When Bruce Veneziani bought a cheap Les Paul knockoff from China and wanted to outfit the instrument with quality electronics, he did it.
When Bruce Veneziani wanted his gaming peripherals to be fashioned onto a driver’s seat for easier play, he did it.
When Bruce Veneziani was asked by his girlfriend to customize her motorcycle to her liking, he did it.
Veneziani’s reasoning behind these Do It Yourself projects is simple: “Because I can.”
The DIY ethic is what Veneziani lives by when it comes to home improvement, alterations and repair work. As long as he has the tools, the equipment and the two hands he was born with, Veneziani is confident in his skills and his unbridled self-sufficiency to get the job done, tributes that I perceived during my interview with the Sioux City man last week.
I initially wanted to speak with Veneziani about his finished work customizing a 2000 Suzuki LS650 Savage for the past two months. But our conversation quickly diverted once I noticed the souped up contraption sitting in the middle of his living room.
It was a makeshift chair constructed out of simple pieces of wood. Cushioning was encased in black fabric and made to resemble a driver’s seat. A small platform hovered above the seat just above where the legs would rest, and was equipped with a steering wheel and gear stick. Three foot pedals protruded from the base of the chair. The whole thing looked like a primitive arcade racing setup.
It was set in front of an entertainment center complete with a flat screen TV, two Bose speakers and a PlayStation. This was how Veneziani played his video games, more specifically “Gran Turismo Sport,” a racing title.
“You want to try it?” Veneziani asked with a smile, clearly proud of his creation. Well what kind of reporter would I be if I didn’t get to “test drive” his custom gaming chair? I have to make sure it works, right?
I clumsily fit myself into the driver’s seat and began to play. Controlling my orange sports car with the steering wheel, I attempted to race against a team of bots while desperately trying to mask what little gaming skill I had at that point. Even though I failed miserably at preventing my car from slamming into walls and spinning out from sharp turns, Veneziani could tell I was having fun.
“Isn’t this way better?” he said before taking his turn at the wheel. (I should note that Veneziani had way better control of the rig than I did; the result of constant practice.) Veneziani said he built the chair one afternoon after playing the game. Not entirely satisfied with the motion controls, Veneziani let his DIY nature take control.
He found a way to make his old PlayStation 3 driving peripherals compatible with his PlayStation 4 and then made a driver’s seat to support the wheel, pedals and stick. “It works great!” Veneziani said. “But that’s a temporary one. I did it in an afternoon. It’s pretty crude.”
But it gets the job done, and it makes for a heck of a home gaming experience.
Veneziani considers himself a jack of all trades.
“I do all kinds of stuff,” he said. “From construction and wiring to live sound.”
Occasionally, Veneziani is contracted to setup his PA system for concerts and has had the pleasure of working with bands and musicians like Eve 6 and Johnny Winter. He also sets up karaoke spots in Sioux City bars like Work & Church Booze Parlor and the Ickey Nickel Bar & Grill.
As a musician, it comes as no surprise that a chunk of Veneziani’s projects are music related, having made a lighted set piece for the Emily Johnson Band, as well as 2x12 guitar cabinets for local musicians.
For one particular project, Veneziani acquired a green, Les Paul knockoff from China with the intent to alter the instrument into something usable. “You can buy them for $200 or $300 and they look nice,” said Veneziani. “But they have junk electronics in ‘em. So I put in all good electronics and all this good stuff. So now it’s a pretty nice guitar!”
He tracked the guitar’s progress on Facebook, taking pictures and describing what needed to be done -- vintage tone wiring, independent volume control, series/parallel switch, phase switch, coil split switch and “Megabucker Mod” were among the tasks named on Veneziani’s to-do list.
Not one to break his DIY ethic, Veneziani said he can’t see himself paying anybody to do something he might be able to do. With a background in manufacturing work, carpentry and roofing, as well as body shop experience, Veneziani said he feels forced to do everything himself. And he’s happy to do it.
“I’ve always had to adapt and figure out how to get something done, because no matter what you’re working on there’s always something that comes up where you have to do more,” he said.
And, sure enough, it happened when Veneziani was working on a custom motorcycle for his girlfriend, Lynn Orban. Although Veneziani has worked on his own Harley in the past, this was the first time he altered a bike this extensively. Running into problems is all part of the process.
“There’s always something that can take the wind out of your sails,” he said. “It’s hard to get back into it if you can’t get past that hurdle.”
Veneziani purchased a single part used to mount the fender, which he then modified and transformed into three other parts for the bike. “I had to make a part that had the same ‘footprint,’” he said. Veneziani also had to alter uneven handlebars.
And Veneziani did it all without using any fancy tools. The yellow and black Suzuki purchased off the lot had been transformed into a sleek machine with a mostly black color scheme – the fuel tank was fashioned with a red hourglass like that of a black widow spider.
The whole process took nearly two months. Veneziani said he was able to test drive the bike one day before Sioux City was hit by a snowstorm accumulating more than a foot of snow. When Veneziani posted the final product on Facebook, he was happy to see the positive reactions from friends.
“It’s pretty gratifying, as with anything you do yourself,” he said.
So what’s the next DIY project for Veneziani? He had already amplified his gaming experience, made a guitar to his liking and customized a motorcycle for his significant other. Right now it all depends on what the situation calls for. And Veneziani knows the perfect person for the job: himself.
He said with a smile, “I’m not fantastic at everything, but I’m pretty good at a lot of things.”
Veneziani has the completed projects to prove it.