Manson Guitar Works has supplied iconic instruments to some of the music industries’ biggest names. From Muse to Led Zeppelin to Foo Fighters, Manson have crafted guitars that have played a part in entertaining audiences all over the world. As much as Manson has a global influence, after being based in Devon since the 1980’s, they have a connection to music much closer to home.  

Manson Guitar Works is a long-term supporter of the arts and music education, reflected in their recent generosity in the form of a guitar donation for the use of our AMS Exeter students.

This donation offers our students the opportunity hone their craft using some of the best quality instruments available. Learning skills that will take them forward into their musical careers. We could not be more thankful to Manson Guitar Works for this outstanding gesture.

We spoke with co-owner of Manson Guitar Works, Adrian Ashton recently about his time in the music industry, working with Manson and the generosity the company has shown to AMS.  

When asked about the motivation behind the donation, Ashton had the following to share: 

“We’ve always supported music education and the arts. Having a recent tour of the AMS premises and seeing familiar faces reminded us of the importance of collaboration between all the music industries. No new musicians means no new guitars!

We created an allocation of instruments that can be donated to charities and institutes that normally have a musical theme. So it made perfect sense to equip the AMS sites with some instruments that can take a lot of use and being played every day. It’s great seeing the instruments in the academy, Jon Wilson, Exeter manager was a student of mine in the past, it just all made perfect sense.”

As well as Manson’ joining us on campus, members of staff from AMS Exeter were also welcomed into the Manson Workshop earlier this month. Having a tour of the premises and seeing the instruments being made was a unique experience for our team.

Check out some behind the scenes images below.

Ashton is actually a bassist, not a guitarist some may be surprised to know. When asked about why he chose to pursue the bass as his instrument of choice he said: 

“My early music influence was punk rock and, in my view, all the exciting players in that genre were playing the bass guitar. JJ Burnel from The Stranglers, played very intricate lines, but you could also include Paul Simonon of The Clash, Paul Gray of The Damned and many others.

Once set on the bass, the legends of technical bass appeared on my radar, including of course the late, great Jaco Pastorius, who really set the bass world on fire. It served me well at B.I.T. where every live playing workshop required a bass player but with a mix of 40 guitarists to each bass player you found yourself getting to perform 10 or more times over the guitar students at the college. Definitely a plus for bass.

I really enjoy bass and have been fortunate enough through founding Bass Guitar Magazine to have met and spoken to almost every one of my bass heroes. On one occasion I interviewed Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden and John Entwistle of The Who in the same morning. I’ll never forget that!

Being musically educated helped my journalism career.  When professional players knew I could talk their language, I could earn their respect and create a more successful interview. “How do you solo through a II, V, I progression?”, usually gets more respect than, “What star sign are you?” Music education gives you that.” 

AMS Student using Manson Guitar Works Guitar

Ashton not only studied music at Berklee College of Music and The Bass Institute of Technology in Los Angeles but also obtaining a degree in Law. We thought it would be interesting to share Ashton’s insights on music education how it has effected his career.  

“I’ve spent a good time in music education, with courses at Berklee College of Music and The Bass Institute in Los Angeles. Whilst there is always the time-tested and, if you make it, great alternative of just joining a band and hoping you’ll be successful, music education allowed me to gain skills I probably wouldn’t have got that way; plus, at 27 I was already past my sell-by date! Whilst establishing my business, music education allowed me to get sight-reading gigs, teach, write for magazines, and set up my own music school, which as well as being great fun, allowed me to have an income. Performing at the school was also a great way to get ready for gigs in styles that I wasn’t so familiar with such as jazz, big band and blues.”

Matt Bellamy and Adrian Ashton
Image: Jolyon Holroyd Photography

We were also curious about his career highlights from his time working within Manson Guitar Works. He shared the following:  

“There have been so many moments I’ve had working with artists and the team here that occasionally I do have to stop and just remind myself of how great the music business can be. I am not sure I can single one moment. Recording with Martin Grech with us both using Manson guitars was a playing highlight, our recent ORYX guitar project with Adam Nolly Getgood has also been an amazing venture. Having Matthew Bellamy as a business partner makes each day exciting; we aim to achieve new heights in the business as he does with his music. They all sit equally with coming to work with a small but really dedicated team I’m super proud of.”

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This donation from Manson Guitar Works is one of those moments within our team here at AMS that has made us stop and consider how genuinely great the music industry can be, as Ashton has said. We know that for our students at AMS Exeter, this donation could spark a new sense of inspiration, leading our students to play something new and exciting for the first time. 

To find out more about the history of Manson Guitar Works and their outstanding clientele base, head over to their website & socials.

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