Chats: Phillipe Dubreuille
Master Guitar Maker
Phillipe Dubrueille has made guitars for many famous people including The Cure, Iggy Pop, Dave Stewart, Chrissy Hynde, ZZ Top, Vernon Reid, Rudolph Shenker, Oasis, Edwin Collins, and even one for ex F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve.
First up, the question was how he got started.
I learnt by myself and I was helped by the fact I played guitar. My Uncle had a furniture factory and he had all sorts of nice woods and tools so I made my first one. It wasn't very good at all but through playing it, I learnt a lot about how to improve it.
Seven years later I made another one which was much better and a friend saw it and wanted one and this happened a few times.The guitars were getting better and I showed one to a shop in Geneva and they offered me two days work a week there. I learnt a lot there as well.
While working at the shop, Phillipe continued making guitars and one day thought he would try and sell some to visiting musicians.
It is not like London there. The security is not as bad and the musicians themselves are less bothered and more friendly.
I went to see The Cure and after the concert I saw them and showed one of my guitars. They liked it and said to come along to their next concert and we would talk afterwards. I had just enough money for the train fare so I wondered if I should do this!
I went along and they ordered two guitars and paid cash. Later, I did not know the area and it didn't look very nice so I stuffed all the money down the front of my pants. I was OK though.
Later I went to more concerts and sold guitars to all sorts of people.
Along the way he picked up enough experiences to write a book of anecdotes. One such came out of a conversation about wiring your own electric pickups. Phillipe does hand windings but uses a winder to do it otherwise it would take a very long time. There have been stories about Les Paul wiring his own and Phillipe asked his son if this were true. "Sure he did" was the reply "but the wire was this thick!" indicating something not far short of 12 guage (that's thick!).
Another story involved a concert by Nirvana. By that time Phillipe was used to getting into not only the concert but also the after concert doings...
The woman would not let me in at all but later I met the guitar tech. He was an enormous man covered in tattoos and piercings and a very nice fellow. He got me in and later at the post-concert party, there was the security woman, who was very angry and wanted me out but it didn't work out for her.
Another story involved an Iggy Pop band guitar repair ...
The guitar player had broken his guitar and at 2PM of the day of the show he asked me whether I could fix it. I said "Yes" but then explained it was not long enough for everything to set properly so he should not string it too tight and treat it gently. He said "Yeah, sure". Later I was at the concert and there he was, going absolutely crazy on his guitar. I almost had to cover my eyes but somehow it held together.
Phillipe did that for ten years but found it difficult to make a proper living doing so. He also didn't like working for other people where the pay was usually terrible. He decided to head to London .
For ten years I was doing that and getting by so I moved to London to try and do a little better than getting by.
His first experiences, four years ago, weren't good with the usual ripoff attempts to pay him less than it costs to live in that expensive city but now he has a shop in Denmark Street, Soho, and things have improved.
In England, the general buyer is very conservative - Strats or Gibsons - but the serious players are, whatever their country, more adventurous. Collecters who are not players are a special pain in the ass and I try to avoid them. They approach an instrument with a tape measure and micrometer rather than their eyes and ears.
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