The debate surrounding the smashing of guitars has resurfaced in 2021, partially thanks to Phoebe Bridgers hammering a stage monitor with her Danelectro during a live performance on Saturday Night Live. Now Fender’s EVP Justin Norvell has weighed in on the topic, saying that the Fender camp are okay with it but want to “strike a balance”, as they’re still proud of their creations.
Fender’s executive vice-president of products Justin Norvell helpfully explained his and Fender’s position on the act in general. “The guitar is what I call a sonic paintbrush,” Norvell told ABC Audio. “It’s something for an artist to use, to create with.”
“So while people look at a guitar being smashed and say, ‘That could go to someone else,’ or whatever, in that moment and what [an artist is] doing and how they’re feeling, if smashing encapsulates part of that…”
The call to ABC Audio was to discuss Fender’s new Kurt Cobain Jag-Stang guitar, during which Norvell remembered Cobain’s own habits. “I was lucky enough to go to a Nirvana show,” he recalled, “and I did see Kurt smash a guitar over one of the In Utero angels at their first show of the In Utero tour.”
Norvell also noted that guitar-smashing is a “long-standing tradition” in rock, and that Fender is “alright with it” but that they “also take a lot of pride in what we’re building and what we’re making, so there’s always a balance that we have to strike there”.
Norvell’s comments follow Phoebe Bridgers partially destroying her guitar during an SNL performance. While she drew the ire of a number of online commentators, smashing guitars predates even Cobain: rock royalty such as Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix both famously destroyed instruments as part of an expression of unrestrained rock ’n’ roll anger.