Meet the maker - Florian Schneider of Millimetric Instruments.
The work of Florian Schneider first came to the attention by the tip off from a friend via the visual social world of Instagram. I wanted to note this in particular as the visual aspect of that media platform is reflective of what perhaps demands your attention when first gazing upon a Millimetric Instrument. Handbuilt in Canada by Florian, A hypnotically simplistic style and design greets you, and it is clear that there are so many more influences than just the guitar world behind these instruments and the Millimetric brand aesthetic.. I was really keen to learn more about that. I've personally been infatuated ever since, keen to see more of his work and to learn more of the brand, so I knew at some point I had to get Florian involved in my Meet the maker interview series. Luckily for me, Florian was happy to speak with me! So let's delve in, as I'm itching to learn more!

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - Florian! First of all, thank you for being a part of this series, I'm really excited to have an insight into your world. It's a bit of a theme for these interviews to start things off with a look into musical backgrounds, so what sparked an interest in music for you and thus lead to the instruments themselves? Was it guitar from the get go?

F - Thanks for the interview always a pleasure to talk. So, I started playing drums at 12 and played in a few bands as a drummer. I started playing guitar after I had to move for my studies in Paris and wanted to be able to still play an instrument in my flat without disturbing the whole building. Got a nice Ibanez and a crappy Marshall Valvestate and started trying to figure that thing out. I always listened to a wide variety of genres from Ben Harper to Napalm Death, but mostly listened to heavy stuff like post hardcore and noise rock. One band that pushed me to build guitars is Shellac. That sound became an obsession and I had to figure it out. So I started building my first guitar with that sound and aesthetic in mind.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - Something that really stood out for me when I was first introduced to Millimetric by a friend, was that it felt like there was a lot more than just guitars behind the influence of the instrument's design. The aesthetic appears to lean towards that of the minimalist and contemporary art and even the furniture world, at least that's what the design translates to me anyway. Where & how did these aspects of design fall into your influences? 

F - I studied in graphic design and furniture making so that had a big influence in Millimetric. I have always been interested in design and decoration even at very young age. I remember going to Ikea with my family and it had a huge impact on me and my work. Simple and pure lines in objects that serve one purpose very well. While studying furniture making, I rediscovered my love for product design. Learning the traditional techniques and applying them to a more contemporary form.
One of my friend and old roommate who is an industrial designer also had a big influence. He taught me to always keep the most important detail in an object and always get rid of what is not needed. Form and function. Graffiti is also a big part of my design language. It taught me how to draw and transform an idea
into a real thing. Letter design as a lot in common with guitar design.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - So what was initially clear to me, referencing the previous question if I could, was the art/furniture influence to your instruments. But what was perhaps a little less obvious to me due to the very unique nature of your guitars and basses was the influence from other guitar brands and makers. Other than perhaps a wonderful tip of the hat to Travis Bean with your headstock design. Do you take influence from other guitar brands and makers, past or present into your own work?

F - The biggest influence comes from Obstructures. My MG6 design is largely inspired by their aluminum guitar. I discovered them through the band New Brutalism in which Matt Hall plays. Their music and aesthetic caught my attention. Form and function again, simplicity and elegance. Other influences would be indeed Travis Bean and EGC because of Steve Albini and all that noise rock scene (Shellac, Uzeda, Jesus Lizard, Three Second Kiss, My Disco). All those bands and music shaped the vision of Millimetric even past the actual product, it also influenced my work ethic in business.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - How did the shift to guitar making come about for you? What was your wood working history and what inspired you to delve into luthiery from playing the instrument?

F - Well as I said earlier, chasing the ''Albini tone'' is what really pushed me into guitar making. But I think it was also a natural answer to blend my academic path and my passion for music and design. I did not want to work in a graphic design firm. So I got thinking and said ''let's learn to be a luthier!'' I applied to Bruand School in Montreal and did not get accepted. But I think that was for a good reason because I went instead to furniture making and loved it. And I usually say, I would not build guitars like that if I went to a guitar making school.
The thing that really got me into building guitars was the fact that I wanted a guitar that looked different, I wanted my own twist. It has always been the visual aspect that pushed me to design my own instruments, parts or even cabs and pedalboards. I think I really had something to say and wanted to learn how to make that dream reality.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - One thing I personally love, is the sense of 'tactile' materials and finishes used throughout the guitars. Far from the conventional world of perhaps glossy poly or nitro cellulose lacquers, but rather satin look paint finishes, what appears to be brushed or anodized aluminium and smooth, oiled woods for example. Is this simply down to aesthetics for you, or are there design/functional reasons behind choosing these types of materials & finishes?

F - That is part of me wanting to be different but also some of that is because of the process. I think furniture design and industrial design is a big part of how I see a finished product. It has to be simple and has to serve a purpose, not be an ''art piece''. I see guitars as tools and usually tools have a more pure and
raw feel to them. I really don't want my instruments to have a fancy or ''rich'' look. It has to remain modest. That is mostly why you won't see gloss finishes or gold hardware on a Millimetric. Another part is trying to be more environmentally conscious. That means ecofriendly oils and milk paint finishes instead of the deadly nitro or other really nasty stuff that is being used because of ''tradition''. The brushed aluminum looks is really tied to industrial design. It takes scratches better than polished stuff and, again, it looks different. Also, the nice thing is that I brush those pickguards and pickup covers myself and it's easy to fix that finish.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - Let's dig into some guitar geekery for a moment. I noticed your guitar models feature some unique hardware and pickup designs across the range, which after following your work on social media I saw that it was designed/made specifically for your guitars. What made you feel inclined to design your own bridge and pickups for example, and do you make them yourself or alongside another company?

F - Always about being original haha! More seriously, the bridges were designed by myself because I was tired of the design of the bridges I was using. It was hard to match a pickguard to it, so I decided to make it myself. And with the use of laser cutting I was able to find a way to make it in a relatively low cost
manner. If I could make tuners I would. Pickups were made because I was looking to really nail that Albini tone. With the years, I have developed a range of pickups with my pickup maker MJS in Toronto. Mike is a wizard and always nails my ideas and designs.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - There is a quite noticeable aspect of your guitars and that is the neck mounting style. For those reading that are perhaps not familiar with your work, the guitars feature an interesting semi through neck design. What lead you to utilize this method and how do you feel they benefit your instruments over perhaps a Fender style bolt on, or set neck design?

F - That is really because of Travis Bean at first. I wanted to emulate that sound and sustain so I decided to do it that way. But after designing a few models around it, it was actually a wonderful solution to always have the best access to the high part of the neck. It also gives a more solid feel to the instrument, more resonance and a punchier sound.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - I have personally (due to an interest in this field) been blown away by your guitar's wiring, it goes to show that you have truly a eye for details that perhaps people would never even see. Beautifully tidy, yet incredibly compact. Was this something that came about to compliment the guitar's aesthetic design, and did it introduce some design hurdles to allow you to create a tonally versatile instrument? Also, how do your simplistic controls work, any interesting switching or pots used?

F - One thing I have always tried to include in my work is to always show the mechanics of the object. It was true for furniture design and it came naturally in guitar making. I learned that while reading on Jean Prouvé, one of my all time favorite architects and designer. I always disliked the interior of a guitar cavity. It's usually not made with pride, and hidden. It's actually what makes your guitar what it is! After seeing Tao guitars (that are truly like watchmaking) guts I felt the need of showing the interior and actually make them look good. I try to keep things simple on the controls as I think control should really be controlled by your feet leaving your hands free to play.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - I'd also love to ask you before moving away from the specific guitar geekery for a moment, about your bass guitars too. They also feature the same design style, but did translating that over to designing and building a bass guitar introduce any new challenges that the guitars perhaps didn't? 

F - Bass is always more challenging because of the balance part and the weight. That design felt like a natural evolution of the MG6 with just longer horns for the balance. I will actually slightly redesign it soon as I want to incorporate the new baseplate pickup system and the new bridges to it. I would love to make more basses they are fun to make and a little more forgiving in the adjustments.

Sonore Guitar Festival

J - Giving a little break then to the more detailed part of guitar and bass making to some other projects of yours! I have seen recently that you've had a part in organising a guitar festival, which is taking place in Montreal in September of 2017, named Sonore. How did that come about, and in particular what is your involvement in it's organising? 

F - Oh yeah that's a fun project! I co-organise it with my wonderful wife, Anne-Marie, and three other people (Théo, Joël and Mathilde). It's an event that promotes guitar building and show the talent of small boutique builders. I personally wanted to include pedals, amps and modular synthesizers so they could bring a different perspective and share ideas. We had a big Montreal Guitar Show a few years back and we wanted to bring that back with a more modern and design twist. My place in that event is all the visual aspect and social media. It has been a fun ride and we can't wait to show some of the builders on the list. I am very happy about some of them, like Obstructures, Lincoln Guitars, Needham, Montreal Assembly and many more.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - On a personal outlook on the guitar, what interests you and perhaps inspires you to continue to play? 

F - Music is always what driven me to build, so it will always be part of it. New pedals like the Count to 5 from Montreal Assembly are things that changed my playing and make me think about new ways to do things. I love loops and pitch effects and it goes well with my math rock playing.

millimetric instruments - Interview

J - Where do you see Millimetric heading in the future, are there things with guitar and bass making that you have goals to achieve or is the brand something you can feel growing organically?

F - I look forward going full time on Millimetric soon. It's gonna be a big step but much needed. I also look forward to restart making speaker cabs, pedalboards and other accessories. But the biggest thing in Millimetric's future is acoustic guitar building. I'm currently designing the first model which will be very nontraditional and new. We'll see how that goes. Hope to grow slowly but surely.

Thanks so much to Florian for his time and insight, it truly has been a pleasure and great to have his name now part of the Meet the maker series.

All photos are credit to Florian Schneider and Millimetric Instruments.

If you'd like to learn more or see more of Florian's work, please do visit his website HERE, and perhaps follow his social media accounts, trust me, it's worth doing!


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