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Builder Profile: Becker Guitars & Ryan Martin Basses

Builder Profile: Becker Guitars & Ryan Martin Basses

Endorsers Spread the Word
Since introducing their prototypes to the Disco Biscuits guitarist Jon “the Barber” Gutwillig at a 2008 show in Providence, Rhode Island, inquiries from other artists and fans have been steadily trickling in. “Barber opened a lot of doors for us,” Becker says. “As soon as he picked up the prototype, he goes, ‘Shit! This is so much better than my guitar!’” Gutwillig seized the opportunity to try something rare and played the guitar at that very show—and he hasn’t looked back since. “After that,” Becker says, “he took two of our guitars on the road with him while we built him his UniBomber.”

Gutwillig’s UniBomber is a green-and-purple piece from the Imperial line. Built from yellowheart and curly ash, the entire instrument was custom-carved— right down to the bridge, tailpiece, and knobs. Gutwillig says he was initially drawn to Becker Guitars because of the way the instruments play, emphasizing that the tone and playability is unmatched.

“They really don’t cut corners . . . and they go just as far to oversee the entire pickup winding process,” Gutwillig says. “To have two guys who are great builders not only look over the entire process of [building] the guitar—but also actually fashion all the little nuances of every single instrument— makes a big difference in things that are difficult to quantify, like sustain. I stopped using a compressor when I went to my Beckers,” he says.

A HeadHunter Roller in Black Cherry Burst finish.

Broadening Their Horizons
Today, ElectriCandyland is excited about the launch of two new production lines called the GhostRider and HeadHunter. Becker and Martin say the guitars are aimed at delivering the company’s signature tone and feel in instruments that are easier to produce and that will be more affordable. GhostRiders can be carved from mahogany or alder, their fretboards and retro pickguards are available in a bunch of different woods, and they feature more electronics configurations (such as coil-tapped humbuckers, P-90s, single-coils, and lipstick-style pickups) than any other models.

As for the HeadHunter, Becker says, “It will be one of the mainstays of the company: A neck-through instrument, all mahogany, with a maple top and an ebony fretboard. The woods are traditional, but the finish is very bold. We’re going to offer all of our guitar shapes in that style, which will be slightly more affordable.”

Dave Poe from the band Brew has already placed an order for his HeadHunter. Becker holds up a sweet-looking, deep-purple piece of mahogany with a curly maple top. Its heavily rounded edges give it a liquid feel. “It doesn’t have all the heavy lamination,” Becker says, “and we can build it much quicker because we don’t have to make the hardware—which takes a long time.”

With such low production numbers, most of Becker’s and Martin’s guitars and basses cost close to $5000. But the HeadHunter will run closer to $2000, and it was designed for those who want that “candy” without breaking the bank. “If we could produce the amounts that Fender or Gibson produce,” Martin says, “we’d be making a much cheaper guitar. But when you get to that level, you can’t give as much personal attention to each instrument and they all become cookie-cutter. Dan’s doing a good job of keeping them all different.”

One of the ways these intrepid builders keep their guitars unique is with wood choice and coloring. “We use a lot of exotic woods,” Becker says, “like bloodwood, yellowheart, curly ash, fever wood, cocobolo, and highquality, air-dried mahogany and maple. We’re always on a search.”

In a stroke of luck, Becker and Martin were offered a large stock of wood at a highly discounted rate by some retiring woodworkers. “We have a nice stash of 30-year-old, air-dried South American mahogany that’s really tough to get,” Becker says. “And we found another guy who was closing shop—a local guy—and he had a lot of old maple and ash.”

Each instrument’s vibrant color comes from the combination of the different woods and hand-dyed lacquers that are sprayed onto the body after it has been carved and sanded.

Becker explains, “When I asked a couple of players what color they wanted, rather than choosing a color [they] just gave me an idea to go by.” He picks up Poe’s guitar to make his point. “[Poe] said, ‘Just make my guitar Evil Excalibur.’ He goes, ‘Make it, like, forged from Mount Doom.’ I was like, ‘Freak! All right.’ I sprayed the back of the guitar cherry with black bursts, like a black cherry, and the front has grays, black, and purples—but it didn’t come out that evil. It needs to get darker. It’s all an experiment. Sometimes I don’t know how it’s going to come out, and then I finish it and think, ‘I hit it on that one.’”

Hoping for Hearsay
If you haven’t heard of ElectriCandyland, it’s probably because Becker and Martin rely on word of mouth as their primary marketing tool. “If we advertised,” Becker says, “We wouldn’t be able to keep up with our business.” Still, since 2007 they’ve sold close to 75 custom instruments, and you can now find them on Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube as buzz amongst guitar enthusiasts spreads.

“We’re under a hundred [instruments] right now,” Martin laughs, “so buy ’em while they’re rare.”
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