Thierry Raynaud created an incredible miniature replica of Dennis Dunaway's Billion Dollar Fender Jazz bass. Thierry has been making model cars, planes, Star Wars space ships, and more since he was a child, and over the years he expanded to make 1/4 scale replicas of famous musical instruments of the likes of KISS, Joe Satriani, Slash, The Scorpions, and now, Alice Cooper.
I can't believe how detailed (ok, and adorable!) Thierry's miniature version of my dad's most famous bass came out. I caught up with him to learn more about his meticulous process.
Thierry, how did you become interested in creating a replica of the Billion Dollar Bass?
Patrick Brzezinski (a mutual friend of Dennis's and mine) saw my work, and asked if it was possible to make a Billion Dollar Bass. I said yes, and that the fun part is that I could add a lot of details. The Billion Dollar Bass is amazing, I love Alice Cooper, and it was good reason to discover more of Dennis's work.
What were the unique challenges of making the Baby Billion Dollar Bass?
The Billion Dollar Bass is well-aged, so making the right colors with all the exact scratches on the body was a challenge. The harder part was making the rhinestones and mirrors. Some years ago, I made Paul Stanley's Flying V guitar, also covered with rhinestones. I knew I could find very small, authentic, Swarovski rhinestones. Baby Billion Dollar bass has 157 1mm rhinestones and 82 2mm rhinestones on the headstock alone!
As reference for your model, did you examine the real Billion Dollar Bass, or did you work exclusively from photographs?
I didn't have the chance to see the real Billion Dollar Bass. Dennis kindly sent me pictures and I used those.
I read that you create all of your own materials except for the screws. Is that true? Can you elaborate?
Yes, except the screws, everything is handmade. You know, it's unusual to make 1/4 scale guitar and bass miniatures and therefore impossible to find spare parts. I started making miniatures in 1988 for KISS. Over time, I started to better understand how an instrument is made, so I worked to find and create the right tools and make those parts on a 1/4 scale. It's highly satisfying when I show someone a picture of one of my miniatures, and they don't realize immediately that's not a full-sized instrument.
With the Billion Dollar Bass, the mirrors, the rhinestones, the aged instrument, and everything was handmade to upgrade my work. I used a light wood for the body and the neck is cast in resin to keep it straight. I painted effects to make it look like wood. For the hardware, I used a fantastic chrome paint that I brush on to give an aging effect.
Now, I can make any kind of miniature replica. It takes time, but nothing is impossible.
How many copies of each replica do you make? Do you give them away, keep them, or sell them?
Usually, I give one replica to the artist and keep one autographed replica for my personal collection. Once, I made a limited edition of 25 copies for a french guitarist, Nono from Trust. I'm always looking for partnerships to create unusual merchandise and fine art models. I don't sell any replicas without the original artist's permission.
When did you meet Dennis?
Last September, Patrick brought Dennis and his wife Cindy to Strasbourg. It was raining, so they didn't understand why some guy was picking them up from their cozy, dry hotel to go somewhere. Patrick said nothing about me, my work, or the project of making the Baby Billion Dollar Bass. They were a little scared--it was funny! When we arrived to my houseboat, Cindy really loved it. When I showed them my "wall of fame" with all the miniature guitars signed by various artists, Dennis was amazed. We talked and talked--it was fantastic to share with them.
What are your favorite Alice Cooper songs?
School's Out was the first Alice Cooper LP that I bought, 30 years ago. Then, Welcome To My Nightmare, Lace and Whiskey, and From the Inside.
I fell in love with Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and my favorite song is "When Hell Comes Home." I always imagine a movie with this song, very powerful. My 11 year-old daughter became a huge fan of Alice.
What music do you listen to while you work on your miniatures?
Sometimes I listen to the artist I'm working on. I listened to a few Alice Cooper albums, a lot of radio with different kind of music, French artists, etc.
Can the tiny guitar actually be played?
No, too small.
Maybe my vintage Jem and the Holograms doll can.
If you'd like to see more of Thierry's amazing miniature guitars, check out his Facebook page and a wonderful interview with him on GroundGuitar.com. Thank you, Thierry, for putting so much time and skill into creating Baby Billion Dollar Bass. Our family is in awe of its detail, and of the thoughtfulness of this tribute project!