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Jersy Drozd

 

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Global Bass Searches the World for State of the Art Custom Boutique Basses

 

Over the past few issues we have examined a series of exquisite basses from around the world. Granted, there can be no true 'Worlds Best Bass' for the obvious reason that this is really all just a matter of perspective and taste. However, we have come across a series of fantastic instruments this past while, and Jerzy Drozd Basses of Spain are no exception. 

One of the most striking aspects of this instrument from the first minute of viewing is the sheer beauty, the artfulness of the body lines and neck and how the two are molded in perfect symmetry. As ones eye track from the top of the headstock right down to strap lock at the heel of the bass, there remains an unbroken statement of balance in form and function. 

All of us have experienced that rush of opening a bass case for the first time and seeing an absolute musical statement before our eyes. Some describe it as The Wow Factor. With that in mind, the 'Wow' Factor of the Jerzy Drozd bass is very very high. 

On top of the attention to detail and the symmetry, JD basses can be had in 24, 28 and even 36 fret versions and of course 4 string, 5 string , 6, 7 and beyond! 

I can hear guitarists all over the world crying tonight...

*************

Global Bass:  Could you start with the story about how all this began. What motivated you to start building in the first place?

Jerzy Drozd:   The reason I start building actually was my father. When I was 16 years old, I asked him for an instrument. He said, "Well I think this is just a phase. In two weeks, it will be over".  As a young boy, I had experience building airplane models, so I had the ability to build things with my hands. So I said to him, "Okay dad, then I will make my own instrument."  Now I had no idea at that time that this was a crucial moment in my life. I built my first instrument when I was 16 years old. 

I don't need to tell you that as a first instrument it had no quality at all! 

GB: Was it at least playable?

JD:  Yes! I learned how to actually play bass on that bass. So, making instruments and playing bass was actually two journeys, begun at the same time. 

GB:  How did you determine where for example, the 12th fret was to be, did you just divide the distance between the nut and the bridge?

JD: In placing the frets on an instrument, there is a mathematic formula. But at that time, I didn't even know that! All I had was a book, a hobbyists 'Do-It-Yourself' book.  One of the projects was to build a Spanish guitar. The author of the book explained a very simple way of placing the frets on the fretboard. It was not a mathematical formula but instead it was graphical. 

I am pretty certain that the frets on my first instruments were not perfect, but they were close enough to stay in key or in tune.

GB: The volume pots, the potentiometers, how did you come about those?

JD:  It was a potentiometer from a standard electronics shop. 

GB:  What do you do for pickups? Did you buy them?

JD:   Well at that time I had no access to quality pickups at all, so the first ones I built by myself. I used magnets from kitchen furniture, the kind of magnets they used to keep doors closed. This seems very odd now, but it is the truth! I used some wire also that I had in my house, so I made my first pickups at the same time I built my first bass.

GB:  Now how did you go about determining the correct number of windings of the wire around the magnets and the direction?

JD:  I didn't know a thing about pickup making or bass making. So, I just keep winding until it looked right, but I will tell you, those pickups sounded good at that time. 

GB:  You must have been very pleased and relieved that it worked.

JD:  Yes, this was the beginning of my building instruments. Also for those  for the pickup covers I used the black plastic cover from audio tapes.  

GB:  The determination and the naivety of youth! You couldn't imagine not being successful, you just did it.

JD:  Yet my father, when I was 22 and building more and more basses he came to me and said, "Leave this,  making instruments will never make you any money". 

GB:  So in hindsight, was he wrong?  

JD:  He was very wrong. Now I am living off of money made from my instruments. I only build instruments. 

GB:  Has your fathers attitude changed?

JD:  He is very proud of the way I build instruments now and the way I live. It is my passion and he understands that now. 

GB:  Have you achieved some level of notoriety around the world at this point?

JD: I think I am well known, but I have yet to arrive at the level of fame of perhaps a builder from the United States. Maybe because the center of the bass world, is in the United States. We do get many messages via the Internet from all over the world though.

GB:  Do you find the time these days to play bass yourself, for your own enjoyment?

JD:  The problem is that I have no time!  The more time I dedicate to building instruments the less time I have to play. 

GB:  I imagine therefore that sometimes when a truly advanced player comes in to audition your basses, it must make you feel that you wish you could play like they can. 

JD: I think though that everybody is the captain of their life. I think the life I chose was perfect for me. Of course, I sometimes wish I could play like the professionals, but I know that I will not have the time to dedicate to arriving at this level. My way to develop my personality was to grow  through the building of instruments. It is my own personal way.

I do think that if you chose to make instruments you must have some ability to play that instrument. It is the only way to understand other musicians, and what is important to them.

GB:  The Jerzy Drozd bass body shape is consistent throughout your models. Was this shape designed on CAD or did it exist in your mind, your imagination? 

JD:  I had to develop some prototypes of course. The OBSESSION model, which is the one that people know me by, I developed this when I was 25 years old. So the idea was developed through a series of prototypes. My idea was to get that shape as compact as I could, with great balance in the neck. This was the reason I developed such a long upper horn, to balance the whole design. With the neck of a seven string 36-fret instrument being so wide and long, it is difficult to find balance in such an instrument.  

GB:  You also don't want the instrument so heavy that the player can't play it for any period of time. So there are many issues to take into account. 

JD:  Yes, I think it is pretty simple to make a good looking instrument, but the problem is making a pretty good looking instrument that is still a great playing instrument with true balance. So yes, there are so many issues to take into account.

GB:  The choosing of the woods, do you do it or do you use a team to find them?

JD: No, today I make sure I do go, because I like woods and to feel them, to smell them. To choose the right ones. Now, I do have very highly skilled workers so that I have no problem in leaving to look for wood.  

GB: Now there are some woods that just don't grow in Spain. 

JD:  Yes, for example the quilted or flamed maple I have to get from the U.S. or Canada. 

GB:  You tend to use Bartolini pick-ups?

JD:  Well, I do like Bartolini very much, so my 'Standard with Matching Pickup' has Bartolini of course and Bartolini pickups. But there is no difficulty in putting in pickups from other sources.  But there is no difficulty or problems in buying pick ups from other companies. So in this way the costumer retains the choice. 

GB:  How about the other hardware on board for example? Machine heads, bridges?

JD:  Yes we can add on HipShot of course, we can install Schaller machine heads, but mostly we use Gotoh. We realized that they have a great ratio so they work very well. 

GB:  Now the bridge on some of the models are two-piece, but they all seem hand built. Do you in fact, build and file the bridges yourself? 

JD:  We used to use a bridge built in Germany called ABM, but right now we design our own two-piece bridges. They just seem to match much better. ABM would make rectangular bridges, but now we like to use bridges that follow our design. 

GB:  The inlays on the neck, the QUO VADIS, do you design and cut them yourself?

JD: Yes, I do this myself. My personal taste is to use simple colors in the inlays. I prefer different shapes instead. We can also develop any sort of inlay for our customers. 

GB: Have you ventured into LED's (light emitting diodes) on the neck as position markers in darker environments?

JD:   We do this on the Prodigy Limited line. We have that on the upper edge of the fretboard. 

GB: So how many people work for you at this point in time?

JD:  Just four people. 

GB:  So this means all of these people have to be skilled at more than one task, whereas in a large manufacturing facility, often it's one worker per task. Were you the one to train them?

JD:  Yes, all the people that work in our shop are trained by me and some of them came to me with no experience whatsoever. Some of them did have some experience making some instruments so they have some basic knowledge. 

GB:  Would I be safe in saying that you were looking for workers not so much to qualify them on whether they could cut a piece of wood, but whether they could see the spirit within the wood itself?

JD:  I must tell you that learning how to choose the wood, the proper gluing of matched woods, how to prepare them, they way you employ the wood at all is a process which can take years. I think all of us are still learning. It is a life long process.

GB:  So with that in mind, have you yourself ever built an instrument that was more than you thought it would be, so much so that you found it hard to let it go into the hands of another?

JD:  Particularly with my first instruments. You get some kind of connection to that instrument. You've created this instrument so it's like a child to you.

At this point in my work it not like it was at the beginning, however sometimes you do make some kind of special connection...even today. I do get this kind of feeling. I fully enjoy making instruments, but I do have to remember that I must sell them too! (Laughs)

GB:  Do you have any at home however, that you just had to keep?

JD:  Yes, I have some, well, actually one instrument.

GB:  The top of the line Jerzy Drozd Limited Edition. There will be only 75 of these built. I have been quoted $25,000 US on this bass, is that correct?

OPTIONS

Lefthand model
Fretless unlined
Fretless fine lined
Chrome plated hardware
Gold plated hardware
24 fret model
36 fret model
Dot inlays on top of fingerboard
Custom inlays
Polyester finish
Different wood top
Headstock veneer to mach body top
Wenge wood neck
Another brand pickups
Another configuration of the pickups
passive electronics
2-way active electronics
standard bridge
two piece bridge
Another options also available

 

 

 


JD:  This kind of instrument, this Piece of Art is actually far more accessible than you think. We sell this instrument for 7 to 8 thousand dollars.

GB:  How far are you through the single run of 75 of these?

JD:  Well, there is still time to order from this line, but once we get to the 75th instrument, it will be over. Maybe we will get some different kind of Limited Edition, but it won't be like the PRODIGY.

GB:  The uniqueness of these instruments, the way they are designed as a personal statement for the player would seem to motivate the player to keep the instrument for life, not reselling it like a production model, an instrument with 200,000 looking and playing just like it.

JD:  It is very rare and in fact we actually have more customers who after purchasing their first instrument, order a second or third.

GB:  There are other luthiers that build 28 fret instruments, but venturing into 36 fret basses is somewhat rarified air, not a lot of people go there.

JD:  It depends completely upon the individuals needs.The OBSESSION model was designed from the beginning as a 28 fret bass, giving two full tones more than the usual two octave bass. Basically it was designed this way for the tapping style. But this type of neck did not work so well for other styles like slap technique. So we set up a standard bass with just 24 frets. With that in mind it is very important to us to establish exactly what kind of music or style it is that a particular customer plays. So the 24, 28 or even the 36 fret version can exactly match a certain bass players needs.

GB:  Have you ever ventured into guitar building?

JD:  Sometimes for very special customers. For very special musicians. It's very rare. And why?  Because with making bass guitars, generally I find I have enough work.

GB:
Some luthiers having designed a top of the line $4000 bass, will then go to a third world country and say, "Here is my basic design, build me a bass I can sell for $700, and build 30,000 of them."  Do you see yourself venturing into mass marketing?

JD:  Not really, my idea was to make all of our instruments in this shop. I don't like the idea of mass production in a big factory in Korea. My idea is to make a premiere level instrument. I know that with this kind of market, my market is smaller. Maybe I won't sell to the whole world...oh I would like to, but I prefer just making the highest level of instrument I can. I want to match my instruments to the correct player.

GB:  Do you find that you have to strive for a balance between the luthier, the business person and then the musician within you?

JD:  Oh, it's very difficult!  To be a salesman is very hard, to take on all these parts of the business.

GB:  Now if a person ordered a bass from you, what would the average waiting time be? Granted the complexity of the order, the woods, the hardware, pickups and so forth would effect all this... .

JD: Basically, we have 5 different models and so we have 5 different levels of difficulty. The basic model would take about 8 weeks but for example in the case of the PRODIGY Limited Edition it might take up to 6 months. It depends on the complexity of the construction.

One important thing I have to mention is the only difference in our instruments is the level of complexity, the difficulty. All the electronics, the woods we use on the basic models through to the high level models, is the same. So consistent quality can be expected on all of these instruments, not just on the highest level.

The basic model will sound and play great, as well as the top of the line, but the look is just simpler.

GB:  So the less expensive bass is simply less complex, corners in quality are not cut.

JD:  It's just that we have many great players in the market who just prefer a simpler looking and playing bass.

GB:  If a client has the means to come to Spain to choose the woods and the different aspects of their instrument, do you have the facilities to sit the musician down, make them feel at home and work with them?

JD: Yes, my shop is open to everyone and anyone. If I have a customer who wants to speak directly to us about some particular need of his instrument that is no problem at all. He or she can pick any combination of woods or any special dimension of the neck. We are very open to any bass player.

We are making Art Instruments. We put our heart into our work. We are working for the bass player, the bass player is not working around us and a set mass-produced product. So, we have a great flexibility in this way.

GB:  Do you have the capability of sending a prospective customer Jpegs of various woods and inlays if they can't come to see you in person?

JD:  Yes, in most cases if we are speaking to someone in a country where we don't have a distributor, this has proven to be a wonderful way to meet the needs of that customer. This allows us to meet the particular  requests of an individual.

GB:  You have the 5 basic designs at this point, do you have anything new planned for the future?

JD:  Yes we have very exciting news about a new design. We are finishing a new bass which will be different from the OBSESSION line.

The name of this new line will be The SIGN.  We have been working on this for a long time. We are working on this very slowly because we want a perfect instrument.

GB:  With that in mind, when do you think it will be available?

JD: The prototype will be finished this month. My goal is to get the instrument into the shop by July. Sometimes this is hard because there are already a lot of other orders. So this affects how often we can actually work on this new instrument.

So I truly think the instrument, the SIGN will be available and in production in September.

GB:  How is the SIGN different than the other 5 models you build at this point?

JD:  The OBSESSION has a very organic shape and we have a lot of players who enjoy this shape. We also have many players who like instruments with a different character. They tell us they like how we make instruments, that they like the finish, the quality, but we want a different shape than the OBSESSION.   I understand this.

This is the reason we developed this instrument, so that it would be different. We will add some special options to the instrument, like making it Midi compatible. The SIGN instrument will be very modular, so you can option for Midi or different kinds of electronics. I designed it with this capability in mind.

 

...and when the SIGN bass is available GLOBAL BASS will do an update.

 

You can reach Jerzy by e-mailing him at:

info AT jerzydrozdbass DOT com

Phone him at:

011   34  934-504-900

 

You can visit his website at: 

http://www.jerzydrozdbasses.com

 

or write him at: 

Jerzy Drozd
c/ Bruselas,  20 Tda.
08041  Barcelona  SPAIN

SPAIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                  

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