This months "Builder Profile" features Treker Guitars of Mona , UT. What a story of a family that spans five generations of guitar luthiering. Treker Guitars and their revolutionary "tension free" neck design, and their award winning line of guitars and basses continues to confirm that it is a wonderful era for guitar players. Here is what Dave Bunker Jr. shared with Musicians Hotline.
MH: Dave, your family has been building guitars for over four generations. Tell us how you and your father first got your start luthiering?
Dave: My Father Dave started playing guitar when he was 16 years old. He became a very accomplished guitarist and eveloped an interest in the touch or tapping style of guitar and bass playing. Dad has always been an innovator. He started developing his double neck guitar in his late teens and early 20s. The additional pressure from the touch technique inspired his development of the tension free neck system, his original mute patents and many more ideas. For several years Dad spent time in a few ventures building production guitars. In 1960 he demonstrated his Duo-Lectar on the national TV program Jubilee U.S.A., and accompanied a 10-year old Barbara Mandrell in Chicago. He sold some of his double neck guitars and became a serious musician and played all over the world. For the most part he mainly built instruments for his band and friends. As a kid growing up my Dad always had a shop and I cleaned the shop and often helped him build guitars and basses. I became involved in my early 20s on a full time basis. That was in 1978. We then went into production making Bunker Guitars; they were all headless and very unique.
MH: Can you recall the very first guitar that was built that was made available to the public?
Dave: Yes, it makes me laugh; it was in January of 1979 at theNAMM show in the old Disneyland Convention Center. We had 4 or 5 prototypes there. We only sold one guitar, which I sold, but we were excited anyway. We went back and set up production and the guitar I sold was the first guitar we shipped. It was a Maple Super Nova that looked similar to a Steinberger. They were amazing guitars. We built, or had pieces custom made for us, nearly every part of the instruments from tuners to pickups. The pickups we built were really interesting. We modified an old singer sewing machine and hand wound the pickups ourselves. They were excellent sounding pickups; each pickup was mated to it's own individual string for a great Tele sound.
MH: How would you best explain the design and ingenuity of your guitars?
Dave: First of all when it comes to design I build the design that the customer wants, be that retail, wholesale, or OEM. We ask questions, and listen carefully. My Dad is the ingenious one, he is amazing. He has come up with so many industry first ideas such as fine tuners back in 1978, mute patents that make his touch guitar possible. These are just a few of the dozens of patents and ideas he has been responsible for over the years. My job is to decide what patents and technology that we have to offer, incorporate them into the instrument in such a way that really benefits our customer and gives them what they want.
MH: How many different models of guitars are currently available, and briefly describe each.
Dave: We have seven production models and we do custom guitars as well. The original ProStar guitar have a Soloist type body, 25 inch scaled, 24 frets, sculpted heels (we started doing sculpted heels on our guitars back in 1979), Floyd Rose Locking bridges, or fixed thru the body, Optional Stump To Stage (STS), which are as the name indicates are made from the ground up, with quilt or maple tops. My father logs and mills the wood himself. Our Bunker Guitar the MVP has an arched-top with highly figured quilt or flame tops, special sound chambers in body, our unique Magnum Bunker Bridge, Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio pickups. This is one of our upgrades for the PRS TYPES. Classic Series are upgrades of Strats and Teles. Other models are the new David Laurence Signature Series, which features our new double cutaway arched-top guitar, genuine natural mother of pearl inlays, titanium Sustanium neck, STS highly figured Quilt tops, Magnum or Tone Pros Bridge, compensated nut, and Special Seymour Duncan Pickups. This is one of the most versatile electric guitars out there. It's sound and beauty will amaze you.
MH: Your higher end basses are also a big part of your product line. Tell us about your basses, and why they are so unique.
Dave: The most unique feature of our bass line is our Sustanium Tension Free neck. It eliminates dead spots, gives better w B response. This combined with our STS hand picked wood, and individual bridge system offer perfect sound and clarity. The combination or our neck, fine tone woods, our individual bridge system and state of the art electronics, results in the best basses on the planet. The unique benefits of our neck make our 5 and 6 string basses respond better than the industry standard necks. We have four production bass lines. The ProStar 4 and 5 string bolt on. Trekers ProStar Extreme with STS tops, EMG or Bartolini pickups, 3 Band EQ. The also have sculpted heels and are available in 4,5and 6 string. The David Laurence Signature Basses are similar in features and look to the ProStar Extreme and they are neck thru the body, with ebony fretboard and MOP Rising Star inlays. We also have our headless Bunker basses with individual Bunker bridges, EMG pickups. We also do a lot of custom basses.
MH: Your revolutionary Tension Free neck design is an industry stopper. Tell us about this design and why it is such a superior product.
Dave: 2/3 of the area the strings pass over is on the neck of the instrument. How the neck is built has a dramatic impact on the overall performance of a guitar or bass. Our Sustanium tension free neck has a lot of benefits. Our design takes the pressure of the wood so it can resonate better than other neck systems. Other systems truss-rods and graphite systems put pressure on the neck to keep it
“My Grandfather Joseph Bunker had the desire to help his son, my Dad, fulfill a dream of making a better instrument. That was my desire when I started building guitars with him years ago, and it is more of a passion today than ever.”
from warping and staying true for really good action. Many other systems inhibit the neck from resonating. Our system frees the wood up to resonate and thereby increasing the overall sustain, improving tone, and making play more consistent anywhere on the neck. All the time holding the neck true and stable. It is also much more adjustable that other systems. Our Sustanium neck truly has no equals.
MH: What do you feel are the most unique aspects of a Treker guitar or bass?
Dave: There is no doubt, our Sustanium R Tension Free neck system; no one else has anything that compares to that.
MH: You have several great players playing your guitars these days; tell us about a few of them.
Dave: Randy Murray of Bachman Turner Overdrive is playing our Bunker MVP. I spoke with Jeff Cook at the NAMM show this last January, and he has a Treker Money to Burn Custom graphic that he got from us about 10 years ago and he is still playing. We have also built basses for John B Williams, Flea, and are currently working on a new Bass For Fred Turner with Bachman Turner Overdrive. We have a more in depth list of players on our web site.
MH: You also provide a fair amount of OEM work; tell us about some of the services you provide for other manufacturers.
Dave: Yes, several years ago Dad built guitars and basses for Ibanez. They were the American made series, which featured the Sustanium tension free neck. The bass we built for them, which featured our neck system, won an award in 1996 for the most innovative bass of the year. We are currently building special custom necks and tension free instruments for one of the largest, most reputable dealers in the country. They give us the exact specs of what they want and we duplicate and incorporate our tension free system into it. They have been very successful in upgrading their most popular models with our tension free neck system. The customers are really excited with the increased performance of their instruments. We also have numerous small builders that buy our Replacement Sustanium tension free necks. Some of them buy our standard models while others have us build to their exact specs. I should stress, we build the guitar and basses from start to finish. We do a lot of custom work on both retail and OEM levels.
MH: In closing Dave, with all four generations of guitar building in your family name, what do you expect in the future, and what do you feel has contributed to the success of Treker Guitars?
Dave: Treker will continue to grow and expand. Emphasis will be on our new David Laurence Signature guitars and basses, as well as other models. The advantages and benefits of Our Sustanium R Tension Free neck system benefits will continue to grow and expand; thus, more guitar and bass players will benefit. There are a lot of great innovations and ideas in the music industry and we believe our neck is one of the best. We are working on setting a new standard for how guitar and bass necks should be today and in the future for a new generation of guitar players and builders. For example: David Senior's incredible touch guitar. First of all it takes determination to stick with your dreams. There is continual listening and learning to fine tune innovations. We learn all we can about what we are trying to do and the people we are doing it for (our customers). My Grandfather Joseph Bunker had the desire to help his son, my Dad, fulfill a dream of making a better instrument. That was my desire when I started building guitars with him years ago, and it is more of a passion today than ever.