Mojo Box Guitars Interview
Retrouvez cet interview en français ICI
NAME : Pierre Marc Martelli
NICK NAME: Péhème, Tonton, Le Marseillais, Gros, Pierro, etc…
LIVING IN : Bayonne, France
TRAINING & BACKGROUND : I learned lutherie by myself, over a period of 7-8 years between my first creations and the opening of my first workshop.
PALYING : I play a little guitar (that can always be useful) and bass. But my “real” instrument is the tenor sax.
NAME OF YOUR HIGH SCHOOL BAND : There were attempts, short enough that they didn’t have names! But we had formed a trio called Me, him and the other…
LUTHIER YOU ADMIRE THE MOST : Ken Parker and Mitchi Matsuda.
INSTRUMENT TOU DREAM TO HAVE : A Norton Commando Speedster 1967 !
LAST ALBUM YOU BOUGHT : Secular Psalms – Dave Douglas (Awesome !)
LAST MUSIC YOU PUT IN YOUR CAR : Celia Cruz y La Sonora Matancera : Nuevo Ritmo Omelenko
LAST SHOW YOU SAW : It goes back a long way… John Scofield’s quintet or Le Sacre du Tympan, I don’t remember.
MOST IMPRESSIVE INSTRUMENT YOU HAD IN HANDS : A Tele of 1954 and some Gibson ES330/335 of the 1960s
STRANGEST RESTORATION YOU HAD TO DO : A late 19th century theorbo.
The most important thing is the sound! And of course the ergonomics of the instrument.
We can turn around the aesthetic question, the quality of the wood or the equipment of the guitar, if the sound is not there, all that is a little vain…
This is true for all types of guitars (and musical instruments in general). All my efforts are focused on the sound and even if I take care of the visual aspect of my guitars, they have to fulfill the minimum contract of sounding as good as they can!
For a few years now, I have been trying to perfect some of the solutions I have found, especially for the nylon string acoustic models.
But it’s a never ending quest (fortunately?). I draw a lot before building, it allows me to mentally establish the building process in all its details, to determine which woods will be the most suitable, which finish, etc.
I now attach a lot of importance to weight, which I try to reduce as much as possible.
Whether it’s custom instruments or ongoing production, I work almost exclusively on one-off pieces.
So I don’t really have a set model or range. However, the acoustic nylon string guitars (crossover) are the ones that have the most systematized characteristics.
I am very attached to the notion of craftsmanship, meaning that I really do everything on the instrument (except for the hardware) and without heavy tools.
I will end up looking like Geppetto, it’s almost sure!
At the risk of repeating myself: the SOUND is more important than anything, of course.
Building a guitar is a complex process that involves an infinite number of gestures, skills and knowledge. This specification imposes an approach that only experience allows to apprehend with a certain serenity.
For my part, it is a path that has been strewn with errors and failures, all of which have been very fertile and formative. So we work again and again, we improve our manufacturing techniques, our knowledge of wood, and we also study the solutions that our colleagues have come up with. I try to be creative all the time.
In order to meet the needs and desires of a client, you have to know what sound he has in mind for his future guitar: it’s quite destabilizing because it implies to be indiscreet in a certain way.
Most of the time, what a customer wants is a mix of several guitars, a synthesis of the sonic, ergonomic and visual characteristics of his favorite instruments. Sometimes you are asked to re-build a previous creation with a few adjustments.
I start by establishing a connection with the person, what are his tastes, his preferences in terms of music and sound, his playing habits, the contexts in which he will use the instrument, etc. Often we talk about the guitars that will have marked him, that helps situate the choices.
Often, we talk about the guitars that will have marked him/her, it helps to situate the choices. Very often, having a guitar made to measure by a luthier is a project that has matured for a long time and the client has had the time to define his request. It is enough to be attentive and to listen. Chatting about everything is not useless… He/she will probably have already chosen one of my guitars that he/she liked and we discuss aesthetic choices, ergonomics (weight, dimensions, type of finish) and materials.
As far as wood species are concerned, I don’t have an infinite choice but we always end up finding what suits us. It is sometimes necessary to refocus the request because certain aspects requested can upset the final result, which is sometimes the case.
According to the current planning, the deadlines never exceed 6 months for a realization. I know now that it will also be necessary to count on a period during which adjustments will be made.
I developed a model in collaboration with Nelson Veras, a really incredible guitarist. We came up with an electroacoustic nylon string model. But the Covid crisis blocked everyone. It’s still an open file…
I also made an Archtop for Andrew Sudhibasilp, a little-known guitarist who now lives in Chicago. Andrew is one of my favorite guitarists and I have no doubt that in a while his talent will be fully revealed to everyone!
I’m not sure that the French have a particularity when it comes to lutherie. But perhaps they are less conventional than many others and their approach is very creative.
Having discussed this with the “old” Cheval or Queguiner, what was pioneer DIY in the 70’s and 80’s is now totally gone. Today’s French luthiers have nothing to envy to the Anglo-Saxons in terms of technique and knowledge transmission.
Je suis installé depuis peu à Bayonne, après avoir passé 40 ans à Marseille. On peut y rencontrer mes instruments (et moi-même) dans le quartier Saint-Esprit sans difficultés.
Côté salons, en 2023 je serai présent à Montrouge, à Toulouse et sans doute à Crémone.
Pour les autres, il reste toujours la boutique de luthiers.com !
We also invite you to follow him on his various social networks:
In the coming weeks, as for others luthiers for plucked string instruments, luthiers for bowed string instruments, amps & effects makers, wood & supplies dealers, lutherie events, jobs, schools & teachers subscribers on our site, you will be able to follow our series of mini-interviews dedicated to the fascinating world of luthiers.
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