In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new, serious player in the realm of online guitar videos.
Wildwood Guitars has recently launched an enormous series of masterclass guitar demo videos with renown guitarists such as Adrian Belew, Greg Koch, Reeves Gabrels, and David Grissom.
We recently had a chance to get together with Steve Mesple (founder) to catch up on his shop and get a deeper look at the production of these incredible guitar demo videos.
SSS: For those unfamiliar with Wildwood Guitars, can you give us all a background of the shop?
Steve: My wife, Marilynn, and I opened Wildwood Guitars in 1984. Our home had come to look more like a guitar store than a home and it seemed a logical next step in our lives. We started out in a tiny area with two teaching studios and a underwhelming display of 20 guitars and a few accessories. Our love of music has been an integral part of our family, our two sons are incredible musicians and are our musical heroes. We never envisioned the success that Wildwood has attained, we are truly grateful to our musical community and friends who have supported Wildwood. Over time we purchased more and more guitars and gradually expanded into the two buildings we now occupy, we have almost 3,000 extraordinary guitars in stock and have met wonderful customers all over the globe. Wildwood Guitars was one of the first guitar stores to embrace, rather than fear, the Internet. We presented our wonderful instruments using very detailed photographs showing the unique character of every single instrument and our staff is adept and providing in-hand descriptions of our guitars.
Wildwood Guitars has become a leading dealer for the finest American made guitars; we are honored to carry the very best of the best. We are proud to be dealers for Fender, Gibson, Martin, Taylor, Paul Reed Smith, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, James Tyler, Tom Anderson and Don Grosh Guitars.
SSS: Wildwood has a special relationship with Fender, offering exclusive “Wildwood 10” guitars that cannot be found in any other guitar shop around the world. Can you tell us more about this relationship with Fender?
Steve: Wildwood has been a dealer for Fender Musical Instruments from the outset. We are dear friends with many of the incredible people at Fender I am a lifelong devotee of Fender guitars. Six years ago we started talking with the Fender Custom Shop about an exclusive run of Custom Shop guitars with features that we felt our customers would like. We had our Dealer Select “Wildwood 10s” made with a flatter fingerboard radius (10″), 6105 frets, lightweight woods and some incredible John Cruz Master Design Pickups. We have now purchased over 1000 of these instruments and have sold them to our dearest friends and customers, many of whom are touring the world with these great Fenders. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and Wildwood is now carrying our own exclusive guitars made by Gibson, Paul Reed Smith, Taylor, with others in process and coming soon. This has been one of most enjoyable chapters of the Wildwood journey, the opportunity to work with these amazing companies is humbling and inspiring.
SSS: Guitar gear videos have come a long way in recent years, with shops like PGS leading the pack. It’s plausible to say that most of the guitar videos on the market focus on guitar pedals. What was the motivation behind Wildwood’s guitar videos?
Steve: The Wildwood guitars videos were conceived in response to the many appropriate questions asked by our online customers. The photos on our WebSite can show what the guitars look like, but people purchase fine guitars for the inspiration, tone and soul the instrument provides. I wanted to share the voice of the instrument with our customers and let them HEAR the instrument played by a Master. The videos were not conceived just to sell guitars but to teach and inspire our friends as to what an instrument sounds like and the potential it has in it.
SSS: You have fantastic guitarists like Adrian Belew, Reeves Gabrels, Greg Koch, David Grissom, Pete Anderson and others in the videos. Can you tell us what it was like to work with such great players?
Steve: The time that all of us at Wildwood have had the great fortune to spend with these incredible artists have been life altering. It is not just the notes they play, but the soul and conviction that pours out of their hands and hearts that is so touching. And to hear of their musical journeys and devotion to music has been equally moving. We hope that our customers will get something similar from the videos and interviews.
SSS: Greg Koch is quite a lively guitarist, and is present on a large number of your videos. His comicality shines through on the Gretsch Duo Jet video with comments like:
As you can see, it’s Firebird Red [commences flapping his wings] like a savage bird of prey, coming down to snatch your brain away and drop it in it’s nest where it will be feasted upon by it’s offspring.
Ha! Surely there are some good stories of him and others from the studio time?
Steve: Well, Greg is truly one of the finest guitarists on this planet and also a deviant, twisted and loving soul with quite a sense of humor. Greg’s verbage is over the top and quite hilarious, his videos are totally unscripted, we would never come up with text that flows out of Greg unabated. Some of my favorite Gregisms are “pagan rock warlord of the night and of the day”, schweedle (a technical term, mind you) and so many more. I will challenge you and your readers to find your favorites.
SSS: Can you share some of your favorite Wildwood guitar videos with us, and tell us what to look for?
Steve: This is a tough one, I love every video and every artist we have worked with. We want the star of the videos to be the guitar and lean on the artists to demonstrate and verbalize the qualities of each, unique guitar. Here are just a few of my faves, but as stated I love them all:
Fender Dealer Select Wildwood “10” Masterbuilt ’59 Tele Relic
Greg’s playing on this video KILLS me, his commentary is particularly hilarious.
PRS Private Stock David Grissom Signature
David Grissom blew me away with his playing and insight to great guitars and music, each of his videos is extraordinary. Stay tuned with some great interviews with David and PRS himself!
Reverend Rick Vito Signature
Rick Vito is a monster on slide guitar, killer tone and feel on his signature Reverend Rick Vito guitar.
Taylor 616 CE Wildwood CV
Wayne Johnson from Taylor Guitars has videotaped number Taylor Guitars, Wayne’s connection to the guitar and devotion to music will inspire all.
SSS: I noticed Troy, of Wildwood Guitars, demos the Gibson guitars, and displays some impressive guitar skills. Tell us about your staff?
Steve: I am incredibly fortunate to have the finest staff in our industry. They are all devoted musicians and skilled artists who make up the Wildwood Family. My favorite member of the Wildwood Team is my incredible wife, Marilynn. Marilynn is the CEO of Wildwood Guitars and a selfless lady who has given her life to the musical cause and to the support of her musical sons and husband. A huge thanks and much love to Marilynn!
The sales staff is lead by Troy Benns, an exceptional guitarist featured on our Gibson videos and a highly revered Colorado musician who can be found gigging almost every weekend. Troy is ably assisted on the sales front by my most veteran employees, Bruce Beard and Lance Bowzer. Bruce is able to
convey the subtle sonic differences of each guitar in an expressive and eloquent manner. Bruce has big ears and a big heart and has loyal customers the world over who value his sonic evaluations and he is a fine acoustic and electric guitarist. Lance is a very talented electric guitarist with virtuosic technique, a bit of Steve Morse meets Yngwie. He also has great ears and is particularly attuned to electric guitars. Our WebMaster, Phil Amann, does an amazing job of keeping our WebSite fresh and exciting and photos are guitars in great fashion. Our Ops Manager is also a fine guitarist, Jon Zanett, who keeps everything running smoothly and Jon is a great salesman also. We have two fine guitar techs, Ian Hendrick and Mike Davis who setup every single guitar prior to shipping, we rely on these two talented gentleman to make every guitar play easily and to its potential.
Our shipping department is manned by two very talented musicians, Scott Kelly and Josh Brownlow. Scott also works with our video Master, Stephen Prill, and the videos they are producing are extraordinary. Lastly, my son Taylor does the audio editing on our videos and his contributions to the sonic quality are profound.
SSS: You have an array of impressive amps to compliment Wildwood’s incredible guitar inventory in these videos. Can you tell us what gear you have stockpiled in your video studio, everything from amps to mics to video equipment?
Steve: Our video studio is full of modern cameras, Pro Tools gear and Grace preamps and some microphones we have found that work well for our needs. The compression that occurs to the audio and video when uploading to the Internet has been our greatest challenge to overcome. We auditioned a ton of mikes to find a vintage Sennheiser for the electric guitars that we love. We hired some consultants to assist with the lighting to get rid of the moraying effect that trashed our videos, we redid the lighting a dozen times to get things to work for the Internet and our now satisfied with the results.
The collection of amps grew over decades and show my obsession with tone. I used to travel to the Dallas Guitar Show and was always seeking amps instead of guitars. I found some wonderful old Marshall heads, plexi and aluminum panel JTM45s, 50 and 100 watt heads and a wonderful basketweave Bluesbreaker combo as well as some great vintage basketweave and checkerboard cabs. My latest addition is another basketweave 4×12 that has 20 Watt PreRola Celestions, one of the finest cabs I have heard. I also love the JMI Vox amps and have an AC15, quite a few AC30s, AC50 Head and some AC10s. I have a bunch of black face and tweed Fenders, my fave amongst them is a 1950 V front Super. And, I was lucky enough to buy a bunch of Dumble amps many years ago, Alexander made a couple of them for me and I also found some used ones over the years.
SSS: You’re planning some interviews and future videos with the likes of Bob Taylor, Paul Reed Smith, and others in the near future. Can you give us a sneak peak at we have to look forward to?
Steve: We have completed videos and interviews with Bob Taylor, Paul Reed Smith, and LeeRoy Parnell and are just finishing up the edits on these. I have Johnny A and Laurence Juber coming soon and we are talking to quite a few other artists and trying to get them here to shoot videos in the very near future. The interviews and tips from the pros are as endearing as the guitar videos, I think our fans will be inspired and will learn tremendously from the future projects. There is tremendous insight into music and great lessons to be featured.
SSS: Last but not least, Steve, can you tell us about your history with guitar? How did your passion for the guitar first develop and where has it taken you over the years? What are some of your favorite guitars (and instruments) in your collection?
Steve: I grew up in a musical family, my grandparents were extraordinary musicians and my Mom a fine pianist. I wanted a guitar when I was six years old but my grandparents and Mom felt guitar was an illegitimate instrument, I was stuck playing the saxophone for my childhood and was less than enthused. When the British invasion happened I KNEW I HAD to be a guitarist and finally got a guitar when I was twelve. I studied with some great teachers and played in bands. I started teaching in my late teens and focused on composing as well as playing. My wife and our sons moved to Colorado in 1980 and I had the great fortune to find some fine musicians and formed an acoustic ensemble called Wind Machine. Wind Machine recorded 13 CDs and toured the US and we had great radio success, our music is still heard on radio and soundtracks for television and film. Wildwood has been my focus for the last ten years and is the next chapter in my musical career, I still do some recording work and love the new opportunities that my store has presented.
I am fortunate to have a hefty number of guitars, I truly love each and every one of these treasures and to pick favorites is difficult. If I had to select a handful I have a 1932 Ebony Gibson L00 that is very special, a 1921 Martin 021 and a 1942 Martin D18 that I have recorded extensively with. On the electric front, a 1953 wraparound Les Paul that has a killer voice, 1959 Black Beauty Les Paul that has a wonderful throaty tone, a 1959 ES-335 that is a favorite for blues, and some Pre-CBS Teles, Esquires and Strats that all have unique souls. I also love old Danolectros and Supros and Gretsches and Rickys and Ricky Lap Steels. It is obvious I love everything, sorry for the confession!
For more information and guitar videos, visit www.wildwoodguitars.com.