The Luthiers Access Group
for the Ultimate Bass (U.B)
I have carried my search for the U.B. onto the Internet, traveling
the cyber-universe looking for the Holy 4, 5, or 6-String and beyond. Not long
ago, my search was rewarded with the discovery of a series of incredible sites
loaded with some of the most beautiful basses I have ever seen. One such sight
is the LUTHIERS ACCESS GROUP.
will not find a $175 P or J-Bass clone on this sight. EVER. Specializing in
boutique basses, the Luthier Access Group or LAG, is loaded with some of the
finest basses (and a few guitars, but who cares?) I have found to date. Some of
them quite pricey, yes, but again it comes to the choice, 4 or 5 mid-price
basses in your collection, or 1 to 2 Ultimate Basses.
of the names of these luthiers you may or may not have heard before.
Kenneth Lawrence, Jens Ritter Basses, Roger Morello Basses, Stambaugh
Musical Designs, Conklin, WM Basses, Garz Guitars and Vector Basses by Nicholas
Tipney from Canada. Then there is the Jersy Drozd, with workmanship to die for,
from 24, 28 to an unbelievable 36(!) frets, four, five, six, seven strings and
beyond. Breathtaking! Now that one really got to me.
I got to thinking that if this site flipped me out as much as it did, perhaps it
would appeal to the many of you out there that are still afflicted by G.A.S.
(Guitar Acquisition Syndrome).
Lenard, owner of the Luthers Access Group or LAG, has designed a site to connect
some of those luthiers out there that are loaded with talent but perhaps not so
loaded with mainstream access to the buying public. Spending $2500+ for an
exotic bass is not for everyone, and both Dan and his luthiers know it.
not only do many of these builders build less pricey versions of their
instruments, but they are also less concerned with producing thousands of
instruments, all alike, than they are in creating artistic statements through
decided to contact Dan, and ask him a bit about some of the models he carries
and how he connects to the buying
public. Dan told me his first
difficulty is that “People
don’t know if I operate a store or if I am a distributor or if I go through a
storefront. Just how I handle things.”
find out more about the business, I decided first to find out more about the man
himself, and what had brought him to this point in his life.
I am active at playing bass and listening to music all the time. Really, the
original idea behind this business was to allow me to get back into more music
and composing actually.
Have you reached that goal yet?
haven’t actually succeeded at that just yet! (laughs) I still work a day gig
that supports my family. The business is a separate entity. But the whole
business will at one point allow me to pick up and quit the day gig. I do the
day gig to support my family of course, but also to allow me to play the music I
want. I don’t want to rely on the music to provide my income. I do look
forward to getting back to playing bass and writing more.
GB: What kind of music appeals to you?
Electric Jazz, I guess you would call it. Tribal Tech, things of that ilk. The
acoustic Modern Jazz as well.
GB: Are you playing in that kind of project
really, I hardly have time to play right now. It’s a strange situation where I
have all these basses surrounding me and no time to play.
GB: Kinda like ‘water, water everywhere,
and not a drop to drink!’
get the chance to get a feel for the instruments I sell, but actually working on
my music, there is not much time for that now.
GB: Considering the exotic instruments that
you have in your inventory, what have you chosen for yourself as an instrument
Dan: One of my primary basses is a five string
fretless that I commissioned back in `79. I own a few of the basses from the
builders I work with. I’ve got a couple of old sentimental ones, like a Gibson
Les Paul and an old Mosrite. I don’t really play that one but I don’t want
to get rid of it either.
GB: So are you presently involved in the
design of any basses at this time?
a big way right now, but I hope to be more so in the future. Jersy Drozd
expressed an interest in my ideas.
GB: Speaking of Jersy Drozd, (situated in
Spain), do you get much of a chance to visit the luthiers you work with?
5 string 36 fret(less) bass
7 string Jersy Drozd beauty
Dan: Not so much out of the country, I have been
able to meet with some of the luthiers I work with out of California at the NAMM
show. Some of the fellows I have never even met at all. E-mails, phone calls,
build up a trust…and work together. I would love to go to Europe to meet some
of those fellows but that would be an expense that would take a lot of the
business at this point.
GB: Do the builders sell the basses to you
and you pass them on?
Dan: Most of
these basses I do not buy from the builders. They consign them to me, so that my
resources can go towards advertising and doing shows instead of tying it up in
GB: So ultimately you goal is to turn LAG
into your sole source of income and what you do all the time?
Dan: Yes, find a few builders whom I really admire
and make them an income too.
GB: Are there any particular builders you
think very highly of at this time?
there are a lot of them that I think very highly of, Jersey Drozd, Ken Lawrence,
Jens Ritter. There’s a young fellow called Chris Stambaugh and he doesn’t go
through stores, so his prices are very reasonable, his quality is very high.
He’s only 24 now and has been building for 11 or 12 years. He started young.
If he continues to progress, I think he will be World Class.
are others guys out there I am not yet working with who are probably as good,
but I don’t really think of any individual as being ‘The Best’ as far as a
GB: At what point did you decide to
actually start LAG?
Dan: Well as I said, back in `79 I designed this
bass, I had it built, I had a chance to work with a builder here in Chicago. It
was a really rewarding experience to have my ideas implemented and to come up
with a bass that really worked well. I used to read Guitar Player, this was
before Bass Player, and every year or so I would see an article on some custom
bass from some remote part of the world. I thought ‘Boy, I would really like
to try that’ but the only way I could would be to send money, big money, far
away to try a bass I had never even played. It was kinda risky.
thought ‘Well there has got to be a way for these guys who don’t make many
basses and can’t afford to have their basses in every guitar center to have
their instruments out there. That idea actually stayed in the back of my mind
for 15 to 16 years. Back in `95 I contracted a disease called Guillain-Barre
Syndrome. (Editor: GBS is an illness that can gradually remove
all motor control over muscles, right down to and including autonomic systems
such as breathing. Most times it goes into remission, eventually freeing the
patient to the point of returning to their previous life, but in some cases
remains active to varying degrees. Remission may in fact last indefinitely.)
I was hospitalized for three weeks. This was after the doctor told me I would be
in the hospital for up to 7 months.
in the hospital that I realized that if I got out of this, I would take this
idea that I have been sitting on for a long time and try to make it happen. That
was the impetus for making this all come to pass. I decided that if I was going
to get a second chance I was going to make some things happen.
GB: So how long has LAG been in existence
Dan: Since June of `95.
GB: And have you experienced reasonable
growth with the business?
were to put it on a chart, it is growing, year by year. I like the progress we
are making. The first two years were a real struggle because people didn’t
know what I was doing. I was dealing with dealers most people didn’t even know
about. I had to build credibility
in the Bass Community.
GB: How did you go about that?
Dan: By advertising every month, by making sure
that anybody who made an inquiry, I would get back to them promptly. Letting
them know about alternate sources for some really good instruments.
GB: So when a musician buys a bass from
you, it is shipped directly from you?
Dan: And it can also be a case where they want to
order something that I don’t have, they will order it from the builder. The
builder will send it to me for inspection and then it will go to the player. A
lot of times I will say to people who call, ‘I have got a lot of good
instruments in stock but it may not be exactly what you want. Try out all of
them, find out exactly what it is that you wan, and we can custom order it.
the website you have a return policy whereas once the musician purchases the
instrument, even if it is just to try it out, you will accept the bass back as
long as it is returned in the same condition in which it was sent?
as long as they take care of it. This has worked out really well.
GB: No horror stories then?
yet, I am sure one will happen, but so far so good!
GB: You mentioned earlier in this that you
wanted to clarify as to whether there is a store front or on office you operate
Dan: I work out of my home studio and players are
invited to come over by appointment. When they come over they have an
indeterminate block of time that is their time along so they can really focus on
what they want to see. In a music store there are 10 others things going on. I
encourage players to bring whatever piece of gear they currently are using so
have some point of reference. Sort of an A/B test.
GB: You have a series of amps there to
allow them to try the basses out?
Dan: Oh yeah, we work with GlockenKlamg
GB: Incredible amps, also incredible big
it depends on how much importance you put upon your sound. There are so many
players out there with 8, 10, 12 basses all going through a mediocre amp. It’s
your sound, don’t have any weak links in your chain.
GB: So the advantage of auditioning an
instrument in your place is that the client does not have to compete with 4 or 5
Jaco clones and 15 guitarists all playing either ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or
faking Steve Vai and turning up to 11. You’d never think of trying out and
buying a stereo that way. You provide a quiet environment where you can actually
hear what you need to hear.
Dan: It’s the same at a NAMM show. You can see
how pretty it looks, you can even see how it plays, but you can’t tell how the
GB: Do you have employees, even family
My family. They are involved in that they tolerate me and support me. It requires a lot of them to support me and let me do this.
GB: Will the new website be changed
much from the previous one?
be different in that the roster will be changed a bit. I will be working with
fewer builders but working towards higher quality. I think I will be including a
bit of a biography for each builder, to show the players more about the
builders, how many basses they have built, how long they have been doing it,
what their goals are, just so the client can get a better idea of what the
builder is like. I want it to be more personal.
Jens Ritter 8 string Bass
Vector Electric Upright
am asking all the builders that whenever they have basses in stock that are not
spoken for, a notice will be placed on the website so we’ll be able to say,
“Here is what we have RIGHT NOW!” I have a lot of guys who want it now, or
don’t want it at all.
don’t agree with that but I’ve gotta abide by that.
GB: Have you spent any time chasing any of
the ‘Stars’ to get them to try out your basses?
Dan: I’ve talked to some stars, I hear almost
every week from some ‘lesser Stars’, and they’ll say “I’m the biggest
guy in New Orleans or wherever and I will make you rich!” (Laughs)
My policy as far as endorsement is I am not going to give anything away. The
only meaningful endorsement is when the artist thinks enough to PAY for the bass
and actually use it!
GB: Great philosophy and well based in
common sense, but most artists only endorse stuff they get handed to them. For
free. Usually they have to believe in the product to some extent, but hey,
it’s free. The irony is oft times they could pay for the endorsed bass out of
the bills they have in their pocket right then!
Dan: Well I think so, if anybody asks me about
endorsing artists, I want to be able to say ‘He bought it, that’s why he’s
got it and that’s why he actually uses it.’ To give stuff away just
wouldn’t be ethical in my mind. Guys who would laugh at paying for something
are accepting instruments, but, is it really the BEST instrument for them, would
it be their first choice?? Even if
the bass is not one they would buy off the shelf, it’s been heavily modified.
To imply that “This is my bass and this is what you can actually buy”
would not be right.
GB: Do you have any new builders for the
new site that weren’t there for the last one?
there a couple of builders I am talking to I hope to work with in the near
future. I won’t mention the names yet because all is not in place at this
point. I am always on the search for very good stuff that needs to be brought to
the bass communities attention.
GB: Any last words, a point we maybe
haven’t covered that you would like out there for that same bass community?
Dan: Yes actually, all over the world there are
fantastic musicians that we’re never gonna hear about, simply because they
don’t have a record contract. The same applies to bass builders. There are
guys all over the place that make fantastic instruments that nobody knows about.
All isolated in the areas that they are from. So what I want to do is find these
guys and get `em out there.
if you are a bass player looking for a one in a million bass that is you and
nobody but you, or if you are a builder that wants to reach a wider world
market, with a distributor that doesn't want to bleed the life’s blood out of
you and also realizes that your success if his success, give Dan Lenard of the
Luthiers Access Group a call. The contact info is below… .
& Fax (708) 974-4022