The Current's Guitar Collection: Wylie Gelber of Dawes and his homemade bass, the 'Model 2'

Wylie Gelber and his Model 2 bass
Wylie Gelber of Dawes plays his Model 2 bass in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)
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When Dawes visited the studio for an in-studio session hosted by Bill DeVille, bassist Wylie Gelber was playing an instrument he built himself. Here's what he had to say about it.

How long have you been building your own basses?

This is the first one that I ever really built. I've pieced together guitars before, Frankenstein style, but I built this one a year ago. It's the only real one I've ever cut — the body was just a block of wood when I got it. The neck is off an old Gibson. But the body is made of seven-year-old American mahogany; I found it in Los Angeles — some guy had been hoarding it his whole life and sold it to me.

It just kind of turned out better than I thought it was going to. I built it knowing I could make it look nice, but I was unsure of how it would sound, but it's become my favorite bass ever — it's the only one I play now.

Where did you source the pickups and other hardware?

Just eBay, hunting forever and ever. The front one is an old '60s Gibson Mudbucker, which is just like a giant, super bassy pickup. The middle one's off a Gibson Ripper. And the back one is called a DiMarzio Model G. There are individual volumes for all three of them, which is cool, so you can blend, and then a master tone. Normally I use two at a time; today, I was using mainly the front one.

I tried to make this instrument so you could bring it into a studio and only have to use one bass. You can change the sound of it so drastically, which seems pretty cool. Today, for example, I didn't really have time to mess around with the amp as much. So if it's not bassy enough, I'll use the front pickup, and all of a sudden it gets super bassy. If it's too bassy, I'll use the back one and it gets really trebly. It has a lot of options on it.

Do you have a space in your home for these kinds of projects?

Yes, I have a giant workshop. More than half of my house is devoted to tools. It's like a giant two-car garage that I've turned into a tool room. My dad is the same way. I built this with my dad; he's not a musician, but he's a master builder of just about anything, so we just kind of figured it out together.

I know more about basses and he knows more about woodworking, so we just kind of met in the middle and made this thing together and it worked out pretty good.

What do you call your bass?

I call it the "Model 2." The first one I ever made — which was that Frankenstein one — that one, I always called the "Model 1" when I was joking around, so when I made this one, I thought, "I guess this will just be the 'Model 2'."

Do you have plans to build another?

Yeah — I'm ready to go as soon as we get off tour for more than two days. I have all the parts pretty much laid out, ready to go. It'll be a two-pickup bass, a little smaller, a little lighter. This one is made of mahogany, so the next one will probably be made out of alder. I'll figure that out soon.

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  • Dawes perform in The Current studio In town to play a show at the Cabooze Plaza in Minneapolis, Dawes -- Taylor Goldsmith, Wylie Gelber, Griffin Goldsmith, Tay Strathairn and recent addition Duane Betts -- stopped by The Current's studio to play some songs off the new album and to chat with Bill DeVille.

4 Photos

  • Wylie Gelber's Model 2 headstock
    Wylie Gelber's Model 2 headstock (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
  • Dawes
    Bassist Wylie Gelber of Dawes performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)
  • Wylie Gelber and his Model 2 bass
    Wylie Gelber and his Model 2 bass (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
  • Dawes
    Wylie Gelber of Dawes performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)

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