Saturday, August 29, 2015

Flattop Tune up

With an allen wrench and a round file I've taken the flattop from a thumping troll to a fat bird singing. It's amazing what a bridge and neck adjustment can do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Steve Swallow sketch

In the jazz world you might think the acoustic bass guitar might find more use, but the only player I know is Steve Swallow. Swallow and Brian Ritchie both play acoustic bass guitars with picks and piezo pickups and get completely different sounds. Proof that tone is all in your hands… or maybe, tone is where the heart is.

enjoy the faces…

Monday, August 24, 2015

Brian Ritchie sketch

There aren't many bass players that use an acoustic bass guitar as their main instrument. In fact, you can count them on one hand—if you know of some let me know. The first person that comes to mind for me is Violent Femmes bassist, Brian Ritchie. Although there are many options available today, at the time the Femmes started just about the only option was the Ernie Ball Earthwood bass (which is what Ritchie played). The Earthwood bass was (excuse the pun) based on the Mexican guitarron.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to ruin a perfectly functional bass with panache and thoughtful abandon.

When I built the Flattop bass two years ago I had every intention of using it as a stepping stone towards playing upright. Although I'm still threatening to make the switch, there's something I really enjoy about the acoustic bass guitar. For one thing it's nice and flexible when blurring genre lines like we do in Curio, it's also a bit unusual as a main instrument. After shows people are really interested in learning more about the Flattop—what is it? did I build it? how does it work? As a result I've gotten into some great conversations with other players, chefs, mechanics… finding common ground and talking about doing your own thing—I really enjoy that.

This year Curio has played more shows than we have in the previous three. Which means my building abilities are being put to the test (along with my sleep schedule). I've run into pickup problems, bridge issues and tailpiece malfunctions this summer. For all the bass guitar building I do, most of it amounts to tinkering and experiments—scale lengths, coupled strings, number of strings, etc. and sometimes they break due to amateur woodworking—meaning, the Flattop is my only functional fretless bass and fixing a tailpiece the morning of a show is not a place I like to be.

To make a long setup longer, I've been looking for an electro-acoustic fretless backup. Problem being—they're hard to find! When I do find them I either don't like the styling or they're completely out of my price range. I set out looking for a kustomizable kandidate (that's hot rod spelling). The Fender T-Bucket acoustic was a front runner for a while, but it didn't feel like a $400 instrument when I played it. Very recently I came across the Ibanez PCBE12MH—hard to find in a shop, but a really nice simple bass guitar—all mahogany, naturally finish and half the price of the Fender. I stopped by a shop on my way down to our Lasalle show this weekend and picked it up for less than 200 due to a factory flaw. Now it's time to sprucemoose it up!

The plan: 1, polish down the chrome tuners to a pleasing copper satin finish; 2, sand the gloss finish off the neck; 3, de-fret; 4, add 1-3 feedback-busting soundposts.

The deadline: Curio's show on September 10th.

The project begins with an epitaph to the PCBE12MH…

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

smokin' skull

Most summers I tend to hole up in the AC, but for the first time in a very long time my forearms are tan. I've been out there sweatin' to the oldies with house work, bass building and rock n rollin. Which is all great stuff, but it means that I haven't been doing too much drawing. Few and far between, but here's a drawing for one of Curio's August shows…

Monday, July 13, 2015


A couple weeks ago unprompted, a co-worker and friend built me this bracelet which was inspired by Mike Ness' "Don't Think Twice." To my dismay, about 2 miles into my bike ride home this evening I noticed it was missing. After walking and feeding Wats I took off again—into this muggy armpit of a day—to find my bracelet. Happily, I found it about a mile away from home! Big relief. I would have been pretty upset to lose this.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cromagnon dirt track racer

We'll be playing Brauerhouse in a couple weeks. I'm working to get my bass back up and thumpin'!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flattop's Surgery

I finished building "The Flattop Bass" in September 2013. It quickly replaced my Eastwood Classic 4 and has been the only bass I play for the last 2 years. Back in January it cut out on me, but worked fine the next day. It cut out again at last week's rehearsal which I fixed, about which I was quite dubious and sure enough with three songs left in our second set last Sunday, it cuts out. The long and short of it—it needs a new bridge. I thought I might take the time to refinish the back as well. Hopefully it all works out.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


This evening Curio will be rockin' our heavy rockabilly at Three Aces for the Wreckles afterparty following Motoblot. I haven't been making posters too frequently for a while, but I have an itch to do a little of that again. Although this won't be available tonight, some of the upcoming show posters will be…

Saturday, June 27, 2015

I'm back again: scanning

I wish technology was more like an old Schwinn—keep it clean and it'll outlast you. I really miss my Canon LiDE 500—which lasted somewhere in the ballpark of 7-10 years. I first tried an HP all-in-one borrowed from my folks… That scan is on the left. It just lacked the detail I was used to with the Canon so I decided to go ahead and get a new Canon, but I went with the 120 instead of the 500 (they seem essentially the same except for price). That scan is on the right. The color is a little off from the original drawing, but the detail is there so I can color correct a bit. Still trying to get it to talk to Photoshop a little better—it doesn't seem to recognize the plug-in like the old scanner, but that'll sort itself out in it's banal way. OK let's get on with some Curio posters now…

Monday, June 15, 2015

A revolutionary new bass.

I'm back. After a decade-ish of service my trusty Canon scanner conked out on me. This was a couple weeks back which is why I haven't posted since May.

My dad drove up to help me get started on my gutter/flashing project and brought up an extra scanner. I've never used HP gear, so for now it's suspect and we'll see if it earns my trust. Right now, it's got a couple strikes against it, but I sure am happy to be able to scan sketches again.