The challenge was to find a good ABG second hand. New was not an option. I loved the idea of going acoustic and knew I was going to get into it – but I’d had exactly the same conviction about my MIDI wind controller, Hang drum, Chapman Stick, didgeridoo, walking stick flute, etc etc, all of which had turned out to be intense but brief flings. At least with second hand instruments you can sell them on without being kicked in the financial norks when the romance turns sour.
I tried eBay first, without success. There were plenty of cheap to mid-range basses available but no one was letting go of their high end stuff. I took that as a sign that my early instincts about bass quality had been correct. I started hanging around bass forums putting out some feelers. Tacomas seemed non-existent outside the US, and as a long-time Warwick player it was almost a no-brainer that I’d go for the Alien. Initially I was adamant that the only Alien I wanted was one of the early solid spruce top models, but after discovering that these were rarer than a funny Far Side cartoon and sometimes changed hands for many thousands of dollars, I had a rethink. The new Aliens were easier to source, and even though the laminated spruce top had an adverse affect on sound projection, it also made it tougher and more roadworthy. The guys on the Warwick forum were really helpful and someone sent me a link he had come across. This turned out to be a post on a German forum which, somewhere amidst the hilarious babelfish translation, seemed to suggest that he was selling an Alien. I dug into my schoolboy German and, once I’d finished asking him what colour his pen was, found out that he was indeed selling and was happy to post to the UK.
The next challenge was logistical. There was no doubt in my mind that the seller was genuine – his eBay feedback was great and he came across in correspondence as a nice guy – but it was a huge leap of faith to send such a large sum of money to someone you’ve never met, and equally risky for him to just send me the bass. Even if we both stuck to our sides of the bargain the potential for mistakes/misunderstandings/things getting lost in the post was just too great. There was the possibility of doing a private sale via eBay but it seemed unfair having to pay the fees. In the end we opted to use escrow.com. They are affiliated with eBay and act as a neutral third party in blind transactions like ours. The buyer makes a payment to escrow, the seller sends the goods, the buyer confirms the goods are as he expected, escrow release the funds to the seller and charge a small commission. I only mention it here as I was a little wary about using escrow, having never done it before, and spent some time researching how people had got on with it. The concensus was good, and I can add my own voice to that now – the service worked really well, I recommend it.
So the deal was struck, I’d paid a huge sum of money into cyberspace for an instrument I’d never played from a man I’d never met. It was nerve wracking but exciting. A week passed. I went on holiday for a week. I got back and still nothing. The tension was unbearable. But then, a couple of days later, it arrived. I was on my way out of the door for a weekend residency of mixing so just had time to rip the paper off, salivate a little and have a twang. It looked, sounded and played exactly as I had hoped.