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Thread: Rick Suchow talks about Phil Lesh's fretless bass

  1. #1
    Senior Member adorshki's Avatar
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    Rick Suchow talks about Phil Lesh's fretless bass

    Ok forgive me if you guys all know who Rick is and it turns out he's a member already and this has been posted before, but stumbled across it while looking for something else, and thought it couldn't hurt:
    http://www.ricksuchow.com/press-group-167.html

    Lotta great background about Phil & Jack's early modded basses and the gestation of Alembic, amongst other things.
    Al
    "Time May Change the Technique of Music But Never Its Mission " - Rachmaninoff
    My 1st Guild: '96 Westerly D25NT "Hally" (10-31-96 stamped on heelblock)
    #2: '01 Westerly F65ce "Blondie"
    #3: '03 Corona D40e Richie Havens "Richie"
    All bought new!

  2. #2
    I stumbled across that after Googling "Guild M85" awhile back. Sure is pretty.

  3. #3
    I'm pretty sure it's been posted here before but it was many years ago - always worth bringing back!

  4. #4
    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    The article is several years old and has been around here before. "LA bassist Dan Schwartz" is a poster here and it shouldn't take too much digging to figure out who he posts as since he still owns the bass in question and has talked about it.
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuball48 View Post
    Frono: You are correct----again.

    '67 Starfire I Bass (Cherry)
    '71 JS II Bass (Walnut)
    '82 B-50 Acoustic Bass (Natural)
    '87 Pilot (Black)
    '13 Newark Street Starfire Bass (Cherry)
    '16 Betts Bass "Walnut Bottom"


    LMG I, II, III

    This space available.

  5. #5
    Anyone know about Lesh’s first Starfire and his thoughts about it?

  6. #6
    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lungimsam View Post
    Anyone know about Lesh’s first Starfire and his thoughts about it?
    There is lots of info out there on the bass including annotated pictures claiming to tell what each of the knobs do. So Google can help with the first. But I could not quickly find interviews where he talks about the bass - the what and the why. I'm sure that is out there but someone else can search.
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuball48 View Post
    Frono: You are correct----again.

    '67 Starfire I Bass (Cherry)
    '71 JS II Bass (Walnut)
    '82 B-50 Acoustic Bass (Natural)
    '87 Pilot (Black)
    '13 Newark Street Starfire Bass (Cherry)
    '16 Betts Bass "Walnut Bottom"


    LMG I, II, III

    This space available.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    There is lots of info out there on the bass including annotated pictures claiming to tell what each of the knobs do. So Google can help with the first. But I could not quickly find interviews where he talks about the bass - the what and the why. I'm sure that is out there but someone else can search.
    The story I heard from Ron Wickersham is that Ron built the first "Superfilter" (essentially a state variable filter) to be used in local recording studios in San Francisco, using modified telephone multiplexing technology so that they could get a wider range of tones for all kinds of instruments, but especially for the bass. He showed me one of them that they still have at Alembic. When Phil played through it, his reaction was "I want that in my bass!" And so it went.

    The problem with the original filters is that that original circuit used technology that was designed to be super accurate when it came to tuning the frequency (like you would need when stacking phone calls on top of each other), but at the expense of noise, which doesn't matter much for phone conversations over low bandwidth phone lines. So, Phil's Starfire is really pretty noisy when you bring in the filters. Not much to be done about that. So Ron went back to the drawing board and designed one for low noise with a less accurate tuning which is still more than adequate for bass guitar.

  8. #8
    Funny thing is, I dont think his or Jacks tone was any better than anyone elses. I mean, cranked amps is cranked amps. Though they both had that warm Starfire body tone to their sounds. Course I never heard them in person. But recording wise, I dont think their tone was any better or worse than anyone elses back then or now. I think their constant axe rotation thru the years proves it.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by lungimsam View Post
    Funny thing is, I dont think his or Jacks tone was any better than anyone elses. I mean, cranked amps is cranked amps. Though they both had that warm Starfire body tone to their sounds. Course I never heard them in person. But recording wise, I dont think their tone was any better or worse than anyone elses back then or now. I think their constant axe rotation thru the years proves it.

    Well, we'll have to agree to disagree on that. Certainly better or worse is in the ear of the beholder, but they both had very unique tones and to my ear, they had the best of the things they were going for. While Jack's tone remained a bit more consistent, Phil's tone evolved considerably over the years and it's not too difficult to hear the difference between the Fender, EB-0, Starfire (in its various incarnations), EB-3 (or modified EB-0 or whatever it was), Alembic, Irwin, Modulus, etc.

    On the other hand, when I had both his Starfire and mine with Series II pickups and electronics, and hardware, right next to each other, one wasn't really better than they other, although they were different.

    I think their tones were also distinctive because of their touch. The same can be said of many other players. But the implication of your statement is that any number of other bass players sounds could be dropped into the GD or JA and it wouldn't change the music that much. I don't think that's true.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by lungimsam View Post
    Funny thing is, I dont think his or Jacks tone was any better than anyone elses. I mean, cranked amps is cranked amps. Though they both had that warm Starfire body tone to their sounds. Course I never heard them in person. But recording wise, I dont think their tone was any better or worse than anyone elses back then or now. I think their constant axe rotation thru the years proves it.
    Are there any players with amazing sound that you are into? Need some context. George Porter Jr. with the Meters (especially the early instrumental stuff) to me is a legendary sound that I have never heard anywhere else and that I would kill to have. For some people "Phil & Jack" are in that league - I'm more Team Phil even though I'm not after his sound, but I also find something really special in it - of course, it's not just the gear, it's the player and their note choices and their energy, although gear is obviously a big part of the equation.

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