Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Xavier Lorita…
How did you get your start in music?
I started to play the classic guitar at the age of 13 when I was at the school. My cousin who at that time played the electric guitar, taught me to play with an old classical guitar. It was a very fun time because everything I learned from music was completely self-taught and thus each chord or melody I learned was an exciting experience for me.
Are you still an active player?
Unfortunately no longer. I was active years ago when I started experimenting with repairing instruments but being focused 100% to building electric basses I set aside my role as musician. I cross the line between musician and Luthier because it was more exciting to build my own bass guitar.
How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass?
I started thanks to my cousin Michael. A few years after starting to play classical guitar with him we realized it was better for playing songs together that I play the bass. Shortly my cousin, frustrated for not finding a good guitar or bass, decided to build it for himself and I helped him in the project. It was 1992 and I was 16 years old and was so thrilled by a completely unknown thing.
With my cousin and little information we completed a fretless 5-string electric bass made entirely of Beachwood. It sounded very well and that encouraged me to modify my first bass guitar, a copy of a Tune bass, very fashionable at that time.
After about 3 years of testing with that Tune bass, in 1995 I decided to buy some tools and start my first 4-string Alembic bass, because Mark King was my idol in those years. I was obsessed with playing and having the same bass like Mark, and so I started to work with a piece of paper and a pencil drawing and eventually built my first handmade bass in my parents’ house.
Every evening after leaving the high school I came home and I started working on my bass. But just before finishing the project I saw that I needed help from a professional to cut the pickup cavities… that is when I met Jerzy Drozd.
How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier? Who would you consider a Mentor?
My cousin Michael and Jerzy Drozd both are Mentors for me. The first awakened in me the passion to build basses and the second gave the professional touch.
In 1998 I went to Jerzy’s workshop and he helped me with routing pickup cavities for my first bass. After seeing my first project I returned home thinking that someday I could build basses as beautiful as Jerzy’s basses. My surprise was that a year after Jerzy phoned me and offered a job as an apprentice due to a vacancy. It was 1999 and I can say that there began my career as a professional Luthier. From 1999 to 2012 I worked at Jerzy Drozd starting as an apprentice and becoming a professional Luthier in all aspects.
How do you select the woods you choose to build with?
We only select the best wood available from our suppliers. Although we usually work with wood from different sources and European woods such as alder, sycamore, walnut or olive, they are very present in our instruments. For each customer we select the most suitable woods according to sound, tone and weight, without sacrificing aesthetics. So every bass is unique and special and we prefer not to have a large wood stock in our workshop. Just what we need to work at that time.
Wood selection is an art but responds to different criteria: moisture, hardness, figure and density. We seek the most stable dry pieces for necks and if is possible we look for quarter-sawn cuts, but with our 3 piece necks this is not essential. For the bodies we seek a good figure and especially low weight and good tonal qualities. And for tops everything is possible.
How about pickups? What pickups did you use in the past? What electronics do you use right now?
In the past I worked with Bartolini pickups and EMG but with the experience with Jerzy I decided to apply my knowledge to improve some designs that I had in mind. That is why I now use my own split-coil hum-cancelling pickups with wooden covers.
The whole process from winding the coils to make the covers and final assembly is done in the workshop. This allows us to control the quality of the whole process step by step. For our economical models we work together with Delano pickups and also with Aguilar amplification under request.
For electronics we work with Glockenklang 2 and 3 band preamps. They sound amazing with our custom split-coil pickups.
Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses?
Marcos Miranda, Miki Santamaria, Andres Rotmistrovsky, Fernando Lamadrid, Juan Antonio Guerra and Carlos Sanchez are some of our endorsers. All of them well-known bass players in Spain and Europe. Carlos and Andres are our most international artists.
How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?
The most important thing is to investigate what kind of instruments the customers have and what kind of music they play. Listening to the customer is the key because it gives us some clues about that sound our customers are looking for.
This is not about making a copy of an instrument that the customer already has. It’s just about getting a little references to start with the overall design and the mixes of woods and electronics. Although often the customer is looking for something completely different and in this case we simply listen to what they have in mind. All that process is the same whether it is a new design for an artist or a model for a customer. In our company we make no difference because for us, all people are equally important.
After gathering all the information, we do the design on the computer and after the approval of the client, we start cutting templates that help us to cut the instrument itself. Not using CNC machines means that we have a lot of templates due to all the modifications requested by our customers.
What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?
I’m very happy overall with the design and ergonomics. This is key for me because on my previous stage with Jerzy the design and attention to small details were very important and I know that’s the way to success. There are still many things to improve every day to make the perfect bass guitar, and this forces us to use the best wood and hardware to get that dream sound for our customers.
I think the sound and tone is what differentiates our instruments as well as a certain “style” or ” aesthetics” in small details, such as wooden bridges and tail pieces or pickups wooden covers or headstock. These details create a different look. But above all a direct and friendly relationship with all of our customers; we don’t have customers, we have a family.
Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?
My favorite bass is Andres Rotmistrovsky’s bass. This was an amazing challenge to build a hollow-body bass for him because this was my first hollow body bass design after leaving Jerzy’s workshop. With these kind of basses you never know how things are going to finish. Too many options to be considered and the result is not always good enough.
But in this case all the long working nights were worth it because Andres is delighted with his instrument.
Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?
What I would say to young Luthiers is: put all the passion in what you do because without passion nothing is possible. A lot of work, passion, effort and sacrifice are necessary and at the end it is all worth it and takes you to success if you work well.
What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?
My advice is, don’t look for the perfect bass because it doesn’t exist. There is a bass that best suits your sound and comfort needs, but people always try to find a bass that fits all styles in one and that doesn’t exist. So, do not waste much energy on finding the perfect bass. With time and experience they will see that it is necessary to have two or three different instruments in sound and design to get all that they want.
What is biggest success for you and for your company?
The greatest success for me is to wake up every morning and work in what I love freely. The fact of being close to the people and capture their concerns, their desires and dreams and turning them into an instrument and at the end of the process see the happiness in her faces is a full success for me… as simple as that.
Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design? Or maybe some new gear amps, etc.
We’re always working in something new or thinking in how to improve the current models. Now we have some special projects in mind such as a new bolt-on singlecut model and a new Baby bass for 2017. And of course a second hollow-body bass for Andres Rotmistrovsky.
What are your future plans?
We’re working with our endorsers, especially with Marcos Miranda, to offer a future Bass camp in the near future that mixes nature, music clinics and bass guitar building construction clinics.