Interview with Marc Minarik founder of Minarik Guitars NAMM 2017
By Peggy Phillips and Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/19/17
THT: How many years has Minarik Guitars been exhibiting at NAMM?
Marc – Well, I want to say 15 years.
THT – Has it been a positive experience for you and what keeps you coming back each year?
Marc – It’s a rush! You’re constantly rubbing elbows with people in the industry, all the way from new artists who are just getting started and looking for leg up to get some help launching their career, to living legends. People all the way back from the 50’s and on up, who you’ll see just walking around. It’s an amazing experience. There’s nothing quite like it. You’d think after so many years it would get old, but it doesn’t. It’s like a box of chocolates. I’ll tell you if it’s still fresh and flowery for me in 30 years.
THT: What gave you the desire to start a guitar company?
Marc – Originally I was in a band as a guitarist writing songs, just like every other musician and I wanted to get a record deal to get my band into the limelight. During this process I was trying to get an endorsement with a guitar company. Someone said, hey, you want to get an endorsement to help get your name out there and add some credibility to what you’re doing. That sounded like a logical and smart step. So, I got into the NAMM show and I was aiming for one booth that I really liked. They were unavailable so I went to another booth that had some interesting looking instruments and the owner’s son listened to my music, saw what I was doing and said, “we’ll endorse you. You’ll have more versatility here and we’ll treat you better – you’ll have one-on-one attention here.” And that company was B.C Rich Guitars.
I started there as artist. The President, Bernie Rico, said you gonna have to do your own guitar here and you can design it and do what you want, but you have to use this one shape – which was The Warlock. I don’t know if you remember those real pointy guitars from back in the day. I was in a pop group during the time when Lilith Fair was really big, so a Warlock wasn’t really fitting the band image – if you know what I mean. I was grateful for the opportunity, so I said OK, I’m gonna make this work. I did everything my brain said I should do to a Warlock to make it fit. I had a giant Mother of pearl Angel flying up the entire fretboard. On the headstock there was this beautiful Angel face with long flowing hair in abalone and Mother of Pearl. I did all “Marc type” of things to it and I brought it back. The owner of the company just sat there with it in his lap and stared at it for about 5 minutes. He didn’t say a word. Then he looked up at me and said, “This isn’t normal, people just don’t do this. You’ve got something special.” From that point on he wanted to talk to me about actually designing shapes, which I’d never done in my life. I had no experience in that, but he seemed to believe that I had something that wasn’t the “norm” so he said, “just design some shapes, whatever you think it should be, what you’d play.” I came back with a few shapes and he freaked out and said, “You need to have a guitar company, these are enough shapes to start your own unique brand. These shapes are million dollar shapes.” A few weeks after having that discussion, he died of a massive heart attack. I had been talking myself into it. Maybe the music thing isn’t my calling….maybe the universe is lining up… all the things you tell yourself when something that’s presented to you is pretty intense. Then when he passed away and I thought, how can I do this without his help? I’m just a guitarist. No one knows me. He was legendary. He was the Godfather and now he was gone. I called up one of the suppliers who worked for B.C Rich, Seymour Duncan. I called them up and I remember the Secretary answered the phone. I said this is Marc Minarik and you don’t know me but I knew Bernie Rico, and before I could finish my sentence she said “Hi Marc, hold on.” She put me on hold and the next thing I knew Seymour Duncan was on the phone. “Hey Marc, Bernie was telling me all about your company. You gonna do it?” I said, I’m honored Mr. Duncan – he cut me off. “You’re gonna do great! I’m going to put you in touch with Evan, he’s the one who does production in Korea and he’s going to make sure that those companies, the ones who make really incredible instruments are gonna treat you like you’re us. They’re going to treat you like gold. If you have any problem you let me know.”
So our first run of guitars with the Inferno. The shape that’s been one of our Flagship shapes that I designed. I did a 60 run from that company and brought those guitars to NAMM. One sales rep saw them and said, “this is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I want the entire order. How many are there?” 60. “I want 60.” He then sold the entire 60 in less than a month in one little tiny corner of Florida. I took the money from that sale and I ordered another 120 of them, and released another shape from the drawings I did. Ordered 60 of those. And he sold all of those too. And it just kept going and going. Pretty soon we were in other Countries. This all inside of maybe a year and half to two years. We have people representing us in other countries, distributor ships buying directly from our factory and shipping them to Great Britain, all over the place. It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it. This was zero advertising dollars – all I did was go to NAMM. That was it.
THT: Didn’t Lemmy play the Inferno Guitar ?
Marc – Oh Yeah! We were working on something really big with Lemmy, that we’re gonna talk to his management company here right after NAMM and Lemmy’s son to finalize a few things. I had a signature model that we were designing right before Lemmy passed away. We got it finished, he tested it, he loved it, so we’re ready to put it on the market place. There was just a couple of things that I wanted to ask Lemmy. This was about a month ago, so I had a couple of psychic medium friends reach out to Lemmy and ask him my questions, settling a couple other things is terms of the marketing. I would expect for you to see a Lemmy signature model bass from beyond the grave, that we’re gonna release.
THT: What other musicians are now endorsing the guitars and what type of musicians?
Marc – Maroon 5 has a black Inferno, Coheed and Cambria lead singer plays our guitar. There’s a couple of Disney artists who are playing our stuff. Lots of artists.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that a lot of the industry right now is very electronic based music. There’s not a lot of huge guitar bands. There may be some guitar in there, but it’s not the main focal point of the song at all. To me that’s the industry in a pendulum swing where it’s gonna start coming back towards more guitar based bands. I want to say the Coheed and Cambria, Lemmy was kind of a timeless group with Motorhead. I don’t think they were ever in or out, they were always there making a record that was always selling well.
In terms of a hot new artist I would expect to see more of those. If you asked me in a year I’d probably be able to give you three people that just emerged that they are hitting big. We have some people in our roster, I refer to them as “Farm Bands”, we are kinda growing them and they have write-ups from Rolling Stone and other magazines, but they don’t have a major record deal and haven’t been distributed all over the country. I don’t want to say anything about them until they land that and I’ll open my mouth. I’d say I could think of one specifically they are fraternal twins, boy and girl who are phenomenal, they have a great family support system to help them, plus us, and a producer and industry people that are good getting through the promotion distribution. I see big things for them, maybe in two years I’d say they’ll hit and then we’ll be attached to them because they’ve been playing our stuff since they first got in the music.
THT: Are you going to have anybody showcasing the guitars in the booth?
Marc – We haven’t been doing “in booth showcases” for severally years because it was kind of getting in the way of selling guitars. I know that sound – that whole idea that draws people into the booth, but it would be so over the top with people around the booth that it would clog up the booth and we couldn’t sell anything. What we ended up doing was, we started working with NAMM and getting our artist placed in the stages. They’re at the Marriott and the Hilton and there’s the big Friday NAMM Jam and the Shecter Guitar on Saturday. We started sponsoring those and placing our artists in there. These after parties have been really successful because we get to recognition our artist and way more people can stand there and watch them – better than they could in a little isle at the booth. Sometimes notable artists show up to the booth to say hello and they sit down on a chair and plug the guitar in, try it, and all the sudden there’s the huge crowd. It wasn’t an official thing – but it happens. We are not gonna stop that of course but you’ll never know.
THT: Since you’re a guitar player, when you pick up one of your guitars which one do you choose to play?
Marc – I have really been falling in love with acoustic again. It has oil paintings on the front that’s been sealed under the finish, crazy inlay work and multiple wood sandwiches – all these real tone woods on the back insides. When we do acoustics they’re just mind-bending. We have an Alice in Wonderland twelve string that is based on originally work that were associated with that story. As far the electric ones, I would say because we are re-launching the Inferno, I think it’s been like a decade since we came out with it. We’re having a re-launch of it.
I’m a child of the seventies and that music had a huge impact on my ideas. A time where there wasn’t any limits. When you design and you don’t conform. Growing up in the seventies had a huge impact on what I think cool is. And of course there’s the eighties. I was the guy they called “poser” because I listened to Poison, but I also had Slayer’s newest album.
THT: Where did you grow up?
Marc – So Cal, Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank area. Now I’m up in Las Vegas, but we still have a presence here in Glendale – that is kind of a family place we use for business.
THT: I’d like to ask you what the price point is because I‘m sure people will want to know.
Marc – We have two categories, the Studio X-treme Import Series – $300 to $1,300 and the Handmade Custom Series which start at $3,500 and go on up – really up. Like the down payment on a house up.
I can promise you, there’s going to be some sound and eye-candy at our booth this year, and not like cotton candy at Disneyland.
It’s a prediction but we’ve had a really heavy political upheaval recently and being in the music industry, selling guitars, I deal with people on both side of the spectrum. What I’ve noticed is once there’s a lot of emotions going on which, I believe there’s a lot right now on both sides, people turn to music to express and get those feelings out. Nothing’s more satisfying than holding a guitar in your lap and making a song about what’s on your mind. I think that’s going to just explode in the next five years – it’s gonna be over the top.
THT: Going back in the seventies
Marc – Songwriting, soul connected songwriting about what’s on your mind. It’s going to come back like a freight train. It’s exciting when you’re helping people reach their goal. Getting them the instrument that’s their divine connection – what’s going to connect with them and allow them to make their music. It’s exciting as a guitar designer, and a company owner, to be able to see that coming because you know it’s happened before. It’s very exciting and satisfying to help people to reach their goals. It’s gonna be like gang busters connecting people with their perfect guitar to help them create and get their box of emotions out to the world.
THT: That’s a real good point, I’m really glad you brought that up and it does remind me of what happened back in the seventies with the Vietnam war and so much of the history being documented through music.
Marc – I think it’s gonna be a great time to own a guitar, but also to be somebody who helps people find their next guitar, which is a huge part of what we do.
To learn more about Minarik Guitars go to: minarikguitars.com and check out their NAMM 2017 booth in Hall E.