Whether writing genre-bending songs in the progressive metal band Division 1.1, playing in the Christmas/Classical ensemble Wizards of Winter or his past discography with Alchemy X, bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Steve Ratchen defies description. Critically compared to such industry luminaries as Billy Sheehan, Jon Myung and Geddy Lee, Ratchen’s style may evoke those comparisons, but is quite uniquely his own. Straddling that fine line between playing “lead bass”, furious riffing and playing counterpoint with guitar lines while still locking percussive syncopation in ridiculous time signatures ala Peart/Lee is one of his hallmarks. Having a vocal range that pays homage to Deep Purple-era Glenn Hughes doesn’t hurt either.
This extremely original methodology is evidenced in both form and function, and can be readily identified either on numerous albums as well as seminal live performances.
As a left-handed player who none-the-less employs right-handed extended range instruments upside down, Ratchen has had a long-standing relationship with Conklin, his endorsement with them going back 15 years. While the GT-7 has been his instrument of choice since that time, in 2010 Conklin built the prototype SR-14, a signature 14 string bass that bears his name. Octaved from the low B thru G and then summarily echoed at the C and F, the SR-14 is a feat of engineering brilliance- Essentially an octaved 7 string, it solves the conundrum of sacrificing high end riffing for low-end structure and rumble.
“I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating: Conklin guitars are simply the finest instruments I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. Playing a right-handed instrument upside-down presents many logistical difficulties, and in the past the consistent pressure of my arm has caused all kinds of problems with the active electronics of other basses. With Conklin I have NEVER had an issue with intonation, warping or electronics. The Delano pick-ups and locking jack are the best I’ve encountered, and really allow me to concentrate on playing rather than worrying about mechanical issues. Bill Conklin is one of the most personable guys you could meet, and more to the point, a terrific luthier. You only have to hold a Conklin bass or guitar to understand the tremendous care put into its craftsmanship. I am beyond humbled that Conklin created this wonderful signature instrument for me, and in tandem with the Groove Tools GT-7’s I’ve employed on so many records since the late 1990’s, I feel Bill, Mike and the entire Conklin staff have helped me cement my reputation with their first-class products.”