or both after going through all this.
    Answering burning guitar questions & helping you perform your own basic guitar care/maintenance.
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  7. #7

    Join Date: Oct 2008
    Location: Herndon, VA
    ME: Jackson Soloist
    Rig: Fractal Audio Axe-FX II

    iTrader: 4 (100%)

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy View Post
    If these were being produced with one guy, that much deviation in the quality of work would surprise me but after it became apparent that the BRJs are being "ghost build" internationally, it's a lot less surprising.
    The Rico family's always done things that way. The story is that there were never actually any USA-made BC Riches during Bernie Sr.'s time at the company. However, someone I know says he visited the BC Rich shop back in the '80s and saw Mexican guys carving blanks basically by hand in an outbuilding.

    Those Mexican ghost builders can do some fantastic work, so it must be that Bernie Jr. isn't getting the right guys, pissed off the good ones, whatever. That, or he's not communicating specifications with them properly.

    Apart from that weird stuff, that 8-string is beautiful, and at least it plays and sounds good. Ultimately, that's what matters most.

  8. #8

    Join Date: Feb 2011
    Location: Italy
    ME: Blackmachine B2
    MB: Spector Euro 5LX
    Rig: Axe Fx II

    iTrader: 1 (100%)

    Cheers guys, really appreciate your opinion on this!

    The dealer from whom I ordered my BRJ 7 visited Bernie's factory a couple years ago and told me there where guitars at all building stages in there, but at the same time lots of guys are mentioning the Mexico thing.
    I personally don't care the origin as long as it's built to very high standards, which is unfortunately not the case here.

    When I showed Bernie these flaws he replied saying that everything was done by hand and the misaligned dot thing could happen. I don't drink it, but anyway

    IF I'll order a custom 7 again in the future, it will be a Suhr, thanks to Drew too better go to well estabilished brands with tradition.

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