Wal basses are hand-crafted bass guitars produced since the early 1970’s by Electric Wood in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in the UK (now built a short drive around the M25 in Fetcham, Surrey). Since then they have come to be regarded as the standard by which others are judged on concert stages and recording studios across the world.
This site aims to give a history of the marque (from their inception in the early 1970s through their dominance as a go-bass for session hounds and rock stars through the 1980s to its resurgence in the last few years) and to provide an overview of the basses themselves.
A very brief overview of Wal Basses
|Pete Stevens in 1977|
|Ian Waller in 1977|
Wal basses (or "Electric Wood" as its parent company was called) was set up in the early '70s by bass builder, general tinkerer and electronics guru Ian Waller - aided and abetted by luthier Pete Stevens with a single mission: to make the world's best bass guitar. Early custom built basses included the monster triple neck Wal (originally built for Roger Newell of Rick Wakeman's English Rock Ensemble) played by Chris Squire from Yes.
|John Gustafson's JG Series bass|
|John G Perry's early short scale Custom Series bass|
The Wal Custom became a staple of studios and stages throughout the eighties finding favour with artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, Dire Straits, Spandau Ballet, Japan and Rush (at least two Wals even appeared on stage at "Live Aid" in Wembley Stadium). The bass line on the original "Band Aid" single, "Do they know it's Christmas" (one of the biggest and most influential singles of all time) was powered by Wal.
The original "Custom Series" design (Mark I) of "Custom series" electronics and a mahogany/exotic wood laminate body has since formed the template for all further developments and versions of the Wal Bass.
In early 1986 Wal introduced a 5-string bass with a 24 fret neck and a revised body shape (Mark II) which was also applied as an option to the 4-string basses. The late '80s saw the development of a relatively short lived Wal MB4 Midi bass - in conjunction with Australian electronics designer Steve Chick. Production of the MB4 (a bass midi controller that actually worked) continued for only a few years until US giant, Peavey, bought the rights to the technology on which the midi controller was based. Tragically, Ian Waller died suddenly of a heart attack in 1988 and his passing was marked across the music industry. Despite this irreplaceable loss, Pete Stevens was determined to carry on Ian's legacy and continue building world beating basses.
In 1995 the Wal underwent a further design development with the introduction of a 6-string bass and a new body and headstock shape (Mark III).
In the early Noughties Pete continued building Wal basses as a small, often one-man, operation until ill health and a run of changes of premises made him decide that it was time to retire. However, as of 2009 the baton was passed on to master luthier Paul Herman - who cut his guitar building teeth working for Wal. Now based in his Surrey workshop he continues offering these fine instruments in three body styles, faced with a range of beautiful woods and in 4, 5 and 6 string incarnations to the discerning bassists of Britain and the world.
|Paul Herman (left) with Pete Stevens (right) at Electric Wood's workshops in the early 2000s. Also pictured is Stuart Monks who worked as part of the Wal team at the time.|
Pete Stevens sadly passed away in late December 2011. He and Wal will be sadly missed. However their legacy to the music world lives on in the amazing basses they brought to life.
The official Wal basses website can be found at: