Friday, March 28, 2008

It's Not All About Magic

Hi, all. Mike Giusti here.

Well, allergy season has officially arrived, and Paul is down for the count. It hits him hard with a sinus infection each and every year, and everyone here at the shop should start taking bets as to when Paul will be out; it happens that regularly! Get well, Paul.

On the home front, we've been busier than ever here at Hocus Pocus. I've been putting on new products and categories like a madman, and thanks to my old pal, Mr. Caffeine, I'm able to keep up with it all. Barely. This week we had one of the most successful Estate and Private Collectible Sales ever! In fact, more and more people are contacting us to help them sell their older, unused merchandise, so look forward to seeing more of these lists in the future.

Personally, I couldn't be more busy. In an effort to try to simplify my life, I have done the exact opposite: March, April and May are now completely booked with both magic and music gigs. For those of you who don't know, I picked up piano at an early age and studied for a while until I found my first true love: bass. I can't quite explain it, but ever since I remember, I've always had an affinity for singing harmony to the point where I could sing lyrics of songs to the bass line. In other words, I could sing the lyrics, but the music coming out of my mouth would always be the bass line and or harmonies of the tune.

My first bass was an old German stand-up acoustic that was bigger than I was. In fact, I remember traveling with my college band and dreading the size of this instrument. You all know what I mean:

The old German Stand Up Bass

So I finally sold it as my college salad-eating days couldn't afford me the luxury of owning both a stand up and electric. I picked up my first electric bass and truly found my niche. It was an old red Hohner bass that was licensed by Steinberger, (I really wanted the Steinberger XL2 but couldn't afford at the time). After a couple of years, I sold the Hohner and got a great deal on the Steinberger XL2! You've all seen the Steinberger bass I'm talking about; everyone who paid attention to all the bands of the 80s and 90s saw it:

The Steinberger XL2

Made entirely of a graphite composite and all one piece, I loved that bass and used it all the way up until the mid-90s, when it got stolen! I was heartbroken. To make matters worse, Steinberger had stopped making these basses, and eBay wasn't around back then, so the basses were scarce. So I unhappily borrowed a friend's Fender Jazz bass and played with various bands all over California, scraping all my pennies together for my next purchase and, since I was living in Northern California at the time, I was able to talk to the incredible people at Alembic, based in Santa Rosa! To me, Alembic was always unobtainable; they are the Rolls Royce of bass makers, and their basses are not cheap. In fact, master bass virtuoso, Stanley Clarke uses them all the time for every one of his albums. It was there that I bought my first custom-made Series 1, which I still own to this day:

My old lady: the Alembic Series 1

Such a work of art this bass is, with a neck-through-body construction and made of maple, exotic African Cocobolo wood, and my initials embedded in the neck with mother of pearl, this thing is not only gorgeous to look at, but it sounds SOOOOOO good, whether keeping the low end or soloing! It is, by far, my favorite bass, and the best sounding one I've ever owned. I use primarily for studio work, however, it's a bit on the heavy side, and I'm always afraid of dinging it, so I started looking for a more steady gigging instrument. I tried the Musicman Stingray, which I had always admired the sound that people like Peter Gabriel's bassist, Tony Levin and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist, Flea got, so I put some jack down for one. Here, you can see it in the middle of my "studio":

From left to right: the NS CR Double Bass, an old acoustic guitar hanging on the wall, the Stingray, and the Alembic Series 1

Call it buyer's remorse, but almost immediately, I didn't like the feel of the Stingray. It only had 20 frets instead of the 24 I am used to, so soloing was extremely limited for me, so I looked into Musicman's other options and sold the Stingray for the 24 fretted instrument called the Bongo:

The Bongo Bass I owned was the top black one

This bass felt a lot better, but its high end got lost with the rest of the instruments, so the search was on again for a gigging bass that sounded great, both in the low and high end. I came across someone who was selling a Pedulla 1988 MVP bass, and it caught my interest immediately; I remember seeing a great band in the Bay Area called WHaT, and the bassist/singer, Endre Tarczy, used it and I always thought it sounded great. Since I had gambled before with the other two basses, I decided to sell the Bongo and get the Pedulla. It has been with me ever since (in fact, it is the bass pictured at the very top of the blog). It gives me the tone I need without the weight of the Series 1, and I couldn't be happier with this bass.

Oh, and during my search for a good gigging bass, since I missed my old friend, the German acoustic stand-up bass, I decided to revisit history and look into Steinberger's new series of basses, and I was able to get a great deal on an NS CR Double Bass:

NS CR Double Bass

This bass weighs more than half of the old acoustic stand-up and sounds just as good, if not better, and is perfect for playing the smaller venues like clubs and coffee houses where jazz and blues are more appropriate. It even comes apart and fits into a single gig bag over the shoulder, quite unlike the stand-up.

Wow. If you've read this far so far, you deserve a standing ovation! I hadn't planned on this much information, but I am happy to say that my band, Smoke Break, is getting more popular by the day, and tonight, we are playing live at Club Milano in the Fulton Mall area of Fresno, and you can also see us at Club Salsa Monday, April 7th and again at Club Milano Saturday, April 19th.

Paul will return next week, so enough of my mindless off-topic prattling.

Take care,


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