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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Chris Kohlman, Kohlman Bassworks




How did you get your start in music?

My mom’s parents and three brothers were all musicians and they would have jam sessions at the many cookouts we had at my grandparent’s house when I was a kid. They all played a variety of instruments but at some point I realized there was never a bass guitar in the ensemble. At the same time, I was beginning to learn more about the role of a bassist in contemporary music. All of that really set the wheels in motion.

Jose Tinajero - NeoJazz 6 Deluxe

Jose Tinajero – NeoJazz 6 Deluxe

Are you still an active player?

Yes. I play in an acoustic rock trio called Unleaded that includes two of my closest friends, both of who are accomplished musicians. We have played together in one form or another for decades so playing out with them is like putting on your most comfortable pair of shoes. The three of us are also teaming up with another longtime friend to form a rock band called 4Warning. Hopefully that will take off in the next few months here in the 757 area code.

Keith Horne in a recording session - NeoJazz 4 Deluxe

Keith Horne in a recording session – NeoJazz 4 Deluxe

Link to a video created by Keith Horne that showcases his NeoJazz 4:

Keith Horne also featured the NeoJazz 4 in the music video of Bill Leverty’s song “Strong”:

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass?

I had been working on basses for years. I was self-taught out of necessity because I was extremely picky about how my instruments played and I couldn’t afford to keep paying for someone else to do all of my setups. So I read a lot, experimented a lot, and became fairly good at repairs and setups. About five years ago I decided that I could probably build my own basses and began thinking through the various stages of bass building. I have a degree in architecture, so the creative side was there. And since I grew up with an engineer father and woodworking grandfather, I figured I had at least enough of a background to give it a go. My first build was a parts bass and it progressed from there. The first all original creation was completed about four years ago and the business took off from there.

Diego Gomes (Brian Grilli) - RetroMod 5 Standard (Peavey endorser)

Diego Gomes (Brian Grilli) – RetroMod 5 Standard (Peavey endorser)

How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier? Who would you consider a Mentor? 

One of my band members in the nineties was a wonderful Englishman named Stuart Douglas who performed most of the guitar and bass repairs for the local music stores in our area. I shadowed him constantly because I was simply amazed at his depth of knowledge and the high level of craftsmanship of his work. He was always willing to teach and I was always willing to listen.  He was my mentor and will always be a longtime friend. He has since moved back to England and on occasion I find myself wishing he were around to help me get out of some of the sticky situations that crop up during difficult repairs or builds.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

I try to buy from a local supplier and because of this, my selection is limited. At some point I will begin using some of the vendors I have met at the NAMM shows over the last few years. But for now, I like to use local sources. This provides me with a supply of woods such as Ash, Walnut, Mahogany, Hard Maple, and a few other exotics that have nice colors and grain patterns.

Jim Cahoon NeoClassic P4

Jim Cahoon NeoClassic P4

How about pickups? What pickups did you use in the past? What electronics do you use right now? 

I used active EMG systems for many years so it stands to reason that I gravitated in that direction once I started building. But I knew I needed to branch out some and subsequently started using Bartolini, Mojotone, and Nordstrand components. Mike Pope was also gracious enough to provide me with a preamp for a NAMM build last year and I will probably contact him at some point soon to begin using the Flex Core preamps from time to time for higher end builds. But right now I use Nordstrand and Mojotone probably more than any other vendors. My friend and bass guru Keith Horne also introduced me to Lindy Fralin about two years ago when I was building Keith’s NeoJazz four string and I fell in love the Fralin jazz and P bass pickups as well. There are just so many options available now and they all have their unique sounds. I think that’s great for the low-end world.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses? 

I have been very fortunate in that the business began to grow fairly quickly in this area thanks to the great musicians we have here in Tidewater. But it wasn’t until Keith Horne and I teamed up to build his four string NeoJazz that the interest shifted into high gear. I have to thank Keith for that, hands down. He has played with artists like Tanya Tucker, Trisha Yearwood, Peter Frampton, Luke Bryan, Waylon…the list goes on and on. And because of his success and the people he knows, I have seen a considerable increase in inquiries about my basses and it has manifested into increased sales. I have built him a four string and a six string, and am working on a five string right now. I have also built basses for Diego Gomes (Brian Grilli), Betty Mullins (The Mullins Sisters), Andrew McNeely (Sea of Souls), Jim Cahoon (Rockstar Parking), and a variety of other local musicians. I also have a four-string custom NeoJazz I am currently building for Steve Cook, bassist for country artist Phil Vassar.

Andrew McNeely (Sea of Souls) - NeoClassic P4 Standard

Andrew McNeely (Sea of Souls) – NeoClassic P4 Standard

How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?

I haven’t gone down the “signature bass” path as of yet. But for custom builds, I try to embrace my penchant for design and make the build special for the player. Up to this point, no two custom builds are the same. Each is unique to the individual and born out of concepts that just seem to come to mind. I also build “stock” basses that are sold through Russell’s Music World here in Norfolk, VA, and they are unique as well. But at some point I would imagine the stock units would become duplicative out of necessity.

Mike Tobias checking out a RetroMod 4 Standard at Summer NAMM 2015 (he liked it!)

Mike Tobias checking out a RetroMod 4 Standard at Summer NAMM 2015 (he liked it!)

What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?

First and foremost, I endeavor to build basses that satisfy my own needs as a bassist. I am picky when it comes to playability. And I figure if I don’t want to play it, no one else will either. Elements such as ergonomic contours, high quality fretwork, low action, and proper balance are a must have for me and I do my best to incorporate these elements into my builds. One of the unique traits of my basses is the incorporation of morphed body inlays I have started to design into my custom basses. I have had a tremendous amount of positive feedback from people who have seen pictures of my customs and I am extremely thankful for that. I would also imagine that my neck profile is somewhat unique. It seems to be a happy medium between a rounded C shape and Fender D shape. I have not played another bass with this profile but it comfortable to me and appear to be successful.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

The one I just finished…every time LOL! No kidding! Every time I finish a stock build, I think, “Maybe I’ll keep THIS one”. But, alas, they end up on the wall at the music store. But as far as designs, I think I like my RetroMod body shape in the five-string version the best. The design was inspired by both the Fender Jaguar and the cheap Japanese piece of crap I had when I was a kid. Mike Tobias was gracious enough to give me a thumbs up for the design at the 2015 Summer NAMM show. I figured, if HE liked it then I must be doing something right (smile).

Kohlman with early NeoJazz 3+1

Kohlman with early NeoJazz 3+1

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

Don’t be afraid to seek out your mentors and ask questions. Also, we have the Internet: everything you ever wanted to know about bass building is out there on a server somewhere. Do some research, then break down the steps needed to craft a bass from scratch. Think about cutting out the body shape, routing pickup cavities, crafting the neck etc. Then go for it. Just remember…safety is always paramount. I constantly remind myself in my shop that there is no “undo” button if you slip up with power tools. And email me if you have a question. I will be happy to share what I know about the art of crafting custom basses.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Call me LOL! Seriously, go play as many basses as you can get your hands on. If you go to a music store and the sales associate is less than thrilled that you want to test-drive a multitude of basses without committing to anything, find another store. They do not have your best interest in mind. It is paramount to purchase a bass that you WANT to play and is of a quality high enough that it can be set up to suit the individual. Nothing will deter the interest of a budding musician faster than an instrument that is difficult or simply undesirable to play. And once you find an instrument to suit, be careful about “settling” on something that’s almost as nice but cheaper. Be true to yourself when you critique an instrument and try not to let price be the guiding factor if at all possible.

Betty Mullins (The Mullins Sisters) - pair of RetroMod 5 Standards on stage, Gloucester VA

Betty Mullins (The Mullins Sisters) – pair of RetroMod 5 Standards on stage, Gloucester VA

What is biggest success for you and for your company?

For me, success is not the financial bottom line, but instead getting positive feedback from those who play my basses. And as I have alluded to before, I am thankful to have a music community that has provided me a lot of positive feedback concerning my basses. More and more lately, I am beginning to meet people who already know who I am and what I do, and have nice things to say about all of it. THAT is success to me. And it is exciting at the same time. Participating in the 2015 Summer NAMM show was also a company milestone and I look forward to having booths at subsequent shows. Oh yeah, and Keith Horne. He has been a great “shot in the arm” to the business as well. So there’s that LOL!

Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design? Or maybe some new gear amps, etc. 

I am working on the design for a chambered bass (based on two of my current models), as well as a design made fully out of an uber lightweight wood called Paulownia. I have had several players come to me with physical limitations and Paulownia is an excellent wood for cases like these. I just haven’t yet refined the design enough yet to satisfy me. It’s a work in progress.

Pair of STOCK NeoClassic

Pair of STOCK NeoClassic

What are your future plans?

Kohlman Bassworks is my “part time” job, although my wife might disagree. I have a career in civil service right now and my goal is to develop KBW into something I can step into full time after I retire (although with two kids not far from setting off for college, retirement could be a LONG way away). When I retire I want to build basses fulltime, instead of immediately jumping back into the world of architecture and planning like so many of my peers before me have done.

Is there anything else you would like to share that we have not included?

The Kohlman Bassworks website in under development right now but should be live in a few months. The url will be

I also have two Facebook pages, one personal and one business.




Tim Orton - Marlo 5 Deluxe

Tim Orton – Marlo 5 Deluxe




Bass Videos

New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II



New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

Spector Launches Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II…

Spector Musical Instruments expands their celebrated Woodstock Custom Collection with the Volume II series – a breathtaking series of 12 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bass guitars, each one masterfully designed by members of the Spector team. Crafted in the Spector USA Custom Shop in Woodstock, New York, these works of art go beyond musical instruments and expand the boundaries of Spector Bass design.

Spector’s iconic design lays the foundation for the Volume II collection. Each bass showcases a unique vision, including the selection of tonewoods, electronics, captivating finishes, and intricate design details. The collection highlights Spector’s commitment to craftsmanship and artistry and the individual people and stories that make up the team.

“The Woodstock Custom Collection was such a huge success, and we had so much fun with it that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” said John Stippell, Director – Korg Bass Division. “With Volume II, we’re expanding on everything we learned from the first collection, as well as pushing our design and Custom Shop team even further. These basses are a testament to the inspiring talent, creativity, and skill of every person on the Spector team. I’m excited for all of these basses and love how they tell the unique stories of all involved.”

Visit online at

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Bass Videos

New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model



New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model…

After playing a limited edition Dingwall live with Duran Duran, John Taylor has launched his
Dingwall Guitars production model, loaded with a Rupert Neve Designs preamp and
Rio-inspired graphics.

Dingwall’s major launch for 2023 was the limited edition Rio Dream Bass, featuring an
innovative Rupert Neve Designs onboard preamp. A year later, the range has been bolstered
with the Canadian company now offering unlimited access to its continued collaboration with
John Taylor of Duran Duran.

Dingwall CEO Sheldon Dingwall says the basses are a response to Taylor’s upfront bass style.
“John’s bass playing with Duran Duran really imprinted on me how a bass should fit into a band mix. The combination of tastefully busy syncopation, his punchy tone, and tight performance immediately drew my ear. His basslines have always had a special combination of energy and elegance.”

The John Taylor Signature model follows the formula of the limited edition Rio Dream Bass,
combining a lightweight Nyatoh body with three neodymium pickups to produce what Dingwall deems “wonderful playability and tones that display a rare clarity and refinement.” The JT Signature model also updates the Rio Dream Bass with a range of new colors; Metallic Black, Primrose, Cranberry and Seafoam Green, as well as a new 5-string variant.

Other specs include a bolt-on Maple neck, a Pau Ferro multi-scale fingerboard with the ‘Rio Eye’ inlaid at the 12th fret, and Dingwall’s new ‘Minimalist’ bridge. The headstock sports lightweight tuners and a Rio-inspired graphic that complements the body stripes, designed by longtime Duran Duran collaborator, Patty Palazzo.

Finally, an onboard preamp designed and configured in collaboration with Rupert Neve Designs, whose studio consoles have long represented the pinnacle of high-end audio engineering, promises a clear voice that balances punch and sustain. “Duran’s breakthrough single, the title track from 1982’s Rio, was originally recorded on a Neve console, so the history was already there,” says Sheldon. “But the team at Rupert Neve Designs absolutely nailed the tone.”

Like the Rio Dream Bass, the JT Signature has also been configured to Taylor’s own personal
specifications. “It all started when I was in Toronto about six years ago,” says Taylor. “A friend
showed me a Dingwall bass on his phone. I loved how it looked and immediately said to my
tech, ‘You’ve got to reach out to these guys!’”

For further information on the range options, head to

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Bass CDs

New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin



New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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Gear News

New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin



New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

Bass Hammer Plugin…

Nembrini Audio launches the Bass Hammer plugin which is engineered for advanced bass tone sculpting. Modelled on the Aguilar Tone Hammer* which is renowned for its tone shaping flexibility, the Nembrini Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting, comprehensive EQ adjustments and versatile cabinet simulations.

The Nembrini Audio Bass Hammer plugin has been designed to infuse discerning musicians’ digital workspace with the legendary tonal characteristics and dynamic versatility of its hardware counterpart. The new plugin delivers all the distinct organic warmth, detailed midrange control and adaptive tonal shaping the Tone Hammer* is famous for in a flexible digital format.

Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting to transform a signal’s EQ curve and gain structure and alter the behaviour of the MID parameter.  The Graphic EQ has six bands enabling nuanced shaping across the bass frequency range. Plus, the four selected bass guitar cabinets, four carefully selected microphone emulations and a parallel D.I. signal with console compressor offer users plenty of scope to explore ambient reverb blending.

Introductory prices of $29.99 for the Desktop version (regular price $137) and $9.99 for the IOS form (regular price $19.99) are available until 30th April 2024. Bass Hammer is PC and Mac (VST2, VST3, AU, AAX) compatible and requires a FREE iLOK account.

To find out more and download the Bass Hammer plugin please go to or

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore



Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore…

I am always impressed by the few members of our bass family who are equally proficient on upright as well as electric bass… Edmond Gilmore is one of those special individuals.

While he compartmentalizes his upright playing for mostly classical music and his electric for all the rest, Edmond has a diverse musical background and life experiences that have given him a unique perspective.

Join me as we hear about Edmond’s musical journey, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.

Photo, Sandrice Lee

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