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Daddy Mojo co-founders, Luca "Tripydee" Tripaldi and Lenny Piroth-Robert, have been in the guitar business for over seven years and have grabbed the attention of some of the best musicians in the business, including The Edge from U2, Jack White from White Stripes, Band of Horses, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco and the Counting Crows.
We sat down with Lenny Piroth-Robert to find out how he got into the business and to get a sneak peek into his workshop. Make sure to check out the video of Piroth-Robert playing the guitar.
Playboy.com: When I think about cigar box guitars, I immediately associate them with Bo Diddley. What cigar box blues artist means the most to you?
Piroth-Robert: Actually, Bo Diddley's instrument apparently was made out of recycled wood from an old door. Blind Willie Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Big Bill Broonzy would be some of my favorite musicians who've used or made themselves a cigar box guitar at some point in their career.
Playboy.com: What’s the major difference between the sound of a Stratocaster and one of your guitars?
Piroth-Robert: Well, factory-made guitars nowadays are made on the assembly line. Fender guitars were once made by hand…in the 1950s. A great heritage indeed, but an entirely different process than ours. My background is in visual arts, and Luca (my coworker) studied animation and interdisciplinary art, and we are both huge guitar aficionados with very eclectic musical tastes. As a result, each guitar we make is handmade, hand-tooled...an individual functional work of art of sorts.
Playboy.com: Who has been the most interesting artist to work with in terms of creating a piece? Why?
Piroth-Robert: We get the opportunity to collaborate with incredible musicians on a regular basis. Right now we are working on a banjo for a local Montreal musician which is made from his mother's old steel lunch box. The object has been in his family for years. When his mom passed away he brought it to our shop and asked us to make an instrument he could play onstage and record with. These opportunities are humbling, to say the least. We've worked on an interesting Guembri/cigar box hybrid for Andrew Whiteman of the band Broken Social Scene; we've also made a custom guitar for Kat Von D's High Voltage Tattoo shop in L.A. When U2 was in town last summer they also picked up one of our custom relic instruments which was hand-painted by Luca. That was really cool.
Playboy.com: What has been the most unique order you’ve received?
Piroth-Robert: We made an instrument that served as a giveaway raffle present for a big biker gang in Florida. The guitar was motorcycle inspired, of course. They even got us to silk-screen their logo on the soundboard. We also made one guitar where the body was a fully functional humidor.
Playboy.com: How are you integrating new technology into such a longstanding craft?
Piroth-Robert: The point of many of the early CBGs wasn't necessarily to be well crafted. Traditionally, these instruments were quite rudimentary, made from a discarded cigar box, a broomstick and some wire. What really mattered was getting a sound and a groove going. We've kept the original vibe and coolness of these guitars but have adapted them for the 21st century player. Things that are important to us are sound, intonation and playability. We've somewhat adapted modern lutherie techniques to this age-old way of building guitars.
Playboy.com: What’s your biggest challenge with creating your pieces?
Piroth-Robert: Probably getting the instrument to sound bigger than what you would imagine coming out of a relatively small sound box. We've been experimenting with small six-inch aluminum resonator cones and integrating them to the guitar bodies by creating a sound well to this effect…A Dobro/resonator cigar box guitar of sorts.
Playboy.com: What song do you think sounds best played on a cigar box guitar?
Piroth-Robert: The four- and five-string models are great for roots and blues music in open tuning with a bottleneck slide. The six-string models are more versatile. We've had a wide and eclectic range of musicians playing our instruments, from roots to indie to experimental avant-garde and noise. In the end it all comes down to wherever you want to take it.
Playboy.com: Is this kind of guitar your preferred instrument?
Piroth-Robert: Our guitars are like our children and we love them all.
Playboy.com: If someone’s looking to purchase a custom guitar, what are three things they should always ask the luthier?
Piroth-Robert: If the builder will appoint the instrument's dimensions to the client’s request, the types of woods that are available for the instrument and the time frame and price range for an instrument to be completed.
Playboy.com: What’s your first memory of Playboy? Why did you want to collaborate?
Piroth-Robert: Playboy was the first publication to take notice of us when we started this company, and we certainly noticed Playboy at a time when we were too young to do so. We are very proud to be working together yet again.
Playboy.com: What inspires you to keep creating your pieces? What’s on the horizon for you?
Piroth-Robert: Talking and sharing ideas with clients, musicians and friends. We are presently working on releasing a line of full-fledged solid body and hollow body electric guitars. A 15-watt tube guitar amplifier as well as a very cool and vintage-inspired guitar pedal are also in the works.