Mike Lull Custom Guitars
Years Building: 12
Wait Time: 10-12 weeks for a custom build, some available immediately
Price Range: $1950-$3300 (custom requests available for additional cost)
Contact: (425) 643-8074
Mike Lull has done something a lot of builders have been unable to accomplish. He builds a super-premium custom bass at a price that’s still in line with a factory manufactured bass. I spoke with Mike at length about his new product line.
Tell me about the vintage product line. What sets it apart?
The new product line consists of the UV4, UP4 and the V4. UV4 and UP4 are Ultra Vintage Jazz and Precision respectively. The 4 represents the number of strings. We have a 5-string version. The V model has a 21-fret fingerboard, 12" radius and ‘70s-style frets. The UV Series has a pre-CBS-style neck and frets with a 20-fret fingerboard, 7-1/4" radius. These are maple necks with Brazilian rosewood boards. These basses are passive but could be converted to active.
Who is the target audience for your basses?
My gear is designed and built to be used by working players. Eighty-five percent of my gear is used semi-nightly between studio and live sessions.
What is the sweet spot of your price point?
The bulk of my gear ends up in the hands of the end user between $2000 and $2500. They’re receiving a custom-built bass at an off-the-rack price. At this price, it makes it easy to justify to expenditure to the spouse.
What is the inspiration for your product development?
Bottom line, I’m a Fender guy. I have owned hundreds of basses. In the mid-seventies I collected everything. The prices back then made these things affordable. As a pro player, for me there is nothing better than a great pre-CBS Precision or Jazz Bass. There is no better bass to record or play live with. If you could compile a list of all the recordings made with these basses, it would be staggering. I wanted to take all the goodness, along with all the idiosyncrasies, and build a better bass. Leo was a genius, but the basses were built to a price point. I want my basses to sound as good but play better and be more consistent.
What are some of the changes incorporated into your products?
I wanted to eliminate the headstock dive, so I make my headstock smaller. My basses tend to be light, so I had to be careful. Graphite reinforcement was placed in the neck for stiffness and lessening of dead spots. Electrostatic shielding is fully encompassed in my cavities. Only super-premium hardware is used. I prefer Hipshot items.
Tell me about your manufacturing. Are the basses “stick built” or component assembled?
First off, every Mike Lull bass is built by Mike Lull. That’s not to say I don’t have help with some of the work. My bodies are CNC cut from board stock in Washington, as are the neck blanks. I used to use a pin router but it is a dangerous, nasty machine. I install all the truss rods and fretboards myself. My necks are not prefabricated. My final neck and fret adjustments are done on a plek machine, which provides tolerances closer than any human can achieve by hand and eye.My finishes are sprayed by Jerry Dorsh, a former principal of Modulus basses.
Mike Lull V4
My finishes are thinly applied polyurethane. As I said, all the basses are assembled, fretted and built by me.
I have to ask, why poly and not nitro lacquer?
Bottom line is poly holds up much better than nitro. Nitro starts to
get worn looking after a few months of use. My basses are not relic’d.
I like them looking new for as long as possible. If a client wants
nitro, of course they could have it done for an up-charge. In my
opinion, a thinlyapplied poly finish sounds just as good as a
thinly-applied nitro finish.
What factors have led to the success of your brand?
By all means word of mouth is essential. Once your basses start to get into the hands of the right players, there is nothing better than an enthusiastic owner. Don’t get me wrong, we received some stellar reviews that helped immensely. We also advertised steadily for quite some time. You need to get your name out there.
What’s on the horizon for Mike Lull?
We just launched our new T-bass line, which is a modern-vintage interpretation of a vintage T-bird. We have one- and two-pickup models. Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam is using the prototype right now.
[Writer’s note: Mike and I are both big T-bird fans. The rarest bass I ever owned was a translucent black, 1964 Thunderbird IV that I bought from Mike about 1997.]
Next Up: Bill Nash of Nash Guitars...