About the maker of The Gibson Bass Book

Rob van den Broek, maker of The Gibson Bass Book

Rob van den Broek, maker of the Gibson Bass Book. Picture by Ariane van Ginneke

My name is Rob van den Broek. And I’m the maker of The Gibson Bass Book.
Let me tell you about myself and how and why I made this book.

I was born in 1968. I’ve been a music lover since I was very young. My first recollection of enjoying music was when my mother was vacuum cleaning the house. I think I was three years of age. I crept under the cupboard where the speakers of the hi-fi installation stood. With my ears pressed to the cloth of the speakers I tried not to miss a single note. When I was eleven I wanted to play bass after I had seen Sting on TV with The Police. My parents sent me to the local music school when I was twelve, to make sure they didn’t just buy me a guitar and see it unused in a corned after two weeks. So I started with a classical training on the spanish guitar when I was twelve.

And two years later I joined my first band. As a bass player of course! And I have been playing (bass) in bands ever since. And I still perform and record.

First bass

I haven’t played a Gibson bass since day one. The first bass that I used, in the band that I had joined, was a borrowed (cheap) copy of a Jazz Bass. I hated the bloody thing. It was heavy and it had an action high enough to drive a bus underneath. Every wednesday after school I picked it up at the guy who had been in the band before me (Guess he sort of made promotion to a better band). After a few months I had earned enough money with picking cherries and strawberries to buy my own bass. I found an Ibanez Blazer. A simple rock solid bass that I had for about ten years, until I customized it to death…

After that bass I bought another Ibanez. An active Soundgear bass. Lightning fast neck, but zero character. I got fed up with it pretty soon. The next bass I bought was a Music Man Stingray. I wanted that ringing sound of the Stingray. And I was over the moon with it. I used it intensively for a decade. Played it on several recordings. I did modify it after a few years; I made it passive to improve the dynamics. It was my main bass in the nineties.

Gibson Triumph

Then, on May 28th 1994, I went to see a concert of Cry Of Love at De Metropool in Hengelo. That day changed my life. There was Robert Kearns playing the coolest, best sounding bass I had ever seen. It was a Gibson Triumph. Played through an Ampeg SVT plus classic 8×10 fridge. I got seriously bitten by the Gibson bug that night. I just knew I had to have one.

But where do you start? This was pre-Ebay, pre-Google. It was pre-Internet! I took me almost 8 years to finally find one. And it wasn’t even exactly the same one as the one I had seen that night in Hengelo.

My first Gibson bass

My first Gibson was a Les Paul Bass from 1969. When I came to the shop in Amsterdam that had it on their website, they couldn’t find it there. After a while the guy from the store found it in the closet where the brooms and floorcloth were kept! In the worst condition you can imagine. It had only three rusty strings on it. The neck pickup was dead. And the three way Tone selector switch was missing. As an icing on the cake this bass had a thick layer of nicotine all over. It was smelling like an ash tray in a biker bar. But I just had to have it. So I bought it and brought it home. And after a lot of TLC it rose from the ashes like a phoenix. Wow!

More Gibson bass guitars

And I didn’t just keep it at the one Les Paul Bass. I soon bought a Triumph, a prototype Les Paul Bass, an Epiphone Jack Casady Signature, an Epiphone Newport, a 20/20 and a BGF Bass. And also a few non-Gibson basses that do have some similarities, such as a Greco Thunderbird, a Pearl Export Bass (which is in fact an Epiphone Genesis!). A BaCH Non Reverse Thunderbird and a long scale semi acoustic bass (EB-2).

Lo-z bass Fan

I don’t consider myself a real Gibson fan. I’m more of a Gibson Lo-Z bass fan, I guess. But I do have a huge sympathy for a brand that released so many different models of which only two (and a half?) were really successful. As for bass players / guitarists; they often think all Gibson basses are short scale. And they all sound muddy. And they’re all too heavy. And they’re all neck divers. And the headstock snaps if you point at it (some if you look too intensely).

Coffee table Book

Back at the Dudepit (a forum for bass players) the idea was born to make a “coffee table book” about Gibson bass guitars. Many offered their help, but somehow it never happened. Years later, with The Dudepit days long gone, I decided to spend the slow hours in my graphic design studio on putting the book together. I consulted Julian Haffegee’s Flyguitars a lot, but the book really came to life when I visited Uwe Hornung in Frankfurt to shoot his incredible Gibson bass collection. 98% of all the pictures in this book were taken in Frankfurt. Not only did the pictures help to bring the book into life, also Uwe’s anecdotes and his very apt descriptions with each and every single bass were really inspiring.

At last!

Taking the final hurdle in making this book turned out to be the toughest of them all. Getting the other 2% of the pictures. Artists are often shielded off by their managements, and I got a lot of refusal. But at a certain point I decided I had enough material to use.

So here it is at last; the Gibson Bass Book, an Illustrated Tribute. It is not an encyclopedic document. And although I have seriously tried to get all dates correct I’m quite certain there are a few errors, since the Gibson history tends to be somewhat hazy. The descriptions are often based on personal views rather than scientific facts. And a few pictures do not show the bass in it’s original state, because it was either refinished or altered in some other way. But this book does give you a good idea of the diversity of bass guitars that Gibson has been building since that first EB in 1953.

Other passions

A few years ago I made my first self built bass. A Les Paul Bass with two G3 single coils and one Mudbucker. After that, I made an all acoustic bass. And the third bass I built is a Les Paul Professional Bass. I put Les Paul guitar pickups and electronics in this bass making it an interesting mix between the Les Paul Bass and the Les Paul Professional Guitar. You can check out the bass guitars that I’ve been building, at www.enkoo.nl.

And although I’ve been playing bass guitar for over 35 years, I’ve never had the ambition to make it my profession. Yet it has always been a serious hobby to me. Some bands that I’ve played in are Bittermoon, Superfloor and Definition Of Madmen.

As a kid I was not only fascinated by music. I’ve always liked to draw, sketch and paint. And when it came to choose a direction towards a serious profession, I opted to become a graphic designer. I studied at the Arts Academy in Arnhem. And I’ve been making a living as a graphic designer since 1992. With this Gibson Bass Book I’ve finally managed to join both passions into one project.

I hope you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did making it. You can buy it here

Cheers, Rob van den Broek

Maker of The Gibson Bass Book