Pavel Maslowiec met me at his current workshop at 1pm on a Sunday not remembering the drive over. The mindfog was the result of partying all night with the internationally acclaimed band, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros , who had sold out the Santa Barbara Bowl the night before. Partying with the band is not an uncommon situation for a guitar maker whose guitars graced the stage that night, as well as the hands of players like David Gilmour, Daniel Lanois, Rocco DeLuca, and Allan Holdsworth to name a few.
“Do I look stoned?” Pavel mentions through the small space between his curled lip and the end of a fresh cigarette. Groggy or not, Pavel’s dedication to the precise artistry of guitar-building was quickly apparent when the lights flicked on to his studio. Working out of the back of the famed SoCal store front “Guitar Doctor,” Pavel Maslowiec has a workshop that resembles a combination of what you’d expect in a European violin-maker-meets-rock’n'roll late-night hangout near the beach.
Born in the Polish town of Krakow in the mid-sixties, Pavel’s background isn’t what one would expect. In the late ’90′s Maslowiec left a lucrative career in pediatric surgery and moved to the States to follow his passion in guitars. Within a short period of time his guitars started gracing the stages of some pretty heavy hitters.
The key to Pavel’s success is his passion for the science behind sound, something that seems to have been lost with the expansion of factory-run guitars. His guitars start their journey with carefully selected woods based on their tonal qualities and then marrying them together like a musical matchmaker. No neck shall be joined with a body unless they both carry the same note when knocked.
There are no “bought” bodies in his shop. Just meticulously crafted templates that have been modified and improved upon from larger company past designs. Each guitar is built by hand from start to finish.
The workshop also serves as a rehearsal room… and why wouldn’t it? Woodworking tools are sprawled around the shop only to be hidden by vintage and boutique amplifiers and instruments from a previous rehearsal.
The shop is conveniently housed in the long-time shop of Guitar owner and Designer, Doc Pittillo. Doc has worked with many world-renowned musicians including Johnny Winter, Allan Holdsworth, Van Epps, Walter Trout, Marco Mendoza, Mike Ness, Rodney Sheppard, Max Bennet, Jeff Snyder, Hugh Ferguson, Eric Sardinas and many more. He also just happened to work for Leo Fender in the late 60′s which led to a long career and friendship with the originator and his ideas. As a Fender enthusiast myself, my jaw hit the ground as Pavel explains one of his machines…
“This Pin Router was moved around from the original Fender factory in Fullerton, to Leo’s G&L factory to BC Rich to us. Every time I use this machine I can feel the energy from it shaping guitars in the 60′s for iconic players like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, etc..” Pavel excitingly blurts.
Doc and Pavel have now teamed up on Doc’s original line, Pittillo guitars, as well as Pavel’s creations. No one guitar body style or sound pigeon holes the guitar maker. When asked about his custom resonators for artist Rocco DeLuca, Maslowiec explains that each style proves to be a noteworthy challenge. A challenge that Pavel himself strives to surpass the bar on every time.
With the resonators, Pavel explains that he studied sound wave design as well as the physics behind the resonator itself for several months prior to the build to give the artist exactly the sounds that were dreamed in his head. Through the use of good old-fashioned engineering and science, Pavel succeeded on more than one occasion, giving DeLuca a signature line.
He perfects his bodies that were originally based on the classics and makes countless adjustments to body angles and switch position to have his guitars look like the classics and yet play like a modern ergonomic masterpiece. Whether crafting the back and shoulder of a stratocaster-styled body to lay flatter on the hip for a more perfect string approach or utilizing a bridge stop on a Les Paul to improve Bigsby’s poor string break angles, there are no stones left unturned under this Long Beach adjacent rooftop.
Consideration of the player is taken into every inch of Pavel’s creations, sourcing out the best in re-creation 50′s capacitors or working closely with famed guitar pickup innovator, Seymour Duncan.
As I was wrapping up our shoot I kept being drawn to a custom late 60′s looking Telecaster in all rosewood, a look made famous by an even more famous George Harrison. Pavel’s face lights up as he takes the guitar out of its case and begins what would be the culmination of an astonishing history that started with Doc’s relationship with Leo Fender.
Apparently in ’68 Doc Pittillo was working on Leo Fender’s boat for a summer and as payment, Leo would give him a series of parts and bodies that were laying around the factory. Forty years later Pavel found out that this particular loose body and neck that had been sitting around Doc’s office was a prototype guitar built for none other than George Harrison for the Beatles sessions. Incomplete, Pavel finished the guitar in the spirit of its intended recipient.
As we both nursed our hangovers with large waters and a cigarette or two, I got to see what really goes into a Pavel guitar. Behind the layers of nitro lacquer finishes, exotic woods and recognizable body styles lies true ingenuity driven by the passion of a Polish-born pioneer.
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