Leslie McCurdy is a craft luthier who makes electric basses completely by hand. Prior to becoming an instrument-maker, he spent much of his life as a professional musician playing the electric bass. For the past 12 years, Leslie has honed his craft and artistry, building basses across the northern United States before joining Generator. He hopes to expand his sources of inspiration in our makerspace by taking jewelry or even 3D printer classes.
Lesley was born in South America and grew up in the Caribbean, parts of Canada, and the United States. He eventually landed in Austin, Texas, where he spent several years playing with a heavy metal country rock band.
When he decided to move away from the band scene, instrument-making felt like a natural transition., “I got a little older and I just wanted to continue being involved in music, and what I know is bass. So I took some classes and started making instruments,: he says.
Inspired by the likes of Leo Fender –“a semi hemi deity,” as Leslie calls him – Leslie dove headfirst into the world of bass making. He took classes in Michigan for six months before being hired by one of his other great inspirations, Roger Sadowsky. Working with Sadowsky, Leslie learned to appreciate the art of hand-crafting instruments. “I want the basses to have the hand of the maker in them,” he says. “I want you to pick them up and go, ‘Okay, this was not made on a lathe or whatever, but this neck feels like somebody’s hand.’ That’s what I’m striving for.” Due to his handcrafted approach, each of Leslie’s basses are unique. “They’re all different. They have a basic template. But from there I just kind of go, ‘Oh, the grain is going this way. I think I’ll cut this, man.’ Or I’ll say, ‘This one is chipping here, so I’m going to do this here.’”
After working with Sadowsky for about a year and a half, Leslie opened up his own shop in Beacon, New York, where he worked for five years. Later though, having lived in Vermont earlier in life, Leslie realized he “never should have left,” and moved back to Burlington, where he found Generator.
Inspiration in the Makerspace
Leslie has been at Generator for less than a year, but has already felt inspired by other makers in the space. He worked closely with makers in the space, such as woodworkers Alex Brumlik and Juju Lobo.“There’s a lot of the social aspect of being here that’s very helpful, ” Leslie says.“ He also mentioned how the spaces around him at Generator spark interest, drive curiosity, and inspire ideas he hopes to implement into his work. “I’ve just been watching other people and seeing what they do,putting it in the back of my head,” he says.“The jewelry department definitely does know how to decorate things and make them look better. At the end of the day, you just want to make it look pretty.”
Advice to New Makers
To new makers, Leslie says, “You have to decide early on whether you want to be ‘a craftsman’ or ‘an artist.’ If you want to be a craftsman, you have to consider starting to make things with more machines, making more of them, figuring out a way to market them more.I fall into the artist category. I want to do what I do, as much of it as I can, for the people who like it.”