Lospennato was born in Buenos Aires in ‘68, at the heart
of an Italian family. Son of a manager and an artist, Leo became a bit of both
when he started designing instruments and setting up a company to bring them to
Curious by nature and inspired by a Renaissance
spirit, he became a journalist, an engineer, and the founder and chief editor
of Sustain, a magazine for Luthiers. Truth be told, that “Renaissance spirit”
also shows up in the form of a shameless affair he maintains with Italian cuisine—a
mix of heritage and hobby.
The recurring theme, though, is his passion for the ancient art of creating musical instruments, which began when he put together his first bass, at 16. Leo lives in Berlin, Germany, with his wife Andrea and with Tango, their black miniature schnauzer.
1. GUITARS EXCHANGE: How did you end up becoming (or started out) as a luthier?
Leo Lospennato: I am an engineer by training, but art runs deep in my family. Making electric guitars allows me to combine some very "techy" disciplines (electronics, acoustics, and ergonomics) with more "artsy" ones (design, aesthetics). Lutherie combines the best of both worlds.
2. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What inspires you to design and manufacture a new guitar?
Leo Lospennato: I draw inspiration from everything that I find beautiful. It can be a classic car, or a movie, or a building (photo A). I love making guitars in different styles; maybe today I make a steampunk guitar, next month I design a science-fiction inspired one, and after that I would build a guitar in the shape of the Batmobile. I find myself constantly hit by inspiration. (Photo B).
3. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Do you look for a given sound for any particular reason?
Leo Lospennato: First of all, the sound of a guitar should match its style. There is little point in building a guitar with (for example) a dark, satanic look and equip it with Charlie Christian pickups, which are intended for the cleanest type of jazz. That said, I like to build instruments that are versatile; with the help of some electronics, in my guitars you flip a switch and you go from clean to distort, and from "nice" to "naughty".
4. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Select one and talk about: soul, jazz, blues, rock, pop…or other.
Leo Lospennato: I chose none! My favorite bands are the ones that's difficult to place within a particular style—those that simply create music, free from the constrains of any particular style. Examples: Yes, Saga, Queen... they didn't follow a style: they created their own.
5. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Are you a jobbing artist or a solitary artisan?
Leo Lospennato: I am the epitome of the solitary luthier. I work in a tiny man-cave (15 sqm / 130 sqft) where I have everything I need: my tools, a fridge with ice-cold Coke, good music, and my dog as the only company. That room is indeed small, but it is like a power station: not only do my guitars come from there, but also my books on lutherie (photo C). Granted: Sometimes my wife has to threaten me with divorce in order to make me go and sit at the dinner table.
6. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What was the last record or CD you bought? And listened to?
Leo Lospennato: I don't buy whole CD's anymore. I hunt for songs that I like, and I buy the digital download of those particular songs. Maybe it is because I am pushing 50, but the only whole CD's I listen to where all recorded 20 years ago or more.
7. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Electric or acoustic?
Leo Lospennato: I love both, but I prefer to build electrics. Their sound is independent from the body geometry, which gives me the freedom of designing a guitar in whichever shape I want.
8. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What is the secret behind your choice of wood?
Leo Lospennato: Choosing a wood piece for a guitar is a complex task. In principle I look for lightweight, hard woods with a nice figure. But there are also environmental considerations: I squarely reject to work with even mildly endangered species, and I only use certified woods. So you see, I am a solitary hunter: I hunt for songs, I hunt for inspiration, and I hunt for the right piece of wood for my next instrument. But the best part of a hunt is when you share it with others, so that's when my books enter in play.
...AND TWO HANDS
9. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Why should we consider luthier-crafted guitars as a viable option to guitars made by the large manufacturers?
Leo Lospennato: Let me turn the question around: Why should we consider guitars made by large manufacturers as a viable option, when we can play a luthier made guitar? Guitars produced by the truckload in a production line hardly help musicians in differentiating themselves: they are using the same model than so many others do. The same guitars we have seen during the last 60 years, and counting. True: mass production helps reducing the price of a guitar. How is it possible to produce an instrument that costs 100 bucks? Oh, that's easy: relaxing the interpretation of things like copyrights, dignified work, and environmental ethics. But other things will take a hit, too: quality, originality, attention to detail, and the ozone layer.
10. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Who plays your guitars? Who would you like to play your guitars?
Leo Lospennato: My most recognized endorsers are Kontrust (one of the top bands in Europe), and none other than Spinal Tap's front man David St. Hubbins (interpreted by musician, Hollywood actor, and Grammy winner Michael McKean). Most of my customers are collectors, though; people who are looking for a guitar out of the ordinary, something made especially for you, not something you can buy over the counter in any music shop.
Official site: lospennatoguitars.com