Uncle Funk bassist Dave Clarke describes the process that transformed his Stingray into a disco-ball-bedecked disco artefact.
In the early-to-mid-90s, Uncle Funk, my friends’ band from Bishops Stortford, performed testosterone-fuelled original compositions with titles such as ‘All The Best Girls Are Seventeen’, ‘Top Shelf Paranoia’ and ‘Poo Kiss Banana’ in outfits that made Liberace look conservative.
Uncle Funk gigs, along the M11 corridor between Harlow and Cambridge, were always sold-out affairs, with the band’s sizable army of loyal fans convinced of their musical heroes’ destiny as stars. To the band’s delight, this opinion was not shared by a guest music critic for the Harlow Star, who that week dismissed their performance at The Square, the town’s premier music venue, as “sexist, degrading and crap”. Critical acclaim aside, instead of conquering the world Uncle Funk then split up, only to reform at the end of the decade, reinventing themselves as one of UK’s first bona fide disco tribute acts.
I was offered the bass gig for Uncle Funk in 2002, with lead singer Simonella Funkenfurta informing me that their previous bassist had to leave due to his commitments as a magician at children’s parties. No, seriously! I accepted Simonella’s invitation and dug out my 1989 trans-red Musicman Stingray to learn a three-hour set of disco classics. In the 10 years that followed I would play hundreds of gigs with that battered MusicMan, while wearing an Afro wig big enough to have its own postcode.
In 2012, I acquired an immaculate black Musicman Stingray Classic on eBay after successfully bidding just £900. I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s an incredible bass to play, and I pretty much retired my trusty old ‘80s Stingray there and then. However, everything changed in October 2013, when Uncle Funk’s guitarist Flash Jackson arrived for a soundcheck armed with a new Fender Stratocaster that he’d had customised to boast a brilliant mirror-ball finish on the body and dazzling bright blue LEDs in the neck, perfectly complementing Uncle Funk’s fetish for being ‘More ‘70s Than The ‘70s’. Resistance was futile. I had no choice. One of my basses was about to receive a decadent makeover.
I instinctively knew I wasn’t going to touch my new Stingray Classic – it was already perfect. This meant my old ’89 Stingray was set for a comeback of Rocky III proportions. Before its unlikely return to the live arena, though, some major surgery would be required.
Sims Custom Shop in Ashford, Kent, had done a great job on Nick’s Strat, so it made sense for them to work on my top-secret project. I had a few ideas to achieve maximum mirror-ball exposure, such as losing the crescent-shaped chrome volume and EQ plate, and having a clear perspex scratchplate made. I used swamp ash for a noticeably lighter body, while the top’s surface would have no contoured edges to better accommodate the mirror-ball tiles. The body’s back and sides would be spray-painted in a silver glitter flake finish. I didn’t bother with the LEDs, leaving that stuff for the aptly named Flash Jackson to show off.
It was six weeks before I collected the finished article from Sims. During that time I read Simon McVeigh’s Bass From The Grave feature from BGM 96 and noticed the pick-up covers, which he’d had custom-made for a Musicman Sabre restoration. Simon had replaced the standard black covers with a pair made from polished aluminium, expertly made by Ireland’s Matty Dread. Simon kindly put me in touch with Matty, who in turn agreed to make what I envisioned as the icing on my cake. Matty shipped the cover to Sims to finish the project, but not before laser-etching ‘DC1’ into it, which I couldn’t resist.
Come the big day, I arrived at Sims workshop and peered through a window to see hanging on the wall a truly stunning bass guitar. I couldn’t quite believe it; my 25-year-old Musicman Stingray had become an ice-cool slap of disco-inspired bling – a Blingray, if you will. This was undoubtedly my mission accomplished, and my bass’s comeback was complete, furnished with a set of DR Neon’s white luminescent strings for good measure.
It may have cost me a small fortune but it was worth every single penny. I am now the proud owner of a unique instrument, which, as far as I’m concerned, is easily the coolest looking Musicman Stingray on the planet.