Daddy Mojo, a unique, handcrafted guitar company made from old cigar boxes, located in the heart of the Mile end in Montreal. Over the weekend, we were lucky to chat with Lenny from Daddy Mojo, and learn more about the company. Here is what he had to say.
Tell us a bit about Daddy Mojo, and how it all started.
Daddy Mojo started as a little experiment in DIY guitar making in my painting studio about 8 years ago. I went to art school and studied in Painting and Drawing at Concordia after which I had a regular studio practice where I painted every day for almost 10 years. I started making these guitars as a diversion from painting. This quickly became an obsession and in a few short months my studio found itself littered with weirdo four string guitars. I decided to start handing some of these out to friends who were musicians, and also selling some online. This is pretty much how Daddy Mojo was born..
Where did the idea of creating your own instruments out of old cigar boxes come from?
I’ve always been inspired by depression era blues music, and found out that in the 1930′s less fortunate musicians would make instruments themselves out of recycle materials. Cigar boxes were used as guitar sound boxes back then…and so, out of fascination, I started building my own interpretations of what I thought these instruments might look and sound like.
At the core, the cigar box guitar is an instrument that is meant to be put together by the musician himself. The cigar box instruments that were made at the beginning of the century were extremely rudimentary, using a box, a broom stick and some fishing or metal wire for strings. The musician making their own guitars back then basically did not have the resources to buy manufactured instruments, so they made their own…and were very resourceful doing so. We’ve somewhat taken those ideas and adapted the instrument for the 21th century.
How did the business begin? Who is Daddy Mojo?
About seven years ago, after selling quite a few instruments online, a freelancer who wrote for Playboy magazine contacted me saying he’d seen my instrument auctions on eBay and would like to run a story on the guitars and their history. Cigars and rock n’ roll…this was right up their alley! A few months later I picked up the June issue of PB magazine at my favorite news stand and lo and behold they had printed the article…this had not been a hoax.
Seeing that PB has a circulation of about 3M printed copies a months…this translated in a lot of folks seeing and hearing about Daddy Mojo. The orders that were generated from the article were enough to keep me and Luca (a good friend who joined to help me get these guitars out the door) busy for several months. This is pretty much how Daddy Mojo started. A painting studio turned into a small guitar factory…
What kind of instruments do you sell?
We’ve elaborated about six or seven cigar box guitar models with different themes, paint jobs and string configurations. Some of our guitars incorporate vintage cigar labels and boxes, while others have custom silk-screening and painting that we do in house at the studio…kind of makes each instrument unique and personalized. Each instrument is made by hand, with a special serial number on the back. These are functional works of art of sorts as not one of them is alike. Amongst our roster of instruments are tenor guitars, ukuleles, five stringed instruments (mostly for playing slide guitar) and standard six string guitars. We also make a resonator cigar box guitar model…which is probably our most complex instrument which requires about 75 hours of labor and incorporates an aluminum resonator cone on which the guitar strings exert downward pressure. This system triples the acoustic projection of the instrument making it very loud acoustically.
In the last two years or so we’ve also developed and launched a line of full fledged electric guitars. These grew out of a need to explore more elaborated ways of building instruments and definitely have a vintage flare to them.
Where is each piece made?
All of our instruments are made by hand in our Montreal (Mile-end) workshop.
What has been the most memorable or special experience with Daddy Mojo so far?
Honestly, every day has felt like a blessing with this venture. I get so exited when the phones rings and a musician at the other end of the line shoots a bunch of ideas at me. I love incorporating people’s stage or studio needs in their guitars. It’s particularly thrilling when a musician you dig or respects writes to have you make them something special. Meeting and delivering instruments to guys like The Edge from U2 and Jack White definitely was a surreal experience..
What does living beautifully mean to you?
Aesthetics and design is such a huge part of guitar building. On some level one could say that in any field that is creative you are living and negotiating with beauty on a daily basis. For me living beautifully probably translates into working with friends, in the simplest ways possible, on projects that constantly keep you challenged…and perhaps once in a while, afford you the opportunity of exploring new ways of your looking at you craft.
To learn more about Daddy Mojo click HERE
Follow Daddy Mojo’s blog HERE
Keep up to date with what Daddy Mojo is doing on his facebook page HERE