~ Spalt Instruments ~
Of the numerous careers Michael Spalt has had, this one has probably been the most satisfying. "I'm always looking forward to the moment when I can play the first few notes on a newly built instrument; to find out what it sounds like, how it plays and to welcome it to the family. Over the years I've learned something about what to expect from a given combination of woods, pickups etc., but every new instrument still holds a surprise and promises new discoveries."
Like many others, Spalt started working on guitars as a teenager, playing in bands, customizing and modifying. A few early 70's SG's, Strats and Les Pauls received added pickups, stereo wiring, new finishes and similar treatments, which would make today's vintage-crazed guitar lover shudder. This basic understanding of guitar craft and a view toward designing guitars that don't necessarily follow the conventional mold would influence Spalt in later years.
After studying film, photography and painting in San Francisco, Spalt graduated from SFAI in 1981. He worked as a photographer and studied painting at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria, until his interest in film led him to Los Angeles in 1986. He went to work in the film business in various capacities, including special effects and set construction, which provided him with exposure to techniques and materials that would later find use in his work as a guitar maker.
Around 1990, after not having touched a guitar in years, Spalt decided to restore his old '64 Gretsch Tenessean. He rebuilt the top, added a flame Maple veneer, bound f-holes and restored the original wiring and pickups, turning it into a faux 6120. Over the next few years, he dabbled in making bodies, assembling parts, and restoring broken or modified instruments. He began to tackle more ambitious projects, making his first few set-neck, solid body guitars. His early work followed a fairly conventional path, creating the guitars he had always wanted as a teenager while improving the designs where he felt the originals were lacking. Eventually he developed new concepts, pulling from his background in the arts to develop the ResinTop line and Hybrid lines. Exploring new venues and concepts while striking a balance between functionality and aesthetics proved to be a fertile field. "The aesthetic process has its own rules and necessities, but as I work on an instrument, I do keep in mind certain parameters, which will allow me to eventually turn it into an instrument. In regards to their quality as musical instruments I try to follow a three-legged approach: reliability, playability and tone.
"As much as I enjoy making a traditional instrument out of the finest tonewoods, I also love making instruments that push the boundaries and open new possibilities to musicians willing to explore and expand the scope of their music. To me, the prime quality of tone is not its more or less successful replication of some previous tonal fingerprint, but is the richness, definition, liveliness, transparency and balance present in the sound of the instrument. And even though each of my instruments has its own tonal identity, they all share these qualities and will offer them to the musician willing to listen." -- Michael Spalt