Mike Watt, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Thundercat: The Year in Offbeat Signature Basses

This year has been an exciting one in the gear world, with the releases of plenty of new plugin instruments, synths and drum machines, and effects pedals. 2017 also saw the announcements of new signature model guitars by Jason Isbell, Brad Paisley, John Mayer, and more.

But guitarists weren't the only musicians awarded the signature model treatment. Today, we're taking a look at some of the coolest signature bass models to hit the market this year.


The Mike Watt Wattplower by Reverend

First up is the Mike Watt signature—the Wattplower—from Reverend. Not only is this Mike Watt’s first ever signature model, but it’s one of the coolest to hit the streets this year. We even had a chance to catch up with Mike Watt at Winter NAMM 2017 this year to learn the specifics.

During our interview, Watt told us that the Wattplower (a nickname given to Watt by Carla Bozulich) was created from measurements that Reverend took of both Watt’s EB-3 and the EB-0 that replaced it after it was stolen on the road as part of a larger cache of Stooges gear. Though it took a couple of tries from the folks at Reverend, they finally were able to perfect exactly what Mike Watt was looking for in his signature.

The korina body closely resembles Watt’s smaller EBs, which he began gigging with because of their small size, short necks, and narrow strings. The Wattplower features a similarly sharp, double-cutaway body, outfitted with a Hipshot A-style bridge that allows for adjusting your string spacing and a string-thru or top-load option. The Ultralight tuners are also by Hipshot and are made of aircraft-grade aluminum.

The Wattplower is altogether lightweight, fast and playable, and comes in either Satin Yellow, Rock Orange, or Satin Emerald Green. As far as personal touches go, there’s an anchor inlay in the first fret that pays tribute to Watt’s father, a sailor in the Navy, and a "wattplower" inlay further down the neck.

Mike Watt speaks to Reverb at NAMM 2017.

The Justin Meldal-Johnsen Signature Road Worn Mustang by Fender

Summer NAMM also brought a couple of exciting signature models, and one of our favorites was the Justin Meldal-Johnsen Signature Road Worn Mustang by Fender.

JMJ has worked with a variety of musicians from all sorts of genres as a bassist, musical director, and producer. You might know him best for his touring work with Beck, Nine Inch Nails, or M83, although he has produced bands like Paramore, Tegan and Sara, and Jimmy Eat World as well.

Like Mike Watt, JMJ didn’t come out of the gate playing short-scales. But when his guitar tech picked up a Mustang for him about ten years ago, he was immediately enthralled with it, having always been inspired by its champions like Tina Weymouth and Richard Hell. The more he played it, the more he realized all that it could do. So when it came time to consider a signature, he knew exactly what he wanted.

The JMJ signature Mustang is based on his own ‘66 model with little deviation. It features the same Daphne Blue finish, with a detail-conscious relic job featuring an authentic ‘60s-era aged pearl pickguard to give it a vintage vibe. Importantly, it’s also outfitted with a custom-spec, single-coil Mustang pickup that’s voiced as closely to JMJ’s vintage original as possible.

To hear JMJ discuss his new signature in his own words, you check out our Summer NAMM interview with him here.


The TCB1006 Thundercat Signature 6-String by Ibanez

Rounding out list is Stephen “Thundercat" Bruner’s signature TCB1006 6-string from Ibanez. Thundercat is one of the most exciting low-enders currently playing the instrument. In addition to his solo work, he has played with Flying Lotus and Suicidal Tendencies. And in 2016, he won the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Grammy for his work on “These Walls" from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

The creation of the TCB1006 followed the releaese Thundercat's critically acclaimed 2017 album Drunk. Because of Thundercat’s versatile playing style and genre-jumping abilities, he needs a powerful instrument that can do a little bit of everything just as he can. As a result, the TCB1006 is packed with features and diverse functionality.

The TCB1006 is a sharp-looking hollowbodied 6-string with a quilted maple top, curly maple back and sides, and a rosewood fretboard with acrylic block inlays. It’s outfitted with two passive EMG 45HZ pickups in the neck and bridge position, as well as a Ghost piezo system by Graphtech, Acousti-Phonic and Hexpander preamp, and even MIDI output.

Like the Wattplower above, it’s also equipped with a Hipshot A-style bridge and Ultralite tuning heads for avoiding neck-dive and keeping the whole package light.


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