Meet the Maker Billy Rowe Rock N Roll Relics

What's your background?

I grew up right in the heart of the city of San Francisco. My years as a kid were in the 1970s, so I was a huge fan of skateboarding, BMX, Evel Knievel, KISS and Saturday morning cartoons! I was introduced to music from watching variety TV shows as well as from friends in my neighbourhood. The minute I was tuned on to KISS in 1975, my life completely changed. Getting a guitar was all I thought about. Then it was all about starting a band and playing rock n roll. By the time I was 17 I started a band which became JETBOY. Within two years we signed a record deal with Elektra records.

Why did you get into guitar making?

From the time I started playing guitar I was always into tinkering with the guitars I owned. The 70’s was the decade that introduced what is so big today with pickups, pedals and boutique gear. So I was pretty into swapping out electronics and painting my guitars etc. In my first year of high school I built a guitar from the ground up. I was always into working with my hands so It’s not a surprise in some ways that I started a guitar company.

What was the first guitar you ever played?

The first guitar I ever played I believe was a nylon string acoustic, but all I wanted was an electric guitar. My first cool guitar was a Memphis clone of the Double Cut in a cherry red. I bought this from my good friend Alex who is the one who turned me onto KISS and cool guitars. We are still very good friends to this day.

What would you say has been the most influential guitar design?

It's hard to say what the most influential guitar design would be? But I think in a lot of ways the Telecaster and the Double Cut were the ones that for me were the most influential. Mainly because they are so simple and straight forward, but for a design that really blew up and and became one of the most recognisable electric guitars I would say it's the Stratocaster.

What's the biggest challenge of being a guitar builder?

The biggest challenge being a guitar builder is really finishing the guitar within the deadline you give the buyer. When you are super detail oriented like myself and really want everything to be as perfect as perfect can be, you tend to take longer to finish things. Which can be a blessing and a curse. So far it’s been a blessing.

What do you want players and collectors to experience when they play one of your instruments?

I want the player and or collector to pick up the guitar we build them and feel as if it was built for their hands only. To me that is the perfect experience in a custom build.

What's your favourite neck and body wood combo?

I’m a big fan of keeping it straight forward and simple. So I like a good slab board guitar with a fat neck. Not a baseball bat, but a good size neck that supports my hand well. And of course I like it to be beat to hell! I love worn out beat up guitars, they add so much character and takes the stiffness out of it.

What's your favourite guitar riff?

I have so many favourite guitar riffs? That’s a tough one? I’ll go with 'Beatin’ Around The Bush’ by AC/DC!!

Who's your favourite guitar player?

I have a list of guitar heroes. My first was Ace Frehley so I’ll go with that.

What bands do you listen to when you're working?

I listen to a variety of music while working. It could be from AC/DC to the Clash to the Carpenters or Prince.