JEAN-YVES ALQUIER AND HIS PHILOSOPHY AMPED GUITARS
Alquier Pioneers Bamboo Eco-Friendly Guitar Line and Pushes the Limits to Wicked Guitar Design
Twenty years ago, Jean-Yves Alquier was thunderstruck by the guitar he was holding. The magical moment sparked a yearning to understand how it worked. Alquier would go on to become a master guitar builder, joining incredible sound with ingenious design.
Alquier puts passion into his woodworking, sculpting and drawing. Along with it, he injects some philosophy, giving meaning to each of his guitars. France’s President Hollande awarded Alquier with the prestigious MOF award in 2014, recognizing him as a master craftsmen. Always looking to push boundaries, Alquier pioneered the eco-responsible Ethiq guitar line, made with 100% bamboo.
The musical styles of Bach to Frank Zappa, B.B. King and John Scofield were a huge source of inspiration to Alquier. He was also blown away by Ken Parker guitars and the madness of Wandre guitars. There was also the unleashed creativity from Ulrich Teuffel and the melodic aura about the Jacobacci brothers and Maurice Dupont (with whom he would later collaborate). Tremendous awe and admiration impelled Alquier to take his passion further.
Journey to the East
Alquier is mostly self-taught. His workshop is located in Perpignan, France, right off the Spanish border. Prior to his many endeavors, Alquier had embarked on a journey.
In 1995, Alquier strapped a guitar to his back and toured the world. His mission was to discover music and meet instrument makers. He met with Canadian and American luthiers. He also traveled to Australia, North Africa, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Sumatra. Asian instrument makers astonished Alquier. He was surprised to see some use simple tools and a pair of feet as a vise. The adventure enlightened Alquier and made him more susceptible to new ideas.
Design Influences: From Hot Rods to Nature
In 1998, Alquier built a classical guitar under the tutelage of master builder Thierry Jacquet. The approach to crafting a classical guitar taught him rigor and technique. With skill and confidence, he was ready to become a full-time, professional luthier. Nevertheless, Alquier did not want to inhibit his approach. Armed with a global know-how and an incessant drive to go beyond, Alquier’s ambitions would drive him to audacious designs.
The spirited and boundless creativity of 20th century automotive design played a big role in shaping some of Alquier’s guitars, such as the Fastbacks. It’s on full display in Fangio, a six-stringed badass sports car, in a vibrant “Eldorado red” finish.
Nature also touches his concept guitars. The spellbinding Hummocks, made of bamboo, is the incarnation of Arctic ice shifting and colliding together. It’s festooned with recurring hexagons and cracked-ice finish. As the Aurora Borealis dazzles the northern sky, this guitar mesmerizes the dark with subtle edge strokes of phosphorescent paint.
The Art of Storytelling
For every guitar Alquier builds, each must tell a story. He reveals that his guitars reflect his philosophy. The results are magnificent instruments that can be considered works of art.
Alquier started researching new ways to his craft, determined to unshackle design from existing norms. This materialized into concept models. He presented his first concepts as a trilogy at the Montreal Guitar Show, consecutively from 2009 to 2011. They include Air Mail Special, Papaléocada and Gnossienne.
The enchanting guitar designs spoke for themselves. Alquier gained admirers, especially among his fellow luthier. Air Mail Special and Papaléocada were included in Robert Shaw’s book, “Electrified: The Art of the Contemporary Electric Guitar.” Alquier’s Gnossienne was featured on the cover of Premiere Guitar magazine.
As an incentive to stay fresh and pursue new ideas, Alquier decided not to make copies of his concept guitars. Today he is focusing his efforts on ergonomics, eco-responsibility and ethics. Most of his research is now concentrated on seeking and using eco-friendly raw materials for the manufacturing of instruments. This includes wood, varnish and parts.
Guitar Ethics and the Environment
With the regulation of exotic woods and a global paradigm shift towards sustainability, Alquier is bent on reducing the guitar industry’s environmental footprint. To do this, Alquier is willing to transform the soul of the guitar. Along the way, he is hoping to also appeal to the hearts and minds of his fellow luthier and guitar enthusiasts.
After three years of independent research, Alquier produced a CO2 neutral guitar. He replaced wood with a plant-based material, equal in resilience—bamboo. His research culminated in his Ethiq guitar line, entirely sourced from bamboo. Alquier unveiled his methods at the 2015 Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin. He showcased the Ethiq line for the first time as proof of concept.
After winning a national French competition in 2015, President Hollande bestowed Alquier with the MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) award. This unique award recognizes his master craftsmanship as a guitar luthier.
Alquier lives in Perpignan with his partner and two children. He’s been a rugby player for most of his life, playing hooker. It’s position number 9, the one who starts the play by passing off the ball. Alquier studied literature at the University of Grenoble. He would have pursued it further, but found his calling as an artisan luthier. He will always be a man of letters, but enjoys laboring with his hands.
Currently, Alquier is working on his Ethiq line, creating new models and concepts, with a focus on ergonomics. He is also looking into forming new partnerships and sharing knowledge in the luthier community.