Company headquarters in MarkNeukirchen
Framus Diablo Supreme X
Framus Panthera Studio Supreme
Warwick & Framus Custom Shop Showroom in N.Y.C
|Warwick / Framus – Interview with H.P. Wilfer|
Neither Warwick´s policy of continuous product development, nor the investment in new machinery and technology which it entails, detracts from the spirit of hand craftsmanship. Correct selection and working of woods remain vital factors in determining the sound. For years professional musicians trust in instruments made by Warwick and love the "Sound made in Markneukirchen/Saxony". Before the Musikmesse 2010, we interviewed the founding owner and CEO of Warwick and Framus, H.P. Wilfer.
You were 24 when you followed in the footsteps of your father, Fred Wilfer, and founded Warwick in 1982. What prompted you to take this independent step? What were your goals at that time?
I don’t really believe that a young person of 24 has clear goals when he or she founds a company. I certainly didn’t have any at the time. The idea simply came from the fact that I wanted to make instruments myself, no matter what kind, and that I had learnt nothing else apart from making and selling instruments ...!!
In 1982, there was no such nonsense as special loans for start-ups or aid for beginners. In the last analysis, it was only a question of whether you had the courage to go it alone and enough self-confidence to be able to survive – or not, as the case may be. The aim was to earn money and to survive. These were my motives for setting up on my own at 24.
Almost 30 years have elapsed since the launch of Warwick’s first bass, ‘Nobby Meidel’, to current models, such as ‘Bootsy Collins’, the limit edition, ‘Corvette NT LTD 2010’, and the extraordinary ‘Thumb SC’. In your opinion, what has changed on the international musical-instrument scene in this time?
The market has changed completely since the eighties. At first, it was possible to improvise a lot, to make gut decisions and to get ahead simply through boldness and ideas. Today, the market is predetermined – with channels and regulations or simply networks – worldwide. In the seventies and eighties, it was even possible to go into business with a hawker’s tray without firstly having a ‘great idea’. Nowadays, going into business is impossible without making long-term plans and implementing them without compromise. And, of course, there’s no hope without the necessary funding.
Things are unquestionably no longer as relaxed as they were in the seventies and eighties. Moreover, managing a company, no matter whether big or small (whereby I would describe our company as small in comparison to other companies), calls for highly uncompromising and customer-oriented work.
When Warwick moved to Markneukirchen in Saxony, East Germany in 1995, where world-renowned instrument makers have been based for generations, you reanimated the legendary Framus trademark. Framus made musical history under your father in the fifties and sixties. What was it like to begin anew in this part of Germany? What were your first experiences? What did you call the first Framus models and what did they sound like.
A: Moving in 1995.
The move to Saxony was one of the most difficult undertakings in my life. If I had known beforehand what difficulties I would have to face in this region, I would have chosen another part of East Germany.
Now, after 16 years of hard work in Markneukirchen, including a successful regional re-orientation and the establishment of our own network with loyal suppliers and business partners, we have come to terms with the situation. In particular, we have built up a completely new team that is now 100-percent behind the company, that provides us with an unparalleled degree of support and that will help us get ahead in the future, too. Building up this team and the new Warwick company over the last 16 years undoubtedly held back the company in many respects, e.g., innovativeness. Over the last two years, however, this new, consolidated team has achieved a great deal through the launch of new, innovative products and new sales products.
The first models we introduced in 1995 were:
They were followed by other models. The first models were certainly good and came up to the level and standard of quality expected of electric guitars in 1995. Nevertheless, we have had to learn a lot that is important in the electric-guitar segment over the last 15 years, to ensure that we are not only the ‘brand leader for quality and sound’ but also the benchmark for this market. In 2009, we began revising the internal workings of the model series completely and are now about to present the new
- Diablo and
series at Musikmesse 2010 in Frankfurt. Personally, we believe that these two new series represent the new benchmark in terms of quality, design, playing qualities and sound in the market.
Besides guitars and basses, Warwick and Framus also make amplifiers and loudspeakers. When and why did you decide to branch out in this more electronic direction?
It was in 1989 that, on the basis of our experience, we decided to market bass amplifiers. At that time, we were the world’s leading distributor of Trace Elliot products. However, we simply had too many quality problems with them and did not want to build up another bass manufacturer. This was the reason we launched Warwick Bass Amplifications in 1999. A year later, we also decided to resume the tradition of Framus valve amplifiers from the sixties. After another two years, in 2002, we launched the first of the new Framus Amps.
Today, Warwick Bass Amps play a decisive role in the international bass sector and, with the presentation of the Hellborg series in 2008, we undoubtedly succeeded in setting a new benchmark in the bass amplification segment – as already shown by a number of recordings. Unfortunately, the economic crisis of 2008 / 2009 and the ongoing effects this year prevented a fully successful launch and the market break-through. However, we believe that the re-positioning of the Warwick Bass Amplification Range will be all the more successful in 2010 and 2011.
For us, Framus Amps have always been a ‘just for fun’ project and not a profitable business venture. From the very first, it was clear to us that we were up against strong market leaders and that our chances were small rather than great. The aim was to launch a very high-quality valve amplifier for purists and sound freaks, to make no compromises in terms of price and to attract both customers and artists. I think we have been more successful in this than we ever thought possible back in 2000. Today, we still greatly enjoy making these high-quality amplifiers in small numbers for special target groups and we will continue to refine and improve this range in detail. However, it is and will remain a hobby for us.
The list of successful artists supported by Warwick and Framus is long: Earl Slick (Davis Bowie) Hansford Rowe (Gongzilla), Paul Rose and Jonas Hellborg, to mention but a few, will play on your exhibition stand at this year’s Musikmesse. How important for you is this working relationship with such exceptional artists?
Actually, the list needs to be supplemented by icons of rock history, such as:
- John Entwistle
- Jack Bruce
- Adam Clayton
- Robert Trujillo
- Francis Buchholz
Not to mention Jonas Hellborg, Alphonso Jonson, Cass Lewis, Bootsy Collins, T.M Stevens and, in the bass segment, innumerable world-famous bassists who either use our bass amps or play our basses or both. For Framus, we work together with great musicians, such as Earl Slick, Steven Stevens, Mordey Ferber, Paul Bourelly and Peter Fischer. In this case, I could mention some even better-known celebrities. And, yes, working together with each of our artists, as well as with icons / exceptional musicians, is for us / me personally very important because both Warwick Amps and basses and the new Framus guitars and amps would not have their
- technology and
- love of detail
if it were not for the really intensive contact we maintain with almost all of our musicians.
Warwick and Framus are products for users and artists, which accounts for the worldwide magic and success of the two brands, as well as for the fact that we are one of the very few companies that have been able to hold their own here. In Germany / Markneukirchen, we make the products that carry both the Warwick and Framus trademarks.
There has been a Warwick & Framus Custom Shop Showroom in East 7th Street (East Village, Manhattan) of New York City for some time now. How is the shop doing in a city that is famed for its numerous music shops? What were your reasons for opening the shop?
The idea and planning for the Warwick & Framus Custom and Artist Shop in New York had nothing to do with sales and turnover. The idea behind the Warwick & Framus Custom and Artist Shop in East Village is to make and maintain contacts between artists and the Warwick and Framus brands. A working relationship of this kind is very difficult for an importer and partner in the American market and more the manufacturer’s responsibility. After all, a sales organisation has fundamentally different objectives and a completely different attitude to the products than the manufacturer. That’s not a complaint, it’s simply the way it is.
I / we personally believe that this investment will pay off and be worthwhile for both brands in the long run. After all, it is a fact that a product can only be successful in the worldwide musical-instrument sector if it is successful in the US market. In other words, this is part of our planning for the future.
At this year’s Musikmesse, the products of Warwick and Framus will once again be presented on a big and striking exhibition stand as part of your own special programme of events. What are your expectations of this year’s Musikmesse and how do you see the future of the musical-instrument sector in 2010/11?
Overall, the worldwide musical-instrument sector has suffered a considerable decline in sales. Naturally, some segments suffered more than others, and vice versa, from the recession of 2008/2009.
As in previous years, we expect this year’s Musikmesse to strengthen our brands in the international musical-instrument sector and to reinforce our position as market leader in the field of bass guitars and bass amps. Additionally, we hope that Framus will be able to consolidate its position somewhat in the high-price guitar segment.
In distinction to many other companies, we have increased our marketing budget for this year’s Musikmesse in the firm belief that drawing consumer attention to the benefits of high-quality products made in Germany is the right approach given the current economic climate. This is only possible with an appropriate exhibition stand, ideas, artists and an extremely optimistic outlook – and that’s something we certainly have as Warwick and Framus people.
Hall 4.1 / D26,D30,E12,E40