I've long been a fan of Louis Johnson, aka Thunderthumbs, ever since hearing him beating the hell out of his Stingray on those early Brothers Johnson records. So of course it was only a matter of time before I got myself a Stingray. I found mine secondhand on eBay, a 1987 vintage with rosewood fretboard, and a bargain at about €400 back in 2005. It was pretty beaten up when it came to me - felt kinda greasy and sticky, like it had been stored in a busy hotel kitchen for a couple of years. And the previous owner had put this godawful checkerboard black and white pick guard on it. So I spent a bit of time cleaning her up, replaced that migraine-inducing pick guard, and she turned out to be a fine bass underneath all that.
That said, of course I made a little alteration, and I know the Stingray aficionados will string me up for this heresy - I replaced the pickups and electronics with Basslines equivalents. Perhaps it's the way I play, or the strings I use, but I always found her to be a bit too clanky and mid-rangey for my tastes. The Basslines replacements fixed that for me, giving the bass a nice warmth in the bottom end that it lacked before, and a bit of sparkle and softness in the top, without losing any of that splashy percussiveness at the front of each note that is so unique to the Stingray.
I don't use this bass a huge amount. It's generally laying around in my studio, and I tend to just pick it up to try out new things or run a few scales and other rudiments. It's not a subtle bass - it's the kind of thing you use if you absolutely have to cut through everything else in the mix. You can hear it all over Harambé's Reboot EP, for example. I have a slight issue with the ergonomics which I guess stops me taking it out to play too often: while the placement of the pickup, way back near the bridge, is perfect for slappy stuff - nothing to get in the way of your pulling finger - I find it awkward for finger style. I like to rest my thumb on the pickup, and back near the bridge, the string tension is slightly too high, even with my extra light strings, to feel comfortable to me. And I guess something about the way I pluck the string is naturally quite toppy and I compensate for this by playing close to the neck most of the time. But there's nothing there on a Stingray for me to rest my thumb on! Meh, first world problems, I guess, but still ... Anyway, the way GAS works, this of course means that I currently have a hankering for a Sabre, the two pickup version of the Stingray ... !
Incidentally, soon after acquiring this bass, I found a great deal on a second hand 20th anniversary Stingray. This was an absolutely beautiful bass to look at - quilted maple top, burnt sienna back, in mint condition. But that bass broke my heart. I just couldn't get any proper bottom end out of it. As I said, all Stingrays sound a little mid-rangey and clanky to me, but this one was just ridiculous! I tried it once at a jam session in East London. Never again. Sadly, I had to move it on and it's now with a collector in East Anglia somewhere, I believe. It's one of the few basses that belongs in a collection - gorgeous to look at, but useless in practice!
Anyway, here are a few pictures of my Stingray. As always, any questions or comments, feel free to post them here!
This is where my Status addiction began. I discovered music, and more specifically the bass, in the 80s. So of course, a big influence on me, right from the beginning, was Mark King of Level 42. He was (and still is) obviously a very visible bass player, since he's also the vocalist, so unlike most bass players who tended to lurk in the shadows at the back of the stage, Mark was always front and centre, leaping around the stage and making bass playing look such fun (pop stars used to grin back then - none of this looking moody thing!), and playing these hi-tech looking Status basses with lights in. So it was always my hope to one day own one of these mythical beasts.
Much later, in 2001, I got a DVD of Level 42 playing live in Reading, I think. It was a great show, loads of energy (although the audience inexplicably appeared to have been heavily sedated for the duration). And Mark was playing two of these strange little Status basses I'd never seen before. Tiny symmetrical bodies, lovely curved top. And of course, the lights. They were his new Kingbasses, designs that he had specifically commissioned from Rob at Status. I loved the look of them, and the sound - very punchy and hi fi. A year or two later, a nice big royalty cheque was burning a hole in my pocket, so I finally got my opportunity to own a real Status. 'Red', as I call her, was delivered to me in 2003 and is loosely based on the rosewood-topped bass that Mark was playing in this DVD, although I made a few requests of my own. I thought red LEDs would go with the red-tinged rosewood top better than the blue ones on Mark's bass. and the string spacing on mine is 19mm, rather than Mark's 16.5mm, mainly because I had been playing a Stingray for a good while before this point and loved the nice spacious neck on that. And finally, mine is a full size 34" scale, rather than Mark's preferred 32". Again, I was used to a full scale bass and saw no need in my playing for the 'bendwell' device that Rob incorporates into the necks when he makes them shorter scale.
Anyway, 'Red' was everything I expected, and more. The sound is clean and consistent, the neck flawless, and I love the ergonomics of it, and the tiny details like the rounded edges of the body - it's a beautifully tactile bass. She immediately became my workhorse, so much so that by 2012, I was actually thinking, 'What would happen if I had to send this bass in for repairs at some point? What would I play?'. The solution? I needed another one! Hence the Paramatrix which I talked about in my previous blog!
'Red' is now my main studio bass. It's a very 'plug and play' bass - it just sounds great as soon as you plug it in, regardless of the situation. The controls are simple - volume, pickup pan, bass cut/boost, treble cut/boost, sweepable mid cut/boost. I generally set it to both pickups equally, a tiny bit of treble boost, a touch of bass boost, and low mids cut. This is the bass you'll see and hear in 90% of my recordings and YouTube videos. And this is still the bass that I take on tour when I go abroad - she's been all over the place with me: France, Germany, Poland, Spain, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Greece ... She really should have her own passport.
Here are some pics for you to enjoy. Feel free to comment or ask any questions you might have. I can talk about these basses for days!
OK, let's get this clear. I've never written a blog before, only read a handful. Not really my thing. But I'm told this is what I should be doing in order to help build a 'web presence'. Jeez, I cringe just typing that kind of thing. But what the hell, I'll give it a try, and hope that it's of interest to some folks out there, whether bass players or those interested in life as a bass player.
So, where to start? I suppose the obvious place is with some kind of overview of the gear I use. Most bass players I meet seem to love to 'talk gear', and I'm no exception, so that seems as good a place as any to start.
So this week, let's talk about my workhorse bass: my Status Graphite Kingbass Paramatrix, or 'Blue', as I call her. If you see me out playing live, nine times out of ten, this is what I'll be using. It was built in 2013 by Rob Green of Status Graphite in Colchester, UK, and she came to me in a trade for my old Alembic Stanley Clarke in 2014. 'Why would you exchange an Alembic for ANYTHING?', you may well ask. Well, as much as I loved that Alembic, it was a finicky beast - the neck was alive, and the controls were quirky and complex. And it was worth A LOT of money. So much so that I was afraid to take her out to play. Too much of a risk. I needed something that was rock solid reliable, easy to dial in sounds on, and that wouldn't leave me in sweats if I left it unattended for even a few seconds. This fit the bill perfectly.
The Status has an all carbon-fibre neck, through neck construction, and a black 'woven graphite' carbon-fibre shell around a wood core body. As such, it's pretty much indestructible. After the nuclear apocalypse, all that will remain will be cockroaches, a bunch of Steinberger basses and this thing. The carbon fibre construction means it never goes out of tune, regardless of temperature. It's headless, so string changes are a breeze - I've broken a string mid-song before now and had it removed, replaced and tuned to pitch within the space of a chorus. And the electronics are top-notch - volume, pickup pan, treble cut/boost, bass cut/boost, low parametric (frequency sweep and cut/boost), high parametric, and coil tap switches for each pickup. So many possibilities. But I do tend to just set it and leave it - both pickups equal output, both pickups in humbucker mode, a little low mid cut on the low parametric, a touch of bass boost and a smidgeon of treble boost. Seems to work for most scenarios - I don't even change the settings when switching from fingerstyle to slap. Once it's set, I don't tend to change it during the gig. Somebody once told me that you should EQ for the room from your amp. I don't know if that's true, and if so why, but I don't - I have my amp settings constant and tweak my EQ on the bass to compensate for the room, if it's boomy or trebly.
And finally, it has LEDS in the neck. Blue ones. Hence the name I gave her. Yeah, it's a gimmick, and I sometimes wonder if, instead of taking a solo, I could just turn the lights on and stand there, not playing a thing, and get away with it ... But hey, they make me happy!
Anyway, enough yapping, here are some pics. Any questions or comments, do please feel free to chime in. More next week. :-)