A Closer Look at the High-Tech Mattocasters of Muse's Matt Bellamy

Matt Bellamy certainly knows how to wrangle six strings and a chunk of wood. But anyone who knows anything about the Muse frontman knows that his axes go far beyond your traditional guitar.

British luthier Hugh Manson has been building guitars for Bellamy for years, packing them with MIDI capability, touch–sensitive screens, and other futuristic goodies. As the years have gone on, Manson has grown as a builder, and Bellamy’s playing style and sound has evolved around these instruments.

Appropriately dubbed “Mattocasters,” over 50 of these guitars have been custom–built by Manson for Bellamy across a range of colors and technical specifications.

The “Mattocaster” moniker derives from its general Telecaster–esque look. Bellamy’s basic request for a custom guitar was one that had the feel of a Fender Telecaster with the sound of a Gibson Les Paul, but the renown they’ve gained both within and beyond the Muse fanbase comes from the panoply of otherworldly technical innovations and add–ons.

While Bellamy keeps dozens of these guitars in his arsenal, today we're going to focus on two of the early examples that remain most emblematic.

Muse - Supermassive Black Hole (Live From Wembley Stadium)

The Black Manson and The Kaoss Manson

The Manson 007 was one of Bellamy’s first guitars to be built by Manson. It’s a sight to behold and somewhat confounding if you’re not a total music gear nerd. The 007 — or “Black Manson,” as some fans have dubbed it — has enough on–board tech to make it look like some forgotten NASA project.

It was an unprecedented piece of design ingenuity when it was built back in 2001, with functionality to control MIDI data via a MIDI strip controller. This touch–sensitive strip allowed Bellamy to control a Digitech Whammy with the swipe of a finger on his picking hand.

Manson 007 or the Black Manson

The 007 also has a set of custom red LEDs that light up the fret inlays down the neck, as well as a ZVex Fuzz Factory built right inside of the guitar itself, which Bellamy uses for those incredible high–pitched squeals of feedback.

The shiny gold piece on the horn isn’t there just for looks. It’s actually a ZVex Wah Probe that is controlled by the motion and position of Bellamy’s hand when it moves across it. This axe is equipped with a Seymour Duncan Hot P90 and Fernandes Sustainer FSK–401 in the neck and a Bare Knuckle Mississippi Queen P90 in the bridge.

The guitar world was blown away when the Manson 007 was unveiled, but nobody knew what to make of the Manson M1D1 Black when it first came out in 2006. It has a Fernandes Sustainer and a pair of Bare Knuckle BKP92s, but what catches most people’s attention right away is the bright glowing light in the center of the guitar.

Manson M1D1 Black or Kaoss Manson

More than just mere eye candy, this X–Y MIDI touch screen can be used to control and send messages to other MIDI–capable pedals and programs. Bellamy uses the screen to control his Korg Kaoss Pad (hence the guitar’s “Kaoss Manson” nickname).

Like the MIDI strip on the 007, the touch screen can also be used to control a synthesizer, keyboard, or even various aspects of digital recording by just the touch of a finger.

Mansons Today

Bellamy’s collection also consists of several guitars with a mirror finish and one that shoots lasers out of the body. Those lasers are digitally controlled onboard to respond to the intensity of the pick attack. A couple of the guitars Bellamy started using on stage this year let him control his Digitech Whammy using the guitar’s tremolo arm (or, quite literally, whammy bar).

Manson Lazer

Thanks in large part to Bellamy, demand for Manson guitars has steadily grown over the years. When Manson started mass producing a few years back, the options ran for several thousands of dollars. Depending on what finish, hardware, and built–in effects you wanted, you’d be paying anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000.

And sure, Manson still makes premium models, like Bellamy’s signature MB–1 (with or without the MIDI–capable touch screen), the vintage–inspired MA series, and a John Paul Jones signature bass. These are all premium instruments crafted with precision and souped up with all the good gadgetry.

Cort MBC-1

Cort M-Classic TC

But Manson has also been partnering with Cort for a while now to produce more budget–friendly versions of Manson’s signature pseudo–Tele designs. The Cort models feature that shallow V neck and run from a bare bones lookalike of Bellamy’s signature to ones that include a Sustainiac pickup or an on–board ZVex Fuzz Factory.

The MBC–1 model most directly relates to Bellamy’s own guitars and the ones that host those premium upgrades. Also notable are two guitars that run for about $500: the M–Jet, which is the lowest priced Mattocaster and the Classic TC, which is a very stylish take on the Telecaster.

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