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Luthier Spotlight: Hans-Peter Wilfer of Warwick

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We are very honored to bring you Hans-Peter Wilfer of Warwick, who is celebrating its 35th anniversary on September 13th, 2017, and 70th anniversary with Framus!

Photos courtesy of Framus & Warwick Music USA, Inc. Opening photo, Hans-Peter Wilfer with Hölderlin 1978.

Office in Pretzfeld

How did you learn about building instruments? 

I am self-taught. I started at the age of 9 or 10 years old, working in the factory of my father’s company. It was more playing than anything since I was a kid working in production. I never had the chance to make an adjunction through the bankruptcy of my father’s company in 1974. I first started working as a sales rep at the age of 18 years (1976) during the day and at night I was working in the workshop of my father’s interim company. At 24 years, I finally founded my own small workshop on the 13th of September 1982.  I was a complete entrepreneur in the field and learned what I know all by my own experiences.

When did you build your first bass and how did you come up with the design?  

My first Basses in early 1982 were a copy of a Fender Bass, but I stopped building those soon after; only a few pieces were made. My second Bass was the TV Bass.

Warwick TV Bass

I made a few more pieces but my real first own Bass Model was the Warwick Nobby Meidel Bass.

Warwick Nobby Meidel Bass

Here you can find pictures on our website from it. The Nobby Meidel Bass was the start of my company in the Bass world.

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

In the 80’s the market was influenced by company’s like Steinberger, Status, Modulus and the Bass world was asking for this kind of sound. After thinking about it I thought, I didn`t have a clue how to make Graphite composed products. So, I was thinking about how I could get over this lack of knowledge and what I could. I found my luck, by accident, in Wenge wood.

Wenge is extremely hard, still flexible and for me it was the perfect wood to exchange traditional woods like Maple or Mahagony for necks. Wenge was going in the direction of Graphite with its hardness and stability but it still sounded like wood.

In the same moment, our TRADEMARK SLOGAN, “THE SOUND OF WOOD,” which I invented as well, was born.

Besides Wenge, I discovered Bubinga Wood and made it popular for Instruments alongside other woods like Ovangkol and Zebrano Wood, which nobody was using at all in the instrumental business.

So, after a short while Warwick got know for these kinds of extreme hard woods and it came to be our Trademark and still standing today for the Company.

Many other companies are following me today by using Bubinga, Zebrano or Wenge for Fingerboards. Ovangkol is an unestablished wood. But in the 80’s, I was the pioneer to make this wood known.

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

My first big 4 Artists were: Jack Bruce, Jon Entwistle, Stuart Zender and Francis Buchholz.

Jack Bruce

Mario Cipollina and John Entwhistle

Francis Buchholz

With those 4 Artists, my small workshop became known and respected outside of Germany. I have to also name Steve Bailey, Mike Inez, P-Nut, Alphonso Johnson, Brandino, Dave Roe, T.M.Stevens, Hand Ford Rowe, Jon B Williams, Wolfgang Schmidt and Jäcki Reznicek, which are all players from the early days. I am still very close with all of them and have stayed in contact even after 30 years.

Alphonso Johnson

T.M. Stevens

Jäcki Reznicek

Endorsee Dinner

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

Well, this is a very long process for us. I’ve never signed an Artist and immediately started on making them a signature model for the market. Sometimes we are working together for 5 to 10 years before taking such a step, at least 1 or 2 years to start. I like the Artists to know how we work and what makes us tick. If the human component and relationship is working out and the Artist understands 100% of how we operate and what we stand for… then we start to consider it. The signature model, from our side, represents homage and recognition for the Artist.

It is never a sales point for us as we never sell many of any Signature model. It mostly is a “thanks” from our side to a very special relationship.

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

Hans-Peter Wilfer Standing on a Bass Neck

We invented the hidden-neck construction and established Wenge Wood and Bubinga Wood in the industry. Warwick stands on its own, I never followed. We always make our own designs, and for this, I am proud. As well as the details like our “Just A Nut” design, the Electronic Compartment we developed, the Warwick Bridge, our own Security strap locks and the I.F.T. (invisible fret technology). Finally, I was the first company that made a natural beeswax surface and after establishing Satin Surfaces in the 90’s in the Electric Bass market.

Warwick stills stands for many innovations in the Bass Market today. We have many young consumers that might not know this.

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

I love all our models.

The Buzzard Bass, the Dolphin design, the Corvette design, the Thumb Bass design or even the Infinity or the Vampyre model. I reworked the Triumph Upright Bass which my father made in the 60’s the first time. Still, this Bass was the idea for all other companies today, which do upright Basses.

Buzzard Bass with Andere BG

What is biggest success for you and for your company?

The biggest success for me as a small German custom shop Bass maker is that we have fans all over the world. For this I am so thankful, very honored and I am blessed for it and that we are independent family owned company. This after being in this business for 35 years by ourselves.

Can you give information on Warwick as the first “Green” company in the industry?

Here is a link to our website that helps to explain this.

This gives you all the background information, and yes, we were the first company in the world. Well, today it is normal for many other companies, but it was from the first day for me important to make ssustainable products with a long-term value for my customers.

My plan was never to pump up the production. If you see used value prices for our instruments they increase steadily. The basses from the 80’s are worth much more today than the original cost.

How do you plan on celebrating the 35thAnniversary of Warwick?

Well, we do our Reeveland Festival, we invite fans to the Bass Camp Reunion and we have a special VIP evening with many of our Artists from around the world.

Once per year we do our Camp in September. It is more and more becoming a “get together” celebration with Artists from around the world. For me, it is very important that our Warwick Artists come together once a year in Markneukirchen (where Warwick HQ is located in Germany). We even invite Bass Players, who are not Warwick Players. It is the get together and exchange once a year, without media pressure, easy to cut down and have a good time for a few days.

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

We do not have many plans for new models. We work on the current range to make them better step-by-step,  creating new ideas and to be a step ahead of other makers with quality and unique ideas.

What are your future plans? Expansion?

Our future plans are small. We are not a big “multi” company. We are a small, family owned workshop.

Warwick Employees in the 80’s

Some months we only do 10 Instruments in our workshop. Other months 50 or 60 instruments. No matter the numbers everything that we do has to be sustainable. I do not have big business plans for expansions. However yes, if some ideas are workable we do it.

Currently we are building up our own Distribution Center in Nashville. This is a huge project for us and I am proud to be in the position to build up a Distribution Network in the USA. This is a 5 to 10 year plan as well and I hope in the long run we can implement some of our ideas in the US market too (let’s hope that we are successful with it). This will help to give better customer service to our consumers and our future dealers.

Woody Wahlen, Hans-Peter and Toni Armetta

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

We are trying to build up our Framus Guitar Line as well in the long run under the same aspects and conditions. We also have our new Product Line RockBoard by Warwick, this is a lot of fun too.

Last but not least… I am happy to have achieved during my entire life, the support of my wife, Florence. She is in charge of our Export business. I also have two great kids, who are already working in the company. My daughter, Estelle, who is in charge of Graphics and Marketing and my son, Nicolas, who is in education as a Guitar builder and he wants to take over the company in the future.

All over I have to say, “thanks” again to our US fans and consumers. I am very proud and happy to achieve them and as a foreign company with so much support and love.  For this I am blessed.

Visit online at warwickbass.com

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes

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Interview With Bassist Erick Jesus Coomes

Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes…

It is always great to meet a super busy bassist who simply exudes a love for music and his instrument. Erick “Jesus” Coomes fits this description exactly. Hailing from Southern California, “Jesus” co-founded and plays bass for Lettuce and has found his groove playing with numerous other musicians.

Join us as we hear of his musical journey, how he gets his sound, his ongoing projects, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Bob Forte

Visit Online

www.lettucefunk.com
IG @jesuscsuperstar
FB@jesuscoomes
FB @lettucefunk

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Bass Videos

Working-Class Zeros: Episode #2 – Financial Elements of Working Musicians

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WORKING-CLASS ZEROS With Steve Rosati and Shawn Cav

Working-Class Zeros: Episode #2 – Financial Elements of Working Musicians

These stories from the front are with real-life, day-to-day musicians who deal with work life and gigging and how they make it work out. Each month, topics may include… the kind of gigs you get, the money, dealing with less-than-ideal rooms, as well as the gear you need to get the job done… and the list goes on from there.” – Steve the Bass Guy and Shawn Cav

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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 @foderaguitars @overwaterbasses @mgbassguitars @bqwbassguitar @marleaux_bassguitars @sugi_guitars @mikelullcustomguitars @ramabass.ok @chris_seldon_guitars @gullone.bajos

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Bass CDs

New Album: Jake Leckie, Planter of Seeds

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Planter of Seeds is bassist/composer Jake Leckie’s third release as a bandleader and explores what beauty can come tomorrow from the seeds we plant today. 

Bassist Jake Leckie and The Guide Trio Unveil New Album Planter of Seeds,
to be released on June 7, 2024

Planter of Seeds is bassist/composer Jake Leckie’s third release as a bandleader and explores what beauty can come tomorrow from the seeds we plant today. 

What are we putting in the ground? What are we building? What is the village we want to bring our children up in? At the core of the ensemble is The Guide Trio, his working band with guitarist Nadav Peled and drummer Beth Goodfellow, who played on Leckie’s second album, The Guide, a rootsy funky acoustic analog folk-jazz recording released on Ropeadope records in 2022. For Planter of Seeds, the ensemble is augmented by Cathlene Pineda (piano), Randal Fisher (tenor saxophone), and Darius Christian (trombone), who infuse freedom and soul into the already tightly established ensemble.

Eight original compositions were pristinely recorded live off the floor of Studio 3 at East West Studios in Hollywood CA, and mastered by A.T. Michael MacDonald. The cover art is by internationally acclaimed visual artist Wayne White. Whereas his previous work has been compared to Charles Mingus, and Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet with Charlie Haden, Leckie’s new collection sits comfortably between the funky odd time signatures of the Dave Holland Quintet and the modern folk-jazz of the Brian Blade Fellowship Band with a respectful nod towards the late 1950s classic recordings of Ahmad Jamal and Miles Davis.

The title track, “Planter of Seeds,” is dedicated to a close family friend, who was originally from Trinidad, and whenever she visited family or friends at their homes, without anyone knowing, she would plant seeds she kept in her pocket in their gardens, so the next season beautiful flowers would pop up. It was a small altruistic anonymous act of kindness that brought just a little more beauty into the world. The rhythm is a tribute to Ahmad Jamal, who we also lost around the same time, and whose theme song Poinciana is about a tree from the Caribbean.

“Big Sur Jade” was written on a trip Leckie took with his wife to Big Sur, CA, and is a celebration of his family and community. This swinging 5/4 blues opens with an unaccompanied bass solo, and gives an opportunity for each of the musicians to share their improvisational voices. “Clear Skies” is a cathartic up-tempo release of collective creative energies in fiery improvisational freedom. “The Aquatic Uncle” features Randal Fisher’s saxophone and is named after an Italo Calvino short story which contemplates if one can embrace the new ways while being in tune with tradition. In ancient times, before a rudder, the Starboard side of the ship was where it was steered from with a steering oar. In this meditative quartet performance, the bass is like the steering oar of the ensemble: it can control the direction of the music, and when things begin to unravel or become unhinged, a simple pedal note keeps everything grounded.

The two trio tunes on the album are proof that the establishment of his consistent working band The Guide Trio has been a fruitful collaboration. “Santa Teresa”, a bouncy samba-blues in ? time, embodies the winding streets and stairways of the bohemian neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro it is named for. The swampy drum feel on “String Song” pays homage to Levon Helm of The Band, a group where you can’t always tell who wrote the song or who the bandleader is, proving that the sum is greater than the individual parts. Early jazz reflected egalitarianism in collective improvisation, and this group dynamic is an expression of that kind of inclusivity and democracy.

“The Daughters of the Moon” rounds out the album, putting book ends on the naturalist themes. This composition is named after magical surrealist Italo Calvino’s short story about consumerism, in which a mythical modern society that values only buying shiny new things throws away the moon like it is a piece of garbage and the daughters of the moon save it and resurrect it. It’s an eco-feminist take on how women are going to save the world. Pineda’s piano outro is a hauntingly beautiful lunar voyage, blinding us with love. Leckie dedicates this song to his daughter: “My hope is that my daughter becomes a daughter of the moon, helping to make the world a more beautiful and verdant place to live.”

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Bass CDs

Debut Album: Nate Sabat, Bass Fiddler

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Debut Album: Nate Sabat, Bass Fiddler

In a thrilling solo debut, bassist Nate Sabat combines instrumental virtuosity with a songwriter’s heart on Bass Fiddler

The upright bass and the human voice. Two essential musical instruments, one with roots in 15th century Europe, the other as old as humanity itself. 

On Bass Fiddler (Adhyâropa Records ÂR00057), the debut album from Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and bass virtuoso Nate Sabat, the scope is narrowed down a bit. Drawing from the rich and thriving tradition of American folk music, Sabat delivers expertly crafted original songs and choice covers with the upright bass as his lone tool for accompaniment. 

The concept was born a decade ago when Sabat began studying with the legendary old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky at Berklee College of Music. “One of Bruce’s specialties is singing and playing fiddle at the same time. The second I heard it I was hooked,” recalls Sabat. “I thought, how can I do this on the bass?” From there, he was off to the races, arranging original and traditional material with Molsky as his guide. “Fast forward to 2020, and I — like so many other musicians — was thinking of how to best spend my time. I sat down with the goal of writing some new songs and arranging some new covers, and an entire record came out.” When the time came to make the album, it was evident that Molsky would be the ideal producer. Sabat asked him if he’d be interested, and luckily he was. “What an inspiration to work with an artist like Nate,” says Molsky. “Right at the beginning, he came to this project with a strong, personal and unique vision. Plus he had the guts to try for a complete and compelling cycle of music with nothing but a bass and a voice. You’ll hear right away that it’s engaging, sometimes serious, sometimes fun, and beautifully thought out from top to bottom.” 

While this record is, at its core, a folk music album, Sabat uses the term broadly. Some tracks lean more rock (‘In the Shade’), some more pop (‘White Marble’, ‘Rabid Thoughts’), some more jazz (‘Fade Away’), but the setting ties them all together. “There’s something inherently folksy about a musician singing songs with their instrument, no matter the influences behind the compositions themselves,” Sabat notes. To be sure, there are plenty of folk songs (‘Louise’ ‘Sometimes’, ‘Eli’) and fiddling (‘Year of the Ox’) to be had here — the folk music fan won’t go hungry. There’s a healthy dose of bluegrass too (‘Orphan Annie’, ‘Lonesome Night’), clean and simple, the way Mr. Bill Monroe intended. 

All in all, this album shines a light on an instrument that often goes overlooked in the folk music world, enveloping the listener in its myriad sounds, textures, and colors. “There’s nothing I love more than playing the upright bass,” exclaims Sabat. “My hope is that listeners take the time to sit with this album front to back — I want them to take in the full scope of the work. I have a feeling they’ll hear something they haven’t heard before.”

Available online at natesabat.bandcamp.com/album/walking-away

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