Thought I would write about some cool stuff I have used through the years but is no longer around.
My Alembic and Steinberger Basses
Well, I bought this Alembic bass at Reliable Music company in Charlotte sometime in 1975 or 76 from Melvin Cohen, a wonderful guy who was very helpful to us in the early days as we needed more and more gear. (Sadly he passed at 58 in 2004)
I remember how I felt the first time I played it and how crazy high tech and beautiful it was. I had only read about Alembic and seen pictures of basses, but never actually touched one, and Reliable was the only place in the the south that carried them. I guess it was meant to be, after playing it for a half hour or so I just had to have it. I can’t remember how much it cost exactly but I think it was around $1800 back then. That was huge. At that time I was driving an old Volkswagen bug that cost me $200 bucks, and that was my main transportation! But that was how crazy I was about the bass and where I put priorities. It literally took all of my money.
Enter 360 Systems and the first Pitch to Voltage converter
That bass attracted a lot of attention and sounded amazing. When the dregs got our first record deal, we went to LA to record. I have always been into technology and back then I tracked down this guy Bob Easton who had a company called 360 systems. He was making the first pitch to voltage converter that would allow strings to trigger a synthesizer. Both Steve and I bought one. I am pretty sure there were no more than a half dozen or so of these things out there. At the time, I didn’t care about ‘modifying’ the alembic. Heck I thought it was damn cool to be able to play synth with my bass. I had the pickup mounted near the bridge and a special second cannon jack put in for the synth pickup . I used to run two wires back to my rig from the bass where the synth was an Oberheim expander module. It was so cool.
First 4 Dregs Albums with Alembic, Enter Steinberger
So I played the Alembic exclusively on the first four Dregs albums. Those were Free Fall, What if, Night of the Living Dregs, and Dregs of the Earth. Around 1979 I read about this crazy guy making a bass out of composite graphite that looked like a stick. I tracked Ned Steinberger down from an article I read in Guitar player, got him on the phone and he said he had made 4 basses, was keeping one, sold 2 of them and there was 1 more. I could have it for $1500. He was still trying to get his company going at that time. I played both basses at that point for quite a while. And on the last two Dregs albums there is a mix of the Alembic and the Steinberger.
The story is that one day we were scheduled to play at an outdoor gig, can’t remember where right now, and the roadies were setting everything up as usual including my bass. I was in the dressing room when one of our guys, Microwave, came in with a terrible look on his face and told me that the wind had blown over my bass and the headstock had cracked. Well, that was quite sad. At the end of that tour I had it repaired and it has been fine ever since. Kind of like when I broke my left arm a couple years ago snowboarding. I had a clean break in my humurus, but it literally grew back together! But I digress…
Speed up to several years later and the Dregs had broken up. In 1984 or so I was living in the Bay Area and struggling to make a living. I had been giving lessons and one of my students was Tim Fowler. Tim was a great guy, actually worked at the stuff I tried to teach, and even had a real job. So I eventually ran out of money and sold both of those basses to Tim. I lost track of Tim over the years when suddenly a couple of years ago we reconnected and he still had the basses!
Incredible….anyway, we all get old, stuff happens, and now Tim has sold the Alembic. I originally wrote this little story to help him sell it…it is a wonderful bass and this is the story of its life so far. The guy who bought it wrote me after the fact, and I am happy that it found a good home. And I believe Tim still has the Steinberger so there may be more to that story too!