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Sepsis and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll

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Sepsis and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll

By Guest Writer Todd Denick

I was eleven, a little over five feet, and nearly 80 pounds when I struggled to play a 1970 Sunburst Fender Precision a friend leant my dad for many, many years (returning the bass is another story).

My hands were small, the bass felt as though it outweighed a full-grown elephant. I persevered. I grew as a bass player, and of course, grew physically as well. I could handle the bass and grew into a good bass player.

I never thought I would ever have to struggle to play bass again. Maybe, I considered, when I was older, maybe struggling with a little arthritis from playing bass too much, or just slowing down as I aged. In 2019, I was proven wrong, and once again faced a major struggle when it came to playing bass when I not only faced a battle of playing music but faced a life-threatening battle with Sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to an infection. One of every five deaths worldwide are contributed to Sepsis and can kill a healthy person within 24 hours. One can contract Sepsis from a cut that becomes infected, a slight accident during a surgery, splinters, etc. Me? I contracted Sepsis after having an allergic reaction to a very common pain medication used in Germany where I live, Metamizole or Novalgine.

I spent eight weeks in a medically induced coma while the medical team worked to save my life. I spent another three weeks in bed as I worked with therapists to regain my strength so that I could walk, talk, swallow, and move my body again.

Painful months of therapy passed while I learned to walk. Desperation set in as I waited months to be able to eat and drink again. Nerve damage from the medication used to keep me in a medically induced coma threatened my ability to walk normally; threatened my ability to eat and drink; and threatened my ability to return to the bass player I was before Sepsis.

I had the desire to return. Before my illness I played bass in two bands:

The Elephant Circus, an indie band where I played electric bass, and Paddy’s Last Order, an Irish Folk septet where I played the upright bass. The Elephant Circus replaced me – they had shows booked and had to! – and I will be forever grateful that Paddy’s saved my role in the band.

Patients have a lot of free time. As I progressed with walking and talking, I had the desire to retrain my fingers. Polyneuropathy had set in from the medications and Sepsis, and I struggled with my fine motor skills. The way I knew that I could bring back those fine skills was through playing music.

I couldn’t house a bass in my hospital room, or navigate it with all of the tubes running in and out of my body. I hopped on line and ordered a Guitalele. My wife brought it to my bedside and she even remembered to bring a tuner!

When my roommate had therapy, or he slept, I would play the Guitalele, slowly regaining some strength and dexterity. I would play the first three notes of a G scale before having to set the instrument aside. Every little effort exhausted me. That exhaustion led to great doubt. That great doubt reminded me of being manhandled by the 1970 Precision. I don’t know if I recognized that I had been in the same spot thirty years prior, but I knew that if I wanted to play music again, I would need to fight through the formation of aching fingers and rebuilding the callouses I lost white hospitalized.

Nearly four months after being hospitalized, I returned home. My instruments hadn’t moved.

They were available, asking to be played. I saddled up to my upright. I played three notes, my fingers fighting to find the right notes having lost a lot of my muscle memory. Those three notes exhausted me. That was enough for the day.

The following days when I picked up one of my basses, I was able to play a little longer. Thirty seconds turned into a minute; a minute to play along with a 2:30 minute song; a song turned into a set; that set turned into four hour long sets.

With suggestions from my dad, I put together a playlist I called, “Bass Practice” and included songs like “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” by The Jam, “We’ve Gotta Get out of this Place” by The Animals, “Tomorrow” by Morrissey, “I Wanna be Adored” by The Stone Roses, and the holy grail of bass lines, The Who’s “The Real Me”.

Frustration set in quickly and often as I relearned how to play bass, intent on becoming the bass player I was before Sepsis.

The realization struck me that I needed to do something; something to progress, something to become physically and mentally healthy. It took a while to accept, but I realized that setting a 50% goal for myself was the most reasonable approach. If I wanted to play a song, I knew that I would have to progress to be able to play through the song; but, if I set myself a 50% goal, I knew that I could play along with the song and feel an immediate sense of accomplishment.

I applied the same theory to eating and walking. I applied the same theory to writing (my other passion) and that 50% goal turned into a book detailing my experience with Sepsis. In January of 2022, my first book, IT WILL COME: Alaskan Adventures Pale in Comparison to Surviving Sepsis, was published by LALO Publishing.

I am not fully recovered. I don’t know if I ever will be. But, I am still writing and publishing, and I am playing four set evenings with Paddy’s Last Order.

It exhausts me and I do need days to recover after playing a gig, and even though the frustration is still there, still upset that I may not be the same caliber bass player that I once was, I need to remind myself that I’ve fought and won two contested battles with the bass guitar and there is no way that I am quitting.

Sepsis is common, but not commonly diagnosed. Why? Well, it often indicates fault in a professional’s medical practice. Be aware. Ask if it could be Sepsis. If you have any of the symptoms, seek medical attention. Tell the practitioner that you think it could be Sepsis.

You could save your life or the life of a loved one:

S-lurred speech or confusion
E-xtreme shivering or muscle pain
P-assing no urine (in a day)
S-evere breathlessness
I-t feels like you’re going to die
S-kin mottled or discoloured
(from the UK Sepsis Trust, www.sepsis.org)

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Big Daddy Weave’s Bassist Jay Weaver… A Reader Remembers

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Big Daddy Weave's Bassist Jay Weaver... A Reader Remembers

Reader Robert Burd shares a personal memory of Jay Weaver, the bass player for Big Daddy Weave.

Featured video… in my opinion, this is Jay’s best bassline, My Story, which is on the Beautiful Offerings album.

Jay Weaver was such an awesome bass player and is still an inspiration to me and I am sure many other bass players. He passed away on January 4th, 2022 at the age of 42.

His brother and fellow band member Mike Weaver announced the news on social media.

A few years ago when I was living in Rapid City, South Dakota, Big Daddy Weave came through with Plumb and We Are Messengers. I was in the 4th row, facing Jay’s side of the stage. At this time, he was in his motorized wheelchair due to having amputations as a result of some medical conditions.

During the show, as usual, the band breaks into moments of worship and prayer with the crowd. There was a gentleman in the seat and row in front of me that was really moved by what was going on and had an obvious emotional reaction. In the middle of the song and moment, I saw Jay looking at this man. He then motioned to his roadie who came over to Jay and took his bass, which was a 5-string Fender.

Jay then noticed he could get down to the crowd via a ramp on that side of the stage.

He used his wheelchair and came down the ramp and right to the row of this gentleman in front of me. The man looked up as by this time he had been crouched over. Jay opened his arms and the man collapsed into Jay and it seemed like an eternity, but Jay and this man were in serious prayer and communication. I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion watching all this, as I had been going through some serious struggles myself. They hugged and Jay went right back up the ramp, got his bass from the roadie, got back into his position on stage, and picked up into the song and worship that had been going on.

After the show, I said hello to the man in front of me and just smiled as did he.

Jay was a wonderful person and I have seen many tributes from other musicians who knew him. I was privileged to have seen him play quite a few times as BDW came to Rapid City a lot. My last encounter was when they came to play the Hills Alive festival and I watched Jay come off the bus in his wheelchair via the special access. He had his wife and kids and the little one was in his lap; you could tell he was such a proud father and husband. I could have gone over and talked about bass gear and so on, but I did not want to interrupt his family time.

Here’s a link to a beautiful tribute done a few months ago at an awards show.

And now, Michael Bloodgood recently passed away.

He too was an incredible bass player and singer for decades in the band Bloodgood. (Note: The editor of Bass Musician was scheduled to speak with Michael one week prior to him having a massive stroke, from which he never recovered.)

I just hope there can be some sort of recognition for these amazing bass players and people.

In fact, there are some great bass players in the Christian music scene. One example is JR Collins of Crowder. I am a huge fan, plus he also raps and is the musical director of the band. My hope is that this genre of music and awesome talent is not excluded from the public eye. I am a Christian and I play bass at my church but I also play in a metal band and also a 3-piece rock band writing originals.

R.I.P. Jay Weaver
Sincerely…

Robert Burd

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Bass Edu

The Ultimate Guide to Performing Onstage – A School of Rock Article Written by Katie Farmer

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The Ultimate Guide to Performing Onstage by Katie Farmer
School of Rock

Article reposted courtesy of School of Rock

The Ultimate Guide to Performing Onstage…

Remember the first time you went to a concert and thought, “I want to do that”? Or maybe the show inspired you to practice and write more, or to form a band or pick up an instrument for the first time.

Think about some of the most memorable concerts you ever attended. Which bands would you pay almost any amount of money to see? Now think, what is it about those bands or shows that really stood out to you? What would you like to take from that and add to your own performances? What is the power of stage presence? How can it affect the quality of a show and the audience’s experience?  Why is it beneficial to assess your performance?

In this article we will discuss all of those questions and define what good stage presence and a good performance is by looking at examples of some of the greatest performances of all time. Also, we’ll discuss strategies, tips and tricks that you can start working on today. 

So, what is a good stage performance? A good stage performance is when you and your band feel comfortable enough to have fun on stage, and connect with your audience. And of course, being able to play the material, but that goes without saying.

WHAT IS A GOOD STAGE PERFORMANCE?

Queen’s Live Aid performance in 1985 is considered one of the greatest live performances of all time and “can now officially be claimed as the world’s favorite live performance” according to ticketsourse.com, with “136,901,330 total YouTube views, 4,812,000 annual YouTube searches, and 1,427,500 annual Google searches.” (The World’s Greatest Live Performances by Andrew Stuckey)

SO, WHAT MADE IT SO GREAT? FIND OUT HERE

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Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

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Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

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.

3-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

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. 

7-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

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.

1-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together
2-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

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.

4-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together
6-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

Both instruments play beautifully and provide such different sounds and feels.

5-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together

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.

8-Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together
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Smart Touring for Emerging Musicians: Keys for a Lucrative Tour

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Submission by Mike Wright, Founder and CEO of SongCast

Touring the Right Way – Six Tips for an Effective Tour

Most bands would count a successful tour as one where the band members all get along (for the most part) and the band connects with fans. While both of those outcomes are great, a tour also needs to make money, especially if the band is planning future tours.

Bands that are starting out or don’t have massive followings can’t really negotiate pricing with club or concert hall owners. There’s no leverage on their side, so they’ll be paid the typical amounts for each show. So for a band to protect their profits they have to carefully manage expenses. You want to develop a fan base, and spend money when necessary, but the band has to survive.

Following these six tips can help musicians enjoy their tour and hopefully bring home some case when the road trip is finally over:

  1. Stay for cheap. Lodging costs eat up a lot of your budget, but you can’t all sleep in the van, so you need a decent play to rest for the night. Consider booking rooms before leaving on the tour, and then checking rates frequently to see if you can find a cheaper alternative. Sites such as Expedia and Hotels Tonight offer good last-minute rates, which can help you grab a nicer hotel for less money. Also look for free Wi-Fi and take advantage of free breakfasts if available. Going out for pancakes for five people can easily cost $60 or more, so grab any freebies.
  2. Bring your own food. Even if your food tastes are Chipotle and Arby’s, you still want to avoid a constant stream of fast food. The costs will add up, and you’re going to feel sluggish after a while. Eating out is a massive touring expense, so try to bring your own food (within reason) to help avoid a constant drain on the budget. Buy some snacks at Costco, and bring your own water bottle and fill it up whenever you can. Dropping $20 on snacks and water at every gas station will really add up over a long summer tour.
  3. Sling that merchandise. Selling merchandise isn’t just about earning some extra money, it’s a way to create “walking billboards” and grow a fan base. You should always have merchandise on hand while you’re on the road, both at the gigs and during any restaurant or gas stop. Never miss an opportunity to pull in some cash.
  4. Embrace efficiency. A long road trip means a lot of fun miles traveled, but that also means costs in terms of gas and maintenance for your vehicle. Pick a van/SUV that gets decent mileage and try to avoid a trailer unless absolutely necessary, as it will drop down your MPG. Have the vehicle inspected and fixed before the tour begins and set aside some budget for any unexpected issues.
  5. Avoid the bar tabs. Unless the club lets you all drink for free, then you should avoid knocking back drinks before, during, or after the show. It is fine to have some celebratory drinks every once in a while, but if the whole band has 15 drinks a night, you’re looking at $150 or more just in bar money. BYOB if you need a beverage to loosen up before a show, but don’t burn all of the money you received for a gig on pricey cocktails and craft beers.
  6. Contact the local press. Local TV and radio stations need to fill dead blocks of time – there’s simply not enough news. Contact local stations about your upcoming show and they just might give you a free plug. Be sure to talk about what makes your band unique so the news has a decent “hook” for your story. Hustling for this type of publicity can get people in the door, and more money in your pocket.

These six tips aren’t meant to turn an amazing tour into a penny-pinching and painful odyssey. However, making money is important for the band’s success. The bandmates need money to pay their bills, you need to pay for better mics and equipment, and you need to reach more fans.

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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Phil Jones… One Mans Quest to Build the World’s Best Bass Gear by Scott Jamar

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This is a brief story of one man’s singular quest to build the world’s best gear for bassists. From his custom designed speakers, to his bass amps, pre-amps and purpose built bass headphones, Phil Jones is truly an unsung hero of the bass world.

A dear friend, Jeffrey Weber introduced me to Phil a few years ago, and to say we hit if off well is a gross understatement. Phil is a world-class audio engineer and all around great guy. Interestingly enough, his factory is just about an hour from the headquarters of the company I work for in Shenzhen China, and after two years of trying to coordinate our schedules, I was finally able to visit Phil’s factory in Dongguan. Phil graciously led my 8-hour factory tour himself. (and no, I have no affiliation with Phil Jones Bass – just love their gear)

A Bassists Wonderland

Firstly, I have to say the building is both gorgeous and impressive. It houses 3700 hard working and happy employees in a 1.2 million square foot factory. Speaking of the employees, Phil greets every one he runs across with a friendly “Hi, how are you doing?” or an “Are you ok?” to a security guard standing outside in the rain… And yeah, it rains allot here.

2-Phil Jones... One Mans Quest to Build the World’s Best Bass Gear by Scott Jamar

Phil Jones in front of his factory in Dongguan China on a rare clear sunny day

Getting back to the factory. Here’s a fun fact. Did you know that no bass amp manufacturer in the entire world (other than Phil Jones) make their own speakers? Not one. Not Markbass, not Ampeg, not Mesa, not SWR, not Acoustic, not Roland, not Eden, not Hartke, not GK, not even JBL anymore. Nope, they all use OEM speakers made by a small handful of companies to their specs.

And as a disclaimer, I’ve owned or used all of the above in the past 30+ years in my feeble attempt to become a mediocre bass player with delusions of adequacy.

Ok, working with an OEM might be a cost effective move, but remember, these companies have other customers, and just can’t afford to spend the enormous amounts of time, money and resources to create truly revolutionary speaker designs, lovingly tailored to the most maligned of all musicians, the bass player.

In my own not so humble, very personal opinion, if the afore mentioned companies spent more money on under the cover design than marketing, this would be a completely different story…

This is where Phil comes in. And yes, he’s insane, truly and completely off his meds, a certifiable nutter, but in a good way.

Your humble author Scott Jamar with Jes Saito and Phil Jones

Your humble author Scott Jamar with Jes Saito and Phil Jones

What I mean is that I have never met another award winning, world-class audio engineer/entrepreneur with the depth of knowledge, zeal and passion for all things bass related. From the composition of the wire in his coil windings (silver, btw) to the anodizing of the dust domes, (Phil nick named them “Madonna Domes”) to the acoustic modeling and strength of his cabinet designs, to the design of the screws and knobs, there is no detail or aspect too small for Phil to obsess over. Which he does as a matter of course.

I could go on, so I will.

I learned that they design and manufacture every single part to Phil’s demanding specs, and I mean everything. They buy the raw materials and go from there. I saw it all in action. Yes, Phil is definitely uber OCD when it comes to designing the coolest, most badass sounding bass gear on the planet that most bass players have never heard of.

Now let’s talk about the tools he uses. Firstly, this guy has his own anechoic chamber for testing speaker frequency curves. Let me say that again, His. Own. Freaking. Anechoic. Chamber. And it’s enormous. I think NASAs may be a bit bigger, but not by much. Here’s a pic of me in it. (Way, way, way in the back.) You could easily fit a couple of Hummers in that space and have room left over for a Tesla or two, the later of which they use as company cars. Nice.

Phil's very own Anechoic Chamber

Phil’s very own Anechoic Chamber

Then there is his laser interferometer, which he uses to measure every microscopic detail of his speaker designs, long before they go into production. (And not all of them pass the gauntlet of testing, tweaking and abuse he throws at them before he lets them go into manufacturing.) And these little monsters are bullet proof. Ever accidentally punch a hole through a speaker cone? Well, with Phil’s designs, you will break your finger before it gets through the material he uses. Great for bass frequencies. (And fumbling bass players.)

There is no “B” Stock at Phil Jones Bass

Speaking of not passing QA. When walking through the cavernous factory floor, I spotted a huge pile of seemingly finished products outside in the rain. “You throw of those away?” I asked. “No, we incinerate anything that fails QA in the slightest to keep it off the secondary market. Nothing gets out of here that’s not perfect, ever.”

He then walked me through so many production lines, we got lost a few times (NOT kidding). Thousands upon thousands of speakers of all makes and sizes in varying degrees of completion. His partner, Edifier, (where he is their chief audio engineer/designer as well as CEO of PJB) is the largest speaker manufacturer in China, producing 3 million high quality speakers every month, all for the Chinese market. None ever make it to the USA however, how sad.

Rows upon rows of speakers on pallets. There were many rooms just like this filled to capacity

Rows upon rows of speakers on pallets. There were many rooms just like this filled to capacity

Handcrafted Bass Speaker Goodness

Now, for those of you who think Chinese products are inferior, well, in the case of PJB gear, that description is grossly unfair and completely inaccurate. I watched in awe as hundreds of workers carefully hand assembled and meticulously tested every single component, hand wound coil and sub assembly. Not a single robot in sight my friends.

A dedicated PJB worker building a coil sub assembly

A dedicated PJB worker building a coil sub assembly

As a point of reference, my first job out of college was as an electronic engineer working for the legendary guitar effects company, ADA Signal Processors in Berkeley California. I spent my first year after graduating as a bench tech on their factory floor, so I know what high quality manufacturing looks like. And in an industry where perception is reality, PJB is the real deal. So you need to seriously adjust your preconceived notions and uninformed thoughts on Chinese manufacturing. I’ve seen more than a few US factories that don’t come even close to the care and precision Phil’s people use in building his products.

Jes Saito, Phil and Tony, his factory manager. Phil is blurry because he never stops moving

Jes Saito, Phil and Tony, his factory manager. Phil is blurry because he never stops moving

After the tour, we made our way back to the listening room to check out Phil’s latest and greatest with his Japanese distribution partner, Jes Saito, President of Jes International, who was busy photographing and A-B testing one of Phil’s new studio bass amps.

More Than Just Bass Gear

It was also interesting to learn that Phil not only designs and manufactures incredible bass speakers and amps of all sizes, but he also offers a full line of audiophile speakers and PA gear, including monster 11’ tall 4000 watt PA systems, as well as hi-fi speakers that are 8’ tall, weigh 600 pounds each and sell for $100,000.00 a pair. (Pictured in the cover photo) His newly released headphones are nothing short of amazing. At only $100.00 retail, they easily outshine the bloviated offerings from Apple/Beats – again, another company now more focused on marketing than innovation. iPhone 7 anyone? Kill the headphone jack? – Bite me…

I was also really impressed by his studio monitors. The clarity was amazing. While listening to a Diana Krall CD, it felt like she was breathing down my neck, “but in a nice way” as Phil liked to put it. I agreed.

He also demoed a new set of NFMs (Near Field Monitors) with ribbon tweets but using CNC milled wooden horns. I thought the ones we had just heard were awesome, but with the ribbon tweets combined with the wooden horns, I felt like I was on stage getting a direct monitor feed combined with sticking my head under the lid of a baby grand. Breathtaking sound! I felt I could listen for hours at high volume without ever getting ear fatigue.

So many toys, so little time...

So many toys, so little time…

After a few hours of listening nirvana, I was then introduced to Phil’s business partner and the Founder/CEO of Edifier, Wengdong Zhang. A self-effacing and gregarious man, who is clearly enamored with Phil, with a relationship that dates back 14 years.

Phil then held court for several hours, going into minute detail of how he approaches sound, his passion for music, and multiple stories of bass players good and bad. By the time we were done, I felt like I had just attended a master course in speaker and audio design.

Prolific Does Not Come Close to Describing Phil

To describe Phil Jones as a prolific audio designer is a gross understatement.

He’s got so many projects and products in the works; it’s literally impossible to keep track of them all. Every time I turned around, he was showing me something more impressive than the last. My head was spinning most of the time I was there. This guy was Chief Designer for Boston Acoustics for many years, (he designed their Lynnfield line of audiophile speakers) and has turned down similar jobs from JBL and Samsung, for lots more money. He has a well-earned reputation being one of the best, if not the best speaker designer in the world. Google him and find out for yourself.

At his core, Phil is focused more on musicians’ needs and delivering a mind-blowing user experience than buying a personal jet. And as the CEO of a private company with no overbearing, clueless corporate masters, he gets to indulge his passion unmolested.

And indulge it he does.

Fortunately, us lonely bass players who are willing to search around for the best are the beneficiaries of his genius and generosity.

That being said, if you have the opportunity to support a comparatively small, top shelf audio manufacturer that is run by a fanatical bass aficionado, please do. You will not be disappointed.

___________________________________________________________

Scott Jamar

Former wannabe bass player who sold out to corporate masters for a regular paycheck.

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