It is not a
coincidence that two of the greatest luthiers in the world, William
'Grit' Laskin and Andy Manson,
define his instruments as 'outstanding', 'exceptional', 'remarkable', 'unique',
'amazing'…and the list goes on. Just look at the photos from our gallery to
understand the quality, precision and deep knowledge David has on wood and the fine
art of guitar making.
David Antony Reid builds beautiful objects that go beyond the uniqueness of using ancient and rare woods (such as 3000+ year old bog oak, 100 year old fallen sequoia, re-claimed old Cuban and Brazilian mahogany). David reaches the soul, the essence of each piece that make up the entire work. A soul that is the instrument’s tone, reflected in the unique feeling you get when you play it.
1. GUITARS EXCHANGE: How did you end up becoming, or start out as, a luthier?
DAR: I actually made my first guitar out of pure necessity, back in 1998. Being a 70’s baby, early eighties child, my teenage years slipped right in to the 90’s, and, in the UK at that time, guitar music took a serious slump. Electronic music became the next biggest thing for many teenagers and young adults for the best part of 5 years, including my many peers and therefore myself; so, the Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirts where chucked out, the romanticism of playing like Hendrix went out the window and The Jam albums were stashed away in a cupboard – I can just feel all of the guitarists wincing as they read this now, ha, ha! So, I actually became a house DJ for a while - not a particularly great one mind you I have to admit, but I did do it as a paid job, and please don’t hold that against me as so many guitarists do, ha, ha! But, honestly, it was a phase, and a short-lived one at that, and I had always wanted to learn to play guitar as I’d loved it since I was little, but, I’m not from a particularly musical family, so it just never happened for me in the early years. But, back in 1998, when Brit-Pop was getting bigger and bigger, and guitar had been on the up for about 3 years, I craved my rock vinyl again, and guitar was more popular than ever, so one evening, an old friend I used to DJ with came to me for a few beers, and turned-up with a guitar. After a few beverages and him showing me what he knew, he couldn’t be bothered to take it home with him on a bus, so he asked if he could leave the guitar with me, I happily offered to adopt it for a while and so practiced what he’d shown me – just some basic chords and a few picking pieces. I knew he’d want it back at some point of course, so, being fairly handy with my hands, and very curious, I got a ruler out and measured-up what I figured to be the most important factors; fret positions, scale length, bridge position, etcetera. I then went off and gathered together some woodworking tools, an old scaffolding board for the neck and some plywood for the body. What ensued was me setting-about my newly fitted kitchen making the worst guitar you’ve ever seen in your life! It truly was awful, but I had no books, no internet, no YouTube, no advice – nothing! I just had a cheap guitar to study, a hell of a lot of enthusiasm and some common sense. It was just as well I wasn’t married though or I’d have been divorced, ha, ha - wood shavings and dust everywhere! I actually finished it with yacht varnish, used ceramic tiles for the fretboard inlays, and golf tees for the bridge pins, it really was that awful! I was studying mechatronical engineering at the time, but found that there was a college course in Glasgow that taught lutherie. I had absolutely no idea back then that there was even such a thing, but, utterly intrigued by this, after my first attempt at guitar making I made a better instrument, with proper materials, and then took it with me for an interview in Glasgow; an unconditional offer of acceptance was offered, and the rest is history.
2. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What inspires you to design and manufacture a new guitar?
DAR: Having a new idea for an innovation. I have executed six of such epiphanies to date, and I am very keen to expose my next two in Santa Barbra this year, at the SBAIC. I really had hoped to finish them for the HGGS in 2015, but I’m afraid that ill health and my Father’s recent passing away had gotten in the way of that ambition.
3. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Do you look for a given sound for any particular reason?
DAR: I have actually just developed my latest innovation so that it allows for a player to completely EQ their acoustic guitar before I finish it for them, so they get the ultimate tone “they” want. I call it Truly Tailored Tone, and I have a very thorough explanatory video uploaded to my YouTube channel demonstrating this. Anyone can get to that via my YouTube channel – once there just look for Truly Tailored Tone. I’m really excited about this, and I just had an amazing review of it in Grand Gtrs, a collector’s guitar magazine coming out of Germany. It is all about the customer for me. Aside from making a clean, articulate and crisp tone for each note, I want the player to express their subjectivity, which with tone is extremely poignant and personal for all!
4. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Select one and talk about: soul, jazz, blues, rock, pop…or other.
DAR: This is a difficult one! I have such a broad and eclectic range of musical taste. The only genres of music I really can’t stand to listen to are grime, really commercial pop and commercial, cheezy country. I actually love contemporary jazz at the moment, and my favorite contemporary jazz band is The Cinematic Orchestra. I saw them live at The Royal Albert Hall in London a few years ago, and it was a memorable event to say the very least. Their “To Build a Home” is my favorite song of all time. But, I love all of the usual classics: Herbie Hancock, Thelonius Monk, Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Wes Montgomery, the list goes on... For me, Jazz is one of the most timeless genres of music. It just always sticks with me, but I find that other styles wear thin, or I become bored of them. So, Jazz! Classical would be a second, for the same reasons.
5. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Are you a jobbing artist or a solitary artisan?
DAR: Oh, if you mean playing music I have osteoarthritis, so I’m afraid my playing is very limited to personal pleasure, or should I say frustration, ha, ha! I used to play violin, up to the equivalent of about grade 3, I own an upright Rogers piano, and play a little on that, but I mostly play guitar, of course. The only serious lessons I’ve ever had for guitar, with exams, was for classical; again, up to about grade 3. Unfortunately for me it is a real struggle. My lack of dexterity and constant joint pain gets in the way of rhythm, and progressing to bigger stretches and playing for any beneficial length of time, it’s a really deep frustration for me, but I just have to accept it and play to a very small crowd – usually my partner who is demented with my very limited repertoire, ha, ha, ha! If you were referring to my lutherie, I’d say I am an artist and an artisan. Being a luthier covers so many skill sets as most in the know know, but as a creator of new and innovative ideas for an instrument that has only truly begun to develop in the last 20 years, I’d probably go for artist. If you mean do I work alone, or work with others: well, I tried interns, and have had 5 at one point. I found it very hard to get them to meet my standards. Even for remedial tasks. And I felt utterly terrible to ask so much of them. But that is what our industry commands – perfection. But life just isn’t like that; it’s far, far from perfect, and this necessity in our industry just isn’t for everyone; or in fact, many people at all – understandably! One such intern was very good, but he saw the difficulties in the business and decided on different route in life - I supported him wholeheartedly, and we remain very good friends to this date. Though I have had great learners in my shop, I have to say, ultimately, I was destroyed with grief after one particular intern, turn promising student, was caught stealing from me. It was one of the most upsetting things I have ever encountered. I gave her so, so much; but I guess some humans just want to take, take, take. I will never ever understand that mentality. Especially since she was more than aware of my despise for thieves after huge losses I had suffered years before due to a past, devastating burglary. I will never, ever understand her dishonor to me. So, with that in mind, I most certainly am a solo artist now! And through harsh experience shall remain so.
6. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What was the last record or CD you bought? And listened to?
DAR: I was actually gifted the new New Order album recently, and it’s really growing on me. They’ve actually gone really electronic, but I like it. It was a CD, but I’m a huge vinyl fan, and I have quite a collection, but I like to listen to music in my car, loud – no SL1210’s in there, ha, ha! Before the New Order album it was a CD, also, but because I bought it at a gig: Sound Of The Sirens, A Long Way To Fall. I recently met them at an event in London, The London Acoustic Guitar Night, organized by my friend Chris Woods Groove. They’re a great female duo, real charters, and really funny, too. They’re starting to do very well on the festival circuit. You should check them out! I have to say, though, I am very much looking forward to the release of Beth Orton’s new album. I absolutely love her! One thing I do do a lot though is listen to the radio. It goes on first thing in the morning, and it’s switched off about 8pm at night, after dinner. I love Radio Paradise, which is a fantastic station, playing a seriously eclectic mix of music, and it’s a commercial free, news free, listener supported station coming out of New York. I support them by paying a contribution, and couldn’t recommend it enough. I also listen to BBC 6 Music to break things up.
7. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Electric or acoustic?
DAR: Acoustic. There is just something very magical and organic about each and every custom luthier’s chosen flavor. It’s so natural. It really touches the soul. And that’s why it’s such a buzz when you play something you made with your own hands and it expresses you as an artist – or in my case, someone else playing it, ha, ha!
8. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What is the secret behind your choice of wood?
DAR: That again is entirely up to the customer. I am very about the bespoke approach. It’s completely their choice. But I know woods inside out, and will advise where needed. In short, though, if it channels sound to the touch and feel, it is a good musical instrument wood. Touch to the hand of a player is a different thing all together, though. And weight has a big part to play as well. For me the finish on a neck is probably more important. But it is massively subjective, again.
...AND TWO HANDS
9. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Why should we consider luthier-crafted guitars as a viable option to guitars made by the large manufacturers?
DAR: That’s easy. To use an analogy: If all you have ever drunk is cheap, instant coffee, and you are suddenly introduced to the best, freshly roasted and ground coffee know to man, then you might not understand it at first; but, give you a few months of drinking that, then go back to the instant, and, well, enough said! Or, if a scotch whisky is your tipple, or red wine, then same deal. If a wonderful single malt, crafted over decades, or a grape cultivated and harvested to perfection, were to be analyzed on equal terms, the results I feel would be akin. Apart from that, when you have such offerings as Truly Tailored Tone, and hear it in person, it’s a worthwhile investment, not just something that will just depreciate and be a perpetual niggle to you. I know so, so many guitarists that have factory made instruments and always say: ‘If only it just had a little more of this, or a bit more of that’. Or, indeed, less of something... With a bespoke service such as us luthier’s provide, you’re never disappointed. In 18 years of making stringed instruments I’ve never had a customer not absolutely love their guitar, combolin, tenor or whatever I made for them.
10. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Who plays your guitars? Who would you like to have play your guitars?
DAR: I have a very, very broad range of people that play my instruments. From billionaires to people that have saved all their life for their dream sound. But, like most bespoke luthiers, I have collectors, gigging musicians, bedroom guitarists, and enthusiasts - all of which I treat in exactly the same way. If you mean named guitarists or producers: Ben Smith is currently playing my guitars – watch that space is all I can say! Then, Mark Frith. He’s a record producer and has played in many bands – most notably, Crybaby. His personal guitar has been co-produced with Chris Hughs the record producer, on many, many albums. Albums by artist’s such as The Electric Soft Parade, Cooper Temple Clause, Stackridge, The Quartet, Liam Blake, and many, many more. I have also made a small electric guitar for Justin Adams – just a bit of fun. He’s Robert Plant’s guitarist. In the extravagantly named and current Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters. But, my absolute best customer of all, and absolute true gent, is Robbie Leask, of the Scottish folk band, Coran Raa. Great guy, genuine as they come and much respected! For someone I’d absolutely ove to play my guitars: the aforementioned Beth Orton. Though to be honest: our world is a materialistic one; full of artists’ and celebrities’ endorsements. It is known by us that most mainstream players are only interested in a brand name. I will never be, or want to be, that.
Official David Antony Reid website