but we’ll also use Seymour Duncans. I’m a
big fan of the Fralin Specials. But we’ll be
using different things over time.
Walk me through the evolution of your
I’ve got a Collings C10—a real plain one.
Great guitar. Bill’s a great builder—that
whole company’s a great company. I always
loved that guitar, but it was a little small, so
it didn’t have a lot of bass. I’ve had dreadnoughts before, too, like that Nagoya. A
dreadnought is a great guitar—obviously
it’s time tested. But to me, it’s a little big.
So what I did was I took that C10 shape
and a dreadnought shape and created my
own shape using those specs. Of course, it
falls sort of toward the size of an OM. I also
created my own bracing, combining all the
stuff that’s in between those two guitars.
They’ve got 25. 5"-scale lengths and a 16"
radius—things that are pretty common on an
acoustic guitar, things that people are very
used to. On my acoustic I’ve got real high
fretwire, but we’ll be putting lower fretwire
on these because some people don’t like
real high fretwire. The first one I made was
the Patuxent, and then I made a non-cutaway
one, the Potomac. And then all the inlay
designs were based off the Chesapeake
theme: Workboats of the Chesapeake Bay,
compass star kind of things, all that stuff.
Will they come with electronics?
Yeah. I’ve been using the Fishman Aura—which
is a really good system—but we’re going to be
experimenting with all kinds of electronics.
What’s behind the “Influence” name?
The reason I called them the Influence line is
because they kind of take from the old stuff
that Gibson did, and then there’s a little bit of
what I created at PRS that’s in there. It’s kind of
combining all those together into my design.
I imagine that, initially, you felt kind of torn
between wanting to differentiate Knaggs
guitars from what you did at PRS and wanting to incorporate some of the design elements you developed for PRS.
Well, the first thing I want to say is that
Paul and I are on great terms. I look back
on those guitars, and I feel like I did what I
needed to do to grow as a designer and help
sustain and feed the families that were at
PRS—I love all the people there. I don’t have
any weird feelings whatsoever on that end.
Maybe take Sheryl Crow, who was a backup
singer all her life and had no regrets, and
now she’s doing her own things. That’s how
it is for me now. Someone said to me, “How
do you erase the past?” And I said “I don’t
want to erase the past.” Working for Paul
was a great experience. I learned a lot, and
Intricate inlay work on a Knaggs acoustic headstock
I feel like I designed some really great stuff
that will carry on for PRS, and now it’s time
to do my own thing. I don’t have any regrets,
and when I’m designing, there’s absolutely
some PRS influence in there. But, I was
designing for PRS, now I’m designing for me.
When I left PRS, they asked me what I was
going to do, and I said “I’m going to clean
up my shop and start designing.” And that’s
what I did. But thinking about the past really
doesn’t do anything. When I was a musician,
I loved writing way more than I liked playing stuff that was already made. Anybody
who’s a creator has no problem leaving stuff
behind, because it’s the only way that you
continue to create new. Miles Davis used to
say, “I don’t want to play that old stuff.” I
hear Johnny Depp doesn’t even watch his
films. And that’s kind of the mode that I want
to be in—I want to continue to keep creating new stuff. That’s what makes me happy,
when people say “Man, I love that.” That’s
what makes me live.
What was the most challenging part of
starting Knaggs Guitars?
As weird as this sounds, the business side
is the most challenging part. For me, the
designing end and all that stuff comes real
easy. That said, it’s not an easy thing to draw
guitar shapes. It’s even harder to draw guitar
shapes that don’t look like something else
that’s been done. The guitar market gets
more and more crowded each year, so it was
a lot easier to draw a guitar shape in 1952
that didn’t look like anything else because
there was nothing else out there to draw it
against. Headstock shapes are really difficult,
and the reality is that a little line moved a
sixteenth of an inch can make all the difference in the world. So it’s really about refining
those shapes until they look good.
People have been building guitars for 400
years. There are always guitar makers who
are building stuff that people want, or like,
or respect. I’m just carrying on that tradition.
People ask me, “Why would you start a guitar
company?” And I’m like, “Well, why wouldn’t
I? What else am I going to do?” This is what
I do, and I have enough in me to make great
guitars, and I think as long as you’re making
great guitars, people are going to want to
buy them. I guess what I’m trying to say is
that people want to buy things that are made
well. If you think of how many different kinds
of cars have been made I mean, yeah, people
need to drive, but they don’t need to drive a
Ferrari or the most expensive BMW [laughs].
So I’m doing what I think people expect out
of me, and it’s what comes natural to me, and
it’s what I’ve done for 25 years. People have
tried different things that were innovative and
affected the music of that time—like Floyd
Roses—but for the most part it’s about making a neck shape that people like and getting
that sustain and liveliness. I guess what I’m
trying to say is that, building a guitar using
the techniques that people have used in the
past to make great guitars is what I’m striving for—whether it’s Ramirez, PRS, the great
old Strats, or the great old Gibsons. My main
goal is to build guitars that, when you play it
and put it down, you want to walk back over
and pick it up again.