Why Toronto firefighter Matt Wallis added FBGC guitars to his vintage collection!
Having owned countless vintage and reissue guitars from the big companies, Matt has a love for instruments that look and feel like the best examples from the golden age of electric guitar design.
Matt Wallis is a Toronto firefighter, vintage guitar and amplifier expert and soon-to-be father who also happens to be one of our very first customers! We first met Matt in 2010 where he was working at Cycle Solutions – one of Toronto’s best bike shops. Matt helped Jon pick out a new bike and overhearing Jon and Tim chatting about building guitars, commissioned one of the pine guitars the brothers were building at the time. When Frank Brothers Guitar Co. opened its doors in 2014, Matt became a regular visitor to the FBGC Carlaw Ave. shop where he lent his ears and knowledge of vintage guitars to the brothers during the first production run of Signature Models. The classic FBGC “Medium C” neck shape was a collaboration between Matt and the brothers, initially using Matt’s 1963 Gibson SG Jr. as inspiration
Like the Frank brothers, Matt grew up with a musical father and was surrounded by musicians from a young age. Matt’s dad is a saxophonist, music educator, and a fixture on the Toronto music scene. A member of legendary Toronto rock band Lighthouse, Simon Wallis has played with Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, and Mel Torme, just to name a few.
Matt was encouraged early on to look for instruments that had excellent tone – something that the elder Wallis applied to his own search for great saxophones. In fact, Matt and his dad still play together regularly!
In January of 2018, Matt ordered a custom all-mahogany Trillium White Signature Model with P90s from Frank Brothers Guitar Company. Matt’s Signature Model has been his main squeeze ever since and fits in beautifully with his vintage guitars.
In June of this year, Matt ordered a second guitar from us – a custom Korina/Mahogany Arcade Model featuring a rosewood fretboard, jumbo frets, authentic P.A.F humbuckers from 1961, and a MojoAxe Compensated Wrap Bridge. Matt’s Arcade is currently in production at FBGC (images below).
You’ve had a pretty prolific guitar collection over the years. How many guitars do you think you’ve owned?
I tried to count, but my best guess would be between 80 and 100. There was one point where I had 26 guitars, but I’ve scaled it back to a handful of really special pieces.
How does your FBGC Signature Model compare to the vintage guitars that you’ve owned?
My Frank Brothers Signature Model incorporates many of the coveted qualities of the best vintage guitars that I’ve owned, but is is in a different league when it comes to engineering and craftsmanship. That equates to superior playability and reliability. On an incorporeal level, it’s got soul like a vintage guitar... It’s got personality, and a distinct voice. More tangibly, it rings like a tuning fork and is open and resonant like a good old guitar should be.
What first stood out to you about Frank Brothers Guitar Co. and why did you decide to place your first order?
The level of commitment and passion that the Bros have for their craft is infectious. I watched as they developed their skills, and developed their design. As they dialed things in, it got to a point where I’d never really seen the marriage of vintage tone and vibe with such incredible craftsmanship. That’s when I pulled the trigger.
What was your first custom experience with FBGC like?
I thought I was getting the special treatment seeing as we had a bit of a history, but the boys truly treat every customer as if they are their only customer. They use their extensive knowledge of guitars and guitar building to help create the guitar that best suits you. They keep you updated throughout the process with amazing photographs and explanations of what is happening. Finally, they deliver a guitar that far exceeds your expectations. You have to understand that the only people in the world that care more about your guitar are Tim and Nick. They are so incredibly particular that they can not let a guitar leave the shop unless they know that every aspect of it is as good as it can be.
Why did you decide to order a second guitar from FBGC?
I’ve long battled with Les Paul type guitars having owned vintage, Custom Shop, and boutique Les Pauls. The solid body Arcade Model by the Frank Brothers Guitar Co. is a platform for me to get that vintage Les Paul tone that is so elusive. There aren’t many builders out there sourcing really choice old wood, testing each piece for tone, and then crafting a flawless instrument. I’m convinced that having the Frank Bros build me an Arcade out of old growth woods, coupled with the old PAFs, will get my closer to that sound than I’ve been before. I’ve played many FBGC guitars and they all have an openness and clarity just like a good 1950s Gibson Les Paul. Almost Tele-like. On top of that, I got to choose my desired neck carve (which was done by hand), and every other little detail that I prefer in a guitar.
What’s your favorite part of ordering a custom guitar?
My favourite part about ordering a custom guitar is knowing that I had a hand in the final product. Even though I didn’t make the guitar myself, I had a direct impact on how it turned out. I took a beautifully engineered and crafted guitar, and then tweaked it to be unique. It’s the only one out there like that, and I’m partially responsible for creating it. That’s a great feeling.