"Meet the Makers": Wild Customs
We met with Julien & Reno, the awesome team at Wild Customs, the next big thing from France!
Can you introduce yourself a little bit, who are you?
We're a French guitar company based in a little town called VICHY, we are old friends sharing a passion for music, rock'n'roll, custom cars, street art, vintage, craftmanship and we've decided to launch our own guitar company.
What was your 1st guitar?
Julien Yamaha acoustic
Reno Black BC RICH WARLOCK
When was Wild Customs guitars created?
In 2006/2007, Julien made the first guitar when he was playing with Reno in a high energy rock'n'roll band called "Ass Bandits". Following this guitar Julien and Reno made a lot of customisations of existing instruments as long as a few guitars built from scratch. In 2008, they've decided to showcase their instruments at the Hellfest Open Air. But the Hellfest's organisation team told them that a Siret N° was required to set a booth at the Extreme Market. As matter of consequence, Julien & Reno officially launched WILD CUSTOMS to attend the Hellfest. :)
What was your 1st built ?
Slab-body in mahogany with a maple burl top and an inlaid R’n’Roll star on the back.
A 5 parts through-neck construction in maple/rosewood
The 1st Wild Customs guitar
The music instrument industry isn't currently at its best form due to purchasing behavior changes and some other factors, why did you decide to join in that crazy world?
We do believe that guitarist behaviors is about to change. You can feel that the boutique culture is raising in the guitar business (pedals, amps...) and we want to be part of this cultural change. We also want to bring new ideas, new projects, and a fresh artistic view into the guitar market. We've got a lot of projects on track that we want to achieve before even thinking of giving up
In your opinion what makes your products stand apart?
It's a long process to design a guitar, and for 1 good design we give up 15/20 ideas. Moreover, it’s really difficult to avoid comparison with the iconic guitars. All the Rock n’Roll stars we’ve loved as teenagers were playing on Fender, Rickenbacker, Gibson and all these notorious brands… It does impact the way we design our instruments. Nevertheless we always try to bring a personal touch, to develop our own visual style, something that would be unique and yet identifiable.
Your guitars take their origins from familiar designs but also original ones and use custom made handwound pickups from SP pickups, Lace Sensor, etc,, how did you decide on the kind of pickups and hardware to use? Wasn't it too hard to settle?
Most of times we're working on demand, and the guitarists who order their instruments have already their own preferences. We try as much as possible to drive people to boutique pickup manufacturers but it's always a tricky decision :)
Over the past 10 years we've tried a lot of different pickups and we can obviously advise
people depending the color of sound they're looking for. It's worth mentioning that Pickups are only one element that build the sound, the tonewood, the varnish, the hardware... does impact the sound and sustain of an instrument. Building a guitar is a question of balance and feeling with the guitarist.
Can you detail a bit more whats so different about the custom shop models?
We've got 2 different ranges
- the standard series with established designs and configurations
- the custom shop where people can create their own personal instruments, everything is "à la carte". It's one-off projects.
What else can we expect from Wild Customs in its regular & custom shop range?
People that are following us knows that we do love vintage and custom car designs. We're currently working on a high end guitar range inspired by notorious cars.
Otherwise we're currently working on a revolutionary concept for the upcoming Sauvage Guitar. You would have to wait for the Namm Show 2018.
Cites regulation has been introduced earlier this year, how does it affect Wild Customs in its day to day activities, do you think this will help preserve rosewood?
We won't use Rosewood until further notice. We're currently doing tests on alternative woods that are really close to Rosewood soundwise. Visually it's also important to be close to the genuine rosewood. Don't expect fake wood (vulcanized cardboard) on our guitars but we will always respect international regulations.
Do you think the press is giving small luthier/builders enough exposure?
I think it's up to small luthier, builders to promote themselves and to catch the attention of the journalists and guitar aficionados... The world is changing : shops, youtubers have sometimes more followers than established magazines. The communication is not only press oriented anymore. I won't blame on press editors, they're giving exposure to people who are bringing interesting things to the market big or small players.
Small builder/ luthier guitars are often viewed as expensive, what can you tell people to justify those prices?
3500€ / 4000€ is not a big budget for such a complicated item that includes
- wood skills
- electronic skills
- artistic view
- finishing skills
- setting and tuning experience....
I'm more surprised by brand new guitars sold less than 800€ featuring high gloss varnish, high end licensed hardware, flamed maple top, hardcase. Mass production allows big companies to drop the prices but at what cost?
What sort of people are your guitars aimed at? Pros, amateurs?
Most of them are amateur guitar aficionados
You've launched Wild Customs on several markets, how have your guitars been received?
Very well, but it's always a long process to access foreign markets. The Namm was a big step for us but we also realised that we would need a few years to develop sales in the USA. Established retailers have so much options in 2017 that they need to see you 2 or 3 years in raw before purchasing instruments.
What is your bestseller ?
I think the Illuminat-v is one of the most iconic instrument we've made. I wouldn't say it's our best seller since it's an expensive instrument but it's probably one of the most iconic instrument of the range.
Some pretty famous artists have been using your guitars, can you give us some examples ?
Last international artist who've ordered a wild custom instrument is Billie Joe Armstrong (greenday) otherwise we've recently created a crackbrained guitar with an Irig pad embed for Marc the guitarist of the raising electropop band KIZ (Paris).
Wild Customs guitars are available at Hurricane Music in Nantes, 30km from Clisson and the Hellfest, don't hesitate to drop by if you are around!
Check our stock online here