Interview with Greek luthier Leonidas Vrahatis - a huge proof that people's dreams and willings are unbeatable.

"Music, for me is a way of life, a need like the fresh air we have to breathe in order to live. If there wasn’t any, I believe my life would be boring beyond measure. I remember going to school as a small child of my time and always wanting to go back home to play with my favorite guitar and listen to music. Something always felt like pulling me into this world."

Leonidas Vrahatis: Music Harmony

Luthier Leonidas Vrahatis and his entirely handmade electric & clasical guitars and bass "Vrahatis Guitars" are located in Athens, Greece since 1970s and they are a huge proof that people's dreams and willings are unbeatable. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

How important was music in your life?

Music, for me is a way of life, a need like the fresh air we have to breathe in order to live. If there wasn’t any, I believe my life would be boring beyond measure. I remember going to school as a small child of my time and always wanting to go back home to play with my favorite guitar and listen to music. Something always felt like pulling me into this world.

"If I could change something in the local musical circuits in Greece, would be the sites. Especially here in my country, there aren’t big enough sites with good acoustics so that we can truly enjoy our musicians live. It’s truly one of my biggest desires." (Photo by N. Polyzoidis)

How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

I get really affected, I admit. When I work, I listen to music and get inspired to create by the relation of my mood and inspiration that music piece provides me with. My feelings are inseparably connected to music.

How has the Blues & Rock n’ Roll culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I got acquainted with Blues & Rock n’ Roll as a teenager from Jimmy Hendrix, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Beatles, Elvis Presley and many other artists that greatly influenced the world. Travelling and observing around the globe, affected by these musical sounds, I believe I was granted the simpler, artistic view of things. Simplicity, sensibility, understanding, beauty, thinking and questioning were the things that through music I could perceive the world with artists, I believe have a particular and sensible side with which they analyze the human and his feelings.

What have you learned about yourself from your artwork and craftwork making an instrument?

Manufacturing musical instruments, the first thing I came to realize is that the will of a person to create takes him on an amazing journey. Every time I begin making something I am filled with anxiousness, a journey of many questions and physical equations I must solve and discover myself, enjoying at the very end, enormous satisfaction. I really get pleasure when I hear the sound of my creation, how beautiful and balanced it sounds. Every time I discover a different side of myself and life itself it affects me deeply.

What characterize Vrahatis Guitars philosophy?

The philosophy that I’m always trying to include in my musical instruments is musicality and harmony. When I am often asked by people if I manufacture guitars, I answer that I manufacture ‘Musical’ instruments. With years of research on the harmony of sound and the help of mathematics and physics I came to a point that I can say that I have the desired result. That’s what I believe characterizes my creations and is a perpetual source of quest to get the best possible results.

"The best advice anyone ever gave me is to never give up. When you begin a profession like that from zero, as you understand there are various difficulties and you have to overcome your very self to deal with them. I have been truly lucky in my life for there have been lots of people to tell me that simple phrase, Never give up!"

How did your involvement with musical instruments begin?

Everything began from an ‘unfortunate’ event at a party. There, one of my friends accidentally broke my favourite guitar which I always took with me. Being very sad about that fact I decided to try through reading and trial and error to restore my guitar to its former condition. In Greece, at that time, there weren’t any people that could repair musical instruments, especially electric ones. In this way, I managed to repair my guitar and so friends and acquaintances begin to seek me to help them solve their own problems. Year after year I realised that I had come to a point I had constructed from beginning to end my very own first guitar. This fascinated me and still fascinates me so much that after a decade I decided, leaving everyone surprised, to change my profitable profession of mechanic to that of a luthier.

Do you make both acoustic and electric musical instruments?

Yes, I manufacture both acoustic and electric musical instruments. Both kinds fascinate me and thus I have concerned myself with their construction deeply.

Which seems to be harder to make?

Both have their own difficulties to make. I couldn’t possibly compare. To reach the desired result with both kinds I confront the same degrees of difficulty.

Are there any differences between: handmade and factory crafted instrument?

Yes, there is a difference. Generally an industrial musical instrument has a standard level which we usually know. Some series are successful and some not quite so. However a handmade instrument is ‘that’ something more I believe. The person who wants to buy a handmade one is someone that in my opinion searches for ‘his’ something. Together manufacturer and buyer create in relation that which expresses best the owner of the instrument since he has also made choices and changes he wanted to suit him best. An industrial one can’t give us so many choices. Today I must say, that I am saddened by the fact that more and more new manufacturers claim to make handmade instruments though they use CNC machines. It is definitely not the same. There aren’t any longer lots of authentic luthiers in the musical handmade manufacture frame.

What are your fears for the future?

I can’t say I am afraid for the future. For music is a perpetual source of optimism for me. Generally, Arts cannot disappear and always evolve. Thus, I believe that there are always going to be people to continue crafting musical instruments and evolve them reaching new, higher and exciting new levels.

"The philosophy that I’m always trying to include in my musical instruments is musicality and harmony." 

Are there any memories from your craftwork time which you’d like to share with us?

I have lots of fond memories from crafting but the one that remains engraved in me is unfolded in the 70’s Friday afternoon after work. I enter directly my workshop having found a possible solution to finish the construction of my very first guitar eager to test it out. After finishing I realize with surprise, that I had succeeded and that the sound was the best I have ever heard before. So I call friends and we test it out played a lot and that happy feeling and satisfaction always remain within me even now when I begin something.

What do you miss most nowadays from the vintage instruments?

I can’t say that I miss something, I tend to believe that the world through the years has evolved and has allowed us to manufacture better musical instruments. My relation with vintage instruments is a lesson of history. We learn from the past and include, reject and evolve the knowledge it gives us.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

History teaches us that there is always continuity and evolution in arts. As I told before, arts cannot disappear, never stop, they evolve constantly. That’s why I am very sure that the new generation will pick up where we leave and continue, putting their own signature respectively through the course of history.

If you could change one thing in the local musical circuits and it would become a reality, what would that be?

If I could change something in the local musical circuits in Greece, would be the sites. Especially here in my country, there aren’t big enough sites with good acoustics so that we can truly enjoy our musicians live. It’s truly one of my biggest desires.

"I got acquainted with Blues & Rock n’ Roll as a teenager from Jimmy Hendrix, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Beatles, Elvis Presley and many other artists that greatly influenced the world. Travelling and observing around the globe, affected by these musical sounds, I believe I was granted the simpler, artistic view of things."

Where would you really want to go with a time machine and what memorabilia (records, instruments) you put in?

I would like to go to Woodstock and I wouldn’t need to take anything with me for everyone and everything was simply there!

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The best advice anyone ever gave me is to never give up. When you begin a profession like that from zero, as you understand there are various difficulties and you have to overcome your very self to deal with them. I have been truly lucky in my life for there have been lots of people to tell me that simple phrase, Never give up!

What would you say to Leon Fender?

I would very much like to thank him for his ideas that gave us all these beloved instruments that we have today in our grasp. Thank you.

What would you like to ask Les Paul?

I would like him to tell me and describe the two forgotten, great manufacturers of Greek origin Epameinonda and Orphea Stathopoulo and how helpful their relationship was that later inspired him to design the homonymous guitars for Gibson.

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