An interview with the developer of the WOODLINE Headless Models, for the Anniversary of Fami’s signature model
The Bacchus brand’s first headless bass, the WOODLINE-HEADLESS, was released in 2018, followed by the H.J. FREAKS signature model, and then the Fami’s signature model, the WOODLINE5AC-HL Fami, which was released last summer.
To commemorate the release of WOODLINE5AC-HL Fami, we interviewed Shota Taniguchi, a craftsman at our Aska Workshop who developed the original WOODLINE-HEADLESS, to ask about his innovations during its development.
Craftsman – Shota Taniguchi
In 2012, after graduating from a guitar-making school, he joined the Aska Workshop, which is known for its high-quality handcrafted guitars. He was in charge of woodworking and was involved in the production of Momose and Bacchus Handmade Series guitars. His skills and sense of craftsmanship were recognized when he was selected as one of the builders for the “Momose Premium Collection”, a collection of one-off models with special specifications that are produced only for special events and other special occasions. Taniguchi’s Premium Collection, which incorporates his unique ideas, has been well received by many users.
In 2017, he was entrusted with the development of a headless version of the Bacchus WOODLINE, and through repeated trial and error, completed the first headless model, the WOODLINE-HEADLESS. This led to the development of its successor model.
-Today, we would like to ask you about the development of the headless version of WOODLINE (“WOODLINE headless”) and what you focused on. First of all, please tell us the story of when you decided to develop this headless bass.
Taniguchi: I think it was in the fall of 2017 when we first started talking about it, and we received a request to make a headless version of the WOODLINE for the Spring 2018 trade show (*2). I had a headless guitar myself and was originally very interested in the modern shape and convenience of the headless construction, so I was motivated by the offer.
-I imagine that it was difficult to develop a headless model because the type of parts and the overall balance of the model would change significantly. Please tell us about the points you were particular about in the development process and any difficulties you encountered.
Taniguchi: Well, for starters the idea was to make a headless version of Bacchus’ standard WOODLINE model, so we designed it with a slim body shape with a small chamfer radius, a heel cut, and an elbow contour, keeping the WOODLINE style in mind. The shape of the lower part of the body had to be changed to accommodate the headless mechanism, but including this change, we were able to create a body shape that gives the WOODLINE a modern look and feel. We think that the shape of the body has been changed.
-I understand that the prototype was completed in early 2018 and then went through a series of tweaks until being ready for full production. What were the main areas you tweaked?
Taniguchi: The most difficult part of the project was the pursuit of the sound. When I played the prototype after it was completed, it sounded bland compared to the original WOODLINE, and I felt that it could not be commercialized as it was. Although there were some structural reasons, I felt that the sound was lacking in overtones. From there, I repeated detailed adjustments and tried to change the sound.
-What specific adjustments did you make?
Taniguchi: First is the angle and distance from the headstock to the nut. We increased the distance and adjusted the angle of the strings to the nut to improve the overtone component. We also made a lot of fine adjustments to the neck angle and carefully observed the changes in sound. I can’t go into too many details, but I set the neck angle a little differently compared to a normal bass. As a result, the overtone component has been slightly increased, and the sound has a more natural rise and fall, and I think it now sounds as if it can pick up the nuances and details of any player’s performance.
Compared to a typical headless bass, which tends to have a short sustain and a clogged sound due to its structure, we think the sound of this bass is closer to that of a bass with a headstock, in a good sense.
-What kind of response did you get from customers and musicians?
Taniguchi: We received a good response from music stores when we first showed it at a Deviser Special Showcase Event in 2018. Later, when bassist H.J.FREAKS came to our company, and fortunately, he really liked it. We were happy that he has been using WOODLINE headless since then. I asked him to try it without explaining anything first, but he immediately pointed out the neck angle, one of the most important features in my opinion, so that immediately made me think “You really get it, H.J.!”.
-On this occasion, he talked seriously about the advantages of headless bass and sound production, and I learned a lot from him. There was a gap between how he looked then and his usual flashy appearance…(lol). You also developed a signature model for H.J.FREAKS.
Taniguchi: When the production of H.J.’s model was decided, we knew we had to produce a larger number of units than before, so we improved our internal system to increase production efficiency.
H.J. requested a special control layout with a top jack system and two mini-switches, so the cavity shape had to be changed, and we enlisted the help of Headway Customshop builder, Mr. Yasui, to create the new cavity design.
-Following H.J. FREAKS’ signature model, Fami’s signature model “WOODLINE5AC-HL Fami” was released last summer. Do you have any comments regarding the development of this model?
Taniguchi: First of all, we developed the colors. Fami likes the colors of fountain pens, so we asked her to send us some of her favorite colors from actual fountain pens, and we started mixing and trying colors with our painters. After painting several sample colors and having them compared, we finally decided on “Bordeaux Purple,” which is the color currently used. The pickguard material was also made from scratch by the president of the Aska Workshop in collaboration with the pickguard manufacturer to match the body color.
-The fretboard is also made of purple heart, which has a natural purple color, giving it a very impactful appearance.
Taniguchi: Purple Heart is actually a bit difficult to work with because of its grain. However, its high density improves the overall sound, and I think it is excellent as a fretboard material.
-What are your thoughts on bassists like Fami and H.J. Freaks using headless basses?
Taniguchi: I am simply happy, and I hope that this will be a good opportunity for more people to know about the Bacchus brand and Bacchus headless basses. I have always thought that an instrument is only truly complete when it is actually used by the player.
-What would you like to say to WOODLINE headless users and future users who are interested in giving them a try?
Taniguchi: For those who already have one, I would like to say thank you very much. For those who are considering this model, as I mentioned earlier, there are many particular features such as the sound and the shape of the body that makes it easy to hold, so I would be happy if you could give it a try. I think you will be able to feel how easy it is to handle and how light it actually is when you see and hold the instrument in your hands.
Headless instruments have a special kind of image to them, but the WOODLINE HL is very versatile and can be used in a variety of genres, including pop and rock. This is the first model I’ve made from scratch as a craftsman, and I created it while listening to the opinions of senior craftsmen, so I hope you will take good care of it and play it to your heart’s content.