When you think of Rhode Island, custom guitars might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But in sleepy Lincoln, Rhode Island, luthier Nick Holcomb of Holcomb Guitar‘s is making magic in his studio.
“My introduction to Bass Lutherie was through Les Claypool and Carl Thompson“, Nick explained. “I bought a bass at 14 thinking it would be similar to a guitar but I realized I had adopted something I had no obvious connection to. I discovered Primus in high school and suddenly the bass was incredibly interesting and held more potential than I expected.”
It was the Thompson basses that Les played – and continues to play – that spurred Nick’s interest in guitar and bass building. “I was fascinated by Les’s Carl Thompson basses. I really liked the idea that a utilitarian, functional object could be a vehicle for visual art.”
A Rhode Island School of Design graduate (2003-2008) with a focus in sculpture, Nick took his fine art training and began channeling it towards creating vibrant, exotic shapes and designs for players including Lightning Bolt’s Brian Gibson.
What’s most interesting is what Nicks’ favorite kinds of basses to build: 8 String basses. “They’re strung in a similar fashion to 12 string guitars with 6 sets of 2 strings, each pair being an octave apart. The sound is huge and full. The thicker bass strings provide all the low end but the thinner treble strings ring out over those notes. Its the closest thing you can have to replacing a guitar player as a bass player. I play with a pick so it allows me to work within both bass and guitar frequencies simultaneously.”
Get to know a little bit more about the man behind the bass and the tools that made the bass in this segment of How I Play:
Location. I live in Providence, RI but I work in Lincoln where my shop is.
What is one word that describes your playing. Downpicking
Describe your current setup and what is favorite piece of gear at the moment? As a Luthier, my favorite piece of gear is my router. Me without a router is like a bird without feathers. As a player, my Sunn Concert Head and 2×15 cab. I love effects, specifically my Russian Big Muff and Digitech Whammy, but my Sunn is the one thing I can never go without.
What is one thing you could not live without? Oxygen, most likely.
What is your practice space like? Well, its more wood shop than practice space right now, but its pretty great. Its 1200/sq feet with a great view. Two of the walls are windows and I have it all to myself.
What album are you currently listening to? I can’t stop listening to “The Physical World” by Death from Above 1979. Its the 11 year sophomore follow up to their first record. Its amazing how musically articulate just two guys can be with a drum kit and a bass.
I’d love to see ____ answer these questions. Kyle Nagel. Kyle is the bass player for the Young Pandas who are currently out on a national tour that’s in cahoots with RideScout. Kyle is a great friend, a great bass player and all around musician. Kyle always has the coolest basses and gear constantly coming and going. Love that guy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? The only way out is through.