After settling up with customers left from the demise of King Doublebass brand, luthier Jason Burns went to work to create a new upright venture catering to the alternative bassist. Blast Cult officially launched this month with their One4Five model bass, a design cultivated from Burns’ 20 years of building.
Among the first instruments built under the moniker is a custom job for Miles Mosley. Mosley, who often breaks the mold, had the fingerboard from his 250 year-old German bass replicated for the project, and even incorporated a special paint job that allows for the bass to be written on – and erased – like a chalkboard. The result is a stunning bass that also acts as a reusable canvas for art.
We caught up with Burns to get the scoop on Blast Cult and Mosley’s unique new bass.
What happened to King Doublebasses, and what qualities do your basses retain from that brand?
King was mismanaged and squandered away right under my nose. When I first found out, I thought it was the worst thing ever, but it actually turned out to be a positive move for me. King was on autopilot, and I felt that the designs were getting stale. Blast Cult gave me a chance to evolve my work into something that I am 100% proud of.
The only thing that crossed over with me from King is experience. The One4Five is a completely new instrument from the end pin to the scroll.
What’s the design concept behind the One4Five?
I had four goals in mind when I designed the One4Five.
One: Make a feedback resistant double bass that projects the true, wooden tone of the double bass acoustically and amplified.
Two: Build it strong so it could take the abuse of a touring musician.
Three: Use an alternative wood species in place of endangered and expensive ebony for all of the fittings (fingerboard, nut, tailpiece and endpin).
Four: Make as many of the parts and fittings for the One4Five in our shop as possible.
What kind of measures do you take to ensure that durability in your basses?
We use a formulated extra high bond glue for all seams and joints, and well seasoned hard maple necks with strong tight neck joints. Our bodies have extra thick laminated inner linings that provide extra rib support while making more surface area for the glue joints.
You mentioned the pickups were 20 years of your research. What can you tell us about the system?
Pickups have been the most discouraging part of playing the upright bass since the invention of the bass amplifier. The first piece I ever made for a bass was a pickup. I built it out of necessity because there was nothing on the market that would reach the volume levels I needed without a feedback nightmare. I have built hundreds of different versions of piezo transducers over the years. The Channel Blaster and Monolux are the latest evolution. By directly bonding our ceramic piezo element to the inside of the wooden pickup housing coupled to the wooden bridge we are able to capture the most important sound of an acoustic instrument: WOOD!
Did you approach Miles Mosley’s bass any differently, given his unique playing style?
Players like Miles are who we base our designs on. Miles plays a standard black One4Five. The only custom differences are the fingerboard and paint job. Miles is progressing while keeping absolute respect for the history and tradition of the instrument. That is the exact approach of Blast Cult.
How did you go about “cloning” Miles’ fingerboard and how close can you actually make it to the original?
I took 13 key measurements off his fingerboard, ran it through my CAD software and made a 3D model of it. I put a slab of wood on our CNC machine and made an exact duplicate in swamp skunk. I love to use technology like that. We make a lot of parts on our CNC for consistency and then we finish by hand. Some parts have more hand work than CNC and there’s no way around it. When you mix CNC with handcrafted woodworking you get consistent playability and tone from instrument to instrument, yet you still get the hand-built feel.
How did the idea of chalkboard paint come up?
The chalkboard idea and layout was done by a killer LA artist KC Haxton. He’s a great friend of Miles and helps define the aesthetics of Miles. They have done some really cool shows together including some bass solo/performance art shows that were amazing. The bass is covered in KC drawings and every ones jaws are on the floor by the end of the show.
When will the One4Five be available?
They are available as of September 1st. We have One4Fives and Channel Blasters ready to go in the US and Europe. Japan will be getting their first shipment this month.