“I feel very elevated right now,” says Lisa Bella Donna. “This is an amazing place, and it’s full of anything and everything that a keyboard player would want. It’s really a dream to be here.”
Anyone who’s ever been to our NAMM booth has seen Custom Vintage’s work up close and knows Lisa Bella Donna can shred. Whether she’s pulling double-duty on guitar and keys with her prog band, EYE, programming an ARP 2600 synthesizer at a solo performance, or giving a pedal clinic, her chops are out of this world, and every single note explodes with energy and intent.
When we had the opportunity to turn her loose at Custom Vintage Keys with nothing but a warehouse full of fully-restored vintage keyboards, a set of EarthQuaker Devices motherboards, and her imagination - well, let’s just say our third eyes opened right up. It’s like Dr. Hunter S. Thompson said: “buy the ticket, take the ride.” And what a ride it was.
Luke Jones’ Custom Vintage Keys sits inside a nondescript industrial building just off the 5 in North Hollywood. A pinkish eggshell door reads, “CVKEYS,” in the kind of stick-on letters you might see on rusted out mailboxes dotted along rural Ohio roads. There’s no other signage. “This is my crazy shop of keyboard horrors,” Jones says, laughing. From where we’re standing, it looks more like the bottom of the rabbit hole and Jones is the Mad Hatter of vintage keyboards.
The showroom is stocked with dozens of nearly priceless vintage keyboards, all refurbished to better-than-brand-new condition. But the rabbit hole goes deeper still. In the back sits a Moog Liberation, its circuitry on full display on a workbench. (“It’s basically the first real synth keytar, before keytars got stupid,” says Jones). Next to it on a wire rack sits an electric piano that, in a previous life, was a part of Fleetwood Mac’s touring equipment.
“I feel it’s so exciting and interesting to be able to work for bands and artists where you’re really giving them instruments that make music for them… It’s chasing the sound that is inspiring, because if you find sounds that are inspiring to you, that inspires other people and they’ll like your music for it. We like being part of the chain that makes that happen,” says Luke.