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INTERVIEW: Neville Marten

INTERVIEW: Neville Marten

This year in all likelihood represents a milestone for many companies in this business, but we don’t often hear about individuals reaching a landmark – let alone two. For Future Publishing’s Neville Marten – editor of Guitar Techniques and for many years at the helm of Guitarist – this year sees his 35th since joining the guitar industry and his 25th since he first became a guitar magazine editor. So what better opportunity to see how his role has changed during this time?
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Marten began his career repairing guitars, a profession he became aware he had a talent for when setting up his own instruments.“I was on the dole, sitting in the Wimpy bar in Witham, when a mate came in and said there was a job going at Henri Selmer, up the road in Braintree. Selmer distributed Gibson at the time so I took some stuff that I’d been working on and blagged my way in,” Marten reveals. “Seven years later when Gibson transferred its distribution to Rotterdam, Martyn Booth and I – Martyn also worked at Gibson, as did top repairers Robbie Gladwell and Mark Willmott – set up our own repair business." "It was during this period that both Fender and Yamaha approached us to work on their guitars. This led to me heading to CBS Fender and Martyn going to Yamaha.”Fender’s 1985 MBO from CBS meant that UK distribution returned to Arbiter; at the same time a position became available as staff writer on the fledgling Guitarist magazine.Marten jumped at the chance. By the following year he was editor and felt like he had hit the jackpot – which perhaps explains why he is still working on guitar magazines today.“It really was the perfect job for me. We did major work at Gibson – fitting new necks to Les Pauls and new tops to J-200s etc, full refinishes, re-frets, neck breaks and so on – plus I played professionally and so could write about guitars with a degree of authority,” Marten recalls.Having spent more than a couple of decades in music publishing, Marten has experienced a lot of changes but feels that, despite today’s industry being far from perfect, things have generally turned out for the better.“Back when I started playing, guitar quality at the lower end of the market was pretty dire. Entry-level guitars were little more than toys, but in the ‘80s Squiers came along and they were brilliant – you could play them, and gig them, straight out of the box.“With quality Japanese brands like Yamaha and Ibanez also doing great work, and the likes of PRS and Taylor dragging the ‘pro’ end companies up off their laurels, today everybody’s quality is to die for.”    As well as improvements in guitar construction, and technology that allows him to do his job more effectively, Marten also believes that consumers are better off today due to the sheer amount of guitar related product available to them. One example he highlights is the availability of good quality guitar music.“Guitarists today are able to access top-notch learning material, which previously just didn’t exist. Magazines like Guitar Techniques – which I launched in 1994 – and Total Guitar now give people what they didn’t have. And the desire to be a better player also helps to feed guitar buying.”A final point he makes is one that is not uncommon in the pages of MI Pro. When asked why he has stuck with the guitar industry all this time, he gives a familiar answer.“I grew up in this business with people like Dennis Drumm at JHS and Gavin Mortimer at Headline. Doug Ellis, Barry Warner and Christine Kieffer from Rosetti were all at Selmer when I joined in 1976, as was David Seville, who moved to Yamaha. Jeff Pumfrett – who now owns World Guitars – was my 22-year-old service manager at CBS Fender, and Graeme Mathieson was out on the road selling. So these people and many others are friends as well as colleagues,” concludes Marten. “People might move around within MI, but they rarely want to leave – I think it’s because we all have this common allegiance to the music.”FUTURE: 01225 442244

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