When studying at the London School of Furniture were you already dabbling with guitars?
I was, I made my first guitar at school in CDT doing my A-Level. I enjoyed that and thought I'd carry on. Then, the London course was the only one I found where you didn't have to pay a lot so I went up there. I'd heard there had been some other makers that had had some success with it.
I also spent a lot of time as a kid taking guitars apart, stripping them down, each individual screw, a bit like a gun or something, then seeing if I could put it back together in the right place. So, yes, I was mucking around with them for a long time before that and I don't really know why. It a bit weird to do that. I just thought it would be a really fun thing to do, being around the music all the time. If you weren't that good a player and didn't think you could put yourself in that direction I thought have a bit of fun with this. You don't have to travel, just stay in one place and get on with it. That's why I decided to go up to the college really.
Did the skills you learnt there transfer easily to your current craft?
In hindsight, the college wasn't really designed particularly well to push the students out to make a living out of it. It didn't have much of a business side to it. And by then the government had been including in the curriculum some pretty weird things like general studies. There was a lot of science, maybe for some people useful, but looking back, not a lot of people on that course went onto to guitar making for a living. I don't think that anyone there, apart from me, in my year actually did. So, the course was only good in that it gave you a way into guitar-making when there aren't any makers that will give you a job, if you've never done any. So, it was good in that respect. If you had an idea of what you wanted to do and you could find a way of doing it you could then go on and take it further. But this country there's maybe only, I don't know, maybe only three or four makers in this country who employ anybody. It's quite hard.
Where did your interest originate?
There was a guy building guitars locally called Andy Crockett, and I met him when having some work done on a guitar and I thought, wow, he looks like he has a great life. Then I thought I could do that as well. He'd always say, 'you don't want to get involved in this, nobody makes a living out of this'. We still work together now actually. I left college and shared a workshop with him and that was probably the first time I thought people could make a living out of this. Then, you'd buy books and stuff and you see there are people who make a living. So, yes, it was really just as a kid seeing other people managing to do it.
How does your typical work day run at the moment?
Usually, in to work by about eight o'clock, switch on the computer to check if any e-mails have come in. Then, I have a guy work for me so I see what he's up to, make sure he's happy and got work to do. Make a Cup of tea. Then, the phone rings so much, it really disrupts you, it has to ring, you want to talk to everyone cause the orders come through sometimes like that. But I'm on the phone more than I'd like to be, but that is necessary. And then it's head down, you know what the work is going to be, you just have to get on with it and it's long hours. I'll do eight 'till six or seven most days.
We'll always be working on new guitars and tweaking ideas so they'll be a research and development side of things. But, one thing I'm really keen on is for it to be as relaxed as possible. I'm very serious about working hard, but, I quite like to have an informal atmosphere in the workshop.
Did you play guitar from an early age?
Yes, I started when I was about twelve, mainly bass guitar and then I got a bit bored with it cause I wasn't any good at it. Then, I got an electric guitar and got really into the band Rush and tried to become their guitarist, Alex Lifeson. I realized I wasn't going to be able to. And then it was Jethro Tull, and thought, these guys are doing some interesting stuff so then it was acoustic guitar. After that, it was Crosby, Stills and Nash and I soon as I heard that I don't think I picked up an electric guitar again. It was, I want to be Steven Stills.