Saturday, December 11, 2010

Billy Gould with Faith. No Man.

I came across some amazing old footage of the pre-Faith No More band, Faith. No Man which had two future FNM members Billy Gould and Mike Bordin. As the story goes, the singer, Mike "the Man" Morris (seen above, giving the evil eye to Bill) was ousted for being a tyrant and thus the band became Faith No More. I remember an interview where Billy said something about 'The Man' walking around in a trench coat 'pretending he was in England or something.' I believe I do detect a hint of a fake English accent in some of Morris' song intros (listen to the beginning of "Decay" for example)!

This show is a really great find. To top it off, Billy is playing a gorgeous Aria Pro II SB-700 in oak finish. It's already a well known fact that he used Integra basses in the 80s and early 90s, but I had no idea he had also used an SB. It also looks like he is using a pick for most of, if not all, of this particular show. Billy had already established his trademark droning bass lines by this time.

The video is from 1983 in San Francisco. Thanks to whomever filmed this back in the day and the uploader! Great stuff! It's kind of like Duran Duran (Billy's hair and SB-700) meets Killing Joke!

Here are two songs which Faith No Man had also released on vinyl, "Song of Liberty" and "Quiet in Heaven". They also play a few others...check them out! Here is "Life is Tough For Me" which starts out with one of Bill's hypnotic bass riffs.

Friday, December 10, 2010

IGB-600 Electronics Repair

Recently, I found an Aria Pro II IGB-600 in Japan that needed a bit of TLC (don't they all?). I took a chance on it and had it shipped over to me in Korea...
Warning: This post may seem a little lengthy and feel like it's never going to end, kind of like what I went through in Seoul trying to get it fixed!

Some background on the bass: The serial # is 913000, probably making this a 1991 model. The 600's feature active P/J pickups, soft maple body with a 'carved top', maple neck with rosewood fingerboard (24 frets) and black Gotoh hardware. The symmetrical 2x2 headstock is reminiscent of the SB series in its design, while both previous and later Integras had a more slanted headstock design. This particular model of Integra seems to have survived for about 3-4 years (1991-1994). They were marketed as the IGB-DLX (Deluxe) in the US. It's a notable model since it was used by Billy Gould for the recording of the landmark Faith No More album Angel Dust, and part of the subsequent world tour, which I have already documented on the blog...
Back to the repairs. When I got it, it was clear it was going to be beyond my meager capabilities in electronic repair (which are, admittedly, almost nil!). However, I was able to solder a couple of loose wires back and at least determine that the circuit and pickups were still alive, which was a big relief. Notice the mysterious brown slime on the circuit board which fellow Aria fan Trevor suggests may be from a leaking battery. Luckily it didn't destroy the circuit. Also, I was able to test the pickup balance and and treble controls using pliers to adjust them. The pots were functional but obviously needed to be replaced.

The next problem was finding someone who would be able to fix it for me. Since my #1 option, Lance, was away on a trip, I ventured to the guitar wonderland in Seoul known as Nakwon, which is a large building full of music shops. It is a fun, yet ultimately frustrating place to visit. Fun in that you can look at thousands of different instruments in dozens of shops, frustrating in that the good ones (and even not so good) are quite high-priced. Frustrating in that you can pretty much count on the shop keepers to try and pull one over on you. There are exceptions, of course, but the exceptions seem to be outnumbered. Frustrating in the dearth of quality repair shops (G-Cat, one of the best, has left Nakwon for another part of Seoul). Also frustrating is that is basically devoid of any Arias! I don't mean to say it's a bad place, just be sure not to get suckered into paying too much for something. If you are ever in Seoul by all means visit! Just do you your homework, ask around different shops for prices and haggle a bit. For example, the cheapo bass strings were about 10,000won (currently $8.75US) at one shop, and 8,000won ($7) at another. Same thing with the cheap gig bags. Don't pay more than 15,000 won. But I digress...

Now, really, back to the repairs! I needed to have two pots, the balance and treble controls, de-soldered from the circuit board and then replaced with the same value pots. I thought it would be a pretty straight-forward job for most repairmen.

However, I tried three guitar repair shops at Nakwon and struck out. The first two shops didn't even attempt to fix it. They said they didn't have the parts or just couldn't do it. The third guy, however, took about 20 minutes to look around the electronics, mutter to himself, and do some tests. He said he couldn't fix it but he could replace it with some cheap circuitry for $50. But at least he tried, which the other shops wouldn't even do. As he was clearly not the man for the job I said 'no thanks' and bought a few knobs and cheap strings as a courtesy and went on my way. There was a fourth repair shop but I took one look at the owner and kept on walking...

Finally, I went to my last resort, Steve Kim of MD Guitars in Hongdae, Seoul. I went to him last not because he's not good (he's actually great), but because I was hoping to be able to get it repaired in the same place as my other shopping (Nakwon). I knew Steve would be able to do a great job and he actually did it right on the spot so I wouldn't have to make the long trip again to pick up the bass at a later date. As seen in the photos, Steve was able to clean off the mysterious brown slime, install a new battery clip and replaced the broken pots to get the electronics up and running again. At first I thought he had switched to a new circuit board because of how clean it looked!

Luckily, Steve also had some knobs for sale that just happen to be the same as the stock ones of the IGB so I had those put on as well. Finally, I put a shim under the neck and put on some 45-100 gauge nickel strings. The neck isn't perfectly straight so the shim was a necessary to get lower action. Now the bass plays and sounds great! Thanks to MD Guitars and Trevor for help on another successful restoration of a formerly sad-sack Aria bass! More photos of this IGB-600 can be found here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

RSB-900 Electronics Restoration

Similar to Shawn's SB-1000, I found a bass also in need of some new electronics and a pickup. The bass in question is a 1980 RSB-900, which is basically an SB-1000 with a different headstock and oval inlays. This bass has clearly been played and played hard. Check out the battle scars in the photo link. The pickup and electronics were both dead so I ordered new ones from Aria USA. After my friend Lance wired everything up, it sounds good as new! The new electronics are built a little differently, but they do sound pretty much the same as the originals. If you have an SB (or RSB) that has fried electronics or pickups, I highly recommend the Aria replacements to get back to the original tone. One last note, since these old RSB-900s didn't have an LED for the BB Circuit, I had Lance drill a hole to accommodate the LED that comes with the Re-Issued version. For more pictures of the bass than anyone really needs, go here!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Aria Pro II SB-1000 Wiring Schematics and Info

Naturally, I think Aria Pro II SB-1000s are some of the best basses around, classics even. However, they are somewhat notorious for suffering from pickup and/or BB circuit problems. As the vintage models are now 25-30 years old, this is somewhat to be expected. I've read about problems on several different bass guitar forums and people always wanted a schematic from which to try and solve the problem with. Nobody could ever seem to be able to find one, though. Hopefully this will no longer be the case as Aria USA was kind enough to send me the original SB-1000 BB Circuit diagram and marketing info. I also have the SB-1000 Re-Issue schematic (thanks Shawn!) for those of you who may have problems or questions about the newer models.

"Orion" Bass Cover

Not only does fellow Aria aficionado Seo do a fine job of modifying basses to look like Cliff Burton's Black 'n' Gold (pictured above), but he also does a superb job of covering Cliff's epic swan song, "Orion". He made the recording using his SB-1000CB which was converted to look and sound more like an SB-Black 'n' Gold I. Seo used Metallica's original guitar and drum tracks to go along with his bass work. Great job!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Pics of Cliff and his SB-1000

Nuno sent me some really cool and rare (to me at least!) photos of Cliff Burton. The photos are of Cliff and his SB-1000 during Metallica's legendary Donington appearance in August of 1985. As Cliff said in this interview, "Donington was a day of targets and projectiles". You can see a few of the "projectiles" he mentions. Thanks again to Nuno for finding these!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

More Aria Catalog Scans

A huge "thank you" to Yutaka for providing me scans of the Aria Pro II 1979, 1982, 1983, and 1984 catalogs! The catalogs are in Japanese, but there's still a lot of great info here even if you can't read Japanese. The artist rosters are very impressive with the likes of Marcus Miller and Will Lee to name a couple.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SB-1000 Electronics Restoration

Shawn sends in pics of his electronically restored 1980 SB-1000. It had been gutted of its original pickup/electronics and replaced with an EMG pickup. However, he was able to restore it with a new pickup and electronics from Aria.

Shawn says the sound is the same as an original SB-1000. This was good news to me as I will be having the new Aria guts installed in my RSB-900 very soon, too!

This SB-1000 is for sale at the moment if anyone is interested in picking up a reasonably priced SB! Check the listing at eBay for more photos and information on the bass.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 3

Next in the Custom & Unknown department is this nice SB in an orange sunburst finish. It is definitely a Re-Issue and not a product of Matsumoku. It's hard to even guess the year of production since Aria has been using that Gotoh bridge in their RIs for quite some time now. Judging by the pics, you would guess the bass is brand new! Notice the pickups are not at all like most SBs - Matsumoku or RI. It appears to have a rosewood fretboard and either a bone or plastic nut as opposed to the usual brass nut on most SBs. The headstock shape is also slightly different than most SBs. There is also a lack of 'patent text' in between the tuners. A beauty, whatever model it is! (Sorry about the shoddy/random photo placement in the posts. It seems to be a hassle to manipulate photo location (and still have them clickable to see a larger photo) with this editor).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 2

Up next in the Custom & Unknown series is an SB with Bartolini P/J pickups. The construction (notice the ridge on the back of the neck/headstock, non-recessed output jack, ebony fretboard) looks to be from the same era as the SB-LTD series, which would be late '80s to early '90s. The nut looks to be adjustable, which I have seen on LTDs as well. The bass was clearly made to have P/J pickups - but it's the only I've ever seen like it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 1

I've come across photos of many custom or at least very rare Arias over the years. Some do have known model numbers but are just very rare, others are from the "AP Custom Shop" and others I just can't ID yet! I'll go ahead and make a series of posts about these basses, along with the bits of information I have on them.

First up is a bass that looks very similar to the SB-1010, but it's not quite the same. First, the body looks slightly different. Second, the pickup is not a typical SB-1000 pickup. I have seen this pickup on other Aria basses (the RSB Formula for one). Third, it does not appear to have the BB Circuit of the SB-1000/1010. The electronics, while active, are a more simple configuration. The bass is finished in a beautiful padauk red and it looks like it's medium scale, like the 1010. It was made in 1986 (serial # begins with a 6) which I can't recall ever actually seeing before on SB basses! Usually they fall between 1980-1985 from my experiences with them. I found this one on sale at They take great pictures and have many great instruments, but they are not cheap!