“When I’m playing bass I try to keep it locked and tight and grooving,” Kyle McDonald says. “When I’m on the guitar there is a little more freedom.” Photo by Rich Osweiler

A Custom Affair

Slightly Stoopid recently added two new instruments to their arsenal of touring gear: a Fader Custom guitar and bass. They’re particularly enamored with the bass. “It’s so warm and round and every note is just crisp and clear,” says Miles Doughty. Kyle McDonald agrees. “It doesn’t feel like you’re holding a big thing and it’s super light,” he adds. “You can move around a lot more and it really brings the tones out.”

Fader Custom guitars and basses are one-of-a-kind instruments built by Craig Welsch in Boston. “Being a sound engineer, I’m obviously into detail and tone,” says Welsch. “Those two things helped me construct guitars that would do the things I needed them to do in the studio.” It doesn’t hurt that the studio he works at—Boston’s Rear Window Studio—is stocked to the rafters with vintage gear. “I analyzed those instruments and saw what was making them work—the woods, the necks, the hardware—there’s a charm to the old hardware that is considered by many to be cheap hardware. It’s very thin. It’s cheap. But it vibrates. When you get into all this newer hardware that is supposed to be high mass and all that stuff, it suffocates some of the charm of what those instruments do.”

Welsch was Slightly Stoopid’s front-of-house engineer for four years in the late 2000s. “I learned all the things they would struggle with night after night,” he says. “One of them being that the bass never quite had definition, it seemed it was the wrong kind of bass. I designed an instrument for them to be chambered to give it a woodier sound, make it rounder, and to lighten the load on their shoulders. I put a preamp inside of it—it’s basically a notching filter type of thing, like an old API EQ, and you can boost or cut at different frequencies. I shaped that around what they were going for. A lot of the old reggae lines play on the D and G strings and they want those strings to still be round and have low end.”

The guitar is unconventional as well. It has Jazzmaster-style body but a unique pickup configuration, with two P-90 pickups (neck and bridge) and a humbucker in the middle, hidden underneath the pickguard. “It has all of the positions of a Les Paul and then the two great Stratocaster sounds, those being the out-of-phase sounds in the second and fourth switch positions,” Welsch says.

“I designed those instruments specifically with them in mind,” he adds. “Meaning two guys who switch between bass and guitar during the show a lot. Kyle liked one sound and Miles liked another, and they had to find happy mediums.” Even the strap length had to be discussed. “When you throw a guy a guitar, he’s got to be able to play it.”