Barclay James Harvest Equipment

Les Holroyd's Alembic Bass

Musik Express Sounds Article from February 1994

The following is a translation of an article which appeared in German music magazine Musik Express Sounds, in which Les talks about his prized Alembic custom stereo bass.

deutsch / Original article in German

At the beginning of the 70s, Grateful Dead technician Ron Wickersham developed the Alembic bass.

His first customer: Les Holroyd of BJH


The active Alembic original

Les with the Alembic bass in 1994 "In 1975 Barclay James Harvest were working in His Masters Wheels studio in San Francisco. The studio belonged to Elliot Mazer, who was working as a producer for Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash at that time. As our band was always very interested in different sounds, we were constantly on the lookout for unusual instruments. The Alembic shop happened to be over the studio. The Alembic crew, above all its head Ron Wickersham and his wife Susan, was known through their work for The Grateful Dead as absolutely the last word. When we were recording in San Francisco, he had just built his first two e-basses. Eliott Mazer bought the one with the long neck and I took the short one. The price of 800.00 was astronomically high in those days, but I simply had to have it. Today the instrument is insured for 5,000.00, and I still enjoy playing it more than any other bass.

The body is built using the sandwich method. Each half consists of several layers of maple glued to the neck, which runs all the way through, and is veneered with birdseye maple. All 24 frets are very carefully inset and perfectly positioned. Because the neck/body transition is very far forward, the bass gives perfect playability over the entire tonal range. The bass is equally good for any musical style, helped by the Rotosound strings. A slap-bassist would be just as happy with this instrument as a hard rocker, a bluesman or even me. The three active pick-ups were developed by Alembic themselves. The bass has two controls each for tone and volume as well as two switches, with which the sound in the mid-range can be modified. This instrument has the biggest variety of sounds which I have ever experienced on a bass."


© ME/SOUNDS (February 1994)

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