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Akshat Bhatt: The architect and his 80 guitars


Founder of the Hauz Khas-based multi-disciplinary design studio Architecture Discipline, Akshat Bhatt, is a true-blue guitar geek. He has over 80 vintage guitars and amplifiers, all rare collectibles. In fact, rigorously playing the guitar in his younger days led to a 5db hearing loss in his right ear, which still didn’t dissuade him. In a freewheeling interview, Bhatt tells us more:

How did you get interested in guitars?

I fell in love with the guitar at around 13 before that I had tried my hand at bongo and keyboard - while watching Slash of Guns N’ Roses play the solo to November Rain on MTV. He was standing in front of a chapel and the wind was blowing through his hair.

Totally fascinated with the sight, I wanted to own a guitar. While I picked up the guitar purely because it looked cool, in time I discovered guitarists like Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Dream Theater and Megadeth.

Then, I began spending a few extra hours every day practicing, and in time, spent 18 hours a day on repetitive scales, modes, and music theory.

When did you begin collecting guitars?

The pursuit of the ‘Holy Grail on strings’ led me to procure guitars, amplifiers, and devices. I never set out to have a collection, but just stumbled upon these over time and chose to keep the ones that I felt connected with.

How do you procure these? Tell us a little about your collection?

Rather than me finding them, guitars actually find me. I have around 80 guitars, amplifiers, pedals, etc. Each one is special to me. My oldest guitar is 15 years older than me. I also have pieces as thin as 5mm that play like a dream and are the future.

I found most of these by chance in random stores or fairs, or through people who didn’t know the value of their piece. There’s one guitar that I chased for 17 years that I had sold in Delhi and found later in Germany.

There is an instrument that my mother offered to buy for me in 1994, which I finally bought in 2013 after an eBay bidding war. Some, like the Music Man 20th-anniversary Silhouette, I found by chance. Yet another guitar that I saw in Singapore in 2006 was found by a friend in 2012 in the very same store, preserved safely in their vault.

Which one is dearer to you, music or architecture?

The two run side by side. I have a music room in my studio with my guitars arranged on the walls. For me, music is meditative; it is a part of who I am. When I was growing up, studying was limited to reading, memorising and regurgitating - not analysing it.

Music allowed me to develop that habit, which is something that has carried through into my work as an architect. Studying music also gave me a certain resolve to get to an acrobatic level of excellence in everything I do.

I studied it before architecture, which gave me an insight into how to use a universal language to create a regional or personalised expression. Over the years, it combined with my education in architecture to cement my beliefs and a strong work ethic.

Any favourite guitarist?

Eddie Van Halen is the greatest guitarist of all time. Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal is my current favourite guitar player, as are Paul Gilbert, Mattias IA Eklundh, and Mika Tyyskä.