“Pink Floyd…Jimi Hendrix…when you start getting some of those big names together, everybody wants to use the product.”
From its home in Sevenoaks there’s a company whose products have been making a big noise world-wide for more than 60 years. Rotosound manufactures musical instrument strings, mainly bass and guitar strings and has grown an international reputation for its contribution to music history.
The business was started in Bexley in 1958 by current Chairman and owner Jason How’s father James, an engineer by trade who combined his love of music, acoustics and design expertise to create his own bespoke machine to produce strings, and the company was born. This innovation and quality led to The Beatles, Rolling Stones and London Symphony Orchestra being amongst the first clients.
Jason told us about those early days: “Throughout the 1960s, my father was making strings for The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix – a lot of those bands were playing and recording in London and I think my Dad’s name got out there, because he was custom making strings for all these artists that couldn’t get the type of strings they wanted. They ended up coming into the factory and would say look, I need this, I need that. My dad would make the strings for them, and send them away on tour around the world, with 100 packs of bass strings.
“It was the birth of the first endorsement really and they would say if you keep me supplied with bass strings, you can use the band’s name.”
James enjoyed visiting Sevenoaks at weekends and was keen to move his family and the business to the town. He found a factory and moved to unit 3b by Sevenoaks railway station, where the company remains today.
Jason always felt he would end up working for the business, “I studied engineering at West Kent College and worked in that field for many years but then I came back not long before my dad died to help him finish building some of the machines that he was designing. Now me and my wife run the business, and we both play to our strengths.
“We still manufacture a lot of stuff by hand. When I say that, I mean, it’s a lot of manual work goes into making the strings to keep the quality consistent. We export to around 60 countries. I’m passionate about staying in the UK because you can’t control the quality when it goes offshore. And, well, you can’t have anything more important than quality.
“We have about 40 people working here. A lot of our staff are trained up for many years, and are local, so a lot of them walk to work or are from just outside Sevenoaks – places like Tonbridge and the surrounding villages. Sevenoaks train station is important for some people getting to work – our sales and marketing guy comes from Peckham on the train. It is important not to be stuck in the middle of nowhere so we are firmly stuck here.
“Sevenoaks is a great place to live and a nice place to be taking people out socialising. We get artists here sometimes – Steve Harris from Iron Maiden came here and Bruce Foxton from The Jam.
One final question for Jason – are they really the best strings in the world?
“Ask Roger Waters from Pink Floyd or Geddy Lee from Rush? I think they’d probably say there’s no other product like it.”