Saturday, March 07, 2009


When I first started playing bass in 2002 Michael "Flea" Balzary, bass player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was probably my most important musical influence. It was his playing that pulled me away from the punk and pop-punk that I was listening to at that time and made me start trying to get my funk on.

His playing was also the main reason why I bought the bass that I did when I came to get my own instrument. I wanted something like a musicman stingray (his bass of choice, most of the time), but didn't have the £1,200 spare to buy one, so I bought a cheap copy. It wasn't a terrible bass, and with my dad's instruction and my own personal curiosity I was able to maintain and, to an extent, improve its playability.

This wasn't a cheap beginner bass though, if it wasn't for the fact that I'd been playing my dad's bass for 6 months I wouldn't have been willing to spend £250 on an instrument. Most people, as I'm sure you all know, don't have a gibson EB-3 laying about in a cupboard that you can play until you think you're confident enough to want an instrument of your own. Most people, when they decide that they want to play a guitar or a bass, have to wrangle the thing from skeptical parents, or their own meagre funds. The instruments you can afford or obtain with such means are not good.

I've played a lot of guitars and basses belonging to beginner musicians. With a few exceptions these instruments were usually so bad that I could barely play them. I'd usually end up sitting around fixing the action, adjusting the neck, and raising the pickups to the right height, as well as setting the tremolo and the intonation. It often took quite a while to get them to the point where someone might be reasonably expected to learn to play on them. I came across these sad instruments so often that I started to carry a set of screwdrivers, allen keys, and a little socket-spanner around in my bag when I was going to a house i'd not been before.

All this is why I was glad to see that Flea has started his own bass company; not making high-end boutique instruments, but cheap and cheerful instruments for students. Most importantly he's made the playability of the instruments the key feature. I don't know how much these things are going to cost, or if they'll be as good as they promise to be, but I hope they're a success. I think too many people get their self-esteem shat upon when they can't play an instrument they want to play, not knowing that it's just because it's shit.

They look pretty cool as well, in a painfully lurid sort of way. I think that their appearance, coupled with their simple electronics, might make them popular with grown-up musicians as well.