To some, Kevin Tully is the brilliant mind behind the brand Moniker guitars. To others, he he is the visionary behind a new buying model that cuts out the middle man and allows players to build an affordable custom made American ax. When I reached out to Moniker to see if I could review one of their guitars they offered me an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. An interview with the man behind Moniker guitars, Kevin Tully. I asked Kevin a few questions about the brand and his thoughts on guitar playing. Here is what he had to say.
Where does the name “Moniker” come from?
The name Moniker comes from the idea that we’re building custom instruments. It’s a common thing for guitar players to name their instruments when they love them (Hendrix, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc.) and so we wanted to put our brand on the guitar as a temporary name, a nickname, a “moniker” until the owner gives it a name.
Give us a short history of your business. How did you get involved in guitars?
I’ve been playing guitar since grade school and have played in terrible rock bands over the years so I’ve always loved the instrument. We started Moniker because I saw an opportunity to build quality customizable guitars and basses that working musicians could actually afford and that no one was doing it the way I envisioned. The idea was a combination of Carvin and Nike ID or other websites that allowed for online-customization of products along with selling direct to our customer and cutting out the middle man. On a guitar that sells for $1000, we can put more money into the guitar in terms of quality parts, woods, etc. than our competitors who sell through retail knowing that the retailer will take a cut.
As a guitar manufacturer, how do you feel about news articles such as “The Death of the guitar?” Do you feel there is any merit to it?
I was obviously saddened by that article but I can’t say I disagree with a lot of what I read. I think it was largely a supply and demand argument if I remember correctly. There are definitely more people making guitars on a small scale because the tools and equipment are more affordable and there’s been a maker movement. The popularity of the electric guitar and guitar driven music is at a low(er) point as far as pop culture goes which means there are fewer kids inspired to play. But there will always be those of us that love to play guitar. It’s never going to go away or die completely.
Who are some of your guitar heros? How have they influenced your brand and guitar design?
My guitar heroes in terms of designers and builders Les Paul, Leo Fender, Paul Reed Smith, Bob Taylor, Dennis Fano, guys like that. This is a really difficult industry to succeed in and I’m in awe of what those guys have done with their businesses. On the playing side, I’m sort of boring in that I learned guitar by reading guitar magazines and those covers dictated who I feel in love with as players. Hendrix, Page, SRV, those guys. I love Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy, I love Kim Thayil from Soundgarden, and I’m also into guys like Tony Rice and Jerry Douglas.
Do You Collect Guitars? What Are Some of your personal favorites from your collection?
I used to collect guitars and then I sold them all to help start Moniker. Since then, I’ve only owner Moniker. Some day I’ll get back into collecting other brands. I do try and play other brands regularly even if its just at a music shop. It’s important to know what else is going on out there.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you/your company?
Rival Series! We’re super excited about this guitar. It’s the ultimate in customizable guitars at working guitar player price point. That’s always been the ethos of Moniker because that’s who we are as people. We love to build instruments for guys who are going to take them to the gig, on the road, spill beer on them, knock them around, and create music with them for others to hear. We’re not targeting the collector who puts his guitars in cases on the wall. The Rival is a unique design. It’s got a chambered maple body that’s slimmer than our Custom Series bodies and has a contoured heel, matching maple neck, and the customer gets to choose the color of the acrylic top (with matching headstock), and the type of Seymour Duncan pickups. These guitars are super light weight due to the chambering, they sound really resonant and they look really clean with colored top and minimal hardware. At under $1000 I don’t think you can get a better guitar.