When Australian violin maker Paul Davies was just seven years old, he heard a song that would unknowingly impact his life many years later. The year was 1966, and the line that set his "whole imagination on fire," Paul says, was from the iconic song, "Desolation Row." For Davies, the lyric "he was famous long ago for playing the electric violin on Desolation Row," triggered an idea that has been firing ever since. "The idea of combining electricity with the violin was like an earthquake in my mind. Before these words the violin was all black suits and white ties and vibrato and establishment. After these words, the possibilities seemed endless yet apparently it had already happened long ago, it seemed as though the world had tumbled backwards into the future and the artists were left on desolation row... That's where I wanted to be!" Davies explains. "That notion stayed with me, and once I became a violin maker, I knew with great certainly that creating a well-engineered electric violin that respected the past but with a vision for and a focus on the future was something I had to do." It's a process that has taken the bulk of his career, but this year, Davies is introducing the EV145, the instrument he's been sculpting in his head for more than 40 years.
As a child, Davies was surrounded by music and instruments but was especially intrigued by the violin - the only instrument in his family that was kept in its case and ceremonially revealed in a multi-step process. "A hush would fall over the room when my uncle would gently remove the instrument from its case, tighten the bow, apply the rosin, and make careful tuning adjustments," Davies remembers.
Davies received formal training on the violin, quickly picked up the remaining violin-family instruments and taught himself to play the guitar. As a teenager, he quickly discovered that although he's never settled on a favorite instrument - "I'll play whatever I've got in my hand at a particular time," - the violin has had a lasting lure.
As a student, Davies found a creative niche in his visual arts classes and landed an after school job at a music shop. The owner took notice of Davies' touch and encouraged him to refine his skills on acoustic guitar repairs. He quickly earned top spot in violin repair for the shop and soon began working for a graduate of the esteemed Mittenwald School. "While I studied for a music teaching degree, with the thought I needed this to secure gainful employment, I could not leave the world of violin making and, as they say, the rest is history."
After studying instrument making in the UK, Davies returned to Australia and started his own company, Arts Music Pty Ltd. Like many instrument makers specializing in violin-family instruments, Davies' spent his early days making traditional instruments copied from the designs of Stradivari and Guarneri. In the early nineties, Davies developed his own traditional model violin that took his reputation to new heights. The first of these was made for Larry Campbell, the iconic studio and touring musician for artists ranging from Levon Helm, Paul Simon, B.B. King and Cyndi Lauper, and the integrity of his handcrafted instruments quickly caught the attention of top-tier rock, folk and bluegrass musicians. Davies more recent creations have been Tony Garniers' touring double bass and a copy for Stuart Duncan of his violin "Ol' Red".
While making these traditional instruments and developing the well-respected Arts Music and Atelier brands of instruments occupied much of Davies' working week, his motivation with developing an electric violin never flagged. His inspiration? The concept of an electric instrument that could be successfully amplified in a way that remains authentic to the engineering of the violin. It was the seed of the Spur Violins brand.
By deconstructing design advancements made over hundreds of years, Davies identified the keys to successfully amplifying a violin. "I now consider the concept of the instrument - the purpose, holistic nature - what it looks like, what it sounds like, the relationship that a player has with the instrument," Davies says. "What's missing from some of the best made modern technical instruments are the artistic dynamics that early instrument makers had in their works. You can tell that early instrument makers had a very clear constant in their mind of what each instrument was about. That, hopefully, is where Spur is now."
With the final touches to the new Spur EV145, a first-of-its-kind electric violin that elaborates on the elemental features of the instrument, Davies has perfected a revolutionary technology that amplifies the violin while mimicking the resonance of a fully acoustic instrument. Poised to be the next classic instrument violin players will be clamoring to acquire, the EV145 is the realization of the dream Davies has been shaping since age seven.