When this author met guitar maker Dan Becker in 2008, he said he had built fewer than 15 guitars. That estimate was surprising, because standing in his workshop meant standing beneath dozens of ornate guitars and guitar skeletons, elaborate unfinished models, and prototypes hanging from the ceiling. It was like being in a room full of nude mannequins, some without necks or bodies. It was impressive that such a small operation could produce so many pieces, and all by hand.
Becker and his business partner, Ryan Martin of Ryan Martin Basses, are unique custom builders who’ve based their reputations on quality craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind artistic designs. Using exotic colored woods and state-of-the-art materials, the two experiment with shape, color, and feel to create the custom stringed instruments they’ve come to collectively call ElectriCandyland. Each piece is carved, dyed, and finished entirely by hand. With the amount of attention put into each piece, it’s no wonder they’ve racked up an impressive list of professional clientele that includes guitarist Jake Cinninger and bassist Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee, moe. guitarist Chuck Garvey, and bassist Marc Brownstein and guitarist Jon “the Barber” Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits.
“It’s really high-end craftsmanship in instruments done in a funky but elegant way,” Becker explains. “We use the word ‘psychadeligance.’ We’re not afraid to do our own thing, and I think people like that. ElectriCandyland is Alice in Wonderlandmeets Willy Wonka.”
The description is a fair one— Becker designs would be right at home in a Tim Burton flick. Each instrument is animated by vibrant colors and paired with an unconventional shape and design, and the designers say they draw inspiration from life’s smaller pleasures, such as Disney/Pixar films or Medieval Times.
Martin says the real challenge is designing something that’s unique, yet still has that familiarity guitarists expect. “Most good guitarists play a Strat or a Les Paul,” he says. “So if you make a guitar that feels better than a Strat or a Les Paul, it’s going to be undeniable, whether the artist is in the market for a new guitar or not.”
This bass is Ryan Martin’s version of a design by guitar maker
Robert Taylor. It’s made from purpleheart, bloodwood,
and curly maple, and features a high-gloss finish.