born in the heart of Czech Republic and from Roman Zajicek’s passion. It was his passion
for sound and love for the acoustic notes rooted in bluegrass and country music
-his American dream- that drove a teenager during communist era, to try to break
down the walls of politics to make his dream come true: building musical
Roman is now one of the most brilliant Eastern Europe luthiers, something reflected in his creations, in their sound. His guitars are pieces of art, expression of his love for nature, details and beauty. Roman says he received a special gift to ‘feel the soul’ of any piece of wood he uses to build his instruments. If you look at his creations and listen to their sound, you’ll understand why we’re convinced it’s absolutely true.
1. GUITARS EXCHANGE: How did you end up becoming, or start out as, a luthier?
Roman Zajicek: That would be a very long story… I fell in love into American music (especially bluegrass), when I was 15. I was amazed about the sound of guitar, five string banjo, dobro etc. That time, during a communist era, it was impossible to buy these instruments in the socialist Czech Republic, and the only one way how to get any, was to build them. But there were almost no people with the know-how, nobody was not able to tell me how to build those instruments. Fortunately some of my relations live in the U.S.A., and so I asked my uncle to send me some publications how to make these instruments. And so it goes! I started try and try - for a long time it was only a hobby for me. But in 1989 after velvet revolution in the Czech Republic the wall has been broken. I went abroad, checked all hi-end instruments I could and started to make really good instruments. But that was still only a side job for me until 2003, when I met my business partner Pavel, and after he invested into this kind of business, the real story of ROZAWOOD company started to be written.
2. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What inspires you to design and manufacture a new guitar?
Roman Zajicek: This is one of the most difficult questions for me - it is a feeling I have, the inspiration comes through the music and sounds I never heard and wish to create and also checking all the great luthiers in the world. Nowadays there is so much inspiration in the age of internet … you can discover new things everywhere you can imagine. But my greatest inspiration is the nature.
3. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Do you look for a given sound for any particular reason?
Roman Zajicek: Yes. I am always trying to define the exact sound, that the result should have been. All customers expect that, if they order “custom tailored” instrument. And if you know the way how to do that (to play the instrument good at least is very helpful), you are on the right way.
4. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Select one and talk about: soul, jazz, blues, rock, pop…or other.
Roman Zajicek: Bluegrass and Country Music. I think, there is not any other style (except classical music), where you can hear the instruments sound so naturally. I like the feel to hear that ringing of the banjo, wooden singing of guitars and mandolins, and steel crying in dobro sound. But I prefer to listen to the modern kind of bluegrass and country music as well as that old fashioned and raw sound.
5. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Are you a jobbing artist or a solitary artisan?
Roman Zajicek: I am working with my son and one colleague. And I feel that I am more jobbing artist, as I am still trying to play music and stay in contact with other artists. This helps me to bring more experience to my main job, which is making of ROZAWOOD instruments.
6. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What was the last record or CD you bought? And listened to?
Roman Zajicek: The last one I bought is a bluegrass CD - All For Today of Shawn Lane - mandolin, violin and guitar player of the Blue Highway band. But this one is his solo project he released in 2003 (the same year when ROZAWOOD was born). I discovered this CD few months ago and listen to it almost every day. For me it is one of the best CDs ever released.
7. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Electric or acoustic?
Roman Zajicek: Acoustic. Even I like modern country music and incredible electric guitar players like Brad Paisley, acoustic guitar rocks.
8. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What is the secret behind your choice of wood?
Roman Zajicek: I do not have any secret. I think, I have a feeling and hear the soul of every single piece of wood. It is something that it is not possible to buy. You can learn, how to understand to the wood, to the nature at all, but this feeling seems to me to be a gift I have received by …. So I feel something like an obligation to do this job, to be useful here on the Earth.
...AND TWO HANDS
9. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Why should we consider luthier-crafted guitars as a viable option to guitars made by the large manufacturers?
Roman Zajicek: Well, this is a good question. I always explain it on car business example. There is a lot of very good and renowned producers. You can buy Ford, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Cadillac or whatever you can imagine. Everybody prefers something else and the decision is always on the purchaser. But if you want something really special, then you go to Roll Royce! Or Ferrari, Aston Martin or Mc Laren! The choice is wide as well, but you will have to pay more …I think that it’s understandable comparison. And as everybody knows the differences among cars, the same differences are between factory-made and hand-made guitars. It starts just on the beginning – with the amount of several dozen guitars per year I am able to check and “feel the soul” of any piece of wood before I decide to buy it for our instruments. For example – when we go to our Spruce supplier for tops, I spend all one day in room with only AAAAA grade tops. I tap some 400-500 tops, hear their sound and tone characteristic and can select from all this amount some 40-50 - the best of them. And then I stop for while among AA and AAA grade and sometime I find among them some pieces beating all 5As … What I want to say? In some limited volume of production you can subordinate everything during the building process to achieve the best sound, which the customer wants. To use the piece of wood with just “the right soul” for wanted final sound and shape the bracing reflecting all attributes and characteristics of exactly this one piece of wood you are just using for just this customer with all his individual and specific demands … This is that, what makes our customers happy and what is in principal not possible to do when you produce hundreds or thousands guitars per year.
10. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Who plays your guitars? Who would you like to have play your guitars?
Roman Zajicek: Well, I can proudly say, that two best dobro players in the world - Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes play ROZAWOOD dobro as well and Mike Marshall plays our mandocello. Dutch superstar Miss Montreal, Faroe Islands singer/songwriter Eivør or UK rising star James Gillespie are some of our guitar players. And my great pleasure is, that in March 2016 one of the leading bluesmen Eric Bibb decided to play our baritone guitar. And as far as I know, one of our most expensive guitars has been purchased by manager of Rolling Stones. And there are still a lot of artists I would like they play our instruments …But after my opinion it is not important how many superstars play your instruments (of-course, from the business point of view it is), but the most important matter is, how much happiness and joy you can give to all those no-name people, which decided to invest their money into our hand-made instrument. That’s the point. And I want to say “Thank you” to all of them…
Official Rozawood website: http://www.rozawood.cz