Matt Brewster 

Rust Guitars and Basses
New York, NY 

Years Building: 20
Wait Time:
Approx. 12 weeks for custom build (some available immediately)
Price Range:
(212) 868-2660

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.

Is any custom work available?

We can build anything a customer desires. If we need to install a preamp on a customerordered 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.

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?

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.

Is there anything special you do before sending the bodies out for paint?

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.

Are you a believer in “lighter is better?”

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.

Do you do your finish work in-house?

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.

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.

Do you do any fancy bodies or finishes?

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.

Do you use old-school or more modern techniques with your building?

We are strictly old school. We use every type of hand tool, and traditional bench power tools if needed.

Rust is one of the smaller players in this genre of bass, but every time I’m in here, there’s always a client 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.”]

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.

Who is the target audience for the product line?

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 product line?

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!