Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… wait. What is that?!
Ever wonder what the ‘ugliest’ guitar mod is you’ve ever seen? I think this bass will be quite high on that list… I’m still boggled and confused what happened to this poor instrument, since it seems so random and some parts seem to have been done by a professional while others seem to be more the result of some kind of industrial accident. Pictures of this transformation are down below, it goes good to worse.
The backstory: I was browsing the local ‘Craigslist’ and came across an ad for the weirdest looking bass with a matching title that was pretty on the noose: Ibanez Pole Bass (or Stick, depends which translation you prefer). The seller described the bass as “Ibanez Ripper lawsuit copy with structural weight reduction”, especially that last part made me grin. This mutilated bass looked like something Devo would have used live in the 70s. Being quite intrigued I contacted the seller and the price was so low I just had to have it! I was afraid this ‘Ibanez’ might not be constructionally sound after its weight-loss. The seller guaranteed me it was solid so I picked it up.
What is the situation? Well the bass is still built like a tank, the neck has a very nice profile and surprisingly the play-ability and sustain of this instrument is still pretty good. Neck dive is off the chart though. The action is a bit high in places and the D-string is buzzing around the 12th fret but nothing that can’t be adjusted for. What puzzles me most is the Ibanez was converted to a fretless bass, the fretboard being completed replaced by a newer ebony board, which was done professionally (at least to my eyes) but the body seems to be mangled by an amateur with a hack saw. The treble side and headstock for sure, the bass side is done fairly nice actually. The seller told me the bass was his brothers who got it for free in the early 90s (figures…). He had it converted to a fretless but it eventually ended up in this state. No idea what the exact timeline of abuse this bass suffered is but it must be quite a story.
Apart from the hack job it is missing all of its electronics, besides a lone ground-wire from the bridge. Originally these Ibanez Ripper copies came with a set of chrome ‘mudbuckers’ like those found in Gibson EB-0, -2 and -3’s. The two-point bridge design appears to have also been lifted from these same models, unlike the three-point bridges on ‘real’ Rippers. The pickup routes are large enough to fit almost anything but that leads me to the final question: what am I going to do with this bass?
I’m not quite sure yet. I bought it not expecting much but there is certainly much potential coming off this bass. The Devo vibe is also to good to be true, where is the rest of my new cover band?! I think I’ll start with adding some cheap pickups and electronics just to see what sounds I can get out of this bass before throwing any more money at it. Because of the lack of wood it’ll be quite a challenge adding the necessary pots and switches. Room for an output jack is routed on the lower half but I have no idea if this bass ever had much electronics in its then current state, if any. Suggestions much appreciated!
I’ll update this blog if anything progresses, I’m curious what will become of this strange, lanky bass guitar. Side note; the Billy Corgan Stratocaster will likely be finished in the coming weeks after I find a suitable neck and wire the electronics. Hopefully it won’t last as long as another certain project…