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.