Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wal players discuss their basses - Justin Meldal-Johnsen

Justin Meldal-Johnsen

Although probably best known for his playing with Beck, over recent years Justin Meldal-Johnsen has become a sought after sidesman and session player – with a CV as diverse as Michele Branch, Air, Turin Breaks, Marianne Faithful, Macy Gray and Seal. However it might surprise some that he is a fully paid-up fan of Wal basses, especially given his penchant for unusual, lo-fi squeezes – from Fender Coronados and Guild Starfires to Gibson Thunderbirds. We caught up with him to chat over his love of the basses.

You’re well known for using a range of pretty quirky but lo-fi basses – one wouldn’t immediately think that a Wal bass was up your street. What first made you consider getting one?
I was enamored with the sound the day I heard it. That was in the hands of Greg Edwards, formerly the bassist for Failure, now guitarist for Autolux. You can hear it all over those three Failure records... a sound that inspired Justin from Tool as well, apparently. 

You ended up getting both Pro and Custom Series models – what different things appealed about them?
 I have a Pro IIe, and a Mark I Shedua Custom series bass - both four strings of course. The Mark I Custom is a bit more rugged and easy to dig in to; very compliant. Easy to play hard, very forgiving. Has an interesting slice to it as well as a very strong upper-low end. The Pro Series is darker but also has a “pokier” midrange - much more funky sounding… Kind of odd, actually; which is fun! Check out the song ‘Dirty Life’ from Ima Robot. That will give you an idea of that Pro Series tone. But also really fun to play. I love the way the Pro's look, too. 

 The neck shape too... I can get all over it! I like the elemental aspect of it. Everything on the bass has a sense of purpose, particularly with the refinement on the Custom series. They don't get used live with anything I'm doing at the moment, but they are available to me on most sessions I do.
Putting his Mk 1 Custom through its paces at a Macy Gray session...

Picking up one of his Mk 1 Customs from
Pete at the High Wycombe workshop

Many thanks to Justin for supplying these photos from his private collection...

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