Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spector!!

Spector - finally!

Over the last couple of years I have been the webmaster for a site called ExtendedRangeBassist.com. I originally got started in web design by doing my band site, and then offering the service to other folks. I think my first customer was Stewart McKinsey. The man is a phenomenally talented, and very humble and down to earth, guy. When I *met* him - he was living in New Orleans - he has since moved to California - after great loss during Katrina - but is thankfully back to playing! Anyway - was introduced to Gregory Bruce Campbell from Stew - who wanted to get a website going for his Yahoo group - Extended Range Bassist. I spoke with Greg and developed a website and a forum. Still going - and the forum is very popular with the ERB folks. Well, with the web site - we started looking into getting some advertising support. Spector was one of our first. Through that, I was able to talk to both Stuart Spector and his right hand man, PJ Ruble. Both very nice guys - not to mention making the absolute best basses in the market!

I was able to hook up with them and get a Spector Euro LX, in natural maple. Oh, my, bass nirvana! This bass - being not only the first bass I have bought new - but one of the best basses I have ever played is absolutely gorgeous - plays like a dream - the string spacing is perfect - I love this bass! When I first got it - I couldn't put it down. I do my best to keep in in perfect condition - lemon oil the neck, clean it - wipe the strings down. . .

Eventually, I wanted to sell my Warwick - to get another Spector! I put the Warwick up online at a couple places, Talk Bass and Bassgear.com. I wanted to avoid the 'bay if at all possible. I had a few hits right away, and made contact with Tim - with whom I still talk occasionally today. Tim's a great bassist - and getting better, taking lessons from Bill 'The Buddha' Dickens! Anyway - Tim and I agreed to a swap - his Spector Euro for my Warwick Thumb NT - and a bit of cash to make up the price difference. He had installed an EMG three band pre-amp - which I thought killed the sound. He was nice enough to send the original Tone Pump (the Spector Pre-amp) with it. I had the Tone Pump installed in short order - and had a phenomenal bass! The main differences between it and the new Euro LX is that the Euro is a solid maple bodied bass, while the Euro LX is a maple top, with a thin layer of walnut - and maple wings. Sustains for days. The black/blue wasn't my favorite color - but it's growing on me. I still want a dark cherry one though. Those are way cool....

Here's pics of my babies. . .

Natural Euro LX 4 string neck through, EMG Pups, Tone Pump pre-amp (click for larger version):


My black beauty - Euro 4 string, neck through, EMG Pups, Tone Pump pre:

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Warmoth experiments

During the time I had other basses - and played them! I experimented with Warmoth. If you're not familiar, Warmoth is a company out East, that makes 'replacement' bodies for Fender guitars and basses. They also make necks. And they will sell you just about anything else you need to make a whole instrument. The pieces are pretty nice, on the whole (I never had any problems at all - and when I had a question about something I thought I shouldn't pay for - they agreed - - > great customer service!) I have had 2 experiences with Warmoth - so let me tell you about them.

Jazz
I figured I should play a jazz bass - cause everybody else did. Well, that was my logic, anyway. I wanted something special. I looked through the Warmoth woods site and found a great piece - Black Korina it was called. Wow - that was a real beaut! Kind of like a dark, dark, zebra - but the lines were almost like a spalted maple, and the dark lines through the pieces looked way cool. :) Yeah - it was pretty. For a while, the body I bought was the 'example' piece of what Black Korina looked like! Anyway - I figured it can't be that hard - so I bought the body, bought a really cool neck (that didn't have to be finished - I didn't want to finish a neck so I bought one that could be left bare - it was great wood too, although I can't remember what it was). I got tuners, I got jazz Bartolini pups, even a pre-amp to put in. I know, sacrilidge to some, but I like active pickups! :)

I got the body - and it looked great. I didn't feel it needed any finishing work in terms of fine sanding or anything - and I figured the finish would make up for any fine openness of the grain. Turned out I was right about that. I decided to go with a 2 step approach. First, I wanted a touch of color, so I went with a Tung oil (I know - they always have a bit of something in there to help it set - in this case a bit of poly, I think). I used a furnature type Tung oil, with a good reputation for quality. I did around 7 coats. Put it on, hang it overnight. Put on another, let it set overnight. A few times, I let it cure for more than a day - 2 at the most. After that was done, I let it sit for a few days - maybe even a week if I recall correctly, before putting on the final coat. Oh, and I also used some 0000 Steel wool before using any - and after - the first few coats. To make sure that I was getting a nice shine (I wanted it to stay looking pretty!). After the Tung had dried to my satisfaction, I started with the Poly.

I applied around 12 coats of poly. This was a much longer process. More coats - more steel wool, although applied much more sparingly - and yes - I used a magnate to clean it up. It didn't seem to cure as fast, so most were 2 day waits. After, I also let it sit for a few days. Then I got to drill out some holes again, since none of the knobs would fit now! :) But the result was absolutely wonderful. It was gorgeous. Now all I had to do was drill and set the neck, install the pups, put on the bridge and tuners, and some strings. I did all that - using black hardware (wow - it looked really great) and got ready to play. Dang. Still sounded like a jazz bass. :| Nope, I'm not that fond of the Jazz bass sound. Sure - lots of folks love em. I even used the bass a lot - put on flats and half-wounds (still my constant choice of string) and played the heck out of it for a few months. But it still sounded like a jazz bass. nuts. Sold it at a huge loss. ebay'd I believe. Somebody got a great bass - for way less than it was worth - not even counting the work I put into it. Yikes.

Gecko
My second Warmoth Experience was during the tenure of the Warwick Thumb. I got an inkling that I should be playing a 5 string. After all, being the web master of the ExtendedRangeBassist.com site, you'd think I was one of 'em. So I set out to build and own a 5er. I loved the look of the Gecko series - not quite jazz or p - but still a nice look to them, so I thought that I would start there. I had a body picked out - wasn't really worried - since they all pretty much looked the same, but I did have my choice of woods. I went with a AAAA quilt top of Maple, and a see through gloss purple finish. Yes, I wanted purple. But not quite that bright -yikes! It was bright - but looked great. The finish was done very well - pretty thick stuff - but they didn't do any finish work on it at all - so I had to (again) redrill out all the pot holes, and places where I was going to install anything - like evey hole on the thing. Neck. Pickups. Knobs. Man - that got old fast. The neck was also a beaut. Since I had a warwick and knew of the call of the Wenge wood (I loved the low-mid growl of my Warwick, plus, Wenge is another 'no finish' neck wood. Plus Plus!). The neck, while being a tad larger than my beloved Warwick, was very nice. I got Barts again for the pups, black hardware, as per my usual, and set to work. I had an aguilar pre I was going to use. Couldn't get it to work. Oh, it only works with passive pups, right. :| Ok, back to EMG's......Oh, they work! Perfect!

Off to practice. What - guys - you don't like it? Not meaty enough. Different than the Warwick. No real value.....wow. Thought the band would like it! :) They really like the Warwick....ok. Back for sale. Another disappointing loss....Oh, well. I really like 4 strings!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Working with Wilkat

Bill Wilkat is the luthier I began my bass project with. I tend to be an email junky - and Bill got back to me quickly - and was a really nice guy. He seemed very willing to do what I wanted - and to build the bass I had in my head. Not to mention the fact that his basses looked very, very nice!

The bass in my head turned out to resemble the Thunderbass - as made by Pedulla. Bill drew up a prototype, and sent it to me to view. I loved it. Smaller body shape - yet familiar - and the body was smaller by a bit - which I like too (not being a huge bass = huge sound kinda guy). Nothing wrong with Fenders - they did it first - and got most of it right - I just like a smaller bass, cause I'm a smaller guy. :)

The woods Bill went with were partially what I had in mind - and partially what he came up with. We got - Zebra for the top. Beautiful piece too - just lovely to look at. The middle was a 'neck-through' looking piece - with 5 alternating layers of bird-eye maple and maple. Under the Zebra was a thin sheet of Walnut. The back was Butternut - no, not bread - a very nice, lighter kind of maple, I believe. To finish it off - he applied a few thin layers of finish - enough to give it an oiled look. This I the only thing I would change. Although I love the oiled look - it so much easier to bang up an oiled bass. I would have had him apply a nice thick poly - or some other shiny top coat - that protects. That's pretty minor - cause its really a beautiful bass. The hardware, of course, was all Steinberger. That was actually the primary reason I stopped using the bass. The Steinberger design is great - and the bass is wonderful - sounding, looking, holding, everything! However, Gibson are a bunch of sods, because they have started selling the Steinberger line again (after buying the line and killing the originals, they first started out with the Korean "Spirit" line, they've mostly gone external to do so - parts made from other companies, like Moses for the new graphite line) but they don't offer many parts at all. So all the folks that have bridges, you can't get parts for, or the headstock, and it's a pain to have them made. A company I had make some of the string holders couldn't do it in metric, for whatever reason, so the tuners felt 'off' after that. Anyway - I'd had enough - waiting for parts that wouldn't come about. So I made other plans.

I sold some stuff - mainly the Steinberger hardware - neck, tuners, brigde and all - even the pups - and bought a beautiful Warwick Thumb NT 4 string. Sight unseen. Found it on Bassgear.com - started emailing this guy - who was a college student. He didn't budge on the price - and I bought it anyway. Great decision! That bass was one of the best I've ever played. Tight, focused, with lots of mids and a nice, dark, metal tone! Oh, the beauty! I waxed it when I needed to. I even got ahold of the company to fix up a spot where the previous owner had worn through a bit. No problem - wax, elbow grease and a hair dryer fixed it right up! (THANKS Dale Titus!!). I loved that bass.

Until....

Friday, September 23, 2005

Basses - one can never have too many.

Basses are kind of like potato chips - you can't have just one. I mean, the P bass is great for rock - but to really cut through in a jazz band, you need a jazz bass. Ok, so this can get a little carried away. easily.

I did have one bass, the Steinberger, and was fairly happy with it. I mean, it looked cool. and that's important. :) But I really wanted a real Steinberger. So I found one. I got a full bodied version steiny - called the XQ-2. No, the XQ part has no significance. I also bought a Fender Lite bass - less filling I guess. I didn't have that one long. It was Ok . Lemme see - I also had an XP-2 (the flying Vee looking Steinberger bass, a custom (by me) Warmoth Jazz bass. The wood on that bass was gorgeous - Black Korina, wow. Warmoth was using that very bass as their example of the wood type - it was that pretty.

After another, not very long, bit, I got the bug to have a "custom" steinberger made. You know what custom means, right? It means you pay twice as much for a bass that you can sell for 1/2 as much. Yes - you lose money on customs - because they are built just for you. I wasn't really ready for it - but I guess I had money to burn (NOT!!). I contacted a couple of luthiers, and decided to go with Canadian Bill Wilkat. He makes beautiful guitars and basses. I asked him about what I wanted, with what specs, and that I wanted it fit for Steinberger. He was more than happy to accomodate me.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Live shot



Joe and Kevin like this shot and asked me to go ahead and post it here.

So, here it is!

This is from a gig we did at a really cool coffeehouse in Springfield, IL. My daughter took this pic with my cell phone camera. Given how it was taken, it turned out pretty good, I think.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Hey, lets buy guitars, practice and start a band."

Now it comes to pass that Doug calls me and utters those famous (last) words.

"Hey, lets buy guitars, practice and start a band."

So I did. Being somewhat more liquid than when I was in college, I was able to get a bit better bass. A bit.

I bought a Steinberger. Not the solid composite instruments you would have been able to see on Geddy Lee or John Taylor, no, these were new, bought by Gibson - sold online - better! They were in fact made at the same factory - or so I'm told - as the all-wood Hohner steinberger licensed basses. All wood - EMG Select (yuck!) pickups, impossible to find replacement hardware - Musicyo Steinberger Spirit bass. The fretwork was passable, the neck - 'Ok' - the pickups were, well, EMG's - but the bottom line EMG's (I love EMG's btw). The hardware was, well, cheap. The bridge was ok, as long as the screws weren't stripped out - which happens a lot.

But I had a bass. I practiced, and bought more gear - and more basses. First thing I needed to get was a rig - I had to play through something, after all, this is the electric bass. So I did some searching, thought about what I wanted (it had to be warm) and what I could afford. Most importantly - it had to be available. I was able to find lots of bass gear - eBay, Talkbass, Bassgearonline - lots of different places. The only problem was I couldn't always play what I found online. So instead, I began to use online as a resource for finding information about the gear I was interested in. Harmony Central - and the user reviews - as well as TalkBass and the BGRA (Bass Gear Review Archive) became tools in my quest for gear.

Before I could join a band, or even really play much - I had to have at least a practice amp. I found Musiciansfriend.com and started looking. I had heard wonderful things about Trace Elliot - little did I know not much was available anymore. But I found a practice amp online for a little over $100 - wow - great price! So I bought one. The Trace practice combo was great - for playing at home and alone. But I needed something for gigging!


Since I was really into the combo thing - hey, only one piece of gear and a bass then I'm good to go - I started out looking for a nice, large combo. I found a Gallien-Krueger 210. Not bad - sounded good - got fairly loud - looked cool. I was in.

After using the combo for a while, I discovered something disheartening - some light kept flicking on and off in the back of the combo. What was that thing? After doing some more research - I found it was a protection circuit for the speakers. Well, that's not good. I started looking for an additional cab - since I was obviously driving this one too hard.

I was kind of used to the GK sound, so I looked into the GK speakers. I found a rockback (wow - cool new feature) RBH - the 'Hi-end' of the GK cabs - 410. Hmmm - that should do. And for a while at least, my gear habit was satiated. Of course - I haven't begun to describe my bass aquisitions yet....

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bass-less, penny-less, must be college!

So what happened in the meantime?

Well, I got off active duty (Air Force) and completed my add-on training, in Springfield, IL - the 183 FW. I met and trained with some fine folks down there - they know their stuff and did an excellent job of preparing me for working at the 182nd. While I was there - I bought a sax and taught myself to play. I could not make it sound 'great' - like the jazz recordings I listened to; not even close. I ended up selling the sax.

I went to college. I returned to Illinois State, where, after bringing my grades up from the series of class failures I had prior to dropping out, I got in my major the semester before I graduated. I got my Bachelor of Science in Philosophy, with a minor in Psychology. I had to retake some classes - but the professors were impressed when I was able to bring a grade from an 'F' to an 'A' - of course - that only averaged out to a 'C' - but that's passing.

I joined a frat. Sigma Pi. I met some great guys there - but, unfortunately, no long lasting friendships. I see some of the guys around occasionally, but thats about it. It was fun - a lot of work - and worthwhile.

Right before graduation, I was deployed - the Illinois river outgrew its banks - so I went with the Air Guard to assist. We worked hard - and we were bored, either one or the other it seems.... that lasted 2 weeks. I got home, graduated, and moved to Peoria to start my Masters degree.

Peoria was interesting. Needing work - I found a job at a Residential Treatment Facility for boys. The Children's Home of Illinois. I never knew how good I had it until I went there. I met some kids that had overcome some real adversities - that word hardly suffices for some of the things those boys overcame. Some of them may do well - some of them will not. The ones that manage to stay out of prison and live what we would consider a 'normal' live - have overcome nearly insurmountable odds, and are worthy of our respect.

So anyway - that job lasted about 8 months. Those boys are tough, and some of them mean - and the hours long - and the pay low. Frome there I went into social work case management - where I was for 2 years. I was able to become a therapist in the same agency and did my internship at the same place - as a job - getting paid the regular salary. If not for that fact - I would not have completed my masters.

All this time - no bass....

That was about to change.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pre-StrangeLand history; or when I started playing bass

Since this blog was intended to be my running diary of life with the band, I should probably be posting about that. So, I've decided to put my story about the band, on the blog. The whole story - from starting the band, almost 6 years ago - to today.



Prior to starting the band, I had to start playing bass again. I was working in a social service agency as a clinical supervisor, overseeing several programs and a handful of therapists. We dealt primarily with sex offenders and their victims, but we also had some 'regular' clients that were just there for therapy. I had been there a couple months when I got a call from a very good friend, and my brother-in-law, Doug.

"Hey, lets buy guitars, practice and start a band."

Wow, ok, cool. Now, I *used* to play bass. Back right after high school - I used to jam with some buddies - like Justin Robbins - and even got good enough (relatively speaking, of course) to play in the church praise band. I remember buying an old bass to start with - I honestly don't remember what it was - but my first new bass was a Washburn, with bright red crackle paint, 4 strings, and active electronics. I didn't know much back then, but I knew a pretty bass when I saw it.

I then sold that bass to get an amp, with a 15" speaker, and a different bass. This bass was ugly. It was a kind of steinberger knock-off - cricket bat (boat oar) body, black, headless, and had 4 silver tuners on the end of the body, under the bridge. I think it was called a Jack bass - maybe by Kramer. Real ugly. But - it worked, and now with bass and amp - I was ready to rock!

It wasn't long before I was in a band - after all, I didn't need chords to play rock and roll! The name of the band was Ballyhoo (meaning: loud noise). We did covers - everything from Def Lepperd to John Cougar Mellencamp (he still had 3 names back then). The only problem with the band, besides the fact that most of us could barely play - was that the guitar player always wanted to put these ripping solos in every song. Even the John Cougar Mellencamp songs - > where they did not belong.

After a couple months of practice, we got a gig; a high school dance. I don't remember what school - but it was fairly small. We played for a couple hours - and only took breaks when the guitarist danced with his girlfriend, who had hired us. Ahhhh, politics even then.

After the dance, the guitar player decided that he sucked, and was quitting the band as soon as we could find a replacement. I didn't stick around to see if that happened - I quit too.

From Ballyhoo, I went on to play in my church band, with Wade actually, and shortly after I joined, quit to go into the military.

While on active duty - I did play in a pick up band. We did a couple AD/DC songs on base at Lowry AFB Airman's Club. It wasn't too long after that gig, that I sold all my equipment.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Balance

Life is balance.



This pic is a dog, sitting on the tool box in the back of the truck. This dog must have an incredible sense of balance - when the truck drove off - the dog didn't even flinch. Incredible.

I heard that Mr. Miyagi - yes, that one - said "Life is balance. Now go find balance."

Great quote.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tower Records!!!

Who'd have thought StrangeLand would be on the Tower Records web site - but there we are. Awesome.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Cdbaby

Finally got some bigger distribution! Check us out at www.cdbaby.com/cd/slandband. and we'll also be on itunes and rhapsody, among others as digital downloads!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Pride

There's something to be said for taking pride in your accomplishments. This is one I'm proud of.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Poster

Finally got a poster for the band. It's up at my desk, and in my son's room. He's a good boy - and yes, he asked for it - I did not force him!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

StrangeLand CD

We finally got some more cd's in - I know there were some folks waiting for these - me especially. It's kind of a pain to try to promote the band, and then ask if it's ok to send a burned copy. "The guys said it was ok, so can I send you a CD-R?" Very cheesy.


Those days are gone now - as we have reordered, and now received 1000 cd's! Yes, we are kinda hoping they go fast, but we are at least able to sell them to folks that want to buy 'em, to give them to venues and radio stations to promote the tunes, and give them to our kids - who just happen to be our biggest fans. btw -> it's pretty cool for your kids to really like what you do. :)


So there you have it - the reason for the wierd pic - we have cd's, they are shrink-wrapped (that's what that funky spider is on the top of the cd), and if you want one - you can buy it from us! Just hit the homepage, StrangeLand home page , click on the "Listen Here" link, and then you can buy with paypal. Only $5. Not bad for some good metal.


Ok, so I'm biased.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Gig poster

I did this! :^)



















(link is to LARGE version: ~8 Meg)


Feel free to download - print - then post it all over town!

Feel free to leave comments and thoughts as well......

Spector Gig Bag for sale



Yup - letting this beaty go for $60 shipped.

Brand new - never used.

I've been keeping the girls (my Spectors) in hard cases for protection....

Monday, May 16, 2005

and Silver Series

This makes for one entry in each category.
I may shoot for more......

:^)

Nemesis Contest

and the Nemesis entry....

Eden Contest

My first foray into the Eden Wallpaper contest. :^)

Thoughts?

Feel free to leave a comment - let me know if it sucks - lemme know how I'm doing...

Thanks!

Funny

Growing up, i don't remember anyone ever saying 'mullet' - it was just a haircut.

And it wasn't unusual - or wierd - or anything - cause everyone had 'em. Yep - I had one too. And I had the one with the perm in the back - and straight on top - it was Killah!!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Jeremy Sparling is the man!



Wow is about all i can say! Jeremy is tops! Be sure to contact Jeremy if you need the best quality shots! Image Innovations

home, home in the cube.

life in the cube farm goes on. The ever present coffee cups help dull the pain...some. ;-)