Guitarist Mike Hill of Tombs Interviews Vijay Kumar, Owner of Artist Series Guitar
Although Artist Series Guitars has been around for only three years, founder Vijay Kumar has amassed a diverse roster of signature artists, including Sick of It All, Fishbone, Madball, Coliseum, Tombs and Pennywise.
When he was 15, Kumar started playing in Chicago-area bands, ultimately finding himself as the bassist for Bleeding Through.
For several years prior to launching the company, a little voice inside his head said, "Do something with some guts. Do something that has some meaning. And do something that will make a difference."
"So I took my love for guitars and the underground music scene and founded ASG, a business that gives a life-long connection between our favorite bands and their fans,” Kumar said.
MIKE HILL: What were the early days of ASG like?
VIJAY KUMAR: It all started in my garage working on graphic application until the sun went down and I could no longer breathe in any more paint fumes. I moonlit during the prototyping days of ASG, and when I felt that a final ASG product was ready to go, I went full time and hustled to get a line on the market. Initially, I thought releasing a couple of models would be a three-month endeavor. A year and a half later, I released the first five models with Parkway Drive, Demon Hunter, Death By Stereo, Throwdown and Bleeding Through. It was a very long process, but in the end I feel like ASG kicked out a great inaugural release.
What was your mission when starting the company?
The idea behind ASG is to work with great bands that have great visual appeal, and moreover, a great relationship with their fans. All the guitars on ASG's roster are collector's pieces; each guitar is a limited edition, collector's guitar sold to the fans at incredibly digestible prices. We can give those fans a chance to connect with the band in a way never before possible. We also strive to influence people to play music.
You'll see that ASG's current logo is a broken shield. The broken shield represents the destruction of a myth that says only super heroes can do something amazing. In my mind, if a fan dreams of playing in front of thousands of people, performing his or her own music, he/she simply needs to start by picking up a guitar. I believe ASG can be that inspiration.
How do you pick what bands to work with?
At first it was a phone call to a friend with the simple question, "Can I release a guitar for you guys?" Now that ASG is becoming a bit more well-known, we have lots of bands from around the world asking us to release their guitar. Unfortunately, we can't choose them all, so we have to be somewhat selective. What it really comes down to with our selection process, is whether or not the band has proven themselves in their respective scene as a band that cares about what they do, and if they are willing to put themselves out their on an international level to inspire the progression of music. That's the primary selection process for us. The secondary would simply be whether or not we love the band or not.
What guitars are some of your favorites?
Wow. This is the toughest question. It's very hard to say which we like the most, because each and every time we ship one of our 24 models, we grin from ear to ear as we play the guitar. Each guitar has its individual merit that can't be compared to the next; I would say the Tombs guitar is UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE. I love a great metal visual, and I think the Tombs guitar is the most metal we have. It's dark, eerie and perfectly classy at the same time. I can't wait till this guitar releases, and I'm sure the Tombs crowd will be just as enamored with this guitar as I am.
What’s on the horizon for ASG?
The fall 2012 lineup is coming together so well. Amazing bands are lining up for the roster and we couldn't be more proud. We've got Every Time I Die, As I Lay Dying, White Chapel, Cancer Bats and a couple incredibly iconic bands I have to refrain from mentioning for the time being. Another upcoming project is the launch of our as-yet-un-named software program that allows bands, individual guitarists, collectors and fans to design their own ASG for the same cost as our other ASG models. I can't wait for this program to launch. It will revolutionize what we do.
For more about Mike Hill and Tombs, check out the band's Facebook page.