Australia’s Finest Guitars…
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In today’s interview, Sam talks to Mark from Maton about what makes these Australian guitars some of the most revered worldwide. From humble origins to newer challenges and some of their most famous players, join us on a deep dive of this most celebrated of guitar brands.
hi sam from guitar village here and today we are joined by mark from Maton guitars uh mark can you tell us a little bit about Maton sure so Maton guitars are an australian company we started in melbourne in 1946 by gentleman bill may he was a musician and woodwork teacher so post-war essentially he was you know there was a huge shortage of instruments in australia and he started making guitars for his friends i think the very first matin um he made for one of the guys in his band to perform on a radio show seemed to seem to work pretty well him and his brother started making guitars in the in the family shed and that was just gone 75 years ago so obviously the has grown considerably since then um but it uh it literally is the story of of the guys starting a business in in the um in the backyard so in the early days then i’m guessing they weren’t producing that many guitars no it was um i mean it was absolutely a passion project for him and his brother and obviously they had the you know they knew what musicians needed because you know he was a player and having the hard skills i guess you know working with wood and knowing how um you know having that kind of creative mind as well it was just a perfect culmination of you know what you needed at that time to um you know to start a guitar company so i’m not sure if anyone else was making guitars i’m sure you know there were in small scale but but matron certainly is one of the or you know the oldest australian guitar companies still still running today so one of the the front runners really when it comes to australian guitar production definitely one of the things that bill pioneered in the early days was the the use of native tonewoods and that at the time was probably out of necessity because of what was locally available um but you know everything from blackwood and bunnier and you know all of those things came came from him exploring those back and back in the 40s very similar then to what the the guitar builders in the u.s were doing they were just using stuff that was in their backyard effectively exactly which um you know as you know that’s all very kind of in vogue now to you know to use local local uh materials but that’s just been part of the company’s dna for 70 or 76 years now wow so in those 76 years obviously you’ve changed factories a few times location yeah we have how many guitars do you build a year at the moment so we we like to try and stay on track for between seven or eight eight thousand um so some years it’s a little bit less depending on you know what we’re making if we’re and it has changed recently actually like with more of the high-end models they take a bit more time so the numbers uh may be a little bit reduced um but it’s it’s a considerable amount for a you know a small family business yeah absolutely yeah yeah it’s still a decent i mean we’ve got 70 or so direct labor staff in the factory in um in melbourne um and they’re they’re very busy fair enough so how we we’ve we get mate on guitars in all the time and they are incredible you know the the consistency it seems to be there every time how do you keep up with that with so many guitars going out you know quality is incredibly important to us as a as us as a business and it was um certainly one of the the founders priorities um you know was to make a great instrument as a musician like he wanted to see that something that was you know usable and reliable we’ve got a number of quality gates all the way through the factory um if you look inside any mate on guitar you’ll you’ll see a there’s a small sticker with initials um like running up and down it so essentially what happens is as the guitar starts its life it passes through that first section um the staff member who’s responsible for working on it will initial it and then pass it forward so if there’s any quality issues all of those people can can pass it back up the line if there’s anything that needs to be looked at and speak to the builder that works on it in addition to that once the once the instrument’s finished um there’s a there’s a quality gate to make sure everything’s okay it goes up into setup um and then it sits in the factory for a number of days just to let it settle and you know let those timbers get used to being being an instrument is that at the point where it’s strung out pretty much ready to go out the door and then it just sits there and then it sits and then it goes back up into setup and it’s checked yet again yeah um so certainly with our local instruments um you know once it leaves the factory after having gone through all of that stores can open a case and you know it’s it’s essentially ready to go especially with like i said our local guys who are only a little bit you know maybe a 20 minute drive or something from the factory those guitars are already ready to play when they leave so from the point where the the tree is no longer a tree and it’s now pieces of wood to getting the guitar into the into the shops effectively or into the player’s hands what’s the biggest hurdle um look the those hurdles change i mean you know supply chain’s an issue um with the last couple of years of covert logistics have been a huge issue um now probably the biggest challenge we’re facing is really just the demand so i see i’m sure we’re not the only ones but the back orders are um pretty substantial yeah at the moment and just you know managing the the growth of the brand with obviously like we can’t just because it’s all the instruments are handmade you know we rely on the knowledge of the builders not really just we can’t turn up a machine you know we can’t you know turn it up to 11. yes and you can’t i’m guessing when when you say because they’re handmade you have the choice of taking on more employees but then you have to train them and predict how long you’re going to have the back orders from exactly i think the um look you know where the training and just getting the staff to a point where they can work on my guitars really is the biggest challenge at the moment um you know obviously the interest is there like it has you know it’s been wonderful that so many people are interested across the across the board in the music industry um to pick up a guitar but um you know that training can take a number of months depending on the section that they’re working in um and you know we need to we need to ascertain the the staff that come to us how committed and how dedicated they are um and you know we’ve got people in that building who have been there for 20 plus years 25 years very experienced then so there’s there’s a huge there’s a there’s a pool of hugely experienced staff and um you know we’re you know we’re always looking for great people you know to join you know join the team and um you know i think the people that work there find it incredibly rewarding i can imagine making that work on those kind of instruments and um you know i send them pictures regularly from all parts of the world where where the instruments that they’ve created um in australia you know where they’ve ended up so that’s incredible because you ship worldwide effectively yeah we we do um all corners as well you know from you know the west coast of uh of america you know everything in the middle and um china and japan and you know we export to all of those countries yeah which out of the range which model is the most popular uh depending on the market so in a lot of export markets probably the um Tommy Emmanuel’s signature model for good reason yes it’s very popular here yeah so i mean regardless of of the player who’s uh who it takes it’s um it’s namesake from it’s a great great guitar the 808s which is our you know smaller body guitar that you’ve you’ve probably got um a few of those in stock here across the range they perform very well for us um the srs do very well Nashville’s so yeah definitely definitely something for everybody and and actually speaking of them at the tommy signatures you have quite a few artists on board what’s how does an artist get endorsed by mates on it must be quite an arduous process yeah it it takes a little bit of time to get it through i think i mean one of the things that we look out for is just i mean that that’s part of you know what my role at Maton and you know we just look for um great players and great people so if you you know those two things um you know that that’s that that tends to help it’s it’s different i mean we’ve got artists every you know virtuoso players like Tommy Emmanuel um to bands like the offspring and queens of the stone age and crowded house like it really it really is a large like a wide gamut of um of players that use our instruments for you know all walks of life all types of music but uh yeah if they can you know obviously look at we look for the talent but just yeah great people to work with as well so yeah you’ve got to be a great guy a great player yeah interesting yeah yeah so fair enough can you tell us about any news or anything that’s coming up in the pipeline that’s not not top secret yeah um we won’t tell anyone yeah it’s it’s it’s always top secret any news um we’ve got some can i say we’ve got some we’ve got some big news for a small maiden so okay oh oh yeah well thank you so much for the interview and uh thank you for having me no problem at all