Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Axel Roks
How did you get your start in music?
I think I was about 12 years old. My father took me to a Mother’s Finest concert. It was the very first concert I ever attended and it was an amazing experience. I somehow felt connected with the bass playing of Wyzard; I was mesmerized by the movement of his hands and feeling the low frequencies in my body. When the show was over it was clear to me that I wanted to play bass guitar.
Are you still an active player?
I am, however it is getting harder to find the time to play due to my job as a Luthier.
How did you get started as a Luthier?
I have a background in restoring classic cars and mechanical engineering. Because of that I already had experience with industrial design before I started building basses. I quickly realized the designing process doesn’t confine itself to a certain material or object so it could easily be applied to Lutherie. With this thought in mind I went to the lumberyard and bought some wood. I wasn’t happy with the basses I was playing at the time. I also did not have the financial means to buy the basses I desired. So why not build one, it couldn’t be that difficult.
How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier? Who would you consider a Mentor?
I’m self-taught. But I think people of my generation are brought up autodidact. The Internet is a goldmine of information, you can teach yourself practically anything. I really enjoyed the videos of Carl Thompson, they gave me a lot of inspiration when I was starting out.
How do you select the woods you choose to build with?
Wood, to me, has to have certain characteristics to be used in guitar building. Which are: looks, density and feel. All of these factors contribute to the final outcome of a bass. Wood is a wonderful material in all its diversity. I love to use woods I’ve never worked with before.
How about pickups? What pickups did you use in the past? What electronics do you use right now?
I use pickups from EMG, Haussel or some of my own. They all have their own features that can complement a properly built bass. My goal is to build versatile basses and I feel a good preamp adds to this, especially on a gig. I’ve had situations where my drummer would go bananas and wash away my sound, tweak the preamp a little and your sound is back. It’s like adding seasoning to a dish.
How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?
Essentially every bass I make is a signature. Every bass is created in close collaboration with its future owner, from selecting the woods to the finishing.
Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?
There might be someone reading this right now who has these ambitions. If anyone thinks about starting a career in guitar building, it is the job of you, me and everybody else to stand around and join together in a chorus, Do It! Do It! Do It!
Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design?
I am working on a new bass that takes its inspiration from a chair. I am a sucker for Scandinavian design and I was so inspired by the works of Arne Jacobsen that I wanted to make a bass with one of his chairs in mind. The project has a very “form follows function” approach; every feature is there with a reason. The bass will hopefully make its grand entrance later this year.