Basque luthier/photographer Endika Ussia Apraiz (Dusty Road) talks about Cigar-Box guitars and Blues

"Old instruments were much better built than now, are made one by one with best materials, now things have changed and big industries produce often and not very good and expensive instruments."

Endika Ussia Apraiz: Smokin' Blues 

Endika Ussia Apraiz was born in Laudio, Basque Country in 1967. He started his studies in photography in 1992 at the Photographic Studies Institute of Catalonia in Barcelona and complete them in 1996, since then he have devoted to professional photography in Barcelona. Lately Endika started photos at concerts and also some album covers and promotional pictures for musicians. One of his favorite photographer is William Eggleston, a master of simplicity. In 2008 was start to study guitar in the Barcelona Blues School. Endika is also a well-known luthier for cigar box guitars and other handmade instruments. 

Dusty Road Guitars - Cigar Box Guitars and other handmade instruments - began at the end of 2011. Endika Ussia, say: “I have always inspired me on the Blues and their interpreters to make my instruments, if I had to tell what my favorite would be very difficult and the list would be huge, I have no idols but if I have to tell you some essentials, they could be T-Bone Walker, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Son House, Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, JB Lenoir, Hound Dog Taylor, Slim Harpo, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, John Mayall, Rory Gallager, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Vaughan, B.B.King, Fabulous Thunderbirds, and more and more. This is what happens with something as big as the Blues, which is difficult to stay with only use few.”

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

The Blues has made me be more humble and has taught me to appreciate things more simple.

Give me account that a simple Cigar box, a stick, a piece of wire, can make vibrate a stadium full of people. The importance of simplicity   "Less is more", this what Blues means to me.

What characterize the sound and philosophy of Dusty Road Guitars? How started the thought of?

When I do an instrument I try to put all my soul in it, all are unique pieces and they have to be beautiful but mostly they have to sound well and with its own character.

I started restoring a broken guitar found in the trash, later I found an electric guitar neck in a flea market, restore it and use it together with a box that my mother used for its sewing things. This was my first Cigar Box Guitar. After seeing the results started to experiment with all kinds of recycled parts and other types of instruments as ukuleles, fiddles, lapsteels, banjoleles, etc

"The Blues has always been and will be one of the best ways to unite the people, what started being the way of expression of the black people evolved with their own children as Rock, Funk, Soul, etc. There are no colors for the blues! It is multi-colored!"

What made you get involved in the craftsmanship of cigar box guitars and other handmade instruments?

I'm a roots music and guitars lover since I was a child. Over time I learned to work with my hands and different materials so that the construction of instruments could be the result of the merger of these three passions, music, guitars and craftwork.

How do you see wood and box as the major component of the final product? What are the secrets of Cigar Box?

Everything counts when creating an instrument, box, wood, electronic components, decorations, design, but what is really important is to put your heart and soul in each of them.

How much time do you spend on an instrument? How difficult is the construction of an instrument?

It is not easy to calculate exactly the time that I need to make an instrument, also I think it's better to do things slowly and think about them carefully. It is not very difficult, but must be meticulous and investigate much before.

Have you ever come to contact with customers that had weird tastes in terms? What has made you laugh lately?

Normally musicians coming to Dusty Roads know my tastes and looking for instruments with an aesthetic and special sounds, something unique that fail in conventional sites. Sounds that make his music different and special I laughed a lot when saw my mother´s face when she saw and heard his old sewing things box transformed in a Cigar Box Guitar

"In the future will become worst commercial instruments and who wants quality will have to buy something classic and vintage or resort to small luthiers to which you build something to their taste and measure."

You are also known of your work as photographer. What have triggered your ideas most frequently?

I like to photograph the simple things and try to capture the essence of them with my camera. When I take photos from concerts or a musician I try to capture the feeling. There is not music without a feeling. I try my images to convey some kind of emotion or feeling.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Catalonia. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

There are very good Blues musicians in Catalonia, in Barcelona there is a good Blues school and several clubs where there are concerts and jam sessions, but should be more support for live music and culture in general.

There is also a Blues festival that has thirteen years becoming and this really well. It is appreciated the effort that organizers "Capibola Blues" do each year

What do you miss most nowadays from the handmade instruments of past? What are your hopes for the future?

Old instruments were much better built than now, are made one by one with best materials, now things have changed and big industries produce often and not very good and expensive instruments. Fortunately always remain people who make things way more artisans and musicians who know how to appreciate those differences

In the future will become worst commercial instruments and who wants quality will have to buy something classic and vintage or resort to small luthiers to which you build something to their taste and measure.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

The Blues has always been and will be one of the best ways to unite the people, what started being the way of expression of the black people evolved with their own children as Rock, Funk, Soul, etc.

There are no colors for the blues! It is multi-colored!

"The Blues has made me be more humble and has taught me to appreciate things more simple."

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I would like to travel by train till a remote and dusty crossroads and find Robert Johnson howling at the stars with his guitar on the porch of an old Blues Club…

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