Interview: Alusonic Aluminum Instruments
In 2010 Andrea “Polly” Pollice started building Aluminum bass guitars. Putting in endless hours of sound research on this project, Alusonic has become a house hold name. We caught up with Andrea on how he started building Aluminum guitars.
Q:Can you tell us where did idea of making aluminum instruments came from?
A:I played bass guitar in a pop/rock band for a lot of years, the band name is “Miodio” and we done a lot of big gigs in Italy and especially in eastern Europe (Serbia, Romania, Montenegro, etc.).
During that period (2007) I was looking for innovative and cool equipment, and thanks to other musicians I found an Italian craftsman, Lanfranco “Penny” Veronelli, who built aluminum P-bodies. I was immediately shocked by the beauty and the incredible sound of an aluminum body. I played everywhere with that aluminum bass, and remember that the weight was incredible, but the sound really great! I was looking for a new exciting experience, and thanks to my background around instruments and luthiery, I decided to start with a new company, and the target was to build aluminum instruments, because I think that is the best material to do a modern and powerful instruments. I would have liked to do all that with Lanfranco, but unfortunately he died first to know my idea, so I started with Alusonic also to maintain and improve its project. Without my friend “Penny”, today Alusonic would be only a beautiful dream.
Q:Was there a few using aluminum and how it would sound? Also when starting this project what kind of trials did you go through until getting the final product?
A:I think that aluminum is a natural evolution of wood, talking about an electric instrument. It’s not so easy to build an efficient aluminum body, the sound characteristics can vary due to the drawing and the choices about weight, kind of alloy, structural tensions and more. One of the best characteristics is the frequency range which is much more extensive than wood. The bassist can finally obtain an incredible, massive and powerful low end, with well balanced and natural middle frequencies rich in growl and a crystalline sound. Aluminum body gives an incredible attack and an endless sustain. Someone may think that the sound is “metallic”, but in reality the sound of my instruments is incredibly warm, often much more than wood. Aluminum and wood are passive filters, but aluminum gives a sound less filtered than wood, so every musician can finally enjoy a new sound experience. I done a lot of drawing and tests thank to sophisticated software, but to be honest, the only way to test if you done a good job is test with your ears. The body is an aluminum shell, milled from a solid block of alloy, the secret is the inside drawing and the right position of masses. After various experiment, today I am really satisfied by the results, and my customers as well!
Q:Do you combine aluminum with wood?
A:Everyday. Basses and guitars have hard maple necks, and I think that’s the right choice to obtain a well balanced sound. With other material like carbon fiber, the structural tension becomes too high and the sound really poor, the classic “string” sound without any color. An aluminum body ensure a great tension and stability, so a wood neck still remains the best choice in my opinion.
Q:Have there been any other metals you have considered using for your instruments?
A:Aluminum is a good choice for a lot of reasons as this kind of alloy gives a great sound response because it’s not so strong like steel or brass, so the sound of the instrument it’s always well balanced and especially warm. Aluminum is completely recyclable material, very workable, lightweight, strong and durable material. It’s also relatively inexpensive. Alusonic is starting to test a new incredible material for future less expensive production, it will be a combination of aluminum/new material. We are very excited about this new project!
Q:Do you prefer active or passive pick ups for your instruments?
A:I always liked passive Alnico pickups, and today find myself still in love for this product. Although recently I have found a new kind of pickup thanks to our supplier “I-Spira”. They build neodymium pickups and finally I found the perfect pickup for instruments. Neodymium pickups are not so different from Alnico, they have beautiful middle frequencies and a warm response, but they also preserve the frequencies range which pass through and they are incredible clean. Thanks to the neodymium magnets that are under the coils. Now we can use two massive humbucker in the S-Special model without problem after the 12th fret and preserve the sound of the Low-B without loosing volume and impact. I can set the pickups really close to the strings without problems. Usually I build basses with active preamp as I like that kind of sound. Thanks to custom wiring, I often offer the opportunity to switch also in passive mode. Now the musician can find two kind of instruments, the active version and the passive version.
In active basses, the pickups are matched with the preamp to obtain the perfect balance, in passive instrument the pickups are build to offer the best balance with the aluminum body. Usually we build custom pickups as every musicians needs to obtain a distinctive sound. The preamp we use are built by AD Electronics. I like to have only bass and treble controls. On request we use also the middle pot, but I have found treble and bass the right choice for my bass guitars.
Q:Can you tell us about the collaboration with Skunk Anansie?
A:Skunk Anansie is one of my favorite bands. I always loved Skin and his voice, and of coure their songs are simply fantastic! Cass Lewis is an incredible bass player, and contacted me. I had actually just finished the first S-Special. Cass was very interested in testing one for the incoming show of Skunk Anansie Wonderlustre Album. As I started to build bass for Cass I spent hours on end listening to their album and watching dozens of video’s to understand the sound of Cass. After some weeks the “Cass Bass” was ready. I built a special bass guitar with custom alloy (Ergal), an innovative hard maple neck with carbon fiber cell inside, custom pickups and preamp. That bass was incredibly massive, powerful and bad, perfect for Cass. Thanks to Sphere Studios in London, they gave us the room to test the instrument, I had the opportunity to meet Cass for the first time and share with him the feedback about the new bass guitar I built exclusively for him. Needless to say, Cass fell in love with his new bass! I am very proud to work with Skunk Anansie as they are great artists and great guys!
Q:People can be skeptic about new material. How would you describe your instruments to our reader?
A:A musician must have different instruments for different situations, I don’t believe in “all-in-one” instrument. There are modern and vintage instruments really amazing, many other ugly and boring. Alusonic instruments are built to offer the opportunity to try a new sound experience. I have the opportunity to work with great artists, and I think that the instruments are an extension of their moods, of their voices, and a beautiful way to share an emotion. Someone likes to share all this with a new and innovative language, with different colors and sounds, thanks to that reason my aluminum instruments are so appreciated by these kind of musicians. I built instruments also for jazz and blues players, because the music is constantly changing and it’s not so important how to transmit, but the message you want send to the world.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your future projects?
A: We have just introduced the new PJ-Special, a pickups configuration that I always loved and it’s a perfect match with my aluminum bodies.That will be also the first model with a popular price list, usually our instruments start from 2.200 euros to 3.000 euros for the signature models. The new PJ-Special start from 1.650 euro, thanks to large investments and the optimization of production processes, we are able to offer an handmade instrument for the same price of an industrial manufacturing. We’re also trying to organize the “Italian Sound Corporation” showcase/clinic/live show outside Italy. The ISC is a new way to give the opportunity to test innovative instruments built in my country: aluminum basses and guitars, aluminum drums and also guitar and bass amplifiers. It’s a live tour where the musicians can listen the instruments on stage, and after that it’s possible to test the instruments played, talking with us and our artists. It’s an interesting way to really understand the instruments, the sound on stage without filters, and test our handmade instruments for the time needed. We’re also working around a new project with an innovative material…follow us to stay updated about all that.
Boris Ranilovic([email protected])