“The right guy at the right time” is an apt way to describe Jim Aschow, the man in charge of all of Mesa’s operations. Randall Smith has always said Mesa operates more like a band than a corporation, and like a maestro, Aschow orchestrates a daily score that keeps products and parts moving forward through R&D, and production humming along in harmony.
“I started here in 1980 when I was 18,” Aschow says. “I didn’t even play guitar at the time, but I had an ability to figure out how to make stuff. On my father’s side were a couple of generations of violin and bow makers. We had a family-run shop in Oakland [California], and that type of craftsmanship always interested me.”
Aschow began in Mesa’s wood shop and was quickly given the responsibility of managing and modernizing the department and eventually bringing in CNC machinery to improve build quality. Since then, he’s put his laser focus on every aspect of production. He even developed the system for molding the foam packaging that protects every amp and cabinet when it leaves the factory.
But Aschow still enjoys working with wood. “I design all the cabinets and also many of the cosmetics,” he says. “When Randy has a chassis design ready, Doug, Randy and I begin working on a look. And once we get a cabinet built, we’ll start listening to speakers and tuning the cabinet.
"All the finishes that we offer are things I’ve most often sourced and come up with. Designing cabinets gives me balance, because running a business day to day has its emergencies and demands, typically most of it in production, so it’s nice that I can be creative as well. So many of the amps we make are very versatile, especially the Mark series, where you’re going from pristine clean sounds to super-high gain. Making cabinets that behave well on both sides can be tricky.”
Mesa has a long history of delivering cutting-edge, premium-quality gear at affordable prices, and it’s an aspect of the company Aschow watches closely. “We’re always trying to think of value to the musicians,” he explains. “We don’t compromise on parts quality, but we’re always thinking about efficiency. That involves making it so the amps aren’t super complicated to build, even though some of our stuff is about as complicated as it can get.
"Randy is really good at that with the circuits, and when I’m designing cabinets and things like that, we’re always thinking about the manufacturing processes. It’s important, because you can design yourself into a corner, and then you’ve got something that’s more expensive to manufacture than it needs to be in the end.
“For Randy to trust me to run this amazing company he started means a lot to me. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s hyper-intelligent and relentless about pursuing excellence. The same with Doug, because he’s super gifted and has great ears. I’ve learned so much just from hanging out with them over the past decades together.”