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When did the bass cabinets come into play?
That was a whole new thing. I got laid off for eight months from my day job. I started reading about bass cabinets. On the surface, guitar cabinets are relatively simple—open back, closed back, number of speakers ... there’s not much to them. There are factors that affect the sound, such as wood and grilles, but with a bass cabinet so much more goes into it—so many little nuances such as the paper, the cone, even the pulp of the paper used in the speaker make different sounds. Different speaker suspensions create different sounds, as well, so I spent a lot of time working on that.
How were your initial bass cabs different from others on the market at the time?
You have calculations for tuning the bass cabs, and the engineers know this and sort of leave it there. I took it steps further with bracing and some other things I don’t want to share, but let’s say that I found flaws in the designs and set out to change them. I realized soon after that I could make something that sounded good without following the procedures from published books of that time.
A PS 400 head and a PS 210 cab stand guard outside the Epifani production facilities in Brooklyn.
How did you get your products into players’ hands?
I showed my new bass cabs to some friends, and they were like “Well, nice . . . . ” If you tell someone your car is better than a Mercedes, they will be interested—but ultimately they will buy the Mercedes because that’s what they’re familiar with. So it was tough. I found out that the Fodera bass shop was nearby, and I literally just cold-called them one day and asked if I could bring some cabinets by. We set up the appointment, and as they played their basses through my cabs, they started looking at each other. I thought they hated it, but the looks were actually those of amazement. I had built my cabinets using the best components I could find at the time, so bringing my A game must have worked. Soon after, Fodera introduced me to some of their artists, which led to the first Epifani production bass cabs.
So when did you move out of the garage?
In 1994, I moved into a one-room shop that was in the same space as a furniture factory. I did everything in that little room—from the coverings to assembly. The good thing about the space was that I could use all of the woodcutting tools from the furniture business, so that helped me out tremendously. As I started making cabinets, I opened a dialogue with Eminence to push the speaker manufacturer into some new designs. One change I wanted to make was in the suspension. Up until that point, speakers used an accordion- type suspension, which was problematic. This led to creasing in the speakers from the voice coil pushing forward and the suspension stopping the speaker, but the center would still be moving outward. We developed the M-roll suspension to combat this, and it has now become the industry standard.
Who were some of the artists that shaped your early designs?
I made a 2x12 cabinet for Matt Garrison. I remembered using a Music Man 2x12 cabinet back in the ’70s, but no one was making that configuration anymore. Because I liked the sound and saw the potential in a 2x12, I went with that design. With two 12" speakers, naturally you have more area than with an 18", and that means you can move more air. But, more importantly, it was tuned at a frequency that was better suited for the time. Sadly, the tuning of bass cabs remained unchanged for a number of years, so I adjusted the tuning frequency to get out of that 70-80 Hz range that was standard back then.
One night, I took a cabinet down to the Blue Note, where Lincoln Goines was playing. I dropped off the gear, parked the car, and walked back to the club. In the time that took, Lincoln had already played through it, and he said “I want it.” Lincoln said he knew in the first two notes. He was my first client. The speakers were very fast, very accurate—perfect for that Jaco sort of playing. I think that was one of the best designs, acoustically and technically, but I couldn’t keep it because of the dimensions. It wasn’t made for a line of speakers. When you’re asked to make a line of cabinets, you sort of become restricted in what you can do—because stacking and keeping things uniform aren’t the best formulas for all cabinets.
Can you talk about your relationship with the great Anthony Jackson?
Anthony Jackson was a monster player that everybody respected. In the beginning, I thought he was full of . . . well, you know—because he is literally a genius, and I thought “Nobody is this smart.” I used to mess with him—not in a bad way, but to see if he was full of shit or not: While he was playing, I would turn a knob, like, an eighth of an inch, and he would turn around and say “You touched 450 Hz! I told you I don’t like that!” I had never met someone like that before. He would always be pushing the envelope of knowledge—not just on the surface, but literally seeking knowledge worldwide, requesting special components like imported speakers and silver speaker wire. His cabinets weighed a ton because he wanted 1" wood instead of 3/4". Things like that kept me pushing forward and experimenting.