Kelley James/SOJA/O.A.R. tour!!!

July 26th, 2011

So for the past few weeks I’ve been on the road with LA based singer/songwriter Kelley James and my good buddy Ben Antelis on drums (David Archuletta, La La Lullabye, Soulfarm) and we’ve been having an amazing time. This is my first stadium arena tour and even though we’re the opening opening band and we have yet to play to a crowd larger than 2500 people, it’s nontheless an INSANE experience and has really forced my chops back to where they were a few years ago when I was really shedding like everyday. Ben and I have also been warming up everyday by jamming with as many musicians from both the other bands as possible and it gets more awesome and more intense every day. Here are just a few shots taken by some fans at our show in Detroit a few days ago. Hopefully more to come!
Picture 1Picture 2Picture 3

RIP Jess Oliver

July 1st, 2011

Although there isn’t much in the news online, I read on today that legendary amplifier innovator Jess Oliver passed away yesterday. Jess invented and patented the infamous portaflex “flip-top” bass amps in partnership with Ampeg. In the early 1960’s he created the Baby Bass, the SB-12, and the B-15N which is considered the holy grail of bass tone by most bassists and can be heard on just about every recording in the 60’s and 70’s and was most famously used by James Jamerson on literally EVERY Motown hit of the 60’s. I personally own a 1964 SB-12 and it is nothing short of magical to record with. In the early 70’s, Jess parted with the Ampeg corporation and started his own company called Oliver Amplification. His two products that managed to sell before going out of business were the Powerflex 502 (an “improved” B-15N) and Powerflex P500 which featured a 2×15 cab. The coolest though is that instead of detaching the lid of the cab and flipping it over to reveal the all tube head, the Powerflex’s all tube heads rise out of the cab by an internal motor at the flick of a switch. They also retract the same way for easier transportation. These amps are incredibly rare and if you ever come across one, they’re certainly worth the money. I had a chance to grab a 502 once and I took too long….STILL kicking myself!! But it’s amazing to think what this one man did not only for the bass community but for all of modern music. He literally created the staple of what great bass tone should sound like and that sound has stood the test of time along with the Fender basses they coupled so well with, even outliving its creator. That’s when you clearly become legendary. RIP Jess. Your work will never be forgotten.


April 27th, 2011

Above being a bassist, I like to consider myself a scientist. Nothing brings me more joy then experimenting and hypothesizing, especially when it comes to bass gear and tone. It’s late on a Tues. night, technically Wed. morning. Gigless this evening I realized I have tried a LOT of different strings in my bass playing career, and most of them have been within the last 3 years. I recalled how helpful I found a talkbass buddy’s 2×10 cab shootout and I figured what the hell. So I’l brake it into two categories: roundwounds and flatwounds. I’ll also put the type of bass, the guage, tension, etc. And of course as I try new strings I’ll update the shootout accordingly. Hope this saves you time and $!


Alleva-Coppolo nickels (45-130)- I am currently using these strings on my Alleva-Coppolo RA5. At first I was ok with the feel of the string, a little rough for a nickel but I could deal, but they just felt strange and very tight. Almost like I had to fight the strings. I realized it needed more tension in the truss and BAM these strings totally came alive and the tension is perfect now. About a week in that zing is slowly dying and they’re sounding very even and fat in the mix. Great for slapping too.

DR Marcus Miller Fatbeams (45-105)- These were my go to strings for years when I played a ‘98 Fender ‘75 reissue Jazz Bass with EMG pickups and an Alleva-Coppolo 2-band pre. When i worked at Sam Ash in Florida for a minute, these were the only strings I would recommend and I’d have customers coming back telling me how I changed their lives with these strings! I believe they’re hex cores wrapped in stainless steel, which is not my deal anymore but for SS, they’re the smoothest and warmest I’ve ever played. Under the burp and punch is this FAT growl that really fills a mix very well. Not to mention they lasted about 6 months for me before becoming too dead. The tension is a little tighter than I like now-a-days, but it’s a slapper’s wet dream.

DR Sunbeams (40-100)- My favorite roundwound. These are round cores wrapped in nickel and they are the warmest, most organic sounding rounds I’ve ever heard. After the initial break in period and the strings lose that zing, they become super smooth to the touch and get even fatter sounding. The tension is just right and the bass just becomes effortless to play. I’ve moved on to other strings only to see what else is out there but when it comes to nickel rounds these are pretty much the bar.

DR High Beams (45-125)- Round cores wrapped in SS. I tried these on my RA5 and it’s possible they were just too high in tension and my truss needed a turn, so I didn’t get the full deal with these strings. But I remember them feeling rather course, and they were VERY bright. I’d love to give them another go but I feel like they may not be for me.

Black Diamond nickels (40-120)- I love these strings. When my RA5 arrived from it’s previous owner, it was sporting these really dead Black Diamonds. The tension is extremely light and their tone is unbelievably warm. Even years old, they still had some punch left in them and didn’t sound half bad slapped at church. I intend on purchasing a fresh set in the near future for further experimentation.

Fodera Victor Wooten Signature (40-95)- I believe these are SS on a hex core. They are thin, low tension, pretty smooth, and SUPER punchy. Slapping with these almost MAKES you play like Wooten! You can’t help but just beat these strings up, but I found they often didn’t work well in a mix, but were much better at home.

Fodera Anthony Jackson Signature (28-125)- I saw these online and thought they looked interesting, boasting something about an exposed SS round core something or other. They were pretty expensive and I wasn’t even using the C string since I only have 5 strings. Utterly disappointing. First of all, the exposed core thing just means they’re tapered at the ball end so your action is automatically SUPER low which requires a whole different setup on your bass. They didn’t feel smooth at all like they advertised and the tone felt choked and muffled. Weird.


D’Addario Chromes (45-105)- Great comfortable tension, not too little, not too much, and a great smooth feel. The tone is super full and round and this was one of my first introductions into the world of flats since it’s all guitar center had back in the day (not sure if that’s changed or not though). My only gripe was the strings didn’t really feel consistent from the G to the B. The E felt VERY fat and out of place and the D felt weird too. I used them on my fretless ‘69 P-bass for almost a year and a half and cut one of the best sounding recordings I’ve ever done with them on my fretted ‘75 Jazz reissue.

La Bella Deep Talkin’ Flatwounds 760FS (45-105)- Classic motown thump. The tension is much tighter than the TIs and makes you work a little harder but the tone definitely makes up for it. I’ve heard lots of complaints about strings breaking out of the package but I’ve bought them 3 times and they’ve been nothing but solid. A classic that you can’t go wrong with.

La Bella Deep Talkin’ Flatwounds 760M5 1954 Oldies “Jamerson Set” (52-128)- The classic of the classic. The EXACT set that Jamerson and Duck Dunn used on all those motown/stax/detroit recordings throughout the 60s and 70s. On an old P-bass through an old B-15, you’ve got the sound. But MAN, these strings are so fat and so high tension, I decided to stop mid installation. My buddy put them on his bass and I got to try them that way. They are also VERY bright out of the package, but once they die it’s thump city all the way!

La Bella Deep Talkin’ Tapewounds (60-128)- SS core wrapped in some kind of black nylon. The strings are so fat, I couldn’t even get them to fully fit in the nut slots on ANY of my basses. They fit best on my ‘69 fretless and while they felt like plastic toy strings, they sounded pretty dark and barky with a clear high end and blooming warm low end.

Pyramid Golds (40-105)- These strings came recommended by Jimmy Coppolo as the best flats out there. Nice even tension and by FAR the smoothest string I have ever touched. Just looking at the elegant wrapping job and purple silk you can only think, “wow, this is a gorgeously crafted string”. I threw them on my ‘69 fretted precision, then my ‘69 fretless precision, and ultimately gave them to a friend. They certainly had that classic thump but were a little too muddy to me. The E was also WAY too fat compared to the rest of the set and it made it very awkward. Maybe the 40-100 set isn’t as bad. I could see rocking the short scale version of these on a Hofner or Fender Jaguar Bass but not my thing.

Sadowsky (40-100)- SS wrap on a hex core. I wanted to try the hype that is Sadowsky. I visited the shop back in ‘06 and was not impressed with the feel of Roger’s basses, but thought I’d give his strings a shot. The tension is rather low which I like with flats but they are insanely bright. I could literally slap with these strings they were so bright. And they just WOULDN’T DIE!!! If that’s your thing, these are your strings!

Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Flats (43-136)- MY ALL TIME FAVORITE STRING. Perfectly balanced, perfectly smooth, tension so low you have to adjust your entire style of attack, and tone to die for. Imagine an upright bass with a little more mids and tight, FAT lows. At one point, I had TI flats on all 4 of my basses. yeah. Not to mention they make the BEST upright bass strings, Bel Cantos. The ultimate string for hip-hop, P-basses, and recordings using fliptops or tubes in general. I had a set on my ‘69 fretted P-bass for over 10 years until one day the G just unravelled! As they die they just get thumpier and thumpier but eventually they become sort of one trick ponies only being able to deliver that unmatched motown thump but it’s a trick no bass player should be without. Now only my Alleva-Coppolo KBP5 has them on, but it’s also my best sounding bass!

ahh the good old days….

April 22nd, 2011

God this really brings me back to my childhood….I sometimes forget how into the peppers I used to be. And going back and listening to Flea it makes me laugh to hear so many things I do that I’ve obviously picked up from him. And if it weren’t for my friend Adam Lucas who introduced me to guys like Jaco and Wooten, I would probably still be a Flea clone. Bad technique and all! But you can’t say the man doesn’t rock because he definitely does. Nowadays I think the peppers are a tad over the hill and are too sucked up in the commercial world of selling shitty albums to actually remember what made them so good. Not to mention John doesn’t even play with them anymore. But to have grown up in that era of Mother’s Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, One Hot Minute, and Californication, makes me an EXTREMELY lucky person and bass player. Go back and listen to One Hot Minute. I bet you’ll be shocked all over again. And Subway to Venus on Mother’s Milk….SO ahead of their time!

My next bass!

April 20th, 2011

Picture 1
I recently had a conversation with someone where the topic of how much money I spend on equipment arose. I quickly saved myself by admitting my problem, but that I had truly found my “magic” basses and was just about settled with my gear. Of course the occasional G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) kicks in for new and interesting gear, but I’m pretty happy at the moment. Of course that was before I heard about Jimmy Coppolo’s new kid on the block. It’s called the 6571 Hippy Dippy Trippy bass and it’s basically an all passive LG5 with a natural hand rubbed water-based varnish, complete with a sandblasted Alleva-Coppolo logo and peace sign to remind us of the era this bass is supposed to represent. At $2500, I think it’s well worth the price for a classic, great sounding 5 string jazz bass made by one of if not the finest luthier in the States right now. Now I just need to sell that Warmoth bass I recently had made and it’s a done deal!

the 2011 NYC-INT Alleva-Coppolo GTG! RA vs. LM!!!

April 9th, 2011

So after owning 2 ACs and knowing just about everyone who owns an AC in the greater NY area (less than 5) I decided to throw a little get together at my spot in Williamsburg. The turnout was small, which was inevitable, but we had a great time. My buddy Pete Palmieri was there with his unbelievable sounding LM5, Valenti relic’d 60’s jazz, and small wall of EA gear. While we were all blown away by the slap tone and 70’s punch of the LM, I was especially blown away by the tone and volume of both VL-208s at once. Just one sounded weak and thin to me but with two BAM!! All of a sudden the sound just came alive with tons of headroom and this dark thumpy tone! Now where the hell am I gonna find a pair!? He also brought a pair of NL-210s which I was VERY impressed with, I just found them to be a bit more mid-assertive than my VL-210B. Stacked though, they are NO joke! My new friend Ivan came by with an insanely light Sadowsky 5, a gorgeous Valenti 4, and a TC Electronics RH450 and two 2×10s. I still can’t stand Sadowskys haha but I really liked the Valenti. Beautiful top and the Sadowsky preamp he installed in it didn’t really sound as trebly and zingy as it usually does. Defininitely a bass I would rock. The TC rig is impressive but definitely not my sound. Having the built in tuner is SO clutch though!! And last but not least my buddy J pickles rolled through toting my old ‘75 re-issue Fender Jazz and Markbass LMII. He overstayed his welcome by blasting every amp super loud and running through the most ridiculously fast and useless slap chops known to man….hahaha jk pickles….but we all learned a lot and had a great time.

Now on to the battle!! RA VS. LM!!!!!!

Interestingly enough, my expectations of my RA fell a bit short after spending more time ABing it with Pete’s LM. I said recently that buying an LM was silly because the only difference between it and the RA other than the body wood is the weight. The alder-bodied RA comes in between the 8.5-9 lb. range while the ash LM comes in closer to the 10-12 range depending on how heavy you want it. WAY too heavy for me but does it make a difference? When we first plugged in, both Ivan and I were blown away by the punch and slap tone Pete was getting out of the LM. (Before I go into how amazing the LM is, I think it should be noted that Pete personally asked Jimmy Coppolo to custom build the neck significantly fatter like a P-bass so not all LMs feel like this) It was strung with DR High Beams and even with the passive tone knob all the way open the bass never sounded too bright which is my biggest turn off in bass tone. My RA in comparison just sounded dead and flat. Just no life at all. With the tone knob open any bit over the halfway point it just sounded barky and brittle, and the slap tone was almost non-existent. It was then that I realized how dead my Black Diamond nickel rounds were and that I was slowly crawling back towards that flatwound tone….AHHHH!!!!! haha but clearly that’s just my sound and after an entire afternoon of throwing different strings on the RA to see if it could come close to the sound of the LM that was the moral at the end of the story. However, as soon as new strings went on the bass literally came alive and we realized it had much more gain output than Pete’s LM. With a set of DR High Beams we got REALLY close, but something, the paint, the weight, the neck, the color, whatever it was just made them different. The RA on the other hand is WAY warmer than the LM and with the near dead rounds on it but it somewhere between a jazz and a Precision tonally. With the fresh rounds however, the bass could totally cop the 70s jazz thing WELL and the slap tone got pretty ferocious at times. It just didn’t sound as “Marcusy” as the LM. If that’s your thing and you can get away with that in your band go for it! I would LOVE to play in a band that I could use an LM in. But unfortunately, if I showed up to a gig with that bass and started slapping my band would look at me funny like something was wrong with me. And then fire me. BUt the RA provides that fat warm fundamental with the just the perfect amount of burp and punch to poke through a mix. Either way you look at it you can’t go wrong and hands down, these are 2 of the finest basses I have ever put my hands on.

Pics and possibly video to follow!!

Morgan MP200

March 18th, 2011

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of stumbling upon something new and fantastic on the internet. It’s an even greater feeling when you find out the thing you just found is barely known by anyone and may be one of the best kept bass amp secrets out there. Joe Morgan appears to run a possibly one man operation in California and builds extremely simple and sexy tube amps and cabs for both bass and guitar. While offering a list of guitar amps, there’s actually only one bass amp on the menu: the MP200. I’m not 100% sure what the MP stands for but the 200 is rather clear with it’s 3 x 12AX7s in the preamp section and quad of KT88s. Sonically, the amp can hit just about every desirable bass tone from Chris Squire’s punchy pick sound, to Marcus’s fat bright slap tone, to insane dub fatness. It even sounds awesome overdriven! Weighing in at 42 lbs. it’s quite a contender against some of the other higher powered tube heads out there, and swap the KT88s for KT120s and suddenly you’ve got a 300 watt monster. But the coolest by far is the light up M logo and the assortment of insane colors and textures to choose from! Be sure to check them out at and you can count on me having one of these in the near future….COUNT ON IT!

Trace Elliot and the under-appreciated V-type line

March 17th, 2011

Trace Elliot was formed in the UK in 1979 originally as a PA manufacturer who saw the void in British bass amplification and attempted to fill it. Well, I’d say they did rather well. The name Trace Elliot still rings true today in the name of UK bass amplification, possibly overshadowing it’s fellow UK cousin (technically bastard son), Ashdown Amplification in recent years.

In the early 80’s, slap bass god Mark King of the UKs Level 42 was a major endorsee and Trace Elliot amps became known as an expensive solid-state monster rig that weighed less than an Ampeg rig and sounded clearer and just as loud. By the early 90’s, they were a staple found in tons of studios and on the road with tons of big bands. At this point, the flagship GP11 preamp (11 band graphic EQ circuit) had upgraded to the GP12 (12 band) and featured far more tone shaping options. The cabs were updated with the infamous red stripe and green carpet, and the Twinvalve, Quatravalve and Hexavalve were phased out into one of the greatest series of amplifiers to ever be invented: the V-type series. Of course there were several solid-state V-type heads (the 300H and 600H) which sound great, but the real gems are the all tube heads: the V4, V6, and mythical V8.

Now I’ve seen and heard but never played a V4 and I’ve never even seen a V8 in person but I do own a V6 and I can attest to it’s unimaginable excellence in nearly every way. At first glance, it appears to be a simpler, green Ampeg SVT. But with 6 x KT88 power tubes instead of the Ampeg’s 6 x 6550s the V6 rocks a full all tube 400 watts RMS compared to the SVTs 300. Sure it has a few less preamp tubes than the SVT but at 63 lbs. compared to the SVTs 90lbs. it’s sort of a no brainer. The V6 in design is actually fairly simple. 2 x ECC83 tubes at the input stage, gain knob, a 2 x ECC83 driver stage, deep switch, 3 band passive EQ with push/pull Q shift mid knob, bright switch, a built in DI with pre/post and ground/lift switches, and master knob controlling the sextet of KT88s. Taking off the front wood panel is like staring into the engine of a Ferrari. Sheer power and elegance. Unlike an SVT, it’s preamp tube breakup is pretty subtle up until about 9.5, but it’s extremely slight grit coloration really defines the unique V-type tone and just sounds perfect in any mix. It’s like a soft aggression that can’t really be explained you just have to hear it. And the best and worst part is the it only runs at 4 or 2 ohms, so only big or really loud cabs will work. No problem though; I think to truly appreciate the sound of an all tube monster, you HAVE to play through a huge cab that can handle anything you can throw at it. In my case, that cab would be an Epifani T-215UL. Epifani’s rare and quickly discontinued attempt at a neo 2×15 cab. And DAMN did they get it right. Kind of funny because they were both constructed around the same year in the mid 90’s thousands of miles apart.

Even with the EQ set flat and the deep and bright switches turned off, the tone is unmatched in warmth, punch, fatness, and raw power. It’s pretty scary to even think what the V6 is capable of in 2 ohm mode with, say, an Epifani 6×10 added….either way, playing through an amplifier like the V6 forces the player to realize the weakest links in his/her tone. In other words, one begins to realize the impact that wood type, pickup type and location, plucking style, string type, knob settings and cables all have on your tone way before the signal even hits the preamp. However, the V6 certainly asserts it’s signature voice on any bass you feed it, but it remains extremely versatile from Marcus-like slap tone to insanely fat dub low end that fills the whole room and makes your jaw hurt. My biggest hesitation in gigging with the V6 in NYC is that it’ll be either broken or stolen. I even have nightmares sometimes about it. But as soon as the next on-the-road tour comes up, you can bet that V6 will be snug in a roadcase rocking extra hard every night!

Here’s a quick clip of me tracking bass for Nyle vs the Naysayers upcoming self-titled album playing through my V6/Epifani rig!

improving my tone (again)- Monique tube pre vs REDDI tube DI

March 4th, 2011

Looking back on what I thought was great tone when I first started playing bass in 1999-2000, I wish I could go back in time and slap myself in the face. I’ve bought and sold so much equipment over the years, my tastes changing every year or so as my influences and experiences grow. I’m 24 now, I’ve been out of school and gigging in the city for 3 years now, and I can confidently say I’m closest to my tonal goals than I’ve ever been in my bass playing life. Just a short time ago I was REALLY into the sound I was getting out of my ‘69 Precision with super old TI flats through my Trace Elliot V6 tube head and Epifani 2×15. Tone knob rolled back, Pino-style fatness and thump. I even rocked a foam mute for a minute. But these days I’m really into my EA stuff which is just clear, dark and articulate, and I’m LOVING my Alleva-Coppolos which are basically new “pre-CBS” Fenders but better. So it’s vintage thump meets modern clarity. I think I can live with that for now….

But in my research for constantly upgrading my tone, I’ve noticed a lot of great bassists using really nice preamp/DIs BEFORE their amps live. I’ve used both the Avalon U5 and Millenia TD-1 before (both sound AMAZING) and have noticed a lot of players rocking those, such as Nathan East, and Anthony Jackson. However, there are two tube pre/DIs that are quickly gaining some serious popularity in the bass community. The first is the REDDI tube DI made by A-Designs and is referred to by many as the “best tube DI ever made”. I’ve personally never tried it, but I know Paul Turner is using one, and there’s a buzz amongst Alleva-Coppolo players that they’ve found the secret ingredient for the ultimate tone. It’s based on the design of the Ampeg B-15, so it can’t be bad, right? From what I’ve heard online, it definitely adds something to the tone that just sounds perfect on a recording. If you listen to the guy going back and forth with it in the video I found, it makes a huge amazing difference. I found it online for $750 which is pretty steep but for a bassist or producer who’s constantly doing recordings, thing thing could be worth it’s weight in gold. Now to our other contender, the Monique tube bass preamp made by Jule Amps. Now this pre really intrigues me. It’s design is based on an SVTs tube preamp section and it features 2 x 6SL7s (like a B-15!) and a rectifier tube! Every piece is made from scratch by hand in the USA and comes in an awesome see through metal chassis, or a more expensive fancy wooden box. The metal box version is $1295 and the wooden box one is $1695. WOOO that’s a lot….but from what I’ve heard online, I think the Monique may make more sense for me right now. Check out the vid I found of Stew McKinsey killin it! That tube overdrive-fuzz just sounds awesome. But who said you can’t have BOTH!

Woah! new gear from TC Electronic @ NAMM ‘11!!

February 5th, 2011

When TC Electronic first came out with their super lightweight, small footprint RH450 and 2×10 (or 2×12) cabs, the bass world seemed to be taken by storm overnight. Clubs in NYC who for the last 25 years have been rocking their crappy old Hartke rigs that were falling apart suddenly have crispy fresh new TC rigs and they sounded fantastic! I almost even purchased one until I had a bad experience at one of those venues when I realized those little cabs just couldn’t give me the huge bass tone I require for hip-hop gigs. Enter NAMM show ‘11. The new Blacksmith head. 1600 watts @ 4 ohms with a 4500 watt peak!!! Are they joking??!!! I guess with a $2600 price tag, the answer is NO! Can’t wait to try this thing out!!