Ant Macari | Macari’s | Behind The Counter

Name, Age, Store, Location

Ant Macari , Macari’s, London UK

 

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work at the store?

I was born here. I opened my eyes and there were guitars everywhere.

In all seriousness, when I was born, my uncle had just opened Macari’s in Denmark St with my Dad. It was about the same time they were approached by Gary Hurst with his Fuzz pedal. I left school at 18 and started working on the shop floor and ended up here once I realized I wasn’t destined to be a rock star – same as most music shop owners! Been here ever since running Macari’s with my Cousin Steve.

 

Macari’s staff, Ryan and Fin, having a laugh with their great boss!

 

This is the 8th or 9th location of Macari’s – depends how you count them – started back in 1956 and… there she is – the Mothership ! We have got up ladders and repainted the sign about six times – the staff do it! It gets really messy, mainly due to the guy watering his plants upstairs – but we’re too nice to make a fuss – painting is therapeutic anyway.

 

What instrument do you play?

Guitar. Not bad and just about everything else. Just enough to sell it.

 

What’s the name of your band, and what kind of music do you play? 

I’ve done mainly comedy gigs for the last 20 years but have just joined a band again called Hofnerama. Its a tribute to a friend Paul Hofner who died suddenly a few years back. Everyone in the band played with Paul at different parts of his life – its sort of Rockabilly.

 

What’s your current favorite pedal?

Changes from day to day. Of course it’s a Tone Bender, but if I had to choose a pedal that we don’t make then hmmmm… Roland Jet Phaser.

 

It was the sixties – maybe it was the drugs !

 

Greatest song/album using the Tone Bender?

Well Mick Ronson’s sound with our Mk1 of course makes my hair stand on end. The Skids – Scared to Dance – MK4 I think. Genesis – Selling England by the Pound – Supa Tone Bender.

 

This is me in the engine room, where it all happens, surrounded by weird shit! Yes that’s an old Revox behind me. Think there are a few secret prototypes lurking about. The two sunburst guitars hanging on the wall may look like two cheap 80s Hohners, BUT Rory Gallagher had borrowed them from me, and he could always get a cool sound out of a cheap guitar. When he passed away, his brother came in and said “When he was in hospital, Rory told me to make sure you got these back” – what a guy! I can’t sell them.
The system MK1 Tone Bender… I’ve held this one so tight it’s now become part of my body!

 

What pedal do customers ask about the most? Any sought-after pedals that have proven particularly hard to get?

Well. We’re Sola Sound so every other conversation I have in Macari’s is about a Sola Sound Fuzz. Luckily the stuff we build now is pretty special so I don’t always have the vintage vs new argument anymore. Everything is built incredibly slowly, so it’s frustrating that there’s always a waiting list – the MKII Tone Bender in particular – I blame Jimmy Page !

 

What’s the story of this framed Mighty Atom poster?

The Mighty Atom was developed as a little portable battery amp . They sounded pretty good but looked VERY cool. This is the original proof on an advert going to press in May 74 – I love that 70s Sola Sound font. We made Mighty Atoms in some shape or form right through the 80s. At one point they were called “Edsons” – that was because Larry had a whole heap of “Jedson” logos that he didn’t have a use for so he got the guys to saw the J off and made the “Edson” amps.

Sola Sound style – waste not want not !

 

Yup – the Mighty Atom – best deal ever! Marc Bolan requesting two as an endorsement deal, amazing! I still have the letter.

 

Any sought-after pedals that have proven particularly hard to get?

I wanted a Burns Buzzaround for years and eventually got one. I knew Jim Burns as I was growing up.  All those crazy guys and designers were contemporaries of my dad and uncle. Jim Burns, Charlie Watkins, Jim Marshall, Dave Reeves and of course my uncle was manager of Vox so guys like Dick Denney and Gary Hurst were always on the scene.

 

What pedal do you sell the most? Has that changed since you began working?

Wooah – well obviously I’ve been involved with the Colorsound Fuzz from the day I started working and we’ve gone from making fairly good pedals to really amazing pedals. It’s market driven – people really started caring about components, about build and of course ultimately, about sound. I thank everyone who cares for turning me into a complete fuzz nerd – it’s the coolest sort of nerd I think!

 

Is there a pedal or company that’s currently under-the-radar that you think could be the next big thing?

Rainger FX. They start where we stop !

 

Tell us about your most memorable walk-in?

Easy. I was in the office downstairs and got a call:

“There’s a guy up here wants a guitar lead”

“Ok , sell him one”

“No , I think you better come up”

I went upstairs and Chuck Berry was standing at the counter. That’s the only time I’ve been a bit star-struck. Unfortunately I didn’t have the right fucking lead !!

 

Tell us a favorite urban legend, that is, a store- or stompbox-related story that you’ve told and/or heard many times over the years?

The amount of people who have come into the shop and told me about the day in the sixties when they came in and Clapton, Lennon and Hendrix were all in the shop jamming. Now, I’m SURE this didn’t happen, but loads of people have told me this story.  it just got around and everyone remembers being here that day. It’s really weird. It was the sixties – maybe it was the drugs!

 

We do face implants as well.

 

What’s going on here…?!?

Just Elton John today.  The jaws harp family off of lightly – it’s Boris Johnson now. Yes, at Macari’s we have a reputation for cutting out various heads from newspapers & magazines and popping them over artist’s faces on music books / displays etc. Quite often you’ll see a politician’s face where John Lennons should be. I remember once a visit from the CEO of Fender, who was being all businesslike and serious until he spotted the head of Charles Kaman (Ovation guitars) on the body of Eric Clapton in tight white jeans. I don’t think he stopped laughing for about ten minutes…  AND he bought the book. When I took the face off he said “no no – leave it on, I’m going to give it to Charlie!”

 

If you could have any pedal, regardless of price/availability, what would it be?

The one my dad is holding in the picture I have in my office. I think it’s a prototype and it just says Fuzz Box on it . I still have the trade Mark applications for the words “Fuzz Box” and “Tone Bender” dated 1965.

 

What is currently the most common song for customers to play when they’re trying out a guitar or pedal? Is there a NO list?

There’s no NO list here – just a time and volume limit… As I’m typing this someone is playing that Muse Bass Line… no (I’m totally serious) it’s now Smells like Teen Spirit!!! Ha superb!!! … Just had Purple Haze too. 

Usually I reckon it’s still AC/DC though – plenty of Angus action in here.

 

Who’s pedal would you like to see in Stompbox book?

Obviously Jimmy Page’s MKII.  The one I have the receipt for.

 

Describe an imaginary perfect day at the store. A euphoric dream.

Phone rings. Hi Ant, It’s David Main. I just realized I’ve made 200 Pro MKIIs and hadn’t mentioned it to you.

Can’t talk now Dave, Chuck Berry has just come back and I have the right guitar lead for him! Here you go Chuck.

That’ll do,  let’s go to the Pub. Arsenal are ahead against Tottenham.

 

When you’re not here, where are you and what are you doing?

Either spending time with my totally cool and amazing wife and kids or . . .  Commuting, sleeping and eating, but not necessarily in that order.

 

How would your customers describe you?

Over enthusiastic and I’d hope fair and  trustworthy.

 

What’s your comfort song? The one that always gets you back to the right place.

“Our Way to Fall” by Yo La Tengo

 

I remember your old guitar

I remember, I can’t explain

I remember the way it looked around your neck

And I remember the day it broke

 

How the fuck do you write that? So much romance and pathos and a Who lyric all into four lines !!!

 

Favorite guitar player, and why? 

Oooh so many.  Right now Grant Green – he’s playing the right notes at the moment

 

Most memorable concert you’ve been to?

Joe Jackson at the Hammersmith Odeon with my girlfriend – now my wife.

 

Would you say your parents raised you well?

I think they were the best and I miss them so much. Very inspiring outlook on life. My Dad had time for everyone. Every walk of life, and I try to be the same. My Mum just taught me so many valuable lessons. I wish I could hug her right now.

 

The best musical gift you’ve ever received?

Well of course it was SG Junior on my 16th birthday. My Dad bought it from Lulu and the Luvvers. It had a big hole through the body and a Burns tri-sonic pick up in the neck position. Over time I had it put back to single p90. I’m now 56 and it’s my top guitar still.

 

This picture hangs in the amp demo room. It’s my Grandad’s show in the 30s – everyone in my family was in show business. Grandad top left – his father started all this by marrying “Madame Gascoigne the clock-eyed lady”. My Grandad Tony started playing concertina in front of their circus tent at the age of 4 and became a virtuoso accordionist with his own show. Joe, my dad on sax, Uncle Larry on accordion and Auntie Rosa in the middle. That’s before Joe and Larry were fuzz gods, of course!! My mum was a dancer, Larry’s wife was a singer, Rosa was married to a strongman, then later a ventriloquist, who’s mother was a lion tamer. It’s just berserk!

 

For the last 15 years we were the Gibson guys for London. Now our friends round at SixtySixty in Denmark Street do it. We have a few pieces left, but I’m back to my roots now buying and selling older stuff, restoring, wheeling and dealing – I love it! See that lifted part of the ceiling? At night a small man crawls out of there, slips down a rope and messes the place up – the shop would be immaculate if it wasn’t for him.

 

My Dad, Joe, with some very cool pedals. First MKII Tone Benders in the first music shop in Denmark St. You can see Regent Sound Studios through the window, where the Stones recorded. Love to know who the band is. If it’s you, let me know.

 

Is it the Cavern Club? Nope, it’s part of our acoustic section. We sell other things besides fuzz you know!

 

On the way back to the surface. I actually saw Steve Vai on the stairwell once, looking at this Strat. Ha! It’s just a Mexican strat, still cool though!

 

Well . . . that’s another story! Quite a long one, but for now let’s just say its a uke signed by Paul McCartney. On the left is an award from Yamaha. I was their top guitar salesman in 1987, when I was just 24, back when NOBODY wanted a fuzz pedal!

 

Macari’s

92-94 Charing Cross Road

London WC2H 0JB

United Kingdom

 


An in-depth interview with Ant Macari for our Stompbox Makers series will be published next month. Stay tuned.

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