44. Schecter Ultra “Firewolf”
THIS one arrived at my door as a byproduct of my ongoing obsession with Firebirds, but also because Rob had become interested in Thunderbird basses. He did have one, briefly – a Tokai copy anyway. It was OK, but not great. He took it in a part-exchange when he sold his old faithful G&L ASAT bass, but moved it on again a few months later.
I was watching Eddie and the Hot Rods playing at the very final Lee Brilleaux Memorial Concert on Canvey, intrigued, not so much by the band, who I’ve seen countless times, but by the really cool, vaguely Thunderbird-style bass Dipster Dean was playing. I’d never seen one quite like it, an strange sort of set-neck cross between a Firebird and a Telecaster, with a raised centre section like a Firebird and an interesting headstock.
A bit of research revealed it to be a Schecter Ultra – and joy of joys, they also made a guitar version! A few famous people play them apparently – Robert Smith from the Cure even has his own signature model. Off I headed for eBay, where a few weeks later I turned up this sunburst beauty being for £200. Sold to the fat bloke with his tongue hanging out!
When it arrived (for that matter, when it left the Schecter factory) it already had strong Firebird overtones, but I decided I could improve on that. First move was to lose the horrible full-sized humbuckers, which not only looked ugly, but sounded terrible – way too middly for my taste. I found a nice man in the US on a forum who had a pair of mid-90s Gibson Firebird mini-humbuckers he was prepared to part with for £70 plus shipping. With a bit of jiggery-pokery involving two sets of mounting rings, I managed to get them to fit.
I switched the knobs for a pair of plastic ones like those on my Firebird and bought a white Firebird pickguard – WAY too big for the Ultra, of course. Everything about the original reverse Firebird is oversized! I had to cut it down to fit, tucked under the raised central section of the body and it turned out really well. I also designed and made up a rather nifty decal to go on the pickguard, where Gibson usually put their Firebird/Thunderbird motif. It was a stylised wolf, surrounded by flames – hence the name, “Firewolf”.
It’s not a Firebird, but it plays well, Those pickups sound terrific and I think it looks really cool! I’ve gigged it a fair bit with the band, too, usually tuned to open A for slide, something to which it seems well suited.
I’ve found it to be a very practical alternative to its Gibson big brother – small enough to fit into a regular gig bag and not worth enough for me to worry too much about taking it out to the kind of slightly iffy places I occasionally find myself playing.