Local carpenter gets back to his hard rockin’ ways with new band

For a hard rocker who once toured with Ozzy Osbourne’s band and who has created 31 guitars for Prince, local carpenter Andy Beech is glad to be back in the band.

Beech, 41, who keeps "super busy" as a finish carpenter for his company, D'Haitre Woodworks, is also completing the home he and his wife, Diane, have built just outside Bellingham.

The two Whatcom County natives — sweethearts since meeting on a blind date during their senior years in rival high schools 25 years ago — have two daughters, LaBrazia, 14, and Zoe, 10.

Now Beech is playing lead guitar in the newly formed Bellingham band, Blind Fate, with old friends and bandmates Ann-Marie Wilkerson (vocals), cousins Chet (bass and vocals) and Chris Zender (guitar), and Drew Anderson (drums).

Question: Andy, you must be happy as a clam to be back in a hard rockin' band.

Answer: You bet. Great stuff from the '70s, '80s and '90s. It's definitely hard rock. If it's too loud, you're too old!

Q: Ouch! OK, so tell that great story about how you got your start in rock music.

A: I graduated from Mount Baker High in 1983 and Diane from Meridian the same year. We lived in Hollywood in 1987 to '89, seeking fortune and fame, but nothing really jelled for us. But while I got a job as a guitar luthier and repair technician at a local store, Diane went to work for a big record label— A&M. It was co-owned by Herb Alpert.

Q: And that must have led to your Osbourne gig, right?

A: Right. Ozzy hires this new guitar player named Zakk Wylde and the love of Zakk's life, Barbaranne, winds up working with Diane, so that's how I wind up meeting Ozzy's guitar player. The four of us become good friends and that leads to me being offered a job as Ozzy's guitar tech(nician) on the road.

Q: That must have been some experience.

A: It sure was. I wouldn't trade those five years for anything, and I had great support in Diane. I visited dozens of foreign countries and dozens of cities in our country in hundreds of performances from 1991 to '96. It was chaos in a good way. I had to take care of the amplifiers and guitars, a lot of expensive stuff. You never knew what would happen on those shows because they were totally unpredictable. Fortunately, Ozzy liked a lot of down time.

Diane: It was sometimes frustrating and I missed Andy a lot, but it was something he really wanted to do. Our kids were born in 1993 and 1997.

Andy: The first time I saw Brazie walk, it was at SeaTac!

Q: Andy, how did you learn to make guitars?

A: I just picked up a piece of wood and started carving when I was 13. And it worked, too! It was just little Andy in Maple Falls, but I was pretty proud. I have a gift for making things work. I've probably made about 500 guitars.

Q: Did Prince play one of your guitars at halftime of this year's Super Bowl?

A: He did. It was one of the three he used. I was watching for it on TV. I've never met Prince, but altogether, I created 31 guitars for him during the 1990s. I got the job through a bass tech who did Prince's guitar work. He asked me if I could make the “Cloud” guitar for Prince. I wound up making 27 of that type for him. It's an unusual shape, with a smaller body style and an elongated top horn.

Q: And one of your guitars was also in the movie "Rock Star"?

A: I also made guitars for Zakk, and the one he played in "Rock Star" was one of my guitars.

Q: How long did it take you to make your toughest guitars?

A: About 100 hours. I recall I got $1,800 for the first guitar Prince bought from me and about $4,000 for the last. I still make a guitar now and then, but now more than half the guitars sold in this country are made in China and Korea. They cost maybe $500 to $700, and it costs me $500 just for the material. It's not worth making a guitar to sell it for $500. If it was Los Angeles, I could probably still make a living creating guitars, but I don't like L.A. I'd much rather be a carpenter here.

Q: Do you miss all the action of touring with Ozzy?

A: I do miss some of that, but I actually have more now with my home and my family. And we're getting back into music now, so that's fun. It's also fun for us to design and build our own home.