right now my bass set-up/rig is almost perfect. i mean, it’s not ideal cos if it was i would be playing a vintage tube ampeg with fender basses from the late 60′s, but let’s just say the gear i’m touring and recording with is fucking hot. as far as getting a boner over electronic stuff this gear is pretty tits.
BASS #1: my baby is an early 70′s precision bass that i bought in a guitar shop in chicago for $550 bucks. it’s truly amazing and i will never replace it. the tone is unique and better than the tone of any other p bass i have ever played – maybe because it was butchered by the previous owner/(owners?). who ever put the emg pickups in the body carved out part of the front near the bridge for the battery and covered it with a black plate. this bass is really really heavy and plays like it’s dipped in olive oil (it literally plays itself). the tone is thick and warm. i would be lost without this bass. end of story.
BASS #2: my second bass is a black 60′s reissue jazz bass. hey, its not an original but it felt good when i put it on. i bought it at black market music in los angeles for $900 – ironically the most money i paid for a bass and the one i like the least. both my basses are repaired by john wescott who does awesome work on guitars. i had him try to match the tone of my p bass by putting in the same type of emg pickups in this one. he also sanded down the neck so i could get my action as low as possible and got rid of the stacked knobs which, although look cool, are kind of a pain. if this bass got stolen i really wouldnt be too bummed out cos its a second class citizen in my bass country. by the way, i dont have original knobs on any of my basses….i think one is still on the p bass but thats it. i dont get all bent out of shape about that stuff. i like basses dirty and used and scratched —sort of like jeans. i rarely, if ever, have cleaned or polished my guitars. remember Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #1: guitars are like cars – buy them old and buy them american – they are quality and they will appreciate in value. solid.
BASS #3: with that said, i would like to introduce you to an italian made bass that i use for our acoustic shows even though it isn’t acoustic. it’s a short scale electric vox. this thing is just so fucking cool and unique – it’s got built in distortion (what i used at the very end of the song “dream”) and a g-tuner. the output isnt really great but for low volume gigs/practicing at home it’s perfect. it almost sounds like an acoustic with a real smooth hollow bounce to it. i have never seen this in a store or know any one who owns one. i got it in tucson, az at a used music shop called the chicago store also known as chicago joe’s. probably one of the coolest places to shop for music in the states. when i was upstairs in their attic looking through piles of old guitars i found a few of these brand new —it’s from 1967!. i was digging for stuff. i remember i had just stepped on and broke a long fluorescent light bulb when i was up there and i thought someone was gonna yell at me but no one heard it. then i found this bass and i was like “damn..time to go”. totally worth the $500 bucks i spent on it.
STRINGS: rotosound are you listening? i want an endorsement from your company because your flatwound strings are the best. rs77 jazz bass strings baby! i only play flatwounds cos they have a smoother tone than round wounds and west indian girl isnt really a rock band so no roundwounds. Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #2: never ever change your strings unless they break. the older the strings the better they are as far as i’m concerned. remember – it’s all about the richness you get out of your bass sound. update – i now have an endorsement from rotosound. chalk one up for management.
STRAPS: my straps are permanently screwed into the bodies and slung as low as they can go. i modeled my playing style after paul simonon from the clash. he was one of the coolest bass players ever…simple, strong, meaningful, and distinctive and he wore his bass really really gorilla-like low. the strap on my jazz bass is actually made of parts from 2 straps so i could get it to hang as low as it could possible go. Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #3: you gotta play your bass low if you’re gonna play it all. playing a bass that hangs above your nipples isnt really that cool.
AMPS: Up until this past year my only amp was an Ampeg SVTIIIPro. it wasn’t tube but it was unbelievably road worthy – a total work horse. it served me well until a couple months ago when i bought an Ashdown ABM 500 RC EVO II Head. This amp is really cool. It’s got great sub harmonic foot switch on it and doesnt have 8 billion knobs. they keep it basic with 3 main knobs a few eq sliders. I keep both of these amps in my rack along with an Avalon U5 DI Preamp. this is just plain beautiful – what a way to dial in your tone. Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #4: using an avalon DI will make any sound man cream his pants. To protect all this stuff i have a GOMC 14 space rack case. this case rocks so much. i have 2 draws in the bottom and a furman power conditioner on top. the furman is great cos it has lights in the front and back. now all it takes is one plug and one switch and i am powered up. you might want to refer to my journal entry called “GOMC” for more case info. the picture of the guy on my amp is one of my best friends chris donnelly – that guy makes me laugh so much i put his face on my amp almost 9 years ago and it is still there. check out chris’ sculptures…cool huh?
SPEAKER: well you might want to refer to an early journal entry called “evolution of a bass cabinet” for this one. my cab, well, there can be only one – am ampeg 8×10 from the 70′s. i bought it for 300 bucks ten years ago. this baby is in my hall of fame. what a trooper she’s been. tough as hell, she takes a beating but still sings like a sweet dove. amazing is all i can say. she deserved the extreme makeover i gave her this past year – the oak wood stain and varnish finish is now nicely protected by a killer GOMC road case. power on wheels. Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #5: using any other cabinet besides an ampeg is a mistake.
PEDALS: pretty basic when it comes to effects because i’m really all about the tone. my main 3 are a volume pedal, a boss chromatic tuner – (what a great pedal) and a sovtek big muff. the drag about the sovtek is that those idiots never made a power adapter for it so you always have to have a fresh battery on hand. russians…how did they miss that? the white pedal on the left is a foot switch for the sub harmonics on the ashdown. Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #6: dial in your tone first, dont depend on pedals for it.
PICKS: how could i forget the little purple guy in my life. that sounds so wrong doesnt it. anyway, i only use one kind of pick and that is that. Purple 1.14 gauge Dunlop Tortex standard picks. These picks are great and they’re chunky and come to think of it i’m gonna see if i can get an endorsement because i love them so much. robert james even uses them. same gauge. Francis Ten’s rule of thumb #7: always keep an extra pick in your back pocket when u play…because you never know.
I hope the editor of bass guitar mag enjoyed reading this because i enjoy reading your mag when i’m at Sav-on and can’t wait to do an interview with you some day. if you have any questions drop me a line — F. TEN 2:54AM