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Luthier Spotlight – Stephan and Ella From StEllArt



Meet husband and wife team, Stephan and Ella From StEllArt…

How did you get your start in music?

My parents introduced me to music at a very young age. I still remember them playing the James Bond “Gold Finger Soundtrack” and Elvis’s “Blue Hawaii” vinyls when I was 5 or 6 years old. I got my own sound system a couple of years later and I vividly remember buying my first albums: Supertramp “Crime of the Century”, “Frampton comes Alive” and Heart “Dreamboat Annie”. That was it, I knew then that music would take an important place in my life.

Are you still an active player?

I was never very much of a good player, but enjoyed playing on a good instrument.

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

After playing a year or two on my PRS Custom 22, I wanted to acquire a higher end instrument but just couldn’t afford it. Then one day while I was surfing the Web, I stumbled upon a very interesting British Builder’s Website called Crimson Guitars. This builder; “Ben Crowe” was generous enough to post the progress of his instruments on a daily basis. That really made it for me. I was getting up at 5:00 AM every morning for almost 2 years, spending between 1 or 2 hours looking at his progress and taking some notes before going to work every morning. Being an Engineer, it was relatively easy for me to put everything into perspective. I have to say that even if I never met Ben Crowe he taught me a big part of the art of art of woodworking/Luthier. One day, I will travel to Great Britain to meet Ben in person and thank him for what he did without even knowing it. It’s when my wife Ella (Architect and Fashion Designer from Moscow, Russia) immigrated to Canada in 2008 that we decided to undertake the construction of our first guitar, called StElla; a combination of our names, Stephan and Ella.

When did you build your first bass?

We completed our first Bass, Athena in 2012 after building a couple of guitars. Athena was commissioned by a musician who heard about us and our work. (Neck Through construction, dense exotic woods, attention to detail, stylish designs…)

Studio Pictures of Athena can be seen at:

Pictures of the building process of Athena can be seen at:

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

We choose our woods for their tonal qualities and their aesthetics. My wife Ella is very good for choosing wood combinations that look great together. I could say that she is Chief of the Design department.

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

This is usually at the customer’s preferences.

On Athena, we used A “PJ “combination from EMG, active P5 and J5. The signal goes through a BQS active EQ system with a 5-knob system that features a balance control (blend) and master volume with separate bass and treble pots along with the concentric mid-control (stacked) and 18 V power supply for extra headroom.

More Photos:

On Sibilla, we used EMG 4SW individual active pickups mounted in a Macasar Ebony housing. Each pickup has its own height adjustment. The signal goes through a EMG BQC active EQ system with a 3-knob system featuring a master volume, both the bass and treble on a concentric pot as well as another concentric pot for the mid-control and 18 V Power Supply for greater Headroom.

Also included is Richard McClich (RMC) PA-400BX, 4 individual Piezo transducers. The piezo signal goes through a Richard McClich (RMC) Poly-Drive 1 Preamp with piezo and MIDI outputs. Control includes Piezo Volume, Midi Volume, a 3 position selector switch (mag/mag + piezo/midi) and a momentary switch for the midi program changes.

Triple output jack as follows:

  • Magnetic pickups
  • Magnetic/Both/Piezo (use individual pots for blending)
  • MIDI Output

When jacks 1 and 2 are inserted simultaneously, output 1 is magnetic only and output 2 is piezo only.

More Photos:

On Nemesis, we used 1 Delano Xtender 6 passive pickup. The signal passes through an active 3 band

“F Bass” EQ (Bass/Mid/High) and Volume, and a 3 position selector switch for Mag Pickup configuration

“Single coil (rear)/Parallel/Single coil (front)”.

Also included is “Richard McClish (RMC)” Bass Excellence piezo transducers and “Richard McClish (RMC)” Hybrid Pro “B” preamp with Volume and Tone control, 3 position selector switch for (Mag/Both/Piezo).

Dual output jack as follows:

  • magnetic pickups
  • Magnetic/Both/Piezo (use individual pots for blending)

When both jacks are inserted, output 1 is Magnetic only and output 2 is piezo only.

More Photos:

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

Actually, we do not have any well-known musicians playing our instruments, but we do have test ride sessions booked with Alain Caron and Marc Langis, “Ex-Bassist for Celine Dion”.

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

This is probably the most important part of the process. These instruments will probably last for a couple of lifetimes and passed on to the next generation so it is very important to get it right the first time. We spend time with the player discussing about his playing style to determine the size of neck and scale length of the instrument. In some cases, we have used a customer’s instrument that he (or she) is familiar with to reproduce the neck on his (or her) new instrument. Because our guitars are entirely built by hand, one by one, it is possible to fabricate any body shape. Ella’s aesthetic talents are exceptional and, so far, she has come up with a couple of beautiful body shapes. A multitude of wood species can be used to build guitars and they come in all colours and they can be relatively cheap to very expensive. Tone-wise, it is not easy to predict exactly how the instrument will sound but we are able to follow some pretty good guide lines. We work very closely with our customers in order to offer them a unique and rewarding experience, so that the process of the creation of their instrument can also constitute for them a most fruitful experience.

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

I think I would have to say the attention to detail and building without compromise. I think that our instruments combine many different building techniques that make them unique. Such as: Multi-Laminated exotic wood Neck Through, Multi-Laminated exotic wood bodies, Comfort Carved Backs, continuous wood back control covers, Inlaid Output Jack plates, Inlaid Truss rod covers, Multi-Laminated headstock veneers, Copper tape Faraday cage control cavities just to name a few.

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

Every new instrument is our favourite at that particular time. I think we are bringing the bar up each time, so I have to say that our new favourite is Nemesis, our latest 6-string semi-hollow neck through fretless.

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

Find a good Mentor, listen attentively, be extremely patient, keep your two feet on the ground, plan a couple of steps ahead and be sure that your tools are always sharp.

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

Each time you have a chance to try a new Bass and you find that you like it. Be attentive and identify the reasons why. After playing other basses, you will probably notice that these reasons are repeating themselves. Then you will know what you are looking for.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

We are a team of two; my wife and I and we have been working in the dark for almost 10 years now. With the attention we received since the birth of Nemesis, we hope to change all that. For now, I would say that our biggest success comes at that moment when the musician takes possession of his instrument. The look in his eyes at this specific moment is very rewarding. Another satisfying moment is when you hear the instrument sing in the hands of a talented musician.

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

My head is always full of new ideas; the problem is which one to undertake? Apart from the fact that we might be starting the build of Nemesis # 2, Ella and I just finished the design of an 8-string multi-scale neck through single cut guitar. A StEllArt Facebook follower has proposed that it would be pretty cool to build a

9-string multi-scale extended range bass. I thought that it could be a nice project to undertake.

What are your future plans?

Originally, we started to build 6 and 7-string guitars. But I need to be honest and say that we have more pleasure building basses. Bass Players are more adventurous and open-minded and this is great for us because we can think outside the box and build instruments that are out of the ordinary. Saying that, we would be very happy to concentrate a greater part of our time building basses.

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

We would like very much to express our gratitude to those who gave us their trust in building for them a unique instrument that does not only provide them with superior performance capability and sound, but that is also a work of art.

We also want to say thanks to Valery and Raul from Bass Musician Magazine, without whom these instruments would not get as much attention as they deserve.

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Gear News

New Gear: Esopus Guitars Launches New Acoustic/Electric Bass



New Gear: Esopus Guitars Launches New Acoustic/Electric Bass

Esopus Guitars Launches New Acoustic/Electric Bass…

Esopus Guitars is proud to announce the new “Tailwater” bass guitar, from legendary bass luthier Stuart Spector. This 32” scale bass is handcrafted by Stuart using the only finest woods and components at the Esopus Guitar workshop located near Woodstock NY in the Catskill Mountains. 

From its fully carved spruce top (the top is carved on both its exterior and interior surfaces) with a thumb rest that is elegantly carved into the top, to its custom-made Fishman piezo pickup and super hard Carnauba wax finish, every detail of the Tailwater is part of creating the ultimate playing experience.

The Tailwater bass features a fully chambered spruce over alder body (15.5″ lower body bout width, 2.25″ body thickness measuring from the peak of the carved top) that delivers a super comfortable tonal tool for all your low-end needs.

Each Tailwater bass is hand-signed and numbered on the back of the peghead by Stuart Spector. A very limited number of Tailwater basses are handcrafted each year at the Esopus workshop. 

“I am proud to present the Tailwater bass, a bass that I have spent the last three years perfecting. The Tailwater is a culmination of all of my 45 years of experience, knowledge, and passion for bass guitar crafting. I am so eager to hear what fellow musicians create with this exciting new instrument.” -Stuart Spector

Direct Pricing : $4995.00 plus options. 

For more information about Esopus Guitars and Stuart Spector’s handcrafted instruments, visit  

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Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison



Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Ian Allison Bassist extreme

Most recently Ian has spent the last seven years touring nationally as part of Eric Hutchinson and The Believers, sharing stages with acts like Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Rachel Platten, Matt Nathanson, Phillip Phillips, and Cory Wong playing venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Staples Center and The Xcel Center in St. Paul, MN.

I had a chance to meet up with him at the Sellersville Theater in Eastern Pennsylvania to catch up on everything bass. Visit online at

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram



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 @officialspector @bqwbassguitar @brute_bass_guitars @phdbassguitars @ramabass.ok @tribe_guitars @woodguerilla_instruments @mikelullcustomguitars @jcrluthier @elegeecustom

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias



Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Checking in with Bergantino Artist James Tobias

James Tobias, Bassist for psychedelic, Reggae-Rock titans Audic Empire shares his history as a musician and how he came to find Bergantino…

Interview by Holly Bergantino

James Tobias, a multi-talented musician and jack-of-all-trades shares his story of coming up as a musician in Texas, his journey with his band Audic Empire, and his approach to life and music. With a busy tour schedule each year, we were fortunate to catch up with him while he was out and about touring the US. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived in the Dallas area most of my life with the exception of 1 year in Colorado. I moved to the Austin area at age 18. 

What makes the bass so special to you particularly, and how did you gravitate to it?

I honestly started playing bass because we needed a bass player and I was the one with access to a bass amp and bass. I played rhythm guitar and sang up until I met Ronnie, who I would later start “Audic Empire” with. He also played rhythm guitar and sang and we didn’t know any bass players, so we had to figure something out. I still write most of my songs on guitar, but I’ve grown to love playing the bass. 

How did you learn to play, James?

I took guitar lessons growing up and spent a lot of time just learning tabs or playing by ear and kicked around as a frontman in a handful of bands playing at the local coffee shops or rec centers. Once I transitioned to bass, I really just tried to apply what I knew about guitar and stumbled through it till it sounded right. I’m still learning every time I pick it up, honestly. 

You are also a songwriter, recording engineer, and a fantastic singer, did you get formal training for this? 

Thank you, that means a lot!  I had a couple of voice lessons when I was in my early teens, but didn’t really like the instructor. I did however take a few lessons recently through ACC that I enjoyed and think really helped my technique (Shout out to Adam Roberts!) I was not a naturally gifted singer, which is a nice way of saying I was pretty awful, but I just kept at it. 

As far as recording and producing, I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked people who know more than me when I had a question. Whenever I feel like I’m not progressing, I just pull up tracks from a couple of years ago, cringe, and feel better about where I’m at but I’ve got a long way to go. Fortunately, we’ve got some amazing producers I can pass everything over to once I get the songs as close to finalized as I can. 

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I honestly don’t know what my style would be considered. We’ve got so many styles that we play and fuse together that I just try to do what works song by song.  I don’t have too many tricks in the bag and just keep it simple and focus on what’s going to sound good in the overall mix. I think my strength lies in thinking about the song as a whole and what each instrument is doing, so I can compliment everything else that’s going on. What could be improved is absolutely everything, but that’s the great thing about music (and kind of anything really). 

Who were your influencers in terms of other musicians earlier on or now that have made a difference and inspired you?

My dad exposed me to a lot of music early. I was playing a toy guitar while watching a VHS of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble live at SXSW on repeat at 4 years old saying I wanted to “do that” when I grew up. I was the only kid in daycare that had his own CDs that weren’t kid’s songs. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and The Doors when I could barely talk. I would make up songs and sing them into my Panasonic slimline tape recorder and take it to my preschool to show my friends. As I got older went through a bunch of music phases. Metal, grunge, rock, punk, hip hop, reggae, ska, etc. Whatever I heard that I connected to I’d dive in and learn as much as I could about it. I was always in bands and I think I kept picking up different styles along the way and kept combining my different elements and I think that’s evident in Audic’s diverse sound. 

Tell me about Audic Empire and your new release Take Over! Can you share some of the highlights you and the band are most proud of?

Takeover was an interesting one. I basically built that song on keyboard and drum loops and wrote and tracked all my vocals in one long session in my bedroom studio kind of in a stream-of-consciousness type of approach. I kind of thought nothing would come of it and I’d toss it out, but we slowly went back and tracked over everything with instruments and made it our own sound. I got it as far as I could with production and handed it off to Chad Wrong to work his magic and really bring it to life. Once I got Snow Owl Media involved and we started brainstorming about a music video, it quickly turned into a considerably larger production than anything we’ve done before and it was such a cool experience. I’m really excited about the final product, especially considering I initially thought it was a throwaway track.

Describe the music style of Audic Empire for us. 

It’s all over the place… we advertise it as “blues, rock, reggae.” Blues because of our lead guitarist, Travis Brown’s playing style, rock because I think at the heart we’re a rock band, and reggae because we flavor everything with a little (or a lot) of reggae or ska. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

Well, my Ampeg SVT7 caught fire at a show… We were playing Stubbs in Austin and everyone kept saying they smelled something burning, and I looked back in time to see my head, perched on top of its 8×10 cab, begin billowing smoke. We had a tour coming up, so I started researching and pricing everything to try and find a new amp. I was also fronting a metal band at the time, and my bass player’s dad was a big-time country bass player and said he had this really high-end bass amp just sitting in a closet he’d sell me. I was apprehensive since I really didn’t know much about it and “just a little 4×10” probably wasn’t going to cut it compared to my previous setup. He said I could come over and give it a test drive, but he said he knew I was going to buy it. He was right. I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t believe the power it put out compared to this heavy head and cumbersome cab I had been breaking my back hauling all over the country and up countless staircases.  

Tell us about your experience with the forte D amp and the AE 410 Speaker cabinet. 

It’s been a game-changer in every sense. It’s lightweight and compact. Amazing tone. And LOUD. It’s just a fantastic amp. Not to mention the customer service being top-notch! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that, if you have an issue, you can get in touch with the owner, himself. How cool is that? 

Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

I was always broke and usually working part-time delivering pizzas, so I just played what I could get my hands on. I went through a few pawn shop basses, swapped in new pickups, and fought with the action on them constantly. I played them through an Ampeg be115 combo amp. All the electronics in it had fried at some point, so I gutted it out and turned it into a cab that I powered with a rusted-up little head I bought off someone for a hundred bucks. My gear was often DIY’d and held together by electrical tape and usually had a few coats of spray paint to attempt to hide the wear and tear. I never really fell in love with any piece of gear I had till I had a supporter of our band give me an Ibanez Premium Series SDGR. I absolutely love that bass and still travel with it. I’ve since gotten another Ibanez Premium Series, but went with the 5-string BTB.  It’s a fantastic-sounding bass, my only complaint is it’s pretty heavy. 

Love your new video Take Over! Let us know what you’re currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.)

Thank you!! We’ve got a LOT of stuff we’re working on right now actually. Having 2 writers in the band means we never have a shortage of material. It’s more about getting everything tracked and ready for release and all that goes into that. We just got through filming videos for 2 new unreleased tracks with Snow Owl Media, who did the videos for both Love Hate and Pain and Takeover. Both of these songs have surprise features which I’m really excited about since these will be the first singles since our last album we have other artists on. We’ve also got a lot of shows coming up and I’ve also just launched my solo project as well. The debut single, “Raisin’ Hell” is available now everywhere. You can go here to find all the links

What else do you do besides music?

For work, I own a handyman service here in Austin doing a lot of drywall, painting, etc. I have a lot of hobbies and side hustles as well. I make custom guitar straps and other leather work. I do a lot of artwork and have done most of our merch designs and a lot of our cover art. I’m really into (and borderline obsessed) with health, fitness, and sober living.  I have a hard time sitting still, but fortunately, there’s always a lot to do when you’re self-employed and running a band!

Follow James Tobias: 

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Bass CDs

New Album: Avery Sharpe, I Am My Neighbors Keeper



A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper”

Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet to release, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper” is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Sharpe has composed a new work that highlights our commitment to one another. Avery initiated the project as a response to the political and racial division that has grown over the past seven years in the country. “The U.S political climate has drastically changed in the past 40-plus years, especially during the last seven of those years. In this age of greed, which Sharpe refers to as “IGM,” I Got Mine, basic human compassion has been eroded. Racial, economic and social strides are being turned back.

“We have food insecurity, the unhoused, pandemics, school shootings, domestic violence, and an opioid problem, just to name some. There is a need to remind people that each of us is here on this planet for a very short period of time. It doesn’t matter if one has a religious approach or a secular approach, it all comes down to concern and compassion for each other. Through these compositions and recordings, Avery’s mission as an artist is to remind us that we all are interconnected and that ‘We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper.’ When we help to uplift one, we uplift everyone,” Sharpe said.

Each movement in the piece describes the values we should strive for to help one another for this multi-media (video slide show during performance) and multi-discipline performance.

Many of Sharpe’s projects and recordings have been about “standing on the shoulders of ancestors, heroes and sheroes.” Among his recordings and projects, include “Running Man” (celebrating the athlete Jesse Owens), “Ain’t I A Woman” (about Sojourner Truth), and his most recent project “400: An African American Musical Portrait” (marking the 400 years from 1619 to 2019).

Avery Sharpe has recorded and performed with many jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious run of 20 plus years with the legendary Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, of which he recorded more than 25 records with Mr. Tyner and performed countless worldwide concerts.

Visit online at

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