How Relish became one of the world’s most innovative guitar companies

The Swiss boutique guitar builder is known far and wide for its defiantly modernist instruments. We meet head honcho Silvan Kueng to find out how this incredibly individual brand got to where it is today.

Silvan Kueng
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How did you get into guitar in the first place?

“Like most guitarists, the rock ’n’ roll heroes of the 50s and 60s made me want to pick up a guitar as a boy. And they still do today!”

When did you first start building or tinkering with guitars?

“Around eight years ago, my old business partner approached me, asking me to teach him how to play the guitar. In return, he showed me how to build a guitar. And things started rolling…”

Relish Mary One

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

“In very early stages we realised that the guitar market was ready for some real innovation in guitar building. A turning point was when legendary Vai/Zappa/Malmsteen guitar tech Thomas Nordegg became a big supporter and started calling us, ‘the Rolex within the guitar area’. He still supports us today.”

How did you initially get the business off the ground?

“We aimed big from the start, so we tried to get all the help we could in order to get the business up and running long-term. We launched a successful crowdfunding campaign, managed to get support from various start-up programs and finally got investors on board that believed in our vision.”

Relish Mary One

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

“Relish stands for the fullest and purest enjoyment and admiration in playing. And that’s the passion behind our adventure. Playing our own instruments and relishing seeing them in the hands of other guitarists. We have so many people writing to us, super excited that somebody is bringing new features and innovation to the electric guitar. Seeing all these positive reactions from the guitarist community and our customers makes us feel like we ‘nailed’ it.”

How did you come up with your unique approach to guitar design?

“From the very beginning, the idea was to build a guitar body with an aluminium centre frame and wood on both sides. Similar to a piano construction, this allows the centre frame to carry on the strings’ vibrations freely, boosting the sustain to new dimensions. This construction gave us access to the guitars’ interior from the back. Which meant we could install pickups from the inside.

“Then it dawned on us that by not having to remove strings and pickguards, we had the opportunity to make pickups instantly swappable from the back. So we spent long days and nights developing a magnetic swapping system with pre-soldered connecting points and pickup mounting frames. This system has been a standard in all Relish guitars since.”|

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

“When Phil Campbell of Motörhead started playing our instruments on stage. I mean, Motörhead – the epitome of rock ’n’ roll!”

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the guitar industry in 2019?

“The big guitar heroes that shaped the image of the electric guitar are slowly vanishing and handmade music has become secondary over the past decade. The guitar industry has been very immobile and kept clinging onto concepts of bygone times. But times have changed, guitar players have become globally connected and want to explore new ground, new sound and new possibilities. And this is a huge opportunity for forward-thinking guitar builders to bring new concepts to niche markets globally.”

What’s next for Relish?

“Our patented instant pickup swapping system has proven to be an incredible asset to modern guitar players. We’re planning on expanding customization options for our Mary and Jane models and expanding the range of swap-ready available pickups. And at the same time, we want to make our groundbreaking instant pickup swapping innovation more affordable for guitar players on a tighter budget. There’s going to be quite a big announcement very soon.”

For more information, visit relish.swiss.

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