Hello! I’m Allen – AVH’s owner and tech, and as obvious as it sounds – it takes a player to understand the needs of a player. Since the early 70′s as a young boy first learning to play and tinker with guitars, I was lucky enough to be raised by a professional jazz session guitarist and be exposed to some great musicians visiting our house in Toronto, including legendary jazz guitarist Lenny Breau. Since those early,formative years, I’ve had the good fortune to meet hundreds of great people and well known guitarists, work backline tech for various bands, work as a repair tech privately and in retail, performing repairs on a few thousand guitars in that time; everything from cheap plastic ukes to high-end vintage pieces.
As a player, unlike my dad, my musical interests right from the start lay in heavier music, like hard rock, prog and metal. Although admittedly, my first musical love was The Beatles, it was when a friend of my parents gave me a copy of Led Zeppelin II at age 7 that made me want to play guitar. It wasn’t until much later on when I got heavily into solo acoustic fingerstyle because of Michael Hedges, that any early exposure to jazz had any relevance to me…
It was during this time as a kid in the 70′s where I also developed an interest in repairing and modifying guitars, again, because of my dad, who had a small workshop in our basement in Toronto. Our house at this time was also conveniently situated right between two major music stores within short walking distance – Long & McQuade and Ring Music – both of which, ironically, I would have involvement with later on. After school, I would frequently raid the garbage bins of the big L&M store which was one block away, and I would find all manner of discarded guitar parts, some very surprising, including on one occasion a complete neck from a 60′s Gibson ES-345, with only a chipped tenon joint. I would bring these parts home of course, and as my dad was always doing mods to his and friends’ guitars, I would get to watch and learn. By today’s standards, some of the things we did to 50′s & 60′s Gibsons and Fenders would make today’s collectors cry, but back then there really wasn’t the vintage collect-ability until a bit later on. Back then, you could easily get things like used Tele’s and P-Basses for $150-200, Strats and J-Basses for about $300, and a used Les Paul Standard would go for about $500-700 tops. To put things in perspective, my 1958 Les Paul Jr. was purchased by my dad in 1971 for the paltry sum of $75!
It was around 1980 when I was a teenager that I started to take repair work and hot-rodding guitars more seriously and began learning as much as I could by befriending a couple of techs, and being a ‘go-fer’ / shop hang-about at Ring, while picking up repair education and getting to inspect and handle hundreds of primo vintage guitars, including a couple of original Sunburst Les Paul’s and gold tops, ’58 Flying V’s, SG’s, reverse Firebird’s, ’50′s Martins, and tons of 50′s & 60′s Fenders. These were very valuable times throughout the 80′s, learning lutherie skills, playing in thrash metal bands, and backline teching for other bands. By now, I was also greatly interested in locking trem ‘shred’ guitars, Hot-Rodding in general, doing freelance repair work for many guitarists, and later on around 1999 getting heavily interested and involved with 7, and later 8-string guitars from the influence of my friend, Meshuggah guitarist Mårten Hagstrom.
From May 2006 to August 2010, I was full-time guitar repair tech for Long & McQuade Musical Instruments at their North York store, which is Canada’s oldest and largest music store chain with over 40 stores. My workload was large, personally averaging 30-40 guitars per week, and was a very enlightening experience with so much work and so many different instruments and problems to deal with. In September 2010, I relocated to Norway. Basically put, I’m happy, as well as very fortunate, to have “a foot in both worlds” as it were, to have experience with both ‘old-school’ players, as well as being well versed and involved with modern guitars and players. It’s my hope to offer you the best service I can, and share my experiences to help you achieve what every guitarist wants: their axe to play and sound the best it can be!