Recently I realised my beloved Ibanez RG370 needed a fret job. It was my first good electric guitar – Father Christmas gave it to me brand new in 1993 – and it’s seen thousands of hours of service over the years. Finally a pretty substantial buzz developed around the 15th fret. After hearing lots of great things about his work I took it to Joseph Price at Soxy Music here in Melbourne, and the dude really seemed to know his stuff. We got to chatting and his story sounded pretty damn interesting, so a while later I came back with a camera in one hand and my voice recorder in the other. Here’s our little chat!
So how did you get started?
I started dabbling in tweaking guitars – I guess what people call setups – when I was 15. I got a Paul Reed Smith, which I still own. It came with .009s and I thought, “What would this sound like with .010s? Then I tried .011s and all these things. Then I started with my friends’ guitars. And when I was 17 I had that guitar refretted at the best guitar shop in London, who should have done a good job and were very capable, but basically they cut the fret slots too deep so it weakened the neck. I didn’t understand what was wrong but I knew that something was wrong, and I knew by their reacction and me being unhappy that they knew something was wrong as well. So I spat the dummy and went “Well I’m gonna buy some tools, and I’m gonna show you!” I started buying up cheap plywood Yamaha Strats, and I would rip the frets out and refret them. After about ten goes I started to learn what works and what doesn’t, and I moved to Glasgow in Scotland to study, where I worked part time for a violin repair guy. And he showed me, “this is a hand plane, this is a chisel,” and he taught me more useful information about wood, grain direction, run-out, all of these old-school things which helped me to start to build guitars. But it was mentally quite a big jump from repairing to building, and realising they’re quite separate disciplines.