Edit ModuleShow Tags

Brandon Madrid's Sonic Secret Weapon

A Normal Heights luthier makes the Ferrari of guitars


Published:

They say you should never meet your heroes, but don’t tell that to Brandon Madrid. This Normal Heights guitar-maker recently became the toast of the music world thanks to a chance encounter with one of his idols, “Swami” John Reis. 

Shortly after relocating to San Diego from the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, Madrid was working in a North County guitar shop when the lead singer and guitarist for bands like Rocket From the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu came in. “In San Diego, John’s a family guy that lives in South Park, but in Portland he’s a rock star,” says Madrid. “I told my boss, ‘Gimme a minute, I need to talk to him.’” 

That minute turned into three hours, and within a week Reis and Madrid were plotting to build a guitar that would improve upon Reis’ Silvertone hollow body. They realized they shared a love of Japanese guitars from the 1960s and envisioned an instrument that had the look of a Japanese axe and the quality that can only come from handcrafting. 

“A lot of luthiers just input all the measurements in a computer program and hit ‘go’ on the machine,” says Madrid, who makes his guitars using almost no electric tools. “My craft is kind of dying.”

In addition to being good-looking, the guitar had to be able to take a beating on the road, as anyone who’s seen Reis’ spastic live show can attest. And, naturally, it had to sound just right. After months of tinkering, the Kon Tiki was born.

“It doesn’t sound like any other guitar you can buy new right now,” says Reis. “Sonically, it feels like you’re using a secret weapon.”

It didn’t take long for the guitar world to notice. Photos of Reis playing the Kon Tiki on tour turned up in Rolling Stone, Spin, and Pitchfork.

The $3,500 Kon Tiki now has a year-long waitlist, and Madrid is enjoying the ride. “To have someone I admire play one of my instruments and then to see it in a publication that musicians always read? You can’t get much better than that.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Good Grief, It’s a ‘Peanuts’ Double Feature at OB Playhouse

Catch the all-ages ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ and the adults-only ‘Dog Sees God’ in rotating repertory

‘Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ Hits the San Diego Civic Theatre Stage

Grab a (golden) ticket to the timeless tale, reworked into a modern performance

A Tour of San Diego with Sure Fire Soul Ensemble

The local funk band’s made soundtracks to many of our city’s neighborhoods
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019
    From pho to fries, you can choose San Diego's best eats and drinks in 99 categories
  2. Puesto's Next Top Taco
    Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
  3. Restaurants Are Dying; Here’s the Solution
    It’s simple math, but the state of California refuses to allow it
  4. 21 Ultimate Road Trip Itineraries from San Diego
    These getaways will take you through California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Mexico
  5. Best of North County 2019
    Our annual roundup of what's up-and-coming and full-on buzzy above the 56
  6. Things To Do in San Diego This Week
    International Mariachi Festival, The Redwoods Revue, Best Coast Beer Fest, Australian photography and more
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Enter San Diego’s Cutest Pet Contest

Your furry family member could win a pet prize package and be featured in San Diego Magazine

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Imagine Life Without Disease: What Would You Do?

For Larry and Page the answer was simple: Go and see the world.

Enter San Diego’s Cutest Pet Contest

Your furry family member could win a pet prize package and be featured in San Diego Magazine
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags