Wednesday, 24 August 2016

JG Bass Special Pt 3: Gallery - "Mk 1" JG Basses - the earlier models


JG1117 - Phillip Knight's JG bass.

JG1113 - Pete Zorn's JG bass


JG1117

It's funny how sometimes life stores things up and then throws them at you in one big lump. Sometimes it's life's woes, sometimes its blessings and sometimes it's just quirky little happenstances. It was only a week or so after Martin Elliott had emailed me out of the blue about his encounter with John Gustafson's JG bass that a post went up on the Wal Facebook fan page. The post, from bassist Martyn Baker said that he was thinking of putting his JG bass up on eBay as it was, literally, just gathering dust and deserved to go to a good owner. The bass eventually sold for a tidy sum - £7,400 to be precise! A hefty price tag but one that reflects the ownership of a little bit of bass history.

This all caused not a little consternation and discussion online but also brought a few other owners out of the woodwork to post their beauties alongside it. More of those other JG basses (both from later in the short-lived model's run) in a future post. However, JG1117, built in May 1977, offers a good opportunity to look at what made up a JG bass before Wal and Pete slightly refined the design after JG1118.

Martyn filled in a little background to the bass. He was the second owner and had owned the bass since the late 1980s. "I have owned the bass since 1988. After buying it in London I decided to take it up to the Electric Wood factory in High Wycombe. Ian Waller picked me up from the station, and set it up perfectly in one afternoon. Such a shame that he died so so soon after that - he seemed like a really great guy."

The bass was originally built for Peter Knight of Seahorse (no, me neither) and shows amply how well put together and forward thinking even these early models were. This one features the dual jack/balanced DI XLR outputs which were available on the JG series and the series/parallel switches on the pickup mounting rings. It also features a small switch on the scratchplate. This is an early version of the "Pick-attack" feature which adds a small peak to the output in the high-mids. The idea was to allow finger style players to emulate the attack which you get with a plectrum without changing their playing style. This also has the beneficial effect of acting as a presence enhancer, assisting the bass (however played) to cut through in the mix. You can see the battery compartment for this feature on the back of the bass.


It also shows the simpler laminate structure employed for the neck, missing the mukulungu layers which were added to the necks from JG1119 onwards. The machine heads employed are the smaller enclosed type of tuner rather than the more substantial half enclosed Schaller-type used on later basses.




Finished in May 1977 and signed off by Ian Waller


JG1117 in its new home hanging around with some Wal friends
(thanks to new owner, Frank Zimmerman, for the photo of his collection and the label above).




JG1113


A dozen years earlier, in 2004 another very early JG bass turned up on eBay. This one, JG1113, was the fourth JG bass to be made (if one includes John G Perry's short-scale JP1111) and had originally been owned by bassist, session player, multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn. The Wal orders sheet for the JG basses lists him under his job of the time - bass player in Barbara Dixon's band. When originally built the bass sported a natural finish, as did all the other early "Mk 1" JG basses. However, when it came up for sale, although it had clearly been through the wars and was in desperate need of refurbishment, it wore a more eye catching colour. A beautiful translucent blue burst. It sets off the dark brown leather of the scratch-plate surprisingly effectively and the stain shows off the grain of the ash body particularly effectively.
 
The JG clearly has a chequered history, as an old friend of Ian Waller and Pete Stevens confirmed in a recent blog. In another little piece of JG bass happenstance Paul Phillips, best known for the 1970s hit "Driver 67", published a piece about Zorn and his JG just a few weeks ago on his blog at The New Colloquium . Paul takes up the story...
"...Ian, on the other hand, was a bit of an electronics genius and also built guitars. Everyone called him Wal (his name was Ian Waller). He made the legendary Wal Bass. The list above appears to be of orders for the first run of the original bass. Notable names on there include Percy Jones of Brand X, (Phil Collins’ jazz fusion side project away from Genesis); ‘Paul’ of The Clash (obviously Simonon); Nigel Griggs of Split Enz (who morphed into Crowded House); and Pete Zorn, my old music partner and brother in law..."

"...Wal was a friend of mine since 1968. I introduced him to Pete Zorn after Pete and I became friends in 1971. Later, after Pete and I had our hit with Car 67, Wal sent Neil Finn of Split Enz and the group’s manager down to Bexleyheath to ask me to produce them. Little did they know: Pete and I were crazy fans..."

"...Anyway, back to Wal and his basses. Wal and Geoff were part of an extraordinarily rich time in Manchester culture. They came up alongside The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits (close friends with the group) and Freddie & The Dreamers. Liverpool’s The Beatles were just another group on the circuit.

When I met him, he had already built his own acoustic bass guitar, the first I’d ever seen. It was huge, and beautiful. At one point, George Harrison coveted it, but Wal wasn’t keen. I think he’d rather it went to a bona fide and great bass player.

He started studying wood and how it aged, and dreaming up the design of the Wal Bass. To me, wood was wood. But then Wal showed me some birdseye maple and made me study it as he saw it. I  never – to this day – looked at wood the same way again.

When the Wal Bass went into production, Pete Zorn was given a very early model, a massive compliment from Wal. The guitar was later stolen from a dressing room on tour, never to be seen again. Pete bought another, so entranced was he with the first.


Wal died shockingly young. Barely 43, he had a heart attack as he left home one morning in 1988, headed to the factory he and his partner, Pete ‘The Fish’ Stevens, had built with such high hopes for an exciting future.

Well, the future came, and the bass lives on. Wal didn’t get to see it. But the rest of us are proud to have known him."

For the full story and how this bass links to a later JG bought by Nigel Griggs of Split Enz read the full blog here... http://thenewcolloquium.com/wal-bass-neil-finn-me




Wednesday, 17 August 2016

JG Bass Special Pt 2: A tale of two basses

John Gustafson's original JG bass (JG1112) and Martin Elliott's solid ash Custom Series basses


John Gustafson in 1978 with the Gordon Giltrap Band
A few weeks ago I got a very interesting email quite out of the blue. It came from a bass player who is notable in his own terms but even more so in the inextricable links he has with the history of Wal basses. During the 1980s and 1990s Martin Elliott was a session player working on the London and wider UK session circuit. To carve out a successful living in that tough world one needs a range of skills – the ability to read accurately from a chart while simultaneously injecting real life and emotion into the notes rendered, the ability to come up with original and inventive bass lines on the spot time and time again and the ability to be the sort of person that people want to spend many, many hours shut in a claustrophobic environment with. In short, you need incredible playing skills and a winning personality.


Martin Elliott with the Michael Nyman Band
Forli, Italy, July 2016 (Photo by Francesca Lelli,
Kframe fotografia Bologna - www.kframe.it)
Across the course of his career he has played with many artists – from Petula Clark and Helen Shapiro to the Jesus And Mary Chain. However, since 1983 it is with the classical composer, Michael Nyman, that he has been most closely associated. And let’s face it, Nyman is hardly renowned for writing simple, basic bass lines. 

Elliott also has strong links with Wal basses which reach back to the early days of his session career. This has led to him owning two unique Wal basses, including being the original owner of one of the most notable Wal basses in existence – the solid ash Mk 1 which is now used to great effect by Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree.

However, his email wasn’t about his playing experiences or his basses (more of that later). No, it was about something much more intriguing…

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

JG Bass Special Part 1: A masterpiece of design...



Every so often something comes along in life that forces you to reevaluate. Sometimes it's something foundational and Earth-shattering and sometimes it's a tiny tweak in perspective. Over the last few weeks I've had a series of revelations about the nature of one of the early Wal bass designs. I'll leave it to the reader's discretion to decide which camp they fall into.

I have a confession to make. Having never actually had an opportunity to play a JG series Wal bass I had always considered them a bit of a homespun, stepping stone bass. A simple work in progress towards a more sophisticated, complete design - as embodied in the Pro Series bass. I now realise that assumption was very, very wrong.

Over the last few weeks there has been a strange coincidental domino effect of emails popping into my inbox and social media feeds. First an email arrived from a bass player I have long admired and whose playing with Michael Nyman scales pinnacles I can hardly dream of. In it a fascinating anecdote was related and photos of the first true JG, number JG1112 were produced. Then a JG bass suddenly turned up being offered for sale on eBay and flagged on the Wal basses fan group on Facebook. Finally, other JG owners, emboldened by the reaction to that bass joining in an online show-and-tell session showcasing their own instruments. What a treasure trove.

One thing that became clear across these communications - which encompassed the second JG ever made and one of the last - was that my presumptions about the basses were dead wrong.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Gallery - 1983 Rosewood-topped Reissue Passive Pro



1983 Rosewood-topped Reissue Passive Pro

One of the great things about a brand like Wal is that a mix of two inquiring minds and a laissez faire attitude to “standard models” throws up a whole load of interesting basses to scratch your head about. One such bass cropped up recently in an online discussion on Basschat. The then owner, Gary Mackay, offered up his 1983 reissue Passive Pro bass as an unusual example of the model. The history of the Pro Series deserves, perhaps, a little unpacking as its history isn’t necessarily straightforward.

The original Pro Series was the first standard model of Wal bass and was offered between 1978 and 1981. They offered four options – single or dual pickups and active or passive circuitry – solid ash, paddle headstocks, contoured bodies and large black scratchplates. These basses were superseded with the introduction of the Mark 1 Custom in 1981. The Pro Bass was no longer offered for sale.

However, realising that their new Custom Series were effectively luxury models Electric Wood saw that there was a space in the market for a budget Wal. But how to cut costs without cutting corners? The Reissue Pros feature a more or less standard laminates Wal neck but a slab, solid ash body and a single passive pickup (either in the bridge or neck position – the position changed over time) controlled via a small, tear drop-shaped control plate.

As a little extra bling they were often finished with a fairly plain flamed or birdseye maple veneer (and a sunburst finish to hide the veneer’s edge). Gary’s Reissue Pro, however, if the only one I’ve ever seen with a rather tasty, pale rosewood top and clear varnish. All in all a rather classy set of appointments for a supposedly “budget” bass.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Special feature: Wal Basses - the early years

Wal Basses the early years



Over the last half a century some incredible bass guitars have come from these shores. From the “yeah baby” grooviness of Burns, to the quirky ergonomics of Shergold, from the Alembic influences of Jaydee and John Birch to the macho 80s lines of Status… all classic designs in their own right. However, perhaps one other British bass stands shoulder to shoulder with them – the instruments made by Electric Wood in High Wycombe: the Wal bass. For much of the 1980s and 1990s a Wal was the must-have bass de jour for the discerning British session player and attracted a wide range of celebrity endorsees (all of whom shared one characteristic… they’d bought their own Wals - the company had a “no freebies” policy). A few years ago the brand ceased production when ill health forced the retirement of founder Peter Stevens. However, in the hands of luthier, Paul Herman, Wal has recently re-emerged so perhaps it’s perhaps an appropriate to have a look back at the birth of the brand. We’ve gathered together some of the characters who were instrumental to the story and picked their brains on those early years.



 Ian Waller - the Manchester years...


Ian Waller (second from left) in the Demons - early 1960s

Ian Waller was an enthusiast. A bass enthusiast and an enthusiastic tinkerer. From an early age he was adept with his hands - playing in bands around the early 60s Manchester scene and building instruments and pedals to power his own music. It’s a matter of record that, with US trade embargoes biting, the availability of decent instruments in the early days of the UK beat revolution was low. Many aspiring players plumped for lower cost alternatives like Hagstroms, Dallas Arbiters and Grimshaws. Others such as "Big Wal", as he had become known around the scene, went for the home-made route. Other members of those early bands recall him as a popular figure on the circuit, the quality of the bass he had made with the assistance of his father always drawing gasps of admiration from jealous musos.


After closely missing out on taking his place as one of Herman’s Hermits a decision was made to seek fame and fortune in down in London. But not as a rock star - as an electrical engineer, putting his electronics experience to good use building medical diagnostic equipment. However, his enthusiastic tinkering continued and before long he was building radio-controlled gadgets for the theatre and film industry – one old friend recalls him showing off a couple of radio controlled cars fashioned in the shape of a ham sandwich and a tomato sauce bottle! The passage of time saw both Waller and his soon to be partner in crime , Pete “The Fish” Stevens, working at the Farmyard Studios owned by Quantum Jump drummer, Trevor Morais. All the time that tinkering still extended to instrument building. “I remember Wal as someone who was always building guitars and basses.” recalls former Caravan and Quantum Jump bassist, John G Perry. Indeed, Perry would become the first person who would benefit from an instrument officially created under the “Wal” banner.

 A Quantum Leap...


John G Perry takes up the story...  “We were at Farmyard Studios. There were a lot of jams going on there at the time, organised by Trevor Morais who owned the place. Mega-jams with all sorts of people – like Johnny Gus, Peter Robinson, Rupert Hine. A lot of notable musicians from that period who’ve gone on to do some amazing things. So I met Wal via Trevor, they were good mates. We were getting Quantum Jump together and my old Gibson EB3 wasn’t quite up to that but I wanted something ¾ scale – that was all I’d ever played and I wasn’t used to big, grown-up basses. So I asked Wal to make me one which would have its own identity as well as sounding like a Gibson or sounding like a Fender. At that time I was starting to do a load of session work so I needed a bass that was a chameleon as far as its range of sounds was concerned. Combining the two ends of the spectrum – Gibson at one end and Fender at the other – and seeing what happened. What came out of it was something with its own identity; and better than the other two in my view.”



It’s at this point that John Gustafson takes up the story. “I first Met Wal in the early 1970s. A friend of mine, Tony Walmsley, the Pedlars’ tour manager, took me along to see him at his flat off Bond Street in London. I remember I bought a Sammy Turner album off his flatmate! Wal was talking about basses and I became interested. He asked me what I would like in a bass. I was playing a Fender Jazz at the time, the first thing I suggested was an extra fret as the Fender only went up to E flat on the G string. I loved the Jazz neck at that time and I wanted something with a similar width and with a sculpted back for a more comfortable position.” Unsurprisingly the bassist was tempted and an order placed. “I bought a hybrid from Wal: a precision neck with a Wal body, the leather scratchplate was Wal's surprise. It was a great bass which I used until I picked up the JG model.”  That hybrid bass became session hound Gustafson's staple instrument through the following years – including a stint as the studio bassist for Roxy Music. This lead to it featuring on a range of classic 70s tracks, including providing the iconic bass line for ‘Love Is The Drug’. “Yes, it is the green hybrid on Roxy Music’s Siren, including ‘Drug’.”

 Three necks are better than one...



The next notable commission would become one of the marque's most notorious and iconic basses – the Wal triple neck. Originally commissioned by Rick Wakeman it was another Farmyard connection... “I knew Wal well. I saw him a lot in the early seventies and loved the sound of his basses. Very unique. The bass was made for my King Arthur album. I needed two guitars in one section but only had one guitar player, so initially my plan was for a twin neck with one bass neck and then one guitar neck. But then there was a piece that went between fretless and bass so it became a triple neck . Wal always told me from the outset that it would weigh a ton... I said that didn't matter because it wouldn't be hanging round my neck!”
Roger Newell playing the Wal Triple Neck in Rick Wakeman's band

The neck in question belonged to Roger Newell, former bassist for Wakeman's English Rock Ensemble, who continues. “The triple-neck bass evolved from a conversation that I had with Rick. There were quite a few double-neck guitars about then and Mike Rutherford had his bass & 12-string combination so the idea was to have three necks for a bit of up-staging. For me it was a standard fretted bass, a fretless bass (tuned to D) and a guitar on top. I said to Rick, ‘I don't play guitar in anything.’ So he replied ‘I’ll write something’ and he did! I was involved pretty much throughout the design; I had to be, as I would be playing it. Wal was a local guy and already a friend, so was Pete but he wasn't working with Wal then, he was collecting tropical fish from around the world – hence his nickname of Pete The Fish.

“We rehearsed at Trevor Morais’s place where his band Quantum Jump also practised. Wal had built a short-scale bass for their bass player John G Perry and this was the inspiration to build mine. I chose the pick-ups, asked for tooled leather scratchplate (like John’s) and Wal worked on ways to make the thing come together in a practical way. The final design was drawn out on graph paper on his kitchen table. We both liked the look of it so he set about making it. He made a beautiful job and apart from some re-wiring to make it more practical on stage it basically stayed the same. It wasn't easy to play, or to put on, as it was pretty heavy and had a mind of it’s own. (Chris agrees too!). In America, during a tour of their factory, Ovation made me a custom strap in order to spread the weight out as much as possible over my whole left shoulder. It helped a bit. Whenever I put it on the crowd went nuts. It was simply amazing and never failed to get a positive reaction.”

Wakeman performing in the King Arthur concerts

Wakeman's shows were nothing if not over-blown!
Squire with his triple neck replica by Hiroshi Kid
Wakeman certainly agrees with that final comment, “Phenomenal! I think there were more pictures taken of that bass than any other bass ever made! The Americans loved it.” However all good things must come to an end and eventually the bass was given as a gift to Yes bassist, Chris Squire. “My band had come to an end in the line-up that had been with me for some time and the bass was unique to that line-up. Yes were recording, Going For The One in Switzerland and I realised the the triple neck would be ideal for ‘Awaken’... Chris loved it and so I decided to give it to him. It's now in the Hard Rock in New York and Chris uses a much lighter and cheaper copy triple neck on shows.” Strangely Newell's recollection is slightly different. “When Rick folded the band he offered me the bass at almost five times what it cost to build and without another gig in sight I had to turn down his generous offer! When he gave it to Chris I was indeed a little upset! It was Chris that changed the guitar section into a short scale 6-string bass with three octave pairs. I still have a Wal Pro Bass and I love the sound and the feel! As the triple neck was the first full-scale bass that Wal designed the neck profile was made to fit my left hand perfectly so when I play an early Wal bass there is something rather personal about it, like a custom instrument, so I guess I got the benefit in the end! Also recently the bass has been dubbed the ‘Roger Newell bass’ so there is some justice in the world.”

A business proposition...


But what inspired the transition from interesting sideline to full time business? Perry recalls “Of course my first bass was stolen. That was awful but in some ways the impetus behind getting Wal going as a business. I went to Wal and said, ‘I’ve had it stolen so I’m going to have to get you to make another one but I think you should also start making them for other people.’ It was that theft and losing the thing that created that thought. Purely out of embarrassment, I expect; probably thinking ‘How can I go tell this man who’s made this beautiful instrument I’ve gone and left it in the car and got it stolen. I must give him more than just an order for another one.’ That was what kicked the whole thing off. So he and I put our heads together and we got some capital together to set him up in London, actually. A little place just off Bond Street. And he literally just started from there, from scratch. When that very first bass surfaced again Pete said, ‘Do you want it?’ I said, ‘No, no, no, This is the first one... for the museum!’.”

John G Perry (right) in the Gordon Giltrap Band

Gustafson was also in on the ground floor with the new line of semi-custom basses, picking up only the third one to be built. Unsurprisingly, the first, a short scale model, went to Perry. A second was used for a little promotional activity, left lying around at London's busy Trident Studios for any passing session-player or rock star to pick up and fall in love with. The new basses, dubbed the JG series in Gustafson's honour, were a much streamlined development of the early custom orders which Wal had been building. Soon Pete the Fish was fully on board and Wal was trading as a company under the Electric Wood moniker.



The JG series sported solid ash bodies while the necks were moving towards the laminated structure which would become a characteristic of all future Wals. The distinctive tooled leather scratchplate was retained. Most significantly, however, it was on the JG basses that the unique pick-ups which contribute so much to the Wal sound were introduced. Although, on the surface looking like a standard set of humbuckers their internal construction was unusual to say the least as Wal used his knowledge of electronics to good effect. Rather than simply being two coils of opposing polarity to cancel out mains and RF interference the Wal pick-ups effectively contain eight individual pick-ups in one housing – a humbucking pick-up for each string. Added to this, the JG basses also had various switching options built into the mounting rings allowing coil-split and out of phase tonalities to be thrown into the mix. It made for a versatile yet intuitive mix.

 
Gustafson, owner of two JGs, a matching fretted and fretless recollects, “The only other Wal I ever picked up belonged to John Perry, It was the short scale that he preferred and so naturally it felt a strange. The JG is on hundreds of sessions combined with a Fender Twin, almost everyone commented on the sound of the bass and it's versatility. On other gigs I had a later Pro series Wal as backup; although it had wider neck I was very comfortable with it. It had a great sound, more biting than the JG. Amongst others, Al Jarreau said he loved the sound of it on some live shows in Germany."

John Gustafson playing with the Gordon Giltrap Band
Gustafson pictured more recently (still playing his Wal)

 “I took the JG On a Japanese tour with the Ian Gillan Band. I wasn't playing particularly loud but the sound crew told me they didn't have it through the PA and that it was the best, tightest and punchiest bass sound they'd heard at the Budokan. What a feather in your cap Wal!”

Although only around 40 JGs were built, the marque picked up an impressive roster of customers. John Entwistle purchased one (originally destined for Renaissance bassist, John Camp) as did session players like Alan Spenner and Gary Tibbs. Jethro Tull's John Glascock and Blue Oyster Cult's Sandy Pearman were customers, as was a rather surprising Paul Simenon (at producer, Pearman's behest). To be fair, the Clash bassist did find the complexity of the bass a little too un-punk for his tastes, soon reverting to his trademark Precisions.



As the 1970s progressed Wal established itself further, launching the Pro Bass and linking up with other influential bass players of the time - not least the Brand X bass virtuoso, Percy Jones, who was to become another real
ambassador for the brand. Building on the template set by the JG it was an active, production line bass (albeit a typically small and hands-on production line, as befits a company called Electric Wood).



In the early 1980s the “Custom Series” was launched featuring significantly enhanced electronics and exotic woods, signalling the brand's move into what’s now dubbed boutique territory. In this period the bass reached a Fender-like level of ubiquity in the British rock world. Developments and improvements continued with the introduction of a 5-string variant – one of the earliest commercially available 5-strings to be manufactured in the UK – and a brief dalliance with the concept of a midi-bass (which actually worked).

  

Tragedy strikes... a bass-making legacy


Wal and Pete in their workshop in the late 1980s

Ian Waller in the mid 1980s


 However, in July 1988 the company was rocked by an unexpected tragedy. The sudden, untimely death of its founder Ian Waller. Victim of a heart attack as he walked home one evening, his passing sent reverberations throughout the British music industry. A solemn tone enters John G Perry’s voice as he thinks back to the time “It was very sad when Wal died. Had an aneurysm – he was only in his forties. He was living just off Shepherds Bush at the time. Very fit, a vegetarian, lots of exercise. Kept himself fit – he was always a big, strong sort of guy. Wasn’t the sort who did anything to excess. He was walking up to his first floor flat and he must have had a burst aorta as he was walking up the stairs. Just like that. His funeral service was out at Amersham and the church there was absolutely packed with family and friends. There was a who’s who of bass players in there, other musicians, friends of Wal’s. He was a very very dearly loved man. Hugely missed. But what’s so exciting is that he lives on in his basses”.

The memory of it also brought a sombre mood to Gustafson's reflections. “Wal's passing was dreadfully unexpected news. His funeral was a testimony of the love everybody had for him; a gentle man who lived for his art. Pete carried on the tradition in the same meticulous way.” Sentiments echoed by Newell and Wakeman, “Wal was a quiet guy really, loved to work on new ideas and hated repetition so it was just as well Pete kept an eye on production. Pete’s a gem; a really genuine and lovable character and a friend for life. You couldn't help but like Wal and Pete, both great guys.” “Just guys who loved music. That was their motivation; a rare quality these days. I was tremendously sad when Wal died.”

Perry sums up the legacy of Ian Waller, “Still after all these years when I open the case and pick one up it takes my breath away. And I know the love and heartache Wal and Pete put into making these things for us – the level of care, you would not believe it. Every Wal has bit of Ian Waller in, and Pete Stevens after Wal died. They are not inanimate objects, they’re living breathing things. Every bit of wood he picked up spoke to him.”



Trevor Raggatt

© 2011


Acknowledgements: In preparing this article I'm truly indebted to the players who provided information and took the time to  recall the early years of the Wal brand or describe just why Wal basses are some of the best around. Particular thanks go to John G Perry, John Gustafson, Colin Edwin, Rick Wakeman, Roger Newell, John Illsley, Justin Meldal Johnsen, Laurence Cottle, Percy Jones, Gordon Giltrap and all the others who contributed. Many thanks. Long live Wal!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Gallery - Wal MB5 5-String Midi Bass


The Wal Midi Bass has always been a bit of a rare beast. So when one turned up for sale at Bass Direct in Warwick with a sumptuous shedua/hydua top, a Mk II 5-string body and some stunning photos attached it seemed like the perfect excuse to feature this beautiful bass on the blog. Many thanks to Mark Stickley at Bass Direct for permission to use these photos. Whoever ends up purchasing this bass is in for a rare treat!

MB4s were on the more obscure and exclusive end of the Wal catalogue and were only available for a limited period of time. That said, over that short period from around 1990 they gained a reputation for being just about the only midi-bass that actually worked.

That was largely down to the genius electronics provided by Australian Steve Chick. The stroke of genius was to remove the need for the bass to midi converter to rely on a hexaphonic pickup to sense the pitch of the note being sounded. The beauty of a keyboard synthesiser is that the keys are effectively just switches. As soon as they are "on" they are "on" - there is no delay in getting them engaged. Hex pickups, on the other hand, take a few cycles of the note to sense what note is being played. For the loser notes on the bass that could potentially take more than a tenth of a second. Definitely noticeable for the listener, positively off putting for the player. Add to that the potential that overtones in the note could be interpreted as an entirely wrong note. For this reason midi basses gained a reputation for being tricky to play and badly glitchy. At the very least they demanded a very precise playing style.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

General Wal music magazine adverts from through the years...

General Wal music magazine adverts from through the years...

Throughout their history Electric Wood, the company behind Wal Basses (in effect Ian, Pete and maybe a couple of sleeping partners) took out ads in the national music press. For many years it was just a very bijou Wal add nestling in the paid ads at the back of Guitarist Magazine. Minimalist but with all the info that a keen Wal-hunter needed. However, some where a little more all singing and all dancing. Including those featuring their celebrity endorsers... John Entwistle, Percy Jones and Laurence Cottle.

A few of those adverts are attached below for your enjoyment...