By Guest Contributor, Dr. Rich Atkins
Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together…
I used to ride the 7 Train to Manhattan quite a lot, and every time just as the tracks started to go underground, before the Hunters Point station, I would see a building covered with fascinating and intricate murals and street art. Later on, I discovered that it was the 5Pointz Building in Long Island City, Queens. Over the years I would take my family and guests there to visit and see the art. After a number of visits, I discovered that this “Street Art Mecca” was the result of MeresOne’s work; he was the Curator. I had an instant affinity for his signature light bulb artwork and pondered a way to immortalize it.
Fast forward a number of years to 2015 when I wanted to assemble a custom-built bass.
I got the parts from Warmoth and other suppliers. The new instrument required the naked wood to be painted, and I knew exactly what I wanted on it. This would be a fretless 4-string painted red-to-black. Meres proposed having multiple faces on the front and one big one on the back that would be facing up when the bass was in its stand.
I chose Warmoth’s Z Bass body and neck, adding a Schaller bridge, DiMarzio J+P pickups, and Hipshot tuners. After Meres painted the base coat and then the lightbulb faces, Raj at Haven Auto Body in Port Washington masked and clear-coated the instrument. Finally, I took it to Sal Tine, The Guitar Fix, for assembly and setup.
In 2020, I was ready for the second round.
This time, I wanted to go with a five-string fretted Gecko model. The procedure was the same, using MeresOne artwork, Raj for clear coating, and Sal Tine for assembly. This new bass is black and has Seymour Duncan active soap bar pickups, a Schaller bridge, and hipshot machine heads.
The wood selection for both guitars was Eastern Hard Maple (Acer saccharum), which is a very strong, hard, heavy, and dense wood. The grain is closed and offers a very bright tone with great stability, sustain, and a lot of bite. Maple is the most traditional Fender neck wood.
Both instruments play beautifully and provide such different sounds and feels.
The fretless plays smooth as silk, with a warm tone and a clean, organic sound with the perfect amount of “mwah” when the bridge pickup is emphasized. The Gecko has a bright punch, coupled with a serious growl. The seemingly endless sustain coupled with 17mm spacing makes it an easy joy to play.
Dr. Rich Atkins is the Director of the corporate training firm, Improving Communications in the US, UK, and Ireland. He plays 4- and 5-string fretted and fretless bass as well as Chapman Stick with Porch Light and Hat Trixx, two Long Island dance cover bands.