Making Of...

Dark Bass.

My friend Baba is a professional drummer and started playing bass a couple of years ago. He then discovered the medieval scene and liked it. After some stints as bassist for various medieval bands he got the idea for an unusual project which he christened Nefacio (nay-fah-kee-o). 

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Nefacio is a musical journey taking place in the 14th century. Musically it is funk/rock, and there´s a lot of slapping going on. Baba had pimped his basses with Hotwire pickups and J-Retros, and played most of his first CD LAUF! on a Hot Wire bass. As we could witness the progress of his recordings, I felt inspired to build a bass to match his stage act, right next to his self-built, dangerous-looking axe-bass which is, being somehow uncomfortable, only played on two songs in his show. What would look good on a sinister-looking guy wearing a frock and a nose ring?

Baba live pics: courtesy Tom Bombadil


My partner Rüdi, Baba and me got together, the result of our brainstorming being the "Dark" Bass. We did not want it to look slick and modern like most basses. As it is played and abused by an executioner-turned-gleeman, travelling the world with it we thought a used look would look just right! The bass has something archaic to it, adding to the project. Baba suggested it should look like it has been cut directly out of a tree.


That was the cue! Now we started on the shape. Of course we could have created a far-out body shape, but that would have taken some time, building a prototype to test the ergonomics... Baba tried our Inlaw and liked it. 24 frets are great, as he does crazy octave jumps spanning seven frets, so an easy-playing bass is important. In order to have some space for slapping, and also to have a full sound with some "dirt" to it, we put a P pickup up in front. For additional sound colors we put a Funderbucker in the bridge position. We topped it all off with an East Uni-Pre 5 Knob for sheer power! As always, it started with a drawing.


Of course we could have used swamp ash or alder for the body, but that would have been much too dignified. Rüdi remembered to have some funky old ash lying around. Much too crude for a normal bass... but quite right for this project! To get the structure even more medievial and martial, he suggested to apply some sandblasting to the body... the soft stuff flies off and the hard stuff stays, make it look like it has been through tough times! We all liked that! So two planks were glued together.


The body was milled from this plank. The wood had lots of chips, so normally there would have been some reworking - but here, dings and dongs were welcome! The sandblasting brought out the rough structure even more, being just the opposite of what we normally do - going for a nice clean and flat surface, which then is painstakingly finished... You can imagine that it is quite an art in itself to achieve a rustic surface like this - taking the term "aging" one step further, this is "middle-aging"!

Only maple will do for a great fast-playing neck! But of course, with matching color. In order to have a smooth playing surface, we did not sandblast the neck! :-)

After all parts were ready, we started the finishing. Which was also quite different from the usual procedure. we started bating the wood with black, red, brown, and yellow mordant and tried to slowly approach the middle age. After we were happy with the color, the body and neck were given a matt finish.

We were so excited about it, we plain forgot to photograph some of the stages of work in progress! Well, now they are ready - we built two identical “Dark” Inlaws! And we had to make some more - after we played them extensively, and were floored by the sound, we expected some orders!


Baba´s comment:

"It´s unbelievable, to see a simple idea emerging into a real instrument! I just can´t put down..... This bass is a masterpiece!!!!"

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Baba is on the road with "We Salute You", world´s best AC/DC Tribute. The Dark Bass would be both "too old" and "too modern" for this act, so he relies on his trusty Hot Wire Pee.