Drummers and Bass

Two nights ago, due to heavy snow, the power here went off. Naturally, I was unprepared. The first day of this I got through by reading. Some of the mass of papers I have printed out, but I got fed up of that fast. Fortunately Danbri had sent me a book for Xmas: Fast Forward: Confessions of a Post-Punk Percussionist: Volume II. Thanks!

Autobiography of Stephen Morris, Joy Division/New Order drummer. With a torch, on the couch, in front of wood fire, not a bad way to pass time. Enjoyed the book a lot. But being very readable, it didn’t last long.

Checked my bedside shelf for anything I might have queued, realised that I’d only read 2/3 of the last book Danbri sent me, Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot. Thanks! Autobiography of Wolfgang Flur, percussionist with Kraftwerk. Also a good read, but in a very different way.

It made for a great contrast. Stephen Morris is from Macclesfield, about 15 miles from my mum’s, outside of his famed activities a very ordinary bloke, a bit laddish. So I could relate very easily. Flur on the other hand,  Düsseldorf, well-off background.

Where Morris is mostly very self-deprecating, Flur is very fond of himself. Both predictably have a good dig at other members of their bands, but where Morris is good-humoured about it, Flur gets seriously bitter. Morris’ story has plenty of things like dodgy management wrangling (film 24 Hour Party People is very funny), but he’s stoical about it. Flur had serious legal issues with the founders of Kraftwerk, This included argument about who invented the electronic drums he used, also apparently he’d published a photo of Kraftwerk naked in the shower with flowers in their hair.

Curiously, you can buy a Wolfgang Flur shower curtain and there is a song about Joy Division Oven Gloves.

Bass

Getting up yesterday morning power still off, I wanted to get something useful done while there was light. Options were a bit limited, anywhere more than a metre away from the fire was really cold. Right on cue, some new bass guitar strings I’d ordered arrived.

The bass needed some work.

A good while ago, when Claudiopup was in the habit of peeing on anything vertical, the bass had a good spraying. As soon as I noticed I wiped it down and dabbed it with some rust remover, but some damage had already been done. It still worked ok so I left sorting it out properly as a rainy day task. Then the top string (corroded at the end) snapped, I ordered some more, and the snow arrived…

History

This bass is one of my favourite instruments. It’s really nice to play, sounds great and has a lot of sentimental value. Not long after moving to Italy, Caroline and I, after a long time without messing with music stuff decided to have another play. But this time, rather than electronics, decided on guitars. She’d played bass a bit before, I’d thrashed a guitar. So we headed off to the instrument shop in Lucca, a minimal budget for guitar, bass & suitable amps.

I realised later that Caroline had thought about this considerably more than I. In the shop, she soon gravitated on this, a second-hand (Mexican) Fender Jazz Bass. Brilliant choice. I was clueless, picked up the cheapest thing that seemed playable, a Squire Strat, awful choice. The salesman saw a big difference in our approaches, she came across as the consummate bass pro. He might have thought differently after seeing her when we got home, applying stickers to the neck to show where the notes were.

Stripdown

So I took it apart on the couch. Luckily there wasn’t really any major internal damage.

The pickup screws were corroded to buggery, had to use pliers on a couple of them. As I was looking at this, remembered that I’d swapped the stock pickups for ‘Noiseless’ ones (piggy-backed humbuckers, same form factor). So…I should have the old screws somewhere. Found the old pickups – with new screws. Turns out I’d reused the stock screws, the new ones were thinner. So I did the trick of filling the holes a bit with bits of cocktail sticks & glue.

The other issue was with the jack socket, it’d fused with the faceplate. After a long time trying to unscrew it, gave up and used a hacksaw (I’d got a spare).

Getting the thing dismantled to me a couple of hours. Not a problem I thought, it’ll be light until about 5pm-ish. Well yes, that’s when it gets dark-dark outside, but I hadn’t considered that when the sun goes behind the hill at about 3:30pm, it gets fairly dark indoors. And I had about 50 little bits of bass & tools spread out over the couch.

I gave the corroded bits of hardware a rub with wire wool and gave everything a good wash in soapy water, followed by a rinse in cleaning alcohol. The fire was handy for drying.

Soldering in the replacement jack socket was fun : using a cigarette lighter, with little torch held in my mouth.

Everything went back together ok, and I gave the metalwork a liberal spray of WD-40 along the way.

Just as I was putting in the last couple of screws, the power came back on.

Before putting on the strings I wire-wooled the frets, mineral-oiled the fretboard and cleaned & oiled the head.

It’s not as shiny as it was originally, but is good enough for me.

So now I’ll leave it a day of two to settle in with the new strings. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a full setting up on this machine, it’s always Just Worked. But now I think perhaps I need to adjust the truss rod a little (the bridge sections need to be practically at max height to clear the frets). Will obvious have to sort out that height, get intonation right. Fortunately Fender has a clear guide.

danny

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