It was a happy coincidence that I bumped into Will McNicol in Chengdu when I was on my way to my Mum’s 96th birthday.
I was met at the airport by Will, Xu Bao and Joshua Jiao and rushed to a restaurant in an emergency food dash.
Will had been touring China with his own super charged yet gentle brand of acoustic music which he played on a new crossover guitar made by Martinez. This is a nylon strung instrument with a longer neck (the neck meets the body at the 14th fret) and a slightly shallower body. Will had just played in Chengdu the night before, following on from ten or more concerts throughout China, ably assisted by Josh.
After a wonderful lunch which culminated in the smashing of a wine glass while I was on a swing (don’t ask) we were joined by Alex Wang, CEO of Martinez. The following, slightly inebriated interview(s) discussing the future of the guitar in China, connections, Will’s music, life, the universe etc followed without further breakages .
A clip from Will’s latest recording
Will was voted Acoustic Guitarist of the Year by Guitarist Magazine in 2011.
Here is his piece “The Wakeup”.
I was in Iserlohn this summer and met American guitarist, luthier and composer Kenny Hill.
He is the third man who together with Alex Wang and Wolfgang Jellinghaus make up the driving power behind the Martinez Guitar Company.
I looked through a composition he had published, which Johannes Moller plays, and this seemed a good occasion to ask him his views on playing, making and writing.
When I was in Chengdu recently, I had a fun time with Alex Wang, CEO and founder of Martinez guitars, and persuaded him to do an interview just before I left for Hong Kong.
Here is a little bit about Martinez guitars, which are sold worldwide. In between drinking competitions I was astonished to discover that Martinez sold 70,000 guitars last year!
The new era of classic guitar producers were initiated when a talented China luthier, Mr. Alex Wang (the founder of Martinez brand) who learnt from the American luthier, Mr. Kenny Hill who trained & influenced many aspect of Martinez team for best practices based on the USA hand-made classic guitar making. The third influential person in this joint venture is a German luthier, Mr. Wolfgang Jellinghaus who fill in the role as the tone woods sourcing for the best of Martinez guitar sound.
In summary, the tradition of hand-made best practices from USA, the internationally trained China skills to assemble guitars in a modern guitar factory out of China and the sourcing capability for best tone woods out of Germany are the example of a globally integrated classic guitar brand, that is the Martinez Guitars ! This is another proof that the buzz word of “globally integrated company” were no longer dominated by the high-tech industry, it is happening in the classic guitar industry. The result is a new era classic guitar which inherited the “the hand-made guitar making” quality out of the modern guitars factory facility at the affordable price points. The consumers who buy these guitars will benefit the outcome of ‘globally integrated company’ concept.
Intrigued? I was, and will be visiting the factory very soon.
What job do you do after graduating in classical guitar?
When I first visited Chengdu two years ago, I was surprised that the professor at the conservatory, Xu Bao also ran a music shop.
I learned that this was a place his more advanced students could teach and it was a general meeting place for the increasing number of students he had.
There were also guitars for sale.
On this present visit, he had just opened a new shop, a hundred yards down from the previous one, but I also discovered that there were another two shops in other areas of Chengdu.
They all sold relatively expensive guitars from Altamira, Martinez and Milestone.
Overall, there were around 300 students and each shop was managed and part owned by one of Xu Bao’s students.
Intrigued, I wanted to find out why there was such a demand for guitar studios, their function in the life of students who have finished their studies and how Xu Bao manages to sell higher quality and more expensive guitars to his students.
The studio/shops themselves were also an interesting design, incorporating lots of open space and making use of all the space that was available.
In the following interview, I was ably assisted by one of Xu Bao’s former students, Wenjun Qi, who is now studying with Bill Kanengiser in Los Angeles.