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This article was originally published in issue #33
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So what of the man behind the brand? The truth is, he's a humble man with a quick sense of humour and a passion for his craft (and ice cream!), he'll happily talk about his musical influences and his ideas for what guitar players need help them focus on their music.
When GI went to interview Ron Thal, Levi Clay had the rare opportunity to speak with the man who makes his extraordinary guitars, the French master luthier, Patrice Vigier. Here's his report.
In the last five years or so there has been a boom in the phrase “boutique”. Be it pedals, amps or guitars, more and more people are seeking out gear made by the hands of a skilled workman offering a bespoke service. Anyone would think this is a new market, but it isn't. In the USA, companies like Suhr and Tom Anderson Guitarworks have been offering handmade guitars for years, while in the UK makers like Hugh Manson and Chris May's Overwater having been following in the footsteps of an even earlier generation of custom makers. But one of the often overlooked names on the scene is also one of the most successful and most highly respected of all - he's the French luthier Patrice Vigier, who has been in the business for 35 years, making exquisite and highly advanced guitars for discerning players.
Located just outside of Paris, France, Vigier has been at the forefront of innovation in luthiery since 1980 when Patrice exhibited at his first show. Over the years he has experimented with many ideas because he believes that nothing is ever perfect, nothing is complete, as it is.
While some ideas have faded with time, others have kept Vigier at the front of the pack. Concepts like the 10-90 carbon neck, for example, which means a Vigier doesn't require a truss rod and will not move under any tension or climate change. Particularly for professional players whose instruments travel the world and are subject to extreme climate variations in double quick time, this is invaluable. Then there's the fantastic needle point ball bearing tremolo design and flex retainer and the segmented zero fret and teflon nut and string muting system. Vigier has never been afraid to innovate and while innovation has led some of the 'household name' guitar brands into deep trouble, it seems to have worked particularly well for Vigier.
One fascinating aspect of Vigier is mastery of the fretless guitar, an instrument Patrice first made in 1980 but could not sell. That was until it was reintroduced in 1998. When Bumblefoot began using them, they started a slow rise in popularity, and while Ron is still the absolute master of the instrument, other players like Guthrie Govan, Tom Monda and Gabriel Marin have all done really interesting things with the instrument. While it's still in its infancy, it wouldn't be the first time Patrice would see one of his children grow and become standard.
Vigier's client list is a complete cross-section of players in all sorts of styles and, unusually, includes bass players as well as guitarists. Among those are two real luminaries - Deep Purple's Roger Glover and Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler, while from the guitar side of the family users range from cult icons like Shawn Lane and Ron Thal, to legends of the scene like Gary Moore and Walter Trout.
So what of the man behind the brand? The truth is, he's a humble man with a quick sense of humour and a passion for his craft (and ice cream!), he'll happily talk about his musical influences and his ideas for what guitar players need help them focus on their music. An honest man who carries the legacy of those before him and wants to bring the instrument into the 21st century when so many companies are stuck in the 20th.
It's ironic that a Frenchman would champion the Excalibur, but after meeting him and playing them, perhaps the days of King Arthur are gone and a new man should take the crown? If you're yet to try a Vigier, ask your local dealer or store about them immediately!