Pete Rains' Conklin Experience
While attending Penn State University and feeling stagnant and stunted by the lack of creativity that swarms most party schools, I decided to give myself a new challenge: I would, after years of playing standard four string bass, double my strings and purchase an eight string bass. By some miracle, EBay was selling them for cheap in bulk. The neck was glued on. There was one truss rod instead of the recommended two and faulty electronics from a defunct Korean manufacturer plagued me from the start. With that said, and with a lot of repairs and adjustments, that bass lasted me over 350+ shows. It taught me the dynamics of extended range bass and was ironically as forgiving as it was continually falling apart.
My job is busking in the NYC Subway system. And I needed a bass that would be durable enough to sustain the elements of weather and constant transport as well as be eye catching to stop even the most jaded New Yorkers from their commute. A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet Jean Baudin and try out his arsenal of basses. I fell in love with his set of Conklins. To the point he had to physically remove them from my cold dead hands. But seriously, since then, I knew I had to have one.
In early 2012 I contacted Conklin with an idea: I wanted an 8 string bass that catered to my abilities, specialized in the treble registry and I wanted to design every element along the way. Bill and Mike were more than accommodating with all of my ideas and my embarrassing lack of technical knowledge of the instrument I grew up on.
The most important thing I learned in this experience is to let go. Admittedly, I am a control freak with my music and my career. This entire process was an exercise in trust and good faith. Bill and Mike were always fair in their assessment of my choices and were honest if something was not doable or impractical. They took my vision and made it a graspable reality. The year long process was excruciating to me as a hands-on person but well worth the wait.
The craftsmanship is gorgeous and I still marvel at it. I take pride pulling it out of the case during sound check or before a show in the subway. People stop dead in their tracks and immediately inquire about the 3 Delano pickups, ebony neck or the 5 different types of wood. The multiple custom inlays were drawn by my brother/graphic designer and Mike and Bill adapted them flawlessly into existence. The bass not only defines me as a formidable player but also breathed new life and inspiration into my composing. Thank you, Conklin.