Cure, The (Robert Smith)/Replicating Robert's Bass VI sound
QUESTION: Hi Wid,
I enjoyed reading one of your answers from a few years ago (2011) where you outlined how to approximate Robert Smith's Bass VI sound for Disintegration (Show vs. Trilogy). I totally agree that for songs like "Pictures of You", you can get close using the middle and neck pick-ups, a bit of chorus, and a bit of delay. I use a Mooer Ensemble King Chorus and a Boss DD3, and I get reasonably good tone on a Schecter UltraCure VI and, more recently, on a Squier VI. Almost, good enough, but not quite.
The audio interview you had a link for mentioned that Robert's Bass VI was wired differently to all others, possibly by accident. Have you any experience trying to modify the instrument's wiring so as to match the sound from Robert's very unique Bass VI? If so, is it a straightforward job?
Many thanks and apologies if you've already answered my question elsewhere!
ANSWER: Hi Anthony,
If you want to achieve the Bass VI sound heard on "Disintegration" (I mean the LP), it's quite easy : switch the bridge and neck pickups on, disengage the "strangle switch", add chorus and delay and you're there. No mystery.
I don't know if I really ever mentionned the middle pickup of the VI, because I really never use it, so I'd be quite surprized if I did. Well, to be honest, I never used it on "usual" Bass VIs until I got a "Pawn Shop VI". But this VI is the exception : I only use it with the middle pickup on (paradoxally, it's the best combination I found on this guitar and it certainly sounds pretty well this way - replacing the usual bridge / neck combination).
On the recent Squier VI, I found rather interesting that the pickups have a much thinner and higher register than on other VIs. Maybe it's a bit too trebbly, but then again, if you have an equalizer in you effect chain, you can manage to get the exact right sound again (bridge / neck, no "strangle switch").
I haven't any experience with the Schecter VIs (either Hellcat, Ultra or Ultracure). I never really found them any attractive, so never stepped any further to get one. And I think I'll never will.
As for the different wiring, I remember that Dave Allen mentionned it in a radio interview. He said that Smith had up to 6 Bass VI in the studio during the "Disintegration" sessions, but only one was used, which came to feature a different wiring (but without mentionning what was altered on it). So all in all, it's pretty hard to say what was different with this one, provided that you may get the exact right sound with an unmodified VI. We all assume that this Bass VI was a post '62, fitted with 4 switches and Jaguar pickups. But it may well be the 1962 Bass VI owned by Smith (black one, 3 switch, tortoise pickguard) that is mainly used by Simon Gallup (to be seen in 1989 "Fascination Street" or on some TV shows - "Lullaby" on Top of the Pops). This guitar was also used later in 2002 on "Trilogy" (on "There is no if"). I never saw Smith playing this one on stage. This one is electronically heavily modified : it features an added pot (located on the pickguard) as well as a mini toggle switch next to it. So is it a supplementary volume or a tone knob, an added capacitor ??? I really don't know. This bass is here on video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD_LyMHtkAs
Looks like Reeves Gabrels also played this one during the 2012 summer festival : https://www.facebook.com/notes/reeves-gabrels/guitars-on-tour-fender-vi/10151128167124643
I really never messed with the wiring of a VI (except a change of pickups on a 90s Japanese reissue, but that wasn't a big deal, and I just swapped the pickups for AVRI Jaguar ones). I guess it's not tougher to do than on any other guitar, but then again, I wouldn't do that on a vintage one (given its value). Adding a supplementary pot, whatever its use may be would certainly bring me some cold sweats (with no real evidence it would change anything at all...).
I hope the answer helps and it was worth a day waiting for it (sory for that...).
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hey Wid,
Thanks a lot for the helpful reply. I really appreciate it.
I have another (hopefully simple) question re track 7 of the Bloodflowers album: The Loudest Sound. Around 0:50 what pedal is being introduced? Distortion, fuzz, or something else entirely?
I really think the part you're talking about was played be Perry Bamonte.
For driven sounds, he had a Boss BD-2 "Blues driver" and a Mesa Boogie "V-Twin". Trick is, he also used a Line6 Flextone amp with built-in multieffects (remote controlled with the optional Line6 Floor Board). So it's pretty hard to say what was used and when.
For the solo stuff heard in the bridge, Robert certainly used a combination of both Boss SD-1 and BD-2. That's all he had to drive sounds by then. He never used distortion after 1982.
Hope the answer helps.