Greg interviews Cynosure Guitars (2015)
Q. Tell us a bit about your work in general, how you got started and where you’d like to see it going?
“I am a guitar luthier and artist, with a ‘uniquely unique’ strategic-building concept. Essentially, my creations are the result of the dichotomy between music and art; one could suggest that my guitars are art pieces unto themselves, yet they still maintain their distinction as functional instruments. I have termed this identifiable juxtaposition as ‘functional art’.
When designing an instrument, I will be greatly inspired by a lexicon of ideas, factors and thematics. Unlike most guitar builders, I consider the process to be an alchemical one, an experimental voyage working with a multitude of materials to fulfill my creative vision and one of aberrative measures. For me, it’s important to pay equal attention to the sound execution of the guitar to that of its stylistics and aesthetics, in fact, the very reason I started creating guitars was due to my dissatisfaction with generic shapes and designs, so I made it my very mission, my mantra if you will, to reimagine, redesign and redefine the guitar.
Initially, I spent almost a year researching how to build a guitar (via Youtube videos and forums), gaining knowledge of wood varieties, wood combinations, specifications, angles, scale lengths, tools etc. before I dared take the challenge. I started by designing guitars, purely based on my discontent for the common conception of a guitar, also, that time was taken to practice on cheap wood, excelling my talent and honing my skills. The design process however, is equally, perhaps even more important, than the building process; the guitar exists on paper before the chisel carves the wood. Fundamentally, the guitar can be designed and re-designed thousands of times on paper, but when you’re actually producing it from the wood, you need a clear idea as to what you are finally producing.
“I first contacted Paul Raymond Gregory in early 2013, directly after I had created my first guitar. I was introduced to a business marketing website called LinkedIn, in which its algorithm found related people to connect with, based on their interests and work industry. From here, I sent my newly created promotional guitar building video to my new connections; one of these connections was indeed, Paul. After an email or two, both Paul and I immediately appreciated each other’s work and sought to work together in the future. After a year or so, I had built a few guitars, enough to have a full exhibition (including a custom-created Bloodstock guitar that I made in exchange for exhibition space, accommodation and other transpositions), he then invited me to showcase them at his newly established Rock and Metal (RAM) Gallery hosted on the Bloodstock Festival grounds in 2014.
“After the success of Bloodstock 2014 and the inaugurated RAM Gallery, I have been invited back to exhibit once again, this time, with a commissioned RAM guitar that symbolizes the concept of the Gallery. I can say that within a short time of realizing my desired career choice, I am rather lucky to have reached an audience as diverse and large, especially, given my three year experience of guitar-building. And with a list of revered and respected musicians handling and playing my creations, Bloodstock has helped establish me as a Luthier within the guitar and music community. I have a profound respect for Paul, and indeed the entire Gregory family, and I am always open to working them him/them. In fact, if invited, I will certainly attend each and every Bloodstock and I look forward to continually creating with the team.”
Q. You were commissioned to produce a guitar for the gallery at Bloodstock 2014 – tell us how that came about, the design and construction process, and also how you first became aware of the festival?
“I’d heard of Bloodstock Festival several years ago through friends that had attended, also, via music magazines that I happened to pick up on the odd occasion I was early to work, though at the time, I never realized how preponderate it would become. I had never attended before 2014, though; I had a crash-course in Bloodstock due to my interaction with Paul Raymond Gregory. I built a custom guitar for Paul that was presented during Bloodstock 2014 in the Rock and Metal Gallery. The appropriately named ‘Infernus’ guitar was the creation of my imagining. I sought to metaphorize the concept of Bloodstock Festival within a single symbol that represented power, rebellion, strength and individuality. To me, the most obvious design for such a creation was an inverted cross. After much careful planning and design structure, the cross was stylized to be ultimately functional yet maintain a high visual impact. The guitar is a 24.75” scale red oak solid body (deliberately not grain-filled) with a black lacquer finish. Also, the German carve around the perimeter allows for increased access to the fretboard, essentially 100%. The rosewood fretboard is streamlined with my signature aluminum binding, highlighting the 12th fret Bloodstock ‘B-O-A’ logo made from sealed thick steel. Perhaps one of the most visual aspects, aside from the body design, is my trademark textured steel plates found on the headstock back and control plates. This guitar was more than just a guitar but a sculpture with defined aural capability. This instrument was to be the single most scintillating, enthralling and captivating example of luthiery so it had to reflect the ideals and concept of Bloodstock Festival; this led me to carve a white oak Bloodstock ‘RAM’ wired with glowing red LEDs for eyes.”
Q. How satisfied were you with the finished instrument and what sort of feedback have you had?
“The Infernus guitar represented a lot for me. Not only did it allow me to connect with the wonderful Gregory family but it gave me a platform to showcase my art creations to a wider, more professional audience than I had before. I was able to meet and converse with some of the most revered and respected musicians in the World, regarding my work; a unique and invaluable experience! Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Ihsahn (Emperor), Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir), Amon Amarth and Crowbar were only a few of the bands and artists that I made connections with during my tenure at the festival, in which had something very positive and redeemably constructive to proclaim in reference to my guitars. To have these artists sit down and play my instruments was beyond anything I could have expected, though, it allowed me to reach them on a personal level and connect to their profession.”
Q. Was 2014 your first visit to Bloodstock? How did you find the event compared to other festivals you’ve visited?
“Bloodstock 2014 was my very first encounter of the world-renowned metal festival. My personal experience there is unlike any other showcasing in my repertoire and remains my largest and most-prized event involving my artwork. Although I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to feature my unique crafts at a multiple of music festivals and expositions, nothing has compared to Bloodstock in terms of audience number and artists interaction... Bloodstock is unparalleled! For me, everything else is bromidic in comparison. Perhaps this is an extremely unique aspect of Bloodstock, the opportunity to present your hard-laboured work to the minds and professions of some of the most venerated bands and artists in the World. I don’t think I would have had the same experiences nor interactions at another music festival or event than I did at Bloodstock. Maybe it’s the atmosphere and mentality of the festival that alludes to such positivity and respect or maybe it’s the calibre of the artists performing that enlightens your experiences.”
Q. For a first effort, most visitors seemed to find that the gallery at Bloodstock 2014 was quite professionally done...
“I agree. The gallery was a stable arena perfectly sized to display the artworks of Paul Raymond Gregory and myself (we were the two artists to exhibit in the RAM Gallery in 2014). A great deal of people passed through, sharing their favouring of the gallery with their friends and other onlookers which resulted in piquing the interest of some of the bands performing that weekend. For me, as with Paul, it is exceptionally important to present our work within such a space as the RAM Gallery, onsite of one of the most reputable festivals in Europe. The fusion of music and art is implicit and homogenized to one another. To create works of art that are products of that fusion, this symbiotic relationship, not only establishes an expansive audience that captivates and engages all of those that adulate either demographic but creates a congenial ineffability that makes us question, that makes us think. This is the profound reason why I create.”
Q. You’ve now also been commissioned to build a guitar for Bloodstock 2015 – how was the design and build for that one?
“The RAM guitar is a concept taken from Paul’s Gallery logo design. Fundamentally, it’s a three inch-thick cherry solid body sculpture, yet slightly modified for optimum playability. I call it a sculpture, because that’s the best way to describe a three dimensional anatomical human skull/ram horn hybrid manticore! This is the most incredible, outlandish, eccentric and detailed guitar I have ever produced... dare I say it, anyone has ever produced! In part, I
created this guitar to stand apart from anything I have ever seen, instrumentally. My biggest hope is to present the guitar to Paul and register his reaction to what I think it might be. I can only hope. I want this guitar to not only ostracize itself from any other before it and be considered as a work of art in itself but to fully encapsulate the concept and ethos of the Rock and Metal (RAM) Gallery.
Q. You’re also bringing some other guitars to exhibit at Bloodstock 2015...
“I am bringing a handful of guitars...well, a few handfuls literally. I shall be showcasing the newly created RAM Guitar along with some other examples of my work and individual thematics. I will feature some guitars from my Postmodern / Post-Apocalyptic Industrial Series which take inspiration from different periods of revolutionized industry of the past century to be displayed amongst the Bloodstock 2014 guitar.”
Q. How do you view the synergy between art and music, in particular heavy metal in all its many forms?
“I think I mentioned this earlier in a previous question, but to reinforce my answer, I concede to the fact that music ultimately conveys a sense of partnership and unity with art. The coalescence of two (possible) separate demographics can be woven together so inseparably, that they become one; a singular entity that demonstrates values and catharsis of both distinct art forms. Music, especially metal and rock, has cultivated my ambitions and creativity to what I have become today. Music has helped shape me as an artist. Rock and metal music in particular is so interconnected with art, decreeing and delivering messages of emotion, creativity, fluidity, life experience, romance, the human condition, nature, life and death... this is essentially art! I often get asked how to define the term ‘art’. To suggest art in its simplest explication, would be as so, art is something that dissolves the boundaries and connects an audience to the subject matter that evokes a cathartic reaction. It is unadulterated, it is pure. For me, nothing reaches the human psyche as much as music. It is an unwritten language that transcends cultures, races, spoken language, age, gender, religion, time. Music is art...”
Q. Despite modest beginnings, Paul has great ambitions for the RAM gallery as a concept. Do you think that maybe creative connections and opportunities for artists from different disciplines but with much in common to work together are sometimes overlooked?
“I often find, the more creative an endeavour, the less opportunities there are to present that work. I was extremely fortunate to find that connection in Paul, and I am exceptionally grateful to him to have given me a new plateau to showcase my art and establish myself as a fully-fledged luthier, within the guitar industry. For many talented artists, it can be deflating to not have their work exposed in the limelight as they fully deserve. It is challenging in both the art industry and music industry to ‘break-through’ though Paul’s gallery concept seeks to change all that. My belief of the RAM Gallery is that although it is in its modest stages, it has the full potential and promise to expose some brilliant new art prodigies that have connections with art and music within their work. The Gallery is a platform created in support of the music and art to bring artists together from different disciplines with common connections to reach a wide audience of spectators. Even in its small beginnings, the RAM Gallery has become synonymous with supporting the ambitions of artists from all around the World. Its primary premise seeks to unveil works of artists implementing rock/metal music with art within their creations unto the music/art-loving festival crowd. I have prescience of great things with the RAM Gallery and will continue to support and cherish Paul Raymond Gregory’s vision to enable young and/or less-fortunate artists to present their work to a wider audience.”