When you think of a bass guitar what do you typically think of? Maybe the name Fender comes to mind, a neck and body made from a premier wood, some pickups, a bridge and some knobs meant to fine tune the controls of the pickups and tone.
Pretty standard image, right?
I’m sure nowhere in that image is a picture of a bass made out of a metal, rather than a wood. Now we’re talking crazy right?
Not at all, in fact take a listen for yourself:
That video was a showcase of a 5-string bass guitar offered by Alusonic Aluminum Instruments, a small company based out of Italy making a real splash in the world of guitar and bass manufacturing. Alusonic specializes in making aluminum guitars and bass guitars and is among the only companies in the world to do so, but certainly one of a kind when it comes to quality, detail and passion for product, customers and design. A reader of this interview will quickly see how passionate Polly is for her work and company. All her instruments are meticulously attended to and no detail is left to chance.
To me, this company was would still be unknown to me had it not been for friend of Smart Bass Guitar, Alberto Rigoni, sending me an invitation to Alusonic’s Facebook page to check out. And the Internet’s all a-buzz with the upcoming release of his new signature instrument through the company:
RT @AlbertoRigoni: Alusonic Aluminium Instruments Hybrid Alberto Rigoni signature – work in progress! http://t.co/gc5LP7SOcq
Non riesco a non condividere ancora…………. Alusonic Aluminium Instruments Alusonic Aluminium Instruments http://t.co/2yxrgFHkQL
I reached out to Alusonic via their firstname.lastname@example.org address and was taken back by how prompt a reply I received to by the owner, founder and single worker at Alusonic, Andrea “Polly” Pollice. She accepted my invitation for a featured piece and below is the interview itself.
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Mike Emiliani (ME): How did Alusonic Aluminum Instruments begin? What is the back story of the company and how it came to be? How many people make up the company?
Andrea Pollice (AP): In 2007, I was a professional bass player surfing the web looking for new instruments [and] I met an Italian craftsman, Lanfranco Veronelli, who built aluminum Precision bodies for passion.
My first impression was: “Wow!!!”
I asked to him to built an aluminium P-body for me. I [bought] the others parts on the web (neck, pickups, etc.) and in a couple of weeks I was able to play the first aluminum bass guitar of my life.
Two years later, I was going to change my life and my job too, so I thought to start to build electric bass thanks to my good know how about this world. I was fascinated by aluminum guitars, so I tried to call Lanfranco to ask him to begin a new adventure together, but unfortunately he died a few weeks earlier [and couldn’t] receive my call.
So, without any experience about CAD drawing, machinery tools and without any feedback about this kind of alloy to build a guitar body, I started to learn all about this wonderful world (Google can be a very precious resource), and one year later Alusonic Aluminum Instrument was born.
All that thanks to my great passion and the priceless work done in the past by Lanfranco.
I am the owner of Alusonic and also the only employee. The parts I need to build an instrument like aluminum bodies, bridges, pickguard etc. are provided by the best Italian companies specializing in aluminum works.
Luthiers builds the necks starting from my 3D drawing, the pickups are built by I-Spira and the active preamp by CoolSound (both small companies well known in Italy).
In that way I can enjoy the great competence and know how of my partners, without large investments.
(ME): What was the trial and error process like that went into the formation of an aluminum bass guitar? Are there early draft sketches and models and how do they differ from the final product featured on Alusonic’s website?
(AP): To be honest, there aren’t so many prototypes of my instruments, the firstly instruments I built have been sold and are still used by the owners.
That’s because an aluminum body is very expensive and I don’t like waste time and money. I think today, before produce a goods, it’s necessary to be ready at 99.9%.In the last period we introduced the MKII version of the bodies, that has increased the tonal qualities of the instruments.All that thanks to the many feedback we receive everyday by our artists and customers.
(ME): I’d like to ask you a few questions about the design and manufacturing process that goes into building an aluminum instrument. How did the concept of making an instrument out of metal come to be? Why aluminum?
(AP): The project and the drawing is extremely hard to do, because there isn’t an encyclopedia or feedback from other builders, or the web as well.
The alloy is very different from wood, so weight and balance will be very different also in a body with the same shape.
But the big problem is especially the “core” drawing. The bodies are milled inside (hollow body) so it’s very important the core structure to obtain the best tonal balance and the best characteristics bass player likes: attack, focus, sustain.
To explain the biggest difference from aluminum to wood, you have to picture to listen a bass line with cotton in the ears…well this is how the wood sounds after playing an aluminum bass.
Aluminum alloy provides the largest frequencies response that you can obtain by an instrument, with warm and massive low end, well balanced middle frequencies and clear and crystalline high end.
An aluminum bass body gives an incredible attack and an endless sustain. In my opinion, the aluminum is the best material to build an electric instrument in the 21th century.
(ME): Are there different way of getting different tones out of metal the same way you can alter the tone and sonic qualities of a bass guitar by choosing different combinations of woods?
(AP): Yes, there are different alloys that provides different tones.
It’s not properly like the wood choice, and probably is not so easy to listen the differences, but I tried different alloys and I chose the best one for my idea of bass and guitar sound.
(ME): I’m sure many of us have never heard an aluminum bass guitar before (including myself) being played. How would you describe the sound of an aluminum bass guitar (generally speaking)? How would you say it differs tonally from a wood instrument?
(AP): As I have described in the others answers, the largest frequencies responce, warm and massive low end, well balanced middle frequencies and clear and crystalline high end.
Someone thinks that aluminium means cold sound, but my instruments are warmer than wood instruments. Another good way to explain all that: Sound 2.0
(ME): Why should someone consider buying an aluminum instrument?
(AP): If you are looking for a natural evolution of an electric instrument, if you are looking for the best tonal characteristic that an instrument can gives you, if you are looking for a wonderful and unique instrument, and especially if you are looking for a new sound experience, an aluminium instrument is the right choice for you.
(ME): What advice would you give to those looking to get into building their own instruments? What tools, space, time and money might someone need?
(AP): I think the market place is saturated by musical instruments. A few big and well known companies have branded the world and today it’s very difficult to compete with them. For an Italian company it’s impossibile to compete with costs (China docet), but every European and Western company should think to innovate and offer unique, sophisticated and original instruments. It’s the only way to create job and new business.
Now the question is: can I compete worldwide with wood instruments? Maybe it’s still possible, but honestly I think it’s very hard to do and the better choice is to concentrate resources on new and innovative projects, such as Alusonic did.
(ME): According to the specifications of your S special basses, the bridges are something that are also made in house for the S special Max Gazze bass? What was the process of developing those particular pieces of hardware? Were there consideration to develop other pieces of hardware like pickups, strings and tuning dials in-house as well?
(AP): Well, we introduce our brass and ergal bridge after one year. That [is] because we were looking for something with very good quality, easy to set and with an affordable cost, the only way to reach the target was to produce our own bridges. A bridge needs a good knowledge of design and mechanical, and we have it, but a pickup needs a very large knowledges that we’ve not, as well for strings and tuners.
To develop strings, it necessary to have big machinery, and tuners need to be produced in large quantities (at least 10,000 pieces) otherwise is much better to buy them.
So, in my opinion sometime it’s better to work with great men and companies to obtain great stuff with affordable price, and live more easy.
(ME): How did the relationship with Cass Lewis and Max Gazze come to be?
(AP): Again the web, so precious for us.
I wrote an email to Max with links to my works, the day after he called me to talk more about my basses. Cass asked us the friendship on Facebook, and I remember the first message he sent us:”Cool”. Two months after that, I was in London with the first version of the “Cass Bass”.
Both are great artist and incredible bass players. Their instruments are not so different. The S-Special I built for Max is maybe more “vintage”, and the “Cass Bass” is a very dangerous weapon.
Both built with special alluminium alloy, different from other models we’re selling.
Our relationship is priceless and we are friends. They know that Alusonic is not a big company, so we can’t offer they a so big exposure or a lot of instruments every year. We do our best for them of course, and they are helping us a lot.
(ME): A common question among many bassists and guitarists is how do I get a signature instrument? Can you provide some insights into how your company works with artists to create signature models or artist inspired models and how your company determines who they want to work with or not?
(AP): If you are an artist with good exposure, if you are a good player and people loves you, probably someone sooner or later will build your signature instrument. I built signature instruments only for artist and musicians that I really like, a company needs exposure to sell basses and guitars, and an artist needs a great instrument to play. We offer the working tool and they offer us the exposure, it’s a good compromise.
To build a new signature instrument usually we start from feedbacks and needs of the musician, of course. Then I like to listen albums, live gigs, solos, and more about the artist to understand the roots of the sound we wants to obtain. After that we work together around various ideas, projects and rendering, to reach finally the target.
(ME): Lastly, is there any fun fact or something interesting about Alusonic that musicians reading this interview might find surprising?
(AP): I don’t know if this will be fun, but one of the things that make me proud and I like to share with you guys, are the priceless facial expressions and the comments of great technicians and artist out of Italy, when they see it coming an Italian craftsman with his “metal” stuff and they listen for the first time the sound of my instruments. At that time, probably most of they realize what means: “Made in Italy”.