“Money doesn’t make the world go round!!!”
Johnny Prapas: The Axes Of Zeus
Johnny Prapas (aka Yiannis Yiantsios) and his entirely handmade electric guitars Olympus Custom Guitars are located in Leptokarya Pierias, Greece and they are a huge proof that people’s dreams and willings are unbeatable. Johnny says: “I love the music and play Acoustic and Electric guitars and involved with music over 23 years as an amateur. The construction of electrical instruments started before 20 years. The fabrication technique showed me a teacher from England JOHN HARRISON GUITARS…he mainly taught me the secrets of acoustic guitar, and then I began construction on electric guitar and electric bass because it was something that I love very much. So I started my own workshop!!!”
The Olympus Custom Guitars is a musical workshop, made entirely from scratch handmade electric guitars and basses handmade and based in the Leptokaria Pierias. Activated in the research and manufacturing of electronic musical instruments informally almost ten years, officially from 2011 with different and varied experiments on the electric instruments. Has a specific philosophy and rules for constructing a handmade guitar is an alternative! Assumes classic and original designs as various caliber of hand electric guitar or a handmade electric bass. The 80% of electric instruments made from wood where born and raised in the Mountain of Gods ”Olympus” is Greek! This is the alternative! The 100% electric organ made by hand!
How important was music in your life? How does music affect your mood and inspiration?
It’s a natural extension of myself. Each customer wants a unique guitar live which I cannot design and build without the feel of music. So music is vital in the field where I work.
What have you learned about yourself from your artwork and craftwork making an instrument?
Simply that, I am one creative people.
How do you describe and what characterize Olympus Custom Guitars philosophy?
I found out this philosophy when I first started to engage myself in construction and wood carving at the beginning of the 90’s.I remember when I first bought a guitar and at the same time I started tampering with it. I wanted to give it a new style at least visually. As far as I remove, whenever I had a piece of wood in my hands I always wanted to change it into something new and bring life to it. Olympus custom guitars have a specific philosophy. They are build wood which grows on Olympus Mountain (Home of the 12 gods in ancient times of Greek Mythology).
I truly believe they are unique due to the quality of the wood. Olympus Mountain is awesome and so are its products. So the only thing I did was to respect its history and whatever it produces giving a modern and respectful perception through the construction of an electric instrument. That is the basis on which our identity and character was set, what characterizer us is truth, respect and honesty towards our customers.
How did your involvement with musical instruments begin and what made you get involved?
The person who actually traced my concern for guitar building was my teacher Mr. John Harrison, a skillful acoustic guitar builder from England. I think the whole universe collaborated so as thaw world happen. I can’t give another explanation. Well, spending 2 years beside him in discipline, happened me set the right principles for what I do today. I think it was no coincidence that I met him at that time (1993-94) her in my village. He had decided that he wanted to transfer all his experience so far, as a heritage to a new student. As you can relies nothing happens by were coincidence on Olympus ha!ha!ha!
Do you make both acoustic and electric musical instruments? Which seems to be the harder to make?
No only electric!! For both professional builders is the same, for both amateur builders is the construction of an acoustic guitar.
Is there a difference between a hand crafted and a factory made musical instrument?
There’s definitely a huge difference. Fist there’s a totally different philosophy and secondly a different procedure. As far as the factory is concerned it has to do with how much money a company ear us in very short time. That is rule. To show you the difference I’ll give you an example. The most I can construct within a years is 15-20 organs, working my way and achieving the rest I want. A factory-made instrument, on the other hand is produced in very short time. The GIBSON Company for instance produce 80 pieces per hour. Further move it’s tragic when constructors claim their product is handmade when in fact it was assembled by ready-cut wood. This is how they cheat their buyers and I have to I detest lying to my customers. That is dishonesty!!
How difficult is the construction of an instrument? Which memory makes you smile?
The construction of a single guitar takes 2-4 months full time work on daily basis. Of course it deepens on the customer’s demands and also on the weather conditions during the time.
So as you can relive it’s the hard way the one I chose to follow. I’ll trying to complete a construction machine in its detail (ha!ha!ha!ha!) and is real madness because I already was machinery are precision instruments. On the one hand this makes me laugh. On the other hand it is a constant battle which makes me evolve as a craftsman. In the meantime I forgot to mention another important fact: The exhaustive search for the right wood (the basic material) and the effort to combine all these things (wood-measurement’s-pickups-lacquers) so as to satisfy the customer.
Are there any memories from your craftwork time which you’d like to share with us?
Yes, definitely right now in the process of building a handmade electric one, which I’m decorating with shells the upper part and it takes 2 hours per inch. ha!ha!ha!ha! This is madness indeed as you can guess. How much can someone estimate the cost of such one instrument? The only thing I can tell is that it wait finish soon.
What do you miss most nowadays from the vintage instruments? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss the circuit of the truth. I’ve seen too much in this field. Especially when guitars are painted with lacquer. I can tell about their quality when are painted transparent colors. This way I cam see the material and it’s easier for me to judge the construction quality. My only fears lying among constructors, many of wow I have to outface through their work. And because some contractors are not honest, unfortunately we are all considered dishonest. At least this is what happens in Greece. I guess it also happens abroad, but we should be outspoken to our customers. Money doesn’t make the world go round!!!
What are the lines that connect the art of wood sculpture with the manufacture an instrument?
Woodcarving can take months and years at a construction!! The other is simply a very nice instrument…
If you could change one thing in the local musical circuits and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I am very young man in knowledge to make such interventions!!
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Right now I want to be in Los Angeles ha! ha!ha!ha! It is the Promised Land for a manufacturer!!!
What would you say to Leon Fender?
I’ve seen pictures and I’ve read that when Leo Fender first started in the field, his workshop was a bit bigger than mine with three-four bands haws. He used to be a labor of love and the first pickups were made by hand. Today companies use different methods. That’s why the organs of the ’50s and ’60s are still priceless.