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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Stephen Sukop, Sukop Basses

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Meet Stephen Sukop of Sukop Basses

How did you get your start in music?

I started playing bass at 10, began playing in clubs with some local groups at 15.

Are you still an active player?

Still playing bass a bit, but now I’m doing a solo acoustic guitar gig, country!

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

I always felt that if you played guitar and worked with wood, guitar making was a natural curiosity and I fell in the middle. I was 16 when I made my first bass, a fretless acoustic made from the wood of an old TV console. The sides were plywood and I soaked it in a tub to bend into a frame. Incredibly crude, but it worked! I still have it here at the shop.

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

I’m self-taught as a builder; trial and error, I love to experiment! I think if you learn from sombody else, you may just continue to do it that way; I want to see every avenue/option. I feel there’s always one best way to do anything. I definitely borrowed some ideas from basses I liked and fused those influences into what I do today.

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

Certain woods have been used since the beginnings of Fender. Hard maple for necks, and alder bodies have a definite familiarity with players, but as a custom builder, guys can choose whatever they like. Main thing is that the selected timbers have lots of time to season and relax.

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

I’ve been using Bartolini pickups and preamps for a long time; I view these as very high-quality, industry standard. I remember a guy asking me at a show what I though about this or that pickup or preamp. I told him, “I can’t really have an opinion on every new thing that comes out, I have a life! If you think one thing is better for you than another, just tell me and I can put it in your custom build order.”

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

The cool thing about builders is we are all so different. In the end everyone’s work will be their own interpretation of what they have as an ultimate vision. I put great emphasis on the feel of the instruments, I believe this is most important, and tone will follow. How good could anything sound if one must struggle to play it? A unique feature I am very proud of is my custom bridge, which I designed several years ago. Made of brass, they are independent saddles, which allow for varying string widths, along with a very close profile against the body. The ball end is also set in a notched brass sleeve in the face of the instrument, giving tight string through body-like contact, but is still quick release.

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

I don’t think I really have any favorites, I love all my children equally – LOL!   The design needs to be the customer’s favorite, thus the reason for many different model styles.  My job is really to give them exactly what they want; I don’t like to steer the project too much during a custom build, I think it’s better they decide the directions.

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

A famous bass builder I won’t name here told me, “If you were smart enough, you wouldn’t be in this business…” HA!   That said, there are easier ways to earn money. I do realize I am incredibly fortunate to have anything to show for what I chose to do for a living, but mostly a lot of hard work, overcoming failures and perhaps a bit of luck led to what could probably be termed a success. I feel I was born to do this. Follow your heart if you think this is really what you want to do, try not to be discouraged especially in the beginning.

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

Go with your gut. There are so many possibilities to choose from it’s mind numbing. Basses are like the musicians that play them, none are really better than the next, mostly just DIFFERENT. What works for one person may not work for another. You’ll know when you feel and hear it. I like to think as builders we definitely have more control over the physical aspects of the design than so much the tone; I say if it feels right you’ll get the sound. How good could something sound if you had to struggle to play it?  In the end I want my basses to be sort of invisible, that the sounds just come out of your head. Looking at the Mona Lisa, you don’t see the brush!

What is biggest success for you and for your company?

There’s a lot of ways success could be measured. For some it’s about the number of instruments produced and the revenues gained. For me it’s about making the best product I can possibly build and having extremely happy customers. Again, I’ve been lucky enough to “make it “.  If I never made another bass I’d be happy with what I’ve done, I have competed at a world-class level.

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Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design? 

I still want to do a piezo bridge option, it’s been on the table for a bit now. Thinking about also doing another retro-version, maybe like a Jaguar bass, as I do love certain shapes for their timeless Americana appeal. My thanks to the customers, who always push me to try something new. It’s healthy growth to be tossed outside my comfort zone, and I’m always going to try to give them exactly what they ask for. I just did my first neck with inlaid graphite!

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What are your future plans?

For the future I’d love to simply continue what I’ve been doing, to keep refining the process and grow as an artist. It’s important for people to know there are alternative choices among instruments out there, not just the stuff you see at your local music store.

Thanks for the opportunity to showcase some of my work here.

Visit online at sukop.com

Gear News

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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Gear News

New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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