Industry Insider: Monty’s Guitars

We speak to brand's main man Matt Gleason about the growth and expansion of the London-based boutique brand.

How did you get into guitar in the first place?

“The initial spark was watching Back To The Future as a child and being captivated by Marty McFly playing Johnny B Goode on a red Gibson 345. Then when I was a bit older it was getting into bands like Nirvana, Green Day and Radiohead, loving the sounds they made and wanting to do the same.”

When did you first start tinkering with guitars?

“Even as a child I was always a hands-on kind of person, I was always taking things apart and almost always putting them back together again. In terms of guitar it all really began when studying at the Guitar Institute in Acton (now the ICMP) in the year 2000. I had a Mexican Telecaster that was always had issues and I would regularly take it to [legendary London repairer and retailer] Charlie Chandler to get it fixed, I would remorselessly pester him for a job and on the day I graduated, I got word that I could start at Chandler Guitars as his apprentice.”

Monty's Guitars

What was the moment you realised that you had a viable business on your hands?

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“The workshop side of the business has always been busy, but in terms of our pickups, the first big thing was receiving orders from people I had no connection to. When the first one came in I thought it was my mum ordering some pickups using a false identity! It soon became apparent that the Monty’s name was getting out there and people were starting to trust me with their tone.”

Did you have any outside investors or similar to help you get your business off the ground?

“No, is the simple answer, Monty’s has never had any outside investment. When I started, I had a strong customer base from my years at Chandler’s. I always say being a repair person is much like being a hairdresser, when you find one you like you stick with them, so I was always busy. But you can only sell your time once, and I wanted to grow Monty’s into a brand. I was becoming obsessed with pickups, so to move into this, I sold my motorbike to buy Jason Lollar’s pickup book and some parts, and locked myself away in a garage and took it from there.”

Monty's Guitars

At what point did you feel like you ‘nailed’ your branding?

“I always had a strong vision of what I wanted Monty’s aesthetic to be, my aim is to fall stylistically somewhere between Victoriana and Art Deco. From the start wanted a certain amount of luxury with our packaging. We take a lot of time and care to handwrite every box and wrap, tie and wax seal each one. We have done this from day one and believe it is very important. The positive feedback from our customers over the years about the packaging has been so rewarding, it really makes me feel like I am doing something right.”

How did you come up with your best-selling product?

“Our best selling product is our replica PAF Humbucker pickups. Through all the years of playing and repairing hundreds of vintage PAFs, I really fell in love with a certain kind of PAF that would crop up every now and then, it was bright and dynamic with lots of harmonic content while at the same time being thick and fat sounding. I found no one out there was recreating these. I started to take readings of the PAFs that did that thing that I liked, taking them apart looking for their secrets, and down the rabbithole I fell. I really feel I have nailed what I was aiming for and the hugely positive response from players truly makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.”

What’s your proudest moment as a maker to date?

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“I would say; making and installing a set of PAFs for Ed O’Brien of Radiohead. I was at home on a Sunday afternoon and got a text message from a number I did not recognise saying, ‘My name is Ed O’Brien and I have heard really good things about your pickups and I would like to buy a set.’ I was convinced it was a prank by (neighbour and friend) Steve Crow from Audio Kitchen, but it turned out he had just passed my number on to Ed and forgot to tell me!”

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the guitar industry today?

“One of the biggest challenges is cutting through the noise. 2019 is a great time to be a gearhead, there are a lot of people out there doing really cool things, but because of this it makes it harder as a manufacturer to be heard. At the same time one of the biggest opportunities is the ability with social media to connect directly with your customers and build a real community around your business.”

Monty's Guitars

What’s next for Monty’s Guitars?

“2019 was a very busy year for us – we launched a new website and expanded our pickup range massively with more vintage-accurate models and some wilder stuff. We also unveiled our first-ever signature product, a custom Telecaster set for ‘Danish’ Pete Honoré. Going forward we have a huge amount of plans; new pickup designs, more signature products, plus some things no one would have expected to come from us! A big thing at Monty’s is having no regrets, we want to run with every crazy idea we come up with and we have a lot of them!”

For more information visit montysguitars.com.

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