How did you get your start in music?
I come from a very musical family. My father is a full-time guitar player and singer who worked in several bands; he is still active at age 76.
I got my first acoustic guitar when I was 7. When I got older, I was an active guitar player and singer in several projects.
Are you still an active player?
When I launched Zerberus-Guitars in 2002, I did not find the time to play in bands anymore. It was always great to play live on stage but now it is also great to build guitars and basses and see my customers happy.
How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass?
When I was 13, I started building my first guitar with the help of an old joiner who lived in my little hometown. Being a guitar player I mostly focused on building guitars. I built my first bass in 2010. That bass, called “Hades,” was sold to a customer in the USA.
How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier? Who would you consider a Mentor?
I learned a lot about woodworking from the old joiner with whom I built my first guitar. That man taught me a lot of old techniques and tricks that were (and are) helpful in woodworking.
Earlier my grandfather also took me to his wood workshop when I was a kid. So this is when the seed and love for woodworking was sown. I will never forget the smell of sawdust and wood-oil in his workshop and even now when I am 51 Years old, I love the smell of wood.
How do you select the woods you choose to build with?
I often try to find very long seasoned and old wood from private wood stocks. Sometimes I can grab some really excellent lumber that was stored for decades in the attic of an old barn. Some of my Mahogany has been steps of a circular staircase. I love to recycle that Mahogany because you hardly will find better lumber that is seasoned so well in a shop.
If I decide to use quilted, figured or flamed Maple I buy that lumber directly from suppliers in the USA, mostly from the hills of Washington. But I also love to use native lumber from my region in Germany.
How about pickups? What pickups did you use in the past? What electronics do you use right now?
I am not bound to any brand and so I have used pickups from various companies. But I have had very good experience with Bass-Lines Humbuckers made by Seymour Duncan and MM boutique Humbuckers by Harry Haeussel, who builds amazing pickups here in Germany. In general I prefer to use humbuckers.
All my basses usually have electronics by the German company named “Glockenklang”. I think it is my roots as a guitar player that wants me to have the electronics effective but simple.
A two-band control with active/passive by push-pull-potentiometer for me is perfect. I am not into having 10 knobs on my instruments when a two-band Glockenklang control does the job. On my guitars, only passive controls and passive pickups.
Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses?
Since Zerberus-Guitars is a very small company with only one person in the workshop (Me), I only build very small quantities of guitars and even smaller quantities of basses. So actually there are no well-known or famous bass players who own one of my basses.
Lenny Castellanos, who played with Rick Vito, tried my Hades Bass a few Years ago. He really liked it but it already was sold to another customer.
How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?
This is one of the most exciting things to do. I love the interaction with customers. To define a wish and substantiate what starts as a customer´s dream is what makes this job so amazing. That starts by discussing the needs, dreams and wishes of the customer.
- What kind of music do you play?
- What kind of sound do you like?
- What kind of design are you dreaming of?
There is so much to ask and talk about.
Later I make a sketch on paper and again discuss with the customer. Then we talk about the lumber… about the top (quilted, flamed or any exotic lumber). If we are satisfied with the parameters, I start picking out the best lumber in my workshop. I take pictures and make some photo-realistic drawings with various colors and lumber. Once we are both happy about the results I start building the bass. Of course I take pictures of every step and mail them to the customer so he always can see how his dream comes real.
What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?
I am very proud about my instruments because they are all my babies, until I give them into the hands of a happy customer.
On my unique, custom shop projects I do all the work by hand and I don´t employ CNC machines that churn out bodies or necks every hour. That makes every guitar and bass an absolutely unique specimen and second to none. Even if I build the same bass or guitar one more time, it never will be the same.
Being a one-man-workshop, every step is done by me, from buying the wood to polishing the finished instrument; they are all mu babies. And then the smile on the customer’s face when he holds and plays his new instrument for the first time – invaluable. I don´t want to make copies of already existing instruments and I want all my guitars and basses to have my very individual note.
Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?
I like the Crow bass most of all because it has a two-piece Padouk Coral Lumber body and I applied some really extreme shapings on that bass.
Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?
Often young people ask me about how to start as a guitar or bass builder. I know they might hate to hear this answer, but I always recommend they they have a good education and to find a decent job first. I think it is better to start building guitars and basses as a side-line first so you can count on your job to pay your living if the Luthier business does not work out as you expected. Being a Luthier can be a very exciting and satisfying way of life, but it also can be very frustrating and uncertain some times; it is always good to have a solid basis to rely on when times get rough.
Don´t get me wrong, being a Luthier is exciting. But if you talk with other Luthiers you will find out that many of them also work in guitar stores or wood workshops to make their living. Others build guitars and basses full-time, but most of them have learned a job. (I did and I started building guitars and basses as a side-line.)
What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?
Go to a music shop and give them all a try, don´t rely only on big names. There are many basses out there beside the standards and as an individual you don´t have to play what everybody plays.
What is biggest success for you and for your company?
We have exhibited at the NAMM show a few times and we will continue to exhibit at that amazing show. But the biggest success is when I see that a customer loves his new instrument. This is what makes this job so awesome and that is what makes a project a success.
Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design?
Actually I am very much focusing in building my new “gorgonized” guitars with tops made of real stone and gemstone. I launched my new models at the NAMM show in Anaheim last year and I introduced my new Chronos model with real gemstone tops (Amethyst, Tiger´s Eye and so on) at the 2017 NAMM show in Anaheim. Those guitars have real 0.2” thick gemstone tops laid into a chambered Mahogany body, and the weight is only around 8 lb.
For the time being I need to focus on the guitars, but I will build “gorgonized” basses with gemstone top as soon as I find the time.