Mar 22 2015

Pimping My Bass With John East, Part I

*** Geek Alert!! Non-bassists might find this post a bit boring but I don’t care ***                                            *** Brace yourselves boys and girls!! ***

Happy Sunday folks!

I had a show with Clare Teal last night in Lichfield and thought it would be the ideal opportunity to pop in to see John East to have one of his Marcus Retro preamps fitted to my Japanese Fender Marcus Miller bass. I’m so excited about the results I had to tell you all about it!!

John East March 2015 #2

All bassists know of electronics wizard John East, particularly his fantastic J-Retro preamp that has been around for years. I’ve read numerous rave reviews from bassist all over the world about John’s preamps so when I saw him on his stand at this year’s London Bass Guitar Show I sidled up for a quick chat.

John has developed a preamp specifically for the Fender Marcus Miller bass and I got to try one out on John Bird‘s Marcus bass at a filming session for iBass Magazine about a month ago. I was blown away by the range of tones available and thought it was about time I gave my Marcus bass a bit of love as It has been slightly relegated by my two P-basses over the last couple of years.

So having had Martin give it a fretstone at The Gallery in Camden last week I took the bass over to John East so I could have him fit the preamp himself. What a treat!

John East March 2015 #1

John’s Marcus Retro preamp is based on his famous J-Retro circuit, but the “bass and treble contours are voiced to be similar to the preamp that Marcus uses. Two versions are available, with and without control plate“. So iyou can fit it in any jazz-style bass but if you have the Marcus signature it comes with a matching faceplate from Fender so you can pop it right in.

My Marcus bass now has one volume knob stacked on the blend knob (way better than the standard jazz two knob scenario), stacked bass & treble, stacked sweepable mid and tone with a switch to lock the pickup selector if necessary. There’s also handy push/pull functions to switch between active and passive modes and bright boost. Such a delight!

It feels like I know have four basses in one! The tonal range available now is incredible. I can now can a beautiful p-like subby fat tone (even with roundwounds) alongside all the usual classic jazz bass sounds. And an improved Marcus Miller slaptastic twang, obviously!

Marcus Miller Bass John East preamp

If you got one of these basses, just get one of these preamps! Don’t even think about it. Just get one. I’ve been thinking about selling this bass for years as I rarely use it but now I can see this becoming one of my busiest basses. Seriously. Just go get one…

So, what’s next? you may ask yourselves. Well, I also took along my trusty Warwick Triumph bass (yup, I left London with a carload of gear!), which John had a look at and he’s now designing a similar preamp to fit this bass. It’s be going to be based on the Marcus Retro but without the tone knob and with a voicing aimed specifically at the Triumph. John has a stomp box version of this preamp; I tried the Triumph through it and it sounded fantastic. Hoping to get that fitted sometime next week.

I’ll let you know how it goes and post some more pics!


Mar 13 2014

Maggie Reilly at The Half Moon, March 2014

Good afternoon folks,

Maggie Reilly Half Moon

I mentioned in my previous blog post that on Tuesday I’d be playing at the marvellous Half Moon in Putney with Maggie Reilly so I thought I’d drop another quick post with some photos and a short video from the show.

Maggie Reilly and Davie Dunsmuir

We got a great crowd and it was really exciting to play another London show as the majority of our gigs are over in Germany and Scandinavia. As well as playing a lot of the material from Maggie’s latest album Heaven Sent we played all the hits and  some of the more folky material from her album Rowan.

Processed with VSCOcam with x2 preset

The band for this show and the forthcoming German tour next week consisted of Davie Dunsmuir on guitars, Gordon Dougal on keyboards and acoustic guitar, Tony Soave on drums and myself on bass. We were also lucky to be joined by two special guests; Stuart MacKillop joined us for a few songs, as did Alan Darby who played with Maggie back in the Cado Belle days.

Alan Darby

And as it was a a hometown gig for me I was able to bring my Warwick Triumph bass for a few tunes in the set. Love that bass…

Simon little with Warwick Triumph bass

So the German tour starts next week. You can find all the dates on my previous post. Whilst I did manage to get a few videos from the Half Moon show, unfortunately the app I was using decided to delete almost all of them. So all I have to show you is half of Moonlight Shadow from the end of the night. Enjoy…

I expect the next post will be after the German tour. I’ll try to get some more videos in the meantime. Until then…

Gordon Dougal on guitar
ps. The majority of the photos in this post were shot by Phil Ross. Many thanks to Phil for allowing me to use his photos from the show.


Dec 19 2012

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…

Well it’s coming to the end of the year and I thought I’d better drop a quick post to let you in on all the latest news.

On Sunday we had the last of the Clare Teal Christmas shows at the Chapel Arts Centre in Bath. We’d already played the Christmas show in Southampton, Exeter and Maidstone. And in the traditional fashion, there were festive costumes involved for the big Bath show…

Photo By Nicki Szlovak

Yes indeed, it was my turn to be the Christmas tree this year folks. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy playing the bass in that outfit. And it was particularly tricky playing the bass, the ukulele and a kazoo whilst dressed as a Christmas tree…

Bass, Uke & Kazoo...

Clare and Grant surpassed themselves once again with some awesome costumes. Inflatable outfits are quite clearly de rigueur this year…

Clare Teal on horseback

Ben the SnowmanGrant's Xmas Turkey

There are big plans for next years Christmas tour. Bigger and better than ever. Our next regular show will be at Pizza Express Dean Street on January 24th. Hopefully see some of you there…

As you should all know by now (and if you don’t: shame on you!) the new trio record with Jez Carr and Mike Haughton  Foreground Music, Vol. I was released last week. It’s been getting a great response and has already received a couple of lovely reviews. Check out Oliver Arditi’s review in his Review Of The Year post. The album is available via Bandcamp for a mere £5.00. Gr grab yourself a copy.

And while you’re at it, you should also check out the new EP by our very own Grant Windsor and drummer Richard Spaven. Their new project The Sure Co. released The Sure Co. 5ive on Jazz Re:freshed last week. You should definitely check that out too. It’s also available on iTunes…

So that’s the new music covered. Now onto the big news of the week. Tomorrow night I’ll be playing Shepherds Bush Empire with Duke Special.It’s gonna be a great show with lots of special guests and support from The Shellac Collective and Michele Stodart. We’ve got the big lineup reunited once more. Am currently dusting off the tailcoat and top hat. The Undertaker is making a comeback for one night only. Frankly, you should all be there…

Duke Special, Shepherds Bush Empire Flyer
I suspect this won’t be the last blog of the year, but in case I don’t manage to post again before Christmas; have a good one. I’ll be upstairs at Ronnie Scotts on New Years Eve with Kai Hoffman’s band Kai’s Cats. Should be a great night.

Until next time…

Photo By Nicki Szlovak