5 Matt Brewster is the man behind the bench at Rust Guitars and Basses. The operation is nestled in the way back of 30th Street Guitars, just a sneeze away from Madison Square Garden. Matt and I spoke at length about the mission behind Rust. The product line seems very “meat and potatoes.” What are your staples? My product line is the staples. We make only 4-string basses, a vintage P and a
vintage J model. All traditional hardware is
used, and traditional pickups and components. We do not make a 5-string. It’s like
you said, meat and potatoes.
Are you a believer in “lighter is better?”
Do you do your finish work in-house?
with a Rust instrument in hand to try out or
purchase. Why is the product so hot right
now? [Literally as I am asking this question,
one of Matt’s clients, Steve “Godfather”
DiVentuta, says, “I’m taking this one.”]
Rust Guitars and Basses
Actually, no. Sometimes if you get a body
that is too light, there is not enough mass,
and it sounds like the bass has no energy.
Heavier bodies have a darker sound, where
lighter ones are airy and bright. Like I said,
a body that’s too light sounds too bright,
sometimes lighter is not better.
My instruments are made of all top-shelf
components. The finish work is exacting. The
setups are perfect. When you look at a Rust,
you are not just buying a “relic,” you are buying a bass that is built to an exacting feel, an
exacting emulation of the real thing.
Finish work is impossible to do in NYC on any
commercial scale. We send work out to one
of two sources. We use a guy in NY state and
another in Florida. The relicing is done in-house.
Who is the target audience for the
Is any custom work available?
We can build anything a customer desires. If
we need to install a preamp on a customer-ordered bass, that’s easy enough to do. Pretty
much, our product line is pure, classic ‘60s, but
utilizing a “retro stance.” Take this bass, for
example (pulling out what looks to be a heavily modified ‘60s P-Bass). This is a custom order
for the bass player in the band Jupiter One.
It’s a ‘60s-style P that was built to look like it
was modified during the bad old days of the
‘70s. It has a period-correct DiMarzio Model
One pickup and a ‘70s-style black guard. It’s
what the customer wanted, and we built it.
Are you using poly or nitro?
We only use nitro for our finishes. We do not
use poly of any variety. I have found on my
basses poly sounds stiff compared to nitro.
We don’t use any hype, we don’t use any wizardry. We use old-school finishes.
I’m looking at your painted, pre-relic’d bodies. They are all done impeccably. Why do a
perfect finish only to do a heavy relic?
A perfect finish to start with only lends
itself to a better relic.
Our buyers vary from rock stars to pros to
breakout artists to working NYC musicians
in the bars—this is our main clientele. Pretty
much it’s all the guys out there “doin’ it,”
who want to leave the real stuff at home or
are just priced out of the vintage market.
What is the secret to the success of the
Slow and steady! Sometimes bigger is not
better, and I am at the advantage of offering
a high-quality, custom-to-spec bass at a reasonably affordable price. My rule is: nothing
crazy will be built. If the bass is crazy, Matt is
crazy. Matt does not want to be crazy!
Do you do any fancy bodies or finishes?
What type of components do you use?
I love the Lollar pickups. CTS pots and
Switchcraft jacks are key. Bridges are Fender
vintage reissue. For tuners, we use Fender or
Gotoh. All the parts are relic’d in-house. For
pickguards we use Pickguardian guards. Tony
makes an amazing product.
Where do you get your wood?
We use no figured wood.
We try to keep as authentic as possible. We want
to keep to the vibe of a
40- to 50-year old bass.
That’s not to say we
won’t use a 12" radius
fingerboard, but we try to
keep strictly old school.
Our bodies and necks are all USA sourced
and built to our standards. Only premium
stuff is used. We do all wood prep and fretwork in-house. We use alder for our colors
and ash for sunbursts.
Do you use old-school or
more modern techniques
with your building?
Is there anything special you do before
sending the bodies out for paint?
We are strictly old school.
We use every type of hand
tool, and traditional bench
power tools if needed.
We inspect the grain and feel the weight
of each body. Different grains and different
weights lend themselves better to different
types of finishes and tones.
Rust is one of the
smaller players in this
genre of bass, but
every time I’m in here,
there’s always a client