About Kemp Guitars
I am Kemp Guitars and Kemp Guitars is me, Matt Kemp, a UK based, metal-lovin' guitar maker with over 20 years combined experience in guitar repairs, rebuilding and lutherie... I'm also a huge fan of Jackson® guitars.
In 2009, after selling my first "made from scratch" guitar, I started taking orders and building a portfolio of custom made and stock guitars from my Cornwall-based workshop.
"It all started at the age of 16 when I bought my first electric guitar, a second-hand Columbus Super-strat (Soloist™ copy). It was the first time I had really picked up a guitar and although I dedicated a lot of my time learning to play, I spent as much time looking at ways to make this guitar look and sound better.
"Within a few months of owning the Columbus, I had stripped its original finish and fashioned a makeshift tremolo arm from a junior hacksaw frame. Around that same time, I met a guy living down the road from me who had some tired, old 1970s Japanese-made guitars that he wanted to get back into full working order, so I offered to help him fix those up.
"It all kicked off from there and within three years, having taken the Columbus apart countless times, I was buying cheap, damaged and neglected guitars to repair or rebuild before selling them to local guitarists for a profit.
"Fifteen years later, completely self-taught and driven by passion, I quit my full-time job in London to set-up my own business, Serpentine Guitars (now known as Kemp Guitars), making and repairing guitars."
Since 2009, I have taken custom orders from all over the world and seen a consistent rise in demand for my instruments. In 2014, the increasing workload forced me to move to new, larger premises and upgrade much of my arsenal of tools and machinery.
Around that same time, I was contacted by a very talented airbrush artist, Winy Wohlwend, from Switzerland. After some friendly negotiation, I built a number of guitars for Winy who then applied his extraordinary airbrush skills to transform the blank canvas of each guitar - one of which appeared as a main feature in the March 2016 issue of German airbrush-tutorial magazine "Airbrush Step By Step".
The increasing numbers of custom orders, saw the business grow even more throughout 2015. Working alone and taking on so many new orders, I started to outsource some of the specialist work involved in making my guitars, including custom inlay work.
As Serpentine Guitars continued to grow from strength to strength into 2016, I decided that I wanted my work to feature more of my own influences. So in August that year, the decision was made to rebrand the business and future builds under the name "Kemp Guitars". As part of this rebranding, I revised a lot of my custom options and other build related processes - including the introduction of the Half-fan multiscale fretboard and an extensive palette of matte Polyurethane colour finishes that are available on my guitars today.
After much success with the rebranding, November 2018 sees further changes to Kemp Guitars. Unfortunately, this time as a result of long-term shoulder and back pains that have started to affect my working abilities, but it's not all bad news... Kemp Guitars turns to custom CNC machined bodies and necks, with that side of the build process outsourced to a UK based company with many years experience in high precision CNC machining of guitar components. The overall style of Kemp Guitars' builds remain the same, although perhaps showing signs of a little more influence from the earlier Strat-body style Jackson and Charvel guitars of the 1980s, and every guitar is pre-finish sanded by hand and sprayed in-house myself.
As always, Kemp Guitars uses only the highest quality materials and parts, including instrument grade hardwoods, and hardware from the likes of Gotoh®, Hipshot®, EMG, Seymour Duncan® and DiMarzio®, amongst others.
"It is damn rewarding when you hear those first chords played on a guitar you've made yourself. I still get that buzz even now... I probably wouldn't be doing this if I didn't."