On the bench at Elysian Acoustics
Matthew Carter - Luthier
I started building guitars in the early 1980's, but my fascination with and passion for the instrument reaches back into early memory - the Christmas gift of a diminutive plastic number with John, Paul, George and Ringo on the front, source unknown but thank you from the bottom of my heart, how I wish I still had it now...One of the Banana Splits with a black Les Paul – at least I think it was black, it was on black and white TV anyway…Marc Bolan's Flying V on Top Of The Pops, what planet did that come from I wondered?...Jimmy Page's solo on 'Tangerine', over and over, ear clamped to a battered cassette player that delivered it's own version with built in flanger at around 29rpm...
Fast forward a few years and it was an early Schecter Custom Parts catalogue I picked up at Chandler Guitars that prompted my first lutherie leanings - suddenly I was lost in a forest that fired my imagination, Koa and Shedua, Imbuya and Pau Ferro, Macasser and Rosewood. Local enquiries led me to Brighton luthiers Andy Demetriou and in particular Bob Hawkins, whose beautiful Bird's Eye Maple Strats and Teles opened my eyes. The notion that guitars could be made by the man in the street had somehow never occurred to me. A visit to legendary tonewood supplier David Dyke followed and I left dazzled by the splendours of his Aladdin's Cave clutching a slab of Sweet Chestnut. A few months later I found myself climbing a rickety fire-escape in a plant hire yard in Crowborough and knocking on the workshop door of brothers Andy and Hugh Manson of Manson Guitars fame, where I proudly unveiled a shy and painstakingly fashioned Strat body from it's hiding place inside a black bin liner. Repeated attempts to turn it Olympic White on a bathroom roof a hundred yards from the sea with numerous aerosol cans had met with resistance from stiff offshore breezes and persistent greenfly - could they spray it, I asked?...Leave it with us, they said...A few days later I got a phone call from Hugh.
The two years I spent working with Andy and Hugh Manson were instructive and inspiring as well as great fun, and whilst it was the electric guitar that led me there it was the acoustic which, from a construction point of view, quickly absorbed my attention. Watching Andy during this period, bombarding him with a thousand questions, has remained my inspiration - I feel privileged to have learnt from one of the very best. I continued to build and repair in Brighton before moving to London where I established my current workshop and started Elysian in 2001….
But the story is never finished - as one seasoned plucker said to me the other night, "...guitars are like a disease, they get into you...no matter how many you've got, there's always one more..."...poor chap. For the luthier it's no different.