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Epifani Amplification founder Nick Epifani with jazz/fusion bassist
Brian Bromberg at Winter NAMM 2011 last January.
Call it fate or call it destiny, some things were just meant to happen. When Nick Epifani started his journey from Torino, Italy, to New York City, he had no idea that one day his ideas and innovations would shape the way bass gear is manufactured, designed, and heard. And this from a drummer-turned-guitarist who started a company in his garage and played mad scientist with bass-cabinet designs. As a chronic tinkerer, Epifani had been modding guitar amps and cabinets from day one. Never quite satisfied with tones, he set out to either make a better cabinet or alter the amp to his liking. The result was a cab that not only shook foundations (literally and figuratively), but broke new ground for the bass world. His bass cabinets and amps have steadily risen in popularity over the years, and they can now be found onstage with many of the most capable bassists on the planet.
But while Epifani may not have foreseen how his design would change the bass universe, his success was no accident. His first cabs were labors of love produced one at a time at home. For 10 years, he worked there by day, and every night he’d set out to jazz clubs to introduce his wares to players around the city. After a fateful meeting with representatives from Fodera Guitars, his business really caught afire as players such as Matt Garrison (Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock), Lincoln Goines (Mike Stern, Carly Simon, Robert Palmer), and Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Madonna) began using his cabinets and amps onstage and in the studio.
We recently spoke with Epifani about his innovations—from the first cabinet he built in Italy for his brother to his latest digital amps and cabinets—his perseverance, and his steadfast determination to blaze a path all his own.
How did you first get involved with music?
I was 13 years old and started as a drummer in Italy, then formed a band with my cousin and my brother. There was always a guitar in the house, so I knew a few things on guitar, as well. We grew up listening to Hendrix and Grand Funk Railroad, so that was the inspiration for the music. LPs were hard to come by, so when we got our hands on one it was like a sacred bible to us. When I was 18, the band booked a two-month gig in Holland, and our guitar player backed out at the last minute so I moved to guitar.
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What brought you to New York?
After bouncing around various gigs, I started a business delivering vegetables in Italy. The work was from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m., so that freed up my afternoons, where I worked in a very big music store. One day, a customer came in and asked about finding guitar players to work on a cruise ship. This was in the late ’70s, and the idea intrigued me. One of the selling points was that the ship would sail from New York City to the Bahamas, passing through the Bermuda Triangle. So the whole situation sounded like one big adventure. I played disco up and down the East Coast, and when my time was up, I made New York my home. I continued playing in wedding bands in NYC for a few years while working a day job.
When did you start building gear?
The first thing I ever built was a 2x12 bass cabinet for my brother when I was 17 or 18. I scrounged up whatever I could find for materials, but I had no idea what I was doing.
Do you still have it?
I wish! I was still playing my gig, so I would change out components—this speaker or that component—and one day I thought “Why can’t we make something that sounds good right off the bat? Why do we have to customize things?” So I started making guitar amps and cabs for myself, finding the best materials I could. Pretty soon, people started asking about my gear. Fearing the lack of name-brand status, I would tell them a friend made them for me. I started building in my garage. I did all the cutting, gluing, assembling, etc., and then I would sell them with no name on them.