Project: FyrKat Bass

My next project… the ultimate Sixfthick touring bass.

This story starts with eBay. While waiting for a train (and subsequently missing it) I was killing time, scrolling through ebay on my iPhone. In the bass section, an auction caught my eye:

Bass Guitar Body
Project bass solid body in good condition. A few scuffs. No idea of brand.

My guitarnerd senses started tingling. The body shape looked very familiar to me… I had a sneaking suspicion that this was a Maton JB4 Bass. I quickly logged onto guitarnerd and checked an image of a JB4 bass… specifically the placement of the knobs.

Apart from an extra two holes, they matched perfectly. I wasn’t quite sure what the hole was where the bridge went, but I took a punt and bid on the body. I crossed my fingers that no-one else twigged (or cared) that this was a Maton built bass body… and two days and $52 later (yes, that’s right) it was mine!

4 days later it arrived at my house.The cherry finish actually looked pretty good, and the body was very light. It looked like it was made of the Queensland Pine that Maton liked to use.

The strange rout on the top also included a large rout on the back behind the bridge. After doing some more research, I found out why. This wasn’t a JB4, this was a MBS4… Maton’s Synth Bass. Apparently Maton had only made 3 of them.

The big rout on the back was for the synth module. Here’s what I found out about the system in the OzBass forum:

Midi system invented by Steve Chick who now sells midi basses under the Company name Industrial Radio. This looks like the first system Steve invented , Maton used it for a while , he sold the rights to Peavey who used it for a while. The System needs a brain that is a box about the size of a small D class bass amp , you also need the cable that plugs into the port on the bass , this goes to the brain , the brain send signals to your midi synth or module. The neck has fragmented frets and the system works surpisingly well, with no latency issues.

Here’s what the Industrial Radio bass synth system sounds like…

So that solved that mystery. Now, even though this bass was very rare… there was no way I was going to be able to track down the original neck and synth guts or even get them made up, so this left me free reign to do what I wanted to with the body.

First thing I did was to call Maton to see if they could make and fit a neck to the body. They said no, as the new JB4′s were very different to the older models and they don’t work on individual ‘custom’ electrics. I was a bit disappointed but not really surprised. Next, I started planning what I wanted to do. A paddle headstock neck blank would let me design a headstock shape to suit. Not being a fan of the Maton JB4 headstock, I wanted something Maton-ish that would look cool and suit the body.

First idea put forward by Tim from Tym Guitars was a reverse Maton 1100 headstock. This looked pretty damn cool… here’s a mockup I’ve done up.

Looking through my old Maton guitarnerd stories, I wondered what a reverse Fyrbyrd headstock would look like, as per the left hand Maton Ibis Bass.

This was getting there. After thinking about it, I was concerned about get an E bass string long enough and what effect this extra length would have on the sound of the bass… so I tried the more safer option as done on my original Tym T-Byrd Bass.

Bingo. I thought it looked pretty awesome. I was ready to leave it at that, when I wondered what it would look like with a scratchplate. Instead of designing a new plate, I based the shape on the awesome Maton Wildcat Bass, which was the forerunner to the JB4.

Here’s the mockup… ladies & gents, let me introduce the Maton FyrKat.

I was pretty stoked with this. Next, I took the body to Tym Guitars to discuss an idea I had… with the synth guts leaving a nice big empty hole in the back of the bass, would it be possible to cram a Proco Rat pedal in there?! The Rat is an integral part to my Sixfthick bass sound, so if I could have a bass that had one INSIDE, it would save me a lot of time setting up… all I’d need would be my bass and lead, no extra pedals, patch leads etc.

Tim said it wouldn’t be a problem… his awesome Tym Toecutter pedal (The Tym Rat clone) would fit right in. Plus the extra two holes on the body could become the ‘distortion’ and ‘filter’ controls, and the three main controls would be:
1. P-Bass pickup volume control
2. J Bass pickup volume control
3. Rat/Toecutter volume control, with a notch at the start to turn the effect on and off.

Pickups would be by the awesome Mick Brierley, and bridge would be a Bad Ass II, which would cover the synth hole on the front.

And that’s it. The body is now at Tym’s, awaiting the parts to come in and be put together. I’m very excited about this project. I’ll keep you posted on it’s progress.

Oh, and a small note to Maton. If you like the name FyrKat, you’re free to use it, but please contact me this time? It was a bit of a shock seeing ‘the new Maton T-Byrd’ on the cover of Guitarist Australia magazine.

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