Paul Miles of PRS
Paul Miles is the director of private stock at PRS. He has been with the company for 28 years but in his words, “who’s counting?” Paul works directly with Paul Reed Smith, who he describes as the mad scientist not only steering the ship of PRS Guitars, but leading the charge of keeping the electric guitar presence strong well into the future. In addition to overseeing the repairs department at PRS, Miles sees many of the shiny finish, new guitars in their production stages transform into old, reliable, worn-out work horses with beaten frets and worn finishes.
TT: How often do you come across a PRS guitar and which have stuck in your mind the most?
Paul: For me? At least once a week or every other week. Usually my favorite is the last one I work on. And the ones that stick with me are the models with exotic tonewood.
TT: When Paul (Reed Smith) is designing a guitar or pickup, does he think about the trend or tones of current music?
Paul: I think it depends on who he is designing it for. If you look at the silver sky for instance, whenever you see Paul do a clinic you will hear him say that we are designing tools for an artist to do a job. The idea behind that is that you have to get their sound and their tone, and how do you do that with what we are doing out of the factory today when their tool is a vintage guitar? So when it comes to artists, Paul is often taking their tone and the way they play in mind. Then trying to deconstruct it and make it new with them still being able to do their job.
Take for another example Mark Holcomb, we don’t make his pickups, but that’s his sound so it’s important for those guys to be comfortable with what they’re doing. So with his guitar, we make the vehicle and he puts his signature pickups in it to get the tone he’s looking for. It kind of goes across the board that when Paul is designing a guitar for the company, he’s using his “vintage brain” with today’s technology, so the pickups that aren’t necessarily for artists are a combination of old and new. And that’s really the way PRS was founded.
TT: Does the Future of Electric Guitar Music Look Strong?
Paul: Yes, absolutely. If I look at the video market (if there even is a video market anymore…) like MTV is a tv show network now, so if I look at that or listen to the radio, I might not think that there is so much of a guitar market but through social media, through instagram, and all these people that I follow and being in this company surrounded by musicians, there’s such a passion that I still see that is strong. There are trends that go up and down and as it flows with business and retail but I think all in all as much as people want to try to do something new with a guitar we always fall back into a traditional pattern with it.
TT: How important is the “wood” around the pickup when it comes to play at stage or performance volumes? Some guitarists love their tonewoods and put emphasis on the tonal differences.
Paul: I look at it this way, when you are talking about a stadium show, does anybody hear the tonewoods? Probably not, nobody is listening to the difference between a maple and rosewood fretboard because the volume is just out of control. But when people get their guitars and they’re playing them in the studio or smaller live gigs and unplugged they really feel them, they feel the resonance and they feel the sustain. They feel that guitar come in the mic and they come back to that “tool” element of it where they feel that tool is ready for them to perform and to do their job.
TT: I agree, that gives a player such a connection to their instrument and a level of comfort and familiarity that becomes an extension of themselves which is why it’s so important to play a guitar you love. It doesn’t become a piece of wood wrapped around a pickup but gives it soul and life.
Paul: We treat artists really well, as if they are employees of the shop - so there are no secrets with them. So, we tell them we are drying their wood to 5-7% and how important it is to not put a lot of plating or extra bells and whistles on a guitar. We also are trying to teach them what we are doing and how it’s affecting their guitars so they become very comfortable with that whole build process.
TT: Being in the company for 28 years, you’ve seen so much growth and development. What do the next 10 years look like?
Paul: Wow, that’s crazy, we are moving at such a fast clip right now for this company. The fastest I’ve ever seen us move. So just in the past 5-10 years, if I look at the past being any indication of the future, as long as the economy stays strong I see us just coming out with better guitars, more models, cool colors. It’s an open book, really. Especially with Paul (Reed Smith) at the helm, every day with him is like having a mad scientist around, so if he’s not stopping, we’re not stopping.
TT: Being at the company so long, is it cool to see guitars come back that you remember being brand new? When people think PRS they don’t think of a relic’d or worn guitar.
Paul: It’s pretty awesome. I also run the repair department, so all the guitars that come in I get to inspect and look at, and very often guys are just sending in their guitars to get them set up and their frets are completely wiped out, the finish is completely worn off the back of the neck on it, and it’s like you’re holding this diary in a way. This person’s personal diary that he trusts us to get back to the condition they need it to perform their job. So it’s pretty wild because we are an ‘80s company, our finishes are not nitrocellulose, we are not known for a relic’d finish. We are more known for a dipped in glass, really shiny vibe, so when you see a guitar that’s the antithesis of all that, it’s pretty wild. I see guitars made all the way back in the ‘80s that guys are still playing.
Thank you, Paul Miles for the interview, and to Claiborne Lord, our sales rep here at Tone Tailors and PRS Guitars. We are proud to be a PRS Dealer here at Tone Tailors. We look forward to you coming in to see our line of SE, S2 and Core model PRS guitars.