Bass guitars

My Rickenbacker 4003 is a late 1990's model that I bought new in 1999, siphoning off some of the money from my first (and so far only) house sale. I'd liked the look of the guitar since my teens (it was a popular choice for glam, prog, and early punk bands) and its distinctive tone became a favourite once I'd learned how to identify it. Sadly a Rick was way, way outside my price range and it wasn't until my 40s that I could indulge in some middle aged folly, by which time I wasn't even playing bass regularly.

As it turned out my youthful dream instrument reinvigorated the urge to play in a band. The slim neck and thin body made it a joy to play and the driving tone cut through in its distinctive manner, even after I'd switched from pick to fingers. For a while it lost out to the Steinberger (see below) as my primary performance bass but after a period of juggling between the two I returned to the Rick, although feel & tone are my main requirements for an instrument I realised that for onstage performances I wanted something that looked good too and I remain convinced that the 4003 is still one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.

I'm a perennial tinkerer with guitars and with the Rick I ended up replacing the pickups with Seymour Duncan humbuckers, which in turn necessitated a new pickguard (and headstock cover). The new pups have a smoother, fuller sound while retaining the original bite and the new white-black-white laminated guard looks more polished than the (fairly crude) stock plastic. It also let me remove the 'Rickenbacker' name from the headstock to disguise its heritage. Selling the original parts (almost) covered the cost of the new ones, which amused me. I've also added a finger rest.

When the Rhythm Coalition started gigging regularly it struck me that I'd be playing some (relatively) dodgy pub venues with my precious Rickenbacker so I set out to find a cheaper bass that I'd be less worried about damaging or losing. This led me to buy a secondhand Lotus bass, a Japanese copy of a Steinberger headless design but made of wood with a more conventional P/J pickup arrangement. Ironically I've never ended up using this bass on stage but it has become the instrument I most often pick up to try out ideas at home.

It's a surprisingly nice instrument, the slight curves soften the body shape and the wooden construction is warmer to the touch. The Steinberger tuning system and through-body neck give it a solid tone and great tuning stability. The supplied pickups were a bit weak and I replaced them a set of Bareknuckle ones.

Past basses

I was a big fan of Ned Steinberger's iconoclastic approach to basses, especially the headless 'cricket bat' design with composite construction, powered pickups, and as minimal a body as was practical. So when a secondhand Steinberger XL-2 from 1988 appeared for sale I snapped it up.

The Steinberger was a fabulous guitar with a wonderful, punchy tone and comfortable feel (although the very long scale length was a literal stretch at times). It became my main performance bass for many years until I was tempted back to the Rickenbacker. I ended up selling it as it rarely came out of its case but it did provide the funds to buy my Waldorf Iridium synthesizer.

My first bass was a Vox Bassmaster, bought from a friend who was moving on to upright double bass. In hindsight it was a fairly terrible instrument with a thin, plywood body, skinny, short-scale neck, and standard guitar tuners but it was a 'real' bass that gave me the confidence to play with other people. By the 1980's I'd stopped playing bass and I gave the Bassmaster to a friend.

An impulse online purchase (for a very low price) was a Gibson G-3, a big slab of a thing with a very unusual pickup arrangement that looked intriguing. Unfortunately I didn't like the resulting tones and replaced the three Bill Lawrence pickups with a single MusicMan Stingray which really brought the guitar to life. Despite this I never really got on with the body shape and eventually sold it.


My current stage rig is a TC Electronics BG250-210 combo which has a great sound and provides all the volume I'll ever need in a compact package. The amp includes a programmable effects circuit which I normally use for a touch of chorus or flanging.

My previous setup was an Ashdown Electric Blue head with 2x12 and 1x15 cabinets (although I rarely used both at once). My very first amp was a Wem ER-40.